With the continuing expansion of online education, more and more working adults are finding it possible to achieve the highest level of education in their field. The cost and convenience of online education make it a great option for those who have good jobs where they have a settled family life that they do not wish to uproot.

Flexibility and the continued improvement of student support services along with just technology itself, give more and more adults the opportunity to pursue the dream of continued study in their field. However, for busy, working adults jumping into a Ph.D. program may feel a bit like jumping off a cliff.

Besides resolve, good time management and flexibility, potential online Ph.D. students also need preparation. This article provides some concrete ways to increase one’s chances of getting accepted into an online Ph.D. program.


Effective Communication Skills

Many adults who are looking into completing a Ph.D. online have completed either their bachelor’s or master’s degree or both on a physical campus. To increase the chances of being accepted into an online Ph.D. program, applicants need to show their ability in the areas that are unique to online education. One of these areas is communication. When applying to any Ph.D. program, showing the ability to communicate well is a key component.

According to a survey by CareerBuilder, 65% of recent graduates are confident in their writing skills. However, according to a survey by the American Association of Colleges and Universities, employers don’t agree. Only 27% of them report that recent college graduates have the written communication skills needed to succeed in the workplace.

In the CareerBuilder survey, 38% of employers said that recent graduates need better-written communication skills. According to another study, half of all CVs received by recruitment consultants contain spelling or grammatical errors. Apparently, candidates aged 21-25 are most likely to make these mistakes and graduates in this age group are, surprisingly, twice as likely to make mistakes as those who did not go to university!

Needless to say, when applying for an online Ph.D., these mistakes may be even more critically observed. Be sure to proofread your application carefully.

Communication in online education is vitally important, especially written communication. In online education, communication is accomplished via a Web interface and relies heavily on the written word. Throughout the process of applying to an online degree, make it clear that your skill in communication is not just oral.

Personal essays and communication with a department should be well thought out and carefully phrased. If strong reading and writing skills are something you struggled with in previous degree programs, those should be developed before applying to an online Ph.D. program.

There are multiple articles and books to assist people in developing their written communication skills. Consider investing some time to develop your written communication skills in order to be accepted to the online degree of your choice.

On the other hand, if you thrive in communication skills, emphasize them throughout your application!



Another major difference between online and traditional education is the necessity of flexibility in scheduling. Most online courses are conducted asynchronously. This way of teaching provides students with a super amount of freedom in planning their classes around other responsibilities.

Flexibility and freedom, however, require a great deal of motivation and organization especially in a demanding program, such as obtaining a Ph.D. Peer support on campus won’t be an option to “keep one on track.”

When applying for an online Ph.D. program, show the admissions committee that you have strong organizational skills and can stay on task. Emphasize situations in which you have functioned well as a team leader or situations that required delegation and decision making.

Other areas to emphasize are work/life experience in problem-solving, multitasking, strategic thinking, creating and keeping deadlines, as well as, implementing a strategy. Be creative and think outside the box. Although experience with organizations and time management in your field will be highly desirable, experience in life outside your field should also be included.

Experience such as a community leader or starting a club will also be highly appreciated. More and more, programs are looking for applicants not only with the smarts but also the more general qualities that will make them superior Ph.D. students.

Technical Requirements

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College students today need technological skills like never before. Online education requires exclusive reliance on technology. Degree programs will list the necessary skills and equipment that will be necessary to do an online doctorate.

Be sure, when applying that you have the skills and the necessary tools to complete the program. Look into the schools you are applying to and, in your application, show that you have the required technical skill that the program will demand.

According to U.S. News and World Report, the 5 must-have tech skills for all college students include:

  • Typing Ability
  • Online Etiquette Skills
  • Software Suite Basics
  • Online Research Ability
  • Privacy and Security Awareness

Showing that you have these skills when applying to an online degree is very important. Any online student should also be familiar with basic skills like creating a presentation, installing and updating software, word processing, and troubleshooting Internet access. Online learners should be particularly tech-savvy. Before applying for an online Ph.D., other areas to be aware of are:

  • Hardware and Software
  • Learning Management Systems
  • Web Literacy – especially for research

Since you should feel very confident in these areas when applying to an online doctorate, be sure to include the skills in your application. Also, emphasize any tech experience you may already have in the application.

Remember the Basics


We have already covered three of the biggest differences between online and tradition education: Communication; Organization/Flexibility and Technical Requirements. Remember when applying to an online doctoral program that an online doctorate is just as serious as an on-campus program.

Keep in mind the usual advice for applying to any doctoral program. The information will help you to be accepted into an online doctoral program as well. An article from the American Psychological Association gives applicants specific advice about applying to Ph.D. programs which include some great tips for writing about yourself and also how to best include your transcripts.

Speaking of the basics, as you apply for your online Ph.D., show confidence, communicate well and most importantly, be passionate about your ideas! Your interest in and commitment to your area of expertise will be sure to shine through.