Popular Online Doctoral Programs

Enrolling in an online doctoral program is a significant undertaking. Not only will you invest a considerable amount of time, energy and money in pursuing your online doctorate, but you will also place a great deal of trust in your faculty advisers, as their guidance and feedback will determine your level of readiness for the field. As a result, choosing the right online doctoral program is of paramount importance to your success.

Degrees Offered

It is crucial to make sure that the online doctoral program you choose offers exactly the degree you want. The most popular online doctoral degrees are the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) and Juris Doctor (J.D.), although programs in engineering, public health and business administration often have high enrollment too. Most online doctoral candidates have been studying in their chosen subject area—for example math, social work or English literature—for quite some time and know what specific content they would like to explore.

There are two general types of online doctoral degrees. The first is the Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy. As its name implies, the online Ph.D. delves deeply into the theory of a given field, readying students for research or teaching jobs, working in schools, private research companies or government.

The second type is more practically oriented, including the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) and Doctor of Public Health (DPH). These programs focus more on applying best practices in the field, and usually lead to higher-level administrative, corporate and managerial jobs. Deciding upfront whether you want to go into academia or the business world will help you choose the right doctoral program.

Accreditation and Licensing

All schools, online or otherwise, should be accredited by one of the Department of Education's approved agencies. It is also important for online doctoral programs to be accredited by any important professional or licensing organizations in your field. For example, online M.D. candidates should seek programs recognized by the American Medical Association, or a professional body within their medical specialization, while potential lawyers should make sure their online school is approved by the Bar Association both nationally and in their state. As these groups often write the tests that determine whether candidates can get certified or licensed—and this in turn determines whether they can practice professionally—it is crucial to ensure your school has their approval.