2024 Best Online PhD Programs for Working Professionals

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A growing number of colleges and universities offer online PhD programs for working professionals. These programs have the same level of rigor as traditional PhD programs, but they provide more accessibility and flexible scheduling.

Best Online PhD Programs for Working Professionals

Enrolling in a program designed for working professionals makes balancing academic, work, and family commitments easier.

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Additionally, these programs can help you advance your career or transition to a new field.

Online PhD Programs for Working Professionals

Colleges offer online doctorate programs for working professionals in a broad range of disciplines. There are many factors to consider when choosing a program, including the potential career outcomes and the curriculum.

Here are some of the most popular online PhD programs. Select the program that most interests you to jump to that section of the guide:

The program that’s best for you will depend on your personal interests and professional goals.

PhD in Business

Business consultant discussing with executive

You can learn the ins and outs of the corporate world with a PhD in Business. This degree covers advanced topics like econometrics, management science, organizational behavior, and price theory. You’ll also research issues affecting corporations and the economy.

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Graduates often apply their skills as professors of accounting, business, marketing, and other disciplines. They can also secure positions as business consultants, qualitative research analysts, senior data scientists, and more.

PhD in Computer Science

Computer systems engineer working in her office

If you want to study and develop the latest technology, you might consider a PhD in Computer Science. You’ll take courses in subjects like computer architecture, intelligent systems, machine learning, and social computing.

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Additionally, you’ll learn how to use empirical algorithmics, statistics, quantitative methods, and other tools to conduct research. Current professionals often work as college professors, computer and information research scientists, and computer systems engineers.

PhD in Criminal Justice

Fraud investigator reviewing documents

A PhD in Criminal Justice enables you to research complex issues impacting the criminal justice and legal systems. The curriculum typically includes topics like criminal justice policy, intelligence analysis, and contemporary criminological theory.

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People who earn a PhD in Criminal Justice tend to pursue careers in academia, government entities, and law enforcement agencies. For instance, graduates may become fraud investigators, policy analysts, and researchers.

PhD in Education

College professor discussing in class

If you want to research the science of learning, you might be interested in a PhD in Education. You can study subjects like applied linguistics, educational psychology, and special education. This degree also teaches you how to generate original scholarship on pedagogical approaches, theories, and issues.

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A PhD in Education prepares graduates for academic and research careers. You might consider becoming a college professor, an educational research scientist, or a senior education administrator.

PhD in Engineering

Engineer working on computational modeling

You can expand your knowledge of advanced engineering approaches and theories with a PhD in Engineering. Programs often offer concentrations in areas like biomedical engineering, electrical engineering, and fluid and thermal systems.

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You may also study research methods like data analysis and computational modeling. This degree can unlock careers in academia and the private sector. Current professionals work as consultants, innovation managers, research and development engineers, and professors.

PhD in English

Technical writer researching and reviewing scripts

A PhD in English might align with your interests if you’re passionate about literature and writing. This degree focuses on producing original analyses of books, films, and other media.

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You may have the opportunity to take courses like composition theory, film theory, and Victorian literature. Graduates can use this degree to pursue careers as college professors, editors, high school English teachers, public relations specialists, and technical writers.

PhD in Nursing

Nurse scientist working on innovative research

A PhD in Nursing helps prepare you to conduct innovative research in clinical practice, healthcare policies, and nursing science.

Coursework may cover subjects like the evolution of nursing science, grant writing, and the role of the nurse scientist. You can also learn how to design experiments and use qualitative and quantitative research methods.

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Many graduates apply their knowledge and research skills as clinical educators, healthcare consultants, and nurse scientists.

PhD in Psychology

Counseling psychologist in a session with client

A PhD in Psychology can deepen your understanding of human behavior, psychological processes, and mental disorders.

You can take courses like affective science, cognitive neuroscience, and statistical methods for behavioral sciences. You may also learn how to conduct ethical experiments with human subjects.

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Current professionals frequently pursue careers as academic researchers, counseling psychologists, industrial-organizational psychologists, and neuropsychologists. Additionally, some graduates become professors.

PhD in Public Health

Health equity officers discussing their plans for community

If you want to promote equity in healthcare, you might consider a PhD in Public Health. This degree helps prepare you to research challenges and policies affecting healthcare access and delivery.

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Courses may address topics like environmental health, health concerns for women and newborns, and public health informatics. A PhD in Public Health helps prepare students for careers as health equity officers, nurse managers, and research scientists.

PhD in Social Work

Public service workers discussing outreach program

If you want to research issues in social welfare, you may be interested in a PhD in Social Work. You can take courses like data management, human development in context, and public service and social change.

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You’ll also learn how to apply social work theories and research methods to study challenges in the field. A PhD in Social Work can help unlock careers like community program administrator and field researcher.

