Assuming that you don’t have money, you will have to 1) take out a massive loan, 2) find a fellowship and/or assistantship (Grad Ass), 3) work a minimum of 15-25 hours a week on that assistantship (usually teaching or researching something not your own), or 4) work your ass off in a 20-40 hour a week job in the “college town.”
First you usually need to finish a Master’s before your Ph.D. (and come back later to finish a Ph.D. when “you’re ready”). Others enter a Ph.D. program from the beginning, but receive their Master’s along the way.
Let’s start with a Master’s degree:
1. Find an advisor that you feel suits your needs towards your course of study (not as easy as you think since this will also be the person that chairs your thesis committee later).
2. Begin taking upper-level and graduate coursework that really has little bearing on your thesis research, but instead is meant to assist you in a direction. The justification here is that there is a minimum of “knowledge” that a Master’s degree holder must have.
3. After about one year you need to have a topic nailed down and start “preliminary research,” all the while working 20 hours a week teaching, taking 6-12 hours of coursework, and trying to re