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PhD in the US

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The United States is the most coveted destination for international PhD students because its schools offer diverse specializations, full funding for most PhD programs and flexible curricula and program structures. PhD programs in the US also offer collaboration between universities that enhances the overall quality of research. Most students are able to find a research topic that exactly matches their interests and continue with a research­based career after receiving their doctorate because of the US’s strength as a research­driven economy.

Why pursue a PhD in the US?

The most salient reasons for obtaining a PhD from an American university are as follows:
• Globally recognized, world­renowned programs offering opportunities to work on capstone projects
• Students gain excellent exposure and hands­on experience by working with the latest technologies and performing cutting­edge research
• Internationally reputed faculty members with extensive and diverse research experience
• Financial aid, including funding in the form of a research or teaching assistantship that helps with costs of living and tuition waivers for most doctoral programs
• Universities are warm and welcoming to international students and provide extensive support systems
• Opportunity to improve English language skills, which allows students to better relate to and interact with classmates and faculty and enhances postdoctoral job prospects

Prerequisites for Enrollment:
Specific requirements vary by university and program, but a few important factors are as follows:
• Excellent academic potential and performance displayed during undergraduate and Master’s program. Exemplary students may apply directly for a PhD after completing 12+ 4 years of education.
• Prior experience in the student’s chosen field in the form of projects, internships, and/or publications that convey focus and enthusiasm.
• Applicants must submit transcripts, application form and fee, a statement of purpose, recommendation letters and a detailed resume.
• A competitive GRE score is a prerequisite for admission. For PhD programs in business/management studies, GMAT scores are accepted.
• Many universities also require GRE subject test scores. High­ranking universities view competitive subject test scores as a prerequisite for admission.

Cost and Expenses:
In general, financial aid is available from American universities as part of the offer of acceptance for PhD programs. Financial aid can take the form of graduate assistantships, including teaching assistantships and research assistantships, fellowships and/or tuition waivers. There is usually no separate application for obtaining these scholarships, but requirements may vary by university.
However, the competition for financial aid is quite steep. The criteria for selection of students for the different forms of financial aid vary among universities, but considerably high test scores,contribute favourably to the selection process.

What are the English-language requirements? PhD programs in the US require IELTS or Toefl­iBT scores to gain admission. Some universities also accept ELPT, SPE, CAE, MELAB and PTEA scores as well.

Which are the top PhD schools in the US?
Some of the universities popular among research students include:
• Harvard University
• Massachusetts Institute of Technology
• Stanford University
• California Institute of Technology
• Carnegie Mellon University
• Purdue University, West Lafayette
• University of Pennsylvania
• University of California, Los Angeles
• University of Texas at Austin
• University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
• Ohio State University

Visa Requirements: International students intending to pursue full-time PhD studies need to file for an F1 visa after receipt of an offer of acceptance and an I-20 form from the university. According to the Immigration and Nationality Act, US laws require the consular office to view every F1 applicant as an intended immigrant until the applicant convincingly proves otherwise. All F1 applicants are required to appear for an interview after completion of a DS-160 form, payment of a SEVIS fee and booking of the interview appointment. The onus of proving that the candidate is a bona fide student and plans to return to their country upon completion of the program is on the student. The student is also required to produce several documents at the time of the interview, including financials. The accuracy of both the documents and the candidate’s responses to the interviewer’s questions determines whether the candidate receives the visa.

Work Permit:
• PhD students are committed to a certain number of hours of teaching or research as part of their assistantships and, therefore, they are not allowed to work on or off-campus
• After the completion of the degree, students can opt for Optional Practical Training (OPT) for a minimum of 12 months (or for 36 months, in the case of STEM programs)

What are the prospective career opportunities in the US?
After successfully completing a PhD, most students select a postdoctoral program followed by a career in academia as a tenure­track faculty member. Some with degrees in the applied domains, such as engineering, may move into the private sector in the area of research and development. Similarly, students with PhDs in business largely opt for careers in consulting. The US economy is very job-friendly and the OPT allows sufficient time for students to find suitable jobs. Moreover, US degrees are globally recognized, allowing a PhD degree holder from the US to easily find positions in other countries if desired.

What is the duration of the program?
Full­time PhD programs are designed for three to five years of study.

What are the deadlines?
The deadlines vary from one university to another, but the applicant should start preparing a minimum of two years in advance of their intended program start date. Start dates for the fall semester are usually in September and in January for the spring semester. PhD applications should be submitted for fall intake; submitting for spring intake is not recommended. The deadlines for applying to the fall semester are between November and February.