Online Doctorate Degree Programs

Also known as a terminal degree, a doctoral degree is a graduate-level degree that is considered the highest one an individual can earn in any given field of study. Typical careers that require a doctorate include research positions as well as those where state licensing is a requirement. Individuals may choose to earn a professional doctorate, which demonstrates mastery in the skills required for a certain career, or an academic doctorate, which concentrates on academics and original research. Programs may be available through traditional campus-based schools, online, or in a hybrid format. Recent years have seen significant increases in the number of doctorates granted between the 2000-01 and 2015-16 academic years — 49 percent. Most degrees awarded at this level were in the health or legal fields, followed by doctorates in education, engineering, and biological and biomedical sciences.

4 Benefits of a Doctoral Degree

Those who choose to enter a doctoral degree program may motivated by a variety of personal and professional factors. Here are four compelling reasons to embark on the ultimate educational journey.
  1. Earning a doctorate can qualify individuals for the highest positions in academic and non-academic settings.
  2. Doctoral degrees can offer flexible career paths. For example, a doctoral degree holder who hopes to work in an academic setting may become a professor, department head, or researcher.
  3. Increased earning potential. The U.S. Census Bureau has found that doctoral degree holders earn $3.4 million during their working life, while individuals with a master’s degree earn $2.5 million and those with a bachelor’s degree earn $2.1 million.
  4. The opportunity to gain an unparalleled level of understanding in a specific field and to use that knowledge to make a positive difference in society.

Timeline of a Doctoral Degree Program

So how long does it take to earn a doctorate? Doctoral degree programs usually take four years to complete, after an individual has earned a bachelor’s degree. Although requirements for online doctoral degrees vary from program to program, here’s a typical timeline:
First Year
Students typically focus on completing coursework related to a preliminary exam, and they may even attempt a preliminary exam. There are usually weekly graduate student and research seminars to attend.
Second Year
Students should expect to be complete all of the preliminary exams during this year. This is also the time to select a research adviser. Students continue to attend graduate student and research seminars.
Year three
The primary focus at this time is on research projects and the development of a prospectus for a dissertation. The third year of doctoral degree requirements may also include a comprehensive oral exam.
Fourth year
Students typically spend their time on research and coursework in their area of specialty. Sometimes, a doctoral degree program can take more than four years to complete and involves completing and defending a dissertation. Also known as a thesis, a dissertation is a large research project that offers doctorate students the opportunity to select a question or proposition and present their findings. It is designed to evaluate the student’s independent research skills.
 

Types of Doctorates

There are several different types of doctoral degrees available. Some of the most common ones include:

Top Doctoral Programs

Doctoral
Selecting a doctoral degree program is an important decision. Therefore, prospective doctoral students should take the time to understand the rankings that take into account factors and specific data points that can help to determine the best doctorates. Rankings typically take into consideration tuition and fees, acceptance rates, and other factors of each school’s programs.
 
Methodology
Methodology
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific degree being ranked. 1. Offer a doctoral degree program, either on campus, online, or via hybrid format 2. Have awarded at least one doctoral degree in 2015-16 3. Have reported data for all 12 ranking variables listed below Based on those criteria, we ranked 655 colleges and universities in the United States on 12 criteria, using 2016-17 data from the National Center for Education Statistics:

 

  1. Program prominence, based on how many doctoral degrees were awarded in 2016-17
  2. Ratio of graduate students participating fully or partially in distance education to total enrollment
  3. Average in-state tuition for graduates
  4. Number of programs that are offered at the doctoral degree level on campus
  5. Number of programs that are offered at the doctoral degree level via distance education
  6. Credit offerings
    • Life
    • Military
  7. Services
    • Academic/Career
    • Placement for Completers
  8. The availability of any tuition plans
    • Payment
    • Prepaid
    • Other
X
 


RankingSchool NameIn State Avg. Undergrad Tuition% Receiving Financial AidRetention RateCareer CounselingPayment Plan
1University of Florida$4,47793%97%10
2Harvard University$46,34077%99%11
3Texas Tech University$6,57678%85%11
4Arizona State University-Tempe$10,10496%88%11
5The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio$5,704%%11
6Texas Woman's University$5,26893%73%11
7University of Iowa$7,77092%86%11
8Liberty University$15,83797%82%11
9Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus$17,41665%93%11
10Texas A & M University-College Station$7,53776%92%11

Financial Aid

Pursuing a doctoral degree online is a large investment, but based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau’s reports, it can be a wise one. Fortunately, there are various financial resources that may be available to help eligible students fund their doctorates. A few examples of these resources include scholarships, grants, and educational loans.

Why Accreditation Matters

Accredited online doctoral degree programs meet the strictest educational standards. By pursuing an accredited doctorate, students can trust the quality of the education they receive. In addition, they may be eligible for educational grants and loans and appear more attractive in the eyes of potential employers.

