30 Best Online PhD Programs [2020 Ultimate Guide]

We’ve ranked the 30 Best Online PhD Programs for 2020. Colleges now offer online PhD, DBA, EdD, PsyD, DNP – 100% online. Accelerated classes available.

Online PhD Programs

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.

Some PhD programs will lead to higher paying careers than others, but are all very rewarding.

Accounting

accountant working in the office

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 gives students advanced knowledge in applied research and accounting theory, making 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 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 9.3% in 2024.

Business Administration

business consultants working together on a laptop

Programs for a PhD in Business Administration 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 provides students with a deeper understanding of different business practices, both in theory and application. Having this set of skills will 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 headstart in building their network and connection while still studying.

Counseling

counselor talking to a young couple

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 enables 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 steadily grows at an average rate of 14%.

Criminal Justice

female detective working on documents for a case

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 include classes in juvenile justice, social psychology, law enforcement, criminal behavior risk factors, homeland security, and technical leadership.

This set of acquired knowledge opens 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 7% in private service and 5% in protective service.

Curriculum & Instruction

education curriculum planners having a meeting

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. It also enables students to make significant research and contribution to the enhancement of knowledge in their specialized field.


This degree shapes students to become highly efficient in discovering, integrating, applying, communicating, and disseminating knowledge. Earning a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction allows students to become critically reflective and dedicated to providing practical and theoretical training.

This set of skills opens up different opportunities for academic and leadership positions that are available in educational institutions.

Education

education teacher teaching in a university

Earning a PhD in Education is the highest academic achievement that students can get in the field of education.

It will provide them 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 offers better networking opportunities that broaden their connection.

Pursuing a PhD in Education requires students to have a master’s degree. This path will take at least three years to complete, depending on the course load and transfer credits.

Educational Leadership

training and development manager having a meeting with colleagues

Excellent education lies in the people who develop the system and the leaders that implement it. A PhD in Educational Leadership puts scholars in a position that can directly contribute to it.

This degree will provide 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 helps students to 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 makes the scholars viable candidates for high-paying positions in the academic sector, such as chief academic officer, training and development manager, and chief learning officer.

Finance

financial manager talking to a couple

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 equips 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 will 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 earned their PhD in Finance have the best chance to excel as financial managers or chief financial officers.

Healthcare Management

Healthcare Manager talking to doctors

PhD in Healthcare Management focuses on a wide range of research that can directly affect healthcare services, management, and administration.

Students will 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 have the opportunity to work closely with degree holders and notable professionals in the healthcare sector.

There is also great exposure to other students with hands-on experience in business, math, social science, and clinically trained professionals. This privilege makes them more efficient as an academic researcher and opens up different long-term positions in the education and healthcare sectors.

Higher Education

male professor teaching in a university

A PhD in Higher Education is a program that develops 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 will tackle in this doctoral degree include economics, politics, policies, governance, organization, student affairs, and social foundations of higher education.

Students can complete this degree within four to five years, depending on their course load, and attendance to off-campus classes.

Homeland Security

Homeland Security officer standing on his post

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 opens up different opportunities in government agencies, and the majority of degree holders find comfortable positions within the Department of Homeland Security.

Human Resources

Human Resources Manager talking to company's employees

PhD in Human Resources is a research-based degree that allows students to conduct and publish their original work, which can directly affect human resources.

It is a degree that enables students to 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 take four to five years before they can earn a doctoral degree. Throughout their studies, scholars will 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.

Information Technology

web developer working on his laptop

A PhD in Information Technology is for 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 will provide students with the opportunity to take academic positions in the future. Earning their PhD in IT allows them to teach university-level subjects in information technology, 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 makes students viable candidates in almost every private and public sector.

Management

manager meeting her team

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 should 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 ensures that students’ skills and knowledge remain current in their chosen field.

Management Information Systems

network administrators checking the data room

Earning a PhD in Management Information Systems is 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 allows students to 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)

nurse checking patient's vital signs during operation

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 involves minimal clinical work, and students will work closely with faculty to conduct their research.


A PhD in Nurse Practitioner requires a master’s degree and has about 60 to 80 credit hours. It takes four to six years to complete and can be affected by the student’s course load.

Upon completion of this doctoral degree, students can take positions as nursing researchers, nursing faculty, and health policy development officers.

Nursing Education (RN Required)

healthcare professionals in a meeting

PhD in Nursing Education is a degree that aims to create scholars who are responsible for improving and innovating education for nurses.

