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Doctorate Programs May Help You Dominate Your Field

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Why Earn Your Doctorate Degree?

Because you have bold aspirations to rise to the top of your field. As the highest degree level in North America, earning your doctorate degree could be a way to set you apart from your academic and professional colleagues. And you’re not the only one. Many other post-traditional students consider enrolling in a graduate program as a beneficial way to enhance their careeri: 25% said they enrolled to raise their salary; 21% wanted a promotion or new position in their field; and 19% wanted to transition to a new career field.

It’s a demanding job market out there. If you want to potentially increase your earnings in your field, or gain credentials in a different, more specified field, earning your doctorate could be the best way to do so. And earning your PhD online doesn’t mean putting your whole life on hold. Many doctorate programs are designed for the post-traditional, working adult, with many components of the program accessible to the student when and where they can devote time to research and study.

Potentially Earn More
$97,916 median annual salary for Doctorate degree-holders (2019).ii

Endure Fewer Setbacks
The 2019 unemployment rate for Doctorate degree-holders was just 1.1% (less than half of the average of 3%).ii

Invest in Yourself
53% of post-traditional grad students strongly agreed that their career prospects were better because they earned a graduate degree.i

Break from the Crowd
Just 2% of the current U.S. workforce has earned a Doctorate degree.iii

Potential Benefits of Online PhD Programs

No Cause to Pause

So many online doctorate programs are designed for working adults. You don’t have to pause your life or current career to tackle your next academic achievement—online PhD programs often utilize up-to-date education tech.

Great Options on the Horizon

Graduate enrollment in both fully online programs and online courses is increasing faster than all other higher ed growth rates, at between 3 and 6 percent over a three-year period.i This potentially indicates that schools will focus on developing their distance learning options, amenities, and support.

Worth the Time & Money?

90% of online graduate students in 2018 found their graduate education worth the time it took to complete, while 90% agree they’ll earn more in salary over their lifetime because of their graduate degree.i

Which PhD Should I Earn?

Most popular doctorate degrees in 2018
(According to the National Center for Educational Statistics)iv

  • Health Professions and Related Programs: 80,305
  • Legal Professions and Studies: 34,544
  • Education: 12,780
  • Engineering and Engineering Technologies: 11,029
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences: 8,222
  • Psychology: 6,275
  • Physical Sciences and Science Technologies: 6,181
  • Social Sciences and History: 5,026

Earning a Doctorate Degree: What it Takes

While earning your PhD might be wildly different based on your program and goals, here are some elements of programs that you may find as you search for the best online doctorate program:

A Capstone Element
Capstone projects and supervised placement in the field are sometimes part of doctoral programs. The format will depend greatly on the type of PhD program, but the intention of a capstone is typically to acquire new knowledge intended to meet real-world challenges in a field, and typically comes after courses, but before exams and/or dissertation topic proposals.

PhD or Doctorate—Which Is It?
Both mean 'doctor of' degree designations. But there are differences between PhD degrees and other doctorates, like a Juris Doctor (JD) or a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). The distinction will be in the type of research and focus of the degree—whether it’s professional practice-focused (e.g. DBA degree, JD degree, PsyD degree) or research-focused (e.g. PhD).

Professional Doctorate Degrees?
Professional doctorate degrees involve both study and 'applied' research, meaning that it's designed for professional purposes, like tackling real-world problems in that particular field. Professions with this type of doctorate may include psychology, medicine, engineering, law, education, and business.

Doctorate Accreditation

As you might already be familiar with, accreditation in higher education pertains to both institutions and programs. While institutional accreditation deals with the integrity of the school (faculty, achievement, mission), programmatic accreditation deals with courses and educational standards. You'll want to consider accreditation when evaluating the quality of the PhD programs you're considering, as it may be a factor in receiving federal aid should you seek it. Financial aid may be available for those who qualify. The United States Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) accredits institutions nationally and recognizes 6 regional organizations for regional accreditation.

When assessing accreditation within the scope of your education plans, consider that standards for PhD program accreditation differs. For example, the American Psychological Association (APA) accredits doctoral psychology programs (PhD and PsyD); but it's the American Association of colleges of Nursing that accredits Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs. You can find more information about accrediting bodies and their websites at the U.S. Department of Education's site.

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