Preparing for a PhD in COS Majors
Information on the benefits of obtaining a doctoral (Ph.D.) degree and more extensive advice on preparing for doctoral education can be found on the UTSA Graduate School website. In general, programs are looking for students with the appropriate academic coursework, a solid GPA (3.5 or above), solid Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores, a mentored research experience, strong recommendations from research mentors, and research interests that are compatible with institutional research emphases. Please note, however, that admissions to graduate school can be flexible; for students with an exceptional research background and letters, admission with a lower GPA or GRE score can occur, particularly if their grades are strong in upper division major courses. Quite a few students with lower GPAs (though seldom below a 3.0) have been admitted to very good doctoral programs. Further, the focus paid to GRE scores varies by graduate institution, so never count yourself out if you have GRE issues.
Doctoral training takes place at academic institutions such as universities and medical centers. Doctoral training is unique in that after about two years, structured coursework is completed and students are primarily devoted to the research projects that they have proposed. Normally, there is not a set time for the award of the doctorate, but students commonly complete their work and defend their doctoral dissertation within four to six years of study. A particularly compelling aspect of doctoral education in the sciences represented by the College of Sciences is the fact that it is not a financial burden to the student. Tuition, fees, and even living expenses for doctoral trainees in the sciences are generally covered by their research mentor, department fellowships or teaching assistantships, or through pre-doctoral grant proposals that trainees themselves can write. Currently, Biology doctoral trainees at UTSA make $26,000 on a stipend and have tuition paid as well. The source of these funds can vary with time.
Doctoral training programs have diverse emphases and entry requirements, so students seeking admission will need to consult their programs of interest. Of particular note is the fact that a majority of Ph.D. programs in the sciences do not require prior completion of a Master’s degree if a student has received adequate undergraduate research preparation. Other fields in engineering (except biomedical engineering), psychology, and kinesiology do require completion of master's education; please check into this when you are exploring individual fields. For many Ph.D. programs, a Master’s degree may help with admission, but never count yourself out from direct application following undergraduate studies if you have at least a year of research experience and strong letters of recommendation.
UTSA coursework generally provides a strong foundation for future doctoral studies with the selection of appropriate electives. There are many mechanisms for obtaining research experience during undergraduate education at UTSA which are summarized here. Briefly, students perform research by volunteering, or through participation in the Honors College, Departmental or College Honors, Independent Study courses, and a variety of organized research training programs. Summer research is also an option, with funded positions available at UTSA and at academic, industry, and government institutions throughout the world.
For additional assistance in obtaining a research position, please consult the UTSA Office of Undergraduate Research.
For more information on finding and choosing a graduate program, see the UTSA Graduate School website, the PowerPoint Presentation from the UTSA RISE program, or any of the following nationally recognized sites: