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How long does it usually take to graduate?


DEVGRU

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Hi there, I received an admission to Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD (Earth Sciences PhD program). I was recently browsing the websites of some POIs and got shocked by the time it takes for a graduate student to earn his PhD degree: at least 6 years. Originally I thought 5 years would be moderate and typical, but I never expected a 5+ years of graduate life, which may suggest a pushy supervisor.

 

So I was just wondering if this situation is completely normal or you also think is too long? Frankly speaking I admire the academic atmosphere at Scripps, but such a long duration will definitely be appalling and frustrating (at least to an international student like me).

 

Any comment will be greatly appreciated!

Edited by DEVGRU
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Oceanography programs as a whole average around 6.5 years, but those stats (from NSF) are a few years old and based on a time period stretching back to the 90s--in other words they reflect the pre-recession status quo. Scripps and the other big oceanography schools are making a concerted effort push graduation times towards 5 years, of for no other reason than to keep costs down. The UC system in particular has been hard hit by funding cuts, so it is definitely to their advantage to keep times down (unless the PI picks up the full cost--most don't). I think 5.5-6 years is still normal (this is based on WHOI and UW, not Scripps), but those very long (6+ year) graduation times are becoming very rare. 

 

 

Other things that go into graduation times is whether you swap advisors, whether you are trying to complete a MS as well (if not 'included' with the PhD), and how many publications you are trying to get out. Another big factor is not saying 'no' to advisors and colleagues that ask you to help with projects that aren't directly related to your thesis. If you meet with your advisor right off the bat and the two of you set out clear expectations (including your timeline) you are less likely to get roped into a long degree.

Edited by Usmivka
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I can really only speak from my personal experience in my field (Immunology/Medical Sciences/Chemistry) but I have seen PhDs take as little as 4 years to as many as 10 years, it all depends. I have found this usually has a lot to do with the POI and what their personal graduation requirements are. For example, I've seen some POIs require a certain number of publications to graduate and whenever you achieve that is when you can finish (usually 3-5 publications). That means you could graduate in 4 years or 8 depending on how long that takes. I've also seen some add on to that requirement the need for these publications to be in particular top journals. Some POIs have the vague requirement of "when I feel you are independent and ready to go out into the world."

 

I've also seen people take 5+ years to graduate when their project is just not working, so if it's possible to come up with a project you think can be accomplished in less than 5 years - of course, I'm not sure how one could know that in advance, but avoiding over the top, unlikely to succeed projects might be a good idea here, no matter how fun they sound ^_^. When I started my MS, I had a fun, unlikely to succeed project and a back up project for if it failed. Let's just say, I was lucky to have the back up!

 

And of course, it can add years to your studies if you don't put in enough time during the week. Also, I would talk to the POI/department about funding sources (TA/RA/etc). Some programs require you to TA the entire length of your degree while others only require 1-3 semesters of TAing before putting you on an RA. You definitely want to do the second option (if you have the option) since TAing takes up a considerable amount of time each week and can cut useful research time out.

 

Just my two cents! Hope it helps! ;)

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Oceanography programs as a whole average around 6.5 years, but those stats (from NSF) are a few years old and based on a time period stretching back to the 90s--in other words they reflect the pre-recession status quo. Scripps and the other big oceanography schools are making a concerted effort push graduation times towards 5 years, of for no other reason than to keep costs down. The UC system in particular has been hard hit by funding cuts, so it is definitely to their advantage to keep times down (unless the PI picks up the full cost--most don't). I think 5.5-6 years is still normal (this is based on WHOI and UW, not Scripps), but those very long (6+ year) graduation times are becoming very rare. 

 

 

Other things that go into graduation times is whether you swap advisors, whether you are trying to complete a MS as well (if not 'included' with the PhD), and how many publications you are trying to get out. Another big factor is not saying 'no' to advisors and colleagues that ask you to help with projects that aren't directly related to your thesis. If you meet with your advisor right off the bat and the two of you set out clear expectations (including your timeline) you are less likely to get roped into a long degree.

 

 

I can really only speak from my personal experience in my field (Immunology/Medical Sciences/Chemistry) but I have seen PhDs take as little as 4 years to as many as 10 years, it all depends. I have found this usually has a lot to do with the POI and what their personal graduation requirements are. For example, I've seen some POIs require a certain number of publications to graduate and whenever you achieve that is when you can finish (usually 3-5 publications). That means you could graduate in 4 years or 8 depending on how long that takes. I've also seen some add on to that requirement the need for these publications to be in particular top journals. Some POIs have the vague requirement of "when I feel you are independent and ready to go out into the world."

 

I've also seen people take 5+ years to graduate when their project is just not working, so if it's possible to come up with a project you think can be accomplished in less than 5 years - of course, I'm not sure how one could know that in advance, but avoiding over the top, unlikely to succeed projects might be a good idea here, no matter how fun they sound ^_^. When I started my MS, I had a fun, unlikely to succeed project and a back up project for if it failed. Let's just say, I was lucky to have the back up!

 

And of course, it can add years to your studies if you don't put in enough time during the week. Also, I would talk to the POI/department about funding sources (TA/RA/etc). Some programs require you to TA the entire length of your degree while others only require 1-3 semesters of TAing before putting you on an RA. You definitely want to do the second option (if you have the option) since TAing takes up a considerable amount of time each week and can cut useful research time out.

 

Just my two cents! Hope it helps! ;)

 

Thank you soooooooo much!!! That's really helpful information!

Edited by DEVGRU
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