Earning Your Doctorate Online

According to Georgetown University’s economic impact and educational attainment study, 11% of jobs will require at least postsecondary education by 2020, making it the perfect time to earn your PhD from an accredited online university. Those who already hold a postsecondary degree and wish to potentially increase their earnings or advance their careers can benefit from earning a PhD. This guide includes helpful information about earning an affordable online PhD, including scholarship opportunities, potential career paths, and analysis of earning potential for PhD students.

Why Earn an Online Doctorate Degree?

Affordable online PhD programs offer opportunities for learners to further their careers and increase their salaries. Students exploring advanced degree options, working professionals looking to improve their career prospects and earning potential, and people deciding between a professional certification or a doctoral degree can benefit from pursuing their PhD from a top online school. A doctoral degree provides avenues for advancement for many types of students and professionals.

What’s the Difference: Professional Certification or Advanced Degree?

Doctoral-level students can choose from a variety of professional and advanced degrees and certificate options. The table below outlines a few of these options.

Professional Certification Professional Degree Programs PhD Programs
What types of institutions award these? Colleges and universities that also offer graduate degrees often offer professional certifications. Many graduate institutions also offer professional degrees, as do independent professional schools. Public and private accredited postsecondary institutions award PhDs.
How long does it take? Depending on the certificate, these can take from one semester to a year to earn. Professional degrees can take up to two years, depending on the field. PhD programs can take up to four years to complete, depending on the field and program requirements.
What is the goal, as opposed to other degree options? Professional certifications often supplement graduate degrees. These degrees prepare students for work, licensure, or certification in a specific field. The PhD is the terminal advanced degree in most fields.
Who would it makes sense for? Professional certifications make sense for those who cannot or do not want to commit to pursuing a doctorate degree. Professionals who want to advance within their current field may want to pursue a professional degree in that area. Students interested in a degree that emphasizes research and advanced practice in their field should pursue a PhD.
Any caveats to consider? These certifications do not stand in for full degrees. Some career fields may require a certification in addition to a graduate degree. Some professional degree work may not transfer over towards a graduate degree. Some accredited online doctoral programs may require some in-person elements.

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Online PhDs that Pay Well

While many online doctoral program aren’t cheap, an affordable PhD can help you kickstart your career. Doctoral degrees serve as the most advanced degree for many fields, allowing degree holders to practice in specialized careers like psychiatry, surgery, orthodontia, and anesthesiology. Although degrees in these fields require a great deal of time and training, the average salaries for these professionals remains high, giving graduates an excellent return on their investment. Below, you’ll find information on average salaries in these fields, and learn more about the career types available to doctoral degree holders.

OCCUPATIONS REQUIRING MINIMUM OF A PHD Average of Mean Salary by State
Anesthesiologists $259,969
Surgeons $257,147
Obstetricians and Gynecologists $241,239
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons $237,087
Orthodontists $230,608
Internists, General $224,882
Physicians and Surgeons, All Other $223,976
Family and General Practitioners $209,780
Psychiatrists $207,514
Pediatricians, General $195,101
Dentists, All Other Specialists $192,431
Dentists, General $181,415
Podiatrists $152,146
Prosthodontists $127,190

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017

Career Match: The Best Doctorate Degree For Your Needs

With a wide range of doctoral degrees available, it may seem hard to choose the right one. This list will introduce you to doctorate degrees that match different types of career paths. You’ll also learn more about federally funded training programs and careers with low unemployment rates.

Online Doctorate Degrees with Guaranteed Jobs

Some federally funded employment training programs exist to help displaced employees re-enter the workforce and help underrepresented minorities find jobs. For example, the Native American Program Finder locates positions within the Native American community that align with specific cultural beliefs and values. Doctorate degrees in areas like finance, information technology, and public administration may also lead to careers in fields with low unemployment rates. Specifically, doctoral degrees in finance could lead to a teaching career in business, a rapidly growing job field.

Online Doctorate Degrees for Jobs with Flexible Hours

An accredited online PhD also offers pathways to jobs with flexible hours. Many doctoral degree holders work in education, often teaching at the postsecondary level. These careers have high average salaries and allow employees to set their own office hours and pick their class times. Other doctorate degrees may lead to careers in research and the sciences, another field that allows for a great deal of schedule flexibility.

Online Doctorate Degrees for Working Outside

Outdoor jobs provide a way to avoid a traditional office setting. Doctoral degrees in areas like archaeology, environmental science, and atmospheric science may lead to careers that require outdoor work. Many professionals work as postsecondary teachers in these fields.

