Should I earn my PhD online?

If you are considering earning your PhD online, there are several factors that you should consider before you apply to any programs. The most important of these are accreditation, your career objectives and your field of study.


Institutional Accreditation

It is important for you to make sure that your online school is accredited by a nationally recognized educational agency or association. Accreditation ensures that the institution provides quality and reliable education to its students. It is also important if you plan to use student loans to pay for your degree since the federal government only awards financial aid to students who are enrolled at accredited schools.

Program Accreditation

Some fields of study also require that graduate and doctoral programs have specialized accreditation. This kind of accreditation is usually granted by a professional organization. If you are unsure whether your program needs accreditation, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) provides an online database that you can use to search for accredited schools and programs.

Why earn a PhD online?

An online PhD might be a good option for you if you can find an accredited institution and an accredited program in your field. However, some PhD programs are not suitable for online study. The American Psychology Association (APA), for example, does not accredit any fully online doctorate degrees in psychology although some Internet-based schools offer online PhDs. Therefore, if you earn an online PhD in psychology from 1 of these schools, you still might not be allowed to practice in most states.

However, there are accredited online PhD programs that are offered by accredited institutions. These programs are usually offered by brick-and-mortar colleges that try to accommodate working students by offering some coursework in an online format.

An online PhD can give you more flexibility and make it easier for you to work and study at the same time. However, it is important to remember that just because an online PhD offers you more flexibility, it does not mean that you will have less work to do. Online PhD programs are best suited for highly disciplined students who wish to advance their careers and while they continue to work.

Pros and Cons of an Online PhD?


Increased Flexibility
An online PhD program can provide you with greater flexibility by allowing you to watch lectures and post to discussion boards at times that fit your schedules. There will probably be strict due dates for assignments and discussion posts. However, you will have the freedom to complete your work when you want within a broader timeframe.

Working While You Study Saves Money
Although not all PhD programs allow students to work while they earn their degrees, some disciplines like education design their PhD programs to fit the schedules of working professionals. If you can work while you earn your PhD, you can save money by continuing to earn an income as you pay for school. However, depending on how much you earn at your job, this will not necessarily leave you without student debt when you finish your program.


Not All Disciplines Are Suitable for Online Study
Many of the professional associations do not accredit online PhD programs. This can be for a variety of reasons, including a lack of resources or poor student performance. Many disciplines like nursing, psychology and the natural sciences require hands-on training in clinics or labs that simply cannot be earned entirely online.

Lack of Funding
Students enrolled in online or brick-and-mortar PhD programs are eligible for student aid from the federal government as long as the school is accredited. However, federal education loans are not the only way to pay for school, especially at the PhD level.

To qualify for most awards, fellowships and teaching or research assistantships at the PhD level, students must be usually be enrolled in an accredited brick-and-mortar school. Because fellowships and assistantships are often school-specific, you should consider attending a brick-and-mortar PhD program if you hope to finance your studies through 1 of these types of awards.