The most popular PhD degrees in the United States are offered at some of the world’s most prestigious colleges and universities. Earning a doctorate leads to a more successful career in practically all fields. Be it in the academic, research, or business arena, a Ph.D. degree holder can expect higher lifetime earnings than those who hold master’s or bachelor’s degrees.
As all fifty states have something special to offer, students will never run out of choices. Students from all over the world come to the US to take advantage of this opportunity, making the country a popular destination for those who dream of reaching their academic pursuits. With the advancement of the educational system, some are even accessible online. Distance learning makes the quest for education seemingly uncomplicated.
Ph.D. candidates are immersed in significant, yet intensive research that would later pave the way for dissertation proposal, completion. and successful defense. A dissertation is aimed at contributing an enormous amount of useful data to the specific field of study. This is a defining factor that sets a doctoral degree holder apart from the rest. That said, there is also additional coursework that will need to be fully complied with.
Interested? See our comprehensive list of 25 of America’s most popular PhD degrees for you to explore. See what each one has to offer you!
25 Most Popular PhD Degrees
Ph.D. in Accounting and Finance
Does the core concept of accounting in organizations and institutions fascinate you? You might be cut out for a Ph.D. in Accounting and Finance. A doctorate degree in Accounting and Finance enables students to gain advanced knowledge in both theoretical and empirical research methods. It is vital for that Ph.D. to acquire in-depth training if you wish to pursue a career in high-quality accounting and finance research.
Ph.D. in Accounting and Finance degree holders possess critical and analytical skills that are useful in examining accounting and financial reports. These skills are vital in the survival of any financial institution. And as the corporate environment continues to thrive, this doctorate degree certainly puts you at an advantage.
Duration: 3 years full-time, and may take 6 years part-time
♦ Straight out of postgraduate school, a degree holder can earn $150,000 as an assistant professor
♦ Chief Financial Officer is another career option with a $170,000 average pay per year
♦ An Account Manager earns between $86,000-$110,000
Pro: It is a lucrative and economical degree
Con: Very competitive admission process
Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics
Applied Mathematics is an interdisciplinary research field with numerous applications. Isn’t it true that mathematics solves various practical problems? Concepts in Applied Math are applicable to social sciences, business, technology, or engineering. A Ph.D. degree in it requires both in-depth and basic understanding and knowledge of the related subjects. Students are equipped with analytical reasoning, problem-solving techniques, high conceptualization capacity, and communication skills.
More so, a Ph.D. program in Applied Mathematics is a way for students who breathe and live numbers and analysis to pursue the highest level of research in the field. The program prepares doctorate students to undergo independent research with a specific emphasis on mathematical methods. But be warned: a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics is not for the fainthearted.
Duration: 3 years full-time
♦ Postdoctoral Research Associate earns an average of $60,000
♦ Senior Data Scientist earns $125,000
♦ Senior Software Engineer has an average starting salary of $99,000
Pro: A Ph.D. degree in Applied Math opens the doors to many career opportunities! And a year of Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics also earns you your Master’s.
Con: Intensive competition with fellow doctorate degree holders
Ph.D. in Audiology
Audiology and Speech Sciences endeavors to obtain an advanced understanding of human communication and the disorders surrounding it. The field of Audiology constantly engages students in research areas that are worth exploring. And educating eager students to become audiologists is the best way of furthering the study.
Unfortunately, there is a shortage of professional and academic personnel in the area. So a Ph.D. in Audiology is a great choice. Doctorate degrees in both Audiology and Speech Sciences put emphasis on the significance of science in understanding communication disorders. Additionally, the importance and implication of clinical data to explain human communication is central to studying Ph.D. in Audiology.
Duration: 3-4 years
♦ Audiologists earn a median salary of $80,000
♦ Clinical service providers earn $75,000
♦ University Faculty members’ median pay is $84,609
♦ Researchers median income is $89,730
Pro: Skills obtained from Ph.D. in Audiology are sought after in many high-level jobs in both private and public organizations. This is because there are only a few doctorate degree holders focusing on this field.
Con: Long hours of work, and extensive research
Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering
Biomedical Engineering (BME) has become one of the most thrilling interdisciplinary fields in research. It plays a central part in modern science. Biomedical Engineers use modern research approaches from the fields of life sciences, engineering, mathematics, and computer engineering to find solutions to pressing biomedical problems.
