What Can You Get a PhD in? [Doctorate Guide]

What can you get a PhD in? This question is frequently asked by people who want to expand their knowledge and unlock new career paths by earning a doctoral degree.

What Can You Get a PhD in

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You can earn a PhD in a wide variety of fields, ranging from anthropology to zoology. This guide explores some of the most popular types of PhDs, associated careers, and factors to consider when selecting an online PhD program.

What Can You Get a PhD In?

Colleges and universities offer doctorate programs in a broad range of disciplines, so aspiring PhD students have many options.

The best PhDs to get depend on your professional goals, interests, and previous education. Here are ten of the most common PhDs that people pursue.

Select the program that most interests you to jump to that section of the guide:

  • Online PhD in Anthropology
  • Online PhD in Biology
  • Online PhD in Business
  • Online PhD in Clinical Psychology
  • Online PhD in Computer Science
  • Online PhD in Education
  • Online PhD in English
  • Online PhD in Psychology
  • Online PhD in Nursing
  • Online PhD in Physical Therapy

The program that’s best for you will depend on your personal interests and professional goals.

PhD in Anthropology

Museum curators with PhD in Anthropology degree

You can deepen your understanding of anthropological research methods and theories with a PhD in Anthropology.

Many programs allow doctoral students to specialize in a subfield, such as archeology, biological anthropology, and sociocultural anthropology. Courses vary by program but typically cover data analysis, field research methods, and public archeology.

Graduates who earn this degree may go on to work as college professors, forensic anthropologists, and museum curators.

PhD in Biology

Biotech professionals with PhD in Biology degree

A PhD in Biology prepares students to contribute new knowledge to the biological sciences. Students can focus on various areas of specialty, including computational biology, ecology, and genetic epidemiology.

These programs often have interdisciplinary curricula that allow students to study advanced biological concepts and research methods. Course subjects may include biochemistry, contemporary biology, molecular neuroscience, and statistics. Current professionals work in bioinformatics, biotech, education, healthcare, and other industries.

PhD in Business

Business consultant discussing with business owners

A PhD in Business trains business leaders and researchers. Students learn how to use advanced financial models and strategies to solve complex business issues.

Business PhD programs frequently teach subjects like accounting, consumer behavior, industrial organization, and microeconomics. Additionally, they cover research methods like econometrics and statistical analysis.

Graduates can use their business knowledge and skills to become business consultants, C-suite executives, economists, and professors.

PhD in Clinical Psychology

Medical psychologist in a session with patient

You can enrich your understanding of the human psyche with a PhD in Clinical Psychology. This degree focuses on researching mental health issues and psychological science. Students also learn how to apply their knowledge in clinical settings.

Typically, courses cover adult psychopathology, clinical interviewing, professional ethics, and psychological assessment. Students may also be required to complete clinical practicums. Graduates often pursue careers as child psychologists, neuropsychologists, and medical psychologists.

PhD in Computer Science

Senior software engineer & chief technology officer discussing

A PhD in Computer Science allows students to expand their knowledge of advanced computer systems and theories.

Curricula often cover a broad range of topics, like algorithms, data management, and random computing. Additionally, this degree trains students to conduct cutting-edge research in subfields of computer science, such as artificial intelligence and cryptography.

Graduates frequently work as chief technology officers, computer and information research scientists, and senior software engineers.

PhD in Education

Professor guiding his students

If you want to research educational approaches and theories, you might consider a PhD in Education. This academic degree trains students to develop new learning methods and promote more effective teaching.

Common courses include advanced qualitative methodology, educating diverse learners, and instructional design. Also, many students specialize in higher education, literacy, special education, and other niches. Current professionals with this degree often work in teaching, administrative, and research positions in colleges and K-12 schools.

PhD in English

Technical writers & editors reviewing paperworks

A PhD in English gives students the opportunity to interpret, theorize, and teach literature, film, and other types of media.

Courses cover literature from a variety of cultures, genres, and periods, such as children’s literature and Victorian literature. Moreover, these programs often promote interdisciplinary research that engages with history, psychology, and other fields. This degree can help you qualify for a position as a college professor, editor, or technical writer.

PhD in Psychology

Psychologist in a session with a patient

A PhD in Psychology prepares students to conduct independent research on human cognition, behavior, and mental processes.

Students also learn how to implement clinical research methods and design experiments with human subjects. This research-intensive degree covers subjects like affective science, developmental psychology, professional ethics, and history and systems of psychology.

Additionally, many programs include clinical practicums. Graduates frequently work as academic researchers, clinical psychologists, and market researchers.

PhD in Nursing

Clinical researcher discussing with a nurse

A PhD in Nursing gives students a strong theoretical foundation in healthcare delivery and nursing science.

Standard course topics may include grant writing, leadership for nurse scientists, and methods in clinical research. This degree also trains students to apply advanced research methods to develop innovative approaches to patient care and improve healthcare policies.

A PhD in Nursing can unlock careers in clinical research, health policy, and nonprofit organizations.

PhD in Physical Therapy

Physical therapist providing assessment to a patient

A PhD in Physical Therapy allows students to research the science of physical therapy and educate others about the latest approaches to treating ill, injured, and disabled patients.

The curriculum typically addresses subjects like applied physiology, movement science, and prosthetics. Students also learn how to treat patients in clinical settings. This degree helps prepares students for specialized physical therapy careers in acute care, oncology, sports, and other areas.

How to Choose a PhD Program

Friends checking on PhD Programs online

The right PhD program for you aligns with your goals and sets you up for academic and professional success.

These considerations can help you compare online PhD programs :

  • Faculty reputation . Prestigious faculty can assist with networking and connect you with exciting professional opportunities, such as presenting at top conferences.
  • Funding opportunities . Many PhD programs offer complete funding packages, which may include stipends and other benefits.
  • Placement rates . Programs that place alumni in tenure-track academic jobs and high-paying industry positions may provide excellent career support.
  • Research areas . It’s strategic to look for a program that offers courses and extracurricular activities related to your interests. For instance, an English PhD program with speculative fiction courses might be ideal if you want to study science fiction writers.

Additionally, you can contact current PhD students to get a sense of the program’s culture and learn about their experiences.

Do You Need a PhD to Be a Professor?

Professor discussing to his class

You don’t always need a PhD to become a professor . The requirements vary by institution and position.

Some colleges hire people with master’s degrees and relevant industry experience to teach freshman-level courses. For instance, someone with an MBA and several years of work experience might teach undergraduate finance courses.

Schools that require a terminal degree may also accept a doctorate degree from an accredited university, even when it’s not a PhD. A professional doctorate degree focuses on practical applications of knowledge, while a PhD emphasizes original research.

How Hard Is It to Get Into a Ph.D. Program?

PhD degree students researching together

If you want to learn how to get a PhD, you can start by researching admissions criteria for online programs in your field. Requirements vary by program, so some schools may be more difficult to get into.

Here are some common admissions requirements:

  • Bachelor’s or master’s degree in a relevant field
  • GRE scores (only some schools require them)
  • CV or resume
  • Personal statement
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Writing sample
  • Interview with the admissions committee

The specific requirements influence how challenging it is to get into a particular program, so it’s beneficial to research the criteria ahead of time.

What Is the Easiest PhD to Get?

PhD students doing their group research works

The difficulty level of any PhD is highly subjective. But choosing a quality PhD program can increase the likelihood that you finish your degree on schedule.

A PhD program with these qualities can help facilitate your success:

  • Classes that align with your research focus
  • Knowledgeable faculty who enjoy mentoring graduate students
  • Full-funding packages
  • Student support services, like mental health counseling
  • Professional development workshops
  • State-of-the-art research facilities
  • Clear program milestones

Additionally, you may finish your doctoral degree faster. A program with less requirements makes it one of the easiest PhDs to get such as fewer credit hours or doesn’t include a dissertation component.

What Are Some of the Highest Paying PhD Degrees I Can Get?

Highest Paying PhD Degrees

Many careers that require an advanced degree have lucrative median salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , here are the median salaries of ten high-paying careers often pursued by people with PhDs:

  • Physicists — $142,850
  • Computer and information research scientists — $136,620
  • Pharmacists — $132,750
  • Political scientists — $128,020
  • Economists — $113,940
  • Mathematicians — $112,110
  • Medical scientists — $99,930
  • Physical therapists — $97,720
  • Clinical and counseling psychologists — $90,130
  • Postsecondary business teachers — $88,790

Many factors can affect salaries and job availability, including geographic location, skills, work experience, and your PhD program’s reputation.

Does It Matter Where You Get Your PhD?

students getting PhD degrees

The institution you choose for your PhD can impact your academic performance, career trajectory, and personal life.

Choosing a program that offers financial support can give you more time to focus on your studies and develop marketable skills. Additionally, you may find it easier to conduct and publish innovative research with access to leading faculty and top facilities.

Employers often consider a school’s reputation when considering job candidates, so selecting a prestigious program could boost your chances of landing a preferred position.

Earning Your PhD Degree Online

Woman earning her PhD Degree online

What can I get a PhD in? Colleges and universities offer a broad range of doctoral programs in numerous disciplines. These degrees enable you to study advanced concepts in your chosen field and immerse yourself in the world of academic research.

Graduates use their PhDs to pursue a variety of careers in academia, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector. Many jobs that require graduate degrees offer lucrative wages and other benefits, such as academic tenure.

If you want to build your expertise and perform ground-breaking research, you can begin your journey by researching online PhD programs from accredited universities.

what phd can you get

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Tips for Online Students , Tips for Students

A Comprehensive List Of Doctorate Degrees Just For You

Updated: July 12, 2022

Published: August 27, 2020

A-Comprehensive-List-Of-Doctorate-Degrees-Just-For-You

Are you looking to earn your doctorate degree, but aren’t sure where to begin? Or maybe you’re just curious about the kinds of degrees that are available to you. In this article, we’ll go over the different types of degrees, the difference between research degrees and professional degrees, and finally, give you a full comprehensive list of doctorate degrees available in the U.S.

We hope you discover some new fields that pique your interest, and maybe even get you started on your path to earning a degree.

Photo by  Pixabay  from  Pexels

What is a doctorate degree.

There are four major types of degrees that you can earn in university. In order, they are: associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and doctorate degree.

A doctorate degree is the highest level of education in most fields. For fields of research or teaching it is usually a PhD, while other applied doctorates will include degrees such as Doctor of Medicine (MD), or Doctor of Education (EdD).

In order to earn a doctorate degree, you will first need to earn your bachelor’s degree. Most people choose to earn their master’s degree before entering a doctorate program, but it is possible to go straight to a doctoral degree in some cases.

Doctorate degrees can be divided into two major categories: research degrees and professional degrees.

Research Degrees

What is a research degree.

