Doctorate Degrees & Majors Education Guide

Find The Best Doctorate's Degree Colleges and Highest Paying Careers

The completion of a doctoral degree and a Ph.D. is becoming more common and in demand throughout today’s workforce. The reasons for this growing trend vary. In part, it is due to the increasing competition for jobs that require a master’s degree. A doctoral degree or a Ph.D. are just two ways to be seen as more qualified and to stand out from the competition. It is also true that more employers are seeking individuals with the highest degrees available in their designated field for the best jobs. And some jobs simply require these advanced degrees due to the nature of the work. These jobs are often in the fields of science, the law, and education including positions as professors, judges, medical doctors, and some mental health professionals.

Degrees & Career Paths


What is the difference between a Ph.D. and a Doctorate?

All Ph.D. degrees are doctoral degrees; however, it is important to note that not all doctoral degrees are considered to be Ph.D. degrees. Both types of advanced degrees focus on research. A Ph.D. is often more theoretical based; whereas, a doctoral program tends to lean toward applied research. You will require superior comprehension and writing skills along with possessing the ability to defend your dissertation to a committee of faculty at the end. Some programs require the successful completion of an extensive exam prior to beginning the dissertation process.

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Why Choose a Doctorate or Ph.D. Advanced Program?

The reason for pursuing such advanced degrees will vary from person to person. A Ph.D. or a doctorate degree are requirements for many jobs, such as a medical doctor, psychologist or a university professor. Any individual who wishes to work in these fields will not have a choice. They must complete a Ph.D. or a doctoral degree. It is important to note that almost half of people who pursue these types of degrees will not succeed. They take a significant amount of time, dedication, and money to complete. Before you commit to a program, you should find ways in which to organize your life to increase your chance for success.

Most people who voluntarily choose to complete a doctorate or a Ph.D. do so for career advancement and job security. People with these degrees are seen as experts in their fields. They will automatically catapult themselves to the top of any resume or CV pile over individuals with a master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree with years of experience. Once you possess this title, you will be able to work in a wide array of areas within your field with relative ease. This provides you with exceptional flexibility within your career and it will provide you with job security.

You will continually advance your career as you will be seen as an expert by all industry professionals and peers. As such, you might be invited to speak at professional engagements, act as a panelist, or speak as a keynote speaker. This will also allow you to make more money. It is also possible that you will more easily be able to publish articles and findings in reputable periodicals, newspapers, etc., to give you even more noteworthy respect and be seen as an industry leader that will make you invaluable to employers and increase your pay.

Doctoral Degree Overview

The type of doctoral degree you choose will determine your career path in many ways. For most people, unless you have a desire to become a professor or a psychiatrist, a professional practice doctorate degree is likely best for your needs. These degrees often take less time, with the exception of medical professionals, and will allow you to specialize in a way that makes your employment far less dispensable to any and all employers. Keep in mind that most doctoral degrees will take at least two additional years to complete. Many will take longer, particularly if you work while you pursue the degree.

Many doctoral degrees will require that you complete a master’s degree before you are able to apply for a doctorate program. However, some degree programs only require a bachelor’s degree, such as an M.D. or a J.D. You can also complete a master’s degree and a doctoral degree simultaneously in some instances. This will eliminate some time off your degree completion and save you money. It is also important to consider your overall career goals. This will be imperative to the specialty you pursue within your degree program and the theme of your dissertation. It is also important to consider the type of higher learning institution you wish to attend.

Do you require the flexibility of an online degree with limited physical classroom requirements? If you do not live near a traditional higher learning institution with the degree program of your choice, you may require online studies. Is the cost of the program going to be important? If so, you might consider scholarships, grants, fellowships, or public higher learning institutions. Is the educational institution and the degree program accredited? Degrees earned from a regionally accredited college or university will improve the credibility of your degree. All of these questions are important to consider before you make a decision.

