Online Ph.D. Degree Programs

Earning a Ph.D. can take your career to the next level. Here, we list the best online Ph.D. programs available.

May 26, 2022 • 6 Min Read

edited by Lequita Westbrooks

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Best Accredited Online Ph.D. Programs

Online Ph.D. programs appeal to learners who want to become masters in their fields. The degree qualifies graduates to work as tenure-track postsecondary teachers. Typical admission requirements include a bachelor's or master's degree. Some Ph.D. programs require recommendation letters, a resume, and an interview.

Coursework varies by major. However, most online Ph.D. programs require a dissertation. Some students need many years to perform original research and write a dissertation. This article explores typical benefits and tuition costs for online Ph.D. programs. The final section covers common careers for doctoral degree-holders.

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Questions About Ph.D. Programs


How long are Ph.D. programs?

Master's degree-holders can complete some Ph.D. programs in three years. Other programs feature academic flexibility, allowing learners up to eight years to graduate.

What is the difference between Ph.D. and a doctorate?

Both Ph.D. and professional doctoral programs require in-depth graduate coursework. Graduates with a Ph.D. often work as postsecondary teachers. A professional doctorate qualifies holders for leadership positions within the field.

Can I get a Ph.D. entirely online?

Many top schools offer fully online Ph.D. programs. However, some programs require on-campus experiences, such as library research and a dissertation defense.

Why Get a Ph.D. Degree?

According to 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), individuals with a doctoral degree earn a median of $1,885 per week, more than $500 higher than the median for bachelor's degree-holders. A doctoral degree also correlates with lower unemployment rates. These advantages can help doctorate-holders save for the future and enjoy a better quality of life. Additionally, professionals with a Ph.D. can positively impact their field by performing original research.

Online learning often appeals to degree-seekers with children or full-time employment. Many programs feature asynchronous curricula, allowing students to schedule academic requirements around other responsibilities. Online learners receive the same academic and career resources as on-campus students.

AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Top Online Ph.D. Programs

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

Available Online Ph.D. Degrees

Prospective students can choose from many hybrid and fully online Ph.D. programs. Accredited online programs feature the same academic requirements, student experiences, and graduate outcomes as on-campus programs. Most Ph.D. programs require research classes and major coursework. Research classes prepare degree-seekers for the dissertation process. Ph.D. candidates defend their dissertation in front of a committee of professors.

This section highlights three popular online Ph.D. programs. Classes and academic expectations vary by school, program, and professor. Applicants can contact professors and explore their prospective program's website for details.

  • Business Administration

    Professionals with a bachelor's in business or an MBA can pursue a Ph.D. in business administration. The degree appeals to learners working toward careers in academia or senior management positions. Available specializations may include project management and health services. Concentrations in global business management prepare degree-seekers to lead multinational corporations.
  • Cybersecurity

    Online Ph.D. programs in cybersecurity emphasize practical applications, strategic leadership fundamentals, and data evaluation tools. Many top programs feature weekly or monthly start dates and specializations in secure cloud computers and global strategy and operations. These programs typically require about 60 credits, which most learners complete in 3.5-4 years.
  • Instructional Design

    Aspiring instructional coordinators, education administrators, and training and development managers can earn a Ph.D. in instructional design.Learners develop collaboration skills, create instructional design projects, and contribute to the field through original research. The best instructional design programs hold approval from the Association for Educational Communication and Technology.

Career and Salary Outlook for Ph.D. Degrees

Professionals with a Ph.D. can explore career opportunities in and outside of academia. The following list highlights jobs for Ph.D. degree-holders, many of which offer high median salaries. The BLS projects strong employment growth for these careers from 2020-2030. Recent graduates may access more open positions and negotiate higher starting salaries.

The BLS provides information about each profession's responsibilities, earning potential, and top employers.

  • Healthcare Administrator

    Although some healthcare administrators hold only a bachelor's, many employers prefer applicants with a graduate degree. These professionals create departmental goals, train new staff, and develop work schedules. Healthcare administrators also maintain records and coordinate with other department heads. Most administrators work at a hospital, physician's office, or residential care facility.
  • Postsecondary Teacher

    Postsecondary teachers with a Ph.D. can earn tenure by performing original research and offering students a positive educational experience. These professionals also present at conferences, serve on department committees, and stay up to date with teaching best practices. Salary and career opportunities vary by area of expertise.
  • Mathematicians and Statisticians

    Nearly half of all mathematicians and statisticians with a Ph.D. work for the federal government. Others find employment at colleges and technical services companies. These professionals design experiments, interpret data, and publish findings in research journals. Their work helps stakeholders make informed decisions.
Salary Potential and Growth Rate
Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2020-2030)
Healthcare Administrator $101,340 32%
Postsecondary Teacher $79,640 12%
Mathematician and Statistician $96,280 33%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Much Does a Ph.D. Degree Cost?

