have on-line universities taken a step toward respectability, or are they throw away degrees?

I’ve been thinking of starting work on my PhD, but circumstances dictate that if I do, I would have to do it on-line.

Is this even worth pursuing? I want the degree, but I don’t want to spend the time earning the degree if it is not going to be taken seriously by the business or academic community at large. I know that Univ. of Phoenix has been around for a long time now, but I will admit that I don’t react positively to any of these on-line programs when I see them on a resume.

Has reality changed to where getting an advanced degree from one of these schools would be worth the effort?

Mods, if this is more of an opinion thread, please feel free to move it to IMHO.

Why do you want a PhD? That’s going to determine whether any online program is worth it.

I’ve heard good things about Walden University Online.


They have a campus in Little Rock. They offer advanced degrees in only a few fields. So, their resources aren’t scattered. They’re accredited.

I’ve thought about getting my masters from them. Google walden-university reviews and decide for yourself. I was impressed that the people who wrote reviews said that worked their butts off. You don’t buy a degree from Walden U. You have to study and earn it.

One issue is the cost. Walden is expensive. They only hire PHD’s to teach. You get what you pay for.

As ultrafilter said, it would depend partly on what you want the degree for. It would also depend on which subject area you are thinking about, and what sort of job opportunities are available for PhDs in that field.

In my area, history, the main aim of the vast majority of PhD candidates is to work as a professor in a university. I’m not sure if any online schools offer history doctorates, but i can tell you that, if they did, anyone with an online history PhD wouldn’t even get a peek in the door for a tenure-track job at a four-year university.

Some history PhDs also work for think-tanks, and also for government. I’m not sure what their attitude would be to online doctorates, but in the current climate, with dozens of PhDs for every job, i think they’d be much more likely to take the candidate from the established, brick-and-mortar university.

Actually, in most fields and at most universities and colleges, full-time teaching positions only go to people with PhDs, and this applies even at cheap, “safety school” public universities.

With a few exceptions, your chances of getting a tenure-track job at a four-year college or university without a PhD are almost zero. Some places hire people with Masters degrees for part-time and adjunct work, but a PhD is basically a minimum requirement for the full-time slots.

My wife is a professor at a second-tier state university, and virtually every full-time faculty member in the college of arts and sciences has a PhD. About the only exceptions are in the Visual and Performing Arts Department, where a fairly common education path is a Bachelors degree and then an MFA.

What are you doing now? Where are your degrees from? What subject do you want to get a Ph.D. in? What do you want to do with it?

I know that you said that due to circumstances, your only option appears to be an on-line PhD.

But, to sorta echo what mhendo said, I’d think long and hard about that option for a doctorate because for one, a lot of places do not give the online degree the respect they give the brick-and-mortar degree.

For two, as has been mentioned, they are also very expensive.

In a thread I started a while back, it seemed that even PhDs from brick-and-mortar institutions, there seems to be a bias against those who pay for their tuition versus those who get fully funded by the university (i.e., tuition waived, 20-30 thousand a year stipend, etc.).

Still, I would say that you would have greater acceptance of the on-line doctorate if it was earned from a brick-and-mortar school like Nova Southeastern or Baker College.

But, ultimately, I’d have to go with **Wendell Wagner **and ultrafilter: It all depends on your situation and what you want to do with the doctorate.

I’d also like to say that I am not talking about something like master’s degrees, or bachelor/master degrees that are offered in a pure on-line format from traditional brick-and-mortar universities. These, as far as I can tell, are identical with the “regular” degrees; in fact, a lot of them have no deisgnation whatever on the diploma or transcript that the degree was earned on-line. Different situation entirely.

It also depends on the institution offering the degree. Many and more traditional colleges are offering on-line classes and full on degrees. If you get your diploma from the University of Minnesota or Colgate or UT or whatever, that’ll say a lot more about you (and your degree) than getting it from the U of Phoenix or similar degree mills. Check into your local colleges and universities - I’m betting many of them have a number of offerings.