Biomedical Engineering Graduate Program aims to train future engineers to accommodate cutting-edge technology both research and practical applications. The Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering centers on the belief that it is vital for graduate students to undergo in-depth training in the life sciences and engineering. This will lead them to establish original research to add to the body of knowledge in the field of Biomedical Engineering.
Duration: 3 years
♦ Biomedical Engineer earns an average of $82,000
♦ Research Scientist has an average pay of $76,000
♦ Biomedical Engineering Director’s average income is $145,000
Pro: Ph.D. holders acquire the skills to diagnose and treat human diseases
Con: Clinical experience is often required in most jobs
Ph.D. in Business Administration
Business Administration remains to be the top college degree in the US. If you are armed with stunning credentials with a knack for analysis and practical reasoning, a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) may just be your natural academic and career path. A Ph.D. in Business Administration prepares students to become leaders and consultants both in the corporate world and the academe.
DBA equips working professionals with the requisite expertise to take on leadership and management roles. the principles being upheld in this field are essential in maintaining competence as you lead an enterprise, regardless of its size. Since Ph.D. in Business Management involves classes in core management courses, anyone who holds a DBA is expected to be a strategic and analytical leader.
Duration: 3-6 years
♦ Chief Executive Officer earns $175,000
♦ General and Operations Manager has an average salary of $97,730
♦ Business Professor earns $75,370
Pro: Rewarding career and many opportunities outside of the academe
Con: High cost of Doctor Business Management Program
Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering
Chemical Engineering is a dynamic and progressive field of study. It aims to aid industries, especially the pharmaceutical, energy, and food sectors, in problem-solving. A postgraduate degree in the field is a choice for dynamic and confident students. The main goal of ChemE is to address issues affecting the general quality of life. Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering candidates engage in extensive research to, ultimately, attain a sustainable future.
Duration: 3 years (full-time), 6 years (part-time)
♦ Research Scientist in Biotechnology earns $85,000
♦ Chemical Engineer has an average salary of $105,000
♦ Senior Process Engineer earns an average of $117,407
Pro: Ph.D. holder in Chemical Engineering will likely head a department in a chemical company
Con: Experience is necessary to land a top managerial post
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
Highly trained clinical psychologists contribute greatly to society. A Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology is a training model, both in theory and practice. that is centered on a scientist-practitioner approach. The doctorate degree aims to train future psychologists to understand the sciences behind this field. Practicing clinical psychologists also contribute their findings in research and practical applications, enabling them to possess a discernment of the foundations for their practice. Ph.D. holders are also expected to have acquired expert skills through evidence-based research and applied techniques, and in turn, explore those methods to address practical situations.
Duration: 4-7 years
♦ Behavioral Health Psychologist earns an average of $69,000
♦ Clinical Psychology College Professor has an average salary of $60,000
♦ Mental Health Social Worker earns $40,300
Pro: A Ph.D. holder in Clinical Psychology is expected to have undergone rigorous training, and is therefore often renowned in the field
Con: Very competitive internship placement
Ph.D. in Computer Science
A Ph.D. in Computer Science gives you an edge in terms of professional practice. Ph.D. students are trained to be independent and creative in their project designs. Since many industries require Ph.D. graduates, it’s not unusual for someone fresh out of school to start off their career at the top of the corporate ladder. Industries understand that doctorate degree holders have extensive research experience and reserve for them significant positions. Statistics show that Ph.D. holders in the field receive significantly higher salaries compared to their peers, and of course, lower unemployment rates. If none of that works out, it’s not uncommon for computer scientists to start their own company–because they can.
Duration: 4 years
♦ Data Scientist earns $115,785
♦ Senior Analysis Team Lead has an average salary of $103,000
♦ Software Engineer earns an average of $55,000
Pro: Ph.D. holders in Computer Science are a hot item in industry research, which promises a lucrative job
Con: Big financial investment because the degree is costly
Did you know? Anita Borg, director and founding member of Institute for Women and Technology (IWT) and the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from New York University
Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology
Students trying to earn a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology are psychologists who are trained to provide health services in the field and obtain the credentials to become psychological researchers. The degree emphasizes diversity at both multicultural and individual levels. Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology is centered in a scientist-practitioner model. Basically, it is “the study of individuals, by observation or experimentation, with the intention of promoting change”. As a result, doctorate degree holders in this field develop a full commitment to becoming health service counselors. This is especially true with Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology graduates. They make contributions that improve the welfare of the individuals and communities they engage with.
