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How Do I Choose A Doctoral Program?

We’ve asked a Walden graduate to share his thoughts.

Earning your doctorate qualifies you as an expert in that discipline and can open up careers in research, administration, or advanced practice. A PhD or other doctoral degree can also translate into higher earning potential. In 2020, the median weekly earnings for professionals with a doctorate was $1,885—that’s $340 more per week than those holding a master’s degree and $580 more than those with a bachelor’s.1

Enrolling in a doctoral program is a major step forward. But with so much riding on your education, how do you know you’re choosing the right program? Here are four suggestions to help guide your search.

Find a doctoral program that aligns with your career goals.

First, make sure that the degree you earn can help you attain the professional position you desire. Pinpointing your career goal will help you determine what kind of PhD or doctoral degree you need—and what kind of capstone project you’ll be required to produce. A PhD degree, which is geared toward adding new knowledge to the discipline, is the preferred degree for positions in research and higher education. PhD programs typically conclude with a dissertation, which contains your original research on an unexplored topic in your field. A professional doctorate, by contrast, focuses on advancing the discipline through the practical application of knowledge. This type of degree is preferred for practitioners and working professionals in many different fields, from business to medicine. Many professional doctoral degrees culminate in a doctoral study, which seeks a research-based, practical solution to a real-world problem.

But what if you’ve already completed your PhD coursework and only lack your doctoral dissertation? Some universities, such as Walden, offer an all-but-dissertation option. This track lets you transfer in your completed credits as a doctoral candidate and focus on finishing your dissertation.

Know the program’s reputation, requirements, and length.

Dr. Rafael Matos graduated with a PhD in Psychology from Walden University, a leader in online higher education, which offers 25 doctoral programs across a variety of disciplines. Now president and CEO of an industrial and organizational psychology consulting company, Matos says that before enrolling in a PhD program, you should know ahead of time what to expect. “To select a good program, you need to understand the time commitment,” Matos says. He also recommends looking at testing requirements, qualifications and certifications, and the school’s accreditation and reputation. “Those elements are very important,” he says.

Your Doctoral Journey

Earning a doctorate won’t be easy, but as the No. 1 granter of doctoral research degrees in the U.S.,2 Walden knows what it takes. We’ll guide you every step of the way with a comprehensive suite of support resources designed to help you confidently pursue the finish line. Learn more about the many benefits of beginning your doctoral journey at Walden.

Find a program that can accommodate your work and life.

If you’re pursuing a doctorate, you’re likely employed at least part time outside of school to help make ends meet. Many doctoral students are already working in their fields of study, so it’s necessary to find a doctoral program that can be scheduled around work, family, and other life responsibilities.

Online doctoral programs give busy professionals the most flexibility in scheduling because online course content is typically accessible 24/7. Aside from in-person practicums or other required fieldwork, online programs eliminate commutes, parking, and other time-consuming tasks associated with traditional campus-based programs. And institutions like Walden University offer a wide range of online PhD and other doctoral programs, including an online Doctor of Business Administration (DBA).

Find a program that offers plenty of support services for doctoral students.

With the doctoral research and advanced writing that these programs require, it’s important that your school of choice provides assistance in those areas. At Walden University, doctoral students enjoy a wealth of support services to help them succeed. These include academic advising, doctoral peer mentors, doctoral writing workshops, peer tips for residency, doctoral capstone resources, and webinars. Walden’s innovative Doctoral Degree Coach app includes checklists, timelines, and templates that help you stay organized and goal-focused. Additionally, subject area librarians at Walden can meet with you by appointment to help you develop research strategies.

Walden University offers fully online doctoral degree programs. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.

2Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Integrated Postsecondary Education Database (IPEDS) database. Based on the most recent year of completions survey data available, using all classifications of instructional programs (CIP) codes. A doctoral research degree is a PhD or other doctoral degree that requires advanced work beyond the master’s level, including the preparation and defense of a dissertation based on original research or the planning and execution of an original project demonstrating substantial artistic or scholarly achievement. Available at (Retrieved January 2021; may consist of or include provisional release data.)

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,