2024 Fully Funded Online PhD Programs [Doctorate Guide]

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If the cost of an advanced degree has discouraged you from furthering your education, fully funded online PhD programs may be the answer.

Fully Funded Online PhD Programs

These doctoral programs provide students with the opportunity to enhance their knowledge and skills in their field without paying high out-of-pocket expenses. They typically cover your tuition and may also pay for fees, living expenses, and course materials.

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Schools offer affordable PhD programs in many specializations, so students can pursue their goals no matter their area of interest. Earning a free doctorate degree online could help you grow your career prospects and become an expert in your field.

Fully Funded Online PhD Programs

Man attending a Fully Funded PhD program online

Earning a fully funded PhD online sounds like it’s too good to be true, but it’s a realistic possibility if you’re prepared to invest time and effort into the application process and your studies.

Most colleges and universities require students to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to enroll in a PhD program. Others will only accept students who have earned a master’s degree in a relevant field. Professional experience may also help strengthen your application.

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If you’re admitted to a fully funded online PhD program, you’ll have the chance to earn your degree without taking out excessive loans. Many of these doctoral degree programs pay for most or all of the costs of attendance—including tuition, fees, and living expenses.

In exchange for this funding, some programs employ students as teaching or research assistants. In these roles, PhD candidates provide support to current faculty and balance this work with their own classes and research.

An online PhD may help prepare you for a career with desirable employers, such as:

  • Colleges and universities
  • Research labs
  • Government agencies
  • Private businesses
  • Healthcare facilities

These organizations hire graduates of PhD programs to work in prominent roles, including analysts, researchers, policy developers, and engineers. If you’re currently working in your field of choice, a PhD may also help you advance into a position as an executive or administrator.

Many graduates of these programs also work in higher education as professors, academic deans, and presidents. A PhD helps you build a foundation of knowledge that allows you to conduct research and teach upcoming undergraduate and graduate students.

PhD Careers & Salaries

PhD Careers & Salaries

You can earn a PhD in a wide range of fields, and the degree you complete will determine what career paths are available. Many job paths for PhDs offer healthy salaries and opportunities for advancement.

Students often enroll in PhD programs because they want to enter academia. Universities typically require that college professors have a PhD and are capable of conducting advanced research and publishing articles and books related to their work.

A PhD is also an asset if you hope to build a career in science or technology. These specialized fields involve the sophisticated skills and technical knowledge that a PhD program typically provides.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are some of the most common careers for graduates of PhD programs, depending on their specialty.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Chief Executives $179,520
Physicists and Astronomers $147,450
Computer and Information Research Scientists $131,490
Postsecondary Education Administrators $96,910
Mathematicians and Statisticians $96,280
Medical Scientists $95,310
Psychologists $81,040
Postsecondary Teachers $79,640
Epidemiologists $78,830
Anthropologists and Archeologists $61,910

In addition to paying above-average salaries, many of these careers are also expected to experience accelerated growth. For instance, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected growth rate for epidemiologists over the next ten years is 26%.

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The growth rates for computer and information research scientists (21%), medical scientists (17%), and postsecondary teachers (12%) over this period are also much higher than the average rate for all occupations.

How to Get a Fully Funded PhD Program Online

Woman applying for Fully Funded PhD program online

Gaining admission to a fully funded PhD program can be more challenging than enrolling in bachelor’s or master’s degree programs. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Consider STEM programs. PhDs in science, technology, engineering, and math often offer full funding to students. You may have more schools to choose from if you complete a STEM degree.
  • Check accreditation status. It’s strategic to avoid any online PhD program that isn’t accredited. A lack of accreditation could indicate that the program is of low quality or will not properly prepare you for the professional world.
  • Apply for fellowships or assistantships. International students may qualify for fellowships that pay for tuition and provide a stipend. Many fully funded programs require students to participate in an assistantship focused on teaching or research.
  • Fine-tune your application. Most fully funded PhDs only accept a few students for each academic year, and they base their admissions on your application materials. It’s beneficial to look closely at each program’s requirements and adhere to them as closely as possible.