The mission of Counseling Psychology is to create an environment of knowledge generation and community engagement. Most importantly, it has the specific goals of eliminating mental and physical prejudice and creating a deeper understanding of the plurality of the human condition.
Duration: 4-9 years
♦ A Counseling Psychologist earns $67,700
♦ Mental Health Counselors earn an average salary of $42,840
♦ Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor earns an average of $64,690
Pro: Ph.D. holder in Counseling Psychology grants career versatility and the chance to help other people.
Cons: Costly, takes a long time to finish and can be emotionally draining
Ph.D. in Economics
A Ph.D. in Economics is designed for dedicated students aiming to pursue advanced Economics study. Research is a central aspect of this doctorate degree. A doctorate in Economics is awarded to Ph.D. students who have satisfactorily completed the program. Since the degree requires research, recipients must qualify as general economists and possess a mastery of scholarly research.
Duration: 5-6 years
♦ Economists earn $94,873
♦ An Associate Professor has an average salary of $102,734
♦ Assessment Specialist earns an average of $57,114
Pro: A Ph.D. holder in Economics readily lands a high-paying job, and the chance of failure is quite low!
Con: Some Economic concepts may be too conservative and traditional for a modern-day student’s liking
Ph.D. in Education
A Ph.D. in Education provides an in-depth knowledge of core educational policies and the learning methods that are integrated into the educational process. These include the strategies that are taken for curriculum design, as well teaching policy and schemes. Mastery of these is valuable in many applications. It is worth mentioning that a doctorate degree in Education is one of the top three choices of students contemplating a Ph.D.
Since education is met with complex challenges, especially in modern society, the field requires expert researches to collect and analyze data in academic disciplines. The many facets of our education system could certainly use policy reforms, and experts are a valuable asset in this respect.
Duration: 5-8 years
♦ School Administrator earns $64,000
♦ Curriculum Administrator has an average salary of $62,270
♦ Postsecondary Professor earns an average of $75,000
Pro: A Ph.D. in Education grants a competitive advantage and a tenured position, especially in academia.
Con: Ph.D. in Education is a very competitive field of choice
Did you know? Shaquille O’Neal has a Ph.D. in Education from Barry University with a special focus on Organizational Learning and Leadership
Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering
An Electrical Engineering Ph.D. student will be immersed in both theoretical and empirical studies. The student is free to choose the area of interest. Mostly, Electrical Engineering programs utilize high-tech research facilities and a research community. In addition, collaborations from external institutions are encouraged. The Electrical Engineering program is an excellent choice for those who appreciate independence in their work process.
Duration: 3-4 years
♦ Electrical Engineer earns $96,338
♦ Research Scientist has an average salary of $102,240
♦ Senior Electrical Engineer earns an average of $101,832
Pros: Ph.D. holder in Electrical Engineering enjoy a sense of independence in conducting basic or applied research. There are various career opportunities in academia, the electrical industry, and the government.
Con: Limited budget for research
Did you know? Mr. Bean, Rowan Atkinson, has a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from The Queen’s College Oxford
Ph.D. in General Engineering
The many existing engineering concepts and principles are the backbone of the doctorate degree in General Engineering. It does, however, provide a platform where graduate students can focus extensively on a particular subject. As you study, you will learn that a Ph.D. in General Engineering is collaborative as much as it is interdisciplinary. The doctorate program prepares students for a higher degree of research and a set of specific skills that can potentially land them in top corporate positions.
Duration: 2-4 years
♦ Research and Development (R&D) earns $117,622
♦ Research Scientist has an average salary of $90,612
♦ Project Engineer earns an average of $122,127
Pro: General Engineering doctorate degree holder utilizes the core principles of the study to obtain solutions to pressing real-world problems.
Con: Limited budget for research
Ph.D. in History
To many, a Ph.D. in History is not exactly an enticing choice among the doctorate degrees available in America but it remains to be among the most popular. A specific niche on its own, a doctorate in History is for those who have the passion for earnest study and rigorous research.
Doctorate programs in History thrive in research and are specifically strict in imposing independent and original dissertations. Most universities offering doctorate degrees in History allow students to apply regardless of an unrelated, previously earned undergraduate degree. However, it is best that your focus has always been on this field. Core foundation, after all, gives you that advantage.
