Online PhD Programs and Online Doctorate Degrees

In short: The Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy, is arguably the most prestigious degree in existence. The average amount of time required to earn a Ph.D. is five years, but the degree's financial payoff is huge. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, professionals with doctorates earn approximately $37,265 more each year than workers with bachelor's degrees.

The doctoral degree is the highest academic credential it is possible to earn. Whether it's a research Ph.D. (DPhil to the Brits), a D.A. (Doctor of Arts), or some other variant, the doctorate degree typically requires four to six years of additional study beyond the master's level. To get a doctoral degree the graduate student must complete a course of study, do original research and write a publishable thesis or dissertation. Not surprisingly, only one in 100 Americans call themselves "doctor." Consequently, a doctorate commands respect.

The Ph.D. in a Nutshell

The doctoral student takes advanced courses in a chosen field, usually in small seminars or independent studies. The coursework typically takes three to four semesters of full-time study. Once the coursework is complete, the doctoral candidate must pass written and/or oral doctoral qualifying exams, proving that they have sufficient background to proceed with independent research.

The qualifying exam is given by the candidate's committee, usually three to five professors in the candidate's program who agree to guide the candidate's research. The Ph.D. candidate then pursues original research and writes a book-length thesis or dissertation. Once the dissertation is complete, the candidate must orally defend its conclusions before the committee. When the candidate successfully defends and deposits the finished dissertation with the university, the title "doctor" has been earned.

Accreditation

Because the doctorate is an elite degree, program accreditation is a serious concern. Even the U.S. government has been taken in by diploma mills posing as legitimate advanced degree-granting institutions. The prospective student should carefully assess the credentials of any university before committing to a lengthy and difficult program of doctoral study. Any school offering a quick and easy Ph.D. shouldn't be taken seriously, and it certainly shouldn't get any of the student's hard-earned money.

Only accredited programs of study can grant a meaningful doctorate, an advanced degree that is recognized by professional organizations, board of licensure, and potential employers. Both the degree-granting university and its accrediting agencies must be carefully checked with the U.S. Department of Education.

Mentoring

Mentoring is a crucial part of doctoral study, whether the student is pursuing the Ph.D. or another doctorate degree. Faculty who first teach and then form the candidate's committee also write the letters of recommendation that eventually get the candidate a job. In essence, the candidate borrows the prestige of the scholars who serve on the committee and write on his or her behalf. One of the lessons of doctoral study is: Work with the best people.

Professional Affiliation and Licensure Issues

While the Ph.D. may be sufficient as a credential, professional affiliation--membership in organizations of fellow experts in one's field--is necessary for career advancement. Before committing to a program of doctoral study, it's a good idea to see if the program has the stamp of approval of the professional organizations in that field.

Some doctor of philosophy degrees and other doctorates require additional licensure before their degree holders can actually practice the profession for which they've trained. A Ph.D. or PsyD in psychology, for example, isn't sufficient to qualify its holder to set up a counseling practice. Where licensing will eventually be necessary, the doctoral degree seeker should make sure that the degree program is recognized by the licensing agency before investing time and money in it.

Popular Fields for Doctoral Study

Even leaving aside the "first professional" doctoral degrees--the J.D. (juris doctor) in law and the M.D. in medicine--the doctorate still takes many forms and has many variations. Online doctoral degree programs, with few exceptions, require as much as a year of residency and/or field work or other clinical experience. Some fields require supervised practicums leading to licensure.

Here are a few of the most popular doctorates that are available online:

Psychology (Ph.D.; PsyD)

Both the Ph.D. in Psychology and the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) can be pursued through online study. The former is sometimes considered a research and teaching degree while the latter is considered a counseling degree, there are no hard and fast rules as to which is which. Sub-specialties include clinical psychology, counseling psychology, educational psychology, or organizational psychology.

Education (Ph.D.; EdD)

As a general rule, the Ph.D. in Education prepares graduates for academic teaching or administrative careers whereas the Ed.D. prepares primary and secondary school administrators or teachers in academic departments of education.

Engineering (PhD; DCS)

Ph.D.s in many branches of engineering can be pursued through distance learning. Popular areas of study include computer science (sometimes called a Doctor of Computer Science or DCS), electrical engineering, civil engineering, and mechanical engineering. Some programs award a Doctor of Engineering degree (D.Eng).

