Choosing the type of degree you earn can play a huge role in the careers you can pursue, the salary you can expect, and the total cost of obtaining the degree. When it comes to this important investment, it’s important to do your research, especially if you’re considering the highest degree attainable: the doctorate degree.
What Is a Doctorate Degree Program?
When you enter graduate school for any field, you should expect a different experience from your undergraduate years. Those enrolling in graduate degree programs will do best if they are motivated by professional and academic goals. If you have a few years of work experience under your belt, all the better.
Those entering a Ph.D. program have already earned a bachelor’s degree in their chosen field. In some cases, a master’s degree is also required to begin this course of study.
The Ph.D. or professional doctoral candidate will begin by taking courses and exams. After completing these, they will take advanced seminars and design dissertation research or begin a capstone project. Finally, they will complete the requirements by creating and defending their dissertation or presenting their capstone.
A dissertation is a thesis that demonstrates the candidate’s ability to research and support a topic. The dissertation is usually the deciding factor in whether or not the candidate earns his or her doctorate. Failure to complete the dissertation is a major reason that candidates fail to complete their studies.
Related Resource: What is a Bachelor’s Degree?
Doctorate Degree vs. Ph.D.
You might be wondering if a Ph.D. and a professional doctorate degree are the same thing. Some people say that a Ph.D. prepares you to teach, while a professional doctorate is geared toward a professional career in your selected field. The real answer is a bit more complicated than that, though.
A doctoral degree is the very highest degree that you can obtain, and you can earn a doctorate in most subject areas. There is a doctor of business administration (DBA) degree, a doctor of education (EDD) degree, a doctor of public health degree, and many others, too. In just about any field, the most advanced degree is at the doctoral level.
A Ph.D., which stands for doctor of philosophy, is no different from a doctorate degree; it’s simply a specific type of doctorate degree. A Ph.D. is available in fields of study like psychology, child development, data science, and more. It is considered an academic degree of the highest level, signifying a high level of knowledge and research in a particular field.
A professional doctoral degree program, on the other hand, is a terminal degree that is usually more specific to a certain field. Professional doctoral degree options include a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) or doctor of medicine (MD). Making the decision between a Ph.D. and a professional doctorate is not necessarily an either/or choice. It’s more a matter of narrowing your options.
The differences between these programs vary depending on the field of study and can occasionally change as improvements and adjustments are made.
The main difference between Ph.D. programs and professional doctorate programs is the type of research the student is required to perform as a culmination of their studies. Ph.D. students are required to create a thesis based on the knowledge gained in their particular field and extend this thesis to solve a real-world problem. They prove their problem-solving abilities by producing and defending a dissertation and often conducting original research to do so.
Professional doctoral students, on the other hand, are expected to draw from previous experiences and knowledge, and apply the information to a problem or project in the real world. They demonstrate this ability by creating an applied doctoral capstone, which is either a paper, a product, or a portfolio.
To sum it up, a Ph.D. student must create a five-chapter dissertation and contribute new solutions to solve real-world problems. Ph.D.s are more interested in consulting or conducting research than in practicing in the profession. Those with a professional doctorate apply existing knowledge to solve real-world problems and generally have more interest in working directly in their business rather than in consultation or research.
What Kind of Jobs Can You Get With a Doctorate Degree?
In order to decide what type of degree you should pursue in your field of study, be sure to carefully consider your career goals and the type of research you are interested in performing. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What do you hope to do?
- What type of research would you like to perform?
- Where do you intend to apply your education?
- Which degree is required or expected in the organization where you would like to advance your career?
Most careers do not require a doctoral degree. Even professional careers that demand a higher education will usually accept a masters degree.
If your job selection requires state licensing (engineering, public school teaching, psychology), you might wish to pursue a doctoral degree to have the opportunity for higher-paying positions and positions in the government.
In addition, some careers absolutely demand a doctoral degree for the highest level of career achievement. This is true if you intend to become a college professor, a medical doctor, a dentist, or a research scientist. Most highly specialized fields require a doctorate degree for the highest level professional and leadership roles.
Whatever your career, you’ll have access to higher paying jobs if you have a doctoral degree in your field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers with a doctoral degree earn an average of nearly $1,900 per week, compared to just under $1,500 for a master’s degree, $1,250 for a bachelor’s degree, and $746 for a high school diploma. In addition, the degree will open doors to higher career achievement and greater prestige.
What Are the Most Common Types of Doctoral Degrees?
The most common doctoral degree is the Doctor of Philosophy or Ph.D. Those who hold Ph.D.s often seek careers as advisors and researchers although some will enter other careers.
Some of the most popular doctorate degrees are in the fields of law, pharmacy, medicine, and dentistry. Other popular choices include psychology, business, physical therapy, and education.
As the education world shifts, online programs for doctorate degrees are being established to meet increased demand. Universities such as Johns Hopkins are offering online doctoral degrees in fields such as education and nursing. These programs are competitive and offer the same high quality education as in-person courses.
As a high-demand career, it can be easier to obtain an online doctoral program in business. Most of the online doctorate degrees require you to satisfy supervision requirements for professional practice through a short residency or campus visits.
How Long Is a Doctorate Degree Program?
If you already hold a master’s degree in your field, you might be able to complete a doctorate with three years of additional full-time study.
If you don’t have a master’s degree, you will most likely be required to spend four to eight years studying to obtain your doctoral degree.
A four-year doctorate will take about 90 to 120 hours of semester credits to complete. These credits are equal to 30 or 40 college courses. The length of the courses and the number of required credits can vary based on the doctoral program.
Some programs require the completion of a research thesis. Online doctorates may be designed as “practitioner’s degrees” and may not require a research thesis. Instead, you may be required to complete a capstone paper or a supervised placement working in your chosen career area.
To successfully complete a Ph.D. program, you will need to establish a schedule for completing your course requirements. Stick to your deadlines to avoid falling behind. To prepare for your exams, you will need to save your coursework and organize your study materials.
Take time to connect with your committee members either in person, by phone or by Skype to get to know them and to learn their expectations of you as a student. Work with your committee to determine the best method for approaching your exams. To help improve your oral presentation skills, spend time practicing with a real person.
Preparing your dissertation is intended to be one of the most significant accomplishments in your life. As such, it can be extremely challenging. Proper communication with your committee and advisors is crucial for the successful development and completion of your final project.
Is a Doctorate Degree Right for You?
Prospective students should consider the return on investment of any professional degree. A Ph.D. degree or other terminal degree will cost you significantly, both in terms of finances and time.
Doctoral degrees can take up to eight years to attain, but if you’ve already attained a master’s degree, your course of study could be significantly shorter. Whatever the case is, you’ll need to produce either a dissertation or a capstone project in order to earn your doctorate, and both of those projects represent a significant amount of work, sometimes up to several years’ worth.
Still, the payoff for earning a doctorate can be quite large, whether you’re working towards a Ph.D., a doctor of education, or another doctorate degree. Your earning potential, your prestige in the field, and your career trajectory are all positively impacted by attaining a terminal degree.
Ultimately, you need to decide for yourself how high you aim to take your career, and whether this type of investment makes sense for you. For more help finding a program that’s a good fit, consider checking out CollegeRank, where our unique ranking formula weighs your overall return on investment.
Here are some rankings to get you started:
- 20 Best Doctorates in Public Health
- 25 Best Online Doctorate in Nurse Practitioner (RN Required)
- 5 Best Online Doctorates in Counseling
- 15 Best Doctorates in Occupational Therapy Online
- 10 Online Doctorates in Behavioral Psychology
- 20 Best Online Doctorates in Psychology
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