25 Best Part Time PhD Programs [2020 Guide]

We’ve identified the 25 best part time PhD programs. Compare top schools and see why you should consider earning your doctorate part time.

Part Time PhD Programs

If work or other responsibilities have been holding you back from diving headfirst into doctoral studies, consider part time PhD programs instead.

You can enroll in an on-campus or online PhD program to earn your doctoral credentials on a schedule that fits your busy lifestyle.

Do Part Time PhD Programs Exist?

Do Part Time PhD Programs Exist

Yes, part time PhD programs do exist. Universities know that many people have packed schedules. To accommodate busy students, some schools give the option of part-time enrollment in PhD programs.

The idea is that you can work your way through one of these programs while still living at home and holding a regular job — no uprooting your life required.

Many part-time PhD programs are offered online, which can be particularly convenient. Online college allows you to attend the university of your choice without having to move away from your hometown.

You can take classes online, chat digitally with your academic advisors, and work on your dissertation from the comfort of your own home. Even still, there may be some in-person residencies or practicums required.

Finances are one of the best reasons to enroll in a part-time online program. The paycheck that you bring in each week can help you afford your grad school tuition without living on ramen noodles for five years straight.

Of course, being able to hold a full-time job while going through your doctoral program is more than just a way to make money. Particularly if your field of study is relevant to your job, you may find many opportunities to connect your classroom studies to real-world experiences.

It’s even possible that a situation at work will provide inspiration for the topic of your doctoral dissertation.

Part-time students don’t make up the majority of doctoral candidates; even still, you certainly won’t be the only one if you choose to go this route. In 2010, approximately 44% of doctoral students were enrolled in part-time programs.

What Are the Most Popular PhD Programs?

Most Popular PhD Programs

Doctorates are available in practically any field, but some are more common than others. The following table shows some of the top PhDs that you may be able to earn online.

You’ll also see related careers, their average salaries, and the projected job growth for those positions.

Doctorate Career Option Average Annual Salary Job Growth Rate
Computer Science Information Research Scientist $118,370 16%
English Fundraising Manager $114,800 8%
Nursing Nurse Practitioner $113,930 26%
Industrial Organizational Psychology Human Resources Manager $113,000 7%
Electrical Engineering Electrical Engineering Researcher $108,130 5%
Business Administration Top Executive $104,980 6%
Economics Economist $104,340 8%
Educational Leadership School Principal $95,310 4%
Adult Education Postsecondary Education Administrator $94,340 7%
Clinical Psychology Clinical Psychologist $76,990 14%
Public Health Epidemiologist $69,660 5%

Getting your doctorate can certainly increase your earning potential. In 2017, the median annual salary for PhDs was $103,820. That’s a large jump from $68,090, the average annual earnings for those with a master’s degree.

How Do Part Time PhD Degree Programs Work?

How Do Part Time PhD Degree Programs Work

To graduate from a part-time doctoral program, you’ll need to do the same work that you would for a full-time course of study. You’ll simply spread the work out over a longer stretch of time.

The first portion of your program will likely be devoted to classes. If you’re enrolled on a part-time basis, you’ll probably keep your course load light instead of taking multiple classes at once.

You may be able to take the classes online, but your school may require a few in-person residencies as well.

Some classes will focus on the research methods that are essential for all doctoral candidates to know, such as analyzing data and writing scholarly reports. At this point, you may also start thinking about a topic for your upcoming research project.

Other courses will be related to your field of study. While some classes may be required of every student in your PhD department, others may be electives. That way, you can build a course of study that is tailored to your career goals and research interests.

After completing your classes, your school may require oral or written testing as a way of assessing your knowledge.

Next, you’ll turn your attention toward your dissertation or another final project. This usually requires completing original research and reporting your findings in a detailed paper.

Even for full-time students, it can take several years to complete a dissertation. On a part-time basis, you may be working on this project even longer.

