The Basics of a Doctoral Degree
A doctorate is an academic degree which qualifies the holder to teach in a specific field. The term doctorate comes from the Latin docere, meaning "to teach." A doctorate is generally a prerequisite for pursuing a career as an academic (professor), though not everyone who receives a research doctorate will work in the academic field. Many universities also award honorary doctorates to individuals who have made extensive contributions to the field, either as scholars or for other contributions to the university or to society.
The requirement for obtaining a Ph.D. typically encompasses the successful completion of all classes pertinent to the degree, the passing of comprehensive exams, and the in-depth defense of a dissertation. The dissertation is the presentation of the doctoral candidate's research and findings, submitted for defense to dissertation committee. The committee is made up of an advisor, as well as a team of readers for iterations. Majors within the Ed.D. include counseling, curriculum and instruction, curriculum and teaching, educational administration, educational leadership, education policy, educational psychology, educational technology, higher education, or language/linguistics.
The number of years it takes to complete a doctoral degree is between five and seven, though it can take considerable longer, depending on the dissertation work. Students are often discouraged by their university from taking an unnecessarily long time to finish graduate requirements by having expiration dates attached to their financial support, including research funds and other monetary funds. Once a student has completed all necessary Ph.D-qualifying exams, he or she is considered a Ph.D candidate. At this point, he is she is expected to begin dissertation work.
There are numerous fields of study with professional doctorates in the US, including law, medicine and education. The Ed.D. is recognized by the National Science Foundation as a research degree, and by the U.S. Department of Education as equivalent to a Ph.D. There are universities who have programs focused on educational leadership and administration who call their Ed.D. programs professional degree programs. Both degrees have proponents and detractors; some scholars have stated that they feel the Ed.D focuses on a broader scope of education knowledge and skills while a Ph.D. emphasizes theory and research methodology.
As with many degree programs today, there are different methods for obtaining a doctorate degree, including ground, online, and blended programs. There are pros and cons for each type of program.
Ground degree programs are what people typically think of as traditional college programs, where all of the courses are offered “in-person.”
Pros: The face time and personal interactions that students have with their professors and fellow students can be invaluable. Some students find they make connections that are worthwhile both personally and professionally.
Cons: Ground classes do not offer the flexible schedule that many online classes do. They may not be an option for students who do not live in a close proximity to that particular university or class site location.
Online degree programs offer courses through the Internet. Students use regular Internet access to complete these programs.
Pros: Online classes are available at any time in any location. Few, if any, classes will have specific time requirements for logging in or participating in online discussions or other live interactions. Many classes allow for students to complete the material on their own time frame and submit it by specific deadlines.
Cons: Online classes do not offer the face time that ground classes do. Students will still interact with professors and students online, but these interactions may not be as personal as they would be in a classroom. Students in online classes may live all over the country, which will not make in-person interaction possible.
Blended degree programs offer a combination of ground and online classes. The ratio of ground-to-online classes will vary in different programs.
Pros: Blended programs offer more flexibility than most ground programs. For example, students may have the option to take some classes in-person or online. Students will get the pros of both ground and online programs through their different classes.
Cons: Blended programs are still not feasible for students who do not live near the university or class site location. They can still provide logistical issues for students who have other set schedules, such as set work or child care hours.
Your doctorate will improve your research and in-classroom skills to make you more effective in the education field, whether you are in the classroom, developing curriculum, deciding policy, and working with education leaders.