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Getting Your PhD Online: What You Need to Know

Apr 16, 2009 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Education.org Columnist | 0 Comments

PhD students don’t study established knowledge—they create new knowledge. A PhD is the highest degree a student can aspire to, and it’s a credential that can open doors to the most exclusive research establishments and universities in the world.  Advertisements for online PhD programs are all over the Internet. But are these programs for real? Can you really earn a legitimate PhD online?

The truth is, you can—but acceptance of online PhD’s varies widely depending on your industry, individual employers, and even individual hiring managers. Many online PhD programs are delivered via fully-accredited online institutions, and some through traditional schools that also offer online degrees.  Each program is different, but any online PhD program is likely to require at least some in-residence research and hands-on experience. A PhD program can take five years or longer to earn, even online.

Here’s an overview of general acceptance of online PhD programs in a variety of industries

Academic institutions are traditionally very conservative, and have been slow to accept online degrees regardless of accreditation even though many brick-and-mortar schools now offer them.  If you want to work as a professor, your prospects will probably be better if you earn a traditional PhD rather than one from an online school. 

Nursing
sing as a profession is fairly open to online degrees, as is most of the medical support industry with the exception of actual M.D.’s. Nurses are often encouraged to earn Bachelor’s and other advanced degrees online while working, and some hospitals will reimburse tuition.  There are plenty of PhD programs available online for various nursing specialties; the Medical University of South Carolina, and University of Arizona all offer online PhD programs, and some programs offer BSN-to PhD and MSN-to-PhD programs as well.

Technology
Tech is also highly open to online degrees, and was one of the first industries to widely accept them.  A PhD in an IT subject can get you work at a research center or a technical consulting firm, as well as in software development and engineering, depending on the subject of your degree. You can earn PhD’s in various IT fields through many online degree programs, including those at Capella University, Nova University, and the University of Phoenix.

Research & Development
Science and research, because it usually takes place at academic institutions, is not typically open to online degrees. But you don’t have to work for a university to have a career in research; according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, approximately 39% of career scientists are employed by the government, with many more working for business and industry. Still, scientific research is a conservative field and traditional degrees continue to be the norm; your best bet, if you earn an online degree, is to earn one from a traditional brick-and-mortar school that also has an online component.

Business
Business is fairly open to online degrees. This is clear in the explosion of online MBA programs to serve the market of full-time professionals looking for flexible degree programs that allow them to go to school without interrupting their work schedules.  Many corporate employers encourage students to go to school online for advanced degrees and certifications, and it’s not unusual to find employers who will pay for tuition.

A PhD in business is often applied toward a teaching career in academia, but it doesn’t have to. It may also land you a corporate position in administration, business development, marketing research, or a variety of careers depending on the subject you majored in.

PhD’s in various aspects of business operations can be found at Walden University, Fielding Graduate University, the University of Phoenix, and many others.

Earning a PhD online is possible, and there are highly rigorous, legitimate PhD programs online through accredited schools.  Although online degrees are still not accepted in all industries, an online PhD program can get you far in a variety of fields—from nursing to business. Before choosing an online PhD program, do some research and speak to some hiring managers in the industry you’re considering to get a better sense of how your online degree will be regarded in the job market.

Sources:

MedHunters.com: Opportunities in Nursing: Online
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Biological Scientists
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Computer Scientists
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Registered Nurses
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Top Executives
 

Video: Youtube.com Online Doctoral Program

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