My name is Meier – Dr. Meier. Despite plagiarism affairs and scandals: A doctorate is something to look at. In some areas, such as science and research, a doctorate is almost a “must” in order to have a career. A doctorate abroad in particular increases your chances of promotion and income.
The doctorate is the highest academic degree awarded by universities. A completed doctorate is also a prerequisite for the habilitation. This is not an academic degree. Instead, the qualification to teach is granted to scientists with the habilitation. On the way to becoming a professor, the habilitation is a decisive, if not mandatory, step.
The path to a doctorate abroad
In most European countries, a doctorate requires a very good to good master’s degree and takes between two and five years. In Germany, the average is four to five years. An exception is a doctorate abroad in the field of medicine. This often begins during the clinical phase of the study and lasts for one to two years.
The doctorate abroad includes a doctoral thesis, also known as a dissertation, and an oral examination. As part of the dissertation, the doctoral candidate must independently develop and present new scientific findings. Ideally, his work will make a significant contribution to research in his field. A distinction is made between two variants of the oral exam:
- the Rigorosum, an oral exam in which the entire subject is the subject.
- the disputation, a scientific debate that deals with the theses of the doctoral thesis.
The doctoral candidate only receives his title once his or her thesis has been published. He usually bears the costs himself.
Individual doctoral studies or doctoral studies abroad?
The individual doctorate
For individual doctorates, doctoral students look for a doctoral supervisor to supervise their work. You work independently on your dissertation, have more freedom in choosing a topic and are more flexible in terms of time. Many doctoral students are employed as assistants at the institute of their professor. There they support his scientific work and sometimes teach students themselves.
The doctoral program
In a doctoral program abroad, doctoral students are supervised by several scientists. The duration and structure of the doctorate are more strictly specified. Often doctoral students write on their doctoral thesis and take additional courses. The assessment is based on the ECTS standard. Since the course is more structured, students receive their doctorate after three to four years. As a rule, the doctorate takes place within the framework of an internationally oriented research training group or a graduate school.
Doctoral studies in English-speaking countries
Doing a doctorate abroad has some differences compared to doing a doctorate in Germany.
Ph.D. as an international counterpart to the doctorate
There are various doctoral degrees in Germany. These include the Dr. jur. for lawyers, the Dr. phil for humanities scholars and the Dr. rer. nat. for scientists. In Great Britain, the USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, on the other hand, the scientific doctoral degree is the Doctor of Philosophy, or Ph.D.
To avoid confusion, the Ph.D. often supplemented by the specialist title, e.g. Doctor of Philosophy in Economics, abbreviated as Ph.D. in economics. As a rule, the Ph.D. the license to teach at a university.
Doctorate without a doctoral degree – the professional doctorate
The PhD degrees must be distinguished from the Professional Doctorates. These so-called professional doctorates are common in the USA or the Czech Republic, for example. In the USA, for example, the title Doctor of Medicine (MD) is awarded for a medical degree. If you are studying law at the law school, it is the so-called Juris Doctor (JD). These degrees are not compatible with the German Dr.med. or the Ph.D. to compare, as the doctoral degree is awarded without prior doctoral studies and doctoral procedures. Instead, it is the usual professional qualification in these subjects.
Apart from the common Ph.D. title, the doctoral programs in English-speaking countries differ from country to country:
- In Great Britain, Canada and the USA the path to a doctorate is also open to graduates of a Bachelor of Honor. Students then also acquire their master’s degree as part of their doctorate. As a result, they not only write their doctoral thesis abroad, but also have to attend many compulsory courses. In addition, the doctorate is more school-based and takes longer than in Germany.
- In the USA, doctorates usually take place at a graduate school where doctoral and master’s students study together. You will be supervised by several mentors and will have to perform differently during your studies.
- In other English-speaking countries, such as Australia, the doctoral students work independently, similar to an individual doctorate. They mostly do not attend any courses and write independently on their research. In Great Britain, too, courses can only be attended if the doctoral degree immediately follows the bachelor’s degree.
Advantages of a doctorate abroad
If you are toying with a doctorate abroad, you should dare to look outside the box in Germany. Ph.D. programs, for example, are often characterized by intensive supervision by several professors and excellent equipment. In addition, there is often a pronounced culture of discussion.
The doctorate abroad as a door opener
Those who do their doctorate abroad can collect valuable suggestions for their research project and build up a network of international contacts. The latter can be decisive for the later job search. You can also improve your foreign language skills and expand your soft skills. This includes the ability to work in international teams. The cooperation in trade publications that arise in such international research groups can enrich the curriculum vitae immensely.
Reputation and Reputation
The degree from a prestigious university abroad can be a plus in your resume. However, the place of study plays a subordinate role, especially in this phase of the course. Instead, the supervising chair and the selected research topic are weighted more heavily. It is worthwhile not to limit yourself to Germany, but to put out feelers and research around the world. Due to the duration and importance of the doctoral program, it is advisable to choose a doctoral program that best reflects your own interests.
The be-all and end-all of good doctoral planning
In any case, a partially or completely completed doctorate abroad requires good planning. Most universities require an extensive application consisting of
- curriculum vitae
- Motivation letter
- Project outlines
- Expert opinions from professors
- Selection interviews
- Admission and foreign language tests.
You should also take care of the financing early on. There are different ways. Applying for a scholarship is generally recommended. Especially in the postgraduate area there is a large number of scholarship providers, above all the DAAD and various scholarship programs such as the German National Academic Foundation. And the universities themselves also award scholarships to doctoral students. Applying for scholarships takes some time. A lead time of around 1.5 years is recommended.
Quite a few doctoral students are employed at the university as research assistants and in this way finance their doctorate. Another option are student loans with low interest rates or education funds.