Capella University offers two different doctoral options in IT: a Doctor of Philosophy in Information Technology (PhD IT) degree program and Doctor of Information Technology (DIT) degree program.

Capella’s Dean of Technology, Dr. Sue Talley*, and Faculty Chair for the doctoral IT programs, Dr. Tsun Chow, provide insight into the programs, their similarities, and their differences.


Why Two IT Doctoral Programs?

“There are two distinct needs in IT going forward,” says Talley. “Until now, tech research has not been terribly theoretical, but nearly always real-world.” But as the field of tech grows and expands, the need for both theoretical and hands-on education has evolved as well, with increasing demand for both.

“Both sides are motivated by real-world issues, but take different approaches to solving them” says Chow. “The PhD IT wants to contribute to the overall understanding of the field, while the DIT wants to use that understanding and apply it to specific situations. For example, a PhD IT student may be interested in how users adopt technology in general within health care systems, while a DIT student is interested in applying such understanding of adoption to see how it impacts the adoption specifically of Electronic Health Records,” he said. “But both sides are looking at what’s actually happening in the field.”


What Are the Differences?

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

Talley agrees. “The DIT concentrates on looking at what best practices should be. It focuses on business problems and practical application in the real world. What problems exist in business today? What is an issue you can focus on and solve? Whereas the PhD IT focuses more on developing models, like the PMBOK [Project Management Book of Knowledge], or extending existing models.”

Chow notes that the DIT candidate will look at specific issues in the workplace and how to solve them, while the PhD IT candidate will take a broader view, looking at the wider context and examining what drives these issues. The two are equally important; the DIT will work with the models developed by the PhD IT, and the PhD IT can work with information about specific workplace issues to develop new or expanded models for approaches and research.






Is There Any Overlap in the Degree Programs?

Yes, and for a specific reason. “Both degrees encourage students to actively publish, teach, or consult,” says Talley. This input comes directly from student feedback and interest. “Both sides have a strong desire to teach,” says Chow. “Perhaps they won’t teach right away, but as a second career. Knowing that is critical to program design, so we built the programs so that students in either program can teach at some point in their career if they wish.” He added that universities have varying needs for faculty in IT. “Some universities focus on research, some on hands-on applications,” he says. “That’s why both of these programs allow for a teaching outcome.”


What Are Potential Career Paths?

As noted above, both programs could lead to careers in graduate teaching and consulting. Teaching is especially strong with the PhD IT degree, but PhD IT graduates can also work in positions that require them to be a thought leader in the field, such as in continued research or for organizations like the NSA. “In order to compete for high-level consulting work and positions at the NSA, you need the PhD IT,” says Talley.

The DIT can go in different directions. “DIT graduates will lead within a specific workplace,” says Talley. “They’ll lead and solve problems. The degree enables them to move forward in an existing position or field.”


*Interviewee Sue Talley retired in 2016.


Capella offers 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 IT Project Management
  • PhD and DIT with a specialization in Information Assurance and Security
  • PhD and DIT with a specialization in Information Technology Education


Important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended this program.