dcsimg

Doctorate Degrees & Programs

The highest level of education a student can receive is a doctoral degree. These advanced degrees indicate that the recipient has in-depth knowledge and mastery of their particular area of study, and they're relatively rare. Less than 1 percent of the population in the U.S. holds a doctoral degree, according to the education firm Peterson's. While the Census Bureau reported the number of doctoral degree holders increased by 1 million from 2002-12, don't expect this level of education to become as common as bachelor's degrees or even master's degrees.

A doctoral degree may not be for everyone, as it entails a rigorous program that can take years to complete. Those who pursue this elite credential must have a love of learning and a strong desire to take their education to the very highest level.

What is a doctorate?

Even those not familiar with the doctorate degree definition may be familiar with the term Ph.D. The letters Ph.D. stand for Doctor of Philosophy, which is the most popular doctoral degree in the country. According to the National Science Foundation, science and engineering doctorate degrees — Ph.D. degrees — accounted for 74 percent of doctorates earned in 2012.

The following are other examples of doctoral degrees.

  • Doctor of Education
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy
  • Doctor of Medicine
  • Doctor of Dental Surgery
  • Juris Doctor

Some of these doctoral degrees, such as those for medicine and law, are also referred to as professional degrees.

Do you need an advanced postgraduate degree?

Although a Ph.D. or other doctoral degree might be helpful in advancing some careers, it is only truly necessary for relatively few occupations.

These include the following positions.

  • Most postsecondary teachers
  • Lawyers
  • Doctors and surgeons
  • Dentists
  • Veterinarians
  • Physical therapists

In addition, any person who is planning to do advanced research will likely need a doctorate, regardless of their field.

Other jobs requiring a Ph.D. include those in fields where a government license or professional credentials are needed. For example, a person with a bachelor's or master's degree in psychology may be able to work in entry-level positions. However, states may require a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology degree before they will license that person and allow them to use the title of "psychologist."

Deciding to commit to a doctorate

Before entering a doctorate program, students should carefully consider the time commitment and their financial resources.

Peterson's notes that a Ph.D. can take up to nine years or more to earn, and many doctoral candidates are unable to work a full-time job during that time because of the rigorous demands of their studies. Fortunately, many institutions offer stipends and fellowships to graduate students to offset the cost of living, so check with universities that interest you about their funding options.

In other good news for prospective doctoral students, the National Science Foundation reports the average time to earn a Ph.D. has been declining in recent years. As of 2012, the following represents the median time, based upon field of study, from entering graduate school to earning a doctorate.

  • Social sciences: 7.7 years
  • Life sciences: 6.9 years
  • Engineering: 6.7 years
  • Physical sciences: 6.7 years

While the doctoral degree process can be challenging, it can also be immensely rewarding. Some Ph.D. jobs may pay significantly more than those requiring less education, but often the real value lies in the opportunity to explore an area of study the student finds meaningful and relevant.

Career counselors at schools with doctorate degree programs can help students learn more about whether this advanced degree is right for them. Interested students should request more information about both programs and entrance requirements, as certain qualifying exams, such as the GRE or LSAT, might be required..

Sources:

Ph.D. Programs are Rigorous Educational Experiences, Peterson's, Jan. 17, 2014,
http://www.petersons.com/graduate-schools/phd-programs-rigorous-educational.aspx

Census Bureau Reports Fast Growth in Ph.D.s and Master's Degree Holders, Census Bureau. Jan. 23, 2013,
https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/education/cb13-13.html

Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2012, The National Science Foundation,
http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/sed/digest/2012/index.cfm

Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
http://data.bls.gov/projections

Psychologists, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm

Find a Doctorate School that's Right for You!
Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT Clear All

    See More

  • DEGREE

    See More

  • PROGRAM TYPE

  • START TIME

    LOCATION
    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.

Searching Searching ...

Prefer exploring options talking to our staff?
Call toll free now: 1.855.330.6938
Matching School Ads
4 Program(s) Found
  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the 4th consecutive year.
  • Listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013, for the sixth consecutive year.
  • Links students to hundreds of training opportunities ( beyond their traditional internships and practicum) at their many “partner agencies” in each of their local communities. 
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
Show more [+]
Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
5 Program(s) Found

Alliant International University offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree programs, as well as certificates and credentials at campuses across California.

5 Program(s) Found
  • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor's Programs in 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Implements a one-to-one teaching model, partnering one student with one faculty member in each course.
  • 100% of faculty members hold doctoral degrees.
  • No physical residency requirements, allowing students to pursue their degree online.
  • Committed to innovation, diversity, excellence, and accountability since its founding in 1996.
  • Offers several programs in business, education, psychology, and more.
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
2 Program(s) Found
  • Ranked #4 among the 2015 Best Regional Universities in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Designated as 2015 Military Friendly School by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Student to faculty ratio of 12:1, with an average class size of 21.
  • 85% of faculty holds a doctorate or terminal degree in their field.
  • Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
5 Program(s) Found
  • A private, Christian, liberal arts university founded in 1905 and open to students of any faith.
  • Has an average class size of 20 students.
  • 97% of students receive financial aid, with the average freshman receiving $10,000.
  • Offers over 25 undergraduate degree programs.
  • Has approximately 5,000 students; 60% female and 40% male.
  • Accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Show more [+]
Good for Working Adults
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Program(s) Found
  • Allows students to transfer credits from non-U.S. colleges and universities after evaluation.
  • Has students attend one class at a time to ensure easy access to faculty and a more hands-on education.
  • Its main campus is located in Fort Lauderdale, with campuses located throughout the State of Florida and internationally. 
  • Provides a Department of Student Services and Resources that assists students with résumé preparation, interviewing skills coaching, mock interviewing, professional development workshops, and more.
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses