Doctoral Degree

Generally speaking, a doctorate degree represents the highest possible level of education in a given subject. Most people are familiar with the medical doctorate degree (MD), which qualifies an individual to practice in medicine. However, it's actually possible to earn a doctorate in just about any subject.

Find Doctoral Degree

Doctoral Degree
Degree Level
5–8 years*
Master's Degree
School Type
4 year College

Online doctorate degree programs can be an ideal means of furthering your education if you are already working full-time and can't take time off to go back to school.

Outside of the medical profession, very few careers actually require a doctorate degree. But earning a doctorate can be helpful in terms of making yourself stand out in comparison to other candidates when entering into the career market. Those with doctorate degrees often work in fields, such as engineering, teaching, science, and psychology.

Did You Know?

Many students are put off from seeking doctorate degrees because they're concerned about cost and incurring student debt. However, in many subjects, business for example, doctoral degree candidates may actually receive funding, depending on the university they attend. Students in doctoral programs often "earn" their financial assistance by serving as research or teaching assistants.

Types of Doctoral Degrees

While medical doctorate degrees are arguably the most familiar type, many other types of doctorate degrees are awarded. In broad terms, doctorate degrees can be broken down into four basic categories.

Research doctorates are awarded to recognize the academic research a student conducts during while pursuing their degree. Often this research is published in academic journals.

There is also a higher tier of research doctorates that may be awarded to students who formally submit portfolios of published research that meets very high standards. Examples of this type of doctorate include Doctor of Sciences or a Doctor of Letters.

Professional doctorates are generally awarded in subjects where scholarly research forms an integral part of the field. Examples of such fields include law, medicine, and psychology.

Honorary doctorates are typically awarded when a school wants to recognize an individual's contribution to a specific field of study or as recognition for philanthropic contributions of some kind.

What's Next? Beyond the Doctorate

When it comes to higher education, you can't really get much higher than a doctorate degree. Once you've become a doctor of your field of study, you can continue to learn and study, but there are no more advanced degrees to pursue beyond doctorate level.

However, depending on your field of study, having such a degree may potentially qualify you for a position as a university professor, a doctor, or a research scientist. But as mentioned before, aside from medicine, there are very few careers that actually require a doctorate degree.

*Depends on doctorate program type, time frame is an estimate.

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