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Online PhD Programs : Doctoral Programs Online

Many accredited universities known for their traditional doctorate degrees also have online PhD programs and online doctoral programs. If you are like most online students,

you are motivated by career success. You are also driven by the need to combine academic achievement with other scheduling demands. Earning an online PhD or online doctorate degree may enable you to reach your goals without disrupting your otherwise busy lifestyle.

Online PhD Programs

About the Doctorate: Online PhD Programs & Online Doctoral Programs

Computer-based courses may make the highest academic degree, the doctorate degree, more approachable whether you are searching for online PhD programs or online doctoral programs. In ancient times (pre-Internet), the term ‘doctor’, derived from the Latin word ‘docere’ came to be known as a license to teach. Current phraseology has changed somewhat, although the PhD, which stands for ‘Doctor of Philosophy’, is still required to teach the subject you have mastered, at the university level.[i] In other fields, earning a doctorate degree may be the education required for professional practice.

DID YOU KNOW? Per the NCES, the number of doctor’s degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions increased by 1 % between 2012–13 and 2013–14 (from 175,000 to 177,600 degrees) 

Online PhD vs. Online Doctorate

Students contemplating earning a doctorate degree online may have several options since the PhD is one of several types of doctorate degrees. Now, both these degrees focus on a single area of study, and are considered the highest learning award, but an online doctorate programs might produce a research and a professional degree. Are you an online PhD or online doctorate degree candidate?

About the Online PhD: Research Doctorate

Despite the initials, the PhD is not necessarily a philosophy degree, however, it is known as an academic research doctorate degree. Per the U.S. Department of education’s International Affairs Office, the PhD represents “the highest academic qualification in the U.S.”[iii] There are accredited online PhD programs available in a variety of academic disciplines. In fact, most of the doctoral degrees conferred in 2013-2014 were in health professions, legal professions, education, engineering, biological and biomedical sciences[iv]. Some of the features that might distinguish the Doctor of Philosophy from other online doctorate degrees?

  • Admission to online PhD programs may be granted to students who have graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college, or to students who have completed their Master’s degree.
  • Online PhD students typically take doctoral level courses and participate in doctoral seminars and research. Once completed, they must pass comprehensive written exams that cover their chosen research specialization before advancing to candidacy.
  • As a research degree, earning one’s PhD online, involves submitting a dissertation proposal, researching, writing and orally defending the dissertation. The focus of this independent research project is to contribute new knowledge to one’s field with the intention of potentially solving a real-world problem.
  • Time to degree varies by program, whether you enter as an undergraduate or graduate student, had any form of assistantship, and whether you are in a full time or part-time online PhD program. For a full-time online PhD student who has earned a master’s degree, it might take an average of 3 to 7 years.
  • In terms of future career plans, you may lean towards research and analysis

About the Online Doctorate Degree: Professional Doctorate

If your professional career requires any type of licensure (e.g. social work, psychology, medicine), you may be searching for accredited online doctoral programs. Referred to as a professional doctorate degree, earning a doctorate degree online might prepare candidates for independent practice in their chosen field. A few features that might characterize a professional doctorate?

  • Admission to online doctoral programs may be contingent on having graduated with a Master’s degree from an accredited institution and written a thesis, although requirements may vary.
  • Online doctoral students also take courses, examinations, and research. However, the motivation behind the research is to focus it on practical application of knowledge and theory that already exists in your field.
  • For a full-time online doctorate degree, time to completion might range from 3 to 7 years, but this is a variable.

What Features Should I Look for in Online PhD Programs?

Some online PhD programs may be a mirror of a university’s on-campus programming, except you may not have to relocate, visit or live near your main campus. A few factors to keep in mind:

  • Curriculum concerns: Choose an online school that has the degree program you require (Online DBA or Online DNP?).
  • Faculty Review: PhD candidates tend to work closely with a mentor, especially when it comes to research. Online PhD programs may facilitate these meetings through video conferencing, phone calls or other means, but you still must feel comfortable and look forward to learning from your professors.
  • Accreditation: Look for nationally and regionally accredited online PhD programs and accredited online doctoral programs. Also, make sure you are aware of any specialized programmatic accreditation especially if your profession requires licensure and state examinations.
  • Transfer Credits: Make sure a prospective online doctorate degree program will accept your prior education and credits.
  • Scheduling Flexibility: What are your scheduling needs like? Do you need a full-time or a part-time online PhD program?
  • Campus Requirements: Take note that while it may be possible to take some of your doctoral courses online, there may be campus requirements, internships, residencies, or intensives. Sometimes you may be able to complete field work in your local community, but make sure to take note of the extent to which your program is distance-learning.
  • Synchronous vs Asynchronous: Some online courses may be pre-recorded, others may involve interaction and participation through alive streaming lecture or seminar. If you plan to earn your doctoral degree online, make sure you are compatible with the format and structure as this varies between programs and schools.

Find Online PhD Programs & Online Doctoral Programs

Searching for online PhD programs and Online doctoral programs from accredited providers is easy! Our on-page navigation lets you select an area of interest and filter preferences. Searching for an online PhD in Information Technology or an online Doctor of Education degree program? Just narrow your search by subject:

  • Online Business Doctorate Degree Programs
  • Online Criminal Justice & Legal Doctorate Degree Programs
  • Online Education Doctorate Degree Programs
  • Online Fine Arts & Design Doctorate Degree Programs
  • Online Health & Medicine Doctorate Degree Programs
  • Online Liberal Arts & Humanities Doctorate Degree Programs
  • Online Math, Science & Engineering Doctorate Degree Programs
  • Online Public Affairs & Social Sciences Doctorate Degree Programs
  • Online Religious Studies Doctorate Degree Programs
  • Online Technology Doctorate Degree Programs

Take the Next Step

Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “earnings increase and unemployment decreases as educational attainment rises.”[v] Browse our sponsored listings in any of the above categories. Then use the “request info” setting to contact prospective schools. To stay ahead of the application process, take this next step early. Continued success as you earn your PhD online!


[i] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm |[ii] nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_ctb.asp |[iii] www.ed.gov/international/usnei/edlite-index.html |[iv] [iii] |[v] bls.gov/careeroutlook/2016/data-on-display/education-matters.htm

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