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What Can I Expect from an Online Doctorate Degree Program?

Terminal degrees are the final degrees that students can earn in a subject, and many colleges now offer online doctoral degree programs. Students have the freedom to take their required classes through an online format and to connect with their course mates and professors online too. Many of the top programs give students the option of working with their peers on the campus and in other school settings too. As most online doctoral programs charge an application fee, it’s important that students know what to expect before applying to one of them.

Related resource: 20 Best Online Schools for Doctorate Degrees

Time Frame

One thing students should expect when enrolling in one of these programs is that it will take some time. They shouldn’t expect to earn their degrees overnight or even within the next year. Most programs include at least three years of work. Colleges expect students to spend two years to complete all required classes and their electives. During the final year, they can do their dissertations. The amount of time it takes to finish an online doctoral degree can also depend on how many classes the student can take. They may only take one or two classes. Colleges often have a limit as to how long students have to finish a program, which is usually between five and seven years.

Online Classes

The biggest part of an online doctoral program is the online work that students do. Colleges base the number and type of classes they take on their backgrounds. If a student has a graduate degree and five years of professional experience, the school may waive some required classes and let students graduate faster. Those who have no experience may need to take some introductory courses first. Some of the doctoral programs available online are combined programs that accept students who have only a bachelor’s degree and let them finish all the graduate and doctoral courses in a set number of years.

Dissertation Work

To earn a doctoral degree, a student must submit a dissertation. Graduate programs have a thesis component, but doctoral programs have a more detailed and complex dissertation component. The dissertation is usually at least 100 pages in length up to more than 1,000 pages, though some programs will accept papers that are shorter. It serves as the culmination of all the work the student did. Many colleges publish the work and make the dissertations available in their libraries. Online students can expect to spend at least one year using online and offline resources to complete a dissertation.

Offline Opportunities

A large number of doctoral programs available online now include some offline opportunities. According to Ronald Wellman of U.S. News and World Report, this can include a symposium, which asks students to attend an event on-campus. Symposiums allow students to listen to guest speakers and discuss issues in the field as well as get help with their dissertations. Online colleges may require that students take one or more classes on their campuses too. Some colleges ask that students do an offline orientation before taking any online classes.

Though it can take seven years to complete a doctoral degree, many students find that those degrees help them progress in their careers and make more money in the long run. An online doctoral degree program offers an alternative for students to complete their degrees, though they should expect to do some offline work.