30 Best Online PhD Programs [2021 Ultimate Guide]
Explore Online PhD Programs from accredited colleges offering online PhD, DBA, EdD, PsyD, DNP – 100% online. Accelerated classes are available.
With millions of Americans now pursuing and completing graduate degrees, employers have their pick of the most qualified and trained employees in their field.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in the last decade, about one million Americans earned a PhD. Many fields, like education and the humanities, value doctoral degrees. A person who holds a PhD is almost guaranteed to have higher level critical thinking and problem solving skills.
If you currently have a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree and are considering pursuing a doctoral degree, consider accelerated PhD programs online if they are available in your field.
Types of Online PhD Programs
There are as many PhD Programs as there are fields of knowledge. Here are the most popular. Click on one you’re interested in to jump to that section of the page.
- Business Administration
- Criminal Justice
- Curriculum & Instruction
- Educational Leadership
- Healthcare Management
- Higher Education
- Homeland Security
- Human Resources
- Information Technology
- Management Information Systems
- Nurse Practitioner (RN Required)
- Nursing Education (RN Required)
- Organizational Leadership
- Project Management
- Public Administration
- Public Health
- Public Policy
- Special Education
- Supply Chain and Logistics
A growing number of universities now offer a wide-range of doctoral programs online.
A PhD in Accounting focuses on developing skills to complete specialized and original research that can directly contribute or, ultimately, affect the accounting industry.
This degree focuses on giving students advanced knowledge in applied research and accounting theory to make them capable of working in specialized research organizations and higher academic institutions.
A PhD in Accounting is the highest degree in this field, and it usually takes four to seven years to complete. Most online programs for accounting have 60 to 120 credit hours or 20 to 40 classes.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the positions in specialized consulting and government agencies will grow by 4% in over the next 10 years.
Programs for a PhD in Business Administration are designed to prepare students for academic and business careers by developing their knowledge in management, consulting, economics, public administration, and several business-related career paths.
This doctoral degree aims to provide students with a deeper understanding of different business practices, both in theory and application. Having this set of skills can unlock various opportunities in academic institutions, government agencies, and private businesses.
The majority of people who take up this degree usually have years of experience in business and are interested in acquiring advanced knowledge. Younger students can take advantage of this and get a head start in building their network and connection while still studying.
People face different challenges that can affect their mental health, which makes the PhD in Counseling one of the most popular doctoral degrees today. Earning this degree can help qualify students to practice clinical counseling and conduct research that can directly affect mental health care services.
It may take up to 10 years to earn a doctoral degree in counseling, but it will depend on the course load, and whether a student is taking up the degree part-time or full-time.
Upon completion, opportunities in both the public and private sectors will be available, and it is expected to steadily grow at 8-25%, depending on the field of specialization, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A PhD in Criminal Justice aims to expose students to rigorous training in criminological research methods, theory, and application.
This program focuses on providing students with a better understanding of research methods and data-driven metrics that they can use to evaluate and develop criminal justice policies.
Programs for PhD in Criminal Justice typically include classes in juvenile justice, social psychology, law enforcement, criminal behavior risk factors, homeland security, and technical leadership.
This set of acquired knowledge can help open up different opportunities both in public service and specialized private consultation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that positions for this field will increase by 8% in private service and 5% in protective service.
Curriculum & Instruction
A PhD in Curriculum and Instruction is a program that focuses on teaching the dynamics within the educational system.
Students can choose from four concentrations in this field, including Early Childhood Education, Science Education, Mathematics Education, and Social Studies. The concentrations are designed to give students the skills needed to make significant research and contribution to the enhancement of knowledge in their specialized field.
This degree aims to shape students to become highly efficient in discovering, integrating, applying, communicating, and disseminating knowledge. Earning a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction can help students become critically reflective and dedicated to providing practical and theoretical training.
This set of skills can open up different opportunities for academic and leadership positions that are available in educational institutions.
Earning a PhD in Education is the highest academic achievement that students can get in the field of education.
These programs are designed to provide students with the expertise, skills, and credentials needed to conduct and publish high-level research that can affect college education, classrooms, institutions, and communities.
There are online programs that allow students to earn their doctoral degrees in education, but on-campus learning often offers better networking opportunities that can broaden their connection.
Pursuing a PhD in Education requires students to have a master’s degree. This path usually takes at least three years to complete, depending on the course load and transfer credits.
Excellent education lies in the people who develop the system and the leaders that implement it. A PhD in Educational Leadership can help put scholars in a position that can directly contribute to it.
This degree focuses on providing students with the skills to solve problems and create a positive change in different learning settings and educational institutions.
Instead of practicing hands-on teaching, PhD in Educational Leadership focuses on developing the education system.
It is designed to help students conduct and publish research that can positively affect all learning environments, including pre-K-12, higher education, and even in the corporate sector.
