What Doctoral Degree is Right for Me?

college graduate

Of all the complicated questions facing prospective graduate students, none may hold more prominence than “What advanced degree should I earn?”

Unlike an undergraduate program, in which you don’t have to declare your major immediately, knowing what doctoral degree to pursue is a decision that should be made long before you submit your application. Many students will have already made up their minds early in their academic careers, proving that it’s never too soon to start planning. If you’re considering an online doctoral degree but not sure which one is right for you, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading for a breakdown of the different online doctoral degrees available at Ashford University and discover which path best aligns with your academic and professional goals.

The Differences in Doctoral Degrees

Ashford University’s College of Doctoral Studies offers two types of doctoral degrees for graduate students: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Doctor of Psychology (PsyD).

The Doctor of Philosophy, according to the American Psychological Association, is for students “interested in generating new knowledge through scientific research (i.e., setting up experiments, collecting data, applying statistical and analytical techniques) and/or gaining teaching experience.”

Research is the standout word in the description, a reminder that a bulk of your doctoral courses will involve research design and statistics, among other topics. This type of work will prepare you to create original research in your chosen profession.

The Doctor of Psychology is an alternative to the PhD “for those more interested in providing psychological services rather than conducting disciplinary research,” according to the APA. It suggests a more hands-on approach for graduates and could potentially lead to careers that involve working directly with people.

At Ashford University, there are four distinct fields of study that fall under the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree programs. Here’s a closer look at each.

1. The apex of academics

If you are you committed to reaching the apex of academics, then a Doctor of Philosophy in Education is worthy of your pursuit. A PhD in Education is for students who want to pursue careers in academia and conduct research at the collegiate level. Courses in educational leadership will challenge your thinking and approach to academics, while you will also explore topics such as diversity in education, culture, curriculum and learning, and integrating technology and instructional design. 

2. A powerful helping hand

If you want to engage people and improve quality of life at every level of your community, a Doctor of Philosophy in Human Services online degree will help you become the most qualified, well-researched, and compassionate candidate. 

Human services students excel at critical thinking and apply their knowledge to roles in nonprofit organizations, social and community services, academics, and government agencies. Ashford University’s Doctor of Philosophy in Human Services allows students to choose from three specializations: Mental Health Administration, Nonprofit Management, and Standard Human Services. These specializations allow you to laser-focus on your chosen field of study to best prepare you for your post-graduate career. 

3. Captain a well-oiled machine

Cutting-edge companies need cutting-edge leaders who come prepared with extensive analytical backgrounds and the ability to research, plan, and implement change with organizational buy-in from the top down. 

If this is your goal, you may be a prime candidate for Ashford University’s Doctor of Philosophy in Organizational Development and Leadership. The online degree program includes courses in psychology, performance management, and leading organizational change, and gives you the choice of four specializations: Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Organizational Diversity, Standard Organizational Development and Leadership, and Training and E-Learning

4. From college to clinical career path

Your Doctor of Psychology degree prepares a path for a career in a patient-facing capacity. If you want to work directly with those in need or are wondering how to make an immediate impact in someone’s life, then this degree may be right for you.

Psychologists are masters of observing and interpreting behavior and are some of the most sought after professionals in the job market. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that “employment of psychologists is projected to grow 14 percent” through 2026, a faster than average rate for all occupations.  

A Doctor of Psychology online degree program can prepare you for careers in multiple fields, which is why Ashford University’s PsyD program comes with six specializations: Criminology and Justice Studies, Educational Leadership, Health and Wellness Psychology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, Meditation and Conflict Resolution, and Sport and Performance Psychology.

Like the classic Scout motto tells us, you must be prepared before making your decision, especially when it comes to earning an online doctoral degree. That means you’ll need to research everything there is to know about the different options. It will require a lot of work and decision making, but if you’re serious about your doctoral degree, it will be worth it to do your homework and select the degree path that best aligns with your passions. 

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By Ashford University Staff

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Are you currently a licensed RN?

This program requires you to be a current licensed registered nurse. Please check out other programs to reach your education goals such as the BA in Health and Wellness.