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5 Considerations for Choosing a University for Your Doctorate

Knowing what to look for can help you make a more informed decision.

Are you ready to join the 4.7 million people in the United States who have earned a doctorate?1 If so, be prepared for the commitment ahead—programs can require anywhere from 60 to 120 credit hours.2 After obtaining a doctoral degree, you can use your expertise to research new methods, influence policy, educate the public, and create change.


The first step in obtaining your doctorate is determining which institution to attend. Here are a few things you may want to consider when researching terminal degree programs:

  1. Is the institution accredited?
    Whether you want to earn an academic or a professional doctoral degree, you should look for an accredited institution. This means that the university regularly has their programs independently reviewed by one of the six regional accrediting organizations that the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation acknowledge. The rigorous process looks at specific criteria to see if the institution offers high-quality education. If you are going to spend the time and money to obtain a terminal degree, you’ll want to ensure that you are getting the best education possible.
  2. Which is better for you: a PhD or a professional doctorate?
    PhD vs. a professional doctorate—is there a difference? Yes, and every university offers different programs. Both a PhD and a professional doctorate represent the highest level of academic achievement, and their curricula emphasize critical and creative thinking along with doctoral research. However, the penultimate project for an academic doctorate—known as a Doctor of Philosophy or a PhD—is usually a dissertation, while professional doctorate candidates typically complete a doctoral study. Additionally, PhD degree coursework is generally geared toward those who plan to work as teachers or researchers, while those in a professional doctorate program typically aim to become specialists in their fields, using the theoretical and practical framework they studied to tackle real-world problems.

    When determining the right program to enroll in, you should also consider the coursework you will study and think about other elements that are important to you. Are you interested in a fellowship? A capstone project? An academic residency? Examine program options and university offerings carefully.

    It takes an average of six years to obtain a doctoral degree,3 and you want to spend this time learning about the topics that will help your achieve your next career goal.

  3. Who will teach the classes?
    The faculty in doctoral and PhD programs is important, as they not only teach classes, but often mentor students and may even provide networking opportunities. Before entering a program, review the faculty and observe what their industry and academic credentials are. Are they experts in their field? Could they mentor you, oversee your dissertation, act as a doctoral research coach, or foster networking opportunities? Have they won awards or other accolades?

    You want instructors who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable, but you also need individuals who understand the practicalities of the field you seek to enter and are passionate about advancing it. For example, more than 93% of the faculty at Walden hold doctorate degrees, and more than 800 have served as advisors or board members for professional and charitable organizations.

  4. What student support services does the institution offer?
    A good doctoral program gives its students tools for success, including research and writing help, career services, mentoring programs, and networking opportunities. At Walden, doctoral students have access to a variety of services, including the Doctoral Degree Coach, an interactive tool that tracks progress and sends reminders; the Office of Research and Doctoral Services, which advises doctoral candidates on research and ethics review protocols; the Doctoral Peer Mentor Program, where new students team up with an experienced scholar for guidance; the Writing Center, which provides general support and doctoral writing workshops; and the Academic Skills Center, which teaches students how to put skills into action for success. The Walden Library provides an online portal to databases, books, videos, journals, dissertations, and other materials.
  5. How flexible is the schedule?
    While some doctoral programs encourage part-time students, many want a full-time commitment. Walden allows you to earn your degree while balancing work and family. The doctoral programs are presented on an online learning platform that provides the flexibility to complete coursework on a schedule that works best for you and your busy life.

Finding the right doctoral degree program takes some research. It’s important to find a dedicated partner to share in your educational journey. Walden University offers a variety of online doctoral programs to help you achieve success. It also has an extensive alumni network—more than 169,000 individuals in over 165 countries. And even after studies end, the Career Planning and Development office helps graduates navigate the job market.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering doctoral degree programs in a variety of disciplines. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,