Accredited Online PHD Programs

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Academic and professional doctoral degrees give distinction to graduates for completing the highest level of education offered in their field. An academic PhD qualifies graduates for university-level professorships, education administration careers and postgraduate research fellowships. Professional doctorates represent the highest educational attainment in a specialized career field. This page details the differences between degrees and potential career paths, introduces some of the most popular professional and academic doctoral degree programs, and helps students understand if earning an online doctorate or PhD offers the right path to their goals.

Best Online PhD Programs

2-Year Colleges

Earning a doctorate in your program of choice is a convenient and achievable goal when studying in one of the country’s top online PhD programs. Online learning offers a variety of benefits for students, including flexibility in their scheduling, working at their own pace, and even saving the money that would be put towards commuting to class if they were studying on-campus. We’ve compiled data that has allowed us to put together a list of the best online PhD programs available based on factors such as graduation rates, class size and availability of student services. Check it out below, and find the school that will help you meet you complete your online doctoral degree this school year.

Rank University Title Tuition # of Online Programs Expand Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Description
1 Robert Morris University $15,386 3 80% 63% 97% Yes Yes Yes

Robert Morris University is a private university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that was founded in 1921 as an accountancy school. It was named for one of America's founding fathers, a man known as the "Financier of the American Revolution." Since then, it has grown to offer degree programs in a wide range of subjects, including education and nursing, both of which are subjects covered in Robert Morris' 2 online doctoral programs. The Doctorate in Instructional Management and Leadership is a 60-credit program that may be completed on campus or entirely online. It is designed for teachers, school administrators and corporate training professionals, preparing them to be better leaders or to work in collegiate teaching positions. It is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. The Doctor of Nursing Practice is an 86-credit program offering specialized training for advanced practice nurses that prepares nursing professionals to work as leaders or educators. It may be completed on campus or fully online, and a fully online, 31-credit DNP completion option is available as well for nurses with a master's degree. This program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

2 Bethel University $9,630 1 82% 74% 100% Yes Yes Yes

Bethel University is a Christian-based university in Minnesota that is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Its online doctoral degree options are for nurses and those in education leadership or administration positions. The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is an online program with a 1-week, on-campus intensive that takes 36-39 credits, or 2 to 3 years, to complete. This program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The 61-credit Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in either K-12 administration or higher education leadership helps develop leaders for the nation's schools and colleges. Its online courses begin every 8 weeks and are complemented with 1- to 2-week on-campus intensives each year; the entire program can be completed in 3 years, plus time to finish the required dissertation. Additionally, Bethel's Seminary offers 2, 48-credit Doctor of Ministry programs that utilize online delivery: a fully online D.Min and a hybrid D.Min program with online courses and on-campus intensives. Both allow students to select from 5 specialized tracks. The Bethel Seminary programs are accredited by the Association of Theological Schools.

3 Creighton University $14,760 2 71% 73% 98% Yes Yes Yes

Nebraska-based Creighton University is a Jesuit institution emphasizing a "whole-person" education. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and its doctoral offerings include primarily hybrid options that combine online courses with required on-campus activities. These include a 3-year, 18-course Doctorate in Business Administration delivered in a cohort model; a 60-credit Doctor of Education in Interdisciplinary Leadership that can be completed in 3 to 4 years and features 8-week courses taken one at a time; and a Doctor of Nursing Practice for advanced practice nurses, which allows students to select from among 6 specialization tracks. Additionally, Creighton's School of Pharmacy and Health Professions (SPAHP) offers the nation's first entry-level Doctor of Occupational Therapy program, which is delivered through a hybrid model in collaboration with University of Alaska Anchorage and Regis University in Denver. Finally, Creighton's SPAHP offers a fully online Doctor of Pharmacy program, although some lab courses and other activities are to be completed over a short period of time on campus over the summer. This online program covers the same material as the school's on-campus program, with some components being delivered synchronously, or at appointed times.

4 Villanova University $17,917 1 44% 90% 53% No Yes Yes

Prestigious Villanova University is a Catholic liberal arts institution accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Its 2 online doctoral programs are for those in the nursing profession. The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is intended to prepare nurse administrators and advanced practice nurses with master's degrees for leadership roles in nursing and health care. Villanova's M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing boasts that this 32-credit program has a 100% completion rate. If completed fully online and full time, the program may be finished in 5 semesters, or if part time, in 8 semesters. The courses are delivered synchronously, meaning at designated times and in real time. The 51-credit Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing program emphasizes scholarly inquiry and prepares graduates to conduct clinical or education-based research to advance nursing science or to work in academic careers to prepare future nurses. It may be completed fully online, and courses in this program also are synchronous.

