Doctoral Degrees and PhD Programs
A Doctorate, or Doctoral Degree, is the highest level of academic degree awarded by a university, and typically signifies that the individual is qualified to teach at the post-secondary level or work in a specific field of profession.
There are two major types of doctoral degrees; the research-oriented degree, and the professional doctorate degree.
Doctorate Degrees are sometimes referred to as terminal degrees which means it is the final degree available in graduate school for students wishing to study in the chosen subject. In most fields, the terminal-level degree is the doctor of philosophy, or PhD, but in some fields, it's a professional degree, such as a doctor of medicine or law degree.
We commonly associate a doctorate degree with the field of medicine and the abbreviation ‘M.D’, or medical doctorate, and the Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy Degree. In fact, there are different types of doctoral degrees, including the DBA degree, and several reasons why earning one might be just what the doctor ordered.
What Is the Difference Between a PhD Degree and a Doctorate Degree?
Doctoral degrees encompass both PhD degrees and other 'Doctor of' degrees. While these may be equivalent academically, there are differences to learn between PhD degrees and other degrees such as the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) or Juris Doctor (JD). Essentially, the differences appear in terms of the type of research and the focus for each degree - whether it is research-focused (PhD) or professional practice-focused (e.g. DBA degree, JD degree, PsyD degree).
What Is a PhD?
Doctor of Philosophy, or PhD degrees, are research-based academic degrees which are awarded in many fields. A PhD degree is granted to students who have conducted publishable, original research in a peer-reviewed academic publication. Additionally, to get to that research, doctoral candidates have to complete a substantial amount of coursework beyond the master’s degree level. Many holders of this degree might pursue academic careers as college professors, scholarly writers and researchers. While the most common research degree is the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree, other research doctorates are available. These might include the following.
- Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
- Doctor of Arts (D.A.)
- Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.)
- Doctor of Professional Studies (DProf)
- Doctor of Social Science (DSocSci)
- Doctor of Management (DMan)
- Doctor of Engineering (D Eng)
- Doctor of Theology (ThD)
What Is A Professional Doctorate Degree?
A professional doctorate degree is awarded in fields where both research and study are required, but the type of research is ‘applied’. This means it is designed to be used for professional purposes, such as to solve a real-world problem in their domain. These can be seen in psychology, medicine, engineering, education, law and business. Unlike the PhD, some professional doctorates while considered terminal degrees within their specific profession, may serve as a prerequisite or platform to a research degree in that field. Examples of professional doctorates might include those listed below.
- Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)
- Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
- Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.)
- Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.)
- Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.)
- Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.)
- Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.)
- Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.)
- Doctor of Optometry (O.D.)
- Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.)
- Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.)
- Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.)
- Doctor of Osteopathic
- Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)
- Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)
- Doctor of Social Work (DSW)
Note that the Ed.D., D.Min., D.B.A. and M.D. are both research and professional doctorate degrees. Original research for a dissertation may have a combination of both theory and practical components.
PhD programs are available within various fields of study. In each of these disciplines, there may be doctorate programs in several specialties and concentration areas. This may allow you to tailor your program to your interests and career goals.
Degrees Awarded for Doctoral and PhD Programs
|PhD Program||Degree Awarded|
|Criminal Justice and Legal Education||Ph.D. in Criminal Justice|
|Fine Arts and Design||Ph.D|
|Health and Medicine||PharmD, DBA, DPT, DNP, DSL, Au.D|
|Math, Science, Engineering, Technology (STEM)||Ph.D., M.D/Ph.D, DBA, DCS|
|Public Affairs and Social Sciences||PsyD, DMFT, DSW, DrPH, DPA|
|Religious Studies||D.Min, PhD|
DID YOU KNOW?
About 3 percent of all jobs in the United States were in occupations that typically require a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) or first professional degree, such as in law or medicine. In May 2013, the median annual wage for those jobs was $97,550 according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Aim High: The Higher Doctoral Degrees
A higher level of research doctorates are sometimes awarded to those whose research is of a very high standard. These higher doctorates are also bestowed if a university wishes to formally acknowledge an individual for their achievements or contributions in the field.
