The completion of a doctoral degree and a PhD program is becoming more common and even expected in sectors of today’s workforce. The reasons for this growing trend vary. In part, it's due to the increasing competition for jobs that require a master’s degree. Doctoral programs or PhD programs are just one way 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 rigorous, advanced degrees due to the nature of the work. These jobs are often in the fields of science, law, and education and include leading positions as professors, judges, medical doctors, and some mental health professionals.
Luckily, these programs are offered in many forms including executive education, hybrid (online and on-campus courses), and fully online PhD programs for doctoral degrees in medical science and biomedical sciences, neuroscience, health policy, human disease, public health and public policy at the state or federal level in the United States, and more. Both on-campus and online PhD programs make the best use of renowned faculty and alumni in particular fields and allow current students and their fellows to be involved in and conduct real world research.
What is the difference between a PhD and a Doctorate?
All PhD degrees are doctoral degrees; however, it's important to note that not all doctoral degrees are considered to be PhD degrees. Both types of advanced degrees focus on research. A PhD is often more theoretically 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 in order to complete either program type. Some departments or programs require the successful completion of an extensive exam prior to beginning the dissertation process. Both types are likely to offer some online courses, but also require some hands-on work.Read More
A PhD is considered the most advanced degree available in the United States. While taking a PhD program actually means you are earning a doctorate of philosophy, you can choose a Doctor of Philosophy, or professional doctorate degrees, in a wide number of fields of study including business administration, engineering, and education. You could end up with a Doctor of Social Work, a PhD in business from a business school, or a Doctor of Public Health Policy from a school of nursing or university. The majority of PhD degree holders go on to become professors, scholarly researchers, scholarly writers, or lead scientists. However, individuals who complete a PhD in psychology will often pursue a career as a clinical practitioner.
A doctorate, also referred to as doctor's degree, can either be the most advanced professional practice degree or the most advanced research degree, with students who are able to create innovation and discover and explore new breakthroughs. Individuals who complete these degrees are typically not interested in pursuing academic careers, but rather they are interested in becoming leaders in their industries. A doctorate degree will emphasize the application of research principles as a way to practically solve problems and formulate solutions to issues of a highly complex nature. You will also be responsible for the development of professional best practices within your designated field of expertise. Whether you complete a PhD or a doctorate, you will henceforth be referred to as doctor upon successful completion of your degree.
Why Choose a Doctorate or Ph.D. Advanced Program?
The reason for pursuing doctoral degrees will vary from person to person. A PhD or a doctorate degree are requirements for many jobs such as those in medical science or biomedical sciences, a psychologist, or a university professor. Any individual who wishes to work at the highest level in these fields will not have a choice. They must complete PhD programs 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 full-time study at this level. Before you commit to a PhD program, you should find ways in which to organize your life to increase your chance for success, such as planning for at least some open time every day to complete online courses or a way to perform hands-on research.
Most people who voluntarily choose to complete doctoral degrees or programs 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 an on-campus or online master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree, even 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's also possible that you will more easily be able to publish articles and findings in reputable periodicals, newspapers, online science journals, 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 your PhD degree.
Many doctoral degrees will require that you complete a master’s degree or significant graduate studies before you are able to apply for doctoral programs. However, some doctoral students only require a bachelor’s degree, such as those earning an MD or a JD. You can also complete a master’s degree and a doctoral degree from the same graduate school simultaneously in some instances. This will eliminate some time off your graduate 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 graduate program and the theme of your dissertation. And you'll need to consider the type of higher learning institution you wish to attend; you might attend a general graduate school, school of business, school of nursing, or a university offering the exact doctoral programs or online PhD programs you are looking for.
Do you require the flexibility of online PhD programs with limited physical classroom requirements? If you do not live near a traditional higher learning institution with the professional doctorate degrees you're considering, you may require online studies. Is the cost of the program going to be important? If so, you might consider scholarships, grants, fellowships, or a public higher learning institution or university. Is the educational institution and the graduate program itself 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 PhD and Doctoral Degrees
- Doctor of Medicine – MD
- Juris Doctor – JD (Law)
- Doctor of Pharmacy – PharmD
- Doctor of Physical Therapy – DPT
- Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Medical Dentistry – DDS or DMD
- Doctor of Osteopathy – DO
- Doctor of Education – EdD
- Doctor of Veterinary Medicine – DVM/VMD
- Doctor of Psychology – DPsy
- Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine – DC
Typical Degree Requirements
Most doctorate degrees require 90 to 120 semester credit hours. This is equivalent to 30 or 40 courses in your designated field. If you are able to participate as a full-time graduate 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
You will likely have to complete a graduate school testing exam prior to receiving admission to any doctoral programs, 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 your university or school. You will have to pay for these exams and complete them with an approved and designated monitor.
Once PhD students begin the program, they will be required to complete traditional coursework that will lead to competency exams. After their educational foundation is complete, they will begin to focus on research or applied practices that they will incorporate into their defense and dissertation or thesis. They will be required to stand up and defend a dissertation or thesis to the designated committee in most cases. If the committee approves their dissertation or thesis, they will receive their professional doctorate degrees.
Doctoral Degrees future growth predictions
It is projected that between 2012 and 2022, according to the BLS, growth for professional doctorate degrees will increase by 16%. The majority of this growth is expected to be employed in specific areas, such as computers and mathematics or statistics, biomedical sciences, life and physical sciences, social sciences, law, education and training, and healthcare or pulbic health. It's also important to note that the cost of these degrees also continues to increase each year.
What are the most popular doctoral degrees online?
The 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. However, even if you enroll in an online program 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 but recently included nursing, education, psychology, and business administration.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Compliance Management
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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: $115,200
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: $78,300
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: $153,500
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: $81,900
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.
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: $102,400
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: $68,300
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: $88,400
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|
|Public Policy Director||$50,900||$82,100||$124,900|
|Faculty Development Specialist||-||-||-|
Important Questions to Ask
How long does it take to earn a Doctoral Degree or Ph.D.?
The amount of time it takes to graduate with 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 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 school or university, 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 PhD may receive full financial aid funding to complete their doctoral programs. 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?
On-time graduation rates are typically significantly low for doctoral programs 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's also important to note that the commitment that is necessary to successfully complete such programs. 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 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.
The Educational Audiology Association Scholarship
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
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)
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
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.
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.