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?

PhD student studying at a cafe

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.

PhD student studying at home

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. If you feel that a dissertation may prevent you from finishing your PhD, then a professional doctorate may be a better choice.

For example, doctor of education programs don’t require dissertations in many cases. Instead, students complete a final capstone project to demonstrate subject mastery.

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.

Doctoral Careers Average Annual Salary
Information Research Scientist $118,370
Fundraising Manager $114,800
Nurse Practitioner $113,930
Human Resources Manager $113,000
Electrical Engineering Researcher $108,130
Top Executive $104,980
Economist $104,340
School Principal $95,310
Postsecondary Education Administrator $94,340
Clinical Psychologist $76,990
Epidemiologist $69,660

Getting your doctorate can certainly increase your earning potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for PhDs is $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.

PhD student studying at his home

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.

PhD students studying in a library

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

Accreditation for PhD Programs

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.

The primary type of accreditation to consider is regional accreditation. 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.

Financial Aid for PhD Students

Financial Aid for PhD Students

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.

Can You Do PhD Part Time?

PhD student studying at home

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.

Schools Offering PhD and Other Doctorate Programs Online

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

#1  Andrews University

Andrews University campus

Andrews University is a private university in Berrien Springs, Michigan, that is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Founded in 1874, Andrews has a current annual enrollment of 3,366.

Students can pursue 130 undergraduate and 70 graduate majors across eight schools and colleges. Degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels are available.

  • 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

Clemson University is a public research university located in Clemson, South Carolina. Founded in 1889, Clemson boasts an annual student enrollment nearing 30,000. U.S. News & World Report ranks Clemson University in 24th place among all public universities.

Students can pursue bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees across Clemson’s seven schools and colleges.

  • 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

Chartered in 1821 by an act of the United States Congress, George Washington University stands today as a private research university with an annual enrollment of more than 27,000. GWU is divided into 14 colleges and schools offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs.

The Princeton Review consistently ranks George Washington University as a top college in a number of categories. In addition, GWU has been ranked as one of the Top Universities for Producing Billionaires by the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings.

  • 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

Hampton University is a private, historically black university located in Hampton, Virginia, that was founded in 1868. The university is comprised of 10 accredited schools and colleges offering 50 bachelor’s programs, 26 master’s programs, and seven doctoral programs. The Alumni Factor has named Hampton one of the best colleges in Virginia.

  • 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

Indiana State University is a public university located in Terre Haute, Indiana, with a history dating back to 1865. ISU offers more than 100 undergraduate majors and 75 graduate. Students can pursue 20 bachelor’s degrees, 22 master’s degrees, and seven doctoral degrees on campus and online through ISU’s six academic colleges.

  • 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

Keiser University is a private university based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Founded in 1977, Keiser offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs available both on campus and online. Money magazine has rated Keiser University one of the top colleges for the money in Florida. Nearly 20,000 students study at Keiser.

  • 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

Liberty University is a private evangelical Christian university founded in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1971. The school consists of 17 distinct colleges offering a wide variety of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs. Programs are divided between 366 on-campus options and 280 online options.

  • 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

Mississippi State University is a public research university located near Starkville, Mississippi, that is classified among RI Doctoral Universities for very high research activity. MSU’s more than 22,000 enrolled students can pursue more than 180 areas of study for bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. The school was founded in 1878.

  • 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

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is a public, historically black university located in Greensboro, North Carolina. The school was founded in 1891 by the North Carolina General Assembly. It is ranked among the top historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) by U.S. News & World Report.

A total of 54 bachelor’s, 29 master’s, and nine doctoral degrees are offered through the school’s eight colleges.

  • 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

Established in 1923, Texas Tech University is a public research university in Lubbock, Texas, featuring 13 colleges and 60 research centers. The Princeton Review has ranked Texas Tech among the 125 best colleges in the Western United States.

Texas Tech offers 150 options for bachelor’s degrees, 110 options for master’s degrees, and 59 doctoral degree programs.

  • 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

Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo a public research university with campuses in Buffalo and Amherst, New York. Nearly 32,000 students are enrolled in what is considered to be the largest public university in New York. UB offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees across 13 academic schools and colleges.

