What is a Doctorate Degree?

A doctorate degree is the highest level and most prestigious academic degree you can earn in almost any stream of education. Read on to know more about what is a doctorate degree and how to get one.

Updated by TCM Staff on 17th December 2020

A doctorate degree is an advanced education program that aims at researching in a particular field or interdisciplinary fields. The degree provides the highest level of education for the students with few exceptions. It requires the students to research and forms a thesis. The degree is also important to become professors. It is awarded by higher education institutions after a student is done submitting the research work or thesis. The research is supposed to be original.

The degrees are globally recognized and provide the research-based orientation of the subjects. In your doctoral degree years, you will get to experience a lot more than just an academic exposure. It would provide you with professional exposure as well.

You can pursue a Doctorate after completing a Master’s Degree program. However, many universities allow students to pursue their Ph.D. directly after the completion of a Bachelor’s Degree.

Eligibility to enroll in a Ph.D./Doctoral Program

  • Complete a Bachelor’s or a Master’s Degree (Enrolment can be done by completing either of the degrees. However, it differs from the course opted and the institution)

  • Minimum grades are required. You should have at least a second class percentage

  • Institutions require the students to find a professor to guide and advise the candidate in the program

  • The student must have 16 years of education

  • Standardized tests must be cleared

  • GRE scores are mandatory

  • TOEFL, IELTS exam tests are necessary for non-native English speakers

  • A statement of Purpose is required

  • The Ph.D. research proposal must be presented

  • Letters of Recommendation

  • Resume or a CV

  • Academic transcripts must be presented.

You would also be required to present a viva voce for your thesis to explain it. It takes place in front of a panel formed by the professors which can last up to three hours. The Ph.D. programs online or doctorate degree online are available and it can be completed in the same duration as the on-campus program.

The interactive sessions and presentation of the thesis are done online and the program is easily accessible.

It consists of 60-120 credits.

How long does it take to get a Ph.D.?

The duration of the degree is between 3 to 5 years, or more if you’re pursuing your Ph.D. along with work or part-time.

Doctorate VS PhD

A Doctorate Degree consists of both the academic and the professional doctorate programs. It focuses on both research and professional aspects. The doctorate holders are experts and scholars in their field.  The research is related to a particular profession or research and the documents are supposed to be submitted for a review.

  • You have to prepare a dissertation and defend your research thesis.

  • Complete the research and analyze theories.

  • Includes writing of the research which contains a literature review, hypothesis, abstract and other things.

  • Learn how to defend your dissertation orally.

  • Evaluate the relevance of existing theories in your field.

  • Apply research to practical issues and problems and find the solution.

  • Design research plan

Ph.D. falls under the academic degrees and the characteristics are the same as that of a Doctorate Degree. It is teaching and research-oriented and provides the skills to do so. Here, the dissertation is research-based and should be publishable.

  • It analyzes the theories in the field.

  • Evaluates and researches on the developing trends and existing theories.

  • Identifies the literature review.

  • Advances your knowledge about the subject.

  • Communicate about your research effectively.

  • Collect data and evaluate it.

Do you need a Master’s to get a Ph.D.?

No, it’s not mandatory to have a Master’s Degree to pursue a Doctoral Degree. However, few courses and institutions require the students to have a Master’s Degree. Since it provides a better foundation than a Bachelor’s Degree to start research.

Types of Doctoral Degrees

Some of the common degrees are:

1. Professional Doctorate Degrees

These are the degrees that are awarded for a particular field. The student earns knowledge and practice in a specific field and subject. It provides application-based practices and has research work and analysis. You may need some experience before enrolling in this type of degree program.

Some examples of this degree are:

  • JD or Juris Doctor Degree can be pursued if you’re interested in making a career in law or want to attend law school. The program’s duration is for three years and it makes one aware of the legal principles and legal institutions. It would help you become an expert in the legal field and advocate and advice the professionals.

  • Doctor of Public Health would prepare you for leadership positions in the healthcare and public health sector. It provides skills in communication, management, and innovation.

  • Doctor of Business Administration helps in developing knowledge of management and business. The course provides an interdisciplinary perspective on the course. It helps in finding practical solutions to the problems.

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP degree). It provides practice and application-based knowledge to the students in the nursing profession. It is research-oriented and designed for patient care and team administration in the healthcare and clinical setting.

  • The doctor of Public Administration. It is aimed to develop leadership qualities in an individual and teaches them to make an impact on public and private organizations. It deals with issues such as criminal justice, good governance, public policy, and many others. 

  • Doctor of Medicine or MD Degree is a four-year degree which combines the practical clinical and medical practices along with the coursework. It enhances the knowledge and helps in developing a career in being a physician. Physicians also have to complete a residency program to gain real-time experience.

