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What is a PhD?

Understanding what a PhD truly is and what it offers can help you decide if a doctoral degree is right for you.

You probably know that PhD stands for doctor of philosophy, but what does that really mean and what can earning a PhD do for you? The answer to both questions is: a lot!

A PhD Demonstrates Mastery of a Subject

At its core, earning a PhD means mastering a specific subject. To earn one, you have to complete a PhD program that includes extensive coursework, in one or more disciplines, and completion of a dissertation that explores a unique aspect of your chosen field. Because of this, those who hold a PhD are highly respected in their field and considered to be top experts.

What is a PhD?

Not All Doctoral Degrees Are PhDs

As you explore doctoral programs, you may notice that some are PhD degree programs and some are professional doctorate programs. For example, if you’re in education, you can earn either a PhD in Education or a Doctor of Education (EdD). So, what is a PhD degree and what is a professional doctoral degree? While the two have many similarities, the primary differences are pretty straightforward.

The key difference is the matter of focus. Simply put, a PhD is a degree focused on independent, original research that contributes new knowledge to the discipline. A professional doctorate is focused on applying principles of research to solve practical problems, formulating solutions to complex issues, and designing effective professional practices within your field. With both degrees, you are considered an expert in your field.

A Doctoral Degree Can Help Advance Your Career

All types of doctoral degrees can position you for career success. Organizations need employees who not only have in-depth knowledge of their field, but also are capable of studying and understanding complex problems and systems. PhD degrees can prepare you to do just that. This is one reason why holding a doctoral degree can help you earn more than 30% more than those with a bachelor’s degree.1 If you want to rise to the top of your field, a PhD can help pave the way.

Earning a PhD Is More Convenient Than Ever Before

In the past, if you wanted to earn a PhD degree, you often had to move to be close to the university that admitted you into its PhD program. The time spent commuting could leave little time to focus on studying, job performance, or other responsibilities. The good news is, online education is removing those barriers.

When you enroll in an online PhD program, you can complete the majority of your degree from home or from anywhere else you have internet access. Plus, an online PhD program provides a flexible schedule. While classes are taken in the appropriate sequence, you can attend classes each week at the time of day that works best for your life and responsibilities. Many who choose online learning are even able to continue working full time while they earn their degree.

A PhD can increase your knowledge and position you for career success. And thanks to online education, becoming a doctoral student and ultimately earning your doctorate is more convenient than ever before.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering PhD degree 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,