What is a doctorate degree?

The word doctorate itself is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the degree, title, or rank of a doctor”. Most people are familiar with medical doctors (MD), but the title of doctor can apply to many different fields.

The doctorate degree definition is the highest academic degree that can be achieved in an area of study. Once a doctorate degree is earned, you are technically a doctor for that field.

There are four main college degree levels which, in order, are:

  • Associate Degree
  • Bachelor’s Degree
  • Master’s Degree
  • Doctoral Degree, which includes PhDs

What is a graduate degree?

A graduate degree is a degree earned past the bachelor’s level. So these would be Masters degrees, PhDs and other doctoral degrees.

What is a professional degree?

A professional degree is a degree which is intended to prepare the student for a specific line of work or even a specific job. Often there is a certification or accreditation alongside the academic requirements which will need to be met. Law degrees and medical degrees are two popular types of professional degrees. While professional degrees can be at varying levels of education there are professional doctorate degrees.

What does PhD stand for?

PhD is an abbreviation for Doctor of Philosophy and often these letters will be presented as a suffix behind the name of one who has earned this degree. For example: Jane Doe, PhD. Other acceptable abbreviations are Ph.D or DPhil.

PhDs can be earned in most areas of study, although typically not in medicine. However, there is a PhD in Nursing.

What is a Juris Doctorate?

A Juris Doctorate is a professional doctoral degree in the field of Law. Those who successfully complete this degree do not usually use the title of “doctor” although “esquire” is considered to be appropriate. The initials JD or J.D. as a suffix on someone’s name indicates that they have earned this degree.

What is a Doctoral Dissertation?

The definition for dissertation according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “an extended usually written treatment of a subject; specifically: one submitted for a doctorate”.

While it sounds simple enough, there is a bit more to it than just an essay or in-depth paper. Students are expected to develop their own ideas or theme for their dissertation and have it approved by their school through a dissertation proposal. After their proposal is accepted the student will likely have to do lengthy and documented research in order to support their concepts of the dissertation. Once completed, students must defend their dissertation in order to obtain their degree.

How long does it take to get a PhD?

The average students completing PhD programs will take from 4 to 7 years. There are always some exceptions, and particularly now that online PhD programs are available, some in the accelerated format, it may take as little as 2 years for students to complete the coursework. However, completing a dissertation may take longer.

How long does it take to get a doctorate degree?

The short answer is, the same as a PhD. As the above paragraph states, it will take the average student 4 to 7 years to earn their doctoral degree.

What does it mean if someone is a PhD candidate?

This means the student has completed all of their coursework, program requirements, and exams with the exception of their dissertation being the only thing keeping them from holding their hard-earned doctorate in their hands and weeping joyfully.

Why should I bother with online doctoral programs?

Online college and online learning have come a long way from the early days. Today many respectable schools with full accreditation offer online graduate programs, such as PhD and other doctoral programs. Often, the degree earned through online studies is indistinguishable from those granted to peers who have taken courses in the traditional fashion.

While online courses may not be available for some of the more hands-on degrees which may require a lot of time spent in the lab or otherwise, if your degree is available online through a reputable school that you’d like to attend, there is no reason not to choose that option outside of personal preference.

Most Popular Doctorate and Professional Degrees

  • Law
  • Medicine (MD)
  • Pharmacy
  • Dentistry
  • Physical Therapy
  • Osteopathic Medicine/Osteopathy (DO)
  • Chiropractic
  • Veterinary Medicine
  • Audiology, Audiologist And Hearing Science
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
  • Electrical, Electronics & Communications Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Educational Leadership & Administration
  • English Language and Literature
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychology
  • Business Management (DBA)

OnlineCollegePlan Rankings for PhD and Doctoral Programs

We have ranked doctorate degrees to help the prospective doctoral student examine the best accredited online doctoral programs available.