A research degree focuses on exploring a topic in depth. A research degree gives students the opportunity to conduct their own unique research on a topic of their choice in order to produce their own research papers and innovative studies of knowledge.

A research degree prepares students with the skills and experience necessary for working and conducting research in academic, governmental, and business fields.

Below is a comprehensive list of all the research degrees available in the US.

List Of Research Degrees:

  • Doctor of Arts (DA)
  • Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)
  • Doctor of Canon Law (JCD)
  • Doctor of Design (DDes)
  • Doctor of Engineering or Engineering Science (DEng, DESc, DES)
  • Doctor of Education (EdD)
  • Doctor of Fine Arts (DFA.)
  • Doctor of Hebrew Letters (DHL)
  • Doctor of Juridical Science (JSD, SJD)
  • Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)
  • Doctor of Music Education (DME)
  • Doctor of Modern Languages (DML)
  • Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
  • Doctor of Public Health (DPH)
  • Doctor of Sacred Theology (STD)
  • Doctor of Science (DSc, ScD)
  • Doctor of Theology (ThD)

Photo by  ICSA  from  Pexels

Professional degrees, what is a professional degree.

A professional degree prepares students for a specific profession. Through earning a professional degree, students study the necessary information for their field, meet specific academic and licensure requirements for their desired profession, and prepare for state exams.

Below is a comprehensive list of all the professional degrees that can be earned in the US.

List Of Professional Degrees

  • Doctor of Acupuncture (D.Ac., D.Acu.)
  • Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (D.A.O.M.)
  • Doctor of Anesthesia Practice (Dr.AP)
  • Doctor of Applied Science (D.A.S.)
  • Doctor of Architecture (D.Arch.)
  • Doctor of Athletic Training (D.A.T.)
  • Doctor of Audiology (Au.D)
  • Doctor of Behavioral Health (D.B.H.)
  • Doctor of Chemistry (D.Chem.)
  • Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.)
  • Doctor of Church Music (D.C.M.)
  • Doctor of Clinical Nutrition (D.C.N.)
  • Doctor of Clinical Science in Speech-Language Pathology (CScD)
  • Doctor of Comparative Law (D.C.L.)
  • Doctor of Civil Law (D.C.L.)
  • Doctor of Computer Science (D.C.S.)
  • Doctor of Criminal Justice (D.C.J.)
  • Doctor of Criminology (D.Crim.)
  • Doctor of Divinity (Divinitatis Doctor) (D.D.)
  • Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.)
  • Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.)
  • Doctor of Environmental Science and Engineering (D.Env.)
  • Doctor of Forestry (D.F.)
  • Doctor of Geological Science (D.G.S.)
  • Doctor of Health Administration (D.H.A.)
  • Doctor of Health and Safety (D.H.S.)
  • Doctor of Health Education (D.H.Ed)
  • Doctor of Hebrew Literature/Letters (D.H.L.)
  • Doctor of Health Science (D.H.Sc., D.H.S.)
  • Doctor of Hebrew Studies (D.H.S.)
  • Doctor of Humane Letters (D.Hum.Litt.)
  • Doctor of Industrial Technology (D.I.T.)
  • Doctor of Information Technology (D.I.T.)
  • Juris Doctor (J.D.)
  • Doctor of Law and Policy (L.P.D., D.L.P.)
  • Doctor of Liberal Studies (D.L.S.)
  • Doctor of Library Science (D.L.S.)
  • Doctor of Management (D.M.)
  • Doctor of Medical Humanities (D.M.H.)
  • Doctor of Medical Physics (D.M.P)
  • Doctor of Medical Science (D.M.Sc.)
  • Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
  • Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.)
  • Doctor of Missiology (D.Miss)
  • Doctor of Music (D.M., D.Mus.)
  • Doctor of Music Therapy (D.M.T.)
  • Doctor of Naprapathic Medicine (D.N.)
  • Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (N.D., N.M.D.)
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.)
  • Doctor of Occupational Therapy (O.T.D., D.O.T.)
  • Doctor of Optometry (O.D.)
  • Doctor of Organizational Leadership
  • Doctor of Oriental Medicine (D.O.M., O.M.D.)
  • Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
  • Doctor of Pastoral Counseling (D.PC)
  • Doctor of Pastoral Music (D.P.M.)
  • Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)
  • Doctor of Physical Education (D.P.E.)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.)
  • Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.)
  • Doctor of Practical Theology (D.P.T., D.Th.P.)
  • Doctor of Professional Studies (D.P.S.)
  • Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D)
  • Doctor of Public Administration (D.P.A.)
  • Doctor of Recreation (D.Rec., D.R.)
  • Doctor of Rehabilitation (Rh.D.)
  • Doctor of Sacred Music (D.S.M.)
  • Doctor of Science in Dentistry (D.Sc.D.)
  • Doctor of Science and Hygiene (D.Sc.H.)
  • Doctor of Science in Veterinary Medicine (D.Sc.V.M.)
  • Doctor of the Science of Law (J.S.D.)
  • Doctor of Social Science (D.S.Sc.)
  • Doctor of Social Work (D.S.W.)
  • Doctor of Transformational Leadership (D.T.L.)
  • Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.)

Earn A Degree Online

If you are interested in earning your doctorate degree in any desired subject, consider earning your bachelor’s or master’s degree online, so that you are one step closer to your goals.

Earning a degree online is a great way to study while working, raising a family, or just going at your own pace.

University of the People is a tuition-free university that allows students to earn their degree 100% online. We pride ourselves on offering affordable degree programs to our students, so that everyone has equal access to quality education.

We offer degrees in business administration , health science , computer science , and education , so if you’re looking to earn a doctorate degree, University of the People is the best place to start.

Wrapping Up

There are many fascinating and practical doctorate degrees to choose from. Whether you’re interested in research in education and language, or becoming a nurse or veterinarian, there is a degree for every field and interest.

For those who are determined to earn a doctorate degree, a great way to start is to earn your bachelor’s or master’s degree online, so you can be one step closer to your goals. We hope you find something to pique your interest in this comprehensive list of doctorate degrees.

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what phd can you get

PhD Admission Guide

Gain admission to your dream school, guide to phd admission.

While some students swear off further education after undergrad, some love the thrill of intellectual discovery and research. For these students, graduate school is a natural choice. Graduate degrees are separated into “professional” and “academic” categories. Professional degrees are JDs and MDs, while academic degrees are PhDs (literally “Doctorates of Philosophy” regardless of what field you actually study).

Whether or not you need to pursue a PhD depends entirely on what career you wish to have. Some require higher education, while many others do not. In this guide we’ll go over how to apply to PhD programs, what they are looking for, and how the application process works. This guide is focused on the US and Canada; Europe has a system which is simultaneously similar and very different.

What PhD Programs Look For

what phd can you get

PhD programs want to make sure you are prepared academically for the rigors of the program, and that you have a concrete research goal in mind. PhD programs culminate with each student answering a research question they devise, contributing new knowledge to the world in the process. 

Thus these programs seek to evaluate your intellectual ability, research goals, previous research experience, and how you will contribute to their program. To determine this, they ask for the following:

Letters of Recommendation

We’ll go through each of these in turn, and explain what graduate programs are looking for from each.

Your GPA in undergrad is the single most important factor in PhD admissions. If your GPA is too low your application will be dismissed out of hand. While there are no hard limits, we suggest a minimum GPA of 3.5 for serious contention, especially at top schools. If your GPA is below 3.0 then you will likely not get admitted into any PhD programs.

The reason for this is that PhD programs are a lot of work. Being intelligent is necessary, but is far from sufficient alone. Everyone in PhD programs is intelligent, and everyone is also willing to do the work. Your GPA is seen as the primary indicator of your willingness and ability to do academic work to a high standard, and your preparation for the rigors of a PhD program.

Along with your overall GPA, schools request your major GPA. This is your GPA when calculated only using courses in your major. This is usually expected to be higher than your overall GPA. Your major GPA should be over 3.5.

While taking harder courses in undergrad is a great experience, they can also harm your overall GPA. Of course, the best approach is to take very hard classes and do well in them, but this is not always possible. We recommend taking a blend of courses, so you are never overloaded, and able to give each the attention it needs to do well.

Academic Preparation

Your GPA and transcript is also used to judge your academic preparation for the program. You should have a solid grounding in the field, and have taken advanced courses as well. Taking graduate level courses in undergrad can exemplify this. 

Some PhD programs also require research languages. This is more common in the social sciences and humanities, but all students will benefit from knowing other languages well enough to do research in them. You should look up language requirements when researching programs to apply to.

The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is a standardized test meant for students who intend to apply to graduate programs. Both MA and PhD programs ask for GRE scores. Much like the SAT or ACT in college exams, the test is meant to be a standardized measure of academic preparation and logical skill.

The test consists of six sections. The first is writing, next are two on verbal reasoning, then two on quantitative reasoning, and finally a research or experimental section, meant to test new questions. The entire test is offered on the computer, with one minute breaks after each section, and a ten minute break after the third section. While there is also a paper-based test, almost all testing is now done on a computer. Due to the pandemic, both testing centers and at-home testing are offered. The GRE is a multi-stage test, and how well you do on earlier sections determines the difficulty of later sections and questions. 

The verbal sections each consist of 20 questions, to be answered over 30 minutes. The whole is scored on a scale of 130-170. The quantitative section is scored the same, and consists of two 20 question sections, each of which should be completed in 35 minutes. The writing section is scored from 0-6. For this section, you write an essay on a given issue in 30 minutes, and offer a response critiquing a provided argument for 30 minutes.

Your total score from the GRE is given from 130-170. While the exact scores you need to enter graduate school vary, higher is better. In addition, some programs only care about your verbal score, while others only care about your quantitative score. How much weight each program puts on GRE scores varies greatly.

We recommend studying for the GRE for some time before testing. You can take the GRE up to five times per year, but must wait at least 21 days between testing dates. Only scores from the past 5 years will be released or considered by graduate programs.

Curriculum Vitae

This is akin to a resume, but is dissimilar enough that the two cannot be used interchangeably. The purpose of a CV is, like a resume, to detail what you have accomplished academically and in your career. It is far more focused on academics however, and is widely used for academic careers.

We recommend finding a template for a CV online, or asking your college’s advisors for help in creating one. If you already have a resume, then you will easily be able to convert it into a CV.

What admissions officers are looking for in your activities is primarily signs of research. This should be in whatever field you intend to pursue a PhD in. Publications are also incredibly valuable. All of academia runs on publication, and getting an early start helps your career at every step.

You should try to do research while still in undergrad. What this looks like depends entirely on what field you are pursuing. While the research does not have to exactly line up with what you wish to pursue, it should teach you skills which are cross applicable. Higher level academic research has its own set of methods and language which must be learned, and students who are already familiar with the forms and structures of research have a leg up in graduate school. 

