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Is a Doctorate Degree Worth It?

A doctorate degree is no small feat. It can lead to professional opportunities for advancement in a variety of careers while setting a positive example of perseverance for family members. Whether it's worth it for you depends on your goals.
A blue graphic with an outline of a student wearing a grad cap next to a student using her laptop researching if a doctorate degree is worth it

Know before you read
At SNHU, we want to make sure you have the information you need to make decisions about your education and your future—no matter where you choose to go to school. That's why our informational articles may reference careers for which we do not offer academic programs, along with salary data for those careers. Cited projections do not guarantee actual salary or job growth.

Earning a doctorate takes time, money and discipline. Like many things worth doing, the process is challenging but also rewarding. Becoming an expert in your subject area and immersing yourself in your chosen area of study makes the process of earning a doctorate important to many people. Certain professions require or value a doctorate for promotion potential.

In fact, career advancement, love of the subject matter and personal satisfaction are three of the top reasons why Dr. Bridgitte Kiprop '23, Dr. Jennifer Barry ’23 and Dr. Torialyn Draper Crook earned their doctorates.

  • For Kiprop '23, part of her motivation for earning a doctorate in International Business was setting an example for her six children.
  • For Barry, ’23, who earned a doctor of education degree in educational leadership, part of her motivation was to prepare for success in meeting her long-term career goal to become a university president.
  • And for Crook, earning her doctorate in education was a commitment that she undertook to honor her family’s legacy of valuing education.

How Difficult is Earning a Doctorate?

Dr Jennifer Barry, a doctor of education degree in educational leadership graduate from SNHUEarning a doctorate is no small undertaking. For Crook, who works for Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) as a career advisor and adjunct instructor, the process was undeniably challenging. Earning her doctorate while working full-time and raising twins demanded dedication and perseverance in both her personal and professional lives. Her workforce journey has included roles in academia, student affairs, program coordination and advising.

For Kiprop, time management was her key to success. With six children, she had to make the most of any time in the day that she could find. “If I had … five minutes, I would use the five minutes,” she said. “Other times, I was luckier (and had) two hours.”

Despite the time-management challenges of earning an advanced degree while raising her family, Kiprop feels that the process of earning that degree was a way to inspire her children to work hard to meet their own goals.

“I really hope that my children will ... know that whatever it is they feel called to do, whatever their ambitions, their goals are achievable,” she said.

To manage the challenge of advanced studies, having the right people around you as you work on your degree is essential, according to Crook. “Surround yourself with family, friends, colleagues and mentors who can provide encouragement during challenging times,” she said.

Crook stresses that everyone’s journey to earning their doctorate is unique. She recommends being prepared for the unexpected, and remaining flexible in adjusting your path as you work toward completing your degree.

How Long Does a Doctorate Take?

A clock on an blue backgroundThe U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said that the time it can take to complete a doctorate varies widely, from 5 to 12 years. This wide range is due to the number of variables between which degree program you may choose and what personal circumstances you may face.

Students may have family commitments, health challenges or need to work full or part-time while attending school. Many students face all of these circumstances. Crook managed to complete her doctorate in 5 years, though it wasn't easy for her. She faced a significant personal health challenge and was raising two children while also attending school.

For Barry, earning her doctoral degree is part of an educational path that started with her bachelor’s degree at SNHU (formerly New Hampshire College) in 2000. She then continued her education to earn a master's degree throughout several jobs and geographic moves.

Barry views her entire educational journey as part of the process that led to meeting her ultimate goal of earning a doctorate.

What Skills Are Needed to Earn a Doctorate?

Dr Torialyn Draper Crook, a career advisor at SNHUOnce you’ve decided to take on the challenge of earning a doctorate, consider the skills you might need to have or develop to be successful.

While every academic program is different, Crook finds certain skills and competencies necessary for success, regardless of field. These skills include:

  • Building relationships
  • Organizational skills
  • Self-motivation
  • Writing skills

Crook finds building relationships particularly important. While working on her degree, the strong relationship that she developed with her dissertation chairperson proved essential. She also built positive relationships with other doctoral students, which led to a strong peer support network throughout her program.

