Best PhD for the Future

Oct 31, 2018

How can we tell what PhD programs will be best for the future? In this article, we'll look at some of the careers with the best outlook until 2026, as well as more information about those careers that led us to the program choices.

View popular schools

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 (2016-2026)* Average Salary (2017)*
Nurse Practitioner 36% $107,480
Statistician 34% $88,980
Mathematician 30% $104,700
Genetic Counselor 29% $74,960
Physical Therapist 28% $87,220

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.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Agriculture
  • Architecture
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Business
  • Communications and Journalism
  • Computer Sciences
  • Culinary Arts and Personal Services
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Legal
  • Liberal Arts and Humanities
  • Mechanic and Repair Technologies
  • Medical and Health Professions
  • Physical Sciences
  • Psychology
  • Transportation and Distribution
  • Visual and Performing Arts

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.

Statistician/Mathematician

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.

Next: View Schools

What is your highest level of education?

Some College
Complete your degree or find the graduate program that's right for you.
High School Diploma
Explore schools that offer bachelor and associate degrees.
Still in High School
Earn your diploma or GED. Plan your undergraduate education.

Schools you may like:

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

    • Master of Science in Nursing - Doctor of Nursing Practice Path, Executive Leader Specialization
    • Doctor of Nursing Practice
    • Master of Science in Nursing - Doctor of Nursing Practice Path

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Doctor of Business Administration - Management
    • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
    • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
    • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Special Education
    • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Cognition and Instruction
    • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Industrial and Organizational Psychology

    What is your highest level of education?

    • Transitional Doctorate of Physical Therapy

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
    • Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership
    • Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership - Ecclesial Leadership
    • Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership - Entrepreneurial Leadership
    • Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership - Individualized
    • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Global Consulting

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Ed. D. in Organizational Leadership
    • Ed. D. in Organizational Leadership - Higher Education Track
    • EdD Organizational Leadership - Digital Learning Track
    • Doctor of Nursing Practice
    • EdD Organizational Leadership
    • Doctor of Nursing Practice - Advanced Practice Nurse

    What is your highest level of education completed?

  • What is your highest level of education completed?

  • What is your highest level of education?

    • Nursing Practice (DNP)
    • Ministry (DMin)

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Ph.D. Health Sciences
    • Ed.D. in Educational Leadership
    • Ph.D. in Educational Leadership

    What is your highest level of education completed?

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?