• Dr. Lori Wieters

Things to Consider if You are Thinking about Finding a Dissertation Coach

Updated: Mar 30

How long does it take to earn a doctoral degree?

According to most university timelines, it takes 3-4 years to finish a doctoral program and publish a dissertation. However, the reality is that it takes 5-7 years on average and as many as 10 years for some learners to finish. If they are required to be enrolled in courses to stay in the program, these extension courses will cost extra tuition and can be a drain on long term finances.


Is it faster and cheaper in a traditional doctoral program?

In more traditional programs learners choose an advisor/chair who does research in an area they are also interested in. Additionally, there are typically other doctoral students at the university to form study groups/writing groups with. Being able to choose a mentor and having others to collaborate with are big advantages. The disadvantage to this type of program is that learners are often expected to teach/work at the university for minimal pay and the acceptance process can be very competitive. This is why non-traditional programs are on the rise among working adults.


What is different about non-traditional doctoral programs?

Online and cohort programs are usually less restrictive in their acceptance rates. Learners who are accepted with a lack of experience doing scholarly research may find they are not getting the support they need during the dissertation process. For many students, lack of support can lead to costly extension classes and possible not being able to finish and graduate. To counter this trend learners are often encouraged to find a topic (gap/need for their study) of their choosing early on and how to proceed with non-specific guidance in short residencies. However, a chair is not assigned until the end of coursework.


Why do so many students struggle to finish on time?

While a scaffolded process with templates and prescribed structures is a plus for fledgling researchers, it can also be very hard to navigate without early mentorship from an invested, experienced mentor. Learners do not get their committees formed until the end of their coursework, so there can be uncertainty about a studies design and the quality of the writing being done along the way. It is also important to note that learners do not get to select their chair, they are typically chosen for them. The point is that working adults in embedded programs can begin to feel very alone in the research/writing process and that getting an experienced chair that is truly invested is out of the learner’s control.


©Wi2 Co-Lab, LLC, April 2019


How can finding a dissertation coach help?

Being in a writing group (dissertation collaborative) and hiring a coach who knows the process, regardless of which model you are in, can be a real time saver when learners are not sure what to do next or if their work is being done properly. The things to look for in a coach are:

• A quality coach should be thinking about the long term acceptance of your research, not just getting you past the step you are on.

• A quality coach is one who guides you over one hurdle and then sets your sights on the next with actionable feedback.

• A quality coach encourages you while still providing feedback that is helpful as well as truthful.

• A quality coach is one who is invested in your personal growth as well as your success.

• A quality coach is mindful of your time and money because they have the shared goal of having you finish as quickly as possible while spending as little money as you can doing it.


Being part of a learning community and having a dissertation coach will likely save you time and money in the long run. Having a good coach on board early on is well worth the up-front cost. Learners who are in denial about how difficult the dissertation process is and who wait until they have taken multiple extension classes to get help end of paying thousands of dollars over and above what they had initially intended to spend. Unfortunately they do so without ever getting a doctoral degree.


As you consider a dissertation coach, please visit the Wi2 Co-Lab’s Dissertation Coaching Collaborative for more information. https://www.wi2colab.com/dissertation-collaborative

© 2018 by WI2 Co-Lab