Publication is not required, but is nice to see. If you have completed a master’s degree, you should have some publication history; of your thesis if nothing else. Speak with your academic advisors about getting your work published.

Each graduate school you apply to will ask for an essay. You will be able to use the same basic form for each, but will need to edit it to be about the particular program you are applying to. Most schools only require a single essay, although some programs ask for a second on diversity.

The purpose of this essay is to explain your research interests, what you have studied, your intended area of specialization, and what your focus will be on. Every PhD student is asking and trying to answer a very specific research question. This question forms the basis of their dissertation, and will be the focus of your life for several years if you are accepted.

Thus the essay is the most important part of your application. Your grades and GRE are required to see if you are academically ready for graduate school, but the essay lets readers know if you are a match for their program, and serious about your research.

Your essay should begin by stating which program you are applying to, and why. Next, go through your previous academic experience in the field, both coursework and research. You don’t have to go through every class, but cover the ones most relevant to your desired research topic.

You should discuss any prior research you have done in the field. If you completed a thesis for your undergraduate degree or a master’s program, cover that here. If you have any publication credits, cover those as well. This should relate directly to the field you are trying to enter. If you wish to pursue lab work, discuss your previous experiences; if instead you are pursuing field work, talk about your experiences there.

Next you should talk about the research you specifically wish to pursue through a PhD. You don’t need to have an exact research question worked out, but it is helpful to have some idea; you should at least know the subfield you will be focusing on. The more specific you are, the better. Having some discussion of methodology can be nice, but is not always necessary.

If there are any ongoing research projects ongoing at the school you wish to work on, cover those next. You should discuss how these projects specifically relate to your own research interests. Finally, you should talk about which professors you wish to work with. Professors take on graduate students to advise, and you ideally want one with a specialization at least tangentially related to your field of interest. The more closely related the professor’s studies are to your own, the better.

You will be able to leave much of this essay the same for each school you apply to, changing only the name of the program, the research projects, and the professors you wish to work with. 

This essay should be a page and a half to two pages long, single spaced. You should go into sufficient detail for those reading it to understand the research you want to pursue. These essays are reviewed by the faculty who run the department, and they make the admissions decisions for PhD programs. There are many more applicants than there are spaces, and admissions rates are low. The more specific and detailed you are in this essay, the better the faculty will understand your research aims, and the better your chances will be.

Diversity Statements

Not all programs ask for these, but you will likely be able to reuse the same essay for those that do. The purpose of the diversity statement is to see what unique points of view and experiences you will be able to contribute to the program. PhDs are about learning, and the more viewpoints and ideas within a program, the broader the experience will be.

If you are a member of an underrepresented group, an immigrant, come from an underprivileged background, or come from an area which is generally underrepresented, we suggest discussing that in this essay. You should not write an essay about your interactions with members of these groups, or a study abroad experience.

Above all, this essay should be authentic to you and your experience. The goal is to show how your background has shaped you as a person, and how it impacts your view of the world.

As with college applications, letters of recommendation are required for PhD admissions. These tell admissions committees who you are as a student and researcher, and give their opinion on how you will perform when doing graduate level work. Academic fields are small and often insular, and the professors writing your letters will often be known by those reading them, either by reputation or in person.

Programs ask for two to four letters. These should primarily come from professors who know you and your work well. If you had a thesis advisor, they should write one of your letters. If you’ve worked doing research for some time, then a mentor or lab director can also be a good source of a letter, even if they haven’t taught you in class. Letters should not come from non-academic sources, unless you have worked professionally in that field. 

While you have the option to read the letters that are written for you, you should always waive that right. If you don’t trust your writers to craft good letters for you, then you shouldn’t be asking them for letters. Asking to see letters is considered a sign of lack of trust, and is gauche. Many professors will decline to write letters if you insist on seeing them.

You should ask for letters well in advance of when they are due; we recommend at least a month or two. If you are asking non-tenured faculty for a letter, more leeway is recommended, as they have more on their plate, and are often more stressed. You may need to send a reminder as deadlines approach. You should also share a copy of your essay with letter writers, so they know exactly what subfield you intend to pursue, and can discuss this in their letters.

Finally, you should be aware of politics when asking for letters. Some professors do not like each other at all. If you are seen as the protege of a professor who others detest, this can impact your admissions chances. Always discuss which schools and programs you are applying to with your letter writers. You should also discuss your choices of writers with an advisor (for example a thesis advisor) familiar with the field. Academic politics are incredibly petty, but if you plan to pursue a PhD you need to be aware of the game, and how it is played.

what phd can you get

If your application passes the first review, you will be invited to do an interview. This will be with faculty in the program you are applying to. This is to further get to know you, and to understand your research objectives. 

You should be able to clearly explain what you want to research, and how this program will help you do so. The people talking to you will all be familiar with the field, though not necessarily your specific subfield. They are looking for your ability to communicate and explain your view. Be prepared to answer some questions about the specifics of your goals, though it’s ok if you don’t know everything right now.

Interviews are generally in person, though due to the pandemic, virtual interviews have become more common. This is also your chance to ask any questions you have about the program you were unable to find answers to online. You can practice for this interview with an advisor or mentor; many schools have career centers which hold mock grad school interviews as well.

When and How to Apply to Grad School

There is no unified platform for PhD applications. Instead you must apply to each program individually, through the school’s website. This will mean filling out information multiple times, but they fortunately don’t ask for much. Once you have your documents in order, the rest is personal, demographic, and contact information.

You will need to pay to have your GRE scores sent to each school you apply to. Even though this is all electronic, they still charge dearly for it. 

Applications are generally due in December or January, with interviews held over the next few months. Applications open in September or October. We recommend getting your applications in before the due date, though most programs don’t use rolling admissions. Each program sets their own deadlines, so you should track when each of your applications is due carefully to make sure nothing gets overlooked.

Paying for Grad School

PhD programs are for the most part fully funded. This means you will not be paying tuition, and will also get funding to live on. This funding is generally contingent on academic standing, and doing work TAing, teaching, or on ongoing research projects (or most commonly, all of the above). Many grad students also work full or part time to support themselves. 

While you will not need to take on additional debt to pay for graduate school, you will not be well paid either. While the exact amount graduate students receive varies by school and program, it is generally in the range of $20-30,000 annually. This goes towards food, housing, and supplies.

While you are in a PhD program, you will not have to make payments on any government loans you took out to pay for undergrad, though they will continue to accrue interest. Making payments on them during grad school is difficult, but will greatly cut down on the amount you need to pay back later.

There are also outside scholarships available to help pay for graduate studies. While the amounts offered by these vary, most are small. They can help greatly with paying for the necessities however, and applying to them is usually worth the time investment.

Grad School Admission FAQ

Now we’ll answer some of the most common questions about applying to PhD programs.

Can older students apply?

Yes. Many professionals return to school for a PhD long out of undergrad. We suggest taking some courses at a local university in the field you plan on entering before you do this however. Academic research advances quickly, and this will familiarize you with the latest developments. Further, this will introduce you to professors who can provide you with letters of recommendation.

What are my odds of acceptance?

This depends on both your field and program. Generally, however, it is quite difficult to gain admissions to a PhD program, and admission rates hover around 10%. Only the best students get accepted, and this is even more the case at the top schools and programs.

When should I start thinking about applications?

When you choose your major, you should decide what level you want to reach within that field. Some majors lend themselves to PhDs if you want to work in that field, while others allow employment at various levels.

Where should I apply?

You should find programs with professors who are dedicated to your particular subfield. A prestigious institution which does not focus on your area is far less useful, regardless of how famous its name is. You are looking for someone who will be able to advise you, and help you perform worthwhile research. Further, professors are looking for students studying fields similar to their own when they admit graduate students.

How long are PhD programs?

Generally programs last 4-5 years, though this can vary based on field. The exact structure of the programs also varies a lot based on field and program.

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What Is a Doctorate Degree?

A doctorate is usually the most advanced degree someone can get in an academic discipline, higher education experts say.

What Is a Doctorate?

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It's unwise to apply to a doctoral program if you don't have a clear idea of how you might use a doctorate in your career.

In many academic disciplines, the most advanced degree one can earn is a doctorate. Doctorate degree-holders are typically regarded as authorities in their fields, and many note that a major reason for pursuing a doctorate is to increase professional credibility.

"If someone wants to be respected as an expert in their chosen field, and also wants to have a wider array of options in research, writing, publishing, teaching, administration, management, and/or private practice, a doctorate is most definitely worth considering," Don Martin, who has a Ph.D. in higher education administration , wrote in an email.

A doctoral degree is a graduate-level credential typically granted after multiple years of graduate school, with the time-to-degree varying depending on the type of doctoral program, experts say.

Earning a doctorate usually requires at least four years of effort and may entail eight years, depending on the complexity of a program's graduation requirements. It also typically requires a dissertation, a lengthy academic paper based on original research that must be vetted and approved by a panel of professors and later successfully defended before them for the doctorate to be granted.

Some jobs require a doctorate, such as certain college professor positions, says Eric Endlich, founder of Top College Consultants, an admissions consulting firm that helps neurodivergent students navigate undergraduate and graduate school admissions.

Endlich earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree, commonly known as a Ph.D., from Boston University in Massachusetts. He focused on psychology and notes that a doctoral degree is generally required to be a licensed psychologist.

"Since a Ph.D. is a research-focused degree, it can be advantageous to those seeking high-level research positions in scientific fields such as astrophysics or biotechnology," he says.

How Long it Takes to Get a Doctorate Degree

Martin, founder and CEO of Grad School Road Map, an organization that helps grad school applicants navigate the admissions process, says obtaining a doctorate is often a lengthy endeavor.

"Typically it can take between four and six years to complete any doctoral program," he says. "If comprehensive examinations and a dissertation are part of the graduation requirements, it may take a year or two longer. There is no standard amount of time – some students take seven to 10 years to finish."

Endlich says doctoral degree hopefuls should be aware that completing a dissertation may take a long time, especially if unexpected hurdles arise.

"My dissertation, for example, involved recruiting college students to complete questionnaires, and it took much longer than I anticipated to recruit enough subjects for my study," he says.

The standards for a dissertation, which include the proposal and research, are rigorous and usually involve a review and approval by a faculty committee, says Hala Madanat, vice president for research and innovation at San Diego State University in California.

"As part of dissertation requirements, some programs will require publication of the research in high-impact peer-reviewed journals," Madanat wrote in an email.

Types of Doctoral Degree Programs

According to professors and administrators of doctoral programs, there are two types of doctorates.

Doctor of Philosophy

A doctor of philosophy degree is designed to prepare people for research careers at a university or in industry, and teach students how to discover new knowledge within their academic discipline. Ph.D. degrees are offered in a wide range of academic subjects, including highly technical fields like biology , physics, math and engineering; social sciences like sociology and economics; and humanities disciplines like philosophy.

