Thinking about going back to school and earning your doctoral degree? If so, it is important to ask the right questions. There are a growing number of online doctoral programs available.
I recently shopped for an online doctorate in the field of education. Very quickly I realized that the usual ranking systems (i.e., US News) do not apply. Many brand-name schools are rolling programs with high price tags, and the quality of these programs varies widely.
Two essential aspects of doctoral work are funding and advising. It’s essential to be clear on both. Before committing, here is a starter list of questions to ask a about an online doctoral degree program:
- Is there departmental or university-based funding for online doctoral students that does NOT have to be repaid?
- How many students will be admitted to the program this year?
- How many students were admitted to the program last year?
- How many faculty members advise the online doctoral students? (You do the math here to derive the student-to-faculty ratio. Ideally, you want a number less than 10.)
- Am I guaranteed a faculty member as my primary advisor? (Some programs outsource primary advising and then provide what they term “co-advising” with a faculty member. You do not want this, unless you really know who you will be working with.)
- How does program handle issues and difficulties that arise with remote advising?
- How many students dropped out of this specific program last year? (Alternately, ask how many students dropped out in each of the past few cohorts, depending on how long the program has been up and running.)
- How many students graduated from this specific program last year?
- What happens if I need to take a break?
- What are the face-to-face meeting requirements?
Think of something else important to ask? Please share your comments.