When you research fully funded PhDs, be wary of any program that makes exaggerated promises or cannot provide job placement or graduation data for recent students.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Fully Funded Online Doctoral Programs

Prospective PhD students may struggle to decide whether a fully funded program is the right path. Fully funded online doctoral programs offer a variety of benefits and drawbacks, including:

Advantages Disadvantages
  • No relocation requirements. You can complete an online PhD from anywhere and won’t have to move to a new place. This can avoid interruptions to your social life, the need to find housing, and the cost of moving.
  • Financial savings. A fully funded program makes it possible to graduate with your doctorate without accumulating student loan debt. Some fully funded PhDs pay for all costs associated with the program, including tuition fees.
  • Career growth. A PhD can expand your professional opportunities. It’s also a common requirement for a career in research and higher education.
  • Program availability. There are a limited number of fully funded online doctoral programs. As a result, admissions criteria are often strict.
  • Longer completion time. It generally takes at least 5 years to complete an online PhD. This is longer than many other degree programs.
  • Limited interactions. An online program offers fewer opportunities to speak directly to colleagues and instructors. Students who struggle with time management or motivation may find it difficult to focus without frequent interactions.

When deciding whether a fully funded online PhD is a good fit for you, you might consider your learning style, preferences, and goals.

Admissions Requirements

student applying for a Fully funded PhD program

Fully funded PhD programs are usually selective, so it’s important to carefully follow their application process. Admissions requirements for online PhD programs for working professionals may include:

  • Test scores. While it’s not always required, some schools have you submit current scores from the GRE or other standardized tests.
  • Transcripts. Request official transcripts from schools you previously attended, including undergraduate and graduate programs.
  • Statement of purpose. You can describe your motivation for pursuing a PhD, why you selected this particular program, and your specific research interests.
  • Recommendations. You can ask former professors or supervisors to explain why you would excel in an online PhD program.
  • CV. It’s beneficial to list all relevant professional, publishing, and volunteer experience.

Some universities also require students to participate in a virtual interview or provide a portfolio that demonstrates the strength of their past work.

Fully Funded PhD Programs Online Accreditation

University offering Fully Funded PhD Programs online

When selecting an online PhD program, it’s vital to determine whether it has regional accreditation. Some online schools offer degrees with little to no academic value, but a regionally accredited institution must meet certain standards of excellence.

Attending a program that has met the high bar of a regional accrediting board usually provides you with a better educational experience that includes the most current practices and theories in the field. For this reason, most employers only accept PhDs from accredited schools.

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If you end up changing programs before graduating, it’s generally easier to transfer credits from programs with regional accreditation.

How Much Does a PhD Cost?

students taking fully funded PhD

The cost of PhD program tuition varies widely based on the school you attend. Rates generally range from $500 to $2,000 per credit hour. In addition, students often have to pay for materials and fees on top of their base tuition.

A PhD program could range between 60 and 120 required credits, so the total cost of tuition and fees could easily reach top dollar. A fully funded PhD reduces or removes much of this cost by allowing students to complete their degrees without paying tuition.

What Does Fully Funded Mean?

PhD students taking fully funded doctoral programs

Fully funded means that a PhD student doesn’t pay any of the costs of attending a doctoral program. This generally includes all tuition and fees required for full-time enrollment in the program. In many cases, the university covers these costs. Students may also receive funding from private businesses or sponsors.

To ensure that students can focus solely on their studies during the program, a fully funded PhD may also include a stipend to cover living expenses and housing. Some colleges require students to complete teaching or research assistantships to receive their funding.

What Is Funded in Fully Funded Doctorate Programs?

student admitted to a fully funded PhD program

A fully funded PhD program essentially covers the costs associated with attending school. This typically includes:

  • Full-time tuition for the duration of the program
  • Fees required by the university
  • Living and housing expenses
  • School-provided health insurance

This funding is usually only provided for 3 to 5 years of study. This helps ensure that students complete their programs in a timely manner. If a fully funded PhD doesn’t completely address the cost of a student’s degree, the school may also offer additional financial opportunities. Scholarships, grants, and loans are possible avenues to fill the gaps in funding.

What Can You Get a PhD in?

students taking PhD in Educational Administration

There are PhD programs available for practically every field. Popular doctoral specializations include:

  • Educational administration and leadership
  • Physical therapy
  • Psychology
  • Education
  • Electrical engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • English

Although there are PhD programs available for each of these disciplines, some may be more suitable for online study. A PhD program that involves hands-on learning or lab work may not be as ideal for an online format.

Some online PhD programs that require in-person components allow students to participate in fieldwork in their communities. Other disciplines that focus primarily on research and writing can more easily be completed online.

What Are Some of the Highest Paying PhDs?

Highest Paying PhDs

Your future earnings ultimately depend on your employer, geographic location, and professional experience, but some PhDs tend to have better pay than others.

Many of the highest paying PhDs are related to science. For example, medical scientists earn median annual salaries of $95,310, physicists make a median of $152,430, and the median for computer and information research scientists is $131,490 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Postsecondary education administrators also have competitive salaries, with median earnings of $96,910 per year.

