To find online Ph.D. programs and course information, it can be helpful to use online resources available through the U.S. Department of Education. Three fields in which students may complete a Ph.D. in a distance learning format are counseling, education and psychology.
Online Ph.D. Program Overview
Online Ph.D. programs typically consist of a mixture of academic coursework and intensive research leading to a final dissertation. Completion time varies by program and by student, but some schools may cap total enrollment time at a certain number of years, such as ten years. Some Ph.D. programs can be completed entirely online. Others require students to complete on-campus residencies or attend courses on weekends. Prior to enrollment, prospective students may be required to have already earned a master's degree.
Finding Distance Learning Programs with Course Information
The best place to begin a search for accredited Ph.D. distance learning programs is the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) website (nces.ed.gov). This website allows potential students and web surfers to search for schools according to their own needs and wants. You can use the school search function or the click on the College Navigator link.
To get to this section of the NCES, potential students select the 'School Search' option from the file menu at the top of the page, and select 'College Navigator' from the drop-down menu. From there, students can search for schools according to criteria such as:
- Student population
- Tuition rates
- Degree level
- Field of study
The 'College Navigator' page allows students to enter several criteria to narrow their search. Since this specific search is for accredited Ph.D. distance learning programs, the student first uses the 'Program/Major' option to find the subject in which they'd like to earn this level and form of degree. Next, the student checks 'Advanced' under the 'Level of Award' section. Under 'More Search Options', the student may scroll down to 'Extended Learning Opportunities' and select 'Distance Learning'. After completing this, the student may select the 'Show Results' button to retrieve results.
The 'College Navigator' then brings up a list of schools offering distance learning along with the 'Advanced' degree option and the field of study. It should be noted that 'Advanced' degree doesn't necessarily mean 'Ph.D.', so the potential student must now click on the individual schools of interest and search for Ph.D. programs.
It should also be noted that this feature of NCES brings up schools that offer distance education programs, advanced degrees and the field of study in question; however, these search terms are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and it doesn't mean that the school offers a distance learning Ph.D. in the field of study selected. A link to the school's official website is available at the top of the school's profile. Having this information can help the potential student gather further details about the school and program.
Online Ph.D. Program Options with Course Information
Here are some possible online Ph.D. programs, as well as some of the courses that may be included in the curriculum.
Ph.D. in Counseling
Online Ph.D. in Counseling programs are often intended for experienced counselors who want to advance their knowledge in the field in order to support their practice. Courses within the curriculum may cover topics such as:
- Theory of counseling
- Patient assessment
- Career counseling
- Group counseling
- Counselor education
Ph.D. in Education and Human Resource Studies
Within this broad field, prospective students may be required to choose a specialization, such as school leadership, higher education or education sciences. Depending on their specialization, possible course subjects include:
- Student development theory
- Leadership development
- Professionalism in education and leadership
- Education policy
Ph.D. in Psychology
Within this program, students take online courses and do research in a particular area of interest within the field. Ph.D. candidates may pursue a general track or declare a concentration. Some of the courses they take cover topics such as:
- Research methods and design
- Professional communications in psychology
- Theories of personality
- Multicultural psychology
- Positive psychology
It can be helpful to learn about the course options within Ph.D. programs in psychology, education or counseling before enrolling. For students who are interested in other fields, the NCES is an excellent search resource for program availability and course information.