Destination USA: How to apply for PhDs in US

Applicants should start working on their applications one to two years in advance of the programme start date

By Author  |  Monika Setia  |  Published: 17th Nov 2019  12:07 amUpdated: 17th Nov 2019  12:06 am
Destination USA
The duration of US PhD programmes vary by programme of study and university, but the average is five years, including around two years of course work.

Before we start our column, we would like to bring to the notice of our readers that the US Consulate General Hyderabad and US-India Educational Foundation are jointly celebrating International Education Week (IEW) from November 18 to 22. The IEW is a joint initiative of the US Department of State and the US Department of Education to mark and celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. Please register and join us in the celebrations at

Today, we wrap up our discussion on PhD programme applications to US universities. As we learned through columns over the last several weeks, the PhD is the most common doctoral degree programme in the United States designed to impart research skills to scholars. The duration of US PhD programmes varies by programme of study and university, but the average is five years, including around two years of coursework. The structure and design of the programmes also vary across universities, involving various benchmarks throughout the programme.

Applicants may apply for PhD programmes at US universities either during their 4th year of the bachelor’s or 2nd year of master’s programme. However, research and/or professional experience is required by most US universities for PhD programme applications.

Applicants should start working on their PhD programme applications one to two years in advance of the programme start date. Before starting the application, it is important for applicants to identify the area of research that they want to pursue as part of their PhD programme and find universities that conduct research in their field of interest.

The PhD programme application process involves an online application, standardised and English proficiency tests, transcripts, statement of purpose, letters of recommendations, curriculum vitae, and financial documents. In most cases, PhD programmes at US universities are fully funded. However, the amount and type of financial assistance offered varies by department, college, university, background and experience of the candidate, and field of study. The application for financial support is typically submitted together with the rest of the application.

Nevertheless, it is important that students submit their application package by an earlier deadline to be considered for funding. Once the applicant has received admission to a PhD programme as an international student, he or she will travel to the United States on an F-1 (non-immigrant) student visa.

Upon admission, students will receive an I-20 from the university, following which applicants should apply for the student visa. Finally, after receiving the F-1 visa, applicants should prepare for their journey to the United States. We encourage our readers to read earlier articles published in this space on applying for student visas, SEVIS fee, and preparing to leave for US study.

– Monika Setia (Regional Officer and EducationUSA Adviser at US – India Educational Foundation, based at the US Consulate General Hyderabad)


Q. Our daughter is studying in 10th standard. We plan to send her to US for higher studies. What are the admission requirements for bachelor’s degree in the US?
– Srinivas Chary

Ans. To be eligible for admission to a US college or university, students must meet certain minimum entry requirements. These include a secondary school diploma or examination results, English language ability, and in many cases a score from one of the academic standardised tests (either the SAT or ACT).

Each university will have its own requirements for admission, so it is important to research what the targeted universities may require. It is important that the student’s secondary school study has included a variety of subjects such as English, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Humanities or Social Sciences, and foreign language.

Q. What is USMLE? Where can I find more information about it?
– Rajesh

Ans USMLE stands for United States Medical Licensing Examination, and it is a licensing examination required in order to receive a license to practice medicine within the United States. The USMLE is comprised of three different steps that examine the individual’s knowledge of specific topics related to the field of medicine and the application of all of these skills and areas of knowledge in the medical field.

Students and graduates of medical schools outside the United States and Canada should apply for the different steps of USMLE by following the instructions at the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) website. You may refer to following websites to get further details about USMLE:

a) USMLE website:;
b) ECFMG website:;
c) FSMB – USMLE Step 3 Home Page:;
d) IMED website:


Every question has an answer. And ‘Destination USA’ will strive to provide the right answer to all those youngsters who dream of studying in the US.

Mail your questions and doubts to [email protected] to have subject matter experts answer them, right from the degree and programme of study you can pursue to what the application process entails, on universities, how to prepare resumes, financing your studies and even how it is like to live and study in the US, all are welcome.

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