A Ph.D. is the most common degree type among tenure-track college and university faculty, who are typically expected to have a doctorate. But academia is not the only path for someone who pursues a Ph.D. It's common for individuals with biology doctorates to work as researchers in the pharmaceutical industry, and many government expert positions also require a Ph.D.

Professional or clinical doctorates

These are designed to give people the practical skills necessary to be influential leaders within a specific industry or employment setting, such as business, psychology , education or nursing . Examples of professional doctoral degrees include a Doctor of Business Administration degree, typically known as a DBA; a Doctor of Education degree, or Ed.D.; and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, or DNP.

A law degree, known as a juris doctor or J.D., as well as a Doctor of Medicine degree, or M.D., are also considered professional doctorates.

How to Get a Doctorate

Getting a doctorate is challenging. It ordinarily requires a series of rigorous classes in a field of study and then passage of a qualification exam in order to begin work on a dissertation, which is the final project.

Dissertations are difficult to write, says David Harpool, vice president of graduate and online programs at Newberry College in South Carolina. Some research indicates that only about half of doctoral students go on to finish their degree, and a main reason is that many never finish and successfully defend their dissertation

"Many of them are in programs that permit them to earn a master’s on the way to a doctorate," Harpool, who earned a Ph.D. from Saint Louis University in Missouri and a J.D. from the University of Missouri , wrote in an email. "The transition from mastering a discipline to creating new knowledge (or at least applying new knowledge in a different way), is difficult, even for outstanding students."

Learn about how M.D.-Ph.D. programs

There is a often a "huge shift in culture" at doctoral programs compared to undergraduate or master's level programs, says Angela Warfield, who earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of Iowa.

Doctoral professors and students have more of a collaborative relationship where they function as colleagues, she says. And there's pressure on each student to produce "significant and original research."

Many full-time doctoral students work for the school as researchers or teaching assistants throughout their program, so time management is crucial to avoid burnout. However, the dissertation "is by far the biggest battle," she says. The goal is to avoid an "ABD," she says, meaning "all but dissertation."

"In my writing group, we had two motivational slogans: 'ABD is not a degree,' and 'a good dissertation is a done dissertation,'" Warfield, now the principal consultant and founder of admissions consulting firm Compass Academics, wrote in an email.

How Are Doctorate Admissions Decisions Made?

Admissions standards for doctoral programs vary depending on the type of doctorate, experts say.

The quality of a candidate's research is a distinguishing factor in admissions decisions, Madanat says. Meanwhile, leaders of clinical and professional doctorate programs say that the quality of a prospective student's work experience matters most.

Doctoral programs typically expect students to have a strong undergraduate transcript , excellent letters of recommendation and, in some cases, high scores on the Graduate Record Examination , or GRE, Endlich says.

"The size of the programs may be relatively small, and universities need to be sure that applicants will be able to handle the demands of their programs," he says.

Because professional doctorates often require students to come up with effective solutions to systemic problems, eligibility for these doctorates is often restricted to applicants with extensive first-hand work experience with these problems, according to recipients of professional doctorates.

In contrast, it's common for Ph.D. students to begin their programs immediately after receiving an undergraduate degree. The admissions criteria at Ph.D. programs emphasize undergraduate grades, standardized test scores and research projects , and these programs don't necessarily require work experience.

Admissions decisions may also depend on available funding, says Madanat, who works with doctoral students to provide funding, workshops and faculty support to help their research.

Who Is a Good Fit for a Doctoral Program?

Doctoral degree hopefuls "should be interested in making a deep impact on their field, open-minded, eager to learn, curious, adaptable and self-motivated," Madanat says. "Doctoral programs are best suited for those whose goals are to transform and change the fields they are studying and want to make a difference in the way the world is."

Someone who loves to study a subject in great depth, can work alone or in teams, is highly motivated and wants to develop research skills may be a good candidate for a doctoral program, Endlich says.

Because of the tremendous effort and time investment involved in earning a doctorate, experts say it's foolish to apply to a doctoral program if it's unclear how you might use a doctorate in your career.

"The students are being trained with depth of knowledge in the discipline to prepare them for critical thinking beyond the current state of the field," Madanat says. "Students should consider the reasons that they are pursuing a doctoral degree and whether or not it aligns with their future professional goals, their family circumstances and finances."

Rachel D. Miller, a licensed marriage and family therapist who completed a Ph.D. degree in couples and family therapy at Adler University in Illinois in 2023, says pursuing a doctorate required her to make significant personal sacrifices because she had to take on large student loans and she needed to devote a lot of time and energy to her program. Miller says balancing work, home life and health issues with the demands of a Ph.D. program was difficult.

For some students, the financial component may be hard to overlook, Warfield notes.

"Student debt is no joke, and students pursuing graduate work are likely only compounding undergraduate debt," she says. "They need to really consider the payoff potential of the time and money sacrifice."

To offset costs, some programs are fully funded, waiving tuition and fees and providing an annual stipend. Some offer health insurance and other benefits. Students can also earn money by teaching at the university or through fellowships, but those adding more to their plate should possess strong time management skills, experts say.

"Graduate school, and higher education in general, can be brutal on your physical and mental health," Miller wrote in an email.

But Miller says the time and effort invested in her doctoral program paid off by allowing her to conduct meaningful research into the best way to provide therapy to children affected by high-conflict divorce and domestic violence. She now owns a therapy practice in Chicago.

Miller urges prospective doctoral students to reflect on whether getting a doctorate is necessary for them to achieve their dream job. "Really know yourself. Know your purpose for pursuing it, because that's what's going to help carry you through."

Searching for a grad school? Access our complete rankings of Best Graduate Schools.

30 Fully Funded Ph.D. Programs

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How to Choose a PhD Program

Successfully completing a doctoral program requires commitment and perseverance. the most important step in this process is to consider whether academic life is right for you and what kind of doctoral program — from discipline to environment — will be the best fit for your goals and preferences., we asked our current students and faculty, “what is key to making this decision” following are some questions they suggested you ask yourself, and answer, in order to select the appropriate program..

First, a basic description of a doctoral program:

As a doctoral student, you will spend the first two years of your program exploring areas of interest through coursework. In the two to three years that follow, you will select and pursue your own research topic, one which will make an original contribution to the existing body of knowledge in your field. Your original research culminates in an extensive written document known as the doctoral dissertation.

General Questions

If you are considering your career options, answering these questions will help you clarify your goals and ambitions — and determine if a doctoral program is the right decision for you.

  • Am I the type of person who is suited for a career in academia? Am I independently motivated to answer questions that I find interesting?
  • Do I want to spend the rest of my career doing research, as well as reading and talking about it?
  • Do I have a strong enough academic background in order to apply and be accepted by the program?
  • Is now the time for me to pursue a PhD?
  • What are my goals after completing the PhD?

Program Questions

If you know you want to pursue a doctoral degree, answers to these questions will help you select the right program for you.

  • How many faculty are working with students?
  • How many faculty members are doing research in areas related to my own interests?
  • What opportunities are there to work with a variety of faculty and to be exposed to different approaches in research (modeling, work with data, experiment design)?
  • Am I technically prepared to learn to do research in this field?
  • Most PhD students change their vision of research and many change their intended concentration area after joining the program and being exposed to a variety of research styles. Does my program of choice offer flexibility needed to do so?
  • Is there financial support for students to attend academic conferences to present their own research?
  • What opportunities are there for students to participate in colloquia, both as an attendee and as a presenter?
  • What is the department’s placement record? What types of jobs do graduates take and where?
  • Finally, how well do graduates of the program perform in the long term (contributing to the field through publication, practice of management and earning tenure)?

Hear From Our Doctoral Community

From undergrad to phd, why i chose academic research instead of consulting.

Andrea Contigiani

How This PhD Student Discovered a Dynamic Research Community at Wharton

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PhD Programs

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  • Business Economics
  • Health Policy (Management)
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Technology & Operations Management

Students in our PhD programs are encouraged from day one to think of this experience as their first job in business academia—a training ground for a challenging and rewarding career generating rigorous, relevant research that influences practice.

Our doctoral students work with faculty and access resources throughout HBS and Harvard University. The PhD program curriculum requires coursework at HBS and other Harvard discipline departments, and with HBS and Harvard faculty on advisory committees. Faculty throughout Harvard guide the programs through their participation on advisory committees.

How do I know which program is right for me?

There are many paths, but we are one HBS. Our PhD students draw on diverse personal and professional backgrounds to pursue an ever-expanding range of research topics. Explore more here about each program’s requirements & curriculum, read student profiles for each discipline as well as student research , and placement information.

The PhD in Business Administration grounds students in the disciplinary theories and research methods that form the foundation of an academic career. Jointly administered by HBS and GSAS, the program has five areas of study: Accounting and Management , Management , Marketing , Strategy , and Technology and Operations Management . All areas of study involve roughly two years of coursework culminating in a field exam. The remaining years of the program are spent conducting independent research, working on co-authored publications, and writing the dissertation. Students join these programs from a wide range of backgrounds, from consulting to engineering. Many applicants possess liberal arts degrees, as there is not a requirement to possess a business degree before joining the program

The PhD in Business Economics provides students the opportunity to study in both Harvard’s world-class Economics Department and Harvard Business School. Throughout the program, coursework includes exploration of microeconomic theory, macroeconomic theory, probability and statistics, and econometrics. While some students join the Business Economics program directly from undergraduate or masters programs, others have worked in economic consulting firms or as research assistants at universities or intergovernmental organizations.

The PhD program in Health Policy (Management) is rooted in data-driven research on the managerial, operational, and strategic issues facing a wide range of organizations. Coursework includes the study of microeconomic theory, management, research methods, and statistics. The backgrounds of students in this program are quite varied, with some coming from public health or the healthcare industry, while others arrive at the program with a background in disciplinary research

The PhD program in Organizational Behavior offers two tracks: either a micro or macro approach. In the micro track, students focus on the study of interpersonal relationships within organizations and the effects that groups have on individuals. Students in the macro track use sociological methods to examine organizations, groups, and markets as a whole, including topics such as the influence of individuals on organizational change, or the relationship between social missions and financial objectives. Jointly administered by HBS and GSAS, the program includes core disciplinary training in sociology or psychology, as well as additional coursework in organizational behavior.

Accounting & Management  

Business economics  , health policy (management)  , management  , marketing  , organizational behavior  , strategy  , technology & operations management  .

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2024 Best Grad Schools in the United States for Doctorate Degrees

There are lots of options to choose from today when trying to decide which grad school to attend. College Factual was founded, in part, to help students make the decision as to what would be the best school for them. Our Best Doctor's Degree Colleges ranking is part of that endeavor.

