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How to prepare yourself for PhD in USA ? Eligibility, Credit Transfer

One of our ardent contributors Swapnoneel, has volunteered to help the prospective PhD Students by writing a series of articles sharing his experiences. Thanks to him for such a kind act. If you have any questions for Swapnoneel, please leave a comment.

Background Info

This is my first article on this topic. Here I aim to tell prospective PhD applicants about how to prepare oneself towards the target of getting a full funding for PhD in the U.S. I’m from an engineering background, but while this article may be engineering oriented, it would help students of any field. OK so here’s what you should have in mind.

Eligibility for PhD after B.tech ? B.A, B.Com, B.Sc?

If you are an engineering student (B.E/B.Tech) you are eligible to apply directly for a PhD after you graduate. In case you are a general science or arts student, you need to complete your post graduation (M.Sc/M.A/M.Com) before you apply. For engineering students, if PhD is really your goal, I’d still recommend you get a post graduate degree (M.E/M.S/M.Tech) preferably from a good institute (IIT/IISc/NIT/IIIT etc). For IIT B.Techs, this is absolutely not required, but I’m targeting a wider audience. The reason for this suggestion is very simple:

How does Credit Transfer work in PhD ?

1. You would have some postgraduate courses done which you might transfer into your PhD degree (I transferred 12 credits from my IIT courses).

2. This means, the university won’t have to pay for those credits, and that will act as a positive ground for your application over other applicants without a postgraduate degree.

3. You are likely to have more research exposure which will be helpful and be a positive point on your application.

4. If you manage to get a postgraduate from a better institute than your undergraduate, you get better recommendations (from better known people).

So my first advice to the engineering students aiming for a PhD in the US is to get a postgraduate degree from a good institute before you apply.


Other Articles


  1. Respected sir,
    My name is Sayan Mukherjee. Currently, I am pursuing M.S. in Civil Engineering from IIT, Madras. I have done my B.E. from IIEST, Shibpur, Howrah with 8.75 CGPA. I am thinking of applying for a PhD in the U.S. in the summer of 2021. What CGPA (out of 10) should I have in my masters to clear the cutoff of the U.S. top universities?

    • Sayan,
      It is very subjective, there is no rule that says, you cannot apply, if less than x CGPA. You should reach out to schools you plan to apply, if they have any such requirements. As far as I know, there is no rule as such…They look at admission as a holistic thing and not just CGPA

      • Hey Humar,

        I am a graduate of IITM but my grades are just around 8.1 but I have some research experience. What do you think are my chances for PhD at top universities like CMU, Caltech or UCB?


        • Jom,
          Admission decisions are purely based on grades. Your entire profile matters. Your credentials from IITM will help you be in better spot. Get good recommendations from your professors, they will play a part in the admission. Your chances to get admission are high, if you get good scores and position yourself well with your passion for research and topics you want to research are in those schools.

  2. hi
    i am currently doing bsc from a college affiliated to kurukshetra university. I want to do a fully funded phd in physics from US . do i have to do msc in physics or i can directly do phd after qualifying GRE and TOEFL.

  3. Hello sir! I got my BTech from IIT Roorkee, but my CGPA is not good (7.18). What are my chances of getting into a good US university for a direct PhD?
    Also, would a master’s degree from IISc help reduce the duration of my PhD in US? Please guide me. I’ll be highly thankful.

    • IIT has good brand all over the globe, you should be able to get admission, if you get good scores…again, they look at it holistically and not just CGPA…write to few schools and get their inputs.

  4. Sir/Madam, I am currently on my 3rd semester of MSc. in physics. I want to pursue a Ph.D in theoretical physics in the USA. How much do I need to have in my bank account initially? Can I study in the USA without any bank loan or parents’ support from the start?

    • Usually PhD programs are fully funded, unless you cannot get funding. If you have the right scores and background with correct SOP, you would get funding. If you do not have funding, it can be very expensive for 5 years…it varies by school. Read Cost of MS in US , you can get an idea, to double it and add fees for one more year to get an idea.

