Different Goals; Equal Recognition

The doctoral degree, or terminal degree, focuses on the highest form of scholarship in a given discipline, and all terminal degrees are recognized equally by the U.S. Department of Education. All of our doctoral programs link theory to practice, encourage critical and creative thinking, contain similar components, and require the same high level of academic rigor.

The type of doctoral degree you choose depends on your professional experience and your future career aspirations. We offer both professional and academic doctoral programs.

A Quick Look at Professional and Academic Doctoral Programs

Degree Academic Professional
Example PhD in Management: Doctor of Philosophy DBA: Doctor of Business Administration
Approach Interdisciplinary approach; focused on adding to the body of knowledge Practitioner-based; focused on solving a problem
Research Online courses; independent research with mentor Online courses in sequence; research with mentor
Residencies Four residencies/optional intensive residencies Two residencies/optional intensive residencies
Estimated Time to Completion 4 to 7 years* 3 to 5 years*
Capstone Project Dissertation Doctoral Study

*Time to completion may vary by student, depending on individual progress and credits transferred, if applicable.

Professional Doctoral Programs: The Doctoral Study

In a professional doctoral program, you focus on improving the practice of your profession and are required to have field experience as a practitioner. Your coursework culminates in a doctoral study in which you do rigorous work that makes an original, practical contribution to your field, which:

  • Demonstrates your ability to gather, analyze, and report data in a solutions-based context.
  • Provides new knowledge, a new practice, or a new product.
  • Is context-based within an organizational setting and linked to social change.

The two components of the doctoral study are the doctoral study project, which culminates in a product, and a scholarly paper that includes a problem, methodology, project description, and your reflections. These demonstrate your competence in research or evaluation design and your command of critical thinking and academic writing.

Academic Doctoral Programs: The Dissertation

In an academic doctoral program, you take a more theoretical approach, closing gaps in the literature or adding to the body of knowledge. You may have a wider range of master’s training instead of direct experience.

The dissertation is the unifying capstone of your learning. You address a real-world problem, bring new information to light, and make an original contribution to build on your unique interests and expertise as you master research design and interpret research findings.

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