Philip Gerard was born in 1955 and grew up in Newark, Delaware. He attended St. Andrew's School in Middletown, Delaware. At the University of Delaware, he studied with fiction writer Thomas Molyneux, poet Gibbons Ruark, and nonfiction writer and editor Kevin Kerrane and earned a B.A. in English and Anthropology, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. After college he lived in Burlington, Vermont, tending bar and writing freelance articles, before returning to newspaper work in Delaware and then going west to study fiction writing at the Arizona writers workshop with Robert Houston, Vance Bourjaily, Richard Shelton, and others.

He earned his M.F.A. in Creative Writing in 1981 and almost immediately joined the faculty at Arizona State University as a Visiting Assistant Professor and later as Writer in Residence. He remained at ASU until 1986, then taught for a brief time at Lake Forest College in Illinois before migrating to coastal North Carolina, where he had spent many happy summers during his teenage years roaming the Outer Banks of Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands.

He teaches in the BFA and MFA Programs of the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He has won the Faculty Scholarship Award, the College of Arts & Science Teaching Award, the Chancellor's Medal for Excellence in Teaching, the Graduate Mentor Award, the Board of Trustees Teaching Award, and a Distinguished Teaching Professorship. The Philip Gerard Fellowship, endowed by benefactor Charles F. Green III to honor Gerard's work in establishing and directing the MFA program, is awarded annually to an MFA student on the basis of literary merit.

He is co-editor with his wife, Jill Gerard, of Chautauqua, the literary journal of the Chautauqua Institution, and serves on the faculty of Goucher College's summer residency MFA program in Creative Nonfiction.

In keeping with his conviction that writers should give something back to their profession, he has served on the Board of Trustees of the North Carolina Writers Network and from 1995 until 1998 on the Board of Directors of the Associated Writing Programs, for two of those years as President. He has been appointed to a second three-year term on the North Carolina Arts Council. He is the 2012 recipient of the Sam Talmadge Ragan Award for Contributions to the Fine Arts of North Carolina.

Gerard, an avid musician, incorporates bluegrass, folk, country, and original compositions into his readings, playing six and twelve-string guitar, dobro, banjo, and pedal steel guitar. He and Jill live on Whiskey Creek near the Intracoastal Waterway.