What's on This Page: * Our Methodology

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Choosing the Best Grad School for You

Quality Badge

Our analysis looked at 691 grad schools in the United States to determine which ones have the best doctorate degree programs. Our ranking for the best grad schools is based on objective factors. We steer clear of subjective measures since they don't give a clear picture when determining how one school compares to another. The following gives more info on what goes into our ranking factors and why we consider those factors.

Higher Than Average Earnings

To determine the overall quality of a graduate school, one factor we look at is the average early-career salary of those receiving a doctorate degree from the school. Recent students who earned a doctorate degree in the United States entered the job market making an average of $75,260 while those in the top 20 schools on our list made an average of $88,513.

Taking Out Student Loans

Graduate students may also take on a lot of debt while working on their doctorate so we factor that into our rankings as well. The average amount taken out in student loans for graduates at a particular school may be crippling for those who earn less than average wages after graduation.

More Ranking Factors That Are Important

We also analyze a number of other factors in addition to average post-graduation earnings and average student debt when coming up with our yearly Best Doctorate Degree Schools ranking. On a broad level, other factors that go into our rankings include such things as the demand of the school, the student body caliber, if the school has online options, and the educational resources provided by the school.

We go into more detail on these factors on our graduate school ranking methodology page.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Not quite ready to work on your doctorate? Check out our Best Master's Degree Schools ranking.

Top Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States

Learn more about these excellent grad schools below:

MIT crest

Our analysis found Massachusetts Institute of Technology to be the best grad school for doctorate degrees in the United States in this year’s ranking. MIT is a private not-for-profit institution located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The school has a fairly large population, and it awarded 568 doctorate degrees in 2020-2021.

Those who receive a doctorate degree from MIT go into careers with an average salary of $115,303 during the early years of their career.

Learn More About Massachusetts Institute of Technology

UPenn crest

The excellent doctorate degree programs at University of Pennsylvania helped the school earn the #2 place on this year’s ranking of the best schools in the United States. Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the large private not-for-profit school handed out 1,254 doctorate degrees in 2020-2021.

During the early years of their career, doctorate degree graduates from UPenn make an average of $97,555 a year.

Learn More About University of Pennsylvania

Stanford crest

A rank of #3 on our Best Doctorate Degrees in the United States list means Stanford University is a great place for students working on their degree. Stanford is a fairly large private not-for-profit school situated in Stanford, California. It awarded 1,105 doctorate degrees in 2020-2021.

Upon graduation, doctorate degree recipients go on to jobs making an average salary of $98,295 during the early years of their career.

Read full report on Stanford University

Harvard crest

You’ll join some of the best and brightest minds around if you attend Harvard University. The school came in at #4 in the United States on this year’s best doctorate degree schools ranking. Harvard is a private not-for-profit institution located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The school has a large population, and it awarded 1,444 doctorate degrees in 2020-2021.

Those who receive a doctorate degree from Harvard go into careers with an average salary of $95,158 during the early years of their career.

Read full report on Harvard University

Princeton crest

You’ll join some of the best and brightest minds around if you attend Princeton University. The school came in at #5 in the United States on this year’s best doctorate degree schools ranking. Princeton, New Jersey is the setting for this medium-sized institution of higher learning. The private not-for-profit school handed out doctorate degrees to 293 students in 2020-2021.

Full Princeton University Report

Carnegie Mellon crest

Carnegie Mellon University landed the #6 spot on the 2024 Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States ranking. This fairly large private not-for-profit school is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and it awarded 333 doctorate degrees in 2020-2021.

Full Carnegie Mellon University Report

Northwestern crest

Northwestern University landed the #7 spot on the 2024 Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States ranking. Evanston, Illinois is the setting for this large institution of higher learning. The private not-for-profit school handed out doctorate degrees to 1,028 students in 2020-2021.

Upon graduation, doctorate degree recipients go on to jobs making an average salary of $93,954 during the early years of their career.

Read full report on Northwestern University

UChicago crest

University of Chicago landed the #8 spot on the 2024 Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States ranking. University of Chicago is a fairly large private not-for-profit school located in Chicago, Illinois that handed out 755 doctorate degrees in 2020-2021.

During the early years of their career, doctorate degree graduates from UChicago make an average of $96,200 a year.

Learn More About University of Chicago

Rice crest

Rice University ranked #9 on this year’s Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States list. Rice is located in Houston, Texas and has a medium-sized student population. In 2020-2021, this school awarded 207 doctorate degrees to qualified graduate students.

Learn More About Rice University

USC crest

University of Southern California did quite well in the 2024 Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States ranking, coming in at #10. Located in Los Angeles, California, the large private not-for-profit school handed out 1,914 doctorate degrees in 2020-2021.

During the early years of their career, doctorate degree graduates from USC make an average of $87,196 a year.

Learn More About University of Southern California

UC Berkeley crest

University of California - Berkeley ranked #11 on this year’s Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States list. UC Berkeley is a large public school situated in Berkeley, California. It awarded 1,187 doctorate degrees in 2020-2021.

Graduates with a doctorate degree from UC Berkeley make an average of $88,876 per year during the early years of their career.

Read full report on University of California - Berkeley

Vanderbilt crest

Vanderbilt University ranked #12 on this year’s Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States list. Vanderbilt is a private not-for-profit institution located in Nashville, Tennessee. The school has a fairly large population, and it awarded 787 doctorate degrees in 2020-2021.

During the early years of their career, doctorate degree graduates from Vanderbilt make an average of $91,182 a year.

Learn More About Vanderbilt University

Georgetown crest

Georgetown University did quite well in the 2024 Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States ranking, coming in at #13. Georgetown is a large private not-for-profit school situated in Washington, District of Columbia. It awarded 1,014 doctorate degrees in 2020-2021.

Graduates with a doctorate degree from Georgetown make an average of $105,462 per year during the early years of their career.

Learn More About Georgetown University

Yale crest

Yale University did quite well in the 2024 Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States ranking, coming in at #14. Located in New Haven, Connecticut, the fairly large private not-for-profit school awarded 742 diplomas to qualifed doctorate degree students in 2020-2021.

Those who receive a doctorate degree from Yale go into careers with an average salary of $91,187 during the early years of their career.

Read full report on Yale University

Teachers College crest

Teachers College at Columbia University did quite well in the 2024 Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States ranking, coming in at #15. Teachers College is a small private not-for-profit school situated in New York, New York. It awarded 185 doctorate degrees in 2020-2021.

Graduates with a doctorate degree from Teachers College make an average of $78,856 per year during the early years of their career.

Full Teachers College at Columbia University Report

Duke crest

Duke University came in at #16 in this year’s edition of the Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States ranking. Located in Durham, North Carolina, the fairly large private not-for-profit school handed out 949 doctorate degrees in 2020-2021.

Graduates with a doctorate degree from Duke make an average of $92,967 per year during the early years of their career.

Full Duke University Report

Columbia crest

Columbia University in the City of New York landed the #17 spot on the 2024 Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States ranking. Columbia is a large private not-for-profit school situated in New York, New York. It awarded 1,502 doctorate degrees in 2020-2021.

During the early years of their career, doctorate degree graduates from Columbia make an average of $102,938 a year.

Learn More About Columbia University in the City of New York

Bentley crest

Bentley University did quite well in the 2024 Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States ranking, coming in at #18. Bentley is located in Waltham, Massachusetts and has a medium-sized student population. In 2020-2021, this school awarded 1 doctorate degrees to qualified graduate students.

Full Bentley University Report

Suffolk crest

Suffolk University landed the #19 spot on the 2024 Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States ranking. This medium-sized private not-for-profit school is located in Boston, Massachusetts, and it awarded 351 doctorate degrees in 2020-2021.

The average salary of a graduate with a doctorate degree from Suffolk is $56,355 during the early years of their career.

Read full report on Suffolk University

Cornell crest

Cornell University landed the #20 spot on the 2024 Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States ranking. Cornell is a private not-for-profit institution located in Ithaca, New York. The school has a large population, and it awarded 777 doctorate degrees in 2020-2021.

The average salary of a graduate with a doctorate degree from Cornell is $107,405 during the early years of their career.

Read full report on Cornell University

Georgia Tech crest

With a ranking of #21, Georgia Institute of Technology - Main Campus did quite well on the 2024 Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States list. Atlanta, Georgia is the setting for this large institution of higher learning. The public school handed out doctorate degrees to 577 students in 2020-2021.

Full Georgia Institute of Technology - Main Campus Report

Brown crest

Brown University ranked #22 on this year’s Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States list. This fairly large private not-for-profit school is located in Providence, Rhode Island, and it awarded 293 doctorate degrees in 2020-2021.

The average salary of a graduate with a doctorate degree from Brown is $60,843 during the early years of their career.

Read full report on Brown University

WUSTL crest

Washington University in St Louis came in at #23 in this year’s edition of the Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States ranking. WUSTL is located in Saint Louis, Missouri and has a fairly large student population. In 2020-2021, this school awarded 742 doctorate degrees to qualified graduate students.

During the early years of their career, doctorate degree graduates from WUSTL make an average of $72,507 a year.

Learn More About Washington University in St Louis

Notre Dame crest

University of Notre Dame did quite well in the 2024 Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States ranking, coming in at #24. Notre Dame, Indiana is the setting for this fairly large institution of higher learning. The private not-for-profit school handed out doctorate degrees to 422 students in 2020-2021.

During the early years of their career, doctorate degree graduates from Notre Dame make an average of $78,016 a year.

Read full report on University of Notre Dame

Caltech crest

With a ranking of #25, California Institute of Technology did quite well on the 2024 Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States list. Caltech is located in Pasadena, California and has a small student population. In 2020-2021, this school awarded 184 doctorate degrees to qualified graduate students.

Those who receive a doctorate degree from Caltech go into careers with an average salary of $59,996 during the early years of their career.

Read full report on California Institute of Technology

Rest of the Top 50 Best Doctorate Degree Schools in the United States

Not only did these schools make the top 50 list, but they also landed in the top 15% of this year’s ranking:

NYU Crest

Narrow Doctorate Degree Schools by Region

Rocky mountains, middle atlantic, great lakes, new england, plains states, far western us, other u.s. territories, rest of the top 15% doctorate degree schools in the united states.

To learn more about the schools below, just click on their names:

Honorable Mentions

These schools also performed well in our Best Doctorate Degree Schools ranking:

More Rankings

Bachelor's degrees, returning adults, master's degrees.

More Rankings >

Notes and References

  • The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System ( IPEDS ) from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a branch of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) serves as the core of our data about colleges.
  • Some other college data, including much of the graduate earnings data, comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s ( College Scorecard ).
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Getting a Ph.D. in Psychology

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

what phd can you get

Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity, Study.com, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell.

what phd can you get

Verywell / Evan Polenghi

Ph.D. vs. Psy.D.

Job opportunities, earning a degree, specialty areas, alternatives.

