How Do I Enroll in a Distance Learning Doctoral Degree Program?

The process for enrolling in a distance learning doctoral program is very similar to enrolling in an on-campus program. Students have to meet admission requirements, file paperwork and take part in an interview. Though the general process remains the same, particular details and requirements will vary from school to school. Below find the steps you can take to enroll in one of these programs.

Enrolling in Distance Learning Doctoral Degree Programs Overview

A distance-learning program is a great way to advance your educational career while working around your current work schedule. Outlined below are the steps required to enroll in a distance-learning program.

Important Facts About Online Doctoral Programs

Programs Available fully or partially online in a variety of fields, including engineering management, nursing, occupational therapy, systems engineering and more
Common Requirements In addition to coursework, students need to complete extensive research leading to a dissertation
Program Length Varies widely by student and program, but 4-7 years is common
Possible Careers Professor, researcher, biochemist, engineering manager, medical scientist, to name a few options

Step 1: Select a Distance Learning School

Before enrolling, you'll want to determine which school best suits your needs. Some distance learning programs require short periods of residency since research and interaction with other students and faculty are essential when one is pursuing a doctoral degree. Since you know that a campus-based residency could be required, it may be best to look for local schools or find out if a school you're interested in has satellite locations nearby.

One source of information is the Distance Education and Training Council (www.detc.org), which provides a searchable database of accredited distance learning institutions. The DETC focuses on schools that offer the majority of their programs through distance education and may not include schools that have primarily on-campus programs.

Step 2: Review Admission Requirements

Once you've chosen a school, check its website to find the admission requirements for the program you'll be taking. Admission to a doctoral-degree program will require at least a bachelor's degree, and prior completion of a master's-degree program may reduce the number of credits needed to earn the doctorate. Students will also have to meet requirements such as minimum grade point averages and acceptable Graduate Record Examination scores.

Step 3: Learn About Computer Requirements

Students must be able to meet some basic computer requirements since most education will be delivered via online platforms. Computer system requirements may vary based on how a school offers its content. For instance, a program that includes streaming video lectures may require a particular media player such as QuickTime. Most required software can be downloaded for free. Common computer requirements may include:

  • Pentium 4-based computer system
  • Hard drive of 20 GB or greater
  • RAM 2 - 4 GB
  • Internet service
  • DSL or cable modem
  • Sound card and headset
  • Windows 7 or Vista operating system
  • Speakers
  • Updated web browser
  • Adobe Reader
  • Windows Media Player
  • Java
  • Spyware, anti-virus and malware protection
  • Microsoft Office or equivalent word processing software

Step 4: Apply for Admission

Many schools allow aspiring doctoral students to complete online applications. You might also choose to visit a campus to apply in person. Prospective students must submit applications, pay application fees and provide the schools in question with a variety of paperwork. The exact requirements will depend on the specific school. Generally, students must submit the following along with their applications:

  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose
  • Transcripts from previous institutions
  • Graduate Record Examination or Graduate Management Admission Test scores

Doctorate students may also be interviewed prior to being admitted to a program. The interview is part of the admissions process and is not a guarantee of acceptance. Interviews are often conducted on campus, though some schools will allow distance-learning students to interview by phone.

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