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Is it possible to complete a PhD in 4 years?


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Possible?  Sure.  Something any rational person would attempt?  No.

 

The trend over the past few decades has been for graduate students to spend more time in graduate school perfecting their CVs, not to enter the market with as little preparation as humanly possible.

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It's certainly possible, and actually not that hard.  It's just not very sensible for most students.  Those who are being externally funded by government generally have a maximum of 4 years, for example, and most of them do it.

 

The reason it's not a good idea is that applications for academic jobs come in the fall of your terminal year, and thus reflect the work you've done up through the early summer of your penultimate year.  That is, people who will be looking for jobs this fall need to be finishing the projects on which they'll base their applications now (roughly 15 months before the job would actually start).  

 

Given that course work takes 2 years, this leaves a student on the four year plan with only one year of dedicated research work, and it's hard to crank out enough in that time to get hired.  The reason that government-funded students (e.g., from the military) can do everything so much faster is that 1) they already have a job and just need to produce a minimally-satisfactory product to receive the PhD and 2) they have the full duration of their employment to do it.  For academic job seekers, a far more than minimally-satisfactory product is required and the last year is not usable.

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  • 5 months later...

It's possible and not unrealistic. It's also not a good idea if you're planning on going into academia. "Publish or perish" starts in graduate school now and if you shorten your time in graduate school you're likely competing against applicants who have had an extra one or two years to publish.

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13 hours ago, mb712 said:

It's possible and not unrealistic. It's also not a good idea if you're planning on going into academia. "Publish or perish" starts in graduate school now and if you shorten your time in graduate school you're likely competing against applicants who have had an extra one or two years to publish.

It depends on what kind of academic job you want to pursue. If you're interested in being at a regional university, community college, or liberal arts college, then publications are one of several things they will be looking for, in addition to things like teaching experience and the ability to involve undergraduates in your research.

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  • 1 month later...

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