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Depending on their specific field and whether they have tenure, college professors may earn salaries above six figures. For example, $104,940 is the median salary for engineering professors.

What’s the Difference Between a Doctorate vs. PhD Degree?

People sometimes use the terms doctorate and PhD interchangeably, but there are differences between them.

PhD Doctorate
  • Refers to a Doctor of Philosophy
  • Focuses on research and making new contributions to the field
  • Includes degree categories such as business, education, and engineering
  • Prepares students for a variety of careers
  • Refers to a range of terminal degrees
  • May have a focus on research and academics or professional applications
  • Includes degree types like PhD, MD, and EdD
  • May prepare students for general careers or specific roles, such as doctors and optometrists

All PhD programs are doctorates, but not all doctorates are PhDs.

Universities Offering Fully Funded PhD Degree Program Online

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Boston University

Boston University campus

Boston University typically offers free tuition, a stipend, and a health insurance credit to eligible PhD students. Students have 5 years to complete a PhD program. Funding details are based on the specific program. Programs include Behavioral Neuroscience, Astronomy, and Theological Studies. Most programs are available online and on campus.

Boston University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Brown University

Brown University campus

PhD students at Brown University may be eligible for financial support, including free tuition, a stipend, and medical assistance. Brown requires participation in a teaching assistantship, fellowship, or research assistantship to be eligible for these benefits. These benefits are available for 5 to 6 years. Programs include Anthropology, Political Science, and Physics.

Brown University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University campus

Johns Hopkins University works with students to make getting a hybrid PhD more affordable. Those who have earned a master’s through Johns Hopkins may be eligible for free tuition and a stipend for 3 years, while transfer students may be eligible for 4 years. Programs include International Policy and Regions of the world.

Johns Hopkins University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

New York University

New York University campus

New York University PhD students may be eligible for funding, including full tuition, stipends, and health insurance credits. Aid is typically available for up to 5 years. NYU currently offers a PhD in Hebrew and Judaic Studies, with the option to add a History degree.

New York University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Northwestern University

Northwestern University campus

PhD students at Northwestern University usually receive total funding for at least 5 years. Students who wish to earn more can take on teaching or research assistant roles. Courses are in quarter semesters and are offered 4 times each year. Northwestern offers over 60 PhDs, including Music and Linguistics.

Northwestern University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Temple University

Temple University campus

Temple University offers full tuition remission and a stipend to all eligible PhD students. Programs require participation in research or teaching assistant projects for up to 20 hours each week to receive this funding. The funding is renewable for up to 5 years. Programs include Business Administration, Statistics, and Decision Neuroscience.

Temple University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

University at Buffalo

University at Buffalo campus

The University at Buffalo’s PhD Excellence Initiative helps highly qualified students earn a fully-funded PhD Students work as a research or teaching assistant in exchange for a yearly stipend. UB offers multiple PhD programs online including Nursing and Information Science. All courses are completed online with synchronous and asynchronous coursework.

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

University of Michigan

University of Michigan campus

The University of Michigan provides several opportunities to fun joint PhD programs in Social Work and Social Science. Students work as teaching or research assistants and receive tuition, a stipend, and healthcare. Students are eligible for up to 5 years and may not work over 10 hours per week outside of university commitments.

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

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University campus

Vanderbilt University offers the opportunity to earn a PhD in Nursing. The school offers full tuition and a stipend for up to 4 years of the program. Most of the program is online with a short residency required each semester. The program begins each fall and follows a semester schedule.

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

Yale University

Yale University campus

PhD students at Yale University may have tuition covered along with a 12 month stipend. These services are available for up to 5 years. There is also the possibility of funding for an additional year. Programs include Environmental Science and Comparative Literature.

Yale University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Getting Your Fully Funded PhD Online

student getting Fully Funded PhD online

Earning a fully funded PhD online can open doors to new career opportunities that are professionally and personally rewarding, all without draining your financial resources.

This type of PhD may cover your tuition, fees, and expenses, allowing you to graduate with very little debt. Because they offer low-cost or no-cost degrees, universities with fully funded PhDs tend to enroll a small number of students with proven skills and experience in the field.

Once you decide that you want to earn a fully funded degree, you can begin by researching accredited universities that offer free PhD programs online.

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Kama has a master's degree in English from Virginia Tech and a bachelor's in English from Concord University. She previously taught college-level English composition, literature, and English as a second language courses. She is now a full-time writer in the education field, with a particular focus on educational technology and pedagogical best practices for English language learners.