What Are the Most Common Doctoral Degree Programs in the U.S.?

A doctoral degree is widely considered the most prestigious and respectable academic award a student can earn. In the U.S., biological sciences, social sciences, psychology, education research, and electrical engineering are the most common doctorates, according to figures from the National Science Foundation (''www.nsf.gov'').

Earning a Doctoral Degree

Doctoral degrees are the highest-level degrees available from universities in the United States. These programs are open to graduates from bachelor's degree and master's degree programs and generally take 4-8 years to complete. In addition to taking advanced-level classes, doctoral students typically complete a dissertation, which is a complex research document of original origin. Students often are required to defend their dissertation before a university-appointed panel. Below the table are a few of the most popular doctoral programs available in the U.S.

Important Facts About These Programs

Psychology Education Research Electrical Engineering
Online Availability Full programs are available Full programs are available Some courses are available in a blended format
Possible Careers Research analyst, health program administrator Academic dean, college professor Design engineer, IT data scientist
Programs Psychology-specific fellowships are available Research-based fellowships are available Fellowships are available
Continuing Education Post-doctoral certificate courses are available Post-master's certificates courses are offered in areas such as adult education Post-doctoral programs are available in areas like physics
Median Salary (2018) $99,730 (for medical and health services managers) $94,340 (for postsecondary education administrators) $118,370 (for computer and information research scientists)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 20% growth (for medical and health services managers) 10% growth (for postsecondary education administrators) 19% growth (for computer and information research scientists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Doctoral Degree in Biological Sciences

Doctoral programs in biological sciences typically are centered around laboratory research, with students undertaking several lab rotations. In addition to completing core courses in subjects like cell biology and genetics, many doctoral candidates choose a biological sciences research concentration, such as biotechnology or molecular endocrinology. Graduates in this field are awarded the title Doctor of Science (S.D.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.).

Doctoral Degree in Social Sciences

Social sciences Ph.D. programs are intended for students interested in disciplines as varied as political science, history, geography, and public administration. Thus, most doctoral degree programs in the social sciences are individualized and interdisciplinary in nature. These Ph.D. candidates typically must complete courses in social theory and earn additional credits through independent study, seminars and dissertation research.

Doctoral Degree in Psychology

Doctoral candidates in psychology can choose to pursue a Ph.D., which emphasizes research, or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.), which stresses clinical practice. Both routes require students to complete core courses, such as social psychology and quantitative methods, and clinical rotations with on-campus or community agencies. Some schools allow doctoral candidates to specialize in clinical, addiction or industrial/organizational psychology, among other topics.

Doctoral Degree in Education Research

Students seeking a Ph.D. in education research learn to develop tests and other forms of assessment, interpret research and evaluate education programs. Doctoral candidates also might complete individual studies in research methodologies, political processes or education administration.

Doctoral Degree in Electrical Engineering

Students in an electrical engineering doctoral degree programs explore subjects such as applied electromagnetics, power systems, and signal processing. They also might study engineering-related disciplines, such as computer science, math, and physics. Ph.D. candidates conduct original research in electrical engineering and learn to present their findings both orally and in written form.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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