5 The College of Saint Scholastica $11,160 1 64% 62% 100% Yes Yes Yes

The College of St. Scholastica in Minnesota, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, was founded on the Catholic Benedictine values of hospitality, stewardship of resources, respect, community and love of learning. Though offered through a Christian college, the program is open to learners of all faiths and backgrounds. The school offers 3 doctoral degrees, all of which may be completed online and are in the health care field. The Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy (tDPT) is a streamlined doctoral program for practicing physical therapists. This 2-year program is condensed, meaning it may be accomplished in 16 credits, or only 6 classes. The program is comprehensive, training students on key responsibilities such as advocating for policies in the field, filling leadership positions in their practices, conducting and evaluating research, and integrating diagnostic imaging and pharmacology into work with patients. The Nursing Bachelor's to DNP program is for those with bachelor's degrees in nursing who want to gain training as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and work as specialized nurse practitioners. The specialties offered in the program are adult-gerontology primary care, family nurse, and psychiatric and mental health. The program is delivered online with minimal on-campus requirements and can be completed in 4 years. The Post-Graduate Doctor of Nursing Practice is a DNP for those with master's degrees. Its curriculum focuses on leadership skills and change management. It can be completed in 2 years, or 32 credits, and the online program includes an on-campus presentation of a clinical project proposal and final project.

6 DePaul University $18,960 1 70% 73% 95% Yes Yes Yes

DePaul University in Chicago was founded by the Congregation of the Mission in 1898 to follow the teachings of Saint Vincent de Paul. Despite its Catholic foundations, the university serves a diverse student body and has emerged as a leader in arts and technology education. Its 2 online doctoral offerings are delivered through the College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM). The Doctor of Philosophy in Computer and Information Sciences is a small, selective program that provides an opportunity for advanced study in the field of computer sciences and is intended for students who wish to teach or perform research in the private industry. Over the course of the program, students conduct independent research in at least 2 research areas and complete a dissertation. The Doctorate in Human Centered Design examines the intersection between technology, design and human behavior to prepare students for careers in industry research labs like Google or Lucent Technologies, government and civic organizations, or in academia. The college does not differentiate between online and on-campus students, with online students at CDM completing the same weekly assignments as on-campus students. Programs can be done fully online or through a blended delivery that combines online and classroom learning.

7 Concordia University-Wisconsin $10,170 1 63% 62% 98% Yes Yes Yes

Concordia University-Wisconsin offers online, faith-based doctorate degrees in nursing, pharmacy and education. Graduates have many career options that include health care management, executive-level policy-making, business, public relations and public health positions with local and global organizations. The Doctor of Nursing Practice program is a 2-year, 30-credit, accelerated program that requires a previous M.S.N. degree. The Doctor of Pharmacy programs are 4-year, dual-degree programs combined with either an M.B.A. or Master of Public Health, with required credits ranging from 175-187. The Doctor of Education in Innovation and Continuous Improvement program requires 60 credits and can be completed in 3 years. Entry requirements also vary but may include letters of recommendation, resumes, essays, GPAs of at least 3.2, current licensing and an interview. Programs use a cohort model, with additional support provided by faculty, entrance counselors, learning and career-building resources and, for nearby students, health care and free mental health counseling.

8 Regis University $11,250 1 57% 60% 97% Yes Yes Yes

Through the Regis University Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions, nursing professionals can earn several doctoral degrees online. The M.S.N.-to-D.N.P. takes 4-5 years to complete, with the first 2 years offered in a hybrid format, with on-campus visits required once a week, or twice every other weekend. The remainder of the program is considered the doctorate portion and is available completely online, with 1,000 clinical hours, a capstone and 74-79 semester credit hours required for graduation. For the D.N.P. program, students already holding M.S.N. degrees can complete the program 100% online in 2-3 years, and can choose the A.P.R.N., advanced leadership or executive leadership in health care emphasis. Graduates are prepared for certification exams and work as A.P.R.N.s or executive-level D.N.P.s. Also available online is the 4-year Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree, which is a hybrid partnership program with Creighton University. All health professions students have access to online academic support and advisement, library resources and tech support.

