The doctoral degree—the pinnacle of academic achievement—is the culmination of extensive research and dissertation development.

Many wonder if earning a doctoral degree is an endeavor that’s entirely self-directed and done at the student’s discretion or if coursework is involved. Dick Senese, President of Capella University, answers questions regarding coursework in a doctoral program.


Q. Is there coursework in a doctoral program?

A. Yes, although how much varies depending on the program. Coursework is designed to help students pose a question for their research and dissertation. Courses can help doctoral candidates deeply explore one specific topic or narrow their list of interests for the dissertation. What coursework they take will depend on how specialized their approach is.


Q. What kind of time commitment will doctoral program coursework entail?

A. The time commitment is varied and flexible. Life circumstances, work obligations, and other factors will influence how much time a student can allocate for coursework. Some students will find they can only handle one course per quarter, while others can handle two. Those doing more than one will obviously need to spend more time. Another consideration is whether or not they have transferable credits that can reduce the amount of time in coursework.


Q. What kind of coursework should a student expect in an online doctoral program?

A. Unlike a traditional program where students are expected to show up in a brick-and-mortar classroom at certain times of the week, online coursework is asynchronous, meaning it doesn’t involve actual class times. In any given course, online students will be expected to complete two units per week. The units could include textbook study, research, commentary to provide, reading and writing projects, group projects, or simulations.

Assignments can be done whenever and wherever. Students manage their own time and learn to be proactive. Each unit builds on the next, so it is important to stay self-motivated in order to keep up and not fall behind.



Capella University offers PhD and professional doctorate degrees in programs ranging from business to education and health to technology. Learn more about Capella’s doctoral programs.