Types of Doctorate Degrees: Everything You Need to Know!


When it comes to pursuing higher education, a doctorate degree is often regarded as the highest level of academic achievement. Obtaining a doctorate degree not only provides individuals with an extensive knowledge in a specific field, but it also offers numerous opportunities for career advancement and personal growth.

There are various types of doctorate degrees available, each with its own unique qualities and requirements. As a study adviser, it is essential to understand these different types of doctorate degrees in order to guide and provide students with the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions about their academic journey.

This post will delve into the different types of doctorate degrees, including PhDs, Professional Doctorates, and other alternative programs, as well as tips for choosing the right doctorate program.

PhD Degrees

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree is the most commonly recognized type of doctorate degree program. A PhD program involves working closely with a faculty advisor to conduct research and complete a dissertation in a specific field of study. The dissertation should be an original contribution to the field and demonstrate the student’s mastery of the subject matter.

The benefits of obtaining a PhD are numerous. PhD holders are often highly regarded in their field and can pursue numerous career paths, including academia, research, and industry. Additionally, a PhD degree can open doors to higher salary opportunities and greater job security.

PhD programs are prevalent in fields such as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), Education, and Humanities. While the program length may vary depending on the field, PhD programs often require a minimum of 3-5 years to complete. Graduates of a PhD program often hold positions as professors in universities, researchers, or experts in their field.

Professional Doctorate Degrees

The Professional Doctorate is a doctoral program that is designed to prepare students for a specific profession or practice. Unlike PhD programs, Professional Doctorate programs often have a focus on applied research, rather than theoretical research.

Professional Doctorate programs are common in fields such as Medicine, Law, Business, and Education. Programs such as Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD), Juris Doctor (JD), Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), and Doctor of Education (EdD) are all considered Professional Doctorate degrees.

Career paths with a Professional Doctorate degree vary based on the specific program. Graduates of the Doctor of Medicine program may work as physicians, while graduates of the Juris Doctor program may work as lawyers. Graduates with a Professional Doctorate degree can also work in industry, government, or academia.

Professional Doctorate degrees typically take 3-6 years to complete, depending on the field and program requirements. The programs often include intensive coursework, practical training, and a capstone project or internship.

Alternative Doctorate Degrees

Aside from PhDs and Professional Doctorates, there are also alternative types of doctoral programs available for students. These programs also provide students with doctoral-level education, but may have different requirements and focus.

Some examples of alternative doctorate programs include Doctor of Education (EdD), Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), and Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). These programs have their own unique curriculum and focus on specific fields.

For example, the Doctor of Education program is designed for educators who want to pursue administrative or leadership roles in their field. The Doctor of Physical Therapy and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs are designed for professionals in their respective healthcare fields who wish to advance their knowledge and skills to become experts in their field. And the Doctor of Psychology program is designed for those who wish to become licensed clinical psychologists.

Each of these alternative programs can open up opportunities for career advancement and increasing knowledge in specific fields. These programs can also be tailored to fit a student’s schedule and needs.

If you are interested in pursuing an alternative doctoral program, it is important to research the program’s requirements and curriculum as well as speak with professionals in the field. To get a better understanding of the hardest engineering majors, check out this resource for more information.

Tips for Choosing a Doctorate Program

Choosing the right doctoral program can be a challenging decision. Here are some tips to keep in mind when seeking out the right program:

  1. Consider what type of doctorate program aligns with your personal and professional goals. Do you want to pursue a career in academia or industry? Do you want to focus on research or applied practice?
  2. Research the available programs and institutions. Look up the faculty in your field of interest, the program requirements, and opportunities for funding or scholarships.
  3. Connect with faculty and students in the program. Attend open houses or schedule meetings with faculty members to understand the culture, values, and expectations of the program. This will also give you a better sense of the research being conducted in the program and their potential fit with your research interests.
  4. Consider other factors such as program location, duration, and cost. Will you be able to relocate for the program? How long will it take to complete? What financial support is provided?
  5. Finally, trust your instincts. Choose a program that aligns with your passions and goals, but also with your personal values and work style.

By taking these considerations into account and doing your research, you can feel empowered and confident in your decision to pursue a doctorate degree.

