Online Ph.D. programs offer one of the most affordable and convenient ways to reach your field’s highest level of education. But you may feel hesitant about applying to such programs, as some people seem to believe they aren’t as “legitimate” as traditional, in-person options for earning a Ph.D. In this guide, we’ll show you why this isn’t something you should be worried about.

Common Myths About Online Ph.D. Programs

Online Ph.D. programs are often misunderstood. Many prospective students question whether these programs are legitimate due to myths that are either entirely false or at least somewhat misleading:

MYTH #1: Top universities don’t offer online Ph.D. programs

You may be under the impression that online Ph.D. programs are only available at for-profit degree mills or obscure colleges that you’ve never heard of before. In fact, some of the most prestigious universities in the United States offer these programs. As of this writing, the schools listed below are ranked among the top 100 national universities by U.S. News and offer online Ph.D. programs in the following fields of study.:

MYTH #2: The academic quality of online classes is worse than in-person classes

The instructor is the most important factor regarding the academic quality of any given college course. Effective professors know how to explain complex topics and gauge how well students understand course materials. They’ll take the time to provide each student with extra help whenever necessary. On the other hand, subpar instructors may have issues with communication or availability, making it more difficult for students to succeed.

The instructors who teach online college classes generally also teach in-person classes. Whether you take in-person or online courses won’t make a difference in terms of instructor quality, as these classes usually all pull from the same pool of professors.

The academic quality of online degree programs is especially strong when you can take synchronous courses, which involve remotely attending live lectures through a video chat platform. This format allows you to ask questions, receive feedback, and even interact with fellow students in real time, just like you would in an on-campus setting.

MYTH #3: Online students are on their own

Most schools also use video chat technology to provide their online students with resources such as academic advising, counseling, tutoring, and tech support. You will likely have access to such resources over the phone as well. Many online programs also offer virtual community spaces where students can connect, find support, and build meaningful relationships. Overall, you should be able to access any student support services you need without making a trip to campus.

MYTH #4: Employers don’t respect online degrees

You may be concerned about employers taking your online degree seriously. After all, you do not want to spend thousands of dollars and years of your life pursuing a program unlikely to advance your career.

A 2018 study on educational credentials conducted by Northeastern University produced some very encouraging findings for anyone who plans to earn an online Ph.D. 61% of HR leaders believe that online degrees are either equivalent or better than those achieved in person. Also, 71% report that they have personally hired someone who earned their degree online. While it’s true that there are still some employers out there who are skeptical about online degrees, it’s not going to be a dealbreaker for the vast majority of hiring managers.

Earning a PhD from an accredited institution will help ensure that employers and professional organizations accept your degree. When researching schools, confirm that they are regionally or nationally accredited.

MYTH #5: Online degrees show that you earned them online

Once you’ve completed all of your online Ph.D. program’s requirements, your diploma will be mailed to you within a few months (if your college holds commencement ceremonies, you should also be able to participate in this). Generally, accredited universities do not indicate on this document whether you earned the degree in person or online. Your diploma would look the same if you earned it the traditional, on-campus way.

It’s also worth mentioning that you have no obligation to disclose that you earned your degree online to a prospective employer. Of course, you should never lie in a job interview. If you get asked directly about your college experience or the topic comes up naturally in conversation, it’s better to be honest now than risk being revealed as dishonest later. But if it doesn’t come up, you may want to keep this detail to yourself in case the hiring manager is one of the 39% who still has concerns about online degrees.

Why You Should Attend an Online Ph.D. Program

Now that we’ve dispelled the most common myths about why you shouldn’t get an online Ph.D. let’s review why you should consider these programs.

First, earning a Ph.D. will provide you with more lucrative job opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workers with this level of education earn an average of $1,909 per week, while workers with just a master’s degree earn $1,574 per week, and those with just a bachelor’s earn $1,334 per week. And with average weekly earnings of $809 per week, workers with only a high school diploma earn less than half the average income of workers with a Ph.D.

The BLS data also shows that it’s much easier for Ph.D. holders to find jobs than less educated workers. The unemployment rate for Ph.D. holders is 1.5%. This is lower than the rate for those with a master’s degree (2.6%), bachelor’s degree (3.5%), or high school diploma (6.2%).

As for why you should consider earning your Ph.D. online, there are two key reasons: affordability and flexibility. Some colleges charge less for online classes than in-person classes, as they require less overhead to operate. Also, unless you already live near campus, you would need to pay for either housing or commuting to classes to complete an in-person program. Attending an online program instead eliminates this expense. The lack of commute also makes it easier for students with children, a full-time job, or other demanding responsibilities to find time to complete their coursework.

By earning your Ph.D. online, you’ll be able to increase your income and reduce your unemployment risk with as little cost and inconvenience as possible.

Interested in a degree instead?

Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.