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Last Revision: January 30, 2024

Characteristics of Applied Doctoral Programs

Based on the literature, applied or professional practice doctorates differ from PhD programs in several respects:

According to the Council of Graduate Schools’ Task Force Report on the Professional Doctorate, “a professional doctoral degree should represent preparation for the potential transformation of that field of professional practice, just as a Ph.D. represents preparation for the potential transformation of the basic knowledge in a discipline”. Further, this report articulates the following characteristics of the professional doctorate:

  1. It addresses an area of professional practice where other degrees are not currently meeting all employer needs.
  2. It emphasizes applied or clinical research or advanced practice.
  3. It includes in its ranks the leaders of the profession who will drive the creative and knowledge-based development of its practices and the development of standards for others. 
  • Applied doctorates tend to have more structure in their program milestones and timelines for completing these milestones.
  • Applied doctorates are typically offered in a cohort model.
  • Applied doctorates focus on problem-solving and research applied to professional practice.
  • Applied doctorates often include a practicum experience.
  • Applied doctorates integrate a variety of assessment types for the dissertation or other milestones, with emphasis on portfolios.
  • Applied doctorates aim to produce “researching professionals” who combine “discovery with application.” 
  • Applied doctorates involve industry professionals who offer feedback on the curriculum and professional trajectories of graduates.

Building on these characteristics of the applied doctorate, our teaching model draws on evidence-based practices for this type of doctoral degree with an emphasis on adult learners who are working professionals. The core concepts in our teaching model focus on integrating applied research with professional practice. Our programs will:

  • Promote autonomous, self-directed learning in our doctoral students.
  • Provide in-class and out-of-class opportunities for peer -to- peer and faculty- to- student interactions to enhance the community of learners and student success.
  • Create programmatic assessments to develop students’ research and writing skills for applied research projects, for complex analyses aimed at diverse audiences, and for professional practice skills.
  • Challenge students to advance the discipline by expanding theory and its application through original research and dissemination.