This doctoral degree can help make scholars viable candidates for high-paying positions in the academic sector, such as chief academic officer, training and development manager, and chief learning officer.
A PhD in Finance is a program for students who want to develop a deeper understanding of behavioral finance, economics, statistics, econometrics, and corporate finance.
Taking up this degree can help equip students with better mathematics skills, analytical thinking, and a deeper foundation in all facets of finance and economics.
Although a bachelor’s or master’s degree will suffice in some positions, getting a PhD in this field can help solidify a student’s position for higher-paying jobs.
Armed with a set of highly specialized skills in corporate finance, asset pricing, and portfolio management, students who earn their PhD in Finance have the opportunity to increase their skills in this field.
PhD in Healthcare Management focuses on a wide range of research that can directly affect healthcare services, management, and administration.
Students may tackle subjects regarding the impact of insurance status and policies on medical expenditure, sources of discrepancies in cardiovascular care, and diffusion and adoption of innovations in healthcare.
Doctoral students in the field of healthcare management may have the opportunity to work closely with degree holders and notable professionals in the healthcare sector.
There is also usually great exposure to other students with hands-on experience in business, math, social science, and clinically trained professionals. This privilege can help make them more efficient as academic researchers and open up different long-term positions in the education and healthcare sectors.
A PhD in Higher Education is a program that aims to develop scholars who are capable of conducting original research and have the necessary skills to interpret and communicate it through writing, teaching, and practice.
The research includes theoretical and empirical inputs that can affect post-secondary education policies and practices.
Students who are taking up a PhD in Higher Education need to complete a program that usually includes 60-100 credit hours.
The classes that they tackled in this doctoral degree typically include economics, politics, policies, governance, organization, student affairs, and social foundations of higher education.
Students can often complete this degree within four to five years, depending on their course load, and attendance to off-campus classes.
A PhD in Homeland Security focuses on classes that provide better understanding and expertise in different research methods, strategic and critical thinking, data analysis, and policies on domestic and international security issues.
Aside from government agencies, these skills are also viable for high-paying jobs in private corporations that deal with security and emergency management.
Professionals who are working in the security service, criminal justice, and emergency preparedness sectors can pursue better career paths by earning their doctoral degree in Homeland Security.
This degree can help open up different opportunities in government agencies, and the majority of degree holders find comfortable positions within the Department of Homeland Security.
PhD in Human Resources is a research-based degree that is designed to allow students to conduct and publish their original work, which can directly affect human resources.
It is a degree that helps students learn advanced skills that they need in the theoretical and empirical application on leadership, management, and administration.
Students who decide to pursue their careers in human resources will usually take four to five years before they can earn a doctoral degree. Throughout their studies, scholars may have the chance to work closely with the faculty while conducting their research, together with professionals in different fields.
The coursework usually involves hands-on activities in advanced human resources, helping students solidify their chosen career path.
A PhD in Information Technology often attracts students who are keen on acquiring advanced knowledge in corporate, economic, business, and organizational implications of information technology. This degree is the highest academic achievement in the field.
It can help provide students with the opportunity to take academic positions in the future. Earning their PhD in IT allows them to pursue teaching jobs at the university-level in information technology subjects, including economics, psychology, management science, organizational behavior, and computer science.
A PhD in Information Technology is a multidisciplinary program that offers concentrations in information science and technology, information systems, software engineering, information security, and digital forensics.
This acquired knowledge and skillset can help students become viable candidates in almost every private and public sector.
A PhD in management is a research-based specialization that includes advanced learning in accounting, decision theory and analysis, IT and operations management, entrepreneurship, finance, economics, leadership, and marketing.
This degree is one of the two terminal degrees that students often take if they want to pursue an academic career at business schools.
Due to the broad spectrum of study and advanced foundation in fields that are in high demand, both in the private and public sectors, PhD in Management became one of the most popular doctoral degrees.
Being exposed to different research on advanced management can help students’ skills and knowledge remain current in their chosen fields.
Management Information Systems
Earning a PhD in Management Information Systems is often vital for students who want to pursue a career in economic and organizational management and technical aspects of information systems.
It focuses on research that can help students develop a deeper understanding of the economic and social contexts, together with the impacts of information technology.
This doctoral degree is in the list of STEM Designated Degree Program, which is a list of degrees that are in high demand and receives the utmost attention from academic institutions and the government.
Taking up a doctoral degree in Management Information Systems has endless potential and secured positions, with an estimated 1.2 million job openings.
Nurse Practitioner (RN Required)
A doctoral degree is one of the two terminal degrees for nurse practitioners. It is a research-based degree that covers nursing methodologies and faculty development, including theoretical and empirical applications in nursing science.
This degree usually involves minimal clinical work, and students typically work closely with faculty to conduct their research.
