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About Doctorate's Degrees

According to the United States Department of Education, a doctorate’s degree is the highest earned academic pedigree in U.S. postsecondary education. Doctorate’s degree programs are more formal and complex than both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs are. This is because throughout a doctorate’s degree program, students are expected to already think and act like industry experts, thus preparing them for successful completion. Many doctorate’s degree programs can take up to 8 years to complete.

What do You Need in Order to Pursue a Doctorate’s Degree?

Although at one time it was essential for a student to have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree before applying for a doctorate’s degree program, many schools now offer combined master’s degree-doctorate’s degree programs. If there is a combined program in your chosen field of study, then all you need is a bachelor’s degree to apply.

However, doctorate’s degree programs are difficult to get into, and many have very limited space each year. Therefore, if you are attempting to get into a specific program with just a bachelor’s degree, it is helpful to have a very thorough academic outline and goal to present to the selection committee. Also, it is important to have outstanding credentials, both classroom and field-based, that will help separate you from all other potential candidates vying for admission.

What Kinds of Doctorate’s Degree Programs Are There?

The most popular doctorate’s degree program is the doctor of philosophy (PhD). Students in the arts and sciences can earn PhD’s, and there is not a PhD of Arts or Science individually. This degree usually entails a lot of coursework and examinations, as well as an extensive amount of independent research on a topic you choose to study. Your research is presented at the end of your program in the form of a dissertation.

If you already completed a master’s thesis, your thesis can serve as the foundation for your dissertation. Just as with your master’s degree, your must have a mentor who will guide you through the dissertation process. Your dissertation will face a committee, and you will need to actively and successfully defend it in order to be granted your PhD. People with PhD’s can usually go on to become professors at the university level, or any other career that pertains to their high level of specialization and subject matter expertise.

In addition to a PhD, there are several other types of doctorate’s degrees, including:

  • MD, or Medicine doctor
  • JD, or Juris Doctor

Doctors, surgeons and other medical professionals earn MD’s upon the successful completion of medical school. Attorneys earn JD’s upon successful completion of law school. These degrees typically do not require extensive dissertations, but are more practice and assessment based. Students in both of these fields also must earn additional certifications, for example Bar Certification for attorneys, in order to legally practice their craft in each state throughout the nation.

Successful graduates of doctorate’s programs have demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt their proficiency in their chosen fields, and can gain prosperous and potentially prominent employment in private, public and governmental sectors.

How Difficult is it to Earn a Doctorate’s Degree?

The amount of time and effort expended during a doctorate’s degree program, up to and including the dissertation, is a large part of why some candidates do not end up following through entirely. Specifically, the dissertation tends to trip some students up. Unfortunately, failure to complete the dissertation is a major reason some doctoral candidates don't complete these programs. Instead, they choose to write "ABD" (All But Dissertation) on their resumes.

However, do not let this dissuade you in the slightest. If you have a passion for a specific topic, for making positive changes in the academic world, as well as the world-at-large…and if you want to become an unquestionable expert in your field of study, then pursuing a doctorate’s degree is more than worth the time consumed, money spent and effort expended during the course of it.

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