How Long Does it Take to Earn a Doctoral Degree?

How Long Does It Take to Get a Doctorate Degree?

Recognized as the pinnacle of education, a doctoral degree represents a person’s steadfast commitment to lifelong learning and their desire to become a definitive expert in their chosen field of study. The doctoral community is an exclusive group of thought leaders, scientists, and subject-matter experts who solve problems and conduct research at the highest levels of the public and private sectors. For these reasons, Ashford University students and prospective doctoral candidates often ask what it takes to earn a doctoral degree and what it means for their future.  

A Growing Community of Experts

Since the dawn of the millennium, the United States has seen a surge in college graduates committing to advanced degrees. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 4.5 million people now hold a doctoral degree, an increase of 125% since 2000. 

“The vast majority of students are hungry for knowledge and expertise; and they have personal goals for earning a doctoral degree,” explains Dr. Rebecca Wardlow, the program chair for Ashford University’s Doctor of Philosophy in Education. “With that in mind, it often leads to career opportunities that they never imagined.”

A Different Kind of Commitment

When choosing whether or not to commit to a college degree, you have to ask yourself how much time you can commit to your education. After all, a doctoral degree program requires a different kind of commitment. 

“If you’ve been successful in the master’s program, you can be successful here as well,” Dr. Wardlow explains. “You have to be willing to put in the time. It’s not the intellectual challenge, it’s time management that’s the biggest hurdle.”

Unlike a master’s degree program, which is typically comprised of roughly 30 credits, depending on the specific degree, a doctoral degree requires nearly twice as many credits. At Ashford University, the Doctor of Psychology, Doctor of Philosophy in Human Services, and the Doctor of Philosophy in Organizational Development and Leadership are each comprised of 62 credits. Ashford’s Doctor of Philosophy in Education is comprised of 59 credits. 

Typically, it can take anywhere from 3 to 5 years or more to finish a doctoral program, but this ranges depending on a variety of factors, including the program design and transfer credits applied to the degree, among others. 

These programs are longer because you must demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the material and the research involved. Outside of the core courses and specialization courses, doctoral programs can include capstone projects, seminars, and in-residence workshops, as well as dissertations (popularly known as the thesis).  

Earning Your Doctoral Degree at a Steady Pace

Ashford University’s doctoral programs also boast the flexible class schedule that students have come to expect from Ashford. Doctoral students take one course at a time, and courses typically last from six to nine weeks. While most of the learning is done online, doctoral students have the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge in person during three in-residence weekend workshops.

“You’ll come together and work face-to-face with professors, other students, and Ashford’s student support services,” Dr. Wardlow says of the in-residence workshops. “It’s really an opportunity to focus on the individual student and discuss their research goals and dissertation.”

A Quicker Path to Graduation

While some Ashford students transition immediately from one degree to the next, others transfer to the University and bring with them a lifetime of educational and professional experience that can help them graduate faster.

Doctoral students are able to transfer up to 30 approved credits toward their degree programs at Ashford University. This can essentially cut the time needed to finish their degrees in half. 

A Support System to Keep You on Track 

As you ascend from one level of education to the next, a certain amount of anxiety is expected. After all, a doctoral program requires the largest commitment. Fortunately, Ashford University students have a built-in support system that is always accessible via the online classroom. The University’s Writing Center is staffed with experts who can help review assignments, and the Ashford Library is the ultimate resource for research. Both are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week.\

Additionally, Ashford boasts a Career Services team that specializes in training students for a future beyond graduation, as well as a bevy of student organizations that allow you to build your network and gain valuable insight from professionals in your chosen field. 

If you’re considering becoming one of the two percent of Americans who hold doctoral degrees, you’ll want to gather as much information as possible before making your decision. Talk with an Ashford advisor about your options and the commitment involved, and start planning for your future today. 

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Written by Ashford University staff

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