A PhD in Nurse Practitioner requires a master’s degree and usually requires about 60 to 80 credit hours. It typically takes four to six years to complete and can be affected by the student’s course load.
Upon completion of this doctoral degree, students often take positions as nursing researchers, nursing faculty, and health policy development officers.
Nursing Education (RN Required)
PhD in Nursing Education is a degree that aims to create scholars who are responsible for improving and innovating education for nurses.
It is designed to provide students with a deeper understanding of educational development, strategies, and research to continuously innovate nursing science and leadership to be efficient in practicing the discipline of nursing.
It also covers other curricular and research resources from various disciplines that can have an impact on nursing science.
This vast acquired knowledge in different fields can help students tackle positions in nursing faculties in both the education and healthcare sectors. It usually takes at least three years for students to earn their PhD in Nursing Education.
The effectiveness of any organization lies in the leadership that manages it. Students who want to gain a better understanding of the theoretical and empirical applications of leadership should consider taking a PhD in Organizational Leadership.
This degree is often taken by professionals who are already familiar with their industry but lack leadership skills to lead a team and execute strategic plans on different projects.
Earning a PhD in Organizational Leadership can help amplify students’ current skill set and allow them to make an impact on their organization. This degree is designed to teach them how they can effectively build and manage teams for corporate and nonprofit organizations.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that job positions for leadership roles will grow by 7% for the next 10 years.
A PhD in Project Management is a program that focuses on creating scholars who deeply understand different subjects related to organizational efficiency and business management.
This degree is designed to provide students with skills that can help them manage teams, plan, coordinate, and create budgets for different projects.
Students who are taking up a PhD in Project Management typically select their concentration from program and portfolio management, project-based strategic leadership, risk and quality management, and life-cycle and performance management.
Acquired knowledge in these concentrations can help students become viable candidates for different high paying positions, both in corporate organizations and government agencies.
PhD in Psychology is a program that focuses on the study and research of the entire mental health spectrum. It covers a wide range of research and practice areas, which includes counseling, therapy, social work, and even education.
It is the ultimate pursuit of academic excellence in the field of Psychology and can help students pursue careers that allow them to practice the profession or provide specialized consulting services.
Earning a PhD in Psychology usually takes four to eight years, and it depends on whether the students take the course part-time or full-time. The programs often have at least three full academic years and one year of internship for APA accreditation.
A PhD in Public Administration is the highest applied-research degree that students can take in the field. Scholars in this field are typically required to complete a dissertation, which can contribute, improve, or innovate the practice of public administration, both theoretically and empirically.
The goal of the program is to expose scholars to significant research in their careers, whether in academic, government or other work settings.
This degree can help students acquire advanced knowledge in the legal, political, and ethical practices in public administration.
It can also help students develop a deeper understanding of the administrative functions of government agencies, together with the expertise in strategic planning, program implementation, advanced management techniques, and result-based leadership.
A PhD in Public Health is a program that aims to provide scholars with advanced critical thinking and assessment skills. These skills can help them learn how to assess needs, analyze barriers, and create a positive impact on the practice of public health.
Pursuing this degree can help scholars acquire a better understanding of population-based theoretical research that can lead to the prevention of diseases and disabilities.
Students earning their doctoral degrees in public health can work on the skills they need to be efficient in biostatistics, epidemiology, or public health research.
Most of these fields require students to lead and use professional communication to inform and educate the public regarding critical issues in health.
Faculty member, professor, and post-doctoral fellow are other high-demand positions that students can pursue as a degree holder in public health.
A PhD in Public Policy is a degree that focuses on developing leaders equipped with a deeper understanding of research, ethics, public policy theory, and global practice.
In essence, it is a career path that students often take if they want to develop sustainable solutions that can have a positive impact on the quality of life.
Taking up a doctoral degree in Public Policy can help students tackle leadership concepts and theories, analysis of evidence-based research, and develop methods that streamline the processes of public and nonprofit policies.
These skills can help them become viable candidates for positions such as senior public executives, policy analysts, or offer specialized consulting services.
The PhD in Special Education is the highest level of research-based degree in the field. This degree is designed to help students develop new pedagogical approaches and concepts that can improve the quality of education for differently-abled children.
Earning a doctoral degree in special education can also expose students to various educational courses that can help them become efficient in providing quality education to tomorrow’s teachers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the positions available for doctoral degree holders in special education will grow by as much as 6% over the next 10 years. These positions include education directors, curriculum developers, school principals, childcare administrators, and superintendents.
Supply Chain and Logistics
PhD in Logistics is a program designed to expose students to extensive study in theories, logistics, strategies, and application of supply chain management. It can help students learn all aspects of managing and operating the supply chain, which affects the production and distribution of a product.
