Choosing a Degree

What Types of Doctorates Are Available?

The pinnacle achievement in education, doctoral degrees may also open the doors to exclusive jobs and maximize salaries. For example, business Ph.D. holders earn 9 percent more over their lifetimes than those with only master’s degrees. In education, that number rises to 24 percent.

The reason is simple. The doctorate identifies that a student has mastered either the knowledge of a subject or the applied theory of one. Achieving the degree firmly establishes one as an authority in her field or discipline. Those are qualities that employers are looking for when filling leadership or top positions within their company.

And these types of degrees are growing in both popularity and scope.

The Growing State of the (Doctorate) Union

As emerging jobs have taken over the market, the rise in available doctoral degrees has followed.
Currently, there are a total of 88 different doctoral degrees available in the United States. And people are taking advantage of the opportunity:

American universities awarded 52,760 doctorates in 2013, up 3.5 percent from nearly 50,977 in 2012 and nearly 8 percent from 48,903 in 2011.

In 2014, American universities awarded 54,070 research doctorates, the highest total in the 58 years that the National Science Foundation has sponsored the Survey of Earned Doctorates.

These numbers indicate that the bar is raising (and quickly) for many high-demand jobs. A master’s is no longer an automatic differentiator for competitive jobs.

Six Popular Doctorates for 2018

In many fast-growing and emerging fields, professionals are seeking to differentiate themselves by earning specialized doctoral degrees. Below is a list outlining seven of the most popular doctorates in 2017 and beyond.

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

If you want to lead a business—via the C-suite or the consultant role—this degree is for you.

The DBA is well poised to lead innovation, evolution and adaptation efforts to help the business meet the ever-changing demands of the economy. Programs teach students how to effectively lead and influence organizations—by teaching what makes businesses tick, improve, succeed and fail.

What you’ll learn:

All programs are different, based on the institution and your emphasis, but the core coursework might include subjects like:

  • Leadership constructs and methodologies
  • Organizational strategy and performance
  • Organizational culture and behavior
  • Modern management theory and advanced leadership principles
  • Effective decision-making
  • Performance analysis
  • Application of ethical constructs
  • Change management techniques

There are a variety of specialties you can get your DBA in, including: International Business Leadership, Human Resource Management, Project Management, Finance, Strategy and Vision, Marketing, and Strategic Management.

Doctor of Public Health (DPH)

If you want to lead programs that affect global or population health, this degree is for you.

The DPH is tailored to individuals leading policy and programs in the public health sector. Programs help students develop critical skills to identify, validate and improve population-based public health strategies, influence public health interventions and strategies, develop public health policy and programs, and establish economic models to drive meaningful change.

What you’ll learn:

All programs are different, based on the institution and your emphasis, but the core coursework might include subjects like:

  • Health informatics and analytics
  • Public health leadership and systems thinking
  • Economics of public health
  • Community health assessment
  • Global health and issues in disease prevention
  • Public relations and communication for public health leaders

Common concentrations in Doctor of Public Health programs include: Environmental Health, Health Equity and Social Justice, Health Policy and Management.

Doctor of Healthcare Administration (DHA)

If you want to maintain a healthcare focus, this degree is for you.

The DHA is tailored to individuals leading businesses within the healthcare industry. Programs typically focus on the practical applications of public health theory, evaluation and improvement across the business of healthcare—including administration, policy, regulation, marketing, communication and program management.

What you’ll learn:

All programs are different, based on the institution and your emphasis, but the core coursework might include subjects like:

  • Organizational strategies to improve community and global health
  • State, federal and private policy making
  • Quality improvement methodologies
  • Healthcare economics and financial reform
  • Health data management
  • Program evaluation models
  • Improving health information governance

Common concentrations include: Healthcare Quality and Analytics, Healthcare Management, Clinical and Program Management, General Healthcare Leadership or Health Care Policy.

Doctor of Professional Studies – Instructional Leadership Design (DPS, ISL)

If you want to influence organizations through curriculum development, the Doctor of Professional Studies is for you.

DPS-IDLs develop cross-organization and multi-tiered learning strategies to help organizations improve and retain talent. Professionals in this area work to develop senior leadership competencies, technical proficiencies, knowledge-transfer systems and other important things.

What you’ll learn:

All programs are different, based on the institution and your emphasis, but the core coursework might include subjects like:

  • Emerging trends and technologies for instructional design
  • Advanced organizational learning theories
  • Innovative learning environment design
  • Strategic assessment and decision-making
  • Knowledge management
  • Communication theory and strategies

This field is an emerging field—growing in popularity as a higher volume of legacy and tenured leaders are leaving organizations.

Doctor of Information Technology (DIT)

If you’re driven to help businesses succeed through the effective deployment and management of technology, this doctorate is for you.

DITs are more than technology specialists—they are embedded leaders who can drive organizations through critical IT-related challenges. Their work enables the success and growth of business plans and goals. From technology assessment to technology vision, these leaders influence the business’ ability to perform its mission.

What you’ll learn:

All programs are different, based on the institution and your emphasis, but the core coursework might include subjects like:

  • IT leadership principles
  • Enterprise database design
  • Enterprise systems architecture
  • Emerging technologies (cloud, grid computing, etc.)
  • Information assurance
  • Information and network security
  • Change and risk management

As organizations continue to rely heavily on existing and emerging technologies, DITs are positioned to have meaningful influence inside of organizations.

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

If you’re driven by concepts of social justice and reform, or the proper execution of social work, this doctorate is for you.

DSWs are positioned to expand their independent practice or work into new populations or areas, or achieve leadership roles in social work agencies and organizations. These leaders drive social change and interventions that improve the human experience for disenfranchised or marginalized populations.

What you’ll learn:

All programs are different, based on the institution and your emphasis, but the core coursework might include subjects like:

  • Contemporary issues and social change
  • Advanced social work theory
  • Policy creation
  • Human services administration
  • Program and practice evaluation
  • Public leadership

A Doctor of Social Work may concentrate their research in the following fields: Addiction and Social Work, Disaster and Intervention, Social Work Administration, Criminal Justice, Family Studies and Intervention, Clinical Expertise or Policy Practice.

Choosing Your Doctorate “Flavor”

As we’ve mentioned before, there are two types of doctorate degrees: the academic degree (PhD) and the applied degree (Doctorate).

A general rule of thumb is this:

Go for your Ph.D. if you want to pursue a tenured teaching career at a research institution (think professor at Harvard) or if a job implicitly requires it (think: principle scientist or university chancellor).

If not, opt for the applied.

The applied degree is typically recommended if you want to teach at a teaching institution (think small liberal arts university, Christian higher education, private charter schools), if you want to establish your professional credibility as a practitioner (think CEO, financial advisor, public health leader), or if you want to spend the prime of your career in consulting work (think contract researcher or circuit speaker).

Not sure which one is right for you? Go applied. It’s the most flexible program, giving you the best chance of learning things that you can apply in the boardroom or office the next day.

The Doctorate Gut Check

The highest possible achievement in education, the doctorate, firmly establishes you as an authority in your  field or discipline. The degree may also offer competitive advantages, open the door to exciting career opportunities, and deliver substantial salary increases.

For these reasons, doctorate programs are growing in both popularity and scope—a reality that gives today’s professionals unique opportunities to leverage education to further their careers.