Do You Need a Doctoral Degree?
When people begin an online degree program, the possibility of going all the way for a doctoral is probably the last thing in their minds. However, advances in all disciplines have led more people than ever before to seek out online doctoral degree programs in an attempt to be qualified for advances and promotions in their careers. The PhD is a degree that indicates not only practical expertise but also professionalism in scholarly research, writing and publishing. In other words, the person who has been awarded the doctorate knows not only the best practices in a given industry but has also studied the theoretical aspects of the industry. As you might imagine, such individuals not only have the ability to impact their industries but can also influence government agencies and contribute to policy and regulatory decisions.
While online PhD programs, particularly the Distance Learning PhD in Psychology, are the best known, you might also be interested in the Doctor of Arts (DA), the juris doctorate, a law degree, a Doctor of Divinity (DD), common among upper level members of the clergy, or the D.Ed or doctor of education. Today nearly all of these degrees are available through online doctoral programs.
No Limits in the 21st Century
Online classes began with business degrees which were considered the best way for people to earn college degrees without having to take time away from careers or businesses where they were needed. Due to the popularity of these programs, colleges around the world have caught the online fever; today nearly every major university has on online component through which students can earn degrees in their most popular programs ranging from business and law to education and even medicine.
Occasional Internships on Campus
Some doctoral programs allow you to earn the degree entirely through online study. Others may require a campus presence or internship of at least one semester. This is because the university wants you to interact with other doctoral students and use your research and discoveries to contribute to the body of knowledge contained in the campus libraries and laboratories. They may also want you to be a part of committees or research groups that will help change the nature of your discipline and impact theory and practice into the future. It is only natural that the university will want credit for the work that you do. Consequently, while the bachelor and master's degrees may be entirely earned online, don't be surprised if you have to put in some sort of appearance before your doctoral degree is earned.
Most doctoral degrees take at least four years. If you can study year around, it may be possible for you to shorten the time. However, doctoral study is intense and complex, and some types of research cannot be rushed. Also, if you want to continue working while earning the degree, you are likely to discover that even online study will take at least three years. Then you will have to write a dissertation which is a book length work summarizing your research and offering some new contribution to the field. You may also have to take a comprehensive exam in which you will demonstrate a broad range of competence in the material you have been studying.
Doctoral Degrees require commitment
Your doctoral degree program should not be started without a full awareness of the commitment you will be making. It is a rewarding experience, but not an easy one, and while there may still be some "degree mills" that will virtually sell you a degree for a sum and make it appear as if you have a real Ph.D, your competitors in the field will soon recognize whether or not you really are an expert in the field. Quality programs involve a lot of learning, research, writing, and productivity before you are awarded the doctoral hood.
Doctoral degrees also tend to be expensive, particularly if you have to pay the entire cost yourself. The usual student aid does not apply to graduate study. Loans are available, but most doctoral students have some sort of research assistantship, fellowship or grant which pays for half to ¾ of the tuition. Another source of funding may be your own employer. Many employers participate in a reimbursement program if you are taking advanced education that will make you of more value to the industry.
Accreditation for Doctoral Degrees
Accreditation is an evaluation performed by a third party organization that certifies the institution and its programs. Accreditation means the university meets the criteria expected within the industry, whether it be education, medicine, law, business, or something else. Accreditation also has a political element as students generally cannot get federal aid unless one or more agencies has provided evaluation. Most public institutions seek out accreditation because naming all such credits on their brochures enables them to attract more students.
In many cases, the program itself may have accreditation within the college. If you feel this is important you can check with the Department of Education in your state or with the U.S.
Department of Education. More important, however, could be the issue of licensing which is required in many career fields today. Licenses, separate from your degree, are required in such career as computer science, counseling, finance, law, nursing, psychology, education, engineering management, public health, and business. Whether the university or program is accredited or not, you need to know that you will be taking the courses that will enable you to pass a certification exam for such licensing.
Regardless of the school you choose, you should take
some time to determine their accreditation. Accreditation is determined by private, non-governmental organizations that evaluate all aspects of the educational institution. The accreditors
themselves are also reviewed by the the U.S. Department
of Education (USDE) and the Council
for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
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