In 2021, the average cost of a Ph.D. was $98,800, according to the Education Data Initiative. Professional doctoral programs and Ed.D. programs cost more, on average, than Ph.D. programs. Additionally, private institutions charged higher average tuition rates than public schools. Doctoral degree-seekers accrued an average student loan debt of $108,400.

Learners can reduce debt and out-of-pocket expenses by applying to doctoral programs that award funding. However, funded programs typically attract a more competitive applicant pool. Learners can also submit the FAFSA to apply for federal financial aid.

Additional Online Student Fees

Although many online programs offer affordable tuition rates, learners may encounter unexpected fees. Some online Ph.D. programs charge a technology fee per semester or class. These fees typically cover online class delivery and IT support. Degree-seekers in hybrid programs should budget for transportation to campus or internship sites. Learners may also need to travel to perform dissertation research.

In addition to paying for tuition, fees, and commuting costs, distance learners may need to purchase a new computer or upgrade their internet connection. Graduates may pursue certification or professional memberships, which require fees.

Best Accredited Online Ph.D. Programs

  • Amridge University
    Location

    Montgomery, Alabama

    Amridge offers six online Ph.D. programs in disciplines such as organizational leadership and management, marriage and family therapy, biblical studies, and interdisciplinary studies. A private university affiliated with the Churches of Christ, the school's programs emphasize Christian values with coursework in ministry and theology.

    Most of the school's doctoral degrees require 50-60 credits and take four years of full-time study to complete. To graduate, students need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must pass a comprehensive exam, complete a dissertation, and successfully defend their dissertation. Amridge University participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, supporting both veteran and active-duty military students.

    Amridge University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  • Andrews University
    Location

    Berrien Springs, Michigan

    Andrews offers online Ph.D. programs in areas like higher education administration, curriculum and instruction, and educational leadership. A private Seventh-day Adventist university, Andrews offers a Christ-centered learning experience.

    The school's Ph.D. programs require at least 60 credits and take 5-7 years to complete. The programs culminate in a dissertation and dissertation defense. Like many of the best Ph.D. online programs, some programs feature internship or practicum requirements. For instance, Ph.D. students studying curriculum and instruction must complete an original research project and an internship.

    Doctoral applicants need a master's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 3.3 GPA. Additional requirements vary by program. Some programs require five years of professional work experience and an academic writing sample.

    Andrews University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  • Barry University
    Location

    Miami, Florida

    Barry offers an online Ph.D. program in nursing designed for working professionals. Students can choose between the traditional part-time study plan or the summer residence program. The interdisciplinary program incorporates courses from both the School of Education and the College of Health Sciences.

    The Ph.D. in nursing degree requires 45 credits beyond a master's degree. Students take courses such as alternative paradigmatic inquiry, structure of nursing knowledge, nursing research, and bioethical imperative in nursing. Enrollees must also complete a dissertation and dissertation defense.

    Prospective students with a bachelor of science in nursing need a minimum 3.3 GPA and adequate GRE/MAT scores. Candidates with a master of science in nursing need a minimum 3.3 GPA. They must also show completion of a graduate-level research project or thesis.

    Barry University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  • Baylor University
    Location

    Waco, Texas

    Baylor offers an online Ph.D. in social work. The program delivers courses through synchronous, high-quality video-conferencing technology. All students must attend an on-campus session (4-5 days) in Waco, Texas, at the beginning of the program.

    The Ph.D. in social work takes 10 semesters to complete. Coursework covers topics such as quantitative research, qualitative research, social policy and the religious sector, and theory and model development in social work. Students must also complete a research practicum, teaching practicum, comprehensive exam, and a dissertation.

    The selective program only accepts 5-7 students each year. Applicants must submit a personal statement, a scholarly writing sample, a resume or CV, recommendation letters, and transcripts.

    Baylor University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  • Capitol Technology University
    Location

    Laurel, Maryland

    A premier STEM-focused university located in Washington, D.C., Capitol offers several online Ph.D. programs in disciplines such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity leadership, human factors, and occupational health and safety. These programs encourage students to engage in research and publish their work.