9 Worcester Polytechnic Institute $25,344 1 48% 86% 99% No Yes Yes

The Ph.D. in systems engineering degree at Worcester Polytechnic Institute is currently its only Ph.D. offered online and is geared toward part-time, off-campus working professionals with related master's degrees, as well as those already working in systems engineering-related jobs. This is a blended program consists of online courses and in-person attendance for some seminar-based courses, presentations and dissertation defense . Admission to the program requires an M.S. in systems engineering or related master's degree combined with work experience and a GPA of 3.5. Students must take a qualifying exam after starting the program, but before reaching 18 credits, and then an area exam prior to writing the required dissertation. Defense of the student's dissertation and 60 credits are required for graduation. Students will work with research advisers on course selection, research projects and dissertations throughout the program.

10 University of St Francis $13,302 2 49% 57% 100% Yes Yes Yes

The University of St. Francis is a private, Catholic Franciscan university with its main campus located in Joliet, Illinois. USF offers 2 doctorate-level degrees that can be earned partially through distance learning. USF's online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a terminal nursing degree designed to provide students with the latest treatment protocols and prepare graduates to provide the most advanced level of health care to their patients. All DNP program coursework is delivered online. However, students are required to complete their doctoral nursing practice hours (1000 total) in-person at an approved clinical placement site in the student's home state. Admission criteria include a MSN from an accredited nursing program with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Membership in a nursing honor society and professional organization is expected. In addition to practice hours, students must complete 40 credit hours through full-time or part-time study. This program is currently available to students in Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, New Mexico and Wisconsin. USF's Doctor of Education (EdD) with Stewardship, Leadership, and Learning concentration is designed for professionals seeking higher level leadership and management positions in both the public and private sector. Coursework is presented in a synchronous telecommuter/distance learning format. Graduation requirements include successful completion of all coursework (60 credit hours beyond the master's degree), program assessment levels, and dissertation. This degree can be completed in as little as 3.5 years. Tuition rates for these degree programs are the same for both Illinois and out-of-state residents.

11 Drexel University $32,184 1 75% 68% 97% Yes Yes Yes

Drexel University offers 3 doctorate-level degrees that can be earned either fully or partially through online study. Drexel's EdD in Educational Leadership and Management program can be completed in 3 or 5 years of part-time study, allowing students to continue working full-time while pursuing their degrees. Students have the option of choosing from among 9 concentrations, including Athletic Administration, Educational Policy, Global & International Education, Special Education Leadership, and more. Both fully online and blended online/on-campus formats are offered. Admissions criteria include a master's degree in education with a GPA of 3.5 or above, and 3 years of relevant work experience. Drexel's online Doctor of Health Science (DHSC) is designed for health care professionals seeking leadership roles in education and/or clinical practice. Coursework is done primarily online and supplemented with onsite sessions during select terms. Admissions criteria include a master's or clinical doctoral degree in a health profession with minimum overall 3.0 GPA, and a current active license or credential (US or Canadian) to practice in the applicant's discipline. The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) offers an alternative to research-focused doctoral programs to nurses seeking a terminal degree. Study combines online coursework with 500 clinical hours and 2 in-person experiential elements (including a one-week Global Immersion at a host university in another country during the spring quarter of the student's second year of study). Admission criteria include a master's degree in any field (along with a bachelor's degree in nursing for applicants with a non-nursing master's), a graduate-level Research Methods course (with minimum "B" grade), previous experience as an advanced practice nurse or nurse manager/executive, and current US licensure as a registered nurse. Tuition rates for all 3 online doctorate programs are the same for both Pennsylvania and out-of-state residents.

12 The University of Alabama $10,470 2 53% 68% 56% Yes Yes Yes

The University of Alabama offers a number of doctorate degrees that can be earned with some level of online study, including: EdD in Instructional Leadership with concentration in Nurse Education (blended format); EdD in Higher Education Administration - Executive Cohort (blended format); PhD in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics (primarily online format); and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) (online with clinical component). Online study formats (fully online, video streaming, videoconferencing) and in-person components (daytime, evening, weekend classes) vary by degree. For example, the PhD in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics is taught using online video streaming coursework with on-site proctored exams combined with campus visits (one per semester) with a faculty adviser. Another example, the Doctor of Nursing Practice, offers online coursework but also requires the student to complete an on-site clinical component. Admission requirements, graduation requirements and program lengths also vary by program. Tuition rates for online courses are the same for in-state and out-of-state residents, but higher rates apply to out-of-state students attending in-person courses on UA's main campus or at UA's Gadsden Center in Gadsden, Alabama.

