National University and Northcentral University have merged. Learn more.
Request Info

How to Decide Between a PhD and Professional Doctorate

For aspiring doctoral students, the first decision you make will prove to be one of the most important. When it comes to choosing the best doctorate program for you, how do you decide between a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and a Professional Doctorate?


How Are a PhD and Professional Doctorate Similar?

Whether you choose the PhD or professional doctorate, upon graduation you'll be part of an elite group of scholars. Both contain rigorous coursework designed to help you gain new knowledge in the specialization of your choice. Both require a dissertation process that provides an opportunity for advanced research and analysis in your field. And of course, both are going to get you that coveted title of “Dr."


How are a PhD and Professional Doctorate Different?

In a PhD program, you'll focus your research on contributing new knowledge and theory to the body of knowledge in your field. In a professional doctorate program, you'll focus your research on the practical application of knowledge and theory that already exists within your field. If you plan to continue your work in the field of your choice by implementing your research in the field, the professional doctorate might be the right choice for you. If you plan to contribute to your field through researching and analyzing new theories and solutions, the PhD might be the right choice for you. In short, the professional doctorate student will focus on the how, while the PhD student will focus on the why.


Are You a Why or a How Student?



Motivation Behind the Research
To contribute new knowledge
and theory
Future Plans
Continued research and analysis of new theories and solutions


(Professional Doctorate)

Motivation Behind the Research
Practical application of existing knowledge and theory
Future Plans
Continued work in the field, applying knowledge gained to make improvements



What Does This Mean For You?

Ultimately, your decision should be based on the contributions you plan to make to your field with your new degree in hand. Before you embark upon your doctoral journey, take the time to:

  • Evaluate your current and future plans within your field.
  • Conduct research on the current body of knowledge within the field of your choice.
  • Determine the type of impact you'd like to make. Are you a how or a why student?


Still Unsure About Your Decision?

One of the best things you can do in terms of finding out what education you need for the career you want is to seek out advice from someone who has that job, whether it’s a friend, colleague or mentor. Job postings also provide a lot of helpful information in terms of what education, experience, and qualifications you might need in order to get the job you want.

Interested in pursuing your Doctorate or PhD? You can explore our program offerings here, or request information to speak to an enrollment advisor.


Similar Articles

- 6 Things You Should Know Before Pursuing Your Doctoral Degree