Once you finish your dissertation, the school’s faculty will need to approve it. Then, you’ll answer questions during a defense of your research. If the faculty determines that you have successfully defended your dissertation, then you’ll be awarded your PhD.

How Long Does It Take to Do a PhD Part Time?

How Long Does It Take to Do a PhD Part Time

How long it takes to complete your PhD through a part-time schedule is largely up to you and how much you can commit to your studies at any point in time.

You may find that there are some seasons in which you’re able to invest a good portion of your time and other seasons when you’re only able to do the bare minimum to keep going.

As a general rule, though, you should expect your part-time studies to last for several years. Being a part-time student won’t exempt you from any of the program’s requirements.

You’ll still need to earn just as many credit hours, complete any residency or internship experiences, and do the same final projects. The work will just be spread out over a longer period of time.


You should probably plan to work on your doctoral program for six to eight years. Some students take even longer. There may be a maximum duration allowed by your program, so be sure to discuss that with your faculty advisor.

Although part-time schooling is convenient, being enrolled in the same program for years on end may start to feel tedious. It’s important to choose an area of study that you really care about.

Your passion for your studies can keep you motivated even when graduation still seems a long way off.

Admission Requirements for a PhD

PhD student during an admissions interview

Doctoral programs can be competitive, so you’ll want to make sure that your application stands out to the admissions committee. The first step is making sure that you meet the requirements and include all necessary documentation.

  • Application and fee: Filling out this form gives the committee basic information about you, so be sure to complete it thoroughly. The fee will be non-refundable, even if you aren’t admitted.
  • College transcripts: These demonstrate whether you have the appropriate academic background. You will definitely need to hold a bachelor’s degree, and you may need a master’s degree as well. There may be minimum GPA scores required.
  • Test scores: Many schools use GRE or GMAT scores to determine whether you have what it takes to succeed in a PhD program. If you’re an international applicant, you may also need TOEFL scores to demonstrate your proficiency with the English language.
  • Letters of reference: These should come from academic or professional colleagues who can attest to your commitment and character. Two or three letters may be required.
  • Personal statement or research proposal: This is your chance to communicate your study goals. That way, the school can determine whether your interests align with the expertise of the faculty.

Pay close attention to application deadlines. It’s smart to submit your materials a few weeks before the cutoff since schools don’t usually take late applications.

Accreditation for PhD Programs

logos of six regional accreditors

Accreditation is a process in which an independent organization evaluates a college’s programs and results to determine whether the school is doing a good job of educating students. If the college is up to par, then it receives approval from an accrediting body.

Accreditation comes in various forms: regional, national, and programmatic.

Regional Accreditation

The primary type of accreditation to consider is regional. There are seven U.S. organizations that have the right to grant regional accreditation.

There are fairly high standards for regional accreditation. As a result, this type of accreditation is well-respected, and employers are often more inclined to select candidates whose degrees come from regionally accredited schools.

National Accreditation

Some schools receive accreditation from a national body instead of a regional one. This type of accreditation doesn’t typically carry as much weight as regional, but it’s worthwhile in certain instances.

National accreditation is often given to schools that focus on particular types of education, such as trade schools or theological programs. If you’re getting a PhD in ministry or theology, it’s possible that you’ll attend a nationally accredited school.

A more likely scenario is that your online PhD school will be nationally accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).

National and regional accreditation aren’t mutually exclusive, so your university may have accreditation from DEAC and a regional organization.

Programmatic Accreditation

Regional and national accreditation is granted to entire colleges, but programmatic accreditation applies only to select programs. It’s given by industry-specific organizations to denote schools that properly prepare students for careers in particular fields.

In some fields, programmatic accreditation for a PhD program is nice but not essential. With other fields, though, you may have to go through an accredited program if you want to qualify for licensure.

Financial Aid for PhD Students

screenshot of FAFSA website

Paying for a doctorate out of pocket can be an overwhelming prospect, but there are a number of options for funding your PhD.

