About doctoral education at KI

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A doctoral (PhD) degree is the highest academic degree in Sweden, and it is earned after four years of doctoral education and passing a public defence.

Why choose Karolinska Institutet (KI)?

Want to study at doctoral level at KI?

To complete a doctoral education means to devote oneself to a research project under supervision of an experienced researcher and to follow an individual study plan. The doctoral student will also take courses and write a thesis.

Each doctoral student has their unique doctoral education, depending on the project, the supervisors and individual qualifications but striving against the same overall learning objectives.

Schematic description of the doctoral education

Overview of the doctoral education


To be eligible for doctoral education you must have at least four years previous university studies of which at least one year at advanced/master level.  All doctoral students must be able to read and write English and for some projects also be fluent in Swedish.

Read more about entry requirements (eligibility) for doctoral education

Learning outcomes and goals for doctoral education

After completing their doctoral education at KI, students are to have developed an advanced general knowledge of medical science and scientific methodology, and cutting edge scientific skills in whatever research field they choose to explore for their final thesis.

Please see detailed goals for PhD and Licentiate degrees, as defined by the Higher education ordinance.

Study plans

The content of the doctoral studies is outlined in the individual study plan written by the doctoral student and supervisor together and approved by the head of the department after the admission seminar. The individual study plan describes how the goals of the education will be achieved and consists of a research plan, a financing plan, description of the supervision and a list of courses and other activities. Course requirements and elements are outlined in the general syllabus for medical science.

The individual study plan is followed-up and the progress checked annually.


All doctoral students are taking courses; both basic general science courses and project specific courses, as outlined in the study plan.

Courses at doctoral level.

Research schools

KI offers a number of research schools that students can apply to either before or after admission to doctoral education. In a research school the education is more scheduled than for other doctoral students that have to apply for every single course. Most research schools are aimed for doctoral student with an employment as clinicians at a Swedish hospital. To be considered for a research school you have to apply both to the school and to an individual doctoral project at one of KI’s departments.

Doctoral programmes

When admitted to doctoral education the student chooses one or several thematic programmes that are related to their research project. The purpose with the programmes is to give a comprehensive supply of courses and other learning activities within each research area. The programmes are also a possibility for the doctoral student to create networks outside the research group and department.

Doctoral programmes at KI.

Study funding

All doctoral students at KI are financially supported during the studies, either through doctoral grants and doctoral studentships or through employment by another employer or by external scholarships.  

Doctoral education has no tuition fee regardless of the student’s country of origin.

Read more about study funding during doctoral education at the intranet.


Karolinska Institutet issues following degrees at doctoral level:

- Licentiate degree (after two years studies at doctoral level)

- Doctoral (PhD) degree (after four years studies at doctoral level)

A doctoral degree is issued after a public defence of a doctoral thesis. A licentiate thesis is publically defended at a licentiate seminar.

After the degree

A doctoral degree from KI gives you cutting edge skills within your research field and opens up a wide range of career opportunities. After graduating with a licentiate or PhD degree, students can continue to pursue a scientific career at a research institute or in industry, as a researcher/teacher at a university, as a research-competent leader in the commercial or healthcare sector, as a science journalist or consultant, etc. These different professions require different skills and knowledge. Consequently, our doctoral education provides students with a broad grounding in the subject and prepares them for their scientific and professional futures beyond the scope of the study plan for an individual project.

Rules for doctoral education at KI

Rules for doctoral education.

Doctoral education at KI in numbers

2013 Total of which are women
Doctoral students  2 090  1 241
PhD degrees  306 202
Licentiate 12 11
Admissions 373 207


Doctoral education