Learn About Online PHD Programs

Introduction to Online Ph.D.s

Nearly 50,000 doctorates (Ph.D.s) were conferred in 2011 to students who attended a U.S. university, according to the National Science Foundation's data report (NSF), and that number continues to rise each year. Ph.D. programs are the highest degree level attainable in any subject and are a mark of complete proficiency in the field.

Years ago, it was difficult for working professionals to find the time in their schedule to earn a Ph.D. due to the high demands of the research-intensive programs. However, many accredited colleges and universities now offer online Ph.D. programs with options for flexible learning paces and schedules for busy working professionals.

Research and studying is typically conducted at times convenient to each student with little or no campus attendance requirements. These online Ph.D. programs allow students to achieve their educational goals without sacrificing their job or substantially cutting time from other priorities, such as raising a family.

Earning an online Ph.D. is slightly different than a traditional program in:

  • How assignments are completed and submitted
  • How studying is conducted
  • How interaction between faculty and students takes place

Although students generally have the flexibility of doing research or submitting assignments on their own time during the day (or week, in some cases), most online PhD programs maintain deadlines in the same manner as traditional programs.

Communication between students and professors typically takes place online, through email, chat, and message board, but may also occur over the phone or in person for short periods of time. Many online Ph.D. programs have a brief residency requirement for students – usually scheduled near the end of their program – for in-depth study of the more technical aspects of the degree. This is more common for nursing or science degrees with lab requirements.

Having this level of degree can be useful in many capacities for professionals, as it could open doors to higher positions, better promotions, and more employment opportunities.


Take an in-depth look at important issues and considerations for online Ph.D. students. Be sure to visit our blog for more interesting feature articles and coverage of online Ph.D education, where we tackle MOOCs, research funding, and what it really takes to make it in academia.

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