Online PhD in Cultural Studies: Degree Program Overview

Apr 22, 2021

Essential Information

Fully-online doctoral degree programs in cultural studies are rare to nonexistent, although some schools offer hybrid (online and on-campus) programs in the closely-related fields of interdisciplinary studies and indigenous studies. These programs involve on-campus coursework and may have residency requirements. Online post-baccalaureate certificate programs are more common. While applicants with a master's degree are preferred, exceptionally qualified students with a bachelor's degree may be considered. Admissions favor applicants with professional work in the field and teaching experience.

One possible career choice in this broad field is postsecondary teaching. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the minimum educational requirement for postsecondary teachers is typically a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), although a master's degree is acceptable for some postsecondary teaching positions.

Ph.D. Degrees Related to Cultural Studies

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Cultural Studies programs are difficult to find. Distance education options with some on-campus requirements are available in indigenous studies and interdisciplinary studies. Students may concentrate on cultural research, knowledge systems, education, languages or leadership. Students are encouraged to focus their research on the indigenous cultures near the location of the school.

Information and Requirements

Although parts of these programs are offered online, schools usually have residency requirements and schedule mandatory on-campus seminars from one to three weeks each semester. Some schools only offer up to half of the coursework as distance education.

During periods of distance education, students and faculty use electronic methods of communication including teleconferencing, course websites and e-mail. Personal computers should have recent versions of browsing and word processing software. Some schools require access to a computer with a Windows operating system.

List of Common Doctorate Level Courses

Students in doctorate programs learn how to design studies, collect data, conduct qualitative research and analyze quantitative data. Common courses include:

Culture and Language

This course studies the interdependence of culture and language, examining correlating changes over time. Students examine theories of semiotics and communication with emphasis on certain languages and schools of anthropology and linguistics.

Economic Anthropology

Students learn about the interrelation of social relationships and economics. This class covers a variety of economic structures, sizes and topics including, markets, exchanges, economic development and political economies.

Cognition and Culture

In this class, students explore perception, thinking and learning in a cultural context. This course focuses on the effect of culture on knowledge acquisition in terms of teaching and school.

Graduate Certificates Related to Cultural Studies

More common than online doctorate programs, students with at least a bachelor's degree can earn graduate certificates with specialized or interdisciplinary perspectives on culture. Graduate certificate programs require four or five courses each or between 12-15 credit hours. Many schools allow these credits to be transferred to a graduate degree program.

Certificate in Global Studies

A certificate in global studies consists of classes in the social sciences, sciences and humanities. Students examine worldwide social, environmental, and cultural issues in terms of individual cultures, geographical regions and global interactions.

Certificate in Native American Studies

Students learn about Native American art, religion, societal structure and education. This program also covers historic and current legal relations between the U.S. Federal government and Indian nations.

Certificate in Disability Studies

This program explores cultural diversity and the concept of disability as a factor of biology, political situation, economic environment and educational limitations. Academic subjects include professional topics, law, political science, health and sociology. Students consider methods of problems solving and effective change.

Career Information

Graduates of cultural studies programs may be qualified for careers in politics, global marketing, public health, anthropology and education. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), postsecondary teachers of cultural studies had a mean annual wage of $88,790 as of May 2020 ( The BLS projected job growth of 5% for postsecondary teachers of cultural studies, faster than the average for all occupations, from 2019-2029.

Since online doctoral degree programs in cultural studies are largely unavailable, students may choose between alternative options. These alternatives include hybrid courses on interdisciplinary or indigenous studies and online post-baccalaureate certificates in global, Native American, or disability studies.

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