Most Popular Types of Ph.D. and Doctoral Degrees

  • Doctor of Medicine – M.D.
  • Juris Doctor – J.D. (Law)
  • Doctor of Pharmacy – Pharm.D.
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy – D.P.T.
  • Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Medical Dentistry – D.D.S. or D.M.D.
  • Doctor of Osteopathy – D.O.
  • Doctor of Education – Ed.D.
  • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine – D.V.M./V.M.D.
  • Doctor of Psychology – D.Psy
  • Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine – D.C.

Typical Degree Requirements

Most doctorate degrees require 90 to 120-semester credits. This is equivalent to 30 or 40 courses in your designated field. If you are able to participate as a full-time student, you can complete a doctoral degree in four years. A few doctoral degrees will only require around 60 course credits.

Common Testing & Exam Requirements

doctoral_degree_exam_requirementsYou will likely have to complete a graduate school testing exam prior to receiving admission to a doctoral program, such as a GMAT or a GRE exam. The required exam will be dependent upon the type of advanced degree you intend to complete. The score you must achieve will be determined by higher learning institutions. You will have to pay for these exams and complete them with an approved and designated monitor.

Once you begin the program, you will be required to complete traditional coursework that will lead to competency exams. After your educational foundation is complete, you will begin to focus on research or applied practices that you will incorporate into your defense and dissertation or thesis. You will be required to stand up and defend your dissertation or thesis to the designated committee in most cases. If the committee approves your dissertation or thesis, you will receive your doctorate degree.

Doctoral Degrees future growth predictions

It is projected that between 2012 and 2022, according to the BLS, growth for doctoral and professional degrees will increase by 16%. The majority of this growth is expected to be employed in specific areas, such as computers and mathematics, life and physical sciences, social sciences, the law, education and training, and healthcare. It is also important to note that the cost of these degrees also continues to increase each year.

What are the most popular doctoral degrees online?

most_popular_doctoral_degrees_onlineThe most popular doctoral degrees online are often directly related to the applicants in pursuit of an advanced professional degree while they continue to work or care for their children. It is important to note that even if you enroll in a degree program online you may still be required to check in and attend physical classrooms from time to time. The most popular online degrees continue to change in correlation to the changing occupational outlooks and future career projections, including nursing, education, psychology, and business administration.

Important Questions to Ask

How long does it take to earn a Doctoral Degree or Ph.D.?

take_to_earn_doctoral_degree The amount of time it takes to complete a doctoral degree will vary significantly on whether or not you attend the program as a full-time student. People who enter as a full-time student after a bachelor’s degree will likely complete a doctoral degree in four years. Those who start with a completed master’s degree may only require three years. If you have a full-time job or are a full-time care provider for your children, it may take significantly longer. The additional time could range from five years to eight years. If you pursue a doctoral degree in fields such as education, it might only take two years to complete.

How much does a Doctoral degree cost?

Doctoral degree costs will range on average between $36,600 and $48,900. The cost will vary based on the type of degree you pursue, whether or not it is a public or private institution, and if the program is based online or in a traditional classroom. Medical degrees will cost significantly more regardless of the type of higher learning institution you attend. An online degree may save you money in terms of cost-of-living and tuition fees.

Keep in mind that those who pursue a Ph.D. may receive full funding to complete the degree program. This is most likely not the case for a professional doctoral degree. Most people will take out student loans, apply for grants and scholarships, receive reimbursement from employers, and self-fund their advanced degree endeavor.

Does the school have the college major(s) you’re considering?

One of the first steps you should take is to narrow down your college and university selection by the areas of specialty that support your career aspirations. If you are in business, consider whether you wish to pursue a c-level position or to become a finance policy maker. If you are interested in becoming a hospital administrator or a research scientist, this will also influence the specific degree programs that will be of value to your career goals. If a college or university near you does not have the major you seek, consider online programs from accredited higher learning institutions.