  • Fellowships: Based on your personal merits, your school or a private organization may give you fellowship money intended to further your research goals.
  • Government grants: If your income qualifies, you may get free tuition help from the state or federal government.
  • Government loans: You may have the option to take out low-interest loans from the federal government or your state.
  • Private loans: To supplement your financial package, you may also need private loans. Just be aware that these can come with high interest rates.
  • Scholarships: You can apply for gift money from a scholarship-granting organization, such as a professional association in your field.
  • Stipends: Some schools grant PhD candidates a small stipend. There are usually stipulations to this, and the rules may differ for part-time students.

To find out more, talk to your school’s financial aid department. Be sure to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Also, if getting a doctorate could benefit your performance at work, you may be able to request tuition assistance from your employer.

Questions Related to Earning a Part Time PhD Online

Here are our answers to a few more questions you might have.

Can You Do PhD Part Time?

Yes, you can do a PhD part time. Studying for a PhD doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Instead, you can enroll in a doctoral program on a part-time basis.

With that approach, you may be able to go to work during the day and take classes or write papers in the evening. It may even be possible to complete the coursework online.

Is PhD Full Time or Part Time?

Both full-time and part-time PhD programs are available. Some people choose to earn their doctorates as quickly as possible by going to school full-time. Others opt to enroll part-time so that they can keep up with work or family responsibilities.

Keep in mind that not all schools give you the choice between full-time and part-time study; their PhD programs may be specifically designed for one or the other.

List of Schools Offering PhD and Other Doctorate Programs Online

Rankings Methodology

The following colleges and universities are all regionally accredited and offer one or more online doctorate programs.

#1  Andrews University

Andrews University campus

  • PhD in Curriculum and Instruction
  • PhD in Educational Leadership
  • PhD in Higher Education Administration
  • PhD in Leadership

Andrews University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#2  Clemson University

Clemson University campus

  • PhD in Healthcare Genetics
  • PhD in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management
  • PhD in Rhetorics, Communication and Information Design

Clemson University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#3  George Washington University

George Washington University campus

  • PhD in Nursing
  • PhD in Systems Engineering

GW is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#4  Hampton University

Hampton University campus

  • PhD in Business Administration
  • PhD in Educational Management
  • PhD in Nursing

Hampton University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

#5  Indiana State University

Indiana State University campus

  • PhD in Educational Administration – Higher Education Leadership
  • PhD in Educational Administration – School Administration
  • PhD in Technology Management

Indiana State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#6  Keiser University

Keiser University campus

  • PhD in Criminal Justice and Criminology
  • PhD in Curriculum and Instruction
  • PhD in Educational Leadership
  • PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • PhD in Instructional Design and Technology

Keiser University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#7  Liberty University

Liberty University campus

  • PhD in Bible Exposition
  • PhD in Communication
  • PhD in Criminal Justice
  • PhD in Criminal Justice – Homeland Security
  • PhD in Criminal Justice – Leadership
  • PhD in Education – Curriculum and Instruction
  • PhD in Education – Instructional Design and Technology
  • PhD in Education – Organizational Leadership
  • PhD in Education – Special Education
  • PhD in Higher Education Administration – Educational Leadership
  • PhD in History
  • PhD in Nursing – Nursing Education
  • PhD in Psychology – Developmental Psychology
  • PhD in Psychology – Industrial/Organizational Psychology
  • PhD in Psychology – Social Psychology
  • PhD in Public Policy
  • PhD in Public Policy – Economic Policy
  • PhD in Public Policy – Education Policy
  • PhD in Public Policy – Foreign Policy
  • PhD in Public Policy – National Security
  • PhD in Public Policy – Social Policy
  • PhD in Strategic Media
  • PhD in Theology and Apologetics

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#8  Mississippi State University