13 University of San Francisco $23,310 2 71% 72% 77% Yes Yes Yes

The University of San Francisco, a private Jesuit Catholic university, offers its Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree in 4 study plan options, all of which can be earned through a combination of online and in-person study. The Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) study plan prepares RNs to function as Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners in the FNP role. The Executive Leadership (ELDNP) study plan is designed for nurses who wish to pursue positions at the highest administrative levels. The Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) study plan prepares RNs for advanced practice in the PMHNP role. The Population Health Leadership study plan prepares graduates for leadership positions in the comprehensive management of patient populations. Admission criteria for all DNP study plans include a bachelor's or master's degree from an accredited institution with an (undergraduate) 3.0 GPA, a California RN license, and 3 letters of recommendation, among other requirements. Program completion times vary from 2 to 4.5 years, depending on the selected study plan. In addition to regular coursework, students must complete a clinical component (1,000 to 1,035 hours, depending on study plan). The final semester of study consists of a DNP residency immersion experience and completion of a comprehensive evidence-based project designed to demonstrate subject mastery. USF has state authorization for its DNP degree in the following states: Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington. Tuition rates for students residing outside of California are the same as for California residents.

14 Fordham University $32,160 1 45% 81% 91% Yes Yes Yes

Fordham University is a private, not-for-profit, Jesuit-affiliated university with its main campus located in New York City. Fordham offers 2 doctorate-level degrees that can be earned partially through online study. Fordham's onlineDoctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership, Administration and Policy is designed for students pursuing leadership positions in K-12 education. Study consists of a combination of online interactive coursework and collaborative discussions, and two in-person immersion sessions held on the Fordham Westchester campus in West Harrison, New York. This degree requires 50 credit hours of coursework and can be completed in as little as 32 months. Fordham's hybrid format Doctor of Ministry (DMin) is designed to prepare graduates for positions of leadership in ministry emphasizing the Christian and Catholic religious tradition. The degree program offers 3 concentrations: Generalist, Latino Ministry and Spirituality. Applicants must have previously earned a Master of Divinity or its equivalent, and have 3 or more years of ministry experience (completed after earning the MDiv degree) to be admitted into the DMin program. Students must complete a minimum of 4 in-person courses offered on campus during an intensive format January intersession. All other coursework may be completed online or on campus, or through a combination of both. Tuition rates for both doctorate programs is the same for in-state and out-of-state residents.

15 Lewis University $14,310 1 59% 63% 100% Yes Yes Yes

Lewis University offers the Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) program, which is a fully online, 30-credit-hour program, with 504 residency hours required. The length of program is typically between 2 and 3 years, depending on transfer credits and individual needs. Specific admission requirements include an M.S.N. degree, at least 2 years working as an R.N., a current R.N. license in the state in which the D.N.P. residency takes place, an essay and two letters of recommendation. This program is practice-based and designed for working R.N.s who plan to pursue career advancement and management roles, and for those who want to increase their nurse practitioner skills in specialty areas such as anesthesiology, midwifery, public health and pediatrics. Students can apply for graduate assistantships with the College of Nursing and Health Professions, in which tuition and fee reimbursement are exchanged for work hours, and may also qualify for the Illinois Organization of Nurse Leaders discount, Frequent Flyer discount or the Joliet Junior College employee discount.

16 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities $16,240 8 44% 80% 59% Yes Yes Yes

Current online doctorate degrees offered at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities are the D.N.P.-Family Nurse Practitioner degree, and the International Education Doctorate degree, with emphasis on Comparative International Development Education (CIDE). Both are blended programs, with some on-campus requirements built into the curricula. For example, D.N.P. students must attend a 4-day, on-campus session each semester, and during the second year, spend 1-2 days every other week on campus. For post-master's students, the D.N.P. program can be completed in 3 semesters, with full-time enrollment. Graduation requirements include 1,000 clinical hours, and graduates are then eligible to take the D.N.P.-F.N.P. national certification exam. The CIDE program takes 3-5 years and combines research and fieldwork, for a total of 72 credits, with 24 being the thesis project. Graduates have worked in positions such as research manager, project director, director of international admissions and international program provost. Online doctorate students can take advantage of the Career and internship Office and receive online peer mentoring, writing assistance and even online mental-health counseling.