Interesting facts

Here are some interesting facts about types of doctorate degrees:

– According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the most common field of study for new doctorate recipients in 2018-2019 was Education, with 10,422 degrees awarded.
– In addition to traditional PhD and Professional Doctorate programs, there are alternative doctorate degrees such as Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM).
– While many doctoral programs require a significant investment of time and money, there are some easy majors that pay well, such as communications, marketing, and psychology. You can find out more about these majors by checking out Robert Virona’s article on the topic.

Don’t let the idea of pursuing a doctorate degree intimidate you. There are options available in a variety of fields and with different requirements.


What is the difference between a PhD and a Professional Doctorate?

A PhD is a research-oriented degree focused on producing original research. A Professional Doctorate is geared towards professionals already in a specific field looking to increase their expertise and gain advanced practical skills.

How long does it take to complete a Doctorate program?

This varies by program and field of study, but most take at least 4-5 years to complete.

How much does it cost to get a Doctorate degree?

Again, this varies by program and institution, but a Doctorate degree can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $200,000.

What types of careers can I pursue with a Doctorate degree?

Potential careers include academia, research, consulting, and various professions in fields such as law or medicine.

How do I choose the right Doctorate program?

Factors to consider include your research interests, career goals, and personal preferences such as geographic location and program structure.

How do I pay for a Doctorate degree?

There are various sources of funding, including fellowships, grants, scholarships, and loans.

Can I work while completing my Doctorate degree?

This depends on the program and level of flexibility it offers. Many students are able to work part-time or juggle other obligations while pursuing a Doctorate.

What is the acceptance rate for Doctorate programs?

This varies widely by program and institution. Top-ranked programs can have acceptance rates as low as 5% while others may accept a much larger portion of applicants.

What is the difference between a traditional and online Doctorate program?

Traditional programs typically involve more in-person instruction, interaction with faculty, and access to research resources while online programs offer greater flexibility and convenience.

Can I switch fields when pursuing a Doctorate degree?

It is possible, but may require additional coursework. Admissions committees may also be more selective in this situation.

Real experience

Ana always had a drive for learning, and as a child, she knew she wanted to work in a profession that would make a positive impact on society. Her parents were both teachers and often brought her along to conferences and workshops. It was at one such conference when Ana was 14 that she first heard about Doctorate degrees. She was mesmerized by the idea of conducting original research, furthering knowledge, and earning the highest degree in her field.

Years passed, and Ana received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Psychology, but she couldn’t shake the idea of pursuing a Doctorate. However, she wasn’t sure which type of Doctorate was right for her. She knew she wanted to work in research and teach, but didn’t know if she should go for a PhD or a Professional Doctorate.

After much deliberation, Ana decided to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology. She knew she wanted to work in academia and research, and a PhD would give her the opportunity to conduct her own research and contribute to the field’s overall understanding of psychology. She also enjoyed working with clients and wanted to continue seeing patients part-time.

Ana spent the next five years in her PhD program, working on her dissertation and conducting research on mental health treatments. It wasn’t always easy, but she was passionate about her work and determined to make a difference. After completing her degree, Ana landed a tenure-track position at a university. She now teaches and conducts research on evidence-based mental health treatments, and continues to see clients at a private practice she started on the side.

Ana’s journey to earning her Doctorate was long and challenging, but it was all worth it for the opportunity to contribute to her field of study while also making a positive impact on her clients.


Obtaining a doctorate degree is a significant achievement that can open up numerous opportunities for career advancement and personal growth. Understanding the different types of doctorate degrees is essential in making informed decisions about your educational journey.

PhD and Professional Doctorate programs are the most commonly recognized types of doctorate degrees, but there are also alternative doctoral programs that can provide specialized education in fields such as education, nursing, physical therapy, and psychology.

When considering a doctorate program, take time to research available programs, connect with faculty and students, and determine which program aligns best with your goals and interests. By making informed decisions, you can feel confident in your educational journey and the possibilities that await.

If you are interested in pursuing a doctorate degree in social sciences, check out our list of Doctorate Degree Programs in Social Sciences for more information and guidance.

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