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Distance Education Phd - The Pros and Cons of a Distance Education PhD

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Online and distance education is exploding as millions of adults return to school to retrain, retool, and relearn. The requirements for workers in the 21st century are dynamic, and the modern worker needs to constantly improve their skills in order to receive and keep the best jobs. One route for online learners is earning a distance education PhD from an accredited online college. Studying for the doctorate online shares quite a bit with its brick and mortar counterpart, but there are also some significant differences. Before making any educational decisions, a student should weigh out all the pros and cons of the degree to determine if it’s the best option.


The most obvious benefit of studying for an online PhD is that the student is not tied to geography. He or she can pursue their degree in any city in America. In addition, they do not have to actually go to a brick and mortar classroom, as they can study and learn in their pajamas at home if they so desire. This is especially useful for those who have to take care of a family or need to hold down a part- or full-time job. The flexibility of a distance education doctorate is one of the most attractive aspects of it, and one of the reasons adult learners flock to the online medium.

Another benefit is the price. Many doctoral students at traditional universities receive fellowships and grants that cover much or all of their tuition plus a stipend. Some students, however, have to pay their tuition and expenses out of pocket or through loans. For 5+ years of education, this can be an expensive venture. Online education doctorates are often cheaper than the alternative if a student cannot obtain any funding.

The student can also control the pace of his or her training. If a student needs to speed up or slow down their acquisition of the material, they can do so at their leisure. Many adult students may need some time reacclimating to the academic environment and thus might be intimidated in a more traditional setting. A student may be more successful if he or she is in full control of their destiny.

Finally, completing research for a dissertation may be facilitated by the close connections between education, the computer, and the internet. The internet affords many opportunities to collect data for a project. It can also facilitate communication between colleagues regardless of geographical distance.


There are some serious disadvantages to pursuing a PhD online. One major disadvantage is that there will be little to no actual face-to-face interaction with a professor. Every student will be assigned a mentor or committee that will help them with their studies and dissertation, but most meetings will be conducted by e-mail or chat. Traditional doctoral training relies on this face-to-face interaction, not only for learning but also for support through a lonesome and difficult process. Doctoral training is already quite a lonely endeavor; this can be compounded if there are no friendly shoulders to lean on. This could be a special problem for those who can’t learn by themselves. The student should have an idea of their own work habits and the support they can expect from friends and family before enrolling in an online doctoral program.

Without support, and with a full-time job or a family, a student may spend too many years in the program. In traditional programs, many students already take seven years or more. Distance education PhD programs could stretch even further, increasing tuition and expenses accordingly. A student will have to work very hard to balance their work, academic, and personal lives and keep the learning process moving along.

Finally, the most serious problem with distance education PhDs is their worth on the job market. The academic job market is brutal, even for those with degrees from the best universities. Many online schools are not given respect, and respect is a crucial currency for the aspiring academic or doctoral candidate. While this effect may be magnified or diminished in some fields, the student should honestly evaluate the worth of their PhD relative to the time, energy, and resources that he or she will put into earning it. For many prospective students, another path may be the better choice.

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