How Does an Online Doctoral Degree Work?

Online doctoral degree programs are best suited for working professionals who want to pursue advanced degrees. Like traditional doctoral programs, students spend a lot of time researching and writing their dissertations. Read below to find out more about online doctoral degree programs.

Online Doctoral Degree Program Overview

Doctoral degrees are advanced academic degrees designed to provide students with a high level of education in a particular subject. In the U.S., a doctoral degree is the highest level of education that can be attained and involves an intense commitment of time and resources. Most doctoral students have already completed a bachelor's degree, and many hold a master's degree in a related topic. Online doctoral degree programs give working professionals the chance to earn a degree without sacrificing their careers.

Important Facts about Online Doctoral Degrees

Common Programs Education, philosophy, nursing, business, and psychology
Top Universities*University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Minnesota- Twin Cities, University of Florida
Prerequisites Programs may have a research language requirement (such as Latin for a classical philosophy program)
Possible Careers Instructional designer/educator, professor, psychiatrist, advanced nurse practitioner, top executive


Online Coursework

Online doctoral students receive and complete their coursework online; therefore, they must have a computer with high-speed Internet access in order to complete the program. Many programs allow students to work at their own pace and submit coursework as they complete it. Because the main component of a doctoral degree is the dissertation and it accompanying research, most programs require students to complete only a few lecture-based classes.

Research and Dissertation

Nearly all online doctoral degree programs require students to complete and submit an original dissertation on a topic related to their chosen academic field. Students generally consult with an academic adviser before choosing a dissertation subject and may continue to consult with faculty throughout the research and writing process. Once completed, students are usually required to orally defend their thesis in front of an academic board. Online students may be required to travel to the university in order to complete this portion of the degree.

Online Interaction

Although online doctoral students are not physically on campus, they are generally able to interact fully with fellow students and faculty. Online forums and live chats give students the ability to ask questions, participate in scholarly discussions and simply stay involved.

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