The PhD is a doctoral degree, specifically called a "doctor of philosophy" degree. This is misleading because PhD holders are not necessarily philosophers (unless they earned their degree in philosophy!). That said, PhD recipients are able to engage in thought experiments, reason about problems, and solve problems in sophisticated ways.
While distance learning courses have due dates that must be met, there is a fabulous deal of compliance as to when you can carry out assignments when studying at a distance. With the online option, You could exit the discussion group as required to return to work and then join after work if needed. Distance learning courses can be taken in whatever place you have Internet access. You can even complete classes from the Internet lounge in any hotel around the world if you need a vacation.
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