Preparing for a Doctoral Degree in Your Field
Earning a doctoral degree may require a major investment of time and energy, but at the same time, climbing that mountain may give you excellent results and recognition. Just remember to do some homework as early as college. Choosing a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, taking coursework during the preliminary degree(s), and making sure you are up to the commitment are some of the building blocks to earning your PhD degree or doctorate degree in any field.
How to Earn a Doctorate Degree
While each doctorate degree has its own requirements, doctorate degree curriculum typically involves coursework plus research. In the event you are in a four-year doctoral degree program, you may need to complete the following steps.
- Complete 60 to 120 semester credits (varies between graduate schools)
- Pass final examinations
- Write and defend a research thesis or dissertation
Other doctoral programs may involve a capstone project and supervised placement in your field. Format may vary depending on the type of doctoral degree you are pursuing. However, usually the courses are taken first. Rigorous examinations follow subsequent to test a candidate's knowledge. A dissertation topic is proposed and the latter part of one's doctorate program may be spent in research - collecting, recording, analyzing data, testing a hypothesis or whatever is pertinent to the field of study. Programs may vary, so follow up directly about individual programs to learn more.
DID YOU KNOW?
To receive a doctoral degree, students must often complete a dissertation, a lengthy research project that contributes new knowledge to the field. Occupations that require a doctoral degree include animal scientists, computer and information research scientists, and physicists.
How Many Years Does It Take to Earn a Doctorate Degree?
Typically, a doctorate degree program can take about 4 to 6 years to complete after the bachelor’s degree. If you hold a master’s degree, you may be able to complete your doctorate in about 3 years of full-time study - or you may be able to find a dual masters and phd program. However, this is going to depend on the institution and the type of program. In some universities, it may be possible to find part-time doctoral degree programs, a factor that might extend time to completion.
What Are the Prerequisites for a Doctorate?
Doctoral applicants were previously required to have a master's degree, but many programs accept students immediately following undergraduate studies. Many programs gauge the potential of a student applying to their program and grant a master's degree upon completion of the necessary Ph.D. course work.
Is a Doctorate Degree 'Right' for You?
Doctoral degrees are not required in every field, which doesn't mean you shouldn't go for it. However, if you are thinking ahead to plan your scholastic path, or pave the way to a potential career, it is important to find out whether a doctoral or professional degree is required for professional practice. Is a PhD degree ultimately best for you? According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the answer may be ‘yes’ if any of the below statements are true.
- Your goal is advanced computer and information research.
- You are interested in a medical field (dentist, doctor, chiropractor).
- You want to do independent research in medical science, physics, biochemistry, biophysics.
- You want to work as a librarian in an academic library.
- Your ambition is to work as a licensed clinical psychologist.
Are Online PhD Programs Available?
Yes, some schools do offer online PhD programs. These may allow you to pursue your education without compromising your schedule. Generally, online programs will make course readings, syllabi, assignments and lectures available through an online platform. Online doctoral programs may also use chatrooms, discussion boards and email to encourage communication with professors and classmates. Fully online PhD programs are not always available. However, if this is the case, you might find hybrid doctoral programs which combine web-based courses with intensives on campus. Contact schools to learn more. You can even find online PhD programs that don't require you to take a GRE!
Accreditation and Doctoral Degrees
Accreditation in the United States focuses on institutions and programs. Institutional accreditation takes into account the integrity of the graduate school (faculty, mission, achievement). Specialized program accreditation takes into account courses and educational standards. Accreditation may help you evaluate the quality of a PhD program or school. It may also be an important factor if you are interested in federal aid.
An institution can be accredited nationally by the United States Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. These national agencies recognize 6 regional organizations in turn.
Standards for PhD program accreditation differ, and you are wise to see what they are in your field. For instance, the American Psychological Association (APA) accredits doctoral programs in psychology (PhD and PsyD), but look to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing for Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs. Visit the US Department of Education or individual accrediting bodies websites to learn more.
Find 13,903 Accredited PhD and Doctoral Programs
Browse our directory of accredited PhD programs and accredited doctoral programs below. Finding the research or professional doctorate degree that aligns with your interest is easy. Be sure to pay attention to deadline dates for applications for each potential graduate school so you don’t miss out!
- Chicago, ILChicago, IL
Loyola University Chicago
Built on a commitment to social justice and service, the PhD in Social Work program extends Loyola's tradition of educating students in clinical research, scholarship and teaching. Graduates are prepared for leadership in practice or academic arenas.
