Degrees Defined: What is a Doctorate Degree and Why Is it Important?

What Is a Doctorate Degree?

A doctorate degree, also called a PhD (for Doctor of Philosophy), is the highest graduate degree you can earn. It takes a significant amount of time, often 5-7 years, and you typically have to write an original dissertation on your chosen area of study.

To pursue a doctorate degree, you need to truly love learning.

Advantageous Doctorate Degree Programs

Approximately 30 percent of those with doctorate degrees work in academia as professors. The next largest employers, in order, are health services, manufacturing, and legal services.

The fastest growing jobs in the U.S. today for those with a doctorate degree include:

  • Biochemists and biophysicists
  • Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists
  • Computer and information scientists (in research)
  • Medical scientists
  • Post-secondary teachers

Why Earn an Online Doctorate Degree

Since doctorate degree programs can take several years to complete, the process can be a a real financial drain. An online degree program may enable you to work full time while studying, which can be a huge benefit. And some online doctorate degree programs take less time to complete than their traditional on-campus counterparts.

You should carefully research any online school or online education program. Make sure it offers all of the coursework you seek and personal access to faculty members. If you want to teach while earning your degree, like many PhD students do, then you need to see if your online doctorate degree program offers that option.

Benefits of a Doctorate Degree

Earning a doctorate degree can greatly enhance your earning potential. High school graduates had median weekly earnings of $591 in 2008, bachelor's degree holders earned $978, and those with a doctorate degree earned $1,555 a week. This degree can also improve your job security. Unemployment rates for those with a doctorate degree were only 2.0 percent in 2008, compared with rates of 2.8 percent for bachelor's degree holders and 5.7 percent for high school graduates.