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Frequently Asked Questions for Online PhD Students
Given the amount of work involved in applying to a PhD program, questions are sure to arise. We’ve compiled a list of the most common questions about online PhD programs to help you you find quick answers and important information.
- How do I apply to an online PhD program?
- What do I need to apply to an online PhD program?
- How do online PhD programs work?
- What should I look for when researching online PhD programs?
- How do I finance my PhD?
- Should I earn my PhD online?
- What is college accreditation?
- How much work does an online PhD require?
1. How do I apply to an online PhD program?
The application requirements are the same as for traditional, on-site doctoral programs. However, each school has its own application requirements, and it’s the student’s responsibility to remain current with these requirements. If you’re unsure what’s needed to apply to a particular program, our advice is to contact an admissions representative who can answer all of your questions. Most applications are submitted online.
Tip: Stay organized! Doctoral programs require candidates to submit A LOT of paperwork so keeping all your documents together and in order will help reduce stress and avoid timely errors.
2. What do I need to apply to an online PhD program?
In order to apply to an online PhD program, you’ll need the required materials specified by the individual academic program, including departmental forms, a portfolio of essays or relevant work, exam grades, and other documents. You might also be required to complete an interview, either via Skype or phone. A rigorous admissions process is often the norm when it comes to doctoral programs. Be prepared to spend a significant amount of time completing your applications.
3. How do online PhD programs work?
Web technology has made it possible to earn a degree online, even at the doctoral level. Communication with your instructors occurs through email, chat rooms, instant message, bulletin boards, video conference, and other online tools. Many colleges and universities use Blackboard – a Web-based classroom management platform. Blackboard helps engage students in the digital classroom experience by organizing chat sessions, course materials, grades, and other important information from your instructors.
4. What should I look for when researching online PhD programs?
The answer to this question comes from our interview with PhD student, Newly Paul:
“I think one of the first things to consider is the research interest of the faculty members and the level of involvement they have with students. This can easily be found by looking at the department’s webpage, selecting the faculty members you might be interested in, and then looking at their CVs. You want to look at their list of publications, their teaching areas and their history of mentorship. Another way of finding out about this is talking to students at the department who has been there awhile and has worked with some of these professors. I think it’s also important to determine that the school has a genuine interest in training its students for careers in academia and research and is not just looking for low-paid TAs to help with the teaching load. Another point to consider is of course, the funding. Going to graduate school and amassing a huge student debt is definitely not desirable. Sometimes, departments that don’t offer a very generous funding, have other avenues to help students, such as research grants (awarded to professors, but students can work as paid graduate assistants) or student jobs at other departments in the university. These can help a lot. It’s important to make a realistic assessment of the financial import of the program before making a decision. Bottom line, make sure the program is a good fit. That you are surrounded by people who do cutting-edge research, are willing to provide help and encouragement, and can help you do your best.”
5. How do I finance my PhD?
If you want to earn a PhD, it’s important to know how you’ll pay for it before you start applying. Higher education comes at a price, but if you put funding at the forefront, you’ll have a better shot of securing the money necessary to pursue your degree.
- Assistantships: Many PhD candidates work the school their attending, usually as a research or teaching assistant. Assistantships are offered by individual departments.
- Scholarships: Get in touch with a graduate admissions official to find out more about award scholarships and fellowships. Keep in mind that many organizations and companies offer students a chance at a scholarship. Start your research by browsing online scholarship databases and directories.
- Talk to your employer: If you’re currently working in the field you wish to get your PhD in, your boss might foot the bill, if an advanced degree will benefit the company. Some companies require that the employee work at the company or firm for a specific period of time after school or pay back part of the tuition. Check with your boss or human resources representative to learn more about tuition assistance programs.
6. Should I earn my PhD online?
If you’re working full-time or have other obligations that will make it difficult to attend a traditional program, an online education might be an option worth considering. Online PhD programs are very similar to the traditional counterparts. The application process, curriculum, and graduation criteria are the same. The biggest difference is how and when the instruction is delivered. If you’re not sure if an online program is right for you, why not contact a school that offers an online program to learn more about distance learning and how it can be suitable for certain people.
7. What is college accreditation?
Accreditation protects you and your money. It’s a seal of approval granted to institutions of higher education to assure students that colleges and universities meet standards quality. If a school is not accredited, scratch it off your list, and fast. Without proper accreditation, you have no way of ascertaining whether the program is truly reputable.
8. How much work does an online PhD require?
For many students, earning a PhD is a full-time job that requires dedication and a real commitment to your field. Your time and mental energy are absolutely necessary to in order to fulfill the requirements to a PhD holder. Traditional and online programs require the same amount of work. However, distance learning does save you time since you don’t have to commute to class.
Learn about a typical day in the life of PhD candidate!