PhD Careers & Salaries

PhD Careers & Salaries

People who earn PhDs can pursue careers in academia, government agencies, and a wide range of industries.

Many graduates use their degrees to become professors at colleges and universities. These professionals teach courses in their discipline and mentor students. They also create and publish ground-breaking research in their areas of specialty.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are the median salaries of careers often pursued by people with PhDs.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Chief Executives $179,520
Computer and Information Research Scientists $131,490
Biochemists and Biophysicists $102,270
Medical and Health Services Managers $101,340
Data Scientists $100,910
Postsecondary Education Administrators $96,910
Medical Scientists $95,310
Psychologists $81,040
Postsecondary Teachers $79,640
Social and Community Service Managers $74,000

Government agencies also hire many people with PhDs. You might qualify for a career as a policy analyst or research associate.

The government also offers niche positions in specific fields. For instance, a graduate with a PhD in Criminal Justice could become an FBI agent, while someone with a PhD in Public Health could pursue a career as a health policy specialist.

Additionally, many graduates use their PhDs to become consultants for businesses, colleges, and other organizations.

Online PhD Degree Admissions Requirements

Woman preparing requirements for Online PhD degree

The admissions criteria for remote PhD programs vary by college and discipline. It’s beneficial to research each school’s requirements ahead of time to ensure you meet the criteria.

Here are a few standard application materials you may be asked to provide:

  • Personal statement
  • CV or resume
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Official transcripts from previous postsecondary institutions
  • Writing sample

You may also be required to submit GRE or GMAT scores, but many colleges have eliminated this requirement or made it optional.

PhD Online Programs Accreditation

University offering PhD Online Programs

As you research online doctorate programs, it’s essential to research each institution’s accreditation status. Regional accreditation is a mark of excellence that colleges and universities earn if they meet rigorous educational and ethical standards.

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An external accrediting organization evaluates each school based on its curriculum, faculty credentials, and other criteria. Many employers hold PhDs from accredited institutions in high regard because they know graduates have received an excellent education. Also, it’s necessary to attend an accredited school to qualify for certain financial aid opportunities.

Online Doctoral Degrees Financial Aid and Scholarships

Online Doctoral Degrees Financial Aid

Many doctoral students apply for financial aid to help pay for their remote PhD programs. PhD programs often offer full or partial funding packages that may include a stipend, tuition waivers, and other benefits. Many funding packages require students to work part-time as a research or teaching assistant for the department.

Additionally, you may qualify for grants, work-study programs, or student loans from the federal government. You can complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for these federal aid opportunities. Your college’s financial aid office can likely direct you to additional resources.

What Can You Do with a Doctorate Degree?

Management consultant discussing with executives

A doctorate degree can unlock many fulfilling and potentially lucrative career opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median usual weekly earnings for people with doctoral degrees is $1,909. Many graduates use their advanced expertise and research abilities to pursue academic careers. They often qualify for positions as college professors and researchers in their chosen disciplines.

Current professionals also work in advanced positions in the private sector. For instance, graduates with PhDs in Business often work as chief executives or management consultants, while people with PhDs in Nursing frequently become nurse educators.

Should I Get a PhD Online?

Woman pursuing her PhD degree online

As you might expect, online PhD programs tend to be demanding and require significant dedication. Here are a few signs that a doctoral degree might be right for you:

  • You’re passionate about your chosen discipline and want to develop greater expertise.
  • You need a PhD to achieve your career aspirations.
  • You want to produce and disseminate revolutionary research.
  • You have strong critical thinking and time management skills.
  • You’re interested in teaching and mentoring students.
  • You thrive when you can learn and complete work independently.

An online PhD could be a strategic choice if you fit these criteria.

Can You Get a PhD Online While Working Full Time?

student taking PhD programs online

Yes, you can get a PhD online while working full time. Many remote PhD programs offer synchronous evening courses and asynchronous classes to accommodate the schedules of busy working professionals. These options provide maximum convenience and flexibility.

On the other hand, many students find completing the shortest PhD programs challenging while working full-time. Accelerated 1 year online doctoral programs enable students to finish their degrees quickly, but they typically require intensive full-time study. As a result, current professionals who want to continue working full-time often choose more extended programs to increase their likelihood of success.

How many PhD programs should you apply to? The general advice from experts is to consider applying to a range of 4 to 6 PhD programs. This allows you ample time to dedicate to meticulously crafting strong and tailored applications for each institution.

Can You Get a PhD Without a Masters Degree?

students taking PhD degree, doing research works

The admissions criteria for online PhD programs vary by university. Many doctoral programs only accept applicants who hold a masters degree in a relevant field.