I just wanted to chime in to say that online universities aren’t the only option for pursuing a degree online. Most brick-and-mortar colleges have established programs that you can do without ever stepping foot on their campus. Choices range from the Ivy League to big state schools.

Frankly, I think the stigma is not attached to the online programs so much as it is to the online-only institutions, some of which (rightly or wrongly) are considered glorified diploma mills.

Thanks for the replies so far.

The reason for the PhD is to teach at a university. My concern (which has been echoed in this thread) is that a university would be much more critical of a University of On-Line PhD than perhaps a private employer. Let’s say I decided not to teach, but to work for a think-tank. It seems that even with that change of direction, the bias would be the same.

I have no problem with the bias, especially if they are indeed diploma mills. Like everything else, college is a business, and the University of Phoenix isn’t going to earn money if they don’t keep that tuition coming in. I want the piece of paper to mean something. Working for it (and having the general population at large know I earned the degree) is important. So if my prospective employer looks at my resume and sees PhD - University of Phoenix - and that brings nothing but negative feelings toward it, I’d rather not waste the time **or **the money.

Online universities are not all that different from regular colleges. Just like a degree from Princeton is more prestigious than one from Podunk Community College, a degree from one online university may be more prestigious than another. To pretend that all online universities are in one class and all brick and mortar universities are in another is really oversimplifying.

Regarding UOP specifically, let’s first remember that UOP has brick and mortar schools throughout the country in addition to the central campus in Arizona and the online program. In addition, it’s a school that is very focused on business. While there are some mixed feelings about its reputation, it’s accepted by most business managers as a quality school

Now, my understanding is that most PhD candidates earn their way through school by doing teaching. If you got the degree without having the teaching experience you’d normally get as a graduate student, that might be the bigger problem than the place the degree came from.

There’s still some variability across fields, but for the most part your options will be much more limited with an online doctorate than with one from a traditional program. The market for online PhDs is mainly people who want the credential to help them advance in their existing career, and that doesn’t sound like what you’re looking for, so this is probably not a good idea.

As far as coursework based programs go, this is very true, but we’re talking about doctoral programs here, which really aren’t school in any traditional sense of the word. An online program simply doesn’t offer the opportunities for casual interaction with faculty and other grad students that you’d have in a traditional program, and if you’re looking to do research (which is what the PhD is supposed to be all about), you can’t replace those opportunities with anything else.

I don’t think you can get a professor positon without a Ph.D. from a good brick and mortar university. There is always the possibility of an exception - I would say that if you were able to get a few pieces published in some really good journals, then you could establish credibility with an online degree. But, it would probably be really tough to have your work even looked at while not at a ‘respected’ school - so you’d be facing a real uphill battle.

Some Ph.D. programs may allow you to transfer credits from a Master’s program - and there are quite a few very good schools that offer online master’s degrees. So, you could consider getting yourself half way there online before deciding whetehr you could commit to a full time brick and mortar Ph.D. program. I don’t know if that could work for you, just a thought. But with the vast majority of Ph.D programs, you will not be paying tuition and you will get a stipend, and there should be loan money available to support other costs (family, etc.).

Landing a professor position, from what I know, is incredibly hard. The deck is already stacked against you - I would think real hard before attempting to do it at any kind of disadvantage. Because, it seems that if you need do it online then you also need to do it on top of working a job. This may well be impossible. You will be competing against incredibly intelligent people who are dedicating every waking moment to their endeavor, and they will have the weight of a great school behind them. The fact is that there are limited professor positiotns available and they are highly sought after. So it really is a competition. You don’t need to beat everyone, but you will probably need to beat most of them. I don’t mean to piss in your cheerios, but grad school is a full time job for most people. But, when I was in grad school I knew people who worked in addition to going to school and did well - it’s just that they were the exception and not the rule.

For the record, I didn’t do a Ph.D. - I did a JD and an MBA.

University professor here. I will say this with all kindness.

You. Will. Never. Teach. At. A. University. With. A. PhD. From. An. Online-Only. Institution.