Top 20 Best Online Colleges With Doctoral Programs

Top 20 Fastest Online Doctoral Programs

Top 20 Online EdD Programs – Best Online Doctoral Programs in Education

Top 10 Online Colleges with the Best PhD in Business

Best Online PhD in Computer Science Programs

Top 20 Online PhD Psychology Programs

Top 30 Best Online PhD in Nursing Programs

Top 5 Online PhD in Public Health Programs

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

General and Miscellaneous FAQs

How Can I Find The Best Online Degrees?

How Can You Find The Best Online Colleges?

What Schools Offer 100% Online Degrees?

What Are the Different Types Of Doctorate Degrees?

What Are The Best Online Programs For A Doctoral Student?

Where Can I Find Out How To Get A PhD Online?

What Are The Best PhD Programs To Be Taken Online?

What Is A Doctoral Degree Online Program Best Suited For?

What Are The Fastest Degree Choices For An Online Part-Time Doctoral Student?

How Are Doctorate Degrees Different From Each Other?


What Are The Best Online EdD Programs?

What Are The Choices Of Online Doctoral Programs In Education?

Which Universities Are Best For An Online Doctorate In Education?

Are There Any Programs In Education Designed For A Part Time Doctoral Student?

Is A PhD In Organizational Leadership A Good Choice For Someone Working In Education?

Are There Many Education Doctorate Online Programs?

Where Can I Find A Fast Doctoral Degree In Education?


What Can You Do With A PhD In Economics?

What Are The Top Online Colleges With The Best PhD in Economics?

Are There Any PhD In Accounting Online Programs?

What Are The Top Online Colleges With The Best PhD in Accounting?

Are There Any Online PhD In Finance Programs?

What Are The Top Online Colleges With The Best PhD in Finance?

Where Is The Best University For An Online DBA Degree?

Where Is The Best Place To Find An Online PhD Business Administration Program?

What Kind Of Online Doctoral Programs In Business Are There?

Can I Earn A PhD in Organizational Leadership Online?


Are There Any Fast Online Doctorate Programs For Nurses?

What Are The Best CRNA Schools For Working Professionals?

Where Can I Learn How To Become A Nurse Anesthetist?

Are There Any CRNA Programs That Are 100% Online?

Are There Any Cheap Online Schools That Offer An Accredited CRNA Program?

Do All CRNA Schools Require A Residency?

How Is A DNP Different From A PhD in Nursing?

Where Can I Earn A Doctorate Degree In Nursing As A Part-Time Doctoral Student?

How Long Does It Take To Get A PhD In Nursing?

What Jobs Are Best Suited For A PhD vs. Doctorate Degree in Nursing?

What Are The Best Online Doctorate Degrees In Nursing?


PsyD vs PhD: What Is The Difference?

Where Can I Find A Program For An Online PhD in Psychology?

Can I Earn A Doctorate Degree In Psychology Part-Time?

How Long Does It Take To Get A PhD in Psychology?

How Is A PhD in Psychology Better Than A Masters Degree?

Public Health

What Are The Best Online Doctoral Public Health Degree Programs?

Do I Need To Be In-State To Participate In Doctoral Public Health Degrees Online?

Where Can I Earn A Doctoral Degree In Public Health As A Part-Time Student?

What Do I Need To Become A Doctoral Student In The Public Health Field?

Are There Residencies Required For All Online Doctorate Programs In Public Health?

Computer Science

Where Is The Best Place To Earn An Online PhD Computer Science Degree?

What Kind Of Jobs Need A PhD In Computer Science?

How Long Does It Take To Get A Doctorate Degree In Computer Science Online?

What Are The Best Online Computer Science Degrees, Including Doctoral Level?

Why Should I Get A PhD In Computer Science?

More from OnlineCollegePlan

We’ve ranked the Top 100 Best Online Colleges which offer online courses and programs to make it easy for you to find the top schools. You may also be interested to find a school nearby which offers online courses with our Best Online Colleges or Universities by Location.

Be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to Online Colleges.

Find out more about other degrees at our Associate degree page and guide, Bachelor’s degree page and guide, and our Masters degree page and guide.

Online Doctorate Degree and PhD Programs