Your doctoral degree is not only the highest level of education you can achieve, it also represents the highest level of commitment you can make to your education. With your doctorate, you are in elite company, but like any degree program, it’s going to take time and self-discipline to accomplish your goals.
If you’re eyeing the path to the ultimate degree, here are four things to consider.
1. What Kind of Opportunity Am I Looking For?
A doctoral degree does more than add an academic title to your name. Graduates leave school as unrivaled experts in their fields, which leads to a number of potential career paths and the opportunity to do things that they’ve never done, or thought about doing, before.
“I went back to school after working in K-12 and I never expected to leave the public school system,” explains Dr. Rebecca Wardlow, program chair for the University of Arizona Global Campus Doctor of Philosophy in Education. “The month I graduated, an opportunity to work in higher education at Global Campus came about. Before then it was never a consideration, but because I finished my doctorate, it happened.”
Every degree opens doors. You have to determine beforehand what door you’d like to open, and examine the potential opportunities that your doctoral degree can create for you.
2. Am I the Right Person for This Degree?
While many students cite factors such as earning potential and job opportunities as the reasons they’ve gone back to college, Dr. Wardlow sees something different in the Global Campus doctoral community.
“Doctoral students really enjoy being in school,” she says. “They’re curious, they love learning, they love to research, and they’re committed.”
Though only 2 percent of the U.S. population hold doctoral degrees, students and graduates come from very diverse backgrounds. The opportunity to reach the pinnacle of education, Dr. Wardlow explains, isn’t limited to a select few. Rather, it’s open to anyone willing to put in the effort.
“You’re in elite company when you’re finished, but these are ordinary people, not ‘elitist,’” she says. “They are simply people who have persevered and proven that they can do something difficult.”
3. Can I Make the Time Commitment?
Every degree program requires you to find the perfect balance between school, work, and family priorities. For a doctoral degree, Dr. Wardlow says, time management always proves to be the biggest challenge.
“When I was pursuing my [Doctor of Education], I was working full-time as a school principal and I had a family,” she explains. “I was also very active in my community, so it was just about finding the time to commit to school.
Dr. Wardlow suggests forecasting your time commitment and school schedule to get a sense of what it will take to finish your courses and, most importantly, your dissertation; as well as where you can take advantage of spare minutes and hours in a day.
She recently polled her students with the question “What I Wish I Knew When I Started My Dissertation” and found that many agree.
Set small goals with deadlines and beware of procrastination and those subtle forms of avoidance,” one student replied.
“The work is not hard, but it takes a lot of hard work. You can do this!” said another
One thing Dr. Wardlow stresses is that there isn’t a “right time” to go back to school, and if the desire is inside you, it’s best not to ignore it
“It’s never going to be easier, life never simplifies,” she says. “If you do it now, you’ll have it forever.”
4. Is Online Learning the Right Path to My Degree?
Much of the reason why self-discipline and time management are critical for Global Campus students is because they are completing their courses online. As a prospective doctoral candidate, you must decide if the path to your degree goes through a brick and mortar campus or the online classroom.
The online format presents its own set of challenges and rewards, but one difference with UAGC, Dr. Wardlow explains, is the dissertation process, which is embedded into your courses.
“Rather than seeing you do your coursework and saying ‘You’re now on your own,’ we get you started on Day One,” she says. “We’ve really tried to scaffold the learning experience, so you have specific assignments, you know exactly what to do, and you’re building a solid foundation for your dissertation from the beginning.”&
Additionally, Global Campus coursework and dissertation processes are entirely for the student’s benefit, unlike a traditional campus setting, where doctoral students may be doing work to support their professor’s research.
“Ours is really focused on the student’s area of interest,” Dr. Wardlow says. “And with the online format, you can send questions to a professor anytime and don’t have to wait until the next class period to get an answer.”
There are several factors to consider and facts you should know about doctoral degrees and dissertations before you make the leap toward an advanced degree. For additional guidance, contact a Global Campus advisor today to talk about your options, your post-graduation opportunities, and why you want to earn your doctoral degree.