Developing a strong partnership with your faculty can set the stage for a smoother path to completing your doctoral degree.

Mentoring concept illustration.You may feel like you’re stepping into uncharted territory as a first-year doctoral student in one of the leading online PhD or doctorate programs. Even though you’ve made a big commitment, there’s no reason you should feel alone. Doctoral programs are designed to provide you with multifaceted faculty support from orientation to graduation. Just remember, your doctoral degree program is carefully designed to support your efforts and help you succeed with these key elements:

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Your Doctoral Faculty

Each member of your doctoral faculty represents a wealth of knowledge and experience that you can tap into at any time. For example, at Walden University, nearly 100% of faculty for doctoral-level programs hold doctoral degrees. Most of the doctoral program faculty members have gone through the same process as you and succeeded. Each is a source of invaluable advice, guidance, and support. Learn more about your doctoral faculty members, and identify those whose interests align with yours. A common interest may help you choose the most compatible and helpful mentor for your dissertation or doctoral study.


Your mentor will be working closely with you over the course of your dissertation or doctoral study, so choose carefully. Your mentor will encourage you, question your approach, share insights and experiences, make recommendations, and critique your work. In addition to sharing a common research interest, it’s important that you like and respect your mentor and believe that you can work well together. A comfortable compatibility can result in an optimal doctoral experience and a well-regarded dissertation or doctoral study.

Dissertation Committee

Typically, as a doctoral student, you have the opportunity to choose the faculty chair and members of your dissertation committee. They should be chosen on the basis of their scholarly research and how their expertise relates to your research topic. Your committee members will be your guides through each phase of your dissertation—from initial proposal, through research and analysis, and up to your final oral presentation.

Doctoral Residencies

Top online PhD and doctorate programs have doctoral residencies so that students can meet face-to-face with their doctoral faculty and fellow students. The number of required residencies depends on the specific online PhD or doctorate program.

At Walden University, for example, some PhD programs require four residencies: (1) Socialization—socializes you into the doctoral process with topics such as doctoral competency development; (2) Research Methods—develops your skills in reviewing and performing scholarly research; (3) Prospectus and Proposal—continues to develop your research skills and begin the foundation for your prospectus or dissertation proposal; and (4) Scholar-Practitioner—strengthens your abilities as a scholar-practitioner. Upon completion, you will have composed a draft presentation of your doctoral research and created a plan for research dissemination.

Doctoral Support Services

Universities with online doctoral degree programs like Walden provide extensive support services for students enrolled in PhD and doctorate degrees, including personal advisors, 24/7 technical support, online library and research support, refresher courses in basic skills, and career services.

Doctoral Fellowships

Fellowship programs are another sign that a university is dedicated to supporting doctoral students. If such a program is offered, it should be structured in a way that allows the doctoral student to be as successful as possible. Often this includes the guidance of a faculty member. Walden University’s fellowship for PhD in Management and PhD in Psychology students includes monthly, educational workshop series led by subject-matter experts who are also Walden faculty members. The workshops are on topics such as developing scholarly identity, doctoral writing, and career pathways. The Doctoral Fellows in the program also work closely with faculty members to develop their teaching and research experience.

Help Every Step of the Way

When you enroll in a quality doctoral program, you’ll have many opportunities to build long-term relationships with faculty, fellow students, and future employees. Many doctoral students stay in touch with their doctoral mentors and faculty throughout their careers.

Explore how you could advance your career with online PhD or doctoral programs from Walden University, offered in a convenient online format that suits your busy life.

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