Best PhD for the Future

Jun 01, 2020

When attending college, you want to be sure that the amount of time that you put in for a lengthy degree, like a PhD, will be beneficial for your future. While salary is always something you'll want to consider for a return on the investment, for the best PhD programs for the future, you may want to see what careers hold good outlooks as well.

Best Career Outlooks

Job Career Outlook (2018-2028)* Average Salary (2019)*
Nurse Practitioner 28% $111,840
Statistician 31% $95,680
Mathematician 26% $107,280
Genetic Counselor 27% $84,310
Physical Therapist 22% $90,170

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Best PhD Programs for the Future

PhD in Nursing

There are two kinds of doctoral degrees for the nursing field: PhD and DNP. The DNP is typically the degree that nurse practitioners earn because it is the practical degree. Compared to the DNP, a PhD degree also gives you an advanced education but with a research focus, so you can work in the medical sciences field. These programs tend to look at advanced research methods, ethics in clinical research, research design, health policies, leadership in health, and scientific inquiry.

PhD in Mathematics or Statistics

Though these programs are not the same, they are similar enough that careers often accept applicants with a degree in either. It's clear that you'll study math, as well as the theories that go along with math and statistics. These programs will look at the way you can research and teach in the math and statistics fields. You'll likely study the Bayesian inference, linear models, categorical data analysis, probability, and algebraic topology. Typically, these programs culminate in a teaching internship and/or research dissertation.

PhD in Human Genetics

These programs, which are typically 70+ credit hours, often build off of other master's in genetics programs. You may need to take a qualifying exam before being able to proceed to the second year of the PhD program to prove that you have the capacity to succeed in this research program. You can also sometimes focus your human genetics program further with a concentration, for instance, a concentration in molecular genetics or genetic counseling. This will typically culminate in a research dissertation and an oral defense.

PhD in Physical Therapy

Most PhD in physical therapy programs are geared toward students who are currently licensed physical therapists who hold a master's. Some do not need to be licensed at the time of application, but must have some clinical experience as a physical therapist. In this program, you'll likely look at course subjects that deal with measuring the physical health of patients, as well as issues in physical therapy research. Most importantly, you'll study teaching methods for physical therapists, education for patients, and research methods to write your dissertation.

Career Options

Now that we've seen the outlooks and salaries for some of these careers, let's look at what you'll do in these careers. We'll also discuss how the PhD can help you in these career choices.

Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners are the doctors of the nursing field. While they do not hold medical degrees, they may diagnose and treat patients the same as doctors. If licensed, they can also administer and write prescriptions. Nurse practitioners can also narrow their focus in any specific medical field, so you can specialize in any age bracket or part of the anatomy. A PhD would also allow you to pass on your knowledge as a professor at an institution.


The BLS lumps mathematicians and statisticians together for what their duties are. In general, you'll collect data to answer questions or problems. You may, especially with a PhD, help to develop new mathematical theories and rules. One of the most important things you'll do is design different data-gathering techniques, such as surveys, polls, and questionnaires. Once you've collected the data, you'll analyze the data, looking for trends and relationships. You'll also create reports and charts and graphs for clients, which is where the research aspect will be handy.

Genetic Counselor

Though a master's degree is typically required to become a genetic counselor, a PhD will allow you to better research or teach the field. As a genetic counselor, you'll counsel patients and evaluate the possible genetic disorders that could be inherited by patients. You'll cover tests and explain the risks and benefits of these tests. With a PhD, you'll likely be able to write better reports and consultations for patients, as well as be a part of the research team to advance the genetic testing field. It is also very common for genetic counselors to work in cancer departments and prenatal wards.

Physical Therapist

Physical therapists are part of the medical field. They work with patients post-injury or post-op to strengthen bones and muscles, among other parts of the body involved in movement. Using exercises and stretching, patients may be able to regain mobility and flexibility. You'll often educate your patients on ways to work from home and to continue the exercises and prevent injuries from reoccurring. Working in research, you'll be able to help improve the medical mobility field and consult with surgeons and doctors.

There are several careers that have good outlooks in the future. By looking at those that the BLS has stated as some of the fastest growing careers, we can see what fields are best for studying, which include mathematics, nursing, genetics, and physical therapy.

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