Kiprop echoes the importance of building relationships in her field as well. For her, building new relationships is a way to open your mind to new experiences and opportunities.

Find Your Program

What Types of Jobs Can You Get with a Doctorate?

While a doctorate is helpful for working in leadership roles at colleges and universities, there are many opportunities for doctoral degree holders to work at the highest levels in their profession outside of higher education as well.

Some of the top professions that require a doctoral or professional degree and have a faster-than-average predicted growth rate, according to the BLS, are:

  • Astronomers* (SNHU does not currently offer graduate degrees in astronomy or physics)
  • Biochemists and biophysicists* (SNHU does not currently offer graduate degrees in biochemistry or biophysics)
  • Clinical and counseling psychologists* (SNHU does not currently offer doctorates in psychology, but you could start with a bachelor's in psychology, followed by a master's in psychology)
  • Higher education teachers and professors — particularly business, computer science and engineering teachers*
A graphic with a blue background and a white briefcase icon

Two more examples of areas where a doctorate can help prepare you for advancement in your career are educational leadership and international business.

A doctorate in educational leadership can be a Doctor of Philosophy degree, known as a PhD, or a Doctor of Education degree, known as an EdD. The PhD in Education Leadership typically leads to higher education roles in teaching and research. The EdD in Educational Leadership, which Barry earned, typically leads to leadership and strategy roles in an education setting that may be at the higher education or secondary school level.

Dr Bridgitte Kiprop, a doctorate in International Business graduate from SNHU

A PhD in International Business may include addressing a gap in an existing body of knowledge by conducting research. Kiprop, who earned her doctorate at SNHU, plans to use her degree to research entrepreneurship in small business finance.

Motivated by being from a developing country — Kenya — she has a personal interest in helping grow small businesses in similar developing areas. “I can also use that same knowledge at the New Hampshire level because the issues there perhaps are different but still … relevant,” she said.

Regardless of your program field, the process of earning a doctorate can help you explore ways of applying your newfound and existing knowledge that you may not have considered prior to starting your program.

Is it Better to Have a Master’s or Doctorate?

Both a master’s degree and a doctorate offer opportunities for career advancement. Choosing which to earn, or whether to earn both, is a highly personal decision based on your personal and professional goals and aspirations, according to Crook.

Before deciding which degree is right for you, consider your goals. Speaking with a career counselor or graduate admissions counselor to learn about career options and pathways toward earning the degree can be a helpful step toward making this decision.

In many fields, a master’s degree is enough to move forward in your career. But, earning a doctorate is an opportunity to take your career a step further, according to Crook. That step “gives one the opportunity to direct their career trajectory specifically through research and other specialized skills and knowledge,” she said.

How Valuable is a Doctorate?

A doctorate isn’t for everyone, but it can be right for you depending on your chosen field and career path.

For many people, earning a doctorate is just as important as a personal accomplishment as it is a professional one. “I (always) understood the significance of progressing in my career and staying connected to my field of higher education,” Crook said. “My doctoral journey was worthwhile as it aligned with my career goals and personal aspirations,” she said.

For Barry, the doctorate was worth it because she believes strongly in the power of education. “You see how (education) transforms people’s lives and … gives people opportunities that they didn’t see before,” she said.

She has seen many people earn degrees only for their family members to then continue in their footsteps. “I just think that generationally, (education) is creating pathways for people,” she said.

Deciding whether to pursue a doctorate is ultimately a very personal decision, but one that can lead you to build new relationships and a new knowledge base while helping you reach or exceed your career goals.

A degree can change your life. Find the SNHU doctorate degree that can best help you meet your goals.

*Cited job growth projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth. Actual salaries and/or earning potential may be the result of a combination of factors including, but not limited to: years of experience, industry of employment, geographic location, and worker skill. 

A former higher education administrator, Dr. Marie Morganelli is a career educator and writer. She has taught and tutored composition, literature, and writing at all levels from middle school through graduate school. With two graduate degrees in English language and literature, her focus — whether teaching or writing — is in helping to raise the voices of others through the power of storytelling. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

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SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.