  • Doctor of Dental Surgery is a degree which can be pursued if you’re willing to become dental surgeons. It is a four-year program and combines theoretical and practical applications. It provides training on dental anatomy and the care of the patients.

2. Research Doctoral Degrees

This type of degree is focused on traditional subjects and the original research in particular fields. It would prepare you for diverse careers, but the main focus is on the deeper theoretical understanding of the subject.

The research must be publishable. The coursework must be completed beyond a master’s degree. The common doctoral program is a Ph.D. degree or the Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Science.

Some examples of the Research Doctoral Degrees are:

  • Doctor of Arts (DA) provides the interdisciplinary studies of the various areas which can help solve different problems and tackle situations. It enhances the abilities of thinking and writing in various contexts such as nature, philosophy, religion, and many others.

  • Doctor of Science (D.sc/S.cd) is the highest level of degree attained in the field of science. It provides exceptional qualities to excel in research and its methodologies. It is awarded in the field of natural sciences.

  • Doctor of Divinity is awarded to the individuals who have dedicated their lives to the theological endeavors. It provides expert knowledge of religious study and indulges in research.

  • Ph.D./D Phil or Doctor of Philosophy is a degree that is awarded after a student completes the thesis which is significant for the subject. The general subjects are included in the curriculum and the course teaches research and innovation.

What does it take to complete a Doctorate Degree?

  • You should finish your thesis before the completion of the degree.

  • You should earn all the semester credits.

  • You will have cleared all the core subjects in the Doctorate degree.

  • Finish your research papers with a proper presentation.

  • You should have good confidence and leadership qualities.

Why choose a Doctorate degree?

  • You can become an expert in your area of study.

  • You would enjoy the academic environment.

  • You can choose a doctorate degree to develop some important transferable skills.

  • You can earn a lot after completion of a doctorate degree.

Online Doctoral Programs

List of doctorate degree programs are:

  • Doctor of Education

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy

  • Doctor of Audiology

  • Doctor of Nursing Practise

  • Doctor of Engineering

 Universities offering Doctoral Degrees

North Carolina Central University

Sullivan University

Indiana Wesleyan University

Colorado Technical University

Liberty University

Capella University

University of Phoenix

Walden University

 Careers that Require a Doctoral Degree

  • Research Scientist

  • Professor

  • Analyst in various sectors

  • Patent Lawyer

  • Scientific Advisor

  • Editorial Writer

  • Government Department Advisor

  • Business Developer Manager

How to get a Doctorate Degree?

Here are a few steps through which you can acquire a Doctorate Degree

Step 1 - Completing basic education

  • The first step towards getting a Doctorate Degree is completing an undergraduate degree. It would take around 4 years to complete an undergraduate degree. Choose a subject which interests you since a Bachelor’s Degree would provide you with the necessary foundation in the subjects you want to study. Develop the relevant skills needed in any subject

  • For example, if you want to study International Relations, you can pursue a degree in Political Science as it would provide you with a broad knowledge of the subject as international relations are a part of political science

  • Try to maintain a good GPA during your undergraduate degree program as it would prepare you with the skills needed for research and analysis

  • Talk to faculty members and gain insight into the Doctorate programs. Guidance is necessary when you’re pursuing a Doctorate Degree, hence being in touch with the faculty members is important. Give your introduction and talk about your interests in a particular field

  • You can also speak to the graduate students as they can help you make the correct selections about your coursework

  • Get enrolled in a Master’s Degree. This degree would provide you with a specialization in a particular field or subject. It gives a professional approach towards the subject and teaches how to apply the applications of the subjects in real life. It would take about two years to complete. For this, you need to have a minimum GRE or GMAT scores

  • Since it is not mandatory to hold a Master’s Degree, you can rather go for internships that provide you with research exposure. You can work in labs or go for fieldwork. It would enhance your skills and also give a great impression of your resume

  • Get involved with the academic-based departments and societies. It would help you get indulged in discussions and help you gain knowledge

  • Get involved with the academic-based departments and societies. It would help you get indulged in discussions and help you gain knowledge

  • You should start looking for universities offering graduate programs and their respective deadlines

  • Research on the programs, its structure, application fee, job opportunities after completing the degree, and other requirements

Step 2 - Take the required tests

  • You might be required to take the GRE test as many Ph.D. programs require the students to pass this test to know your knowledge of the various subjects

  • Take the test beforehand. You can re-take the test so make sure you do it before the deadline as the scores will be sent to the university

  • Get the letters of recommendation from the people who know about you and your work. They can be faculty members or former professors. You should ask for these letters at least 3 months before the submission of the application. Don’t leave for the last-minute work

