Online Doctoral Degree Programs

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Those who earn a doctoral degree have reached the pinnacle of their educational journey, and are now poised to enter the highest reaches of their profession. This terminal degree can lead to higher pay, better promotions, lower unemployment and other advantages. Though some choose to earn their doctoral degree through the traditional classroom setting, more and more busy professionals are opting for the online doctoral degree instead.

Why Get a Doctoral Degree?

The doctoral degree is considered a terminal degree; there is no higher option. Earning a doctoral degree might be a necessity for some, such as those who intend to work as physicians. For others, earning the highest degree possible positions them to become an expert in their field, which can then lead to significant advancement, promotions, higher pay and many other perks.

There are plenty of hard numbers to back up the promising claims. Those who opt to earn their doctoral degree can expect to make $3.5 million, on average, over their lifetime. Those who choose to pursue the professional degree, which usually means becoming a physician or an attorney, will make an impressive $4.2 million in average lifetime earnings, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

About the Expert

Gabrielle Pelicci, Ph.D. is a leading expert on Holistic Medicine and Expert Wellness Blogger at SheKnows.com. Dr. Pelicci’s expertise is regularly featured in national and local media such as MSNBC, Huffington Post and Spirituality & Health Magazine.

Unemployment numbers also drop dramatically as educational attainment goes up. The average unemployment rate for those with doctoral degrees was 2.1 percent in 2014, while those with a professional degree fared even better at 1.9 percent -- rates far lower than the average of all workers, which was 5%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How do you Enroll in an Online Doctoral Degree Program?

Starting enrollment can be quite easy, but be warned that it might be a lengthy process. This is much the same as would be expected from enrolling in an on-campus program; the admissions office will need transcripts from all previous schools, recommendations or letters of reference, and other information that helps them determine who will fill the limited number of slots available for each school term.

Keep in mind that if a school says they offer "easy" enrollment or the process seems too good to be true, it probably is. "If the online program is affiliated with an accredited institution, then they have the same standards as on-campus programs," said Gabrielle Pelicci, Ph.D., the founder of Women in Wellness Online Career Training. "If the program is not accredited, I would think twice about attending."

How to Enroll

Considering a doctorate but not sure where to begin? Start by collecting necessary information for an admissions counselor to get in touch. This information includes citizenship status, street address and email, the topic of study, information on any outstanding student loans, and a bit more. Then, find schools using our tool below.

What's the Difference Between Studying Online and On-Campus?

When a student chooses to pursue a doctoral degree, the classes taken online will be just as vigorous as the classes taken during an on-campus program. Most online doctoral degrees are designed to meet the same standards as traditional classes, including the same amount of credits rewarded, the same amount of work required, and programs that are just as challenging as those found anywhere else.

However, studying online does offer several advantages over the traditional setting: the best of these perks include flexibility, convenience and opportunity.

"You can learn at your own pace, on your own terms, in your own environment," Pellici said. "You save time on travel, you can work from home, you make your own schedule. You can attend schools that you wouldn't be able to attend because of location or other constraints."

Keep in mind that when looking for the right doctoral program, whether online or on-campus, there are some things that remain universal. Look for "accreditation, faculty credentials, course offerings, alumni network, career services, financial aid -- the same things that you would look for in an on-campus school," Pellici said.

Does Location Matter for Online Doctoral Degrees?

One distinct advantage of online degrees is the ability to study from anywhere, anytime. An enrolled student could be anywhere in the world and as long as they have an internet connection, still participate in the required classes to earn the degree. However, some programs do require the occasional on-campus visit, and some might even require a few weeks or months of on-campus work during a particular term.

Interestingly, even though doctoral degree candidates might be able to attend courses through most online colleges regardless of location, the majority choose to stick "close to home." According to a 2015 Learning House study, 65 percent of online learners actually live within 100 miles of their online institution.

What Industries Does Online College Serve?

When it comes to online education, some professions are better suited to the technology than others. For instance, those who intend to dive into nursing might find that a hybrid approach, one that allows them to take hands-on courses as well as online education, is the best option. For others, such as those who work in internet technology, business management or graphic design, online education has proven to be the superior path.

When it comes to doctoral degrees, students might be surprised to find so many options available through online education. That's because by the time a student finishes all their undergraduate work and is poised to complete a doctoral degree, they have already obtained the hands-on training necessary for their job, and now are working to finely hone the skills they already have. Therefore, almost any industry will boast doctoral degree holders who pursued their education online.


1. 2015 Online College Students Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences, The Learning House, http://www.learninghouse.com/ocs2015-report/?utm_source=2015_7_Ed_Dive&utm_medium=Email&utm_content=&utm_campaign=OCS_2015
2. College Graduates Earn More, Lorain County Community College, http://www.lorainccc.edu/Future+Students/College+Graduates+Earn+More.htm
3. Earnings and unemployment rates by educational attainment, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm
4. Education and Synthetic Work-Life Earnings Estimates, American Community Survey Reports, U.S. Census Bureau, September 2011, https://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/acs-14.pdf
5. Interview with Gabrielle Pellici, August 14, 2015; Bio from http://www.gabriellepelicci.com/about/

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