Can I get an Online PhD?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Those interested in getting an online PhD will find many colleges that offer them. Some fields of study don’t lend themselves well to doctoral studies, but in other areas of academia, it may be easy to find online programs. People should be cautious pursuing any form of online degree because it isn’t always the case that a degree earned through an online program counts as much as a doctorate earned at a bricks and mortar university.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

The basic requirement for a PhD is to already possess a bachelor’s degree, often in the same subject being pursued at the doctoral level. Colleges may require standardized tests, like the general or subject Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Though programs are variable, schools usually set minimum grade point average standards for admission and will require entrance essays and letters of recommendation.

Before applying anywhere, students must determine if it’s possible to get a PhD in a subject of interest. Some subjects lend themselves well to online students: liberal arts, business, public health, and occasionally the behavioral sciences, to name a few. It’s harder to find an online PhD for programs with significant practical work or research requirements. Unless a college program has a way to organize things like practicum, online PhD programs may have an attendance or residency component and aren’t fully online.

The second aspect that must be considered is reputation of the school and whether or not it is accredited. There are schools that are not accredited and are called degree mills. The doctorate earned at such a school may not be recognized in a person’s chosen profession, or in any agencies that might be involved in licensing a person to practice, like a state bar. It’s essential the school can prove they offer an accredited degree and one that has the approval of any state licensing agencies. Otherwise, people can get an online PhD, but it really won’t matter professionally.

A few things about an online PhD program that should raise suspicions, suggesting people look elsewhere, are the following:

  • Lack of accreditation or accreditation with an agency that doesn’t have official standing.
  • Few requirements for entry.
  • Promise of significant college credits for life experience.

Since it isn’t always possible to get an online PhD in certain subjects or locations, students might look to hybridized programs that may minimize on campus time. Some schools have weekend classes, for example, that are better for working professionals. Other schools have principally online instruction, but require attendance once every few months for a weekend. Alternately, a number of mainstream universities now offer many of their classes online, which may cut down on weekly campus visits.

People interested in an online PhD can begin to research options online. There are many clearinghouse search sites that allow people to look at many different colleges at once. Those who expect to earn some form of professional credentialing as the result of obtaining any form of doctorate may also search through credentialing agencies to see which programs are approved.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

planetgpa

Everyone who has completed a masters degree can earn a PhD online. But there must be some caution taken before choosing the institution for a PhD. This blog has very clearly mentioned the steps which should be kept in mind before earning a PhD.

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