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What is a Doctorate Degree?

Careers  >  Detail
By Lorna Collier   

What is a Doctorate Degree?

A doctorate degree is the highest level of academic degree. Everyone is familiar with the medical doctor, who holds an M.D. (Medical Doctorate). But you can earn a doctorate in almost any subject area. For example, most states require licensed psychologists to hold a doctorate degree in psychology.

Typically a doctorate degree takes four years to complete, post-bachelor's degree. If you already hold a master’s degree, you may be able to complete a doctorate in the same subject area with only three years of additional full-time study.

Four-year doctorates will require about 90 to 120 semester credits or 30 to 40 college courses. The length and credits of doctorate programs can vary. Some doctorate programs require a research thesis to be completed. A growing number of online doctorates are designed as “practitioner’s degrees.” A research thesis may be optional. Instead, you may be required to complete a capstone paper and/or a supervised placement working in your career area.

Very few career areas require a doctorate degree. Areas where state licensing is required—such as engineering, public school teaching, psychology—may require the doctorate degree for the highest paid positions and for positions in government facilities.

There are fewer doctorate degrees offered online than any other type of degree. This is because market demand is very low. Online doctorate degrees tend to be in areas that require doctorates for licensing, such as teaching or psychology. Most require short residencies or campus visits—such as a week each summer on campus—to satisfy supervision requirements. A few online doctorates are available in business because business is a high demand career area.

When You …

• Know that a doctorate or professional degree is required for your career
• Have already earned a master’s degree and want to qualify for a higher pay scale

TIP: Some careers may require a very specific type of doctorate degree. For example, if your goal is to become a principal or district supervisor, your state Board of Education will require, at minimum, a master’s or doctorate degree in education—and that degree will need to include some very specific courses. Check with your state licensing board before enrolling in any bachelor’s degree program in accounting, education, nursing, counseling and engineering, in particular.

TIP: Many people think you must hold a doctorate degree to teach at the college level. While this is true for most full-time, tenured faculty in residential colleges, most who teach online or who teach at the community college level only hold master’s degrees.

Below is sample doctorate degree so you can see the type of curriculum commonly required. Universities will vary in exact degree requirements. Compare colleges carefully on the courses they will require you to take to earn your doctorate degree in any one major area.

Walden U logo

PhD in Organizational Psychology


The Organizational Psychology specialization prepares individuals to work within industry, government, and university settings as practitioners, consultants, and researchers. The specialization focuses on organizational behavior, leadership, and development; personnel staffing, development, and well-being; and effective, ethical consultation and research practices.

Though it is primarily an online program, Walden requires students earning this degree to complete 20 days of residency (two four-day and two six-day residencies). Students also must be enrolled a minimum of 12 quarters and maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average.

Core Courses

Foundations for Graduate Study in Psychology (6 credits)
History and Systems of Psychology (5)
Lifespan Development (5)
Cognitive Psychology (5)
Social Psychology (5)
Statistics 1 (5)
Research Design (5)
Tests and Measurement ( 5)
Statistics 2 (5)
Psychology and Social Change (5)
Ethics and Standards of Professional Practice (5)
Foundations of Industrial/Organizational Psychology (5)
International/Cross-Cultural Issues in Organizations (5)

Organizational Track

Psychology of Organizational Behavior (5)
Leadership and the Process of Change (5)

Elective Courses

Three courses, selected from the graduate courses in the schools of management or psychology, may be added anywhere in your program, provided that you meet the prerequisites.

Dissertation Research (30 credits)

SEARCH our complete Database of Online Doctorate Programs by clicking on the following link:

Find online Doctorate Degrees now. >>

What is a Master's Degree?
What is a Graduate Certificate?

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