Doctorate Degrees Abroad

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A Guide to A Guide to Doctorate Degrees Abroad

Earning a PhD is something that few people wish to accomplish, and even fewer actually do. If you thought your bachelor’s or master’s degree programs were tough, gear up! Your schedule will be filled with early lectures, late night research, and countless presentations during nearly any PhD program. Even with all this coursework ahead of you, earning your PhD abroad might seem completely out of the question, but think again! Education is a global stage and universities everywhere have doctorate degrees, and each region, country, or PhD program offers a little something different to make your education that much more interesting. 

Why Earn a PhD Abroad

The better question is, “Why not earn your doctorate degree abroad?” Pursuing your doctorate degree is an opportunity to learn and study on a higher academic level, and grow as a person. Now, if you combine those scholarly activities in a new land, who knows what the outcome may be? Just kidding, it will be great of course! 

Completing a PhD abroad will give you a broader international perspective. Not only will your peers and faculty be from different corners of the globe, but you will also have access to resources and facilities that will affect your studies. By traveling in a foreign land, potentially learning how to speak a new language, and witnessing new perspectives you’ll learn just as much in the classroom as you will out of it.


Education is a universal pillar in human civilization and it transcends all borders. You can literally complete doctorate degrees anywhere in the world, but each region has its own appeal in terms of academics. New York City, in the United States, is attractive for entertainment, media, and Wall Street, while major European cities are steeped in history, philosophy, and art and Asia is thriving in economics and foreign languages. Last, but not least, South America is attractive for politics, environmental studies, and anthropology. 

Participate in hands-on research in Saudi Arabia along the shores of the Dead Sea in Jeddah at pristine university campuses between the big city and the beach. Saudi Arabia has seen major growth in higher education, especially since the early 2000s. As a major player in the Middle East, it’s a fascinating location for history and theology students specifically. Religion does play a rather large role in education in Saudi Arabia, so even students working on STEM doctorate degrees, whether in engineering, mathematics, or biomedical sciences, can expect to take a couple religion and history courses to round out their curriculum. Though the official language in Saudi is Arabic, you will be able to earn a doctorate degree in English, but it never hurts to learn some key words and phrases.

The United Kingdom’s involvement in the history of Western civilization and the development of modern day banking makes it a prime location for doctorate degree programs. With the recent changes in politics and commitment to the EU, studying accounting, law, and economics would run parallel with life across the pond. The United Kingdom offers no language barrier for English speakers and is considered the doorway to Europe. PhD students can island hop between England, Ireland, and Scotland with ease, then jet over to continental Europe with no worries at all. Many historical and famous universities are located all in the UK, including Queen’s University Belfast. Cities like Manchester and London will offer a great combination of big city living and prestigious doctorate degree programs.

Japan is the world’s third largest economy and with its unique history with China and the rest of Asia, global economics and history enthusiasts will find no shortage of interesting material to build their doctorate thesis around. Japanese is the official language spoken in Japan, naturally, but English comes in a close second, so you’ll be able to complete PhD programs in either tongue. Japan is known for its busy cities, including Tokyo and Kyoto, but don’t forget this nation is filled with 2,000 years of history and plenty of grasslands and mountains too.

Doctorate Degree Programs

Before you send off your applications for your desired PhD programs, consider the following things that you might need take time to prepare:

  • A statement of purpose
  • Your university transcripts (undergraduate and/or graduate)
  • GRE/GMAT Test results
  • TOEFL score of 6.0 or higher for English taught programs
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Three to four years of academic research or involvement

There are two major ways to earn a doctorate degree abroad; you can apply for a full-time PhD programs directly through a foreign university or you can apply for an exchange program to study abroad for as short as a summer session or as long as a year.

It will generally take about three years to earn your doctorate degree abroad. Your semesters of coursework will build toward your final dissertation, which is an in-depth research presentation that will discuss, analyze, and support a theory you select with the university’s approval. Summers will still belong to you during most doctorate degrees, so you can use this time to get some extra work done to get ahead for the next semester, or take it easy and catch up on traveling. You could  also spend the summer at a new location digging deeper into your research and PhD studies.

After you spend your hard earned money and three to four years of your life earning a PhD abroad, then comes the question, “Where are you going to work?” Doctorate degrees will open doors in the following fields, among others, government, consulting, academia, health, finance, law, and the nonprofit sector. 

Benefits & Challenges

There are pros and cons for every decision in life, so get your list together and start weighing your options for doctoral degree programs abroad.

Pros. Earning your doctorate degree abroad will give you a great opportunity to travel and apply your studies outside the classroom in a new cultural context. This will broaden your scope as a person and the scope of your research. You’ll expand your network during your PhD program and doors will open to more long-term opportunities to live and work abroad. 

Cons. You might not jive with the country and the local culture, and this will reflect poorly on your coursework. The culture shock and language barrier you may experience could make it difficult to make friends, and it will take some time to adjust to daily life in a new country. Also consider the cultural differences in academia and higher education that you’ll face during PhD programs abroad.

So, should I stay or should I go? This will be the biggest question to consider when deciding whether or not to get your PhD abroad. Even if you put together a comprehensive pros and cons list, both sides hold great arguments. If you want to stay home in a familiar place or city, stay. But, you could really take your experiences to another level by pursuing doctorate degrees abroad instead. In the end, the choice is yours, if there’s still really a choice (hint hint: just go ahead and get your doctorate degree abroad!). 

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