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Everything You Need to Know About a Doctorate Degree

By Sawyer Hiton

Sawyer Hiton is a former scholarship and financial aid writer with Scholarships360. Previously, Sawyer worked with the nonprofit College Possible, supporting high school juniors in beginning their college plans and applications. Sawyer graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in Philosophy.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Updated: April 2nd, 2024
Everything You Need to Know About a Doctorate Degree

In this article, we explore all things doctoral—the definition of a doctorate degree, common admissions requirements, and the typical cost of a doctoral degree. We hope you find what you’re looking for!

What is a doctorate degree?

Many students choose doctoral degrees to narrow and deepen their field of knowledge. Doctoral degrees are the highest degree you can attain in a given field. They are advanced graduate or professional degrees that demonstrate mastery in their subject area. People typically pursue doctoral degrees once they already hold master’s degrees. Doctoral degrees usually emphasize research and practice. Candidates for doctoral degrees often pursue personal research in their field. Once a student achieves their doctoral degree, they are qualified to teach at most institutions.

Related: Grad school financing options

Types of doctorate degrees

There are two main types of doctoral degrees: research-oriented degrees, like a Ph.D., and applied degrees, like a doctor of chiropractics. The latter type focuses more on the application of skills and knowledge. Below is a list of the most common doctoral degrees. If you see one that speaks to your interests, be sure to research it further.

Doctor of:

  • Business Administration (DBA)

  • Education (Ed.D.)

  • Philosophy (Ph.D.)

  • Psychology (Psy.D.)

  • Engineering Science (Eng.Sc.D.)

  • Jurisprudence (JD)

  • Medicine (MD)

  • Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)

Admission requirements for doctorate degrees

While admission requirements depend upon the program. They often share these main features:

Statement of Purpose

Applicants detail their academic and professional goals and describe how this degree can help them further these. 

See also: Personal statement vs. statement of purpose

Curriculum Vitae

Applicants submit a resume of their academic pursuits, which may include degrees and publications.

Letters of Recommendation

Just like for other academic applications, applicants submit around three letters, usually from past professors, who speak to the applicant’s academic and work history.

See also: How to ask for a letter of recommendation for college and scholarships

Required Test Scores

Most doctoral programs require submission of previous GPAs, as well as relevant test scores, like the GRE or the LSAT. Programs usually also require supplementary materials including a formal interview. All these requirements are meant to determine the seriousness and integrity of the applicant.

See also: Top scholarships for graduate students

Cost of a doctorate degree

Like with other degrees, doctoral degrees range in their cost. The best way to know is to research the specific program you’re interested in. Take the following into consideration when considering the cost of a doctoral degree:

Type and location of school

Public institutions tend to be cheaper than private ones. Also, considering cost of living, a school in an expensive city will likely be more costly than one in a cheaper area.

Field of Study

Some degree areas are cheaper than others. One form of this is potential work opportunities granted to doctoral candidates. Ph.D. programs often offer teaching positions to their students. This is a great way to not only lessen the financial burden of the cost of your degree, but also allows you to gain valuable experience in your field. 

Type of Program

An online program might be cheaper up front, while on-campus programs tend to provide more financial aid. While in the past online graduate programs might have been viewed as less respectable, the COVID-19 pandemic has made people rethink online programs. Many well respected universities, including Vanderbilt University and Johns Hopkins, offer doctorate degrees online.  

See also: How to complete the FAFSA for graduate school

For more information on financial aid, be sure to check out the numerous scholarships showcased by Scholarship360. If you choose that a doctoral degree is right for you, weigh the options above to decide which program you will choose. Select a program you can afford, but don’t be afraid to search for financial assistance.

Frequently asked questions about doctorate degrees

What is the difference between a PhD and a doctorate degree?

A Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) is an academic degree that focuses mainly on research. A doctorate can be academic, but is often granted as the highest professional degree that allows the earner to put research into practice–think of a surgeon performing surgery.

Is a PhD a doctor?

Yes, a PhD is considered a “doctor of philosophy.” 

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