  5. Hi,
    This is Tanu from India. I moved to united states few years ago. I have done masters in computers from India. I want to pursue PHD here in united states. I have started preparing for GRE. What if I don’t get any scholarship to do PHD? Can you please tell me an estimate cost of doing PHD without scholarship?

    Thanks a lot !

    • Tanu,
      The cost of doing doing PhD depends on the number of credits you would need to complete for getting PhD and how long you should take them. You should check with the school on the number of credits you need to take on average to complete PhD and then compute the cost based on cost per credit. You need to check with the school you plan to apply as it is not really like a fixed cost and it varies.

  6. Do I have no chance to pursue a PhD from US if I have done B.Tech and M.Tech from a good state university(not IIT) ?
    How can I manage to study in US if there is any chance?

    • Neeti,
      You have every chance to pursue a PhD, your previous University does not really matter. While, it may have some advantages in admissions, it is not everything. You need good scores in GRE, TOEFL and good publications, if any from M.Tech and good research acumen demonstrated by conference papers, etc. You can talk/ email few schools to understand what they are looking for and then plan to build those skills.

  7. I have done three year BA course ( English , Hindi, Psychology and Sociology), two year MA ( Psychology), B.Ed.( one year) , M.A. ( Education, two year degree course) ( Both degrees with Psychology as one of the major subjects), Ph.D. ( Education)( five years) from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi ( Central University) My thesis was related to Psychology/ Educational Psychology.

    I want to pursue Ph.D. in Psychology from USA or Canada, Do I need GRE and TOEFL?
    Are there any universities which either do not require GRE from already a doctorate candidate or require low GRE score?

    • Sheena,
      Yes, you may very likely need to take both GRE and TOEFL as they are pretty much required tests. Well, I cannot advise on schools, but most of the good schools require GRE/TOEFL, if you are moving from outside of US to study first time in US. Sometimes, GRE scores are just compliance and may or may not be full decision factors. I suggest you reach out to few schools that offer PhD programs in Psychology and then get their inputs. You can write to professors, admissions office, graduate school office, and get info.

  8. Hi sir, I am a B.Tech graduate from IIT, Dhanbad and I want to do a Ph.D in Astrophysics/ Theoretical Physics. But, there is a problem: I graduated in 2015 and have not pursued any other degree since then. I have mainly taught, worked as a freelancer and in a secretarial government job. Please guide me how can I live my dream.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Shantanu,
      Having break in your education does not matter. You are from a good school, you can leverage that. Do some research on the list of schools that offer better PhD programs and has done a lot of research in the field o your interest. Once you have that list, look at the required scores and what they look at like certain GRE, TOEFL scores and then you can start to communicate with professors or admissions and apply once you have good score. Having a compelling Statement of Purpose will also help your dream. You can live your dream, provided you work towards it !

  9. Hi i am Sapna Ganjoo.
    I have done BA History Hons. from Delhi University and now pursuing masters from Indira Gandhi National Open University- Delhi.
    I have further planned to do Ph.D from US.
    What is the eligibility criteria?

    • You need to take required tests by the school that you plan to apply like GRE, TOEFL and submit all documents as required.

    • I done 4 years bba (hons) in Management Sciences
      MS in Management Sciences of 2 years
      Now I m living in USA and I want get adm in USA university
      So how I can get admission

  10. Hello,
    This is Jyoti. I have completed my Bcom this year from Mumbai University and am planning to do MBA in finance from IIM and later want to do Phd in finance from US university?

    • Jyoti,
      I am wondering what is your final goal ? Why do MBA and then PhD ? One is research other is Management and administration, both are not related…

  11. Hey, Kumar,
    This is Sangeetha, I am doing my MS in Healthcare Administration from the University in the USA and I am looking forward to further study i.e., pursue Ph.D. in continuation after the MS. i have few queries regarding the same and hoping ill get response from u
    1. what are the prerequisites for doing Ph.D. in the US. do I need to write any exams to qualify for the admission into a university?
    2.Do I need to have experience after MS to pursue Ph.D
    3. what is the admission process for the Ph.D
    4.can i select the professor under whom I want to do my thesis work.

    kindly revert back with the answers to these.

