Top 10 Hardest PhD Degrees to Earn

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Gaining any category of degree is never an easy milestone to achieve without dedication. It might seem easy from the outset, but as you progress, you realize that there is no shortcut to any worthwhile endeavor.

All the same, when it comes to the easiest and hardest PhD degrees, there are some courses that do not cost an arm and you do not need to sweat it out for long to get your certificate. However, there are some that require both. In terms of cost and rigorous process, they are king. But then, when you acquire them, you earn yourself a respectable position in society and these PhD degrees are high paying.

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In this post, I’ll share some of the hardest PhD degrees to earn.

What’s the Most Difficult Part About Earning a Doctorate?

Earning a PhD or a professional doctorate requires you to overcome a number of challenges. Only 2% of adults in the U.S. hold a PhD or professional doctorate. Joining this exclusive club can put you in a position to become a leader in your field, and achieve a personal goal few others attain. However, you must first have to get through a doctoral program. And that’s not always easy.

Among those who start a doctoral program, who are the best and brightest that higher education has to offer, nearly 57% earn their PhD or professional doctorate within 10 years.† If you don’t want to face similar struggles, you need to understand the challenges ahead—and have a plan for overcoming them.

The Biggest Challenges

Once the coursework for a doctoral degree is complete, the dissertation or doctoral study becomes the primary focus. Prior to beginning, it can be helpful to know some of the challenges faced by others. Here are a few:

  • Getting Started Takes Time

After you have settled on a topic, the first step in the dissertation or doctoral study process is to produce a proposal. Your proposal summarizes the plan you’ll use to conduct your project. And not just any topic will do. Your goal is to explore an aspect of your field that no one else has explored in-depth, or no one has explored with the method(s) you wish to use. Plus, your proposal must be presented to a committee, which will either allow you to proceed or require you to make changes. For those who are eager to actually start writing their dissertation or doctoral study, keep in mind that the process of creating a proposal and winning approval takes time and requires a steady focus.

  • There’s A Lot of Back-and-Forth

In most bachelor’s programs, when you write a major paper, you don’t receive any feedback until the professor gives you a grade, and often you may have been frustrated because you did not get a chance to correct it! That’s not the case when writing a dissertation or doctoral study. Instead, your faculty advisor will provide regular feedback, which may take some time but it will certainly strengthen your work. To keep moving forward, manage your time to account for this editorial process.

  • You Have to Manage Your Own Time

Most students are used to attending classes at set times and turning in assignments on set days. But once you enter the dissertation or doctoral study phase of your doctoral program, you’ll be expected to set your own deadlines and manage your own time. While this structure is meant to provide flexibility, some find it difficult to work without a set schedule. Develop strategies to be independent and stay motivated! It’s also important to let your friends and family know about your educational plans so that they understand that any shift in your social or family schedule is for a good cause. Be sure to set an expectation with them in terms of your time and availability.

How to Overcome the Challenges

Two critical components of a strong PhD degree or professional doctoral program include working with a strong faculty and strong resources. But what if you don’t live near such a university? Or what if you have a full-time job that limits your ability to get to class on time? In these cases, online education can be a great solution.

No matter where you live or what your daily responsibilities entail, an online university can make it possible for you to complete a PhD program or professional doctoral program. That’s because online PhD programs and professional doctoral programs allow you to handle most of your degree from home and on a flexible schedule designed specifically for you—the working professional.

But convenience and flexibility are hardly the only advantages of online learning. When you enroll in a top online university, you’ll have access to high-quality resources that are available 24/7. Plus, you’ll have direct contact with a faculty advisor who understands the challenges you face and who can provide the guidance you need. Some top online universities even offer all-but-dissertation programs for those who’ve completed all the doctoral program requirements except for the dissertation or doctoral study.

If you’re enrolled in an all-but-dissertation program, you already know that staying motivated is key. If you’re new to earning a doctorate, then you’ll appreciate how studying from home during the coursework phase of your online PhD or online professional doctorate can help you learn how to manage your time, which will be an invaluable skill once you enter the dissertation or doctoral study phase.