How many students graduate “on time,” in two-four years?

doctoral_degree_students_graduate_on_time On-time graduation rates are typically significantly low for doctoral degree program participants who do not attend such programs full time and those who do alike. Graduation rates are also low due to the fact that roughly half of program participants drop out for one reason or another, such as the cost of tuition, family commitments, work commitments, stress, poor results, isolation, lack of focus, disorganization, and more. It is also important to note that the commitment that is necessary to successfully complete such a program. It may require you to shift other focuses in your life which could have negative consequences to your personal life.

What kind of accreditation does the program hold? How is it regarded?

Employers, peers, publishers and others base their opinions of the worth and value of someone’s degree on the accreditation of the institution and the program. To begin, the college or university should be regionally accredited. To gain more notoriety and respect throughout the industry, you might also consider attending a degree program that is accredited by various state, national, and professional organizations. A regional and programmatically accredited higher learning institution is considered to be the best.

How to Choose the Right Doctoral or Ph.D. Program?

The easiest way to select the right doctoral or Ph.D. program for you is to determine which specialization is right for you. Ask yourself whether you want to teach at the college or university level or become an industry expert. You should then consider whether you wish to pursue research or practical applications in your field. Finally, determine the exact area in your field in which you wish to specialize.

What is a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) Degree?

An M.D. degree is required to become a physician. This degree will allow recipients to diagnose illness and disease, prescribe medication and treat injury and illness. Many medical doctors will specialize further during their residency and fellowship training. During the courses and rotations, program participants will have exposure, training, and lessons on a wide variety of medical specializations.

Sample Courses for an MD:

  • Average Cost to Get - $143,200 (not including undergraduate degree costs)
  • Time to Completion - 4 years for medical school, 3-7 years additional training
  • Sample Courses - Internal Medicine, General Surgery and Surgical Subspecialties, Family Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Neurology, Emergency Medicine, and Psychiatry.

Popular M.D. Jobs:

  • Forensic Medical Examiner
  • Public Health and Safety
  • Medical Photographer
  • Sports and Exercise Medicine

What is a Juris Doctor (J.D. - Law) Degree?

The Juris Doctor degree is for practicing lawyers and other legal professionals in the US. It is achieved only by attending a law school approved by the American Bar Association. A law degree prepares program participants to become lawyers in a variety of industries. It is also important to note that people with a J.D. degree can pursue other professions within the legal industry.

Sample Courses for a JD:

  • Average Cost to Get - $36,300 (not including undergraduate degree costs)
  • Time to Completion - 3 years
  • Sample Courses Civil Procedures, Constitutional Laws, International Law, Business Law, Courtroom Procedures, and Property and Real Estate Law.

Popular J.D. Jobs:

  • Lawyer
  • Academia/Teaching
  • Compliance Management
  • Mediator

What is a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) Degree?

A Pharm.D. degree is required to complete the pharmacist licensure process. Without this degree, you cannot become a pharmacist in the US. This degree specializes in medications. As a pharmacist, you will work with patients to help them manage their medication and you will work with physicians to help with medication therapy.

Sample Courses for a Pharm.D.:

  • Average Cost to Get - $100,000 (not including undergraduate degree costs)
  • Time to Completion - 4 years undergraduate, 4 years Pharm.D. professional program
  • Sample Courses - Pharmacogenetics, Non-Prescription Therapies, Pharmacy Law, Therapeutics: Oncology, and Advanced Geriatrics

Popular Pharm.D. Jobs:

  • Community Pharmacy
  • Geriatric Pharmacy
  • Governmental Agencies
  • Home Healthcare

What is a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) Degree?

A D.D.S. degree permits you to practice as a dentist and verifies that you graduated from an accredited dental college or university. It is important to note that a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (D.M.D.) is actually the exact same as a D.D.S. The title is simply determined by the college or university of the dental schools.

Sample Courses for D.D.S.:

  • Average Cost to Get - $267,000 (not including undergraduate degree costs)
  • Time to Completion - 4 years undergraduate, 4 years dental school
  • Sample Courses - General and Oral Pathology, Pharmacology, Principles of Medicine, Oral Surgery, Radiology, and Practice Management.