    Sangeetha Yadav

    • Sangeetha,
      1. It varies by school and your interested area, your school that gives admission decides that.
      2. Not necessarily.
      3. It varies by school, but in general, you may need to take additional exams like subject GRE or other tests and apply. You need to check with school that you plan to apply for process and requirement
      4. Again, it totally depends. If you can proactively reach out to professors, talk to them and get their interest, you can choose them as guide.
      As you are already in US, schedule appointment with a school or two and talk to the admissions, dean or professor and seek guidance.

  12. Hello Sir,
    I am Suja S from Kolkata, I have done my B.sc in 2011 and M.sc in Zoology from Calcutta university in 2013, from then on I have been working in a private company in order to support my family as my father has retired. I have scored first class marks in both my graduation and post graduation. Now however i want to get back to academics and want to do a Ph.d in zoology, particularly ecology from universities in the US. I am preparing myself for the GRE exam, the problem is the professors from my university with whom I’m still in touch with and also the institution I’m preparing for GRE are saying that I won’t be able to apply for a Ph.d as I do not have the relevant lab experience required as I have been detached from the subject since 2013, as I know ph.d is fully funded course in US , so that’s why I was approaching, but they are telling me that I will be able to do MS and not Ph.d, in MS one requires to study at their own expenses , as my father is a retired person and we belong to a mediocre family it is impossible for me to go for MS, can you please guide me what to do as I was planning to give the GRE this year and apply for fall 2019 session, but now due to this dilemma I’m unable to take proper preparation for GRE, sir please do reply and show me a way as me and my parents are under extreme pressure, thinking about me my parents are even getting ill as I’m now 28 years old and in such a drastic dilemma………sir please guide me what to do………

    • Suja,
      I am not from zoology background, hence cannot speak specifically on that. What I can tell you is that, you can definitely go for PhD after MS. Maybe the one school you contacted are not willing to do that. If you look for more schools, you should be able to find some alternative. Also, you can ask the schools, if they can offer PhD admission after MS or doing like MS+PHD integrated. You can always tell them that, you are ready to take any pre-requisites and lab work for 2 semesters to get up to speed and then enroll in PhD.
      Funding can be a very tricky thing, it is very hard to get it lately. You will need to research schools, talk to professors and get some sort of funding. You may not be able to get it in first semester, but you will have to take a chance and go. It is a tough decision. You need to take call. You can consider loan options as well. Take time to think and take a decision.

  13. hello sir,
    my name is girish ,now i am study in msc physics .I want to done my phd in USA. i am be the scheduled cast categrey student .can i required i.e. need to done GRE or TOFEL examanition . and it has any shemes for sc categrey students to done phd without any entrance exam.

    • Girish,
      No SC schemes in US. It is purely based on merit and no schemes like India. Most of the PhD Programs are fully funded, meaning they will give some sort of scholarship, TA, RA or GA to pay for the tuition and expenses. Once you know the topic and university, you can write to them for info and requirements. It is usually GRE, TOEFL and other things.

  14. Hi,
    I have done my post graduation from IIITB. I have 6 years of work experience in SAP Labs Bangalore. Last year I moved to USA on H4 visa. I am planning to do phD in USA with scholarship. Can anyone please help me with more details how to proceed.
    Thanks in Advance,

    • Jansi,
      In general, most of the PhD Programs are fully funded. The trick is working with school/ professor and get that funding. One of things you can do is pick the area you are interested in for PhD, then look at schools. One you have clarity, try to visit them or call them. You can check their website for requirements. If you have good credentials, passion to do it, getting funding for PhD is not a big problem.