Getting a Ph.D. in psychology can open up a whole new world of career opportunities. For many careers paths in psychology-related career paths, a doctoral degree is necessary to obtain work and certification. A Ph.D. is one option, but it is not the only educational path that's available to reach some of these goals.

A Ph.D., or doctor of philosophy, is one of the highest level degrees you can earn in the field of psychology . If you're considering pursuing a graduate degree, you might be wondering how long it takes to earn a Ph.D. in psychology . Generally, a bachelor's degree takes four years of study. While a master's degree requires an additional two to three years of study beyond the bachelor's, a doctoral degree can take between four to six years of additional graduate study after earning your bachelor's degree.

Recently, a new degree option known as the Psy.D. , or doctor of psychology, has grown in popularity as an alternative to the Ph.D. The type of degree you decide to pursue depends on a variety of factors, including your own interests and your career aspirations.

Before deciding which is right for you, research your options and decide if graduate school in psychology is even the best choice for you. Depending on your career goals, you might need to earn a master's or doctoral degree in psychology in order to practice in your chosen field. In other instances, a degree in a similar subject such as counseling or social work may be more appropriate.

A doctorate in psychology is required if you want to open your own private practice.

If you want to become a licensed psychologist, you must earn either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. in clinical or counseling psychology.

In most cases, you will also need a doctorate if you want to teach and conduct research at the college or university level. While there are some opportunities available for people with a master's degree in various specialty fields, such as industrial-organizational psychology and health psychology , those with a doctorate will generally find higher pay, greater job demand, and more opportunity for growth.

In order to earn a Ph.D. in psychology, you need to first begin by earning your bachelor's degree. While earning your undergraduate degree in psychology can be helpful, students with bachelor's degrees in other subjects can also apply their knowledge to psychology Ph.D. programs . Some students in doctorate programs may have a master's degree in psychology , but most doctorate programs do not require it.

After you’ve been admitted to a graduate program, it generally takes at least four years to earn a Ph.D. and another year to complete an internship. Once these requirements have been fulfilled, you can take state and national exams to become licensed to practice psychology in the state where you wish to work.

Once you enter the graduate level of psychology, you will need to choose an area of specialization, such as clinical psychology , counseling psychology, health psychology, or cognitive psychology . The American Psychological Association (APA) accredits graduate programs in three areas: clinical, counseling, and school psychology.   If you are interested in going into one of these specialty areas, it's important to choose a school that has received accreditation through the APA.

For many students, the choice may come down to a clinical psychology program versus a counseling psychology program. There are many similarities between these two Ph.D. options, but there are important distinctions that students should consider. Clinical programs may have more of a research focus while counseling programs tend to focus more on professional practice. The path you choose will depend largely on what you plan to do after you complete your degree.

Of course, the Ph.D. in psychology is not the only graduate degree option. The Psy.D. is a doctorate degree option that you might also want to consider. While there are many similarities between these two degrees, traditional Ph.D. programs tend to be more research-oriented while Psy.D. programs are often more practice-oriented.

The Ph.D. option may be your top choice if you want to mix professional practice with teaching and research, while the Psy.D. option may be preferred if you want to open your own private psychology practice.

In the book "An Insider's Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology," authors John C. Norcross and Michael A. Sayette suggest that one of the key differences between the two-degree options is that the Ph.D. programs train producers of research while Psy.D. programs train consumers of research. However, professional opportunities for practice are very similar with both degree types.

Research suggests that there are few discernible differences in terms of professional recognition, employment opportunities, or clinical skills between students trained in the Ph.D. or Psy.D. models. One of the few differences is that those with a Ph.D. degree are far more likely to be employed in academic settings and medical schools.

Social work, counseling, education, and the health sciences are other graduate options that you may want to consider if you decide that a doctorate degree is not the best fit for your interests and career goals.

A Word From Verywell

If you are considering a Ph.D. in psychology, spend some time carefully researching your options and thinking about your future goals. A doctoral degree is a major commitment of time, resources, and effort, so it is worth it to take time to consider the right option for your goals. The Ph.D. in psychology can be a great choice if you are interested in being a scientist-practitioner in the field and want to combine doing research with professional practice. It's also great training if you're interested in working at a university where you would teach classes and conduct research on psychological topics.

University of Pennsylvania; School of Arts and Sciences. Information for applicants .

American Psychological Association. Doctoral degrees in psychology: How are they different, or not so different?

U.S. Department of Labor.  Psychologists . Occupational Outlook Handbook .

Norcross JC, Sayette MA. An Insider's Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology (2020/2021 ed.) . New York, NY: The Guilford Press; 2020.

Davis SF, Giordano PJ, Licht CA. Your Career in Psychology: Putting Your Graduate Degree to Work . John Wiley & Sons; 2012. doi:10.1002/9781444315929

US Department of Education. Bachelor's, master's, and doctor's degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by sex of student and discipline division: 2016-17 .

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

Best Accredited Online Ph.D. Programs 2024

Erin Treder

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A Ph.D., or doctor of philosophy, is the highest level of academic degree that you can attain. Consisting primarily of research, a Ph.D. prepares you for a career in academia or research in the field you study.

Students who choose to pursue a Ph.D. online will find it can be completed in less time. Online students also get the added benefit of being able to complete their work from the comfort of home. The overall cost may also be less compared to an in-person program.

We’ve compiled a list of the best accredited online Ph.D. programs to help you start your search.

Are Online Ph.D. Programs Worth It?

An online Ph.D. program is an ideal choice if you want to balance your career and family responsibilities along with your education.

While there are some preconceived notions that online programs aren’t legitimate, as long as the program you choose is accredited, the degree is the same as one earned in person.

While the annual tuition cost to earn a Ph.D. online averages $12,394 for a public institution and $26,621 for a private university, doctoral graduates enjoy a lower unemployment rate and higher weekly salary than those with less education, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Did You Know…

  • According to the BLS , workers with a doctoral degree earned a median of $651 more per week than workers with a bachelor’s degree in 2022.
  • Doctorate-holders boast some of the lowest unemployment rates at 1%.
  • In 2019, research found that 39.8% of graduate students were enrolled in online learning.
  • The number of doctorates awarded between 2020 and 2021 dropped by 5.4%.
  • Not all Ph.D.-holders end up working in academia.

Top Schools for Online Accredited Ph.D. Programs

Capitol technology university.

  • Campus + Online
  • In-State $25,830
  • Out-of-state $25,830
  • Retention Rate 75%
  • Acceptance Rate 47%
  • Students Enrolled 796
  • Institution Type Private
  • Percent Online Enrollment 98%
  • Accreditation Yes

Clemson University

  • In-State $14,118
  • Out-of-state $37,110
  • Retention Rate 94%
  • Acceptance Rate 49%
  • Students Enrolled 27,341
  • Institution Type Public
  • Percent Online Enrollment 49%

Keiser University

  • In-State $20,800
  • Out-of-state $20,800
  • Retention Rate 72%
  • Acceptance Rate 96%
  • Students Enrolled 19,861
  • Percent Online Enrollment 50%

Mississippi State University

  • In-State $9,110
  • Out-of-state $24,790
  • Retention Rate 81%
  • Acceptance Rate 76%
  • Students Enrolled 23,086
  • Percent Online Enrollment 43%

Nova Southeastern University

  • In-State $33,510
  • Out-of-state $33,510
  • Retention Rate 78%
  • Acceptance Rate 93%
  • Students Enrolled 20,898
  • Percent Online Enrollment 52%

Old Dominion University

  • In-State $7,029
  • Out-of-state $26,664
  • Students Enrolled 23,494
  • Percent Online Enrollment 76%

Saybrook University

  • In-State $0
  • Out-of-state $0
  • Retention Rate 0%
  • Acceptance Rate 0%
  • Students Enrolled 915
  • Percent Online Enrollment 100%

Texas Tech University

  • In-State $8,935
  • Out-of-state $21,204
  • Retention Rate 85%
  • Acceptance Rate 68%
  • Students Enrolled 40,542
  • Percent Online Enrollment 68%

How We Rank Schools

Accredited Schools Online uses a custom ranking system to evaluate schools on their quality, affordability, and reputation.

We rank schools using factors like graduation rate, admission rate, tuition costs, financial aid, and program offerings. All our ranked schools hold institutional accreditation .

For this page, we created a directory of online accredited Ph.D. programs that meet our criteria. The list is organized alphabetically rather than ranked.

Learn more about how we create school rankings on our methodology page .

Does Accreditation Matter for Online Ph.D. Programs?

A college is accredited after being recognized by an independent institution that verifies the school’s courses and programs meet set quality standards.

The school you choose must be accredited in order for your Ph.D. to be recognized by employers , earn professional licensures, and qualify you for federal financial aid.

Legitimate accreditors are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

How Much Does an Online Ph.D. Cost?

In general, you can expect to pay around $13,000-$30,000 per year in tuition and fees for your online Ph.D.

Several factors affect how much your Ph.D. program will cost, including:

  • Whether the program is fully funded
  • Whether your school is public or private
  • Whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state student
  • How long your program lasts (most Ph.D. programs take 5-7 years to complete)
  • How much financial aid you get

While many in-person and online doctoral programs in the U.S. are fully funded, these tend to be highly competitive.

One way to save money on your online Ph.D. is to attend a program that offers in-state tuition to residents. Make sure you submit the FAFSA each year so you can secure federal financial aid .

You may also need to budget for occasional travel to and from campus and research sites, especially as you work on your dissertation.

What’s the Difference Between a Ph.D. and a Doctorate?

While a Ph.D. and a doctoral degree, or doctorate, both signify the same level of education completed, their uses are different.

Doctorate is the broader term — a Ph.D. is a type of doctorate. Specifically, a Ph.D. is an academic degree that prepares you for a career in research or teaching in your field of study (such as science, English, or economics).

Besides a Ph.D., other types of doctorates include a doctor of medicine (MD), a doctor of education (Ed.D.), and a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.). These degrees are typically used in either an academic or professional setting.

Online Ph.D. Programs That Don’t Require a Dissertation

A dissertation is a final written project culminating in a student’s original research at the end of their Ph.D. program. A dissertation is typically presented and defended by its author. It’s typically required for degrees with an academic or research focus.

Not all Ph.D. programs require a dissertation. For example, some Ph.D. programs in humanities, education, business administration, and criminal justice require simple or no dissertations for a quicker completion time .

What Jobs Can You Get After Earning an Online Ph.D.?

Once you finish your online doctoral program, you can explore a variety of career paths both within and outside academia.

Many Ph.D. graduates, especially those who studied the humanities, go on to become professors. Other popular roles include administrator, scientist, and psychologist.

Graduates of online Ph.D. programs earn a relatively high average base salary of $105,000 a year, according to Payscale .

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Ph.D. Programs

What is the quickest ph.d. to get.

The quickest Ph.D. to earn are those that award professional degrees and don’t require extensive research projects or dissertations at completion. These Ph.D. programs can include accounting, business, education, and media.