The courses that students typically tackle in this degree include the concepts of demand and relationship management, forecasting, inventory, purchasing, and assembly.
This degree can help students develop a deeper understanding of the logistical systems, supply chain technology, research methods, and transportation economics.
Being knowledgeable in the development, manufacturing, and logistics of products can help open up different high paying positions in product-based corporations. It is potentially one of the highest paying doctoral degrees and usually provides much room for growth and development.
What Are the Highest Paying Doctoral Degrees?
Earning a doctoral degree can help scholars build a deeper foundation in their chosen field and open up better career paths. Although getting a PhD almost guarantees a better position, some doctoral degrees are more rewarding.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following careers and average salaries represent the top 10% of wage earners in their respective fields:
|Doctoral Degrees||Highest 10% Earners|
|Management Information Systems||$161,930|
|Supply Chain and Logistics||$120,400|
Factors that may raise or lower your salary, besides your level of education, include your experience, the industry in which you work, and your location.
One of the most rewarding benefits of earning a graduate degree is the potential to increase your salary. The U.S. Census Bureau found that over the course of a person’s lifetime, someone with a doctoral degree earns $3.4 million on average.
Compare that with someone with a bachelor’s degree, who earns $2.1 million on average over the course of their lifetime. Earning an accelerated PhD could mean earning more than $1 million more.
Not all doctorates will bring in the same salary increase. LinkedIn indicates that people with PhD’s who work in the fields of Science and Engineering usually see the best pay overall. For example, the top 10% of medical scientists make, on average, close to $160,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bottom 10% make just over $40,000 per year.
The primary difference between the top 10% and the bottom 10% is education level and experience. PhD holders in the sciences typically make much more money than those who only hold their bachelor’s or master’s degree.
What Are the Most Popular Doctorate Degrees?
The highest paying doctoral degrees are not always the most rewarding path. Taking up a popular degree, for example, can expose students to more people, and some of them may have years of experience in their chosen field.
Having this academic setting may help students to improve their existing network and might unlock several high-paying positions that seek the specialization that they have.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following careers and average salaries represent the top 10% of wage earners in their respective fields:
|PhD Degrees||Highest 10% Earners|
Which PhD program you choose should depend on your interests and overall job satisfaction, not the potential salary level alone.
Many people pursue their PhD because of their intellectual curiosity and desire to learn. For fields that don’t report a significant pay increase over a master’s or bachelor’s degree (like the humanities), PhD holders often spend the years it takes earning their degree for personal fulfillment and ambition. Sometimes that payoff is enough.
If you’re interested in pursuing your PhD for these reasons, there are many accelerated PhD programs available online to help your dream of being called “Doctor” one day come true. Some people even earn a PhD in a field unrelated to their primary career because of their love for learning and their desire to pursue other topics and subjects.
Careers that Require a PhD
There are a handful of careers that require a PhD before you’ll even be considered for the job. This is because the training required to perform well at these jobs is only available through doctoral level programs. Most people obtain their PhD because they have their eye on these specific jobs. The following careers are usually only attainable to people who hold PhD’s:
- Higher Education Administration (President, Dean, etc.)
- Prestigious Appointments on Corporate and Federal Boards
Many careers and fields, however, still highly value someone who holds a PhD even if it’s not required to perform the job. These are common career fields that look to doctorate holders to lead and innovate:
- Healthcare (Nursing and Public Health/Policy)
- Science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Neuroscience)
The reality is that most people who hold a doctorate often automatically receive more respect and reverence than those who don’t. It’s a prestigious degree that only about one percent of the population holds. Many of the most respected intellectuals and leaders of corporations and organizations have a doctoral degree because of this reason.
Some universities even offer a doctorate degree online no dissertation requirement for students who prefer not to spend the extra time required to complete a dissertation.
Even if your field doesn’t require a doctorate, it may be beneficial to your advancement in your field, a potential salary increase, and your own personal ambitions of holding one of the most prestigious degrees available.
How Long Does It Take to Earn a Doctorate Degree?
There are two major types of doctoral degrees that students can earn; research-based and professional application. Both degrees require them to have a master’s degree, and if they already have one, it usually takes four to six years on average to earn their PhD.
On the other hand, students who are pursuing doctoral degrees part-time may take up to 10 years.
The time they need to complete a doctoral degree will depend on the program design and the area of specialization that they are taking. PhD programs usually require students to take 60 to 120 credit hours or about 20 to 40 classes.
However, some programs are streamlined and accelerated to help them earn their doctoral degree faster. If you have a tight schedule, then part time PhD programs are another option instead of accelerated programs.
Those who are pursuing a doctoral degree full-time can look for programs that have creative credit transfers, which can help them get their PhD within three years. These programs typically offer minimal on-campus obligations, giving scholars better flexibility in earning their degrees.