  15. Hello Kumar,
    Zainab here.
    I am about to finish my M.Sc. Physics course in Condensed Matter Physics from Calcutta University and wish to apply for a Phd in US.
    My Questions are:
    1)Is course fee required as is in MS course
    2)Is GRE the only exam (apart from interviews)required to be taken
    3)Is a recommendation letter from a faculty member of any US University valid.
    I hope you will reply to my queries.
    Thank you.

    • 1. Yes, you can pay for PhD like MS. But, in most of the cases PhD students are typically funded by school in some sort like GA, RA, TA or scholarship.
      2. It varies by school. Mostly GRE and TOEFL..
      3. Yes, as long as that person knows you well in a capacity to recommend you.

  16. Hi,
    I have done my masters in Food Quality Management from UK and I would like to do PhD or masters in US, currently on H4 visa. Do I required to take GRE/Tofel?
    It will be good if the university will provide the CPT .

    • Reena,
      Most of the good schools would require GRE/ TOEFL or other exams. I recommend you check with the schools you plan to apply. Well, usually you would be eligible for CPT after couple of semesters, you should check with the schools.

    • preety,
      Process is very straightforward, you have to identify your interests for PhD, research on schools for PhD, and look at the process of application for PhD in such schools.

  17. I m yogesh madaan . I passed my m.ed from kuk university and after this i passed my m.phil in efucation in 2013.I have exp of research .Up to now I have written two desertation submitted in kurukshera university. And now want to do phd in usa ..kindly suggest me best advice …i am an indian

    • yogesh,
      The first step would be to identify why you want to do PhD and what field would you like to do in…Once you have clarity, then look for schools that fit your interests and take required tests for the same and apply.

  18. I have done B.Tech from IIT Roorkee and MBA in finance from IIFT. Currently I am working with SBI as Financial adviser in the area of Equity research and Investment. Now I want to pursue Ph.D in economics from USA. During B.Tech at IIT and MBA at IIFT, I have done some courses in economics. Is it possible for me to apply directly for PHD ?? Expecting your reply.

  19. Hello, I’m priti. I’ve done M.Sc.Biotech in 2010 from Devi Ahilya University Indore India. I’m currently working in Coaching institute…not done any research work after my PG. Now i want to pursue Ph.D from USA. What should i do now to achieve my goal. Now I’m married & have 1.5 year old daughter. Plz suggest

  20. this is ganesh , iam intersting to do ph,d organic chemistry . i have research experince 8 months and one publication also please tell me how i get admisson abroad

  21. Hi,

    I have completed my M. Pharm from National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education & Research. My specialization is Pharmacology & Toxicology. Please advise on Ph. D in USA.


  22. Hi
    I am pursuing Masters of Commerce (M.com)from Pune university what will be the procedure for PhD in US .

  23. I am an MCA from Osmania University. Can I apply for Ph.D in computer science in the U.S. Also have 17 years of work experience. Preparing for GRE/TOEFL.

    • sridhar,
      Yes, you can. You are on the right track preparing for the same. Take some time to do research on the schools that offer the research topics of your interest and apply to the right ones.

  24. Hi,
    I am a BBA graduate and I possess a PGDM (post graduate diploma in management) from a autonomous institute.I also have a 1 year post PGDM work experience.Am I eligible for a PhD in US in management?

    • Manisha,
      Yes, you should be eligible as long as your degree is from a recognized school. You will need to check with school that you plan to apply for requirements like GRE/GMAT, etc.

    • srinu,
      If you are clear on why you want to do PhD and have a goal for yourself, then you can start to look at schools that you plan to study in and then look at the required tests to take and other requirements that school may have. Check the universities website to get this info.

  25. Hi, I’m a masters graduate from a tier 1 US university. I did my masters thesis on “Dynamics and control of a Quadcopter “.
    I have my gre score 303- Q161 and V142.
    I’ve been searching for past 1 year for a university and professor who would take me as ph.d student.
    Even after getting admission (UH) I couldn’t find a professor. I’m working as automotive designer now.
    Can anyone help me to find a professor interested in Design, Dynamics and Automotive field.
    Or should I retake my gre?