Mississippi State University campus

  • PhD in Community College Leadership
  • PhD in Computational Engineering
  • PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • PhD in Engineering – Aerospace Engineering
  • PhD in Engineering – Civil Engineering
  • PhD in Engineering – Mechanical Engineering
  • PhD in Industrial & Systems Engineering

Mississippi State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#9  North Carolina A&T State University

North Carolina A&T State University campus

  • PhD in Leadership Studies
  • PhD in Technology Management

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#10  Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University campus

  • PhD in Curriculum and Instructions – Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education
  • PhD in Curriculum and Instructions – Language, Diversity & Literacy Studies
  • PhD in Curriculum and Instructions – STEM
  • PhD in Educational Leadership Policy
  • PhD in Family and Consumer Science Education
  • PhD in Special Education

Texas Tech University is accredited with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#11  University at Buffalo

University at Buffalo campus

  • PhD in Information Science

The University at Buffalo is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#12  University of Alabama – Huntsville

University of Alabama Huntsville campus

  • PhD in Civil Engineering
  • PhD in Engineering Management
  • PhD in Industrial Engineering
  • PhD in Joint Nursing Science
  • PhD in Systems Engineering

UAH is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#13  University of Colorado – Denver

University of Colorado Denver campus

  • PhD in Nursing

University of Colorado – Denver is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#14  University of Florida

University of Florida campus

  • PhD in Classical Civilization
  • PhD in Latin and Roman Studies

The University of Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

#15  University of Kansas

University of Kansas campus

  • PhD in Nursing

The University of Kansas is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#16  University of Missouri

University of Missouri campus

  • PhD in Architectural Studies

The University of Missouri is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#17  University of North Carolina – Greensboro

University of North Carolina at Greensboro campus

  • PhD in Business Administration

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#18  University of North Dakota

University of North Dakota campus

  • PhD in Aerospace Sciences
  • PhD in Biomedical Engineering
  • PhD in Chemical Engineering
  • PhD in Electrical Engineering
  • PhD in Energy Engineering
  • PhD in Environmental Engineering
  • PhD in Indigenous Health
  • PhD in Nursing
  • PhD in Petroleum Engineering

The University of North Dakota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

#19  University of South Carolina

University of South Carolina campus

  • PhD in Civil Engineering
  • PhD in Computer Engineering
  • PhD in Computer Science
  • PhD in Electrical Engineering
  • PhD in Mechanical Engineering
  • PhD in Nuclear Engineering

University of South Carolina is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#20  University of South Dakota

University of South Dakota campus

  • PhD in Health Sciences

USD is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

#21  University of Southern Mississippi

University of Southern Mississippi campus

  • PhD in Nursing Leadership

The University of Southern Mississippi is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#22  University of Tennessee – Knoxville

University of Tennessee - Knoxville campus

  • PhD in Industrial and Systems Engineering – Engineering Management
  • PhD in Nursing

The University of Tennessee – Knoxville is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#23  University of the Cumberlands

University of the Cumberlands campus

  • PhD in Business Administration
  • PhD in Leadership

University of the Cumberlands is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#24  Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University campus

  • PhD in Health Related Sciences
  • PhD in Nursing

VCU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#25  West Virginia University

West Virginia University campus

  • PhD in Nursing

West Virginia University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Is a PhD Worth It?

Is a PhD Worth It

Yes, a PhD is worth it. People with a doctorate make an average of $36,000 more per year than those with a master degree. Getting a PhD can open new doors. Earning this top degree may grant you entrance into academia as a researcher or a professor.

It can also prepare you to assume high leadership roles and earn more money in your field. Plus, there’s a sense of personal satisfaction that comes from accomplishing a huge goal like earning a PhD.

If you’re ready to put those three letters after your name, then it’s time to think about enrolling in a doctoral program. Apply to part-time PhD programs so you can earn your degree without putting your life on hold.

This article is brought to you by
Isaac Collins
Isaac Collins
Author
Joy Mays
Joy Mays
Director