Duration: 8 years
♦ Professor, Post-secondary / Higher Education earns $147,238
♦ Research Associate has an average salary of $46,831
♦ Corporate Counsel earns an average of $119,673
Pro: History Ph.D. holders enjoy a versatile array of top-paying career options in higher-education institutions, museums, public history sites, and the government as researchers or consultants.
Con: The dissertation process takes 4 years to finish, and admission is highly competitive.
Did you know? Robert Gates, former US Secretary of Defense, has a Ph.D. in History, major in Russian and Soviet History, from Georgetown University.
Ph.D. in International Relations
A graduate degree in International Relations (IR) develops students’ abilities to conduct top-tier research in the field. In addition, Ph.D. programs in IR produce excellent and productive scholars. With the extensive field of study covering a wide range of areas, doctorate holders of International Relations become respected specialists and consultants. A career in the government or international organizations usually awaits them.
Duration: 3-4 years
♦ Research Department Manager earns $124,109
♦ Research Fellow has an average salary of $96,281
♦ Foreign affairs officer earns an average of $90,823
Pro: A Doctorate in International Relations leads to careers that involve the global scene
Con: It can be a brutal job market with high expectations from candidates
Ph.D. in Management
A Ph.D. program in Management aims to produce highly qualified individuals to lead. Holders of the degree are highly regarded both in the education or business sector. The degree program promotes excellence in research, teaching practice, and labor. A Ph.D. in Management equips individuals with a solid foundation of the concepts and methodologies that are vital to their practice. Advanced research and communication skills are acquired within years of study.
Duration: 4-8.3 years
♦ Account Supervisor earns $61,101
♦ Chief Executive Officer (CEO) has an average salary of $46,831
♦ Contract Administrator earns an average of $89,226
Pro: A Doctorate in Management prepares you for a successful teaching and research career paths
Con: Highly competitive field with a high level of admissions per year
Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering
Postgraduate programs in Mechanical Engineering provide students the opportunity to engage in a multi-disciplinary environment and gain expertise in the area. The focus is usually on machinery for manufacturing, programming, and sustainable technologies, among others. The aim is to improve industrial manufacturing capabilities to support efficient production.
Duration: 3-6 years
♦ A Mechanical Engineer earns $87,865
♦ Principal Mechanical Engineer has an average salary of $118,167
♦ Senior Product Development Scientist earns an average of $116,393
Pro: Mechanical Engineering postgraduate degree is a profitable field of study
Con: High expectations to develop an original project
Did you know? Bill Nye “the Science Guy” has a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University. Showing instructional videos on US TV was his road to fame.
Ph.D. in Nursing Practice
In general, Ph.D. in Nursing Practice (DNP) is a research-focused degree in clinical practice. DNP programs are centered in Nursing Practice specialization. Earning a doctorate in Nursing Practice requires students to comply with a clinical project. The project must indicate in-depth knowledge in the practice.
A doctorate in Nursing Practice is a lucrative choice and opens various career opportunities.
Duration: 8 years
♦ Doctor in Nursing Practice (DNP) earns $135,830
♦ Health Policy Analyst has an average salary of $103,601
♦ Nurse Practitioner earns an average of $160,000
Pro: A Doctorate in Nursing Practice requires minimal clinical work
Con: Emotionally draining and costly
Ph.D. in Pharmacology
Postgraduate studies in Pharmacology is a comprehensive and meticulous graduate program. It focuses on the effects of drugs and other chemicals on living specimens before being introduced to human subjects. Ph.D. degree in Pharmacology is a solid field of study that requires a basic to an in-depth understanding of the core sciences.
The main goal of the doctorate degree program is to promote the intelligent and calculated use of drugs and chemicals to aid in research. As a result, living systems can be investigated at the molecular level. It aims to understand how organs systems function at the cellular level.
Duration: 5-6 years
♦ Program Project Manager earns $97,045
♦ Research Scientist has an average salary of $102,649
♦ Medical Science Liaison earns an average of $135,343
Pro: The degree results in a crucial understanding of living subjects
Con: Time spent in the program is equivalent to earning an MD
Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry
Physical Chemistry is centered on the main objective of training highly qualified professionals to engage in scientific research in physical chemistry. Ph.D. students will be able to independently formulate scientific problems with corresponding hypotheses. Physical Chemistry Ph.D. candidates are equipped not only in providing the hypotheses but also to determine the processes of solving these problems. Critical evaluation is vital in ensuring that the dissertation students produce is evidence-based and of empirical value.
