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Can I Earn a PhD or Professional Doctorate if My Master’s Is in Another Field?

A doctorate may be closer than you think!

You earned a master’s degree. Now you want to pursue a doctoral degree … in another field. Can you do that? Of course, you can do anything you set your mind to, but whether or not you can earn a doctorate with a master’s degree from a different field depends on the field and the university you attend.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering online master’s and doctoral degree programs. Many of Walden’s online degree programs have earned specialized accreditation. If you’re looking for an accredited university focused on delivering quality online education, Walden is an excellent choice. In fact, Walden is the No. 1 granter of doctoral research degrees.1

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Some of Walden’s doctoral degrees do require that you hold a master’s in the same field, but others have more flexible requirements. If your master’s degree is in a different field, you’ll likely need to complete additional required courses in order to earn a doctorate. Walden even offers some paths that allow you to enroll in a particular doctoral degree program with only a bachelor’s degree. In that instance, you’ll acquire additional credits, and earn a master’s degree along the way. The differing graduation requirements are called “tracks.” Listed below are some examples of online doctoral degrees you can earn at Walden without a master’s in the same subject.

  • At Walden, you can earn a PhD in Criminal Justice, even if your master’s degree is in business, education, or another field entirely. In the non-criminal justice master’s track, you’ll earn the same number of credits as someone who already holds an MS in Criminal Justice, but you’ll take more core courses and fewer electives to give you the foundation you need for a doctorate.
  • You can earn a Doctor of Healthcare Administration (DHA) even if you don’t hold an MHA, or you can earn a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) even if your master’s isn’t an MPH. However, you’ll need to earn more credits to be awarded either doctorate than someone with an MHA or MPH would. Do check with an Enrollment Specialist, though—you may be able to transfer some of your master’s degree credits toward your doctoral degree.
  • If you are a registered nurse seeking an advanced degree at Walden, you may be able to enroll in a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or PhD in Nursing degree program without earning a master’s first. Several of the DNP and PhD in Nursing program specializations offer a BSN to DNP or BSN to PhD track, propelling you from a bachelor’s degree to a terminal degree.
  • You can enroll in the PhD in Human Services program with a master’s in human services or any related field: counseling, social work, or psychology. You can also enter the PhD program with only a bachelor’s degree in any field. If you pursue a doctoral degree in human services without already holding a related master’s degree, you can choose to earn your MS in Human Services as you work toward your PhD.
  • A master’s degree in any field will enable you to enroll in the Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) or the PhD in Public Policy and Administration degree program at Walden.

To find out if your master’s or even bachelor’s degree will qualify you to enroll in a PhD or doctoral degree program, follow these five steps:

  1. Choose the accredited university you want to attend.
  2. Determine which terminal degree you want to pursue.
  3. Review the admission requirements for that degree program.
  4. Be sure to select a specialization, if applicable, because some specializations may have additional requirements.
  5. Talk to an Enrollment Specialist to see whether credits you’ve earned will apply to your doctoral degree.

By following these steps, you’ll determine if your bachelor’s degree or master’s degree can provide a pathway to a PhD or professional doctorate even in a new field of study. A doctorate may be closer that you think!

Walden University is an accredited institution offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn a degree online in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


1Source: 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 https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/use-the-data. (Retrieved January 2021; may consist of or include provisional release data.)

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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