How do online Doctorate programs differ from traditional university programs?

phd doctorate

Doctorate degrees are for the truly passionate learner. Compared to a master’s degree program which can be completed in two to three years, it could take a student up to eight years to complete their doctorate, depending on the field of study. Students are also required to take comprehensive exams throughout their studies before presenting a dissertation to a set of panelists. Students must be able to defend their ideas, and the dissertation can take many hours of research, which sometimes takes place at the university lab or campus.

If you would like to earn your graduate degree through an online doctorate program, you will obviously have more flexibility as you learn, and can schedule your education around making a living or spending time with others. Since earning an online doctoral degree can be a lengthy process, it’s an excellent way to balance work, education, recreation, and family.

But can you earn a doctoral degree entirely through an online program? No, most likely, you cannot. Depending on your subject of study, most concentrations call for in-person instruction or hands-on learning, like courses in nursing and psychology. While much of the curriculum can be addressed remotely, if you’re considering a degree in those fields, it may be best to stick with a traditional brick-and-mortar university. In many cases, you may not be able to earn an online doctorate degree in your field of study, even if you have gotten previous degrees from an online university.

Working while you study can also cut down on the financial impact of going back to school and could keep you from having to take out unnecessary loans; however, don’t be fooled into thinking that online learning formats always offer less tuition. Sometimes the cost is lower due to the reduced operating costs that a traditional university entails; although, sometimes they are the same regardless of the format you use. Additionally, if you’re looking for financial aid, you’ll be much more likely to find it at a traditional university instead of online institutions due to the requirement of applying for assistantships, which cannot be completed remotely.

If you have the desire to stay connected with your professor and fellow classmates through your doctoral degree program, perhaps you should forgo the online option and stick with the brick and mortar campus. Through a traditional university, you will appreciate the personal attention and expertise of the faculty, which preferably are doctorate degree holders themselves. Occasionally, online doctoral degree programs are taught by adjunct instructors that do not have the prestigious doctoral accolade; however, they may have better networking connections to industries and are better in-tune with workplace practices.

Research your doctorate concentration carefully before selecting a school so that you can get the most out of your money and time. Always ensure that the university you choose is accredited, which means the school is meeting a specific set of standards set forth by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Examples of online universities that offer online doctorate degrees include the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Alabama, and the University of Florida. If you are interested in earning an online doctorate degree, see our list of the 30 Easiest Online Doctorate Degree Programs for 2019.