How to Accelerate Your Online PhD
Whether you’re searching for 1 year online doctoral programs or for a way to finish in 2 years, you may be able to accelerate the path to your doctorate.
Since you’ll already be expected to have completed a good amount of previous college training, there aren’t as many ways to accelerate a PhD as there are an associate, bachelor, or master’s degree. There are many accelerated PhD programs, however, that can help you move straight through a bachelor’s degree to a PhD.
In other words, you can apply to begin a bachelor’s degree with a program with the commitment and intention of following all the way through to a PhD as the final earned degree. These programs are designed so that you can earn your bachelor’s degree along the way and complete your PhD in as little as six years (including all the work you had to do towards the bachelor’s degree).
Most PhD programs take much longer than this, so this can be a great way to accelerate your degree. Alternatively, some programs award a terminal master’s degree as part of the PhD program.
If you don’t finish all the requirements for your PhD, you may still walk away with a master’s degree in your field, all of your work not having gone to waste.
Some accelerated PhD options online include accelerated courses as well. These courses can help you complete more credit hours in less amount of time and are great when you have some extra time to spare in your schedule.
They might not be as prevalent as accelerated courses at the undergraduate level, but many graduate programs online offer them as well. They are worth looking into if you’re itching to complete your degree quickly.
Advantages of Accelerated PhD Programs
Many traditional PhD programs can take a long time to complete. In fact, many programs allow students upwards of 10 years or more to complete all requirements of their degree, knowing that some students get stalled in the research and writing process.
Sometimes, having too much time to complete a degree can be detrimental to your progress and completion of that degree, especially when it comes to such an advanced degree like a PhD. Enrolling in an accelerated PhD program can encourage you to stay on track with your studies and finish within a reasonable time.
Just because you’ll be completing your doctorate online and in an accelerated format doesn’t mean the rigor or intensity of the program will be less. In fact, because you’ll probably be doing it in less time, it may be more. Most programs require a dissertation or large research project as a capstone to fulfilling the degree requirements.
Many PhD programs also require lengthy and difficult tests before they will allow students to advance to candidacy. Online degrees are not much different in regards to these expectations.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the attrition rate for PhD programs is only 50%, which means that only one out of two people who begin a PhD program actually finish their degree.
It’s a sobering statistic, but it attests to the fact that a PhD is not a degree you can earn overnight. Even in an accelerated format, a doctorate takes time, effort, and dedication.
Since many people go back for their PhD’s after having already started a career in their field, choosing an accelerated PhD format might allow you to remain in your career while completing your degree. This is another benefit to completing a degree online rather than having to commute somewhere each week to complete coursework.
Finally and perhaps an overlooked advantage of these programs is that you’ll have the opportunity to network with people from across the nation. If getting a PhD means a potential climb up the ladder in your field, the rewards of moving for a job are probably worth it to you.
What better way to learn about job openings and potentials than in your online classes? Most jobs are advertised through word of mouth, so working with people from different regions and locations from where you are might open your eyes to an opportunity you never knew was there.
Getting a PhD is a serious commitment and not something you should decide on a whim to do. It can be tiring and stressful, but so very rewarding. If you complete your PhD, you’ll be one of only a small percentage of Americans who have one, and the job opportunities for you to do what you really love will most likely increase.
Accelerated PhD’s are convenient and can help you actualize your goals of earning the highest degree you can earn in your field.
Accreditation for an Online PhD Program
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation or CHEA reviews regional accrediting bodies to ensure that students receive the highest standard of education that meets local demands. In turn, these accrediting bodies evaluate academic institutions or online programs within the institution.
This process aims to regulate and ensure that the quality of education is current, practical, and is following the curriculum requirements in PhD programs.
Regional accreditation evaluates the learning process in different online programs, ensuring that students are spending money on education that employers will recognize. Look for accreditation from one of these regional boards:
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
Regional accreditation of a program act as a guarantee of the value of the diploma that students receive upon completion of their course.
Financial Aid for PhD Students
On average, a PhD program costs $18,000, and taking up a five-year plan will cost at least $90,000. This amount is on top of the living expenses that students need to tank when pursuing their doctoral degrees.
However, there are different financial aids that they can pursue to fund their studies and earn their postgraduate degrees without going into debt.
Here are the types of financial aids that may be available for PhD students:
- Scholarships are the most common merit-based financial aid that students can receive. These programs can help in covering the cost of tuition and other fees that are related to earning their doctoral degrees.
- Grants are similar to scholarships, but it is for students with the need for financial assistance. Students who want to apply for grants will have to go through different evaluations to be eligible for it.
- Fellowships are programs that can provide financial aid to students who are pursuing doctoral degrees. These aids often cover the full tuition, together with a yearly stipend that students can use to cover other expenses related to earning their degrees.