    Many of the school's Ph.D. programs require around 60 credits and take 2-3 years to complete. Students can often choose from two degree-completion options: a dissertation option or a publication option.

    Doctoral applicants need a master's degree in a relevant field and at least five years of related work experience. The combination Ph.D. in technology with a master of science in research methods program allows students to enroll with only an undergraduate degree.

    Capitol Technology University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  • Duquesne University
    Location

    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    Duquesne offers online Ph.D. programs in nursing and nursing ethics. These degrees prepare graduates for careers in nursing education, research, and organizational leadership. The programs offer fully online courses, but they also include several in-person requirements, including a summer orientation, a summer study-abroad program, committee meetings, and a final dissertation defense.

    The Ph.D. in nursing requires 56 credits, while the Ph.D. in nursing ethics requires 47 credits. These programs typically take 3-4 years to complete. In addition to coursework, students complete an applied qualitative practicum. They also write and defend a dissertation on a topic of their choosing.

    Admission criteria include a valid registered nurse license, a bachelor of science in nursing, and prerequisite courses. Students can transfer up to nine graduate credits toward the program.

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

  • East Tennessee State University
    Location

    Johnson City, Tennessee

    ETSU offers five Ph.D. programs, including an entirely online Ph.D. in nursing. The program offers full-time Ph.D. students graduate assistantship opportunities to help offset the cost of tuition. Some assistantships require in-person attendance, while others offer fully online formats.

    The degree requires 60 credits and takes 2.5-3.5 years to complete. Students take courses such as philosophy of nursing science, theoretical foundations of nursing science, and health policy leadership. Enrollees must also write and defend a dissertation.

    Applicants need a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and a non-nursing master's degree or a master of science in nursing (MSN). ETSU occasionally admits exceptional BSN graduates to the Ph.D. program, but they must earn an MSN in the process of obtaining their doctorate. Prospective students also need a registered nurse license and at least two years of work experience.

    East Tennessee State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  • George Washington University
    Location

    Washington, District of Columbia

    GW offers online Ph.D. programs in systems engineering and nursing. The Ph.D. in nursing combines several intensive weekends on campus with online courses. The program provides graduate assistantships for qualified students. The Ph.D. in systems engineering accommodates working students through online Saturday classes.

    The Ph.D. in nursing requires 57 credits, while the Ph.D. in systems engineering requires 54 credits. Both programs take three years to complete. Nursing students must complete a research practicum, take a comprehensive exam, and write and defend a dissertation. Systems engineering student milestones include passing a qualifying oral exam, publishing an original article in an approved journal, and defending a dissertation.

    Applicants need a master's degree in a related discipline. The systems engineering program requires a minimum 3.5 GPA. The nursing program requires GRE scores, a preferred GPA of 3.0 or higher, and a current registered nurse license.

    The George Washington University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  • Idaho State University
    Location

    Pocatello, Idaho

    ISU offers two online Ph.D. programs: a Ph.D. in nursing and a Ph.D. in rehabilitation and communication science. These advanced programs prepare students to work as independent scholars, educators, and administrators.

    The Ph.D. in rehabilitation and communication sciences requires 60 credits, while the Ph.D. in nursing requires 59 credits. Both programs take three years to complete and culminate in a dissertation defense. Additional program requirements may include research seminars, a thesis equivalent, comprehensive exams, and a grant submission. Rehabilitation and communication sciences students who did not complete a thesis must complete a mentored research project.

    Applicants to the nursing program need a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) with a minimum 3.5 GPA or a master of science in nursing and a valid registered nurse license. Applicants to the rehabilitation and communication sciences degree need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.5 GPA and sufficient GRE scores.

    Idaho State University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

  • Indiana State University
    Location

    Terre Haute, Indiana

    ISU offers online Ph.D. programs in educational administration and technology management. The online Ph.D. in educational administration requires 63 credits and takes two years to complete. Students matriculate in cohorts and attend three weeks of residency during the summer. The curriculum also includes an internship experience and a dissertation.

    The online Ph.D. in technology management requires 66 credits and takes 3-4.5 years to complete. The program offers five specializations: construction management, digital communication systems, human resource development and industrial training, manufacturing systems, and quality systems.

    Applicants need a master's degree from an accredited institution with a minimum 3.5 GPA (technology management program) or a B or higher in all graduate coursework (educational administration program). Prospective students must also submit GRE scores.

    Indiana State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Top Online Ph.D. Programs

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AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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