Is a doctorate right for me?
People choose to pursue a doctorate for a number of different reasons. How do you know if a doctorate is right for you and what entry requirements do you have to meet?
You should start by asking yourself the following questions: why are you considering a doctorate, what exactly does a doctoral programme involve and what skills will be required? As a PhD candidate, you must be able to work and write independently and have:
- an above-average interest in academic studies
- an analytical mind
- suitable prior qualifications (see entry requirements below)
A doctoral programme primarily involves research. You must enjoy getting your teeth into a subject and exploring it in depth. And as you pursue your research further, it is important to be able to distinguish between primary and secondary issues and to make connections between the data you obtain and the insights you acquire.
The main criterion for admission to a doctoral programme is academic quality: you must be fully conversant with the theory and methodology of your discipline. There is also a legal educational requirement: you must have a Dutch Master's degree (or an old-style initial university degree) or a foreign equivalent.
Not all foreign qualifications, including Master's degrees, will gain you access to a doctoral programme in the Netherlands. The same applies to prior studies abroad which grant access to a doctoral programme. These are not by definition equivalent to a Dutch Master's and will not grant access to a doctoral programme in all cases.
As well as a good prior education, you must also have a good command of English, since this is the lingua franca of the academic world. Moreover, the relevant Graduate School or research institute may have its own specific requirements. These can be found in the PhD vacancy description.
To help you decide whether doctoral research is really for you, you can:
- Think about your Master's thesis: what was the research and writing process like? What feedback did you receive from your supervisor? Did you find the process enjoyable and fulfilling?
- Talk to current and former PhD candidates and ask them about the advantages and disadvantages.
- Take a look at the Album Academicum, which contains the names and fields of study of PhD graduates of the UvA.
- Read books which offer guidance to young researchers (P. Gosling, L.D. Noordam, Mastering your PhD or Herman Lelieveldt, Promoveren: een wegwijzer voor de beginnend wetenschapper [Doctoral research, a guide for the starting scientist]).
- Make an appointment with the relevant research institute/Graduate School.