Online Doctoral Programs: Advantages and Requirements

Earning a doctoral degree online is a reality that would have been unheard of not too long ago. Now, there are many online doctoral programs. Some doctoral degree programs, such as chemistry or medicine, can't be completed entirely online, but others in subjects like business and sociology are commonly available online.

There are several advantages of online doctoral degree programs. Before enrolling, prospective students should consider program requirements.

Advantages of Earning a Doctoral Degree Online

Online doctoral degree programs are increasingly offered in several subjects, from organizational leadership and business to education and health administration. Many online program transcripts show no difference in content than those provided from a school's on-campus program. There are a wide variety of advantages to earning a doctoral degree online.

Scheduling Flexibility

The biggest advantage of earning a doctoral degree online is the program's flexibility. A student seeking a doctoral degree online has the advantage of flexible scheduling and can complete classes around his or her schedule. Distance learning is also ideal for a person who has difficulty attending a regular college campus due to work or family conflicts.

Access to Faculty

A professor can reach many more students in an online class than in a traditional setting, making access to faculty an advantage. Although students do not attend a formal lecture, online courses allow individuals to engage one-on-one with faculty members, which may be even more useful than attending a lecture where there are a hundred students vying for an instructor's attention. In online settings, communication may be facilitated through platforms such as:

  • Email
  • Instant messaging
  • Discussion boards
  • Video chatting


Another advantage to online learning is cost. Students will not need to spend money on transportation, gas or car insurance. An online student also doesn't have to pay parking fees. Individuals with children can work from home and save money on childcare services.


An online doctoral degree program can be helpful to graduates because it shows that an individual has good time management skills and the ability to stay self-motivated. Online courses can also help students develop strong typing, computer technology and Internet research skills.

Online Doctoral Degree Requirements

Requirements for an online doctoral degree are often no different than a traditional degree. Covered here are the admission, program and technology requirements.

Admission Requirements

Many online doctoral degree programs require the applicant to have a master's degree, although some doctoral programs only require a bachelor's degree. A school usually requires a specific grade point average (GPA) in previous college coursework. Other application materials include:

  • Letters of reference from a professional source
  • GRE or GMAT scores may be required
  • Essay outlining goals relating to the research that must be performed in a doctoral degree program

Program Requirements

Many online doctoral degree programs still require 3-8 days spent on campus during yearly residency periods. The degree program requires students to take specialized courses and earn anywhere from 68-82 credits. Doctoral degree programs typically culminate in the completion of a dissertation, which must be defended in person.

Technology Requirements

To participate in online doctoral degree programs, candidates must have a reliable computer with access to a broadband Internet connection. Students must also be computer literate and have experience in office applications such as Microsoft Word, Access and PowerPoint.

The advantages of an online doctoral degree program include flexibility, faculty access, cost savings and skill development opportunities. The admissions and graduation requirements are the same for online as for campus-based students, but online students may need to be more tech-savvy than their counterparts on campus.

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