Are you interested in pursuing a doctoral degree in IT, but unsure of the difference between a PhD and professional doctorate?

Capella University offers two doctoral options in IT: a Doctor of Philosophy in Information Technology (PhD IT) degree program and a Doctor of Information Technology (DIT) degree program. The two programs each offer some unique scholarly, research, and practice-oriented features. Tsun Chow, PhD, Faculty Chair for doctoral IT programs, provide insight into the similarities and differences between the two programs.

Why Two IT Doctoral Programs?

“Today, IT doctoral programs are evolving into transdisciplinary academic areas with research opportunities that address the needs of society, computing, and practice,” says Chow. “Addressing these needs requires that doctoral programs offer both theoretical and practical approaches. With these two programs, we can meet employer requirements for the 21st century workforce and support academic research that is at the forefront of innovation and transformation.”

Although DIT and PhD programs may similarly focus on real-world issues, they take different approaches to solving them. “That is, the PhD IT student seeks to contribute to the overall understanding of the IT field, while the DIT student seeks to use that understanding and apply it to specific practical situations.” says Chow.


What Are the Differences?

“The big difference is that with the DIT we tilt the emphasis toward the practitioner-scholar and more towards the scholar-practitioner for the PhD IT,” says Chow.

“The DIT program focuses on best practices, business problems, and practical applications by applying existing theory and knowledge to solve a problem in the real world. In contrast, the PhD IT focuses more on extending or creating new theory to solve real-world problems.”

Is There Any Overlap in the Degree Programs?

In some cases, yes, and for a specific reason. Both degrees encourage students to actively publish, research, teach, or consult.

“Although the PhD is geared more toward an academic pathway, many DIT students also hold a strong desire to teach,” says Chow. “Perhaps DIT students won’t teach right away, but rather as a second career. The programs are designed so that students in either program are presented with a variety of options through our specialization tracks.”

Chow believes having two doctoral programs allows graduates to fill different needs for both industry and academia. “For example, some universities focus on research whereas others emphasize hands-on applications,” he says. “Both of Capella’s programs present unique outcomes.”

What Career Paths Should Students Explore with These Degrees?

Both programs could lead to careers in academia, IT workforce, and consulting opportunities. “Although PhD IT graduates often seek teaching positions, they may also work in positions in thought leadership in academic research, think tanks, and governmental organizations,” explains Chow.

Depending on industry needs, DIT program graduates can move in various directions. “Although DIT graduates may address outcomes from a specific industry or organization, the curriculum affords broader thinking through our transdisciplinary approach,” says Chow. “Very simply, DIT graduates will lead and solve problems. The degree enables them to grow and further develop into their chosen field.”

Learn more about Capella’s Doctor of Information Technology and PhD in Information Technology degree programs with four specializations:

  • PhD and DIT with a specialization in General Information Technology
  • PhD and DIT with a specialization in Project Management
  • PhD and DIT with a specialization in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity