For many people, the doctorate degree represents the final stage of their education – the pinnacle of years spent mastering a specific subject. It's a very beneficial degree and one that can take you and your career to some very rewarding places, but it's also one of the more misunderstood degrees offered in the educational system today. Learning more about it is important, and could help you understand why it could be the right call for you and your future.
A doctorate degree is a graduate level degree, and is often confused with a master's degree. The major distinction between the two is that a doctorate is generally needed to qualify for teaching within one's field of study as well as for completing and overseeing research efforts in a field. A master's will qualify a student for work within a field, but those with a doctorate are the ones who often initiate new studies and projects to the field and who most contribute to the overall understanding and progression of an area of study.
Those with a doctorate degree will often work to develop policies, serve as professors or instructors, and handle other similar tasks along with conducting the intensive, specialized research they'll normally focus on.
Doctorate degrees are also far more focused and specialized than a master's degree. While those with a master's will generally learn a wide range of skills and gain knowledge in numerous subjects, those with a doctorate will find that their time in the program is spent almost entirely on studying and working in the field of their focus. The narrow scope allows them to become true experts in their field, though that knowledge is rarely applied to the practical use of the knowledge.
The doctorate degree offers some very obvious benefits to those who decide to devote themselves to earning it. These advantages include:
The ability to teach, research, and develop solutions for problems in a field. This can help add a feeling of personal satisfaction and happiness to your life that other degrees can't since you know that your efforts will help further the field in significant ways.
Excellent salary potential that will eclipse that offered by undergrad degrees.
A wide range of fields to focus on, ensuring that no matter which area of study you focus on you'll find the degree program for your goals.
The respect of peers, employers, and others as a direct result of your hard work and devotion.
There are several different types of doctorate degrees to choose from, though not all of them may be available in certain fields. Among the different types of doctorate degrees you could earn, two are the most common. These are:
Professional – This type of doctorate is the type that most people associate with when they use the term 'doctor'. It's awarded to those in medical fields in most cases, where research is attached to the profession. Along with medicine, fields like psychology, social work, and law could also have professional doctorates attached to them.
Research – Research doctorates are just what they sound like, and are generally given to those who have focused their studies on research within their field. The criteria for earning a doctorate will vary, but in general it will culminate with the publication of research work in a peer-refereed journal. In short, you must complete research, submit that research to a journal, and have it approved as part of the process of earning your degree.
It's worth noting that in most cases you'll need at least a bachelor's degree in order to enter a doctorate program and in some instances you may even need a master's degree as a prerequisite. Other requirements are usually some level of experience working in the field, usually in a research-oriented capacity. If you're looking into pursuing a doctorate degree, one of your first steps should be to find out exactly what the prerequisites are and ensuring that you meet the qualifications.
In most cases, it will take about seven years to earn a doctorate degree, including the time spent on a dissertation. For those who are entering medical fields or other similar professions with their professional doctorate, additional licensure will usually be required after completion of the program and as such it's a good idea to learn more about exactly what steps you'll have to take following completion of the program.
Choosing a good doctorate program is important as well. Many people may already have an idea as to where they want to earn their doctorate, and there's no question that things like school prestige, personal preferences, and more will have a factor in the process. However, there are some other factors to consider as well.
You'll want to choose a school that is fully accredited and that follows the strict guidelines set forth by various governing bodies. A doctorate degree is highly respected and as such it's important to find the programs that are offered by leading schools – those with accreditation.
Pay attention to the reputation of the program and to the specifics of it. This way you can choose a program with confidence and know that it's exactly what you need in order to advance your career to the next level.
While they're not as common as associate's or bachelor's degrees, it's worth noting that online doctorate programs do indeed exist and could be well worth looking into as well. Online programs offer a number of benefits that include:
The ability to earn a degree while working or carrying on other duties. By making it easier to fit education into your schedule, online degree can help you balance your life better and still earn the degree you want. This is a key part of why online education has grown so much, and why many schools now offer doctorate degrees through the internet.
The chance to learn at your own pace, in your own way. Online programs use chat rooms, message boards, video, and virtual classrooms to deliver lessons to you. But you can work towards your goals in your own way, using the resources available.
Thanks to online education you can also attend the college you want without having to relocate. For many, this is a big deal since they may have a specific school in mind but don’t' have the ability to move in order to attend it.
You also have numerous options thanks to the wide range of schools offering accredited online doctorate degree programs. You can spend time researching which schools fit your needs the best and which ones offer the most to you, then use that information to ensure that you choose the absolute best program for your needs.
It's worth noting that due to the research-heavy nature of earning a Doctorate degree, not all programs will be available online. Additionally, those that are will often have various offline components associated with them as well. It's important that you take the time to learn more about just what aspects of your education can be completed online and which ones you'll have to complete in person.
However, there are plenty of programs that can be covered almost entirely online. Some programs even offer residencies, dissertation methods, and more. They generally pair you with faculty members who can help work with you online to ensure that you are able to meet all of the requirements for graduation.
If you're considering graduate level education, and want to focus on the research side of your field or are working towards a high level career in the medical field or other similar areas of study, a doctorate degree could be the right call for you. Spend some time looking into the different programs and the different schools and you should be able to determine whether or not it's the choice for you. It will require hard work, but in the end it will be worth it when your career reaches its zenith.