You can find out what you qualify for at the federal level by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Questions Related to Earning a PhD Online
Here are our answers to a few more questions you might have.
Can I Get My PhD Online?
Yes, it is possible to get a PhD from online programs. These programs receive regular innovations up to the point that it became the most attractive method of earning a PhD.
Today, there are 205 accredited academic institutions in the United States offering thousands of online programs that help students get their doctoral degrees.
Are Online PhD Programs Credible?
Yes, earning a PhD from online programs is a recognized achievement by employers. However, the credibility of this degree depends on the accreditation of the institution where students received it.
Regional accreditation is the process of evaluating academic institutions to ensure that students will complete a program that follows the strict guidelines and curriculum requirements of CHEA.
How Much Do Online PhD Programs Cost?
The cost of taking up online PhD programs will vary on the specialization that students want to take. On average, earning a PhD from online programs costs $4,000 to $20,000, and this amount includes the expenses for registration, books, and online coaching.
Taking a five-year plan, which is the average for most PhD courses, typically costs $20,000 to $100,000.
What Are the Best Online PhD Programs?
The best online PhD programs are those that lead you to a balance of a career you enjoy and the salary you’re comfortable with. This balance will depend on your interests.
Online learning offers a wide range of benefits, including flexibility in scheduling and defining the learning pace that is comfortable for students. However, not all online programs are made equal.
Scholars can find the PhD courses best suited for them by checking the rates, courses that they will take, the size of the classes, and regional accreditation from organizations that CHEA recognizes in evaluating PhD programs.
List of 30 Online PhD Programs (and related doctoral programs)
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.
Located in Berrin Springs, Michigan, Andrews University was established in 1874. It is affiliated with the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
The university offers PhD programs in Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Leadership, Higher Education Administration, and various concentrations in Leadership. These programs have various credit requirements ranging between 61 and 94. The programs can be completed in 5-6 years on a full-time basis.
- PhD Curriculum and Instruction
- PhD Educational Leadership
- PhD Higher Education Administration
- PhD Leadership
Andrews is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Established in 1887, the Catholic University of America is located in Washington, DC.
The PhD in Nursing program is offered by the university’s Conway School of Nursing and requires 79 credit hours. Students can transfer in 24 credit hours from graduate course-work if they have been successful in comprehensive exams.
- Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nursing
CUA is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Located in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, Central Michigan University was established in 1892. It has more than 60 other locations worldwide.
The online PhD program in Educational Technology requires 54 credits and consists of 12 courses followed by a dissertation. The program is in an online cohort format with no face-to-face requirements.
- Doctor of Educational Technology
CMU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Consisting of 7 colleges, Clemson University was established in 1889 and located in Clemson, South Carolina.
The online PhD programs are offered in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management (60 credit hours), Rhetoric, Communication & Information Design (on-campus to defend dissertation), and in Healthcare Genetics (70 credit hours).
Out-of-state applicants must check whether the program is available in their states.
- Ph.D. in Healthcare Genetics (HCG)
- Ph.D. in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management (PRTM)
- Ph.D. in Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design
Clemson is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Located in Fort Collins, Colorado, Colorado State University was established in 1870.
The online PhD programs offered by the university are the 60-credit PhD in Higher Education Leadership (can be completed in 5 years) and the 72-credit PhD in Systems Engineering (varies based on previous coursework and intensity of study).
- Higher Education Leadership Ph.D.
- Systems Engineering Ph.D.
Colorado State is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
Founded in the Lutheran tradition, Concordia University Chicago was established in 1863 and is located in River Forest, Illinois.
The 100% online PhD in Leadership: Gerontology program has a course length of 8 weeks. Students must complete 58 credit hours. The application deadline is rolling and is in a synchronous format with 3 or 4-year tracts being available.
- PhD in Leadership: Gerontology
Concordia University Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Located in Newburg, Oregon, George Fox University is a Christian institution that was originally founded in 1891 as a school for Quakers.
The Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership program is delivered in the online format with an annual residency of one week on campus. There is a 56-credit-hour requirement to complete the course, and it takes 3 years to complete.
- Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership
George Fox is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Established in 1821, George Washington University is located in Washington, DC.
The online PhD in Nursing program consists of 57 credit hours with some on-campus requirements and is delivered in a synchronous format.
The online PhD in Systems Engineering program consists of 54 credit hours and must be completed within 5 years.
- Online Ph.D. in Nursing
- Online Ph.D. in Systems Engineering
George Washington is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Located in Hampton, Virginia, Hampton University is a historically black university established in 1888.
The university offers PhD programs in Business Administration (61 credit hours), Counselor Education & Supervision (61 credit hours), Educational Management (66 credits), and Nursing (54-60 credit hours).
A DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) program (33 credit hours) is also available.
- PhD in Business Administration
- PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision
- PhD in Educational Management
Hampton U is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Established in 1820, Indiana University is located in Bloomington, Indiana.
