What are the Different Online PhD Programs?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2018
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It would be difficult to make a complete list of the different online PhD programs because they are extensive and the popularity of these programs continue to spawn new growth. It is easier to describe PhD programs by the way they’re conducted, by general type, and also by some key features of which students investigating online degrees should be especially aware. This last consideration is absolutely important for anyone expecting professional recognition of a degree.

A big distinction in the different online PhD programs is whether programs are accredited. Many doctoral programs offered by schools aren’t accredited or approved by regional accreditation agencies. This distinction is vital because degrees from non-accredited institutions usually aren’t considered adequate preparation for working in certain fields. This is particularly the case in “degree mill” type schools where the level of learning is not commensurate with the type of academic preparation offered in traditional accredited schools. PhDs that can be earned quickly and that offer significant credits for things like “life experience” aren’t likely to mean much more professionally, and they can be expensive to obtain.


Any type of educational field that requires licensing, examination or board approval after graduation is unlikely to accept work from the different online PhD programs that aren’t accredited. Even some accredited schools may not meet the standards of a licensing board if they don’t offer enough specific types of training like practicum. It’s always important to verify that any licensing boards or certifying agencies approve the training program at an online school. That being said, some people want a PhD for the status and not necessarily for academic gain, and they might investigate non-accredited programs to quickly earn one.

The definition of online school is evolving, and different online PhD programs may be conducted in several ways. The most popular of these methods means a person does virtually all work and classes in an online setting. They may never meet teachers face-to-face except via Internet methods. Such schools may not have a physical location to visit.

Variants on this theme include programs conducted mostly online but that require some form of residency. This means students might have to be at a physical campus some of the time. Plans where students visit one weekend a month, for a few weeks during summer, or even every weekend are available. For these schools it’s important to calculate travel expenses if the campus is located at a distance. Some schools principally request that students attend physical classes but have a few online classes interspersed in their catalog.

The potential degrees available in different online PhD programs continue to grow. People can obtain degrees in counseling, the liberal arts, theology, humanities, mathematics, many of the sciences, business, and others. Less available are those programs that require significant research or practical work as part of the degree, but this may change in the future with online schools continuing to develop programs that closely imitate the education available at bricks and mortar universities.



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