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.

Students Applying to 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.

Top Online PhD Programs

Accelerated PhD and other doctoral programs (DBA, PsyD, EdD, DNP, DMin, DEng, and DPT) are usually catered toward adults who are already employed in their field and are looking for an advanced terminal degree for promotion, salary increase, or to gain additional knowledge and skills relevant to their career.

These online programs are convenient and eliminate the hassle of having to travel to a university campus, often interrupting your busy life.

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 percent of medical scientists make, on average, close to $150,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bottom 10 percent make just over $40,000 per year.

The primary difference between the top 10 percent and the bottom 10 percent 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.

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

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.

Types of PhD Programs Available Online

Believe it or not, many doctorate degrees can be earned online and through an accelerated format. Of course, if you’re looking to earn an MD or DVM, you’ll have to forego the online and accelerated route, but there are many other options available.

The most common doctorates that you can earn online include:

All of these programs are vastly different from one another, and there’s no easy and quick guide to these varying degrees. If one of these paths interests you, start researching to find out the requirements, time commitment, cost, and what it would take for you to complete your degree. Almost any specialization you can think of is available for PhD seekers and many of those are offered through accelerated PhD formats online.

From Neuroscience to Biology to Public Policy to Management, the choices for a PhD alone are numerous. The other doctoral degrees listed are very specific to what they prepare you to do and the names of them usually indicate the future career path of someone pursuing that degree.

Someone with an EdD can go on to become a president or dean of a university, while someone with a DBA can go on to become the CEO of a company. A PsyD, DPT, and DNP will prepare you for those specific medical fields and roles. A DEng is a more advanced degree in Engineering and can prepare you to become a project or engineering company manager and leader.

Not only do these degrees prepare you to work directly in your field, but they can also prepare you to teach students wishing to join your field. Just because you don’t have a PhD or EdD doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified to become a professor. In fact, many higher education institutions value doctorate holders specific to their fields so that they can best train students. Many nurses, for example, look to enhance their experience in nursing by going back for their DNP so that they can train and teach nursing students. Teaching can be a very rewarding experience and addition to your career path, and it’s definitely something to consider when thinking about accelerated PhD programs online as a way to augment your current career.

Sometimes people with PhD’s will also perform research. This is most true for those who complete PhD’s in the science fields. The top researchers and lead scientists to hold their PhD or a similar doctorate in their specific field. They can stay in the lab, conducting, reporting, and analyzing experiments, or they can go on to teach (entering into academia) or work more visibly in their field for the government or large scientific corporations as advocates and consultants.

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 can accelerated 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 percent, 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.

List of 30 Online PhD Programs (and related doctoral programs)

This article is brought to you by
Joy Mays
Joy Mays
Hannah Davis
Hannah Davis
Isaac Collins
Isaac Collins
  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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