  • 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

The University of Alabama in Huntsville was founded in 1950. It is one of three members of the University of Alabama System. UAH school awards 44 bachelor’s, 30 master’s and 15 doctoral degrees across nine colleges to a study body of nearly 10,000. UAH is a space-grant university with a large focus on engineering and science programs.

  • 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

A member of the University of Colorado system, the University of Colorado Denver is a public research facility offering hundreds of degree programs for bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral studies across dozens schools and colleges.

Total annual enrollment stands at 24,910. Forbes places the University of Colorado Denver 34th on the its list of best public colleges.

  • PhD in Nursing

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

#14  University of Florida

University of Florida campus

The University of Florida is a public land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant research university with a main campus in Gainesville, Florida. This senior member of the State University System of Florida offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs to the more than 56,000 students that enroll annually.

The list of notable UF alumni includes Erin Andrews, Emmitt Smith, Faye Dunaway, and Marc Rubio.

  • 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

The University of Kansas is a public research university based in Lawrence, Kansas. Founded in 1865, KU offers more than 345 degree programs for bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral studies. KU has an annual enrollment of more than 28,400 students.

The school’s faculty and alumni list includes four NASA astronauts, seven Pulitzer Prize winners, 27 Rhodes Scholars, and 325 Fulbright Scholars.

  • PhD in Nursing

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

#16  University of Missouri

University of Missouri campus

The University of Missouri was founded in 1839 as the flagship of the University of Missouri System. Mizzou currently offers more than 300 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs across 13 major academic divisions for its more than 30,000 enrolled students.

  • 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

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro is a public research university located in Greensboro, North Carolina, that dates back to 1891. This school with an annual enrollment topping 20,000 is part of the University of North Carolina system. More than 100 bachelor’s, 61 master’s, and 26 doctoral programs are offered at UNCG.

  • 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

Located in Grand Forks, the University of North Dakota offers 90 bachelor’s majors, 54 master’s programs, and 27 doctoral programs. UND was founded in 1883. Currently, UND has an annual enrollment of 13,581 students spread across its 10 academic divisions. The school’s athletic teams compete in the NCAA’s Division I.

  • 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

The University of South Carolina is a public research university located in Columbia, South Carolina. The more than 35,000 students enrolled at USC today can study toward bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from 14 degree-granting colleges and schools. The school’s history dates back to 1801.

  • 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

The University of South Dakota is a public research university in Vermillion, South Dakota, with an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students. The university is divided between seven colleges offering hundreds of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. USD’s campus is home to the National Music Museum. The school was founded in 1862.

  • 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

The University of Southern Mississippi is a public research university with a main campus located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Southern Miss awards bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees across more than 189 programs. Founded in 1910, the school boasts an annual enrollment of more than 14,00 students.

Southern Mississippi’s academic offerings are divided across four colleges and schools.

  • 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

Founded in 1794, the University of Tennessee is a public research university located in Knoxville, Tennessee. UT offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees across 10 undergraduate colleges and eleven graduate colleges. Annual enrollment stands at close to 29,000 students.

Established two years before Tennessee officially became a state, the University of Tennessee is one of the oldest public universities in the country.

  • 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

The University of the Cumberlands is a private university located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, dating back to 1888. Bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in a variety of specialties in the arts and sciences are offered across four colleges. Total annual enrollment is 13,476.

  • 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

Virginia Commonwealth University is a public research university located in Richmond, Virginia, with a history dating back to 1838. VCU offers more than 217 programs for bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees across 11 schools and three colleges.

U.S. News & World Report has classified VCU as a Tier 1 University that ranks in 84th place among all public colleges and universities in the United States.

  • 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

Founded in 1875, West Virginia University is a public research university with a main campus in Morgantown, West Virginia. More than 350 academic programs for bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and professional degrees are offered through 14 schools and colleges for the nearly 30,000 students who enroll at WVU annually.

Designated among the R1 Research Universities for very high research activity, WVU boasts research partnerships with the Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

  • 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