  26. This is Pratibha,
    I am pursuing M.Sc. Mathematics from Panjab University. I wish to do my Ph.d from USA. By the earlier comments i get that i have to give GRE and TOEFL.
    So what all should be my score in grad. or post-grad or in these exams or the minimum requirement to get admission in Ph.d ? or there is something else like some experience i should have??

  27. Hi..! i am parul..! i am persuing Msc zoology from punjab agricultural university (pau) ludhiana..! my research work will b completed in cmng 6 months..! could u please suggest me the criteria to apply for phd in usa..!

  28. Hi I’m Rajya Lakshmi,

    I’m on F2 dependant at the moment here in the USA, I’ve got an international masters degree (From the UK). I’m looking for guidance to pursue PhD in USA. Am I eligible to apply & what are the chances for getting through.

  29. I am Priya. I have completed my M.Sc biotechnology in 2011. After that i have worked as JRF in SRM University and presently working in IIT Madras as Project associate. I have industrial exprience of one year too. Now i would like to do PhD in USA. Will they consider my application . Can i proceed with this?
    KIndly help

  30. hey,

    i am preeti, i have completed my masters in june 2016, after that i prepared for gre and toefl and my gre score is 311 and toefl is 101, i have published 5 papers in international journals and confrences but they are not in the very famous ones like ieee, and i am working as an research assistant since january 2017 in a very reputed institute, i have applied in many universities for fall 2017 but i am not getting affirmative results, please suggest me what else can i do to improve my chances of getting selected with funding in spring 2018.

    Thank You

    • preeti,
      Admission decision depends on many factors. Usually, the best way to get admission is to position your strengths that match the university research areas. If your publications or research match with the University professors focus, you have a fair chance. It may not be straightforward, you will need to spend some time doing research on identifying the right schools that fit your criteria…nevertheless, can be done, just keep trying, dont give up !

  31. i am currently doing my master’s degree from jntuh , my course work will be completed most probably in september , when can i start applying for P.hd .
    whats the time period of completing P.hd and the approximate cost for its completion

    • Usually, you apply one year before your graduation, so that you do not have any break in education. So, you are ready to go ahead. Cost always varies by school. I suggest you check schools websites.

  32. Hi This is Suresh 23 years old. currently studying M.tech final year in India. I would like to do my PhD in USA, could you please tell me am I eligible for PhD, if yes please advise me the steps what i have to follow. I will be wait for reply…

  33. This is UshaRani MA B Ed Post Graduate , Iam interested in doing PHd . aged 47 years. Is it possible for me to apply Ph.D in USA. Expecting your reply.

    • Usharani,
      Yes, You can apply for PhD for sure. You will need to take required tests like GRE and TOEFL as required by the schools. You will need to check the schools you plan to apply for full details on their requirements.

  34. this is Mrs. USHARANI. G Specialized in Economics MA B ED. having 7 years of experience in school and having capacity in content writing I am looking out for a very good opening in USA in my streamline anticipating valuable suggestions

  35. This is Prabakar. R . I am a MBA graduate and aged 49 years. Is it possible for me to apply Ph.D in USA. Expecting your reply.

    • Prabakar,
      Yes, you are eligible to apply for PhD. Age is not a concern, you will need to take required tests like GRE, TOEFL and apply.

    • Hi,

      I’m looking to do Ph.D in compute science and im a post graduate from India.
      Currently live in US in h4 dependent visa. Should I still write TOEFL and GRE though I live in US.
      Please let me know the procedure what is the criteria to get started?

      • Priya,
        Most of the good schools require GRE for sure. If you speak to the school in person and tell that you have been there, they can waive TOEFL requirement. The process is pretty straightforward, you find the research topic of your interest, you research on the school that fits your profile, look at the requirements on the school’s website, then start preparing for the same and apply.


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