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 are PhD Degrees?
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 are Professional Doctorate Programs?
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.
Degrees Awarded for PhD and Doctoral Programs
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.
|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.i
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. 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. ix
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 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.ii
- You are interested in a medical field (dentist, doctor, chiropractor).iii
- You want to do independent research in medical science, physics, biochemistry, biophysics.iv
- You want to work as a librarian in an academic library.v
- Your ambition is to work as a licensed clinical psychologist.vi
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.
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),vii but look to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing for Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs.viii Visit the US Department of Education or individual accrediting bodies websites to learn more.
Find Accredited PhD and Doctoral Programs
Ready to browse our directory of accredited PhD programs and accredited doctoral programs? 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!
Sources: [i] https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2014/article/education-level-and-jobs.htm | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/home.htm [v] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/librarians.htm | [vi] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm | [vii] apa.org |[viii] aacn.nche.edu/ccne-accreditation/Standards-Amended-2013.pdf | [ix] wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctorate
- Lombard, ILLombard, IL
National University Of Health Sciences
National University offers a comprehensive classical curriculum in traditional naturopathic medicine while preparing you to become a first-contact, primary-care doctor.
- Lombard, IL
- Pinellas Park, FL
- Villanova, PAVillanova, PA
To advance your career in this steadily growing field, earn a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (MSME) from Villanova University. Our program is modern, relevant, balanced and comprehensive; providing foundations in basic theory coupled with c...
- Villanova, PA
- Villanova, PA
- Fairfield, CTFairfield, CT
Sacred Heart University
Our established Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in Finance is an applied research doctoral degree designed for finance executives, business professionals and finance academicians to expand and deepen their finance knowledge...
- Fairfield, CT
- 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).
- Portland, OR
- Chicago, ILChicago, IL
The master of science in child development degree provides a deep, interdisciplinary understanding of early childhood development. It offers excellent preparation for professional or leadership roles in the full range of disciplines and systems that ser...
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-...
- San Francisco, CASan Francisco, CA
University of San Francisco
At the University of San Francisco, PsyD students are trained to translate thought to action, through practice-oriented training that emphasizes the mental, emotional and physical health needs of underserved communities.
Nova Southeastern University
The primary emphasis of the D.M.F.T. degree program is different from the Ph.D. program in that it seeks specifically to produce professionals whose chief contributions will be in the clinical rather than academic sphere...
- Fort Lauderdale, FL
- Bath, United KingdomBath, United Kingdom
Bath Spa University
We offer flexible study on a range of work based, independent study, taught and core modules, leading to Grad Cert, PG Cert, PG Dip or Mater's degree qualifications. The PMP and its work based learning constituents are compliant with the Training a...
- Bath, United Kingdom
- Loretto, PALoretto, PA
Saint Francis University
DPT degree awarded upon successful completion of the 3-year professional curriculum. Students are prepared as generalists.
- Jacksonville, FLJacksonville, FL
University of North Florida
- Lakeland, FLLakeland, FL
The mission of the doctoral program in education at Southeastern University is to prepare highly qualified educators, researchers, life-long learners, and servant leaders who share a Christian world view to positively impact education, business, governm...
Bethany Theological Seminary
Distance Education is becoming the approach to earning a degree for the 21st Century. Bethany has been providing off-campus programs of study in Bible and Theology for almost three decades. Students may earn a Bachelor's, Master's or a Doctorate degree...
- Charleston, WVCharleston, WV
University of Charleston
- Huntington, INHuntington, IN
Occupational therapy is an in-demand field with a high rate of growth.
- Davenport, IADavenport, IA
Palmer College of Chiropractic
Palmer's Doctor of Chiropractic degree program offers you a rigorous academic education and hands-on learning in both...
- Davenport, IA
- San Jose, CA
- Port Orange, FL
- Hagelloch, GermanyHagelloch, Germany
The Graduate School of Neural & Behavioural Sciences provides research-oriented training in systems, behavioural and cognitive neuroscience. A major aim of this research is to understand the role of higher brain functions that allow humans and animals t...