It provides 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 makes students capable of tackling positions in nursing faculty in both the education and healthcare sectors. It will take at least three years for students to earn their PhD in Nursing Education.

Organizational Leadership

team of professionals in a meeting

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 take a PhD in Organizational Leadership.

This degree is advisable for professionals who are already familiar with their industry but lacks leadership skills to lead a team and execute strategic plans on different projects.


Earning a PhD in Organizational Leadership can amplify students’ current skill set and allow them to make an impact on their organization. This degree will 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 8% in 2026.

Project Management

Project Manager collaborating with her team for a project

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 will provide students with skills that allow them to manage teams, plan, coordinate, and create budgets for different projects.


Students who are taking up a PhD in Project Management can select their concentration, which includes program and portfolio management, project-based strategic leadership, risk and quality management, and life-cycle and performance management.

Acquired knowledge in these concentrations will make students viable candidates in different high paying positions, both in corporate organizations and government agencies.

Psychology

psychologist talking to a patient in her office

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 will allow students to practice the profession or provide specialized consulting services.


Earning a PhD in Psychology will take four to eight years, and it depends on whether the students take the course part-time or full-time. The program should have at least three full academic years and one year of internship for APA accreditation.

Public Administration

administrative assistant working on her computer

A PhD in Public Administration is the highest applied-research degree that students can take in the field. Scholars will be subject to 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.


When taking up this degree, students will acquire advanced knowledge in the legal, political, and ethical practices in public administration.

Students will also 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.

Public Health

medical professor teaching in a university

A PhD in Public Health is a program that aims to provide scholars with advanced critical thinking and assessment skills. These skills allow them to assess needs, analyze barriers, and create a positive impact on the practice of public health.

Scholars will acquire a better understanding of population-based theoretical research that leads to the prevention of diseases and disabilities.

Students who earned their doctoral degrees in public health will have the skills they need to be efficient in biostatistics, epidemiology, or public health research.


Most of these fields will 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 take as a degree holder in public health.

Public Policy

policy analysts working together in a laptop

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 should take if they want to develop sustainable solutions that can have a positive impact on the quality of life.


When taking up a doctoral degree in Public Policy, students will tackle leadership concepts and theories, analysis of evidence-based research, and develop methods that streamline the processes of public and nonprofit policies.

These skills make them viable candidates for positions such as senior public executives, policy analysts, or offer specialized consulting services.

Special Education

school principal checking student's attendance for a field trip

The PhD in Special Education is the highest level of research-based degree in the field. This degree allows students to develop new pedagogical approaches and concepts that can improve the quality of education for differently-abled children.

Earning a doctoral degree in special education will also expose students to various educational courses that make them 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 13% in 2024. These positions include education directors, curriculum developers, school principals, childcare administrators, and superintendents.

Supply Chain and Logistics

Logistics manager checking inventory in a warehouse

PhD in Logistics is a program that exposes students to extensive study in theories, logistics, strategies, and application of supply chain management. It covers all aspects of managing and operating the supply chain, which affects the production and distribution of a product.

The courses that students will tackle in this degree include the concepts of demand and relationship management, forecasting, inventory, purchasing, and assembly.


They will also have 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 will open up different high paying positions in product-based corporations. It is one of the highest paying doctoral degrees with much room for growth and development.

What Are the Highest Paying Doctoral Degrees?

Highest Paying Doctoral Degrees

Earning a doctoral degree gives scholars a deeper foundation in their chosen field and will open up better career paths. Although getting a PhD almost guarantees a better position, some doctoral degrees are more rewarding.

Below are 10 of the highest paying doctoral degrees, together with the average salary that degree holders can expect.

PhD Degree Average Annual Salary
Management Information Systems $129,200
Accounting $122,900
Management $120,000
Business Administration $117,000
Supply Chain and Logistics $115,100
Public Administration $103,700
Public Policy $103,500
Information Technology $102,900
Project Management $100,600
Nurse Practitioner $98,800

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.

Salary Increase

One of the most rewarding benefits of earning a graduate degree is the salary increase. 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 will see the best pay overall. For example, the top 10% of medical scientists make, on average, close to $150,000 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?

Most Popular Doctorate Degrees

The highest paying doctoral degrees are not always the most rewarding path. Taking up a popular degree, for example, will 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 could unlock several high-paying positions that seek the specialization that they have.

PhD Degree Average Annual Salary
Business Administration $117,000
Nurse Practitioner $98,800
Psychology $88,900
Counseling $69,000
Higher Education $62,100
Nursing Education $80,300
Finance $81,300
Criminal Justice $67,800
Information Technology $102,900
Management $120,000

Which PhD program you choose depends on your interests and overall job satisfaction, not the potential salary level alone.