17 Lehigh University $25,560 1 26% 89% 47% No Yes Yes
18 Pennsylvania State University-Worldwide $19,964 18 56% 87% 35% Yes Yes Yes

With over 100,000 students and 24 campuses, Pennsylvania State University, is by far the largest post-secondary institution in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And with doctorate-level online degree programs in over a dozen majors, Penn State is also a major force in the distance learning post-graduate field. Through its World Campus, Penn State offers online doctoral degrees in a wide range of major subjects, including engineering and technology, nursing and health care, education and public administration. Most programs feature fully online coursework. Several, however, are available in a hybrid format combining online courses with face-to-face classes and other in-person components. Examples of hybrid programs include curriculum and instruction, acoustics, nursing and special education. Admissions and graduation requirements vary by program. Details for each can be found on the individual program webpages. Program lengths also vary depending on the specific program, the number of qualifying transfer credits applied, and the student's chosen (full-time or part-time) course load.

19 Clemson University $8,826 3 51% 83% 68% No Yes Yes

Clemson University currently offers 3 doctorate-level degrees featuring online study components. The Ph.D. in Health Care Genetics (HCG) degree program prepares graduates for a wide range of career opportunities primarily in the research and post-secondary education fields. In addition to a dissertation, students must complete 70 credit hours of coursework, including core courses in genetics, political science, policy and psychology, as well as elective courses and specialty cognate seminars. All courses are offered fully online with the exception of 3 genetics courses, which may be taken on campus or included in the maximum of 48 allowed transfer credits. CU's Ph.D. in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management - Recreational Therapy degree program prepares graduates for careers in the recreational therapy education field. Students must complete 60 credit hours of coursework - including a dissertation - normally completed in 4 years or more of study. Most coursework is completed online. However, students are required to attend 5-day residencies on campus during each of the first 3 years of the program. The 36-credit-hour Ph.D. in Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design degree program is also presented in a blended online/on-campus format. Most graduates of the program pursue careers in academia, but professional positions can also be found in industry, government, and nonprofit organizations. Admission requirements (prior degree, minimum GPA, standardized test scores, etc.) vary by program. Details can be found on each program's main webpage.

20 University of Florida $10,770 8 46% 88% 29% No Yes Yes

There are currently 9 doctorate degrees offered by UF featuring some level of online study, including a Doctor of Audiology, a Doctor of Nursing Practice, a Doctor of Pharmacy, 2 Ph.D.'s (Classical Civilization, Latin & Roman Studies) and 4 Doctor of Education options. Graduation requirements and online study formats vary by degree. For example, the Leadership in Educational Administration Doctorate (LEAD) is a 90 credit hour, 4 -to 5-year program offered in a blended format (online/face-to-face courses combined with 2 to 3 weekend meetings each semester on UF's Gainesville campus). In contrast UF's Latin & Roman Studies and Classical Civilization Ph.D. programs each require completion of 60 credit hours of coursework (beyond the MA degree), 30 of which must be taken in an on-campus residence that can be completed during intensive, 2-week campus summer institutes. Admission requirements for UF's online doctorate degree programs also vary by program. UF Online features a wide range of distance learner support services and resources, including technical support through the UF Computing Helpdesk, library resource support via the Online Library Help Desk and personal counseling services through the Counseling and Wellness Center.

21 Graceland University $9,079 1 48% 56% 100% Yes Yes Yes

Students at Graceland University, a private liberal arts institution affiliated with the Community of Christ, can earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree that features coursework that can be completed online. The DNP degree is designed to provide currently employed nurses with the knowledge and skills necessary to take on advanced roles in both clinical and educational settings. To receive their degree, DNP students must complete 31 graduate semester hours of study, including at least 25 earned at Graceland, receiving a "B" grade or better in all courses. Degree work must be completed within 4 years. All coursework is available fully online. However, students must complete a Practice & Improvement Project in which they select a specialty practice site (school, private practice, clinical agency, etc.) where they will fulfill a set number of practice hours over a minimum of 2 trimesters. Admission requirements for the program include both a BSN and a master's degree in nursing or a related field, a minimum 3.0 GPA on all prior graduate coursework, and a current RN license. International students must additionally provide a TOEFL score.

