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Getting a Doctorate: How to Know if You're Ready

Earning a PhD or doctoral degree can help you reach your goals.

A doctorate is the height of educational attainment and, as such, is highly respected throughout our society. That’s why people who earn their doctorate also earn the right to go by the honorific of “Dr.” Perhaps you—like many—have dreamed about reaching such educational heights. But are you truly ready to complete a PhD or doctoral degree program and become one of the 2% of Americans who hold a doctorate?1

Before you become a doctoral candidate—or start your journey toward a doctoral degree—you should ask yourself the following questions.

Getting a Doctorate: How to Know if You're Ready

Do You Want to Advance Your Career?

While a doctorate is about acquiring knowledge, it can also be about advancing a career. That’s because organizations need employees who not only have in-depth knowledge of their field but are capable of studying and understanding complex problems and systems. If you’re working in a field—or want to work in a field—that values knowledge and problem-solving, then a doctorate can help you advance to the top. It can also help you earn more, as those holding a doctorate or professional degree earn nearly 50% more on average than those with a master’s degree.2

Do You Know if You Want a PhD or a Doctoral Degree (Professional Doctorate)?

There are two, distinct types of doctorates: a PhD degree and a doctoral degree. What is a PhD degree and what is a doctoral degree and how are they different? It comes down to the focus of study. A PhD (like a PhD in Management or a PhD in Education) is an academic degree focused on original research, data analysis, and the evaluation of theories. A doctoral degree (like a Doctor of Business Administration or a Doctor of Education) is a professional doctorate focused on applying research to practical problems, formulating solutions to complex issues, and designing effective professional practices within your field.

To put it another way, a PhD prepares you for a more academic-focused career where you can expand the knowledge in a given field while a doctoral degree/professional doctorate degree prepares you for a professional career where you study problems and develop new solutions. Choosing the right doctorate requires you to have clear idea of the direction you want to take your career.

Are You Eager to Advance Your—and Other People’s—Knowledge?

More than anything else, a doctorate teaches you how to think bigger, understand complexities, and be perceived as an expert in your field—whether you’re developing new academic theories or new organizational practices. This is vital work, as world progress depends on people advancing the way we think and behave. If you have the drive and desire to be a knowledge creator, then earning a doctorate can be a great choice.

Do You Have a Support Network?

Earning a doctorate can be a difficult journey that takes time and work, which means you have to stay motivated. For many, keeping up that motivation is a lot easier with a support system. The support of family and friends is, of course, important, but so too is the support of your PhD program or doctoral degree program. Before you enroll in any particular program, make sure your preferred university has strong student services, ensuring you’ll have the faculty and administrative support you need to succeed.

Do You Have the Time?

If you have a job and/or family responsibilities, you may think you don’t have the time to complete a doctorate. However, online education can offer you the flexibility you need to earn your degree.

Through an online PhD program or an online doctoral program, you can complete the majority of your coursework right from home or from anywhere else you have internet access. Plus, an online PhD or doctoral degree program can give you the freedom to attend class at whatever time of day works best for you, allowing you to fit your education into your existing schedule. It’s this level of convenience that has made online learning so popular with working professionals. And it’s a level of convenience that can make earning your doctorate a real possibility.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering doctoral programs online. 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,