7 PhD Programs You Didn’t Know Existed (Until Now)

“PhD” stands for Philosophiae Doctor, which translates to Doctor of Philosophy. While the PhD programs we know today didn’t start appearing until the 19th century, the term “philosophy” reveals the all-encompassing nature of ancient education; philosophy means “love of wisdom.”

Understanding the roots of the modern-day PhD degree is key to comprehending the variety of current PhD programs. Pick any subject or discipline with enough depth and breadth, and there’s the potential for a PhD program. After all, it’s a degree for those seeking to accumulate wisdom about a subject they love.

A handful of PhD programs rank high in terms of familiarity and popularity: business, chemistry, education, law, physics, and psychology, just to name a few. However, they’re far from the only options available. In addition to less well-known PhD programs, a variety of unusual PhD specializations also exist.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at seven PhD programs you didn’t know existed…until now:

Industrial Hygiene

Certain occupations and work environments – especially in the industrial sector – are considered dangerous. The threat of occupational illness, such as mesothelioma, requires adequate safety measures for those exposed to hazardous materials. Likewise, the risk of injury, such as blunt force trauma caused by falling objects, calls for carefully devised safety protocol. It all adds up to the need for specialized experts trained to assess and address such risks. As a result, there now exists the PhD in Industrial Hygiene.

Landscape Architecture

Landscaping is traditionally seen as a blue-collar and unscientific discipline that requires little to no education. While the so-called grunt work remains in the realm of the less-educated, increased concerns over the ecological and socio-behavioral implications of modern landscaping have given rise to PhDs in Landscape Architecture. Those who earn a PhD in Landscape Architecture are primed to lead the way in developing appropriate approaches to landscaping within the larger framework of historical preservation, ecological protection, and urban planning.


Becoming a great leader used to be assessed as something that happened naturally, summed up in the overused adage “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” While many qualities that make a great leader come from within, there’s an equal amount of knowledge and expertise to be gained to develop outstanding leadership skills, especially in the business world. As a result, several schools are now offering a PhD in Leadership to those whose ambitions center around executive-level careers and other leadership roles.

Musical Arts

Earning a degree centered around music is common, but earning a PhD in Musical Arts is a relatively recent development. Generally speaking, a doctorate in Musical Arts involves the merging of practical musical study with music history, theory, and science. Let’s be honest; humanity’s love of music is as bizarre as it is remarkable. An effort to take a more scientific approach to the human fascination with music is a move in the right direction for those who want to know more about the subject.


The concept of parapsychology sounds like the stuff of science fiction. That’s because it was; those familiar with the original Ghostbusters movie know the three main characters were all PhDs in parapsychology. Fast forward 40 years later, and parapsychology is now a legitimate doctorate program offered by a handful of universities around the world.


It’s no secret the rate of products bought and sold online is increasing thanks to Amazon and similar retailers. Given the high volume of packages being shipped around the world, packaging is becoming more important than ever. Not only must packaging keep items protected in transit, but it must also conform to dimensional and weight-based standards to remain cost-effective. As a result, universities are now offering PhD programs in packaging.

Wood Science

Despite all the advances in engineering and technology, humanity still relies on wood materials for various products and purposes. Given the renewable nature of wood – given enough time and effort – there’s even been a renewed interest in it as a way to achieve greater sustainability. It’s no surprise that Wood Science PhD programs are becoming increasingly popular.

The number of PhD graduates continues to increase. The same can be said for the PhD programs being offered. There’s a PhD program for just about anything these days, and that’s a good thing!

Vivien Bell is a freelance writer from Maryland. She enjoys writing about education, family, home living, and pet care.

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