Popular D.D.S. Jobs:

  • Dental Consulting
  • Dental Products Development
  • Dental Insurance
  • Federal Services (Public Health)

What is a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree?

A Doctor of Education is uniquely catered to those individuals who wish to be a leader in education. Most Ed.D. holders influence education policy, obtain leadership positions and apply practice and knowledge to existing organizations. This degree path will focus on research that already exists; whereas, a Ph.D. in Education will create new research.

Sample Courses for an Ed.D:

  • Average Cost to Get - $40,000 (not including undergraduate degree costs)
  • Time to Completion - 2 years or 4 years, depends on the program
  • Sample Courses - Changing Conceptions of Learning and Human Development: Research and Practice, Social Justice and Educational Equality, and Education Entrepreneurship

Popular Ed.D. Jobs:

  • Academic Dean
  • Chief Academic Officer
  • Faculty Manager
  • Fundraising Director

What Can I Do With a PhD or Doctoral Degree?

A Ph.D. and Doctorate degree will increase your salary regardless of your industry or profession. Some careers and jobs will pay more than others.

Most Popular Jobs and Careers for M.D., J.D., Ed.D. Degrees

  • Pharmacist:
    A pharmacist will be the CEO of the pharmacy working with both patients and physicians. They might work in a hospital, a general store or anywhere a pharmacy has a location. These medical professionals must have expertise in medications and medical care. It is important to note that this position can be highly stressful at times due to the fact pharmacists often work with sick people and people who may struggle to pay for their necessary medications.
  • Healthcare Consultant:
    Healthcare consultants are growing in demand. These medical professionals will be hired by various organizations, such as doctor office chains, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and more. They will work to create efficiency, cost savings, and proper organizational structure. In the end, they will make recommendations for improvements; however, it is up to the organization to implement the recommendations.
  • Hospital CEO:
    The chief executive officer of a hospital will provide overall direction for the company that manages the hospital. This person will also be responsible for the creation and implementation of policies and procedures. They must abide by the regulations and standards as set forth by the board of directors. And they have the often-challenging task of balancing patient care and financial budgets.
  • Public Policy Director:
    A public policy director is often part of the board or an executive in an organization. The organization might be a non-profit or a for-profit company. It is the responsibility of this individual to ensure their organization is following all regulations and policies implemented by the government of any country in which the organization operates.
  • Consultant:
    Legal consultants, who might also be called a legal advisor, will be hired on a temporary basis to provide legal advice in a non-courtroom setting. Many companies will hire a legal consultant rather than to pay the additional expenses of hiring an attorney on staff permanently. These legal professionals may work for one company or work for several.
  • Tax Lawyer:
    Tax attorneys are some of the highest paid attorneys. These individuals are responsible for ensuring that any business, government entity, or non-profit organization is following all tax laws at all times. These legal professionals may also be hired once the government has determined a problem exists. They can help save any organization money and jail time.
  • Child Psychologist:
    A child psychologist will work with children who have social issues, emotional development concerns, or mental challenges. It is highly important to note that you must also work with the parents or guardian of these children or their government worker if they are a ward of the state. Most children who see a child psychologist will have some intense struggles that can lead to volatile situations. Some children will have less severe challenges to overcome.
  • Professor:
    A college or university professor at an accredited higher learning institution will typically focus on teaching students, ground-breaking research, and publishing. The overall goal of most professors is to become a tenured professor so that they have greater flexibility in their research without fear of the loss of their job.
  • Faculty Development Specialist:
    A faculty development specialist works to create the best educational staff possible at colleges and universities. These individuals help to mold the instructors or professors to develop the ideal curriculum, to establish best practices, to implement continuous improvement policies, and to ensure students are the ones who benefit in the end.