22 University of Massachusetts-Amherst $13,524 1 60% 77% 65% Yes Yes Yes

The University of Massachusetts Amherst offers a doctorate-level degree that can be earned through online study. The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree enhances the skills of graduates to better evaluate and treat patients as well as to assume leadership roles in a broad range of health care settings. Post-baccalaureate students choose from 4 specializations: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Adult/Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP), Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) and Public Health Nurse Leader (PHNL). Both 4-year and 5-year study plans are available. Advanced practice nurses with a MSN are eligible to apply for the 36-credit Post-MS DNP completion degree completion option. All degree coursework is available fully online. However, students must complete a clinical internship at an approved facility in the student's local community. Admission requirements include a bachelor's or master's degree in nursing - or an associate degree in nursing plus a non-nursing bachelor's degree - earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must additionally hold a current professional nursing license and submit a current CV or resume, 2 letters of recommendation and statement of professional goals.

23 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill $9,643 2 27% 91% 41% No Yes Yes

The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill offers 2 doctorate degrees that can be earned through online study. The Executive Doctoral Program in Health Leadership (DrPH) prepares senior- and mid-level health care professionals to assume leadership positions in both the public and private sectors. All coursework can be completed online in the first 2 years, followed by a dissertation in year 3. Students must additionally make 3 brief visits to the UNC campus each of the first 2 years of the program. Applicants need not have a degree in public health, but a previously earned master's or doctorate degree is required. Other admissions requirements include a 3.0 GPA on all previous graduate work, qualifying GRE or GMAT scores, and at least 5 years post-graduate experience in health care. The 2-year, part-time Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) transition program combines fully online coursework with an ongoing clinical application to provide currently licensed physical therapists with advanced clinical knowledge and skills. Admissions requirements for this program include submission of official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, a copy of the student's physical therapy license, a personal statement, and 2 letters of recommendation. No GRE or GMAT test scores are required.

24 Valparaiso University $11,070 1 83% 67% 99% No Yes Yes

There are 2 doctorate-level degrees offered with online study by Valparaiso University, a private, coed Lutheran-affiliated institution in northwest Indiana. Both are Doctor of Nursing (DNP) programs that allow current nursing professionals to advance their careers into leadership positions in a wide range of clinical and educational settings. The Post-Masters DNP program is a 27-credit-hour program for current MSN holders designed to be completed with 2 years (4 semesters plus 1 summer session) of study. The BSN to DNP program requires completion of 70 credit hours over a 3-year (6 semesters plus 1 summer session) period. Both programs are presented in a hybrid format that allows for online coursework, and both include an extensive evidence-based practice project that can be completed at the nurse's current place of employment. In addition, both programs require a limited number of campus visits for orientation and presentation meetings. Admission requirements for both programs include possession of their respective degrees (BSN or MSN) earned with a minimum GPA (3.0 for BSN to DNP, 3.25 for Post-Masters DNP) and an unencumbered RN license (or license eligibility for BSN to DNP applicants). Applicants must also submit official transcripts of all college work, a resume/CV, a personal statement, and 3 letters of recommendation. Full admission requirements are listed on the programs' respective webpages.

25 St Catherine University $14,076 1 91% 61% 98% Yes Yes Yes

St. Catherine University, a private Catholic-affiliated liberal arts institution, offers 2 doctorate-level degree programs that feature online study, both available through St. Kate's Henrietta Schmoll School of Health. The Doctor of Occupational Therapy (Post-Professional) program provides occupational therapists with master's degrees with the knowledge and skills needed to become leaders throughout the health and education fields. This 28-month program features fully online coursework, but requires 2 visits to St. Kate's St. Paul, Minnesota campus, 1 at the beginning of the program and one at the end. The online Doctor of Nursing Practice: Post-Master's program is presented in a hybrid format (combination of online and St. Paul campus coursework) and is designed to be completed in 18 months. Graduates of this program are prepared for nursing leadership positions in their practice specialties. To apply for either program, students must submit a resume, academic transcripts, a personal statement, and 2 letters of recommendation. Occupational Therapy applicants must additionally provide a copy of their NBCOT certification or international equivalent.

