Best Accredited Online Ph.D. Programs 2021

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Short for doctor of philosophy, a Ph.D. is the highest degree a university confers in any subject. In most countries, a Ph.D. qualifies holders to teach at the university level, conduct original research in their field, and work in a specialized position requiring in-depth expertise. Ph.D. programs train students to become independent scholars and researchers so they must work independently and methodically, and communicate their ideas effectively.

A Ph.D. program typically requires 3-4 years of full-time coursework followed by independent research and a dissertation. Candidates present their findings in a written document and then participate in an oral defense of their work. Many programs require a comprehensive exam before students begin their research projects.

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Top 10 Accredited Online Ph.D. Programs 2021

Amridge University Montgomery, Alabama
Andrews University Berrien Springs, Michigan
Barry University Miami, Florida
Baylor University Waco, Texas
Capitol Technology University Laurel, Maryland
Duquesne University Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
East Tennessee State University Johnson City, Tennessee
George Washington University Washington, District of Columbia
Idaho State University Pocatello, Idaho
Indiana State University Terre Haute, Indiana

FAQ

Are Ph.D. programs funded?

It depends on the program and the school. Most, but not all, on-campus Ph.D. programs offer funding through tuition waivers and stipends.

How long does it take to earn a Ph.D.?

A Ph.D. generally takes 4-7 years to complete, depending on the specific discipline and program requirements. Students typically spend the first three years on coursework and the latter years on research and completing a dissertation.

Can I earn a Ph.D. online?

Yes. Many schools offer accredited online Ph.D. programs, but not in all disciplines. The management and education fields notably feature online Ph.D. programs.

What kind of degree do I need to start a Ph.D. program?

Ph.D. programs typically follow a master's degree but many also admit students directly from a bachelor's degree and bestow a master's along the way.

A Ph.D. qualifies graduates for positions as university and college professors, researchers at public and private institutions, and other roles involving specialized expertise. Academic positions offer stability and a competitive salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, postsecondary teachers earned a median annual salary of $79,540 in 2019.

An individual's area of expertise influences the types of jobs and career pathways available to them, including those outside of academia. A candidate with a Ph.D. in epidemiology may work as a researcher at a hospital or medical center or as an epidemiologist for local, state, or federal governments. A professional with a Ph.D. in art history might work in curation or collection development roles in museums or libraries.

Accreditation for Doctoral Programs



Accreditation assures students of their program's quality. In the United States, schools receive either regional or national accreditation. Six regional accreditation agencies monitor different geographic regions. Regional accreditation adheres to more rigorous and standardized requirements. Students can easily transfer credits from one regionally accredited school to another.

Financial Aid for Ph.D. Programs



Graduate students enrolled in even the most affordable Ph.D. online programs can benefit from financial aid. Federal aid options for graduate students include direct unsubsidized loans, direct PLUS loans, and TEACH grants. Students can also apply for federal work-study programs and Pell Grants. Students should complete the FAFSA to determine their federal aid eligibility.

Universities and graduate programs often offer financial aid in the form of research or teaching assistantships. The school or department hires students to assist professors with their teaching or research responsibilities in exchange for a tuition waiver and stipend.

Online programs also provide students the flexibility to continue working while they obtain their degree, allowing them to manage or balance tuition costs.

Why Study for a Doctorate Online?



Students looking for the best Ph.D. online will find flexibility in scheduling and the ability to balance studying with other obligations. Online Ph.D. programs often appeal to students with families or full-time jobs. Many programs deliver courses asynchronously so students can listen to lectures and complete assignments at their own pace. Programs with synchronous components generally occur on weekday evenings to accommodate working professionals.

An online Ph.D. program gives students access to top faculty advisors and professors at schools across the nation. Especially at the Ph.D. level, an expert in your field of interest may not teach at a school near you. Pursuing an online degree expands the scope of courses and faculty members available to you.

Graduate students qualify for a variety of scholarships. Universities, nonprofits, businesses, and government agencies offer scholarships. Some scholarships encourage students to enter specific disciplines. Others support minority students in their higher education goals. Some fund specific research projects or focus on students who demonstrate financial need.

