How long does it take to get a PhD?

You may find many resources answering “how long does it take to get a PhD?” but let me tell you I will explain to you from starting. 

As a PhD candidate, you have to invest 4 to 5 or, sometimes 8 years to get a PhD degree, however, the tenure depends on how sincerely you do your PhD work and what topic you have selected. 

The PhD is the highest academic degree, thus it might be difficult to achieve and why not! A PhD means the honour and a stamp on your name that you are an expert on some topic. 

A candidate has to invest time as well as money, I mean a huge amount of money and a lot of time. So as a PhD student, you have to be patient.  

In this section, we will talk about how long it takes to get a PhD, but before that let’s understand how to get a PhD. 

How to get a PhD?

Enrolling into a PhD is not as easy as taking admission in masters or bachelors, you have to pass different levels during the entire tenure of PhD.

For instance, in the first year, you have to complete the coursework, in the next year fieldwork, in the third year publications etc. 

But first and foremost, you have to be qualified for enrolling into a PhD. So what qualifications should be required to get admission into PhD? 

The first criteria for getting into the PhD is the master degree, you must have completed your master degree in your discipline, for example, if you want to do a PhD in biotechnology, you must have completed your master degree in biotechnology, biology, genetics or microbiology (if allowed). 

The next step is M. Phil. 

M.phil- master of philosophy or Master of research taken into account in some universities, your research work during the master of philosophy examined for giving admission in PhD. However, M.Phil is not necessary for all universities. 

The entrance exam, 

In recent times, taking admission into PhD is quite difficult, unlike in the past where your relation with a PhD supervisor was a token for entering into PhD. 

Now you have to complete an entrance exam, held by the central body of the country or university and based on the grades you obtain, your research future will decide. 

Remember! If you do not have basic and advanced knowledge of your subject or topic, you can not able to crack the entrance exam. 

Once you have completed all these steps, you can now apply for the PhD admission in which with the application form you have to submit the proposal or searcher idea, if it is accepted by any supervisor then your admission is confirmed otherwise you have to wait. 

Admission criteria: 

You have to first fill the form (online or offline) with the research proposal. 

After the approval of your research proposal by your PhD supervisor, you have to submit your CV or resume along with the statement of purpose. 

The statement of purpose must be approved by the university first in which you have to indicate your purpose, aim and objective for doing a PhD with that social output should be included in that ( social benefit of your research). 

Other requirements like previous university transcript, original degree certificates and term fees must be submitted immediately after the approval of your proposal and statement of purpose. 

With all these candidates should have to submit the no-objection certificate.

This is the first step to get a PhD. 

In the next phase, you have complete yearly criteria before the completion of each term. 


Your work is not yet done.

In the very first year, before starting your actual research work, you are required to complete the coursework. In coursework, you have to study research methodologies and at the end of the year, you have to pass an examination with more than 55%. 

If your coursework is not completed or you failed, one more chance is given by the university, although you have to complete it within a year, otherwise, your admission can be terminated by the governing body. 


During the second and third year, your research work will be on. Field visit, lab work, computer work, a literature review will be major work done during this period. 

For instance, if you are doing a PhD in biotechnology, you have to visit field for sample collection, have to meet scientists for collecting protocols, experimental work in lab and evaluation of results computationally. 

With that, in your free time, review literature related to your topic and make notes. 

Once your results are finalized by your research guide, you can start writing a research paper. 

Research paper writing: 

One of the strongest criteria for completion of PhD is publishing a research work within your PhD tenure. If you fail to do that, you can not get your PhD. 

You have to publish either a research paper or review paper of your work and have to submit it in a peer-review journal. Unless you can do that, you can not go-ahead. 

Research paper writing and publishing: 

What you are going to publish must be your original work, do not steal someone else’s works. Review the present research and include it in your paper. 

Write an abstract, introduction, methodology, discussion and interpretation in the research paper. The research paper should be 2, 3 or 5-page writing draft, again, the length of the research paper depends on the criteria of the publisher. 

Notably, you can also write a one-page review too, but it must be published in peer-reviewed journals. 

“Published research paper is a proof that your research work is done and you can write a thesis.”

Now you can go ahead!

Thesis writing: 

I had published a beautiful and in-depth article on how to write a PhD thesis. You can read it here: How to write a PhD thesis.

Here I am briefly giving you the outline of PhD thesis writing. 

The thesis is a written draft of your PhD work, abstract, the introduction of the topic, review of literature, methodology, results and discussion and interpretation are must be included in the thesis.

The abstract is the un-cited portion of the thesis, should be of 250 to 400 words long. 

The introduction included general information related to the topic such as definition, history, terminology and importance. Also, the purpose of the research with objectives is included in it. 

The review of the literature included recent work done in your field or discipline, you have to cite it properly. 

In the methodology chapter, write the information of the method, protocol or process you adopted with all the utilities you used during the PhD work. 

The results and discussion included the results of your work and discuss it using present research work in accordance and in dis-accordance of your research. 

Interpret your results in a single page interpretation chapter. Furthermore, you can also include loopholes and benefits of your research for society. 

Lastly, include a reference chapter and enlist all the references you used in your thesis in alphabetical order. 

In the next step, 

Check the plagiarism for finding a copied content of your thesis, once you passed the plagiarism, submit a rough draft to your supervisor. 

After your thesis approved by the supervisor, you can publish it. 

Submit a total of 5 copies of the thesis to your university with a soft copy of it. 


The last step of getting a PhD is to defend your thesis. 

You have to prepare a presentation, have to face viva and defend your thesis against the external faculty. 

In some university, the dissertation or thesis is the final criteria for getting a PhD, no viva will be required.  

This is the brief outline or a roadmap for how you get your PhD. now let’s get back to the original question of your article, “How long does it take to get a PhD?”

3 years are mandatory for getting a PhD degree, though you have to do research for 4 to 5 year because you can not complete your work within three years. 

As we said above, 

During the first year, you have to complete your coursework. 

In the second year and third year, your research work, lab work and fieldwork. 

In the fourth year, research paper publication and thesis writing. 

Fifth-year for submitting thesis/ dissertation and viva voce.  

Hence as per my experience, it takes approximately 5 years to get a PhD with excellent research work. 

If you fail to defend your thesis, for the next 6 month or a year, you have to work on your topic or thesis as per the indications given by the external referee. 

Remember! PhD is an honour, not an examination, fail to defend your work does not mean that you fail. 

An external referee indicates loopholes, gaps and problems in your research work as well as your thesis, you should have to solve it as soon as possible. 


Doing a PhD is not for those who want everything instantly, albeit, doing a part-time PhD can be one option for fulfiling your dream with a job.

One should have to spend at least 5 years for getting a PhD, if you are ready to do so, go ahead.

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