Things to Consider Before Pursuing a Ph.D Abroad


Receiving a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD or D.Phil) is the highest level of formal academic recognition. It encompasses different subject areas as diverse as humanities, engineering, science, liberal arts, etc. It is also considered to be the first step towards starting your journey as a professor, professional researcher or scientist. A paramount quality for a Ph.D applicant is his/her research aptitude. A Ph.D degree is your chance to contribute to the world of knowledge with your original research or finding.


Why Pursue a Ph.D Abroad?

Why pursue a PhD abroad

Each university’s program has its own specific degree requirements. Having access to resources such as archives, laboratories, libraries, collaborative opportunities, etc. are also essential to the success of your research, and finding the right combination of these resources and program requirements will mean looking tactfully beyond your current graduate institution. This is a major reason why many prospective Ph.D students find it beneficial to consider what other countries offer for Ph.D programs. Depending on your chosen field of study, you can find your ideal program in a foreign country. Ph.D programs abroad also offer certain advantages over the domestic options, for instance:

  • A certain country may offer more funding for the topics of study you intend to carry your research in.
  • A specific international faculty or researcher’s projects might interest you more than the domestic academician’s.
  • You will also have opportunities for cross-cultural exchanges that can enhance the quality of your research and its outcomes.
  • Finally, access to more grants or different types of financial aid that are normally not offered in other programs is available to Ph.D aspirants.

So, if you are on the lookout for pursuing a Ph.D abroad, you need to be prepared with a few things to ensure that your application is entertained by the university.

Related Blog: PHD Abroad Top Destinations

How to Apply for a Ph.D Abroad:

How to apply for a PhD

We will list down the three most important things to be absolutely clear before you start approaching study abroad consultants to apply for a Ph.D program.

Be prepared with a Research Proposal

The foremost thing to do is to formulate your own unique ideas on the specific topic that you wish to undertake research. This means, even before looking for a study abroad Ph.D program, you must be clear about possible research areas for your thesis. Ph.D students usually spend three to five years working towards a postdoctoral graduate degree and must complete a thesis/dissertation.

While doing so, you should take into consideration the areas of research or the topics of your preferred domain that you are passionate about or are interested in exploring deeply. Try to analyze how these can become the subject of your doctoral thesis. Also, ensure that the stronger background you present, in terms of your prior research, published academic papers, etc., the better the chances you will have of obtaining a chance to secure a place in highly competitive Ph.D programs.

Once you are sure of what particular topic in which you want to pursue your research, it will be easier for you to come up with a research proposal.

University or Supervisor

A grave dilemma indeed. Quite commonly, well-known academics are easily found in prestigious institutions but having them agree to supervise you would be an even greater challenge. These professors are highly experienced and you will have to showcase not just your aptitude, but the potential to contribute to their work.

For undertaking your Master’s program, you must have chosen a highly ranked institution. And that surely will add value to your candidature, however, valuing the institution over the academic supervisor may not always be the best strategy.

Remember that the result of your thesis is the only aspect of a Ph.D, for personal as well as professional purposes. After completing a doctoral degree, your future employers will be interested in your areas of expertise, the people you worked with and the deeper aspects of the research that you have done.

Look for a Research Supervisor

Now that you know where your interest lies, you will have to find a professor whose interest aligns with yours; moreover, a professor whose areas of research interest or present research to which you can be resourceful. Your supervisor will be able to guide and support you in your thesis and encourage your ideas. Choose a professor who clearly understands and shows interest in your line of work. Despite impacting your research experience, a good supervisor can influence your career beyond your degree; through their professional networks and mentoring, you can stand a chance of easily settling into your dream roles.

You will have to prove that you are serious about your goals. Choosing a supervisor can be daunting, but the professor agreeing to act as your supervisor is of the utmost importance. Once you shortlist which professors you would like to pursue your research under, you will be required to write networking letters to each one of them, stating your research interests and requesting them to accept your candidature for their supervision.

Supervisors usually provide information about their prospective Ph.D candidates on their website. A good way to understand the professor’s supervision style would be to connect with a few current students and get their views on it. This way you will be able to finalize whether the potential supervisor is the right fit for you.

Related Blog: Eligibility Requirement for Ph.D. Abroad

Once you have sorted out these big questions, you can start applying for your desired program. Following are a few frequently asked questions that most Ph.D aspirants have.

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Ques.1 Am I eligible to pursue a Ph.D in a foreign country?

In most higher-education institutions, a second graduate degree (Master’s) or a Bachelor’s degree (first-class degree, above 70/100) is the entry requirement.

You must explore the Ph.D admission requirements policy of the university before applying. In some countries, the rules are stricter or have higher standards and you might need to ‘translate’ your qualifications and establish whether they meet the minimum expectations.

Ques.2 What are the Visa requirements?

If your chosen Ph.D program is in the European Union (EU) and you are a non-EU candidate, you need to check visa requirements in the country.

International students who plan to undertake their Ph.D in the United States have to apply for the F-1 student visa.

Ques.3 How much will a Ph.D cost me?

Here’s a rough estimate:

Country Tuition fees range Cost of living range
UK £4,000 – £21,000 £9,000 – $12,000
USA US$6,000 – 40,000 US$10,000 – $15,000
Canada C$2,000 – $16,000 C$15,000 – $20,000
Australia AU$9,000 – $18,000 AU$18,000 – $20,000
New Zealand NZ$14,000 – $21,000 NZ$12,000 – $15,000


Ques.4 Can I work while pursuing my Ph.D?

It is not a good idea to work full-time. Ph.D is a long-term and time-consuming commitment, thus, while pursuing a Ph.D on a full-time basis, you cannot normally work full-time as well. However, you are allowed to work part-time, but you must get your supervisor’s advice before you take any additional workload.

Ques.5 Can I do a Ph.D without a Master’s?

It depends on your subject area. STEM research aspirants often have received enough research training at their undergraduate level to be able to move straight to a Ph.D.

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences students normally need to gain additional research experience via a Masters.

Ques.6 Is a scholarship necessary?

Not really, you can apply for a Ph.D with or without a scholarship. To obtain a Ph.D with a scholarship, you must secure a good GRE score. Some countries prefer IELTS/TOEFL scores for enrolling a candidate into a Ph.D program.


Find Your Dream University

If you are planning to study abroad and searching to match your profile with the best suited university, Experts at Manya – The Princeton Review have gathered important information of top Universities from abroad. Surely, this information will help you narrow down your quest for universities.

You can access accurate & authentic information related to rankings, application fees, average tuition fees, cost of living, scholarships, latest updates, and much more from more than 1000+ universities. You may also search for universities by name, country, or courses in common specializations, such as Physics, Finance, Business, Language and Culture, Agriculture, Environmental Science, Computer and IT, Media and Communication Marketing.

Manya – The Princeton Review offers end-to-end study abroad services encompassing admissions consulting services, test preparation, English language training, career assessment, and international internship opportunities to study abroad aspirants. Our team of admission advisors will be happy to assist you, as they do for many other aspirants like you.

For more information, call our Study Abroad Helpline 1800 102 4646.

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