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Online Doctorate Degrees for Working from Home

Many remote jobs require a doctoral degree. For example, positions for online therapists now exist, allowing licensed therapists who hold doctorates to practice digitally, serving clients from their homes. Doctoral degree holders can also teach college courses digitally.

Online Doctorate Degrees for Working with Animals

Affordable online doctoral programs can serve as a way to begin a career working with animals. Jobs in veterinary medicine require a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, as well as some on-the-job training. Similarly, jobs in zoology and animal behavior often require a doctorate.

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Online Doctorate Degrees for Working with Children

Professionals in all kinds of fields work with children, and many of these professionals may benefit from earning a doctorate. For example, pediatric doctors work specifically with children under 18, and must have a medical doctorate. Child and family counselors and social workers generally need a doctoral degree to practice at an advanced level.

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Online Doctorate Degrees for Non-Profit Work

Many careers in the non-profit sector may require or benefit from earning a PhD. Professionals of all kinds work for non-profit organizations, serving as financial directors, fundraisers, and marketing managers. Even lawyers with professional degrees sometimes serve in the non-profit sector, making that area particularly diverse.

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Online Doctorate Degrees for Introverts

Those with introverted personalities may also benefit from earning a PhD, as this degree can lead to careers that suit their personality. English literature professors, for example, sometimes spend a great deal of time doing solo reading and research, similar to researchers in the sciences. Some careers for doctorate holders involve working from home, an excellent option for introverts. Teaching online college courses, online tutoring, and even online counseling provide career opportunities for people who prefer to spend more time working alone. Many of these examples either require or would benefit from a doctoral-level degree.

How to Earn a Doctorate Degree Online

You can earn your doctorate at one of the best online professional schools, but the length of time required may vary. Some schools also offer dual-track programs, allowing you to earn two degrees at once. Accelerated programs offer an opportunity to complete your degree at a faster pace, while part-time programs allow you to take your time and finish your degree at your own pace.

  • Dual-Track Programs:

    Dual-track degrees give students the opportunity to earn two degrees, often in the time it would normally take to earn just one. At the doctoral level, dual-track programs generally involve earning either a master’s and a doctorate, or a doctorate and a professional degree. Often, you complete the coursework for each degree at an accelerated pace, with certain courses counting towards both degrees. These programs may require an extra semester or two to earn the additional degree.

  • Accelerated Programs:

    Accelerated programs provide a way for learners to earn their doctorate at a faster pace than traditional programs. Traditional PhD programs could take up to four years, and accelerated programs may take half that time, depending on the degree. These programs often allow students to test out of certain requirements, or count life and work experience as credit toward the degree. Applicants may need to have certain professional or academic backgrounds for admission to these programs.

  • Part-Time Programs:

    Many graduate students complete their degrees on a part-time basis, taking courses at a slower pace than full-time students. For graduate students, part-time generally consists of six or less credit hours per semester, while full-time enrollment requires at least nine hours. These programs frequently take longer to complete, but many offer the option to take additional courses at any time.

Scholarships & Grants for Online PhD Students

Funding your PhD might seem like a daunting task, but a variety of funding sources exist. The scholarships below, intended for PhD students, can help you get the most value from your online doctoral program.

Minority Dissertation Fellowship Program in Education Research

Amount Awarded: $20,000

Deadline: November

Eligibility & Requirements: Applicants must identify as a member of an underrepresented minority group. This award assists students working on their doctoral dissertation with a stipend and a travel reimbursement to attend conferences and/or conduct research.

Fulbright Student Program

Amount Awarded: Varies

Deadline: Varies

Eligibility & Requirements: Applicants must have a project proposal, be enrolled in a graduate program, and hold a bachelor’s degree. Applicants cannot hold a doctoral degree at the time of application.

Hispanic Scholarship Fund

Amount Awarded: $500-$5,000

Deadline: Multiple

Eligibility & Requirements: Applicants must be of Hispanic heritage and have a minimum 2.5 GPA at the graduate level. Applicants must submit an FAFSA, and be enrolled or planning to enroll in an accredited four-year institution.

Eileen Blackey Doctoral Fellowship

Amount Awarded: $4,000-$6,500

Deadline: March

Eligibility & Requirements: Applicants must be members of the National Association of Social Workers Foundation and submit a project proposal for doctoral dissertation work in social work. Winners also receive additional funding to attend conferences.

Ford Foundation Fellowship

Amount Awarded: $24,000

Deadline: January

Eligibility & Requirements: Applicants must be working towards a doctoral degree, either a PhD or ScD. Applicants must show an interest in eventually working within a teaching or research institution upon earning their degree.

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