Earning a PhD degree or doctoral degree can be difficult. But the right online university can make it very possible.

Top 10 hardest PhD Degrees to Earn

These degrees are arranged in no particular order.

1. Boarded Medical Doctor: After spending about eight years to earn your first degree, you are faced with between three and six years of residency. This is the most competitive field in education which means you must have passed through a very rigorous process to earn this certificate.

2. PhD in Mathematics: You can’t imagine the equations that were solved to gain a higher education degree in mathematics, not to talk of a PhD. Solving equations and finding the missing x and y is not what everyone is proud to do. Mathematicians deserve the greatest respect.

3. Doctor of Optometry: If you ever studied physics, you will understand how difficult it is to master light, lenses, rays, and others. But optometrists did more than just that! They are an incredible set. Optometry is not just to look at someone’s eyes and discover the kind of glasses fit for them. You’ve got to be an optometrist to feel what they feel.

4. Doctor of Pharmacy: These guys are not some guys you see behind the counter counting drugs for sale. You find them in the hospitals; they are legit medical practitioners who can prescribe the right drugs for you by merely looking at your medical history.

5. Doctor of Veterinary Medicine: Someone once said, “Is it not to treat animals!” No, it isn’t. Whatever it takes to treat various animals that are not going to tell you what their problem is has got some magic in it.

6. PhD in Sociology: It might sound so easy to obtain a PhD in Sociology, but wait until you gain admission to study the course. You will have to deal with elusive subjectivity, difficult phenomena, abductive reasoning, and so many of them.

7. PhD in Theoretical Physics: For you to emerge a doctor of Theoretical Physics, you must have background knowledge of Mathematics and Physics. A qualitative amount of focus is also required of you so as to be able to imagine the warping of gravitational waves and space-time due to the gravitational field.

8. PhD in Foreign Languages: It takes a lot to become a master in a foreign language, especially if you were not bred and brought up in that country. But foreign language professors do just that. Some of them have up to five different foreign languages they have mastered. I would not even try an undergraduate degree in a foreign language, not to talk of an advanced degree.

9. PhD in Computer Science: Here comes another course that could be seen as a branch of Mathematics. It still baffles me as to how an individual could find his way through the operating system, programming language, databases, and software engineering. The person must be a genius.

10. Doctor of Education: Some people think it is very easy to study education, probably based on the fact that the employability rates of educational doctoral students are high. However, what they did not know is that it could also take up to ten years for one to become a Doctor of Education.

Also read Top 10 Easiest PhD Degrees to Earn

Struggles of a PhD student

  • Funding issues

Most PhD students rely on external funding to support themselves while studying. Unfortunately, this too can be a source of concern. Funding can, at times, be insecure. It has been known, for example, for funding to be reduced while still in the middle of the PhD. This is a precarious position to be left in and it can be extremely stressful to secure new funding. Ideally, supervisors should be on hand to help with this. One should never think twice about approaching them for advice, it’s what they are there for. Still, it’s also recommended that students ensure that they are financially secure themselves, or at least have some money tied over in case of emergency.

  • Time management

So much to do, so little time to do it! This is probably the mantra of our age… Learning when to jump at new opportunities and when to say no to extra tasks is a skill that every academic should develop if they are to avoid going mad. This can be honed by knowing how to prioritize. What is absolutely essential that I finish today? What, at a push, could I postpone till tomorrow?  Setting out enough time in your day to fulfill these tasks will help this process and enable you to, when necessary, say ‘nope, I literally do not have the time for that. Rather obviously, it helps to be organized and to calendar your appointments carefully. And remember, it is better to do a few things well, than a number of things badly.

The truth of the matter is that nothing worthwhile in life comes easy. It takes a high level of commitment and dedication on your part to achieve an enviable height. One of the main reasons why people find certain courses difficult is because they enroll in a course there are not passionate about. If you enroll for a course, you’re passionate about, you might not find it as difficult as others find it to be.