Distance PhD Programs: Requirements and Prerequisites

Distance Ph.D. programs offer students the opportunity to pursue higher education while balancing work, family and other obligations. Numerous 4-year universities and accredited institutions offer Ph.D. programs online. The admissions, technology and program requirements for accredited distance Ph.D. programs vary by school.

Seekers of advanced education have more flexible options thanks to online Ph.D. programs. Online Ph.D. programs have similar requirements to normal Ph.D. programs, but they don't require the student to live near the school where they're getting their education.

Online Ph.D. Requirements and Prerequisites Overview

Distance Ph.D. programs offer full-time and part-time options. Although not all Ph.D. programs are available through distance learning, doctoral degree programs are commonly offered online in the areas of psychology, business, technology, health care and education. Admission, program and technology requirements vary based on the field of study and the school.

Admission Requirements and Prerequisites

Admission requirements for distance Ph.D. programs usually include standard graduate school materials such as:

  • A master's degree
  • A minimum graduate GPA
  • Submission of GRE or GMAT scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • A statement of goals
  • A resume and an official application

Some online institutions and schools, however, only require a bachelor's or a master's degree and an application. Application fees also vary by school.

Program Requirements

Depending on the school, students are required to complete up to 120 credit hours to earn a doctoral degree; students holding a master's degree require fewer credits. Most distance Ph.D. programs require students to take the majority of courses in their specialization, but elective courses may also be needed. Students typically must take a comprehensive exam at some point in their program. The Ph.D. program culminates in a dissertation and research project before a degree is awarded.

Residency Requirements

Program attendance requirements also vary. Some schools offer Ph.D. distance programs entirely online with no required physical attendance, but most require a residency, a summer course or certain classes that must be attended on campus. These residency periods allow students to focus on their research in a supportive environment of faculty members and peers.

Technology Requirements

Distance learning programs use a few different systems to conduct lectures and facilitate communications, including the following:

  • Email
  • Content management systems
  • Chat rooms
  • Discussion boards

Hardware and software requirements are different for each school, but all programs require that students have access to email and an Internet connection, as well as basic computer and Internet skills. Additional technological requirements may include equipment or software such as the following:

  • Web camera
  • Headset
  • Adobe Reader
  • Microsoft Word
  • Power Point

For learners who don't want to move to enroll in a Ph.D. program but can still meet the standards of graduate school admissions and make the odd journey to campus, online Ph.D. programs might be a good fit.

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