What Is a Doctorate Degree?

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The doctorate degree is the highest degree you can earn in most fields. Also called a “terminal degree,” indicating you’ve achieved the highest level of academic mastery in your chosen field, and can work as a professional researcher, a university professor, or in an executive leadership role.

This degree demands an enormous commitment of time, energy and (sometimes) money. But in exchange for this commitment, you will achieve a specialized level of authority in your field and opportunity in your profession. A doctorate can lead to greater opportunities for professional advancement and higher earning potential. It’s also the basic threshold for certain advanced professional roles, including the licensed practice of psychology, professorship, or professional research.

Many of the universities that offer full-time bachelor’s degree programs also offer opportunities to earn your doctorate. To get started on your search, check out the The 50 Best Online Colleges & Universities 2019 and find out who offers a doctoral program in your field.

If you’re looking for a doctoral program close to home, take a look at The Best Online College by State.

  Doctoral Basics

Earning your doctorate is a serious commitment. Depending on your area of professional focus, the program could require the completion of anywhere between 60 and 120 credits. But bear in mind that it takes longer to earn these credits than the credits you’ve earned as an undergraduate. The typical doctorate will usually take between five and eight years to complete.

During this time, you’ll engage coursework in your area of concentration alongside a number of additional academic commitments, including a major research component and a final dissertation. Your dissertation will require you to work closely with an academic mentor to develop, pursue, and report on a research endeavor designed to simultaneously demonstrate mastery of existing conventions in your field while exploring a new question or area.

Pursuit of your doctorate may also include a working component, whether as an adjunct professor, a research assistant, or in another academic role. Compensation for doctoral student jobs is notoriously low so be prepared for a few years of grinding it out, both academically and financially.

This underscores the importance of pursuing a degree only if you are truly passionate about the subject matter and committed to your long-term goals.

  Types of Doctoral Degree

Most doctoral degrees fall into one of two categories:

  Doctorate Degree Rankings

As noted above, the doctorate is the highest degree awarded in most fields. Completion of a degree program in one of the following areas signals a highly advanced level of knowledge and comprehension in your field:

  What can you do with a Doctoral degree?

Earning a doctorate can place you in rarefied professional company. Because of the cost, time, and academic talent required of the doctoral candidate, this opportunity is reserved for only the most committed of students. Completion of your doctorate, however, essentially qualifies you to work at nearly any level in your field, or at least to gain entry to a career with opportunities for advancement to nearly any level.

A doctorate can qualify you for an executive leadership role in business, high-level consultation in public affairs or a judgeship in the administration of criminal justice. And in most fields, earning your doctorate would also qualify you to work as a university professor.

For many, the doctorate is also a pathway to a career spent in research. Depending on your area of concentration, you could contribute to the exploration economic theory, participate in major long-term public health surveys, or provide R&D leadership to a major consumer brand.

How much you earn will be largely determined by your chosen filed and the way you apply your doctorate. However, with a doctorate, you will have the highest earning potential within your chosen field.

  Admission Requirements

Completion of a bachelor’s degree program is typically the basic threshold for entry into a doctoral program. Beyond that, most reputable doctoral programs will require a positive academic track record. In some cases, that may include a minimum undergraduate GPA.

You are not required to have earned a master’s degree before gaining entry to a doctoral program. However, some doctoral programs may recognize and transfer these graduate credits, which could in turn reduce the length of time and money that you’ll need to commit to your doctoral program. That said, every university has its own transfer policy and prerequisite infrastructure. Conduct due diligence in determining the best point of access to your intended doctoral program.

And bear in mind that admission for many doctoral programs is highly competitive. Any advantages you bring to the process — including internships, community service, real-world experience, or personal connections — may significantly improve your chances of enrolling in one of your top choices.

  Doctoral Degree Costs

The cost of a doctoral degree is extremely variant, even to the extent that the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) does not provide current data on the cost of doctoral degree programs. That said, most doctoral programs fall on the higher end of the cost spectrum, and can range from roughly $30-$40K for in-state students, to upwards of $60K per year for out of state students.

However, because the doctorate degree is relatively rarefied academic air, many scholarship opportunities exist for those who do reach this level. To learn more about scholarship opportunities and how you can apply, check out How to Find Scholarships — Scholarship Indexes, Directories, and Databases.

Online Doctoral Degree Programs

For many doctoral students, one of the biggest challenges is balancing the enormous commitment of time spent on research and coursework with career, family and home-life demands. Managing all the moving pieces in your life is a critical part of succeeding in your doctoral program. Many candidates are finding completion more attainable through reputable online doctoral programs, therefore we offer a wide range of online doctorate degree program rankings. The convenience and flexibility of online classes is making it eminently more possible to attain a doctoral level of mastery in your subject while balancing everything else in your life.

To get started on your search, check out the The 50 Best Online Colleges & Universities 2019 and find out who offers a doctoral program in your field.

If you’re looking for a doctoral program close to home, take a look at The Best Online College by State.

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