26 Concordia University-Chicago $14,328 9 50% 60% 100% Yes Yes Yes
27 Colorado State University $9,628 2 78% 67% 53% Yes Yes Yes
28 University of California-Berkeley $11,220 1 17% 93% 53% No Yes Yes
29 Mississippi State University $7,780 4 56% 63% 81% Yes Yes Yes
30 Sacred Heart University $20,745 2 57% 68% 98% Yes Yes Yes
31 The University of Findlay $14,400 1 73% 56% 100% Yes Yes Yes
32 Mercer University $15,557 2 69% 64% 99% No Yes Yes
33 Bradley University $15,300 1 70% 76% 98% No Yes Yes
34 Temple University $15,786 4 52% 71% 83% Yes Yes Yes
35 University of New England $19,936 2 83% 61% 100% Yes Yes Yes
36 Briar Cliff University $3,996 1 - 48% 98% Yes Yes Yes
37 University of Alabama at Birmingham $7,588 2 58% 59% 77% Yes Yes Yes
38 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign $15,267 1 60% 86% 46% No Yes Yes
39 New York University $39,936 8 32% 84% 49% Yes Yes Yes
40 Walsh University $11,970 1 78% 55% 99% Yes Yes Yes
41 Ashland University $5,713 1 72% 57% 94% Yes Yes Yes
42 Central Michigan University $12,232 2 72% 59% 81% Yes Yes Yes
43 Seton Hall University $21,078 2 67% 68% 98% No Yes Yes
44 Ball State University $8,386 3 62% 62% 40% Yes Yes Yes
45 Saint Leo University $9,630 1 70% 43% 100% Yes Yes Yes
46 Ohio State University-Main Campus $11,560 1 54% 85% 80% No Yes Yes
47 Illinois State University $7,466 1 89% 73% 49% No Yes Yes
48 Winona State University $6,720 4 60% 59% 47% Yes Yes Yes
49 Trevecca Nazarene University $9,743 2 72% 52% 97% Yes Yes Yes
50 Regent University $12,726 1 81% 53% 87% Yes Yes Yes
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An Intro to Doctorates

Students can enter PhD programs directly from a master’s degree program, or they can enroll in professional/terminal degree programs to advance in careers that require a doctorate. It typically takes four years after completing a bachelor’s degree to earn a doctorate or PhD.

A doctoral program is typically made up of expert-level coursework in a major field (or a niche within a major field), along with extensive research projects and a formal dissertation. Online colleges and universities offer distance degree programs leading to academic and professional doctorates for students who can't attend campus-based courses.

There are a wide variety of professional doctoral degrees, with the majority of major studies undertaken in business and management, education, law, engineering, dental science, healthcare, medicine and counseling/psychology. Academic PhD fields are extensive and diverse. Here are a few of the many doctoral degrees available:

  • Acupuncture (D.Ac.)
  • Advanced Nursing Practice (D.N.P.)
  • Architecture (D.Arch.)
  • Business Administration (D.B.A.)
  • Chiropractic (D.C.)
  • Computer Science (D.C.S.)
  • Education (Ed.D.)
  • Engineering (D.Eng.)
  • Health Administration (D.H.A.)
  • Law and Policy (L.P.D., D.L.P.)
  • Medicine (M.D.)
  • Physical Therapy (D.P.T.)
  • Psychology (Psy.D)
  • Science (D.Sc., Sc. D.)
  • Theology (D.Th., Th.D)
  • Social Work (D.S.W.)
  • Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.)

Below, this guide lists a selection of courses that demonstrate the advanced nature of doctoral studies:

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Course Name Description
Education District Budget, Finance and Resources Topics in finance administration for public school districts. Includes forecasting, strategic planning, resource allocation, state and federal regulations, and tax impacts.
Independent Study in Nursing Science Renewable 1-6 credit hours in an approved research project in nursing practice. Development of a scholarly article, proposal, or similar documentation.
Accounting and Management Workshop Evaluation of current pertinent literature/studies in financial management and accounting. Directed research and seminar paper required for completion.
Social Welfare Policy Theoretical, political and economic aspects of the design, implementation and monitoring of social service programming using policy analysis frameworks.
Leadership in the Faith Community An assessment of challenges in North American Church leadership, including pastoral planning, interpersonal communications, facilitation of groups and proficiency in leading services.

Earnings Boosts with PhDs

Over the course of a working lifetime, doctorate and PhD holders enjoy greater earning power and career stability than counterparts who have associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that median weekly earnings across the nation are highest for graduates of academic and professional PhD programs. At the same time, doctoral degree holders have the lowest rates of unemployment among all employees. Median 2013 weekly earnings for doctoral and PhD holders were $1,623, compared to weekly earnings for bachelor’s degree holders ($1,108) and those with only an associate degree ($777). Meanwhile, the 2013 unemployment of doctoral and PhD earners was 2.2 percent, compared to the 6.1 percent average unemployment rate for all workers. In academia, PhD holders with college or university tenure enjoy perhaps the greatest job security of all professions.

