Part-Time Doctoral Programs: How Do They Work?

Students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. should know there are some part-time programs available, which can provide flexibility and convenience. Part-time Ph.D. programs allow working professionals to achieve their academic goals while maintaining current work schedules.

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How Part-Time Doctoral Programs Work

Generally, admission requirements for part-time doctoral programs are the same as full-time programs, although there are some exceptions. Applicants need to have at least a bachelor's degree, though a master's degree is sometimes required. Some schools require that students be employed in their field of study; sometimes schools even require that employers submit a recommendation for the student or commit to a flexible work schedule. Most online part-time doctoral programs do not have an employment requirement, though.

A research project and the completion and defense of a dissertation are required from practically all part-time Ph.D. students. Some schools allow the research component to be completed at the student's place of employment, while others require participation in an on-site research group. Depending on the program and the pace of the student, completing the doctoral coursework and dissertation can take 4-6 years, though it may take even longer for part-time students.

Possible Challenges

There are some challenges that part-time Ph.D. students may encounter, such as limited availability of financial aid resources. Although enrolling part-time typically means paying less every quarter, you'll be making payments for a longer period of time, which may end up being more expensive than going full-time. However, you'll have the opportunity to keep your full-time occupation, which in many cases will help pay your school expenses.

On-Campus Programs

Schools offering part-time Ph.D. programs on campus commonly have classes evenings or weekends, and students are required to take two courses per semester. Although some part-time on-campus Ph.D. programs use a combination of traditional classroom lectures and electronic delivery methods for course materials, most on-campus programs do not offer any online courses.

Distance Learning Programs

Several part-time doctoral programs are available online. Distance learning programs use the Internet, e-mail, chatrooms, PowerPoint presentations and other forms of information technology to deliver course materials and allow students to participate in group discussions and communicate with classmates and teachers. Part-time Ph.D. programs may be 100% online or require students to come to campus at various times. Some programs have a set class schedule students must follow, while others allow students to go at their own pace.

To learn more about applying to a Ph.D. program, check out this article.

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