But, some PhD programs admit students who have only earned a bachelor’s degree. These students may have the option to earn a master’s degree during their studies or proceed directly to their PhD. Remote PhD programs may also consider applicants without a master’s degree who have extensive work experience in the field or have completed graduate-level coursework.

Are There Fully Funded Online PhD Programs?

Woman attending Online PhD Program

Yes, there are fully funded online PhD programs. These programs cover most educational expenses, such as tuition. Additionally, they typically provide living stipends, health insurance, and other benefits. Fully funded programs may still require students to pay for miscellaneous expenses, such as student fees and textbooks.

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Many fully funded PhD programs require students to work part-time in exchange for their tuition waiver and stipend. For instance, students may assist faculty with research projects or teach undergraduate courses. These commitments can help students develop new skills and strengthen their CVs.

Is a Part Time PhD Worth It?

professionals attending Part Time PhD

Yes, a part time PhD is worth it for many working professionals. Part-time programs provide flexible course options and opportunities for independent research. As a result, this type of degree is the easiest PhD to get if you have a busy schedule or numerous personal and work commitments.

Additionally, earning a PhD part time can allow you to apply your new skills in the workplace immediately. For instance, you might learn a new theoretical approach in class and use it to solve a problem at your job. This practical application of knowledge can help you learn more efficiently.

Best Online PhD Programs for Working Professionals

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.

Chatham University

Chatham University campus

A DNP in Nursing is available through Chatham University. The program is designed for working nurses who hold a master’s degree. Courses are fully online and are 15 weeks long. A short residency near the end of the program and a clinical are required. There are fall and spring start dates.

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

Colorado State University

Colorado State University campus

Colorado State University offers multiple PhD programs. The degree in Systems Engineering is entirely online, while Higher Education Leadership and Organizational Learning, Performance and Change are in a hybrid format. Most online courses are in an asynchronous learning format. Courses are semester-based, and there are start dates in the fall and spring.

Colorado State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

National University

National University campus

National University offers PhD programs with 4 week classes. The school currently offers 12 degree programs, including Instructional Design, Human Resource Management, and Data Science. Most programs are fully online and can typically be completed in 40 months.

National University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Purdue University

Purdue University campus

Purdue University offers muleitple online PhD programs including Higher Education and Education Leadership & Policy Studies. Both programs are in a hybrid format and require some courses on campus. Campus courses are offered on Saturdays. The program moves with a cohort and offers start dates each fall.

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

Sacred Heart University

Sacred Heart University campus

A PhD in Social Work is available through Sacred Hearth University. Most courses are in an asynchronous format, and there are short residencies throughout the program. Courses are available part-time and last 14 weeks each. The program’s curriculum is designed to work around various schedules.

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

Salve Regina University

Salve Regina University campus

Salve Regina University offers a PhD in International Relations. The program is fully online. To customize the program, 10 courses are selected suited to an area of interest with a dissertation. The program starts in the fall and spring.

Salve Regina is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

University of Central Florida

University of Central Florida campus

The University of Central Florida offers multiple PhD programs including Nursing and a BSN to PhD. GRE scores are not required. The programs require 6 to 72 credits. All coursework is fully online and in an asynchronous learning format. Degrees may be completed part-time.

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

University of Tennessee – Knoxville

University of Tennessee - Knoxville campus

A PhD in Industrial Engineering is offered through the University of Tennessee – Knoxville. Courses are online and may be attended synchronously or asynchronously. Courses follow a semester schedule and are offered in the fall, spring, and summer. The programs require 48 to 72 credits.

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

Walden University

Walden University campus

Walden University offers an online PhD in Criminal Justice. All coursework is online with 4 on-campus residencies over the course of the program. A track selection is required based on whether the applicant holds a Master’s in Criminal Justice or another field. Accelerated tracks are also available.

Walden is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Western New England University

Western New England University campus

Western New England University offers a PhD in Engineering Management. The degree can be completed fully online or in a hybrid format. The program is available full-time and part-time. The program requires 10 courses and a dissertation. Courses are 15 weeks long and follow a regular semester schedule.

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

Getting Your Ph.D. Degree Online

student getting his PhD Degree online

An online PhD program enables you to gain new skills and generate original scholarship in your field. You can study advanced theoretical concepts, design experiments, and learn the latest research methodologies.

Many remote PhD programs cater to working professionals by offering online classes and funding opportunities. Also, some colleges offer 1 year PhD programs online that can significantly accelerate your educational journey.

If you’re ready to advance your career and immerse yourself in research, you can get started by exploring accredited remote PhD programs in your field.

Ready to start your journey?
Brianna has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Florida and an M.A. in English from the University of Kentucky. Her research interests include careers and professional development, digital pedagogy, and first-year writing.