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When Does a PhD Make Sense?

In many cases, students will need a PhD in order to work in careers in academics and research, often within the fields of higher education, healthcare, and medicine. Earning a professional doctoral degree can benefit mid-level, mid-career professionals seeking advancement to top management roles in technology, finance, engineering, and law.

Culturally and professionally, the PhD carries with it an unmatched level of educational attainment and reverence. Economic Modeling Specialists International reports that most of the best-paying/best-performing/fastest-growing jobs in 2012 requiring a doctoral level degree went to postsecondary teachers, physicians, veterinarians, surgeons, astronomers, psychiatrists, and anesthesiologists.

How Online Doctoral Degree Programs Work

Accredited online doctorate and PhD degree programs are designed for scholars who cannot compromise their obligations to family and career in order to attend a campus-based program. The programs offer the same academic curriculum as traditional degrees, but provide the added advantage of self-paced studies with flexible schedules.

Online doctorate and PhD programs combine all the traditional doctoral components including lectures, seminars, comprehensive research, examinations, colloquia, fieldwork, and the creation and defense of a scholarly thesis. Candidates log into the college dashboard or interface to conduct all required and optional interactions, including registration, mentoring, exams, research, and class attendance. As with traditional doctoral programs, online doctoral courses depend greatly upon student self-discipline, motivation, and systematic participation. Communication and instruction is facilitated through email, bulletin boards, multi-media presentations, group chat sessions, conference calls, instant messaging, and video conferencing.

Distance Learning FAQ

Are online doctoral programs easier to complete?

Very little is easy about completing a PhD, online or otherwise. The course, research, and thesis requirements are often identical between the traditional and online programs. However, online students that are dedicated and disciplined may complete their PhDs in a shorter amount of time than those who commute to college.

How do I evaluate online doctorate or PhD program faculty?

All students considering a school for earning a PhD should review the academic performance (publications, advancements, awards, appointments, conference presentations) by prospective faculty members. It can prove especially advantageous to work with faculty that share similar research and scholarly interests and have memberships in professional associations.

How do I apply to an online doctorate or PhD program?

Entry requirements at a doctorate-conferring institution are identical for traditional and online applicants. But each school maintains its own set of pre-requisites and application materials. The distinction is that you can submit your application, test scores, prior grades, and required essays via the internet. Academic counseling can be done by telephone or video conference software like Skype.

Do online universities offer financial aid specific to PhD or doctorate students?

The U.S. Department of Education offers qualified students at accredited institutions federal Perkins and Ford loans. There are federal TEACH Grants for students preparing for education careers. Individual schools and departments may also offer scholarships or fellowships.

Are doctoral course credits transferable?

While left up to each institution to determine, it is general policy to require students to complete their own entire course-matrix and dissertation requirements rather than to allow substitutions. On some occasions, prior master’s or doctorate courses can be counted as electives if directly applicable to the major.

Doctoral Program Accreditation

College accreditation is a voluntary process by which institutions measure the quality of their degree programs against nationally recognized academic standards. In many cases, traditional and online PhD schools may be accredited at the institutional level by regional accreditation agencies. Six regional accreditation agencies approved by the Department of Education confer institutional accreditation to schools in New England, the mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Southern, Western, and Northwest states.

Colleges and Universities with institution-wide accreditation commonly seek special accreditation for departments that offer doctoral degree programs. For example, a department offering a PhD in Education will seek special accreditation from the National Council on Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Departments or college divisions offering advanced nursing PhDs may seek special accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Online schools often add to institution-wide accreditation with special accreditation from organizations such as the National Distance Learning Association. The accreditation process begins when the institution performs an internal assessment based on standards held by accreditation agencies. The agency follows up with an on-campus visit and evaluation. In some cases, the institution may be required to upgrade its programs in order to receive accreditation. Accreditation renewals are subject to monitoring and approval by the agency.

The value of attending an accredited school, college, or university is multifold. Many employers will not recognize a degree earned at a non-accredited institution. For students seeking financial aid, accreditation is required by the U.S. Department of Education for school participation in federal grants, loans and fellowship programs.