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Who Can Apply: This program awards graduate students pursuing research-based master's or doctoral degrees in STEM fields. The fellowship provides students with an annual stipend, tuition coverage, and professional development opportunities.
Amount: $34,000 per year

M. Hildred Blewett Fellowship

Who Can Apply: This fellowship enables women to return to research careers in physics after an interruption. The fellowship covers dependent care, salary, travel, equipment, and tuition and fees.
Amount: Up to $45,000

The Point Foundation Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports LGBTQ Black, indigenous, and people of color in pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees. All recipients must give back through a service project upon graduation.
Amount: Varies

Accredited Online Ph.D. Programs 2021



The following section lists the nation's top accredited online Ph.D. programs. We provide an overview of available Ph.D. programs, their requirements, admission criteria, and any additional noteworthy information.

Amridge University View School Profile 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 View School Profile 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 View School Profile 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 View School Profile 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 View School Profile 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 View School Profile 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 View School Profile 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 View School Profile 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 View School Profile 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 View School Profile 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.

Indiana University-Bloomington View School Profile Bloomington, Indiana

IU offers an online Ph.D. in nursing science for students pursuing a career in nursing education, research, or clinical science. This degree is a hybrid program that blends synchronous video conferences, online learning, and on-campus intensives.

This online degree requires 90 credits. Students may enter the program with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or a master of science in nursing (MSN) with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Students who already hold an MSN can transfer 30 credits into the program from their master's degree. The curriculum culminates in a dissertation defense.

Applicants need confirmation of support from an IU School of Nursing faculty advisor. They must also submit a personal statement, a resume, and samples of scholarly writing.

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

Johns Hopkins University View School Profile Baltimore, Maryland

Johns Hopkins offers several online doctoral degrees, including a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. Students develop a study plan in conjunction with their faculty advisor rather than following a formal set of course requirements.

To qualify for candidacy, Ph.D. students must pass a departmental exam typically taken during the third semester of graduate study. This exam is based on core courses. Learners must also pass a Graduate Board oral exam, which tests overall field proficiency.

All doctoral candidates must work as teaching assistants for two semesters. The degree culminates in an original research project, a dissertation, and a dissertation defense.

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

Liberty University View School Profile Lynchburg, Virginia

Liberty offers multiple online Ph.D. programs in fields such as history, psychology, advanced educational studies, and theology and apologetics. These online Ph.D. programs require 57-72 credits and take 3-4 years to complete. The programs feature fully online, eight-week courses. Students can transfer up to 50% of the course requirements into these programs.

Many programs offer specializations. For example, education Ph.D. students can choose from concentrations in areas like curriculum and instruction, educational law, and special education. Students must maintain a B or higher in all courses for them to count toward the degree.

Applicants need a master's degree in a related field from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Liberty does not require GRE scores.

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

Michigan Technological University View School Profile Houghton, Michigan

MTU offers 27 Ph.D. programs, including an online Ph.D. in mechanical engineering - engineering mechanics. Online Ph.D. students receive the same quality education, access to faculty, and preparation for independent research as on-campus students.

Enrollees can choose from eight concentrations in areas such as autonomous systems, molecular dynamics modeling, alternative fuels and renewable energy, and mechanics of multiscale materials.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering or a related field with a minimum 3.25 GPA. Students with a bachelor's degree in another field may still qualify but they must complete prerequisite courses. Prospective students must also submit GRE scores, two recommendation letters, and a resume or CV. Recommended minimum GRE scores include a 162 quantitative score and 153 verbal score.

Michigan Technological University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Mississippi State University View School Profile Mississippi State, Mississippi

MSU provides a variety of online Ph.D. programs in areas such as community college leadership, computational engineering, industrial and systems engineering, and instructional systems and workforce development. These degrees prepare students for leadership and research roles in their respective fields.

Online Ph.D. programs at MSU typically require around 60 credits beyond the master's degree. The Ph.D. in engineering program allows students to choose from concentrations in areas such as aerospace engineering, chemical engineering, and civil engineering. All Ph.D. students must complete and defend a dissertation.

Applicants need a master's degree from an accredited institution with a minimum 3.4 GPA. Prospective students must also submit GRE scores, three references, a statement of purpose, a writing sample, and a CV. