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Pros and Cons of an Online PhD Degree

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The rise of the internet has made a lot of things much simpler and available to people all over the world, and that includes getting college degrees. While most people know that you can get a bachelor’s and a master’s degree online, not a lot of them know that it’s also possible to get your PhD like this.

The popularity of online graduate programs in increasing every year, as they offer many benefits to students. While online studying is convenient, it’s still challenging.

As with most things in life, there is a list of pros and cons associated with getting an online PhD. Let’s take a look at all of them so you can decide if this type of studying is the right choice for you.

 Pro: Lower cost

Traditional, classroom-based PhD courses cost a lot of money. Not only do students need to pay a scholarship, but they also need to think about the cost of housing, meals, and transport if they decide to study outside their home town.

Online PhDs cost much less, especially if you take into consideration all of the other ways you will be able to save money. Even though you might be required to travel to a testing location from time to time, these instances will be rare.

Con: Some people might perceive your degree differently

While there is not as much stigma surrounding online degrees as there was in the past, some people are still skeptical about this type of degree. While getting your PhD this way is just as legitimate as doing it the traditional way, not everyone understands that.

Future employers might frown upon a PhD earned through an online course, but there is a way you can avoid this. If you choose a respected and accredited online degree program, the chances of someone belittling your degree will be much lower.

Pro: You will be able to organize your own time.

Every single one of us is different, and we learn in different ways. Some people don’t thrive in a classic college environment because they can’t organize their time. With an online PhD course, you won’t have this issue. You will be able to do everything in your own time and pace.

You can take your classes and write assignments when you’re ready, and won’t need to stick to a traditional schedule. Some people concentrate better during the day, others during the night. At this point in your academic career, you know when your brain is more active. And you will be able to organize your time accordingly.

Con: Lack of face-to-face interaction

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Face-to-face interaction with professors and other students is crucial to some people. If you aren’t able to understand a part of a course, this could be a real problem. Lack of traditional mentorship could also slow you down, especially during the process of writing your dissertation.

However, you will still be able to communicate with your professors, just not in person. If you believe you can benefit from other forms of communication such as email, you probably won’t have any issues. As long as you don’t require face-to-face communication, you shouldn’t have an issue with this.

Pro: More free time

Studying for a PhD is time-consuming and very intensive. If you choose an online PhD course, you will be able to organize your own time and include as many breaks as you need. You will also have more time, as you won’t need to spend hours commuting and sitting through lectures.

But keep in mind that an online PhD course will also take up a large amount of your time. However, all you need to do is set proper boundaries in place and use your time wisely. This way, you will have a schedule that gives you free time while also allowing you to complete all of your school obligations.

Con: It might take you a long time to complete

Earning a PhD is a long and difficult task, even if you’re taking a traditional college course. The time depends on the university where someone is getting their degree and the complexity of the research. In total, a PhD course can take anywhere from 5 to 9 years.

Since online PhD courses allow you to create a flexible schedule, the time you spent studying for your degree could last even longer. If you don’t want to spend over a decade taking an online PhD course, you will need to organize your time wisely.

Pro: Fewer distractions

Going to college doesn’t only include taking classes and studying. A college experience includes a lot of things that could be distracting, such as socializing, a noisy campus, or perhaps a bothersome roommate. All of this could greatly influence your study time and lead to poor results in school.

You won’t have any of these problems when you’re studying from the comfort of your own home. You will be able to focus on studying all of the time. All you need to do is stick to the schedule you’ve created for yourself.

Con: Not all disciplines can get an online PhD

Before you decide you want to take an online PhD course, make sure to research if the field you want to study offers this possibility. Some subjects can easily be learned online, while others require on-campus education.

Some fields that usually don’t offer online PhD courses include:

  • Medicine

  • Biology

  • Chemistry

  • Physics

  • Psychology

This is because natural sciences include lab work that is a pivotal part of getting your degree. As for psychology, it requires hands-on clinical training. However, some online programs incorporate residencies. This allows students to complete their on-site training in a short amount of time.

Pro: Different teaching commitments

A major part of almost all traditional doctoral programs is teaching. Teaching a class is a mandatory part of everyone’s PhD journey. While some students enjoy this requirement, others find it daunting and unpleasant as not everyone is comfortable with teaching.

If you’re one of these people, you’re in luck. Most PhD programs don’t even have this requirement. Some do, but it’s mostly just online and/or community college teaching. Almost everyone agrees that this is a much more comfortable teaching setting than research universities.

Con: No library access

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One of the biggest advantages of studying on campus is access to your college’s library. Every subject you take will require additional research, and on-campus libraries are the best way to get all the information you need. They also help students overcome the challenges of academic research.

While it may be possible to find the materials you need online or at your local library, the chances are much lower. If you want a doctorate in a discipline that requires a lot of extra research, an online PhD probably isn’t the best choice for you.

Pro: You will be able to improve other skills

If you decide to take an online PhD course, you will gain knowledge and skills in your field of study. However, you will also be able to improve some other skills.

Other areas you will improve in include:

  • Organizational skills. As we’ve already mentioned, you will need to have great organization skills to complete an online PhD course. If you manage to do this, you will have amazing organizational skills by the time you complete your course.

  • Communication skills. You will need to incorporate various types of communication with your professors due to the lack of face-to-face communication. This means that you will learn how to get your point across through different communication channels.

  • IT skills. If you want to complete your course, you will need to be very acquainted with the latest technology. If this is something you’re not really great at, you will become almost an IT pro thanks to your online course.

Con: Not all online doctoral programs are accredited

Before you enroll in an online PhD course, you need to do a fair amount of research. Unfortunately, some PhD programs which are offered online aren’t accredited. If you enroll in one of these programs, you will just lose time and money without gaining anything.

While a course that isn’t accredited will still give you a diploma, it will be as worthless as an ordinary piece of paper. That’s why you should choose a course which is delivered by a recognized university.



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