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Doctoral Programs and PhD Degrees via Distance Learning

A PhD is the highest level of education that can be earned through a college or university, and most programs take at least four to six years of study beyond the master's level. With the growth in technology and distance learning, PhD online degrees are becoming a popular way to complete a formal program from home, or anywhere in the world. Courses are designed in a similar way as campus-based courses, combining a rich curriculum with research requirements, projects, and expectations for a dissertation. Students who complete an online doctorate degree may move ahead into teaching, consulting, continuing education, or research within their field. Many graduates of PhD distance learning and education programs pursue lifelong research in their industry, and may publish a book, research reports, or a thesis.

Why Pursue a Doctorate Degree Online?

A doctorate degree online gives students a chance to work at their own pace and from a distance. These programs give students flexibility in their schedule, and an opportunity to work on a variety of projects using technology and internet-based communications. Most doctoral degree programs are designed with intensive study and research requirements; this can be enhanced even more with online programs since students can use the internet and world wide web to conduct in-depth research, produce reports, and develop presentations completely online. In some cases, the degree online may also require a collaborative component; with today's advancing web-based technologies, this becomes even easier and more efficient. Students who work well independently, are self-motivated, and enjoy working on the web can be successful.

Advantages of a Distance Learning PhD

A distance learning PhD program offers several advantages over a campus-based education. Students have an opportunity to use modern technology for research and reporting, and can quickly pick up essential skills for finding information, organizing research online, and developing their thesis or dissertation. Key advantages include:

  • Opportunity to work and network with other PhD seeking students

  • Working with professors and students from around the world

  • Opportunity to develop projects and discussion groups completely online

  • Ability to download course materials and other related media as part of study and research

  • Flexibility in learning, and maintaining an independent schedule for study

  • Collaborating on a variety of projects in a virtual environment

This option is ideal for working parents, adults who do not wish to attend a college campus, or anyone working a full-time job. An online PhD degree makes it simple to continue studies, research, and education without worrying about conflicting schedules and commuting to class.

Online PhD Courses

Courses are structured in a similar format as a campus-based courses, and conclude with a book-length thesis or dissertation based on research completed throughout the course of study. The finished dissertation is presented in front of a committee, and successful completion of this step provides the student with the 'doctor' title. Students are also required to complete a qualifying exam that is based on the topic or topics of research agreed upon before the start of the program. Online PhD courses are designed to include a mentorship component that helps to guide students through their research and course, and challenges them to work with experts in their field. This is one of the major benefits, as mentors can be assigned from any location around the world. A doctorate education online is a rewarding way to complete an intensive education with a variety of resources.

Types of Online Doctorate Degree Programs Available

Online doctorate degree programs are offered by both national and global universities. The most common programs available online include:

  • Psychology: a Ph.D. in Psychology or Doctor of Psychology

  • Education

  • Engineering

  • Public Health

  • Business: a Ph.D. in business or a Doctor of Business Administration

Completing an online program allows graduates to work in their professional community as a researcher, teacher, or simply publishing books and reports on the subject. Graduates may also conduct presentations, offer educational services, or simply serve as advisors or consultants in their chosen field. A doctorate education online offers a flexible and efficient format for study.

How to Choose an Online PhD Degree Program

Choosing an online PhD Degree program requires outlining the student's educational goals, and determining online and web-based skills to see if a distance learning PhD is the right fit. Most students have strong communication and internet research skills from courses or programs taken at the master's or bachelor's degree level. An online doctorate degree program can be a much more satisfying and rewarding experience when the student already has the fundamental skills and knowledge required to work in a 'virtual learning' environment. Still, many students choose to complete the program by learning as they go.

In order to choose the best program, students need to consider:

  • Financing
  • Schedule availability
  • Time commitment to devote to studying and research
  • Professional affiliations available
  • Licensure requirements for their field of study
  • Accreditation and recognition by both national and global agencies
  • Mentoring options and the assignment process

Pros and Cons of Getting PhD Online Degrees

While getting a PhD online offers many benefits, there are still a few downsides.

Benefits include:

  • Flexible schedules
  • Managing projects and assignments independently
  • Easy communication with both professors and students
  • Ability to download and share materials

A few drawbacks of a distance learning PhD may include:

  • Lack of social interaction with professors and students
  • Limited ability to find one-on-one mentorship or advisors, especially with a program that is based in another country
  • Learning curve involved with managing new software programs, web-based modules, and internet-based communications
  • Accessing libraries and other research databases for materials. Even though online PhD courses are designed to grant access to various online libraries and databases, it can become difficult to find specific materials without the right skills.

Distance learning at any educational level offers both benefits and drawbacks, and most students have completed a portion of their previous studies online. This can prevent learning difficulties, especially with the variety of web-based platforms and software programs required. Students who can pick up these skills throughout their educational career have a stronger chance of success for their PhD distance learning program.


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