Duration: 3-4 years
♦ Chief Scientist earns $207,916
♦ Process Development Engineer has an average salary of $90,167
♦ Digital Project Manager earns an average of $53,108
Pro: One of the most high-paying among the doctorate degrees
Con: Difficult field and study time is quite lengthy
Ph.D. in Physical Therapy
Physical Therapists require the completion of a doctorate in Physical Therapy (PT) to be part of a growing industry. The degree is focused on producing top-caliber physical therapists in various areas where health care and recovery services are offered. It is a top-paying private practice that hospitals, clinics, and physical rehab centers require. With a Ph.D. in Physical Therapy, you are fully equipped with research and application skills to provide customized therapy treatments.
Duration: 3-4 years
♦ Physical Therapist (PT) earns $100,000
♦ Home Health Care earns an average of $90,440
Pros: Ph.D. holders in Physical Therapy enjoy career stability because of their competence
Cons: Relatively new field, physically draining
Ph.D. in Physics
The Physics doctorate program requires the creation and interpretation of newly developed knowledge. This is made possible through new research, which should satisfy peer review. A Ph.D. candidate in Physics must establish a substantial body of knowledge for the research, which is central to the program. The research must be systematic with a practical conceptual design and utilize applicable techniques that advance knowledge inquiry in Physics.
Duration: 3 years full-time; 4-5 years part-time
♦ Research Scientist earns $89,841
♦ Physicist has an average salary of $98,361
♦ Professor earns an average of $103,001
Pro: Physics doctorate degree holders earn not only top salary but are widely respected in their field
Con: Research is extensive and very demanding
Did you know? The beloved Theoretical Physicist Stephen Hawking earned his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Cambridge. He is known worldwide for his quirks and his book The Brief History of Time.
Ph.D. in Political Science
A Ph.D. program in Political Science aims to produce highly professional political scientists. It is an opportunity for students to pursue advanced study in the area, with a focus on research. Designed to train candidates to gain competence in the field, a doctorate degree in Political Science offers chances for collaborative engagement with leading scholars in the discipline.
Duration: 3-6 years
♦ Director of Communications earns $106,916
♦ Research Analyst has an average salary of $62,429
♦ Corporate Counsel earns an average of $51,894
Pro: Degree program produces highly competent career professionals
Con: Tedious research process, extensive advisory requirements
Did you know? Miuccia Prada holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Milan
Ph.D. in Public Administration
The limited resources available to solve complex problems pose a threat to sustainability. Because of this, society needs scholars who are qualified to ensure that the next generation is able to function in a balanced ecology. Ph.D. in Public Administration holders train the next generation of professionals the tricks of the trade while integrating public service. High-quality and evidence-based research are used to train Ph.D. candidates. Promoting competence in the field is at the core of the program.
Duration: 3-5 years
♦ Executive Director earns $110,575
♦ Human Resources (HR) Director has an average salary of $120,311
Pro: A DPA works closely with individuals, thereby highlighting their outstanding people skills
Cons: Very competitive career
Ph.D. in Statistics
If you’re contemplating a Ph.D. program in Statistics, you’re in for an extremely rigorous process. The program equips Ph.D. candidates with skills and a collaborative attitude that could be useful in the statistical field. Ph.D. in Statistics holders enjoy formulation and computation and explore statistical models to demonstrate the capacity of mathematical equations in solving real-life problems.
However, the program creates a welcoming environment for students, as it covers a multitude of interests. It aims to prepare students for a career in teaching and research, mostly at the university level. Moreover, government work is also a possible career path for Ph.D. graduates in this discipline.
Duration: 5-6 years
♦ Data Analyst earns $69,228
♦ Senior Biostatistician has an average salary of $109,575
♦Quantitative Analyst earns an average of $130,063
Pro: A Ph.D. in Statistics remains to be one of the top choices among doctorate degrees because it offers lucrative and long-term career options.
Con: Highly competitive both in terms of admission and career opportunities
So, here is your list of America’s 25 most popular PhD degrees. Does any of it pique your interest? Are you ready to commit your time and money to earn your Ph.D.? Are you up for the challenges ahead? Time to make that choice!
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