Fastest-Growing Occupations with Doctoral Degrees

If you’re thinking about pursuing a graduate degree at the highest level, you might like to know about these occupations that the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts to grow the fastest during the 2016-26 time period. All of these occupations typically require a doctorate.
Anesthesiologists
Current Employment : 31,010
Projected Employment : 4.5%
Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.
Biological Science Teachers, Postsecondary
Current Employment : 53,090
Projected Employment : 11.7%
Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.
Chiropractors
Current Employment : 35,010
Projected Employment : 7.4%
Chiropractors treat patients with health problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. They use spinal adjustments and manipulation, and other techniques to manage patients' health concerns, such as back and neck pain.
Education Teachers, Postsecondary
Current Employment : 61,300
Projected Employment : 7.8%
Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.
Engineering Teachers, Postsecondary
Current Employment : 36,080
Projected Employment : 11.2%
Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.
English Language and Literature Teachers, Postsecondary
Current Employment : 67,930
Projected Employment : 4.1%
Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.
Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary
Current Employment : 59,680
Projected Employment : 20%
Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.
Optometrists
Current Employment : 39,420
Projected Employment : 9.5%
Optometrists examine the eyes and other parts of the visual system. They also diagnose and treat visual problems and manage diseases, injuries, and other disorders of the eyes. They prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses as needed.
Psychology Teachers, Postsecondary
Current Employment : 37,480
Projected Employment : 11.7%
Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.
Surgeons, Except Ophthalmologists
Current Employment : 36,270
Projected Employment : 1.2%
Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.

Highest-Paying Occupations with Doctoral Degrees

After investing significant time and dollars in a doctoral degree program, you might like to know about these high-paying occupations. According to the BLS, the occupations listed below — which usually require a doctorate — typically see the highest wages in the U.S.
Business Teachers, Postsecondary
Mean Annual : $105,440
90th Percentile : $196,980
Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists
Mean Annual : $87,450
90th Percentile : $132,670
Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and their environments.
Dentists, General
Mean Annual : $178,260
90th Percentile : $208,000
Dentists diagnose and treat problems with patients' teeth, gums, and related parts of the mouth. They provide advice and instruction on taking care of the teeth and gums and on diet choices that affect oral health.
Family Medicine Physicians
Mean Annual : $213,270
90th Percentile : $208,000
Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.
Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary
Mean Annual : $121,620
90th Percentile : $208,000
Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.
Lawyers
Mean Annual : $145,300
90th Percentile : $208,000
Lawyers advise and represent individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal issues and disputes.
Pharmacists
Mean Annual : $125,510
90th Percentile : $162,900
Pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and offer expertise in the safe use of prescriptions. They also may conduct health and wellness screenings, provide immunizations, oversee the medications given to patients, and provide advice on healthy lifestyles.
Physical Therapists
Mean Annual : $90,170
90th Percentile : $124,740
Physical therapists, sometimes called PTs, help injured or ill people improve their movement and manage their pain. These therapists are often an important part of the rehabilitation, treatment, and prevention of patients with chronic conditions, illnesses, or injuries.
Physicians, All Other; and Ophthalmologists, Except Pediatric
Mean Annual : $203,450
90th Percentile : $208,000
Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.
Veterinarians
Mean Annual : $104,820
90th Percentile : $160,780
Veterinarians care for the health of animals and work to improve public health. They diagnose, treat, and research medical conditions and diseases of pets, livestock, and other animals.

What Comes After a Doctorate

After earning a doctoral degree, some individuals choose to become postdocs. A postdoc pursues additional research, training, or teaching in order to improve their skills and eventually begin a career in research or academia. They may be funded by a university or self-funded through grants. Many doctoral degree holders receive a license in their state. A license formally recognizes that they have passed all the qualifications to practice their profession. Psychologists, optometrists, and physical therapists are examples of doctorate-level professionals that must hold a license. Additionally, some individuals with doctoral degrees decide to immediately transition into their industry, join a start-up venture, or work in an administrative position at an educational institution or government agency.

Browse Doctorate Programs by Subject

WorldWideLearn.com features colleges and universities that offer online doctorate degree programs in the following disciplines:
Art & Design
MusicCommunication
Hospitality and Culinary Arts
Education
Assessment & EvaluationCurriculum Design
ESLEarly Childhood Education
Literacy & ReadingCounseling
Special EducationHealth Education
Law and Criminal Justice
CSI & ForensicsLaw
Intelligence Studies
Science and Math
Petroleum EngineeringEnvironmental Engineering
Insurance & Risk Management
Technology
Computer SecurityInformation Technology
Network Security
Health & Medical
Healthcare AdministrationHuman Services
Medical TechnologyNurse Education
Nurse AdministrationNursing
Physical TherapySports Fitness
Business
AccountingFinance
International BusinessLeadership
MarketingOperations Management
Project Management
Liberal Arts and Humanities
International RelationsReligious Studies
Public Relations
Social Science
Behavioral ScienceConflict Resolution & Mediation
PsychologyPublic Policy
SociologyGerontology
Article Sources
 
Sources

 

  • 2017 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov
  • Graduate Degree Fields, The Condition of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cta.asp, accessed October 2018
  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
  • Lifetime Earnings Soar with Education, ThoughtCo., https://www.thoughtco.com/lifetime-earnings-soar-with-education-3321730, accessed August 2018
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/, accessed August 2018
  • O*NET OnLine, https://www.onetonline.org/, accessed August 2018
  • Postsecondary Certifications and Degrees Conferred, National Center for Education Statistics, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cts.asp, accessed August 2018
  • Structure of Postdoctoral Study, Cornell University, https://postdocs.cornell.edu/structure-postdoctoral-study, accessed August 2018
Our Partner Listings
 

Enter NOW! Niche's $2,000 Scholarship Giveaway, Deadline July 31, 2021

X