Intellectual Curiosity

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 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

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:

  • Psychologist
  • Scientist
  • Professor
  • 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)
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Economics
  • Marketing

The reality is that most people who hold a doctorate 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?

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 will take four to six years on average to earn their PhD.

On the other hand, students who are pursuing doctoral degrees part-time can 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 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.

Those who are pursuing a doctoral degree full-time can look for programs that have creative credit transfers, which will allow them to get their PhD within three years. These programs even offer minimal on-campus obligations, giving scholars better flexibility in earning their degrees.

How to Accelerate Your Online PhD

PhD student studying on her laptop

Whether you’re searching for 1 year online doctoral programs or for a way to finish in 2 years, you can 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 allow you to 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. You’ll be awarded your bachelor’s degree along the way and can 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 is 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’ll 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 enable you to 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

logos of six regional boards

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)

Earning a degree from a regionally accredited online program guarantees the value of the diploma that students receive upon completion of their course.

Financial Aid for PhD Students

screenshot of the FAFSA pdf

On average, a PhD program costs $16,000, and taking up a five-year plan will cost at least $80,000. 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 take to fund their studies and earn their postgraduate degrees without going into debt.

Here are the types of financial aids that are available for PhD students:

  • Scholarships are the most common merit-based financial aid that students can receive. These programs will 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 will cost $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, will cost $20,000 to $100,000.

What Are the Best Online PhD Programs?

The best online PhD programs are those that lead you 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 best PhD courses 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)

Rankings Methodology

Each of these colleges and universities maintains full accreditation and offers doctoral programs online.

#1  Andrews University

Andrews University campus

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.

#2  Catholic University of America

Catholic University of America campus

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

#3  Central Michigan University

Central Michigan University campus

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).

#4  Clemson University

Clemson University campus

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).

#5  Colorado State University

Colorado State University campus

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.

#6  Concordia University Chicago

Concordia University Chicago campus

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.

#7  George Fox University

George Fox University campus

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.

#8  George Washington University

George Washington University campus

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.

#9  Hampton University

Hampton University campus

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.

#10  Indiana University

Indiana University Bloomington campus

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.

#11  Iowa State University

Iowa State University campus

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.

#12  Keiser University

Keiser University - Fort Lauderdale campus

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 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.

#13  Liberty University

liberty university campus1

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.

#14  Medical University of South Carolina

Medical University of South Carolina campus

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).

#15  Mississippi State University

mississippi state university campus

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

#16  Nova Southeastern University

Nova Southeastern University campus

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).

#17  Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University campus

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.

#18  The University of Louisiana at Monroe

University of Louisiana Monroe campus

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.

#19  The University of Texas at Tyler

University of Texas at Tyler campus

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.

#20  University at Buffalo – SUNY

University at Buffalo campus

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,

#21  University of Alabama

University of Alabama campus

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).

#22  University of Arkansas

University of Arkansas campus

Located in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the University of Arkansas was established in 1871.

It has been judged to have the Best Online Programs Grad Education 2020. 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.

#23  University of Florida

University of Florida campus

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.

#24  University of Missouri

University of Missouri campus

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.

#25  University of Nebraska – Lincoln

University of Nebraska - Lincoln campus

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).

#26  University of North Dakota

University of North Dakota campus

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.

#27  University of South Dakota

University of South Dakota campus

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.

#28  University of Southern California

University of Southern California campus

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.

#29  University of the Cumberlands

University of the Cumberlands campus

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.

#30  Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University campus

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?

graduating PhD student

Yes, a PhD is worth it. When you graduate, you can expect to make around $100,000 per year. PhD is the highest academic achievement that any student can get, and it gives a significant boost in any career path that they choose.

Acquiring advanced knowledge and highly-specialized skills in their field will make them viable candidates in different high-paying positions. The unemployment rate for doctoral degree holders in only 1.5%, as opposed to 2.4% 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.

This article is brought to you by
Hannah Davis
Hannah Davis
Editor
Isaac Collins
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Comments
  1. Abraham Soka Nyirongo says:

    I am looking for a DBA degree program which has no course work bu regionally acreditated. I did the coursework at Heriot watt University, Scotland, UK

    1. Hannah Davis says:

      Hi Abraham,

      Thanks for the question. All DBA programs in the U.S. require coursework. There are no dissertation only doctoral program offered by regionally accredited universities. I hope this is helpful!

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