- Chicago, IL
- Baltimore, MDBaltimore, MD
Johns Hopkins UniversityUpcoming Start Date: January 02, 2019
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is the largest and oldest graduate school of public health. Founded in 1916 as part of the Johns Hopkins University, the School has served as the model for public health schools, creatin...
- Center Valley, PACenter Valley, PA
The DeSales DPT program is a 3-year entry-level graduate program based on Christian humanistic values that will prepare you to successfully treat movement dysfunction in a variety of physical therapy practice settings.
- Fort Lauderdale, FLFort Lauderdale, FL
Nova Southeastern University
Au.D. - Doctor of AudiologyUpcoming Start Date: January 07, 2019
Nova Southeastern University Department of Audiology is dedicated to the education of future Doctors of Audiology.
- Fort Lauderdale, FL
- Boulder, COBoulder, CO
Fox Institute for Creation Spirituality
The Fox Institute is the first university to offer a doctoral degree in spirituality...
- Portland, ORPortland, OR
University of Western States
he SPP EdD curriculum helps students complete coursework requirements to become licensed professional counselors (LPC) and Certified Consultants through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (CC-AASP).
- Villanova, PAVillanova, PA
The MSEE can be completed on a full- or part-time basis with graduate courses conveniently offered on weeknights. Most courses are available through the College of Engineering's E-Learning program as well, providing flexibility for working professionals...
- Villanova, PA
- Villanova, PA
Albany Medical College
The Alden March Bioethics Institute’s Online Graduate Programs provide mid-career professionals, joint degree students, and highly motivated post-baccalaureate students with an opportunity to supplement current education or career training with cutting-...
Frontier Nursing University
The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree and a Post-Graduate Certificate are offered in the nurse-midwifery specialty track.
California Southern University
Develop practical, specialized business knowledge to compete in an increasingly complex world by earning your DBA degree at CalSouthern. The 100% online DBA program is designed to prepare you for senior leadership roles without disrupting your life...
The Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) is designed for candidates who, having already completed a Masters program, are looking to further develop their practical and theoretical knowledge of the principles that govern global business.
- Irvine, CA
- Fort Collins, COFort Collins, CO
Colorado State University
In this Ph.D. program students develop the competencies needed to successfully and ethically lead higher education institutions.
- South Orange, NJSouth Orange, NJ
Seton Hall UniversityUpcoming Start Date: January 14, 2019
The Department of Biology offers three graduate programs: a Ph.D. in Molecular Bioscience, a Master of Science (M.S.) in Biology (M.S. available with a Neuroscience track or a minor in Business Administration), and a Master of Science in Microbiology...
- Lombard, ILLombard, IL
National University Of Health Sciences
Chiropractic medicine is a comprehensive health care profession that addresses the wide variety of factors that impact upon human physiology...
- Lombard, IL
- Pinellas Park, FL
- Newton, MANewton, MA
William James College
The Leadership PsyD Program is a highly interactive and outcome oriented program where students attain their 98-credit doctorate degree within four years for full-time and six years for part-time work.
- Newton, MA
- Boston, MABoston, MA
The Ph.D. in Library and Information Science (LIS) emphasizes scholarship, teaching, and service.
- Boston, MA
- New Brunswick, NJNew Brunswick, NJ
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
The Doctor of Philosophy degree in Planning and Public Policy, offered through the School of Graduate Studies, is an advanced scholarly degree appropriate for students seeking a career in university teaching and research or a leadership position i...
- Bethesda, MDBethesda, MD
Uniformed Services University
Our interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program provides a broad curriculum designed to take advantage of blurring of boundaries between academic disciplines, to include training in the classes of pathogenic organisms and the mechanisms of infectious diseases as...
- Bethesda, MD
- Northampton, MANorthampton, MA
For 90 years, the Smith College School for Social Work has provided graduate social work education to men and women around the world. Our program is internationally recognized for its dedication to and specialization in cli...
- Boston, MABoston, MA
Students who come to the Tufts Public Health program have a vision: they want to make the world a better place. Recent graduates who have decided to pursue a public health career; health professionals wanting to become experts in their field; clinicians...