Public Health(Ph.D.; DPH)

Doctoral degrees in public health prepare graduates for administrative or research careers in community health or related social health fields, including epidemiology. The Doctor of Public Health degree (DPH) usually emphasizes public health policy studies.

Business (Ph.D; DBA)

The Ph.D. in business or the Doctor of Business Administration degree prepares graduates for research and teaching positions in business.

Regardless of the chosen field of study, a doctoral program is challenging and deeply satisfying. Doctoral researchers take their places in the global intellectual community. The doctorate degree holder both creates new knowledge and shares that knowledge with professional peers at conferences and with the public through writing, media, and public presentations. Those with doctorates shape the world in which we all live and help us understand it.

Sources:

  • "The brains business." Economist 376.8443 (Sept. 10, 2005).
  • "Going the Distance," by Sherry Reuter and Rosalind E. Schwartzberg. Applied Clinical Trials 13.10 (October 2004).
  • National Center for Education Statistics
  • "Online colleges come into their own," by Paul Tosto. Saint Paul Pioneer Press (MN)(July 18, 2005).
  • "Online degrees," by Holly Dolezalek Training 40.5 (May 1, 2003).
  • Online-Education Survey Finds Unexpectedly High Enrollment Growth," by Scott Carlson. Chronicle of Higher Education 51.14 (Nov. 26, 2004).
  • "Sink or Swim?" by Alana Klein. University Business 7.4 (April 2004).
  • "Taking the E-Train," by Doug Bartholomew. Industry Week/IW 254.6 (June 2005).
  • U.S. Department of Education

Pursue your Online Doctorate Degree today…

Searching Searching ...

Matching School Ads
4 Program(s) Found
Further your education by pursuing a certificate, master, or doctorate degree in Psychology at The Chicago School for Professional Psychology. Attend a school recognized by the NCSPP for its distinguished service and outstanding contributions to cultural diversity and advocacy. The Chicago School for Professional Psychology has more than 30 years teaching experience and offers more than 20 degree programs.
  • Online Courses
5 Program(s) Found
  • Phoenix Career Services™ help students find careers that match their interests & map out a personalized career plan.
  • Mentorships & networking opportunities available through Alumni Association of 800,000+ graduates.
  • Flexible start date and class schedules.
  • 100+ locations and online options.
  • Offers special military rates and special advisors who have a military background.
  • Students can earn credits for applicable military training and education.
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
5 Program(s) Found
  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor's Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Implements a one-to-one teaching model, partnering one student with one faculty member in each course.
  • 100% of faculty members hold doctoral degrees.
  • No physical residency requirements, allowing students to pursue their degree online.
  • Committed to innovation, diversity, excellence, and accountability since its founding in 1996.
  • Offers several programs in business, education, psychology, and more.
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
5 Program(s) Found
  • According to a Walden-sponsored study, 88.2% of graduates are very satisfied or satisfied with their education and more than 85% of students are likely or very likely to recommend the school to others.
  • In that same study, 88% of graduates said their education helped them enhance their professional performance.
  • Students can save 15% on tuition over the lifetime of their program if they are active-duty military, a veteran, or an employee of the Veteran’s Administration.
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
5 Program(s) Found
  • Features 43 degree programs and more than 142 specializations.
  • Offers several ways to save on tuition, including multiple grant and scholarship opportunities, low-cost credits, accelerated programs, and more.
  • Reduced tuition, transfer credits, and other benefits are available for all military service members and veterans.
  • Allows students to preview a free, one-week mini course to give an accurate impression of the student experience.
  • Accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
2 Program(s) Found
  • A member of The Russell Group of 24 UK research-led universities.
  • Ranked in the top 1% of higher education institutions worldwide.
  • Teaches students are from over 160 countries worldwide.
  • Holds full accreditation with degrees widely recognized internationally.
  • Degrees pursued online will look the same as degrees pursued on campus.
  • Its Royal Charter has allowed it to independently award bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees since 1903.
  • Over 6,000 international students on campus.
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
5 Program(s) Found

• With 100,000+ students, it's the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation.
• Since 1971, its mission has been to develop Christ-centered men and women with the values, knowledge, and skills essential for impacting tomorrow’s world.
• Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
• The student-faculty ratio is 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
• The average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, is 76.5%.

Show more [+]
  • Online Courses