Is It Too Late to Go Back to School for a Doctoral Degree?

Woman graduating from degree program

Going back to school for a doctoral degree can be a big decision. Perhaps you have considered and dreamed of it but never quite committed. You may even have had plans to enroll in a doctoral program before life took you in another direction.

Possibly, you now feel ready to pursue a degree such as a Doctor of Philosophy but are hesitant because of a concern that you missed your chance. The good news is that no matter your age, advancing your education and knowledge is a worthwhile endeavor that can bring many benefits. 

Why It Is Not Too Late to Earn Your Doctoral Degree

Doctoral degrees are more than just diplomas. They have benefits that apply regardless of age. Knowledge, career benefits, the opportunity to try something new and a sense of accomplishment are all timeless advantages of doctoral degrees.

Learn and Deepen Your Knowledge

Learning and deepening your knowledge is beneficial at any age. Learning gives you information and perspective that you can apply not only to your career but also to your daily life. For instance, classes such as Strategic Planning and Change or Ethical Dilemmas in Stewardship, which are part of the Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration program, have applications in personal as well as professional life. So, no matter where you are in your life or career, you can still make use of knowledge acquired as a doctoral student.

Advance Your Career

A doctoral degree can help advance your career to the next level no matter your age. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that individuals with doctoral degrees have higher earnings and a lower unemployment rate than any other group.* Advancing your career and achieving your professional goals may become more attainable with a doctoral degree.

Even if you are retired, a doctorate can still be worth considering. If you want to rejoin the workforce or try a new career path, a doctoral degree opens new opportunities. If you do not want to return to work, a doctoral degree still has perks you may appreciate. The sense of accomplishment, expanded knowledge, new experiences and prestige associated with a doctoral degree are all reasons that it is not too late to take the opportunity to study for a doctoral degree. In fact, retirement may finally give you the free time to do so.

Try Something New

Going back to school for a doctoral degree is a way to experience something new while learning and challenging yourself. Learning and trying something new also has health benefits. According to Dr. Kathryn Papp of Harvard Medical School, trying new things protects against cognitive decline.** This means that trying something new has benefits associated with brain function. This benefit applies to both personal and professional life and can help to keep the brain active.


Completing a doctoral program is a significant accomplishment. Considerable time and energy go into earning a doctoral degree, regardless of age. Accordingly, your sense of accomplishment and the respect you will receive for having a doctoral degree are the same whether you have lived for 30, 60 or 80 years.

How to Start

Now that you know it is not too late to go back to school, you may want to embark on the process of finding a program that is a good fit for you. Since you have been through a similar process with at least one other degree, much of the routine will be familiar to you.

1. Choose a Degree

Choose a degree that fits your interests and needs. For example, if you are interested in working as a school administrator, you may choose to pursue an EdD in K-12 Organizational Leadership. If you have a master’s degree in Christian ministry and want to advance your education in that area, a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership: Christian Ministry may be a good choice. 

2. Choose a Learning Method

In today’s world, there are multiple ways to take courses, even in doctoral programs. Online classes offer maximum flexibility. For learners who value collaborating and sharing their doctoral experience with other students, evening classes are available. These options make it possible for learners of all ages, backgrounds and lifestyles to earn their doctoral degree in a format that is convenient for them.

3. Choose a School

Find a university that is right for you, just as you found the school where you went to earn your bachelor’s or master’s degree. Make sure the school offers a program and modality that suits your needs and wants. You may want to make sure your chosen school is accredited to confirm that your degree will get you where you want to go. 

4. Apply

Once you have made your decision, the application process can begin. The admissions process and requirements may differ from one school to another. If you have questions, discussing the process with an admissions counselor may be helpful. Once the application is complete and you have been accepted into a program, you can begin your studies! 

It is not too late to advance your education and pursue a doctoral degree. Perhaps now is the right time to go back to school for a doctoral degree and enjoy the benefits it offers. If you are interested in discovering more about Grand Canyon University’s online or evening doctoral programs, click the Request Info button above. 

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*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Measuring the value of education in December 2020

**Harvard, Rev up your thinking skills by trying something new in December 2020

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.