Should I get a PhD Online in 2019?

Should I get a PhD Online in 2019?

Whether you are looking for a new opportunity, career advancement, or the personal satisfaction of completing the highest-level degree in your field, once you have decided to pursue a PhD, the next question becomes “What school should I attend?” 

Although a brick and mortar campus PhD program might be ideal for students who live and/or work on or near campus and who are able to pursue their degree full time, many find life circumstances do not allow for the traditional learning experience. 

While not all disciplines are well suited for online learning (ie science or medicine) many degree programs now are accessible online from a wide variety of universities. For example, Ashford University offers three PhD programs through the College of Doctoral Studies

•    Doctor of Philosophy in Education
•    Doctor of Philosophy in Human Services
•    Doctor of Philosophy in Organizational Development and Leadership

At Ashford, doctoral degree students must complete up to 62 credits. You can take one course at a time, and each range in length from six to eight weeks. As part of the PhD program, you also will be required to participate in in-residence workshops and complete a doctoral dissertation, which typically takes approximately one year to complete but for some could take several years to finish, depending on your research needs. 

Is Earning a PhD Online Easier than Through a Traditional Program?

Contrary to what some might believe, earning any degree online, especially a PhD, is not easy. In fact, for many, it poses a greater challenge than pursuing the degree through a brick and mortar institution. Studies have demonstrated that online education can be harder than on-campus learning because it requires more discipline, personal motivation, and perseverance. Attending a course is never enough. You must actively participate in each course according to the requirements to earn credit and a passing grade. 

Therefore, success as an online student requires:

•    Superior time management
•    Self-motivation
•    Advanced online collaboration skills
•    Advanced computer literacy
•    Ability to learn independently

What are the Benefits of Earning a PhD Online?

There are a number of benefits to earning a PhD online, but doing so also requires a particular level of discipline that should be considered before making your final decision about whether to earn a PhD online and from what institution.

The very personalized nature of a doctoral degree program lends itself well to the online environment, where faculty members and a small group of students work closely together to explore an area of study deeply. Many online programs are specifically designed for students who are working in the field and will build on your knowledge and experience in the assignments and research. 

Read Related Blogs About Earning a Doctoral Degree

Doctoral Degree vs. Master's Degree: Which Is Right for Me? »
Top Reasons to Earn a Doctoral Degree in Human Services »
Why Should I Get a PhD in Education? An Interview with Dr. Rebecca Wardlow »
What Can You Do with a Doctor of Psychology Degree? »

Communicating with a professor online, and having access to them through the online classroom and via email, often allows for the development of a deep personal relationship. A mega-analysis of research commissioned by the US Department of Education in 2008 found that classes with online learning (completely online or hybrid with in person components) on average produced stronger student learning outcomes than classes taught solely face to face. These findings further validate the rigor and value of online learning which continues to increase in popularity with more than six million online learners reported by The Distance Education Enrollment Report (2017).

An online PhD program also offers you the flexibility to study when time allows – watching lectures, completing discussion boards, and working on assignments – when you can fit it into your schedule. Courses will most likely still include specific due dates, but being able to structure your schedule to suit your needs is especially ideal if you work or have other obligations such as a family.

Further, many online programs include an opportunity for students and faculty to come together on occasion in a face-to-face session for an “In Residence” or a “Residency Program.” These weeks or weekends are structured for in-depth learning, the building of learning communities and networks, and advancing the knowledge and expertise of the students. When reviewing potential doctoral programs, it is important to understand what these requirements are and ensure that you are able to build them into your educational plan.

Undertaking a doctoral program is a tremendous commitment, so it is important to know all of the necessary information prior to beginning any program. However, pursuing a PhD will challenge you intellectually, encourage you to dive deeper into your area of interest than ever before, and help you reach the pinnacle of your education.

In an upcoming blog on earning a doctoral degree, we will examine how long it takes to earn a doctoral degree, as well as review what a dissertation is and what is required as part of the research requirement. In the meantime, you can get many of your questions answered in this Q&A. For more information, contact an Ashford advisor.

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Written by Dr. Rebecca Wardlow, chair of Ashford University’s Doctor of Philosophy in Education program.

Questions? Talk with an Advisor