The PhD in Nursing Science program (90 credit hours) is delivered 80-99% online in a hybrid, distance-accessible format, with synchronous video-conferencing to provide classroom interaction and two on-campus intensives to interact with peers and faculty.
- Ph.D. in Nursing Science
Indiana U is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
As the largest university in the state of Iowa, Iowa State University is located in Ames, Iowa and was established in 1856.
The PhD program in Apparel Merchandising and Design is delivered in a hybrid format. It features 1-2 on-campus summer coursework sessions and has a 72-credit-hour requirement to complete the degree.
- Apparel, Merchandising, and Design – Doctor of Philosophy
Iowa State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Located in West Palm Beach, Florida, Keiser University was established in 1977.
The university offers a flexibly designed Doctor of Business Administration program that is delivered 100% online. Students can benefit from being able to pursue their careers, along with enhancing their educational qualifications. The program is offered at multiple locations in Florida.
- Business Administration, DBA
Keiser is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Established in 1971, Liberty University is an Evangelical Christian university located in Lynchburg, Virginia.
The university offers a range of PhD programs in Bible Exposition, Communication, Counselor Education and Supervision, Criminal Justice, Education, Higher Education Administration, History, Nursing-Nursing Education, Psychology, Public Policy, Strategic Media Online.
Most are 100% online, delivered in an 8-week course format.
- Ph.D. in Bible Exposition
- Ph.D. in Communication
- Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision
- Ph.D. in Criminal Justice
- Ph.D. in Education
- Ph.D. in Higher Education Admin
- Ph.D. in History
- Ph.D. in Nursing – Nursing Education
- Ph.D. in Psychology
- Ph.D. in Public Policy
- Ph.D. in Strategic Media Online
Liberty is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Located in Charleston, South Carolina, the Medical University of South Carolina was established in 1824.
The university’s College of Nursing offers both full-time and part-time PhD in Nursing programs. Both have 52 semester hours of coursework and 9 semester-hours for dissertation requirement and a 3-4-year plan of study. Only 10-12 students are accepted per year.
- PhD Nursing Science
MUSC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Chartered in 1878, Mississippi State University is located adjacent to Starkville, Mississippi.
The university offers PhD programs in Aerospace/Civil Engineering, Community College Leadership, Computational Engineering, Electrical, and Computer Engineering, Industrial and Systems Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering.
Students must complete at least 50 hours of coursework beyond the master’s degree, of which at least 20 are allotted to dissertation research.
- Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering
- Ph.D. in Civil Engineering
- Ph.D. in Community College Leadership
- Ph.D. in Computational Engineering
- Ph.D. in Electrical & Computer Engineering
- Ph.D. in Industrial and Systems Engineering
- Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering
Mississippi State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
With its main campus located in Davie, Florida, Nova Southeastern University was established in 1964.
The university offers online PhD programs in Conflict Analysis and Resolution (76 credit hours), Criminal Justice (60 credit hours), Nursing (60 credit hours), and Occupational Therapy (61 credit hours).
The university has 18 schools and colleges that offer 150 different programs, and students can select the appropriate one.
- Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis & Resolution
- Ph.D. in Criminal Justice
- Ph.D. in Nursing
- Ph.D. in Occupational Therapy
Nova Southeastern is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Established in 1923, Texas Tech University is located in Lubbock, Texas.
The university offers several online PhD programs across its different schools and colleges, in Curriculum and Instruction (63 credit hours) in three different tracks, Educational Leadership Policy (60 credit hours), Family and Consumer Science Education (72 credit hours), Special Education (90 credit hours), Systems Engineering and Management (72 credit hours), and Technical Communication and Rhetoric (60 credit hours).
- Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction (Track in Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education)
- Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction (Track in Language, Diversity & Literacy Studies)
- Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction (Track in STEM)
- Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership Policy
- Doctor of Philosophy in Family and Consumer Science Education
- Doctor of Philosophy in Special Education
Texas Tech is accredited with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Located in Monroe, Louisiana, the University of Louisiana at Monroe was established in 1931.
The university offers an online PhD program in Marriage and Family Therapy with a concentration in Systemic Studies. It consists of 60 semester-units, two years of full-time course-work, and dissertation.
- PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy with a concentration in Systemic Studies
ULM is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Established in 1971, the University of Texas at Tyler is located in Tyler, Texas on a park-like campus on Harvey Lake.
The university offers online PhD programs in Clinical Psychology (99 credit hours), Nursing (60 credit hours), and Human Resource Development (hybrid, 60 credit hours). Scholarships and financial support are available based on eligibility.
- PhD in Clinical Psychology
- PhD in Nursing
UTT is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The State University of New York at Buffalo has campuses in Amherst and Buffalo and was founded in 1846. It had several notable alumni on its rolls.
