The Ultimate Guide to Online Ph.D and Doctorate Degrees

The Doctor of Philosophy, or PhD is the most popular type of doctorate degree among students in the United States. If you’re interested in this type of education, online college is perfect for students looking for a flexible and budget-friendly option.

Types of Online Doctorate Degrees

While PhDs are most common, this is not the only type of doctorate degree you can earn. The type of doctorate degree you earn will depend on two things: your field of study and your educational goals.

PhDs take several years to complete and typically involve a lot of research. You can earn in PhD in sciences fields or humanities fields, and usually the classes you’ll take prepare you for a career in teaching or research within your field of choice. PhD programs often focus on theory and less on practical skills, hence the “philosophy” name. If you’re studying in a science-related field, you also have the option to enter a Doctor of Science (ScD) course. ScD courses are less common available online and have a very heavy emphasis on high-level, challenging research. PhDs and ScDs are considered approximately equvilent. You can also choose to earn a more specialized doctorate degree. Examples include the Doctor of Engineering (DEng) and Doctor of Education (EdD). These doctorate degrees are similar to PhDs, but for students in a certain field.

Along with research/teaching degrees, you can consider earning a professional doctorate degrees. These degrees are for students who want advanced practical knowledge, so are perfect for people who want to work in high-level positions in their chosen field. Examples of professional degrees include a Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Professional Studies (DPS), Doctor of Public Administration (DPA), and Doctor of Business Administration (DBA).

Earning Your Degree Online

While earning your undergraduate degree online is becoming more and more commonplace, some students are still a bit wary of earning an advanced degree online. Undoubtedly, there are some differences between earning a degree online and earning a degree through a traditional program, but you might actually find these differences to be advantages!

The first misconception is that you won’t receive as good of an education online as you will at a brick-and-mortar college. In actuality, that all depends on the program you attend. It’s important to ensure that the program is accredited, as otherwise, your degree may not be professionally recognized and you really could receive a lesser quality education. Accredited programs are the same online and off, however – some will be better than others, but all will adequately prepare you for your career.

Many doctorate degree programs that are taught online do have an in-person component. When you start your semester, you may have a one- to two-week on-campus program to complete, which allows you to meet with professors face-to-face and align your goals and educational needs. There are even programs that require up to a year of residency, although they are taught online for the remainder of the time. Requiring a lot of time on campus is especially common for programs that offer fellowship programs for their doctorate students. Some programs, on the other hand, are taught 100% virtually. You’ll never set foot on campus (unless you want to), and your research will be done at local facilities when it cannot be done online. Pick the college program that fits you as a student when it comes to residency.

The biggest advantage of earning a doctorate degree online, for most students, is the flexibility this type of program allows. In fact, if you choose an online degree program, you can even continue to work while you earn your degree, completing work in the evenings or weekends. Online programs are also often less expensive, since there’s no building upkeep and other costs to the college that you have with traditional schools. Keep in mind, however, that with online school, you’ll have not just flexibility, but also freedom. While this freedom can be a blessing, if you are not a diligent student, it can also make it easy for you to fall behind on your work.

Online Doctorate Degree Requirements

When you attend an online doctorate program, you can expect the same basic requirements as any traditional doctorate program. First, you’ll need at least a master’s degree to apply, and most school want to see standardized test schools. In addition, some doctorate programs require that you have work experience; this criteria varies from school to school. Your classes and thesis or dissertation requirements will be on part with the requirements at any school in your field, so be prepared for a rigorous program. Getting a doctorate isn’t easy online or off, but it can be rewarding and profitable, based on your field.

Featured Online PhD Degree Programs

A PhD is shorthand for Doctor of Philosophy. This degree is the most common type of doctorate degree in the United States, and is offered across a wide variety of subjects, including art, business, healthcare, science, and more. The schools listed below all offer accredited online PhD or other type of doctoral degree programs.


A Doctor of Education at Grand Canyon University helps professionals develop the insight and inspiration needed to take academic institutions to the next level of productivity and propensity. You will be taught by renowned leaders in topics reaching beyond areas of general focus by tackling complex topics centered on innovation and ethics.
Request Info »

A Doctor of Education at Liberty University prepares people that are seeking positions in higher education by developing effective leaders who model high academic standards. A Doctor of Ministry provides students with the opportunity to reinforce and refine their ministry skills. Through this program you will gain a deeper understanding of biblical principles and strategies needed to effectively serve people.
Request Info »

The Doctorate program in Global Business Leadership from the California InterContinental University helps students develop values that are needed into today's thriving global economy. A Doctorate in Management develops skills used in managing and developing techniques that motivate personnel to meet evolving organizational needs. The Doctorate program in Information Systems enables candidates to successfully apply information theory and principles to address real world business opportunities. A Doctorate program in Healthcare Management covers healthcare procedures and laws in great detail that currently challenge the health care industry.
Request Info »

Looking for an online PhD degree?

Fill out this short form below, and we'll help match you to an accredited college program that suits your interests, whether online- or campus-based.