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Are Online Doctoral Degrees Credible?

When scholars weigh their options for pursuing an advanced degree, most are familiar with the traditional brick-and-mortar approach. What’s unfamiliar is online education, which leaves many students both confused and wary. This leads to legitimate questions as they weigh their educational choices. One of the most frequent questions they ask is: “Are online doctorates credible?”

The short answer is yes, they can be credible and that is very good news for busy professionals who want a doctoral degree, but can’t accommodate a traditional course of study. However, a few factors make all the difference.

Accreditation is a major component contributing to a program’s credibility. Regional accreditation is very important. If a school is regionally accredited, it means that an independent third party has reviewed its degree programs in detail, judging the rigor and requirements, among other factors, to determine that certain quality criteria are met. In the case of Northcentral University, the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)* has granted full accreditation through 2020. WSCUC is the same regional accreditation as many prestigious institutions located in the U.S.

Credibility is also directly related to course content. Some online colleges have gained a reputation as diploma mills, offering an education worth little more than a piece of paper. Whereas regionally-accredited universities, like NCU, offer online programs that are just as challenging as those taken on a physical campus, if not more so. Many NCU students tell us that their education has been the best and most demanding educational experience of their scholarly lives.

One benefit of online education is that it is self-motivated, independent study. This is also an important aspect of why the experience is so demanding – and rewarding. By completing online doctoral programs, students prove to employers that they are disciplined and driven self-starters. Northcentral University utilizes a unique one-to-one learning model that pairs one student with one doctoral professor for each course. Throughout their academic journey, students will be mentored by professors who are experienced in their field of study, however, it’s still up to them to supply the initiative.

Credibility of an online doctoral program is also viewed through the lens of employers. They may provide the ultimate answer to the question, "Are online doctorates legitimate?" After all, employers decide if your work experience and education qualify you for a job. Once again, the good news is that employers have begun to look upon online education favorably.

According to the Society for Human Resources Management, 79 percent of organizations said they had hired an applicant with an online degree in the previous 12 months. As more and more employers see online graduates succeeding in their workforce, they become more likely to hire online doctoral graduates again in the future.

The credibility factors explored above can vary based on the school, the program and employer perceptions of online education. When considering an online doctoral degree program, it is wise to do your research to identify accredited universities that have a reputation for offering a premier education.

Still have questions? Read our Guide to Doctoral Education to find more information. Learn more about our online doctoral & phd programs or request a call from our enrollment advisors by filling out the form below.

* Northcentral University is a WSCUC accredited institution. WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), 985 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 100, Alameda, CA 94501, 510.748.9001, WSCUC is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).