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What are the Different Types of PhD Programs?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A variety of PhD programs and other doctoral studies abound. The many subjects in which a PhD can be earned represent significant diversity. Increasing options in the educational world also mean there are different ways a doctorate can be earned. Many people with the appropriate prerequisite education can turn to flexible learning environments that make doing doctoral work much less complicated than it was in the past.

Many doctoral degrees don’t result in PhDs. People can get degrees that represent just as much study in a field and examples include the juris doctorate (JD), the M.D. or doctor of medicine, the Psy.D (Doctor of Psychology), the DSW (Doctor of Social Work), the D.Sci (Doctor of Science), or the D.A. (Doctor of Arts). These are just a few of the many doctoral degrees on par with the PhD. Exactly what terminal degree a program offers is variable, but most of these degrees are accepted in the field with either the same or greater enthusiasm as PhDs. Certain professional degrees, like the JD or M.D. are almost always the degrees earned and a PhD doesn’t substitute for them.

Subject matter is hugely important when considering PhD programs, and the variety is so extensive, creating a full list would be difficult. Doctoral degrees are available in almost every field and may represent general studies or extreme specialization. Doctorates can be earned in the straight sciences, social sciences, mathematics, liberal arts, humanities, business and elsewhere. People will usually have a good sense of areas of interest, based on prior studies and career goals.

There are a number of ways people can earn a doctorate in PhD programs. Internet expansion has led to many schools offering online doctorates, and students should carefully weigh pursuing this avenue. Some degrees lack accreditation and won’t be professionally recognized.

Many online schools are accredited and represent rigorous study toward an advanced degree. Online PhD programs tend to be most successful when they don’t have traditional components requiring hands-on research or supervised practicum. Straight science and programs in health or allied health fields aren’t always well adapted to online studies.

Some universities compensate for this by offering part-time programs for working professionals or PhD programs with minimal residency requirements, where people might attend campus once a week or even once a month to do any hands-on or practical work. These options may be excellent for those interested in getting a doctorate, though they may take longer to complete.

Lots of universities still offer traditional PhD programs where they expect part-time or full-time students to spend a lot of time on campus, but many schools are diversifying to offer more options for students leading busy lives. This is excellent news for the many people who couldn’t accommodate traditional schedules in the past. With a little searching, they may able to find perfectly adapted PhD programs that allow them to pursue a terminal degree in their field.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor...
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