To finish your degree faster, you can also look for accelerated programs that quicken the pace of a program and shorten the time it takes to complete.

Are online doctoral programs legit?

If the online doctoral program is accredited, it is legitimate. Accreditation ensures that the program meets the rigorous educational standards of other comparative doctoral programs.

With accreditation, employers and other institutions of higher learning will recognize your degree. As more universities turn toward online programs to serve a more diverse student population, there are a growing number of legitimate, accredited online Ph.D. programs.

How long are online Ph.D. programs?

Online Ph.D. programs, like any other doctoral program, can vary in length but typically take 5-7 years to complete. A doctoral degree balances coursework with research. Usually, students must meet a certain number of course requirements before they can start original research.

While coursework may take only a year or two, writing a dissertation that meets the program requirements varies from candidate to candidate.

Can I earn my Ph.D. entirely online?

Yes, many accredited colleges and universities offer 100% online Ph.D. programs. That said, some programs may require on-campus experiences, such as library research and a dissertation defense.

What do employers think of online doctoral programs?

It takes a high level of discipline and persistence to obtain a graduate degree, no matter the context. Most employers will recognize and value the hard work it takes to get a Ph.D., whether you completed your doctorate online or in person.

Make sure you research potential programs. If you’re attending an accredited, well-regarded school, employers will value your online Ph.D. just as much as a traditional one.

Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by Accredited Schools Online. Page last reviewed November 20, 2023.

Best Accredited Online Ph.D. Programs 2024

Online Ph.D. programs provide students with flexible schedules and affordable tuition. Check out the top-ranked programs in this comprehensive guide.

Best Accredited Online Master’s Programs 2024

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PhD in Psychology Further Your Understanding of Psychology

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Understand the Human Experience from a Biblical Worldview with an Online PhD in Psychology

Do you want to deepen your knowledge in psychology and use your research to contribute to the field of understanding human behavior? Liberty University’s PhD in Psychology can provide rigorous research training that can better prepare you for a career in academia and research. An online PhD in Psychology is ideal for students who want to bring new knowledge of human behavior to the field and find new ways to help people heal, grow, and thrive.

Liberty’s PhD in Psychology is designed to prepare you to evaluate research and to understand the truth about human behavior from a biblical worldview. Our mission is to  Train Champions for Christ , and we fulfill this mission by training professionals to use science and biblical values to understand the full breadth of the human experience. Our unique, biblically-based approach to this field can help prepare you to make a positive impact on those you work with.

With Liberty’s PhD in Psychology, you can take part in optional face-to-face on-campus intensives that will allow you to meet faculty and other students while you develop your professional and research skills.

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What Will You Study in Our PhD in Psychology Degree?

Liberty’s online PhD in Psychology is designed to build on your previous study and experience in human psychology and develop you into a researcher and psychologist who demonstrates ethical and academic excellence while integrating biblical values into your practice.

Through this program, you will:

  • Learn how an appreciation of biblical values enhances psychiatric practice by putting human value at the forefront of technique and theory.
  • Develop a grounded critical approach to psychiatric research and theory while integrating a biblical worldview into approaches to current issues in psychology.
  • Master psychiatric research and writing techniques that can establish your work in the study of human behavior.
  • Complete dissertation research through your program with mentorship from your professors so that you have the option to present research at conferences.

Through this program, you will be encouraged to become a thought leader on a variety of topics related to the human experience. Our goal is to help you venture into the world of psychiatric research and practice and offer insights based on biblical foundations of truth that can help people heal and thrive.

Featured Courses

  • PSYC 510 — Research Methods and Statistics in Psychology I
  • PSYC 710 — Psychological Research and Biblical Worldview
  • PSYC 716 — Theories and Research in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
  • PSYC 775 — Teaching of Psychology

Degree Information

  • This program falls under the  School of Behavioral Sciences .
  • View the  Graduate Behavioral Sciences Course Guides   (login required).
  • View the  PhD in Psychology Dissertation Handbook
  • The online PhD in Psychology is a non-clinical, non-licensure program.

Why Choose Liberty’s Online Degree?

To help you meet your educational goals in a way that fits your life, our online PhD in Psychology provides scheduling flexibility and keeps affordability in mind. Our PhD in Psychology’s online format allows you to take your classes from home without traveling to campus. However, this program still provides a community of psychology professionals and the ability to take optional intensive courses to allow you to connect in person.

Throughout this program, Liberty incorporates a biblical worldview into your instruction. This perspective in your research and practical training in psychology can help you develop professional and academic excellence without compromising an ethical appreciation for human life. Additionally, our caring faculty are devoted to helping you grow personally and academically.

With our online PhD in Psychology, you can learn effective clinical techniques, essential behavioral theory, and develop your research and writing expertise. You can be equipped with a thorough understanding of human thought and behavior while developing your own research to further the field.

Earning a PhD in Psychology online with Liberty means that you will be trained to engage with research and psychiatric practice critically and biblically. If you are interested in becoming a thoughtful, articulate, and research-focused professional, then this is the program for you.

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Ranked in the Top 10% of Niche.com’s Best Online Schools in America

  • What Sets Us Apart?
  • Private Nonprofit University
  • 600+ Online Degrees
  • No Standardized Testing for Admission
  • Transfer in up to 75% of an Undergrad Degree
  • Transfer in up to 50% of a Grad/Doctoral Degree

Potential Career Opportunities for PhD in Psychology Graduates

  • Corporate psychologist
  • Program or department head
  • Project manager

Degree Options for Our PhD in Psychology Program

Focus your studies in psychology with a specialization.

Behavioral Health Leadership

Through the  PhD in Psychology – Behavioral Health Leadership , you can hone your research and leadership skills as you prepare to pursue administrative and management positions in mental and behavioral health organizations.

View the Degree Completion Plan .

Developmental Psychology

Through the online  PhD in Psychology – Developmental Psychology , you can learn about research theory related to human development, including cognitive development, social development, and language development.

General Psychology

The online PhD in Psychology – General Psychology provides an in-depth study of advanced psychiatric research and practice while giving you room to customize your course content.

Industrial/Organizational Psychology

In the online  PhD in Psychology – Industrial/Organizational Psychology  track, you will study human behavior in organizations and the workplace. You will focus on deriving principles of individual, group, and organizational behavior and applying that knowledge to developing solutions for challenges in the workplace.

Social Psychology

In the online  PhD in Psychology – Social Psychology  track, you can learn about research and theory related to social processes and relationships, attitudes, and other constructs related to social psychology.

In the online  PhD in Psychology – Theology  track, you can learn how to study the Bible and integrate that study of the Bible with research in psychology to further your understanding of psychological concepts.

Top 1% For Online Programs

Not sure what to choose?

Speak to one of our admissions specialists to help you choose the program that best fits your needs.

Tuition & Aid

Your success is our success, which is why we are committed to providing quality academics at an affordable tuition rate. While other colleges are increasing their tuition, we have frozen tuition rates for the majority of our undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs for the past 9 years – and counting.

Eligible current and former military service members and their spouses may qualify for a special rate of $300/credit hour ( learn more ) .

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Admission Information for Our PhD in Psychology

Admission requirements.

  • A non-refundable, non-transferable $50 application fee will be posted on the current application upon enrollment (waived for qualifying service members, veterans, and military spouses – documentation verifying military status is required) .
  • Send official college transcripts (mailed as sealed, unopened copies or sent via a direct electronic transcript system). A regionally or nationally accredited master’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA is required for admission in good standing.
  • Contact information  for 2 recommenders is required (approved recommenders are the student’s former college professors or supervisors).
  • Statement of Purpose  is required (1,000-1,500 words, double spaced).
  • Departmental approval is required.
  • Applicants whose native language is other than English must submit official scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or an approved alternative assessment. For information on alternative assessments or TOEFL waivers, please call Admissions or view the official International Admissions policy .

Preliminary Acceptance

If you are sending in a preliminary transcript for acceptance, you must:

  • Be in your final term and planning to start your doctoral degree after the last day of class for your master’s degree.
  • Complete a Master’s Self-Certification Form confirming your completion date. You may download the form from the Forms and Downloads page or contact an admissions counselor to submit the form on your behalf.
  • Submit an official transcript to confirm that you are in your final term. The preliminary transcript must show that you are within 6 credit hours of completion for a 30-48 credit hour master’s degree or within 9 credit hours of completion for a 49+ credit hour master’s degree.
  • Send in an additional, final official transcript with a conferral date on it by the end of your first semester of enrollment in the new doctoral degree.

Transcript Policies

Official college transcript policy.

An acceptable official college transcript is one that has been issued directly from the institution and is in a sealed envelope. If you have one in your possession, it must meet the same requirements. If your previous institution offers electronic official transcript processing, they can send the document directly to [email protected] .

Admissions Office Contact Information

(800) 424-9596

(888) 301-3577

Email for Questions

[email protected]

Email for Documents

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Lynchburg, VA 24515

Liberty University is dedicated to providing world-class educational experiences to military students across the globe.

Who May Qualify?

  • Active Duty
  • Reserve/National Guard
  • Veterans/Retirees
  • Spouses of Service Members and Veterans/Retirees

Military Tuition Discount

We want to help you find the doctoral degree you want – at a price you’ve earned. As a thank-you for your military service, Liberty University offers eligible current and former service members like you or your spouse multiple pathways to earn a doctoral degree for only $300/credit hour . Find out how you can take advantage of this unique opportunity as you work toward your goal of reaching the pinnacle of your profession – for less.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there opportunities to interact in-person with peers.

You can meet faculty and fellow students in person through optional on-campus intensives.

Can I have an impact through this degree?

Through your dissertation, you can contribute to the understanding of human experience and behavior.

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Is it Possible to Get My PhD After My MBA?

MBA graduate contemplating PhD degree

In academia, numerous accomplishments can be achieved. You can earn a dual degree and have expertise in multiple fields, or further your career potential by going back to school . But what about progressing from an MBA to a PhD? 

In regards to higher education, many consider earning a PhD, or doctorate degree, the pinnacle of success. Usually, due to passion for a particular industry or subject, a PhD candidate will spend years of rigorous research to unpack its intricacies and become a leading expert in the field.  At the end of their studies, they are able to finally see their work come to fruition when they receive their doctorate and join alongside other scholars. However, is it typical for an MBA graduate to move onto pursuing their PhD? And is there a specific purpose? Are there different types of PhD programs? What is the difference between a PhD and DBA?

To answer the budding question: yes, you can pursue your PhD after earning your MBA, and choosing to earn a doctorate is entirely up to you and your aspirations. To help you better understand if getting a PhD is the right choice, we look at the path an MBA graduate can take to earn their PhD, one of the higher purposes of a doctorate, and the different types of academic programs. 

