Doctorate: The way to a doctorate

It is the culmination of all academic activity, a sign of high self-discipline, scientific ability and, of course, great expertise in a specific field. On top of that, it can also be an enormous career advantage. There is talk of the doctorate, which in Germany, despite many scandals, can offer numerous advantages and enjoys a very good reputation. But first, the doctoral candidate is waiting for aspiring doctoral students. A journey of many years with high demands. As attractive as the doctorate title may be, whether a doctorate is worth it depends on the individual goals …

Different ways lead to the promotion

A PhD is always a demanding and lengthy journey. Doctoral students spend an average of three to five years in their doctoral studies before being allowed to lead the doctorate after passing the exam.

These years are marked by extensive research and, not always easy, work for a living. If you are looking for a PhD you need high self-discipline, intrinsic motivation and clear goals.

There are basically two options for prospective doctoral candidates for the path to doctoral studies:

Individual promotion

For the most common form of doctoral studies, students seek a doctoral supervisor who will assist and guide them on their way to the doctoral thesis. They prepare their dissertation largely independently and work together with other scientists as needed. The doctorate can take place at a university as well as at a non-university research institution or in the industry. The duration depends on the individual design; the three to five years already mentioned are usual.

Structured doctorate

The less common and well-known way is participation in a structured doctoral program. Nationwide, there are currently over 700 such programs in which aspiring doctoral students can complete their doctorate. As part of these programs, doctoral students are accompanied by a team of supervisors. The programs are often internationally oriented, so the working language is mostly English. The advantage for doctoral candidates: In an accompanying curriculum, soft skills and important networking skills are usually taught, which become important after graduation.

The structured doctoral programs differ significantly both in terms of content and organization. Some focus on specific research and specialization while others focus on working with specific scientists or researchers.

Unfortunately there is no single database for doctoral programs and opportunities. However, a good starting point is the doctoral search of the Higher Education Compass – supported by the Foundation for the Promotion of the Rectors’ Conference.

Is a PhD worth it?

In view of the high effort and the duration, the question quickly arises: is a PhD worthwhile? A look at various studies and surveys suggests a positive answer. The general conclusion is that a doctoral degree has a significant impact on later pay in the job.

Some studies even show salary differences of up to 32 percent. However, these financial advantages are put into perspective on closer examination, as graduates without a doctorate usually spend much less time working and earn money earlier. Nonetheless, employees with a doctorate generally have better career and career opportunities and usually benefit noticeably from their doctorate. The number of doctorates, which has been rising for years, also seems to underscore these advantages.

Since it seems strange that according to various estimates almost every third promotion is canceled. Anyone looking for tangible numbers will encounter a problem: Hardly any university will publish the number of dissertations.

Nevertheless, there are surveys and scientific papers that deal with the motives for a graduation break. For example, the Institute for Research on Higher Education lists the following motifs:

For many doctoral candidates, the question sooner or later comes up, whether the potential benefit of a doctorate really justifies the enormous burden. In addition, many doctoral students receive lucrative offers from industry and industry during their doctoral studies.

A PhD dissertation does not have to be a career disadvantage – if doctoral students can substantiate the step comprehensibly. For example, if there is an outstanding job offer in the room or if doctoral students notice that they can develop more quickly in professional practice, the step is also understandable for future employers.

When is the promotion a springboard for the career?

In order for the doctorate to pay off and become a professional door opener, the following conditions should be met:

Career with PhD: The Industry

Not every industry leads a doctorate to boost their careers. Before you decide on a PhD, you should first think carefully about the industry in which you want to work.

It is necessary for …

Chemists, biologists and other scientists. Here it is often a hiring requirement – especially for those who want to work in research. They prove that they can carry out experiments independently, document and publish them and have international experience.

Teacher at the University. Anyone who aspires to a university career will not be able to avoid the doctorate. It is the way to identify yourself as an expert in a particular topic, to close a research gap and to make a name for yourself.

Gladly the promotion is in …

  • Business consultancy and tax audits
  • banks and insurance companies
  • Ministries and authorities

For engineers and economists the promotion is a plus, but not a must. Here often counts practical experience. An alternative that also enjoys a great reputation and is treated equally by many companies is the Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Career with doctorate: The future employer

How big is the desired company? Family businesses and SMEs are often deterred by their doctorate, especially if the owner is not an academic. Applicants with a PhD are critically eyed and considered overqualified. They are assumed to be unrealistic theorists and have no relation to practice. Here it helps to think in advance which companies would be considered as potential employers.

Also, you should think about which position you are aiming for. For a middle position, a doctorate is not absolutely necessary, here practical experience in the form of internships and stays abroad significantly more. Keep in mind that you will miss these if you decide to do a PhD, as you usually start working in the late 20’s or early 30’s.

Career with Doctorate: The topic of the dissertation

The topic of your doctoral thesis can be decisive for your future job opportunities. Practice-oriented dissertations are better received in the free economy than very theoretical work. For this reason, it is important to know in advance whether you prefer to stay at the university or plan to work for a company.

Here it is also a question of how to sell your dissertation. Do you present yourself as a practice-oriented expert with specific expertise or as an accomplished theoretician? It is crucial that you put your key qualifications in the foreground. These are the reason you hire.