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PhD in General Studies

Doctoral programs typically aren't available in general studies. Learn about an alternate option, the interdisciplinary Ph.D. program, which is a research program that can include multiple academic subjects.

Can I Earn a Ph.D. in General Studies?

Ph.D. programs generally focus on one specific topic, so there aren't general studies programs. However, if you'd like to study across more than one subject, you may be able to propose your own Ph.D. program. These options are often called interdisciplinary programs. You can combine your interests to earn a unique Ph.D. that suits your area of expertise.

To build an interdisciplinary curriculum, you combine studies from approximately two traditional academic departments. Students have earned doctoral degrees in marketing higher education, advertising ethics, political logic and religious communications. You can propose any combination of study areas, though you usually need subjects from at least two departments.

Program DetailsStudents may propose to build their own degree by combining two areas of study to create a custom degree.
Program StandardsEach specific school will have their own academic standards, though generally students will work with professors and mentors to guide them through the process.
Program StructureAn self-designed Ph.D. is structured very much like other Ph.D. programs in that research and original work, a dissertation, and working with a mentor is standard practice.
Median Salary (2018) $65,660 (for postsecondary teachers, all other)*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 15% growth (for all postsecondary teachers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Does It Work?

You're essentially creating your own program, but you still have to adhere to your school's academic standards. The first step in the process is to find professors and faculty to guide you in developing a curriculum and creating your proposal. These department representatives help you select appropriate courses and ensure that your program meets the school's standards and requirements.

Schools typically set guidelines for their interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs. Often, you have to take a certain number of high-level courses, and any one subject area or department can't dominate your curriculum. You also have to take courses in research and methodology. Most Ph.D. programs require you to complete a dissertation, too.

Is This Similar to Other Ph.D. Programs?

The structure of an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program is very much like other Ph.D. programs. Research, analysis and original work are overarching components of most Ph.D. studies, and an interdisciplinary studies Ph.D. requires you to take courses that train you to perform these tasks. Additionally, you have to complete a dissertation and work closely with professors and mentors.

The major difference is that you propose your dissertation in the program proposal, so you know what you're researching from the beginning. Some schools point out that gaining acceptance to an interdisciplinary studies Ph.D. program is often quite difficult because of the planning required. But once you embark on your studies, you've surpassed a main hurdle and can start on earning your custom Ph.D.