Annual Median Salary by Occupation

Occupation Entry-Level Range Mid-Career Range Late-Career Range
Pharmacist $105,500 $115,500 $119,600
Healthcare Consultant $69,100 $83,600 $99,400
Hospital CEO $113,700 $138,200 $192,600
Public Policy Director $62,700 $79,200 $126,000
Consultant $66,000 $79,200 $93,000
Tax Lawyer $79,400 $125,500 $177,800
Child Psychologist $41,500 $68,300 $98,400
Professor $61,000 $70,400 $99,000
Faculty Development Specialist $58,300 $70,000 $133,200


  • The Educational Audiology Association Scholarship
    Amount: $5000-$1,000
    Deadline: Rolling Deadline (All year long)

    The Educational Audiology Association Scholarship is dedicated to doctoral candidates pursuing a degree in educational audiology. The selected recipient will also demonstrate their effort to promote and encourage awareness on the subject matter and research. The number of scholarships may vary each year. Applicants must be in pursuit of a fourth-year placement and be a student in good standing.

  • The Foundation for Physical Therapy Scholarships
    Amount: $7,500-$15,000
    Deadline: Varies (Previously January)

    The Foundation for Physical Therapy provides three scholarships each year to qualified students in pursuit of a Ph.D. The three scholarships are the Promotion of Doctoral Studies I Scholarship, the Promotion of Doctoral Studies II Scholarship and the Florence P. Kendall Post-Professional Doctoral Scholarships. These scholarships will be awarded to first-year students, those in the program phase of coursework and those who are in the post-candidacy stage of the degree.

  • The New Century Scholars Doctoral Scholarships
    Amount: $10,000 (Up to 15 Awards)
    Deadline: Varies

    The New Century Scholars Doctoral Scholarships are awarded by the Dreams and Possibilities Campaign sponsored by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation. As many as 15 scholarships will be awarded to applicants who are able to demonstrate strong academic results with an interest in an academic career within the field of communication sciences. Each scholarship will be valued up to $10,000.

  • The STEM Teachers for America’s Future Scholarship
    Amount: $2,500
    Deadline: Varies (Previously April)

    The STEM Teachers for America’s Future Scholarship is provided by the AFCEA Educational Foundation. Each scholarship is valued between $2,500 each. Applicants must be pursuing a doctoral degree or master’s degree that specializes in science, technology, engineering, or math. These are referred to as the STEM subjects. Qualified applicants must also express an interest and desire to work in young education or K-12 school environments. They must also take two courses each semester, be a US citizen, and maintain a 3.5 GPA.

Professional Organizations

  • AAJ


American Geriatrics Society Student Chapter

The American Geriatrics Society was developed to assist medical professions and those in training to have access to a variety of benefits to increase their success in the field of geriatrics. Members will have access to a network of like-minded professionals, relevant and helpful clinical tools and journals, discounts on educational resources, advocacy, career advancement opportunities, and recognition.



The American Association for Justice

The members of the American Association for Justice, once titled the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, will be privy to a number of benefits. Members will be instantly connected to a large selection of similar practitioners. They will have access to experience and industry know-how, trial techniques, effective strategies, and more to be able to better represent their clients. The association also provides educational opportunities, access to countless documents, legal news, advocates, and online access to documents.



The National Association of Elementary School Principals

The National Association of Elementary School Principals is an organization that supports all elementary administrators working in schools for Pre-K to year eight. Members will save money on office and school supplies, have access to webinars, receive travel discounts, advocacy, networking opportunities, and options for professional development. And all members will have access to $2 million in legal protection.

Choosing an Accredited College

If you pursue a doctorate degree, you must select a college or university that is regionally accredited. This will greatly impact your career opportunities and pay. The same is true if you choose an online degree. It is also important to note that if you wish to receive the best education with the best career and pay results, you should choose a degree program that is accredited too.

Many colleges and universities will offer career guidance in a variety of ways. They might offer networking opportunities to meet former graduates. Doctoral candidates will often have access to online job placement assistance. You might also work with highly selective career recruiters or speak with your professors.