Repeat that to yourself as many times as necessary for it to sink in.

A PhD from a brick-and-mortar university that offers an online option? Fine - nowhere on your diploma will it say “online”.

-on edit - I don’t know of too many online options for PhDs, and no good ones - its hard to do research if you are not at the University. Online options for masters degrees are much more common./edit

The ONLY time an online-only PhD is useful is if you need it to jump through some hoop at work - many school principals do this with online Ed.D. degrees. Some government workers also. They don’t care about the degree - its just a credential for a promotion.

Also, remember - even with a PhD from a good brick and mortar University, your chance of getting a professor job is still very slim.

Don’t get a PhD unless (1) you are fully funded and (2) you can’t imaging living life doing anything else.

Agreeing with the above:

Seeing scary-smart people with degrees and postdocs at The Very Best universities having trouble landing positions was humbling.

These too. (1) Having to pay for a PhD is a good indication that you should be doing something else. (2) Most people I saw who didn’t complete just didn’t want to be there enough. There are plenty of folks with less smarts than you would expect who have PhDs, but they really wanted them.

But even for normal degrees, I’ve had multiple folks in hiring positions tell me they just chuck resumes with online degrees in the trash.

This is truth. You don’t need to be brilliant to get a PhD - heck, I know some PhD-holders who I classify as morons in many respects.

What you need is the ability to take multiple kicks to the head and groin and keep smiling while begging for another. And the perseverance to do this continually for 4 to 10+ years.

You had better love the subject. If not, there are MUCH easier and more lucrative ways of making a living.

Thank you for all of the honest opinions. This has been something I’ve been kicking around for a number of months, but family obligations make relocating to attend a brick and morter university program virtually impossible. So, as I suspected, I would be wasting my time. I would much prefer to do it full time, and if I could swing it, I would do it. Perhaps circumstances will change.

One question I’d like to ask for those that have mentioned it. It seems that personally paying for a PhD is not really something that many people do. Is this because those seeking these degrees only go to schools that offer some sort of package (financial, teaching, etc) to pay for most if not all of the degree? I didn’t realize PhD’s were that heavily subsidized.

I’ve known exactly two professors that were lucky enough to land a position with their particular university with a master’s degree only, and were able to complete their PhD at the university they were teaching at to complete the requirement. Both of these situations were flukes, but I’m sure it happens occasionally. These two people were at the right place at the right time, filled a need, and took advantage of a favorable situation. I am not in one of these favorable positions, so I see a difficult, if not impossible path ahead of me.

Perhaps it would be better to go to medical school and get my MD. :slight_smile:

With regard to publishing: The most important thing in a PhD program is your adviser. Who would the adviser be in such a program? Does he or she publish? Would he or she be interested in helping you publish? if the answer to any of these is no, forget it. (And I agree with those who say forget it in any case.)

Not just tuition - you get a stipend as well. Not much, but enough to live on if you are a single student. If you have a family you really need a spouse with a normal job. My PhD students get a stipend of about $27K per year - I pay for this as part of my grants. When I was a student (1998-2003) my stipend started out at about $12K and was about $15K when I graduated.

Most programs pay for good people. In science, if you don’t get full funding (tuition and stipend) they don’t want you. In other fields, some do pay their own way but the good people still get funded.

Is this because once you become a professor, they expect you to continue to generate funding in the form of research grants?

No. Not every institution expects you to generate grant money.

Its because getting a PhD is an expensive proposition. If everyone had to pay for it themselves we would be back to where things were in the 18th and 19th (and early 20th for that matter) century where only the privileged could get educated. You can’t work another job while getting a PhD - it is an all-consuming endeavor. This is why many humanities PhDs take over 10 years to finish, if at all - if they don’t get funding they have to work (teaching if they are lucky, waiting tables if they are not).

Getting funded, at least enough to sort of live on, allows you to complete your PhD.

In science, the government pays for most PhD stipends by a variety of direct and indirect methods. Not sure how other fields do it.