Your Guide to Professional Doctoral Degrees

Looking for a way to advance your career? A professional doctoral degree could be key. Professional terminal degrees represent the highest level one can achieve in a given field. Whether your ultimate career goal is at the top of a corporation, an administrative position in a school, or a clinical medical position, the doctorate is a necessary step to your success.

Coworkers and management alike value the experience and knowledge you can gain in a professional doctoral degree program. In some executive, administrative, and clinical positions, a doctorate is considered a minimum requirement for hire.

Advanced Knowledge & Stronger Position

The professional doctoral degree is a terminal degree that gives you advanced knowledge and strengthens your position in the workplace. Before becoming a doctoral degree candidate, students must first obtain relevant undergraduate and graduate degrees. Prospective doctoral students must make the sometimes difficult choice between an academic and a professional degree.

Doctoral Degrees: Academic Versus Professional

Unlike academic degrees that prepare students to work in academia or research, professional doctoral degrees are designed to make you an expert in your field and in the workplace. In business, professional doctorate holders are often sought for positions in consulting, leadership, and upper management. In education, graduates often work as administrators in secondary and post-secondary schools.

Both academic and professional doctoral degrees are considered research degrees; however, the research process itself is different between them. While academic doctoral degrees challenge students to come up with new technologies or concepts, the goal of a professional degree is to apply an existing set of technologies or concepts to an existing problem. A professional degree gives you the chance to apply existing knowledge to a high-level issue in the same way you might operate at work. In this way, the degree is a practical and useful addition to your existing knowledge.

Popular Subjects in Professional Degrees

Professional doctorates are available in a range of subjects. In any field that requires expertise and a high level of knowledge, graduates can benefit from the time they spend earning their doctoral degree–and, of course, the degree itself. Here are a few popular professional doctoral degrees:

  • Business & Management: DBA–Doctor of Business Administration
  • Health Care: PharmD–Doctor of Pharmacy
  • Education: EdD–Doctor of Leadership in Education
  • Law: JD–Juris Doctor
  • Psychology & Counseling: EdD–Doctor of Education in Counseling

Many students benefit from advanced professional training, even if the professional degree program the they choose is not a PhD, and online programs allow the additional benefit of increased flexibility. The online DBA, for example, is a popular next step afer the online MBA that allows businesspeople to continue at their jobs while getting the training they need to get to the top of the ladder.

Online EdD & PhD Programs for Educators

Some fields offer both a professional and academic doctoral option. Within education, for example, a range of professional and academic degrees are available. In this field, PhDs and EdDs may either be professional or academic, often varying by school, and both the PhD and EdD prepare graduates to research, teach, or move into the workforce.

Typically, the degree type dictates how it can be applied. Popular professional programs within education include Educational Leadership, Educational Administration, and Education Policy.

Campus-Based Professional Doctorates

While the online PhD is a good option for many working adults, a number of professional doctorates are only available in a campus setting. These degrees typically require a high level of hands-on research, making distance education difficult. Here are a few professional doctoral degrees that generally require a nearby campus:

  • Dental Science (DDSc, Dr.Odont)
  • Engineering (EngD, EdD)
  • Medicine (MD, DO, DM)

Even campus-based degree programs may have an online component, particularly during the final years of research and dissertation. Students today benefit from a familiarity with computers and Web technology, which can be easily picked up in most doctoral programs.

Online Education Resources Assistance

Feeling overwhelmed by the research process? If you’re returning to earn your degree after a while away from school, you may be surprised at the resources available for doctoral candidates like you. Be sure to get information on test preparation, financial aid, and any other topic that concerns you while researching professional doctoral degree programs.



  • Kansas University, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, by Susan B. Twombly
  • New Mexico State University, A Brief History of the Doctorate, by Lowell B. Catlett
  •, What is a Professional Degree?, by Tricia Ellis-Christensen
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