Because doctoral degrees take so long to complete and require the most time and academic rigor, they are often considered the most prestigious degree in existence. Meanwhile, doctoral degrees can lead to a bigger financial payoff than other, comparable degrees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with a Ph.D. reported median weekly earnings of $1,591 in 2014, compared to earnings of just $1,101 for bachelor's degree-holders and earnings of $792 for those with an associate degree.
Importance of Accredited Online Doctoral Programs
Because the doctorate is an elite degree, program accreditation is a serious concern. Even the U.S. government has occasionally been taken in by diploma mills posing as legitimate advanced degree-granting institutions. Therefore, prospective students should take special care to 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, certification and licensure boards, and potential employers. Both the degree-granting university and its accrediting agencies must be carefully checked with the U.S. Department of Education.
Types of Doctoral Degrees
Here are a few of the most popular doctorates that are available online:
- Psychology (Ph.D.; PsyD): The Ph.D. in psychology is sometimes considered a research and teaching degree while the Doctor of Psychology is considered a counseling degree, but 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 (Ph.D.; 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.
Mentoring for Ph.D. Candidates
Mentoring is a crucial part of doctoral study whether the student is pursuing the Ph.D. or another doctoral 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, which solidifies the importance of these relationships.
In essence, the candidate borrows the prestige of the scholars who serve on the committee and write on his or her behalf. At the end of the day, this means that doctoral candidates and students should strive to work with the best and brightest people if at all possible.
Since doctoral degrees require additional schooling, it's important for students to weigh the pros and cons of investing that extra time and money. While a doctoral degree can pay off in many ways, the financial investment can be considerable and worthy of concern.
Students interested in doctoral degree programs should check with their school to seek out any potential aid opportunities or work-study arrangements that may be available. Further, federal and state financial aid may be available to students who meet certain criteria.
Students who want to learn more should plan on filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to see if they qualify. According to the U.S. Department of Education, graduate or professional students are typically considered independent and may not be required to submit parent or guardian information on their FAFSA form.
Online Doctoral Degrees Available
Doctoral degrees are offered in a wide range of academic disciplines. The following degree types are offered through the schools we feature on WorldWideLearn:
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