The university offers an online PhD in Information Science (72 credits) with the requirement of a one-week residency per year. Students can complete the course in 4-5 years.
- Curriculum, Instruction and the Science of Learning, PhD
- Information Science, PhD
UB – SUNY is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education,
Established in 1820, the University of Alabama is located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
The Bama By Distance online learning program offers a PhD in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics. The 72-credit-hour programs are designed for aerospace engineers with 5+ years’ experience in the field.
It is delivered primarily online with a campus visit requirement once each semester to meet faculty adviser.
- PhD in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics
UA is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Located in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the University of Arkansas was established in 1871.
It has been judged to have one of the Best Online Programs in Grad Education by U.S. News & World Report. Online doctoral programs offered are Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership, Doctor of Education in Human Resource & Workforce Education, Doctor of Education Adult & Lifelong Learning, and Doctor of Nursing Practice.
- Online Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership
- Online Doctor of Education in Human Resource and Workforce Development Education
- Online Doctor of Nursing Practice
UArk is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Founded in 1893, it is located in Gainesville, Florida.
Online PhD programs offered are in Latin & Roman Studies (60 credit hours, with 30 hours of doctoral work on-campus) and Classical Civilization (60 credit-hours with 30 hours of doctoral work on-campus). Written examinations and public defense of the dissertation are required.
- Classical Civilization (Ph.D.)
- Latin and Roman Studies (Ph.D.)
UFL is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Located in Columbia, Missouri, the University of Missouri was founded in 1893.
Online PhD programs include a PhD in Agricultural Education & Leadership (72 credit hours, blended delivery mode) and aPhD in Human Environmental Sciences (emphasis architectural studies, 30 credit hours, delivery 100% online).
- Doctor of philosophy in agricultural education and leadership (PhD)
- Doctor of philosophy in human environmental sciences with an emphasis in architectural studies (PhD)
Mizzou is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The state’s oldest university, it is located in Lincoln, Nebraska and was founded in 1869.
The online blended/hybrid Doctor of Education degree in Educational Studies (specialization: Higher Education & Educational Leadership) has a 90-credit-hour and a short residency requirement.
- PhD in Educational Studies (90 cr) with a specialization in Educational Leadership and Higher Education
UN – Lincoln is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Established in 1883, the University of North Dakota is located in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Online PhD programs are offered in Aerospace Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Energy Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Petroleum Engineering, and Nursing, all requiring 90 credit-hours. Indigenous Health requires 30 credit hours.
- Aerospace Sciences (Ph.D.)
- Biomedical Engineering (Ph.D.)
- Chemical Engineering (Ph.D.)
- Electrical Engineering (Ph.D.)
- Energy Engineering (Ph.D.)
- Environmental Engineering (Ph.D.)
- Indigenous Health (Ph.D.)
- Nursing (Ph.D.)
- Petroleum Engineering (Ph.D.)
UND is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Located in Vermilion, South Dakota, the university was founded in 1862.
The online PhD in Health Sciences program is designed for working professionals. It has a 72-credit-hour requirement and is delivered in an online format with limited expectations for face-to-face contact. The residency includes orientation, dissertation boot-camp, and dissertation defense.
- Online Doctor of Philosophy in Health Sciences
USD is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The oldest research university in California, established in 1880, the university is located in Los Angeles, California.
Online doctoral programs include a Doctorate of Social Work, Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership, and Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership.
- Doctorate of Social Work Online
- Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership online
- Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership online
The University of Southern California is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Established in 1888, this Baptist Christian university is located in Williamsburg, Kentucky.
The online programs include a PhD in Business (66 credit hours), Counselor Education and Supervision (66 credit hours), and Leadership Studies (66 credit hours). Some courses may have online meeting times.
- online PhD in Business
- online PhD in Counselor Education & Supervision
- online PhD in Leadership Studies
UCumberlands is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Located in Richmond, Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University was established in 1838.
The 100% online PhD in Nursing can be taken either on a full or part-time basis. There is a 61 minimum credit hour requirement, and the program is delivered 100% online.
- Nursing (Ph.D.)
VCU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Is PhD Worth It?
Yes, a PhD is worth it for many students. A PhD is the highest academic achievement that any student can get, and may give a significant boost in the career path that they choose. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some careers “with an advanced degree, particularly a Ph.D., are expected to have the best opportunities.”
Acquiring advanced knowledge and highly-specialized skills in their field can help students become viable candidates in different high-paying positions. The unemployment rate for doctoral degree holders is only 1.1%, as opposed to 2% for master’s degree holders.
Universities are continuously innovating their PhD programs, making it easier for students to earn their diplomas without compromising the quality of education. With these programs, students can apply to an online PhD program and start pursuing a better career path with minimal on-campus obligations.