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What are doctoral programs?

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Quick Answer

Doctoral degrees are advanced academic degrees that are typically terminal, meaning there is no higher level to be achieved. Almost every academic field offers opportunities for a doctorate, with the PhD, or doctor of philosophy, being among the most common types.

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What are doctoral programs?
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Full Answer

Doctoral, or doctorate, degrees are multi-year programs, usually entailing approximately four years of study, although stretches of five to six years are not uncommon in certain fields, depending on department, institution and funding money available. Doctoral programs normally require between 90 and 120 credits, or the equivalent of 30 to 40 actual courses. Most institutions also demand a completed bachelor's degree for entry into a doctoral program. If the student holds a master's degree, especially from the same institution conferring the doctorate, she may be able to shorten the latter.

It is rare for an occupation to require a doctoral degree, although there are exceptions, with licensed, practicing psychology being a notable one. Additionally, almost all full-time, tenured university teaching positions require a doctorate or favor those who possess them. Successful completion of a doctoral program can involve both written and oral examinations, as well as the composition of a dissertation, usually a lengthy and original piece of research in the student's designated field.

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