What is a PhD, and What is it Used For? 

By definition, a PhD is a Doctor of Philosophy in a particular discipline, which is why it's also referred to as a doctorate. This focus is typically for individuals highly passionate about a specific subject matter, driven by the pursuit to understand it better through rigorous research. A majority of students seeking their PhD are eager researchers, although there are always exceptions, and each carries out years of highly intensive research to conclude their original thesis and earn their doctorate. 

In terms of translating your education into a career, a doctorate can be used in a plethora of fields, especially if one’s thesis is around a wider subject matter and can be a discipline applied to various industries (take organizational development, for example). For those who are passionate about a career in research, a doctoral degree is a perfect fit. Possibly the most popular field for those with a doctorate is a fruitful career in academia, teaching their subject matter to others interested in the same area. Many graduates become faculty members at business schools upon completing their PhD and provide their expertise to their students. Regardless of which industry you choose, you can be assured that a PhD will provide you with numerous opportunities. 

How Long Does it Take to Progress from an MBA to PhD?

The timeframe for earning your PhD can vary depending on program and location. Many countries have varying timelines of how long the completion of a doctoral program will take. In the United States, the average is around 4-5 years of completion after receiving your Master of Business Administration. 

Do You Need an MBA to Get a PhD?

To be accepted into a doctoral program, you must have a master’s degree. It does not have to be a Master of Business Administration, but it does need to be a master’s of some form. Depending on your area of specialization, it could be advantageous to earn your MBA in pursuit of a PhD if you are planning to embark on a career in business upon completion of your doctorate. Additionally, one important aspect to consider is the program itself. It is important to look into a program’s requirements before applying to meet the eligibility criteria. 

The Difference Between a DBA and a PhD 

For those specifically interested in a career in business, a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) is a highly beneficial doctoral program. A DBA focuses on a broader spectrum of business disciplines, dedicating research toward multiple corporate facets, and practical implementation. On the contrary, a PhD narrows into a specific area of discipline and research, emphasizing theory, and it’s potential implications. While both are heavily centered around research and implementation, a DBA sets business executives and leaders on a path to discover new possibilities for their organizations and businesses. In a way, it allows established business professionals to “trailblaze” the way for new and innovative ideas that can disrupt the market and set a precedent for the future of business.

Get Your MBA or DBA at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School

At Pepperdine Graziadio, we proudly offer degrees to accommodate business professionals at any stage of their lives and careers. Our full and part-time MBA programs are designed to prepare candidates for a successful career in values-based business leadership. All of our MBA programs offer a personalized learning approach executed by our world-class faculty. Each program is characterized by its top-ranked business curriculum that can be coupled with an academic concentration. 

Our Executive Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program has been carefully designed for the tenured business leader looking to drive groundbreaking innovations. This rigorous program allows candidates to gain in-depth knowledge and finetune their expertise through applied research. Also, executives enjoy learning alongside changemakers in various industries and participating in exclusive opportunities available only to DBA candidates.

Learn more about which programs fit your career aspirations and academic interests.

Learn more about how to achieve your career goals with a degree from Pepperdine Graziadio Business School.

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Ten Jobs Where You Can Use Your PhD

By Michelle Lanchart and Stacy Hartman

Earning a PhD provides you with more skills and career opportunities than you might think it does. Below are ten jobs where you can use your PhD—some in academic settings and some not. There are many other opportunities available to you; this list is just a place to start thinking about your career options.*

1. Staff culture writer, digital media company

Staff writers report on artistic and cultural events, providing analysis and context for a broad audience on a variety of topics. As a PhD, you already have the excellent writing and research skills the job requires, and your advanced training in the interpretation of literature, culture, and language enhances your ability to articulate the significance of cultural and artistic phenomena.

2. Dean of students, private high school

A dean of students leads curriculum design, develops academic and behavioral policies, and determines the best strategies to build students’ academic success. The research, leadership, and teaching experience you acquired while earning your PhD makes you a good candidate in this field.

3. Assistant professor, university or college department

An assistant professor teaches undergraduate (and, depending on the institution, graduate) courses, serves on committees that help determine academic and organizational policies for the department and institution, and conducts research, with an eye toward receiving tenure.

4. Research associate, variety of companies

As a research associate you would gather data to determine whether a product or service is desirable to consumers or companies. Your extensive experience conducting research and presenting it to a variety of audiences is a transferable skill that you bring to research associate positions.

5. Development writer, nonprofit or university

A development writer builds relationships with donors and increases public engagement through written and oral communication. Your ability to write about specialized research or technical activities for a general audience is useful for this position.

6. Assistant director, learning programs

Assistant directors have a variety of responsibilities, from providing instructional support to faculty members and graduate students to assessing and improving educational services. This can be an exciting opportunity to apply your teaching and leadership experience beyond the classroom.

7. Associate director, global programs

Associate directors work with faculty members to develop programs and curricula for students studying abroad. Your experiences teaching, developing educational programs, as well as studying, living, and researching abroad, are ideal for this position.

8. Program officer, think tank, foundation, or scholarly association

As a program officer you would take the lead in program development, which involves procuring grants and funding, managing projects, and overseeing budgets. These roles leverage your experience applying for funding and managing complex projects.

9. Copywriter, many companies and organizations

Copywriters produce and edit copy (i.e., writing) for marketing campaigns and then plan and implement those campaigns, which help companies promote products and services across a variety of media. Excellent research and writing skills and an ability to write for different audiences are essential for this job.

10. Curriculum designer, educational technology

Curriculum designers develop educational content and curricula to be delivered digitally to students or employees and often provide technical support to instructors or trainers. This is a great role for those who have developed skills in the digital humanities or in blended learning, and it also leverages your experiences in teaching and in curriculum development.

Your PhD gives you the skills to pursue a variety of career paths. To learn more about how to prepare for the job search and how to gain experience in the industries that interest you, visit the  Connected Academics Web site .

*Please note that the job ads are provided as examples and may no longer be accepting applications. A job ad’s inclusion in this list does not constitute an endorsement of the employer by the MLA.

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3 comments on “Ten Jobs Where You Can Use Your PhD”

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Steve Colburn says:

And don’t forget Government service at the Municipal, County, State, and Federal Level. I know Language and Literature academics who have pursued rewarding careers at all of these levels of Government service to the public, and have received good financial compensation, enjoyed reliable job security, defined-benefit pension programs, and the opportunity to pursue a challenging, rewarding job! Retired Training Manager and Senior Organizational Policy Analyst for Local County Government in Sunny South Florida! Life Member of the MLA, since Grad School in 1976.

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Peter Marbais says:

There are a number of language editing opportunities in addition to copy editing. I made the transition from teaching English literature and composition to editing documents for ESL writers aspiring to publish in English-language journals. My experience helping ESL students at the Kent State University writing center and in my composition courses paved the way to helping researchers from around the world. The work is highly rewarding, and there are a number of great resources available online for both contract editors (freelancers) and full-time editors. This link provides a good overview of several types of editing roles: https://www.thebalancesmb.com/freelance-editing-jobs-1360401 .

Peter Marbais, PhD, ELS Quality Control Editor III American Journal Experts, a Research Square company

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David -Ross Gerling says:

I made the transition to a law firm in Spain whose clients are Brits and American ex-pats or just foreigners in trouble with the Spanish legal system. My work as ex-pat advocate is every bit as satisfying and infinitely more lucrative than teaching Spanish . David-Ross Gerling, PhD

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College of Nursing

Easing the pressure: supporting icu nurse decision making through digital innovation.

Karen Dunn Lopez and Anna Krupp stand outside the CON building.

College of Nursing Assistant Professor Anna Krupp , PhD, MSHP, RN and Associate Professor Karen Dunn Lopez , PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN understand that intensive care unit (ICU) patients have a greater chance of developing functional decline, which may include new limitations in walking or a decreased ability to manage basic physical needs after hospital discharge. One common contributing factor for this is long periods of immobility, or remaining in bed, during ICU hospitalization.

With funding from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality , Krupp and Dunn Lopez are proposing to develop a decision support tool in the electronic health record. The goal is to make complex decisions about when it is safe to assist ICU patients out of bed more efficient for nurses. Currently, nurses look in multiple locations in the EHR for this information. The tool will summarize key patient information on one screen.

“ICU nurses make hundreds of decisions during a shift and the decision to assist a patient to sit on the edge of the bed or walk in the room requires that nurses know a lot about the patient and their stability over the previous shift,” said Clinical Assistant Professor and Co-Investigator Heather Dunn , PhD, ACNP-BC, ARNP. “Enhancing mobility in the ICU is crucial for positive patient outcomes. However, assessing readiness for activities like walking is challenging when data needs to be gathered from multiple sections of the medical record.”

Woman standing at classroom desk looking up, two people in front of her at desks looking at papers

The project will be conducted in two phases. First, they’ll develop the decision support tool with input from practicing ICU nurses. Next, the tool will be studied in two environments—a simulated EHR with nurses from across the nation and a real-world trial in the ICU.

Both Krupp and Dunn Lopez bring differing expertise. Dunn Lopez will use her knowledge with usability science and focus her time in a simulated setting identifying the ease, use, and effectiveness of the tool.

“One thing we know is that if something is not easy to use, it isn’t going to get used. But there are methods that can make sure that what you are developing is useful to the people who use it,” Dunn Lopez said.

Krupp will apply her ICU-based clinical expertise with her implementation science training to plan and study how decision support is used in everyday clinical practice.

Top: Assistant Professor Anna Krupp (left-right), Assistant Professor Heather Dunn, doctoral student Nikta Kia, and Associate Professor Karen Dunn Lopez discuss the results of a focus group they conducted on clinical decision making.

“The best-designed tool does not guarantee routine use in complex healthcare settings. Implementation science identifies and addresses contextual factors to help promote its use,” said Krupp.

Krupp and Dunn Lopez suspect the results of the study will influence a “pragmatic way of accelerating the use of patient data with guideline recommendations at the point of care to support ICU clinicians in delivering evidence-based care, decreasing the duration of bed rest, and reducing hospital-acquired functional decline.”

Read more from our spring 2024 alumni newsletter .

COMMENTS

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    Below are ten jobs where you can use your PhD—some in academic settings and some not. There are many other opportunities available to you; this list is just a place to start thinking about your career options.*. 1. Staff culture writer, digital media company. Staff writers report on artistic and cultural events, providing analysis and context ...

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  30. Easing the pressure: supporting ICU nurse decision making through

    Associate Professor Karen Dunn Lopez, left, and Assistant Professor Anna Krupp, College of Nursing Assistant Professor Anna Krupp, PhD, MSHP, RN and Associate Professor Karen Dunn Lopez, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN understand that intensive care unit (ICU) patients have a greater chance of developing functional decline, which may include new limitations in walking or a decreased ability to manage basic ...