Step 3 - Decide the objective of the research

  • Prepare your statement of purpose which highlights why you’re applying for the program, what are your objectives and how would you carry out your doctorate degree. You can describe what you wish to do in research

  • It should also highlight why you would like to work with a particular faculty as your guide and supervisor

  • Choose a research topic that hasn’t been published before and no one else has worked on it before. It should be unique

  • The statement of purpose should consist of why you would like to study at a particular educational institution

Step 4 - Collect the required documents

  • Check for the necessary documents needed for submission and the deadlines before which you should submit the documents

  • The application form must be completed with the college transcripts of a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree (if enrolled in any)

  • It’s better to keep a portfolio of the things you need like design works if going for a design based degree, say graphic designing, written samples, research paper if done any, and many others

  • An updated resume or a CV should be presented along with GRE or GMAT scores, IELTS or TOEFL exam scores for international applicants, letters of recommendation, and statement of purpose.

Step 5 - Apply for the program and check the funding

  • Apply for the programs which can fund your education. Advanced degrees can be expensive so it’s better to go for the programs which are fully funded

  • You can apply for the teaching programs or research assistance where you can work and pay for your program

  • Apply for financial aid program which would require you to present your financial statement, research description among other requirements. It differs from various institutes and programs

  • You can also look out for need-based scholarships.

Step 6 - Choose a research supervisor and submit the research plan

  • Choose an advisor who is related to your field of research as they can provide you with the resources and equipment you would need for your further studies.

  • Present and submit the blueprint of your study plan. The plan of study is usually submitted to the school or the department head that then re-evaluates it and presents suggestions.

  • You would need to include things such as the names and signatures of the committee members and student ID.

  • The academic objective should be mentioned and it should highlight your research purpose.

  • You must list the required courses needed for your research purposes along with the department name and the guide/instructors. The semester must be mentioned as well which highlights when you want to study that course.

Step 7 - Start the independent research

  • After completing the required things, you can start with the independent research and complete the required credits for the course

  • You would be required to complete the coursework, the elective, and the core course

  • You would have to appear for an examination and pass it. It would be a written test that would test your knowledge. After finishing the exam, the dissertation process starts.

Step 8 - Read and collect data

  • You can begin with the research and start collecting the relevant data. You can start by stating a hypothesis

  • Read on the literature review related to your topic and research accordingly

  • Conduct the experiment, surveys, or whatever else is necessary

  • Prepare your thesis and devote your time to reading and researching

  • Update your guide on your work and take guidance.

Step 9 - Prepare for viva-voce and faculty interaction

You would have to prepare for viva-voce for presenting your dissertation to the committee. In the session, you would have to present your progress on the topic and defend your research with relevant arguments. You will be asked questions related to your research.

Step 10 - Apply for grants and be responsible

  • You should apply for the grants offered by the department as it would help you to fund your education and provide you with the basic stipend

  • You can also apply for the private research grants which you may get from private or public sources

  • Balance both the coursework and responsibilities. Avoid competition and go step by step as it would take a lot of hard work and patience to complete the research

  • Many difficulties may arise such as funding problems, lab problems, and other things. so you shouldn’t lose patience and try to create opportunities for yourself. Stay organized throughout your work.


A Doctorate Degree is the highest degree in college. It helps in advancing one’s career and provides advanced knowledge to the students since research is included in the curriculum and critical skills are developed. The students can achieve top positions after completing this degree and can also go for further research. It provides a philosophical approach to the studies. A Doctorate degree stands on the apex in the hierarchy of degrees. Pursuing a doctorate degree in any field makes you the most valuable person in that field, and it would also open up a variety of future opportunities in that field.

So, if you want to be a teacher at a higher education institution, this degree would certainly act as a table stakes to get in the door.

This degree provides you with abilities that act as a huge differentiator between you and the other prospective candidates.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • 1.Can I pursue a Doctorate Degree online?

    Yes. Many schools offer doctorate degrees online and discussions and classes are held on an online platform.

  • 2.Is submitting a dissertation necessary for a Doctorate Degree Program?

    In most cases, yes. However, in some courses, it is not required, for example, Doctor of Physical Therapy. 

  • 3.Is it possible to fund my Doctoral Program?

    Yes. Doctoral Degrees can be funded. Many universities provide a basic stipend for pursuing Ph.D. You can apply for grants if you need funding for your course.

  • 4.What are the requirements for pursuing a Doctoral Degree?

    You should have a Bachelor's Degree or a Master's Degree. Minimum GRE or GMAT scores are necessary. Minimum grades are required. Letters of recommendation Statement of Purpose.

  • 5.What is the duration for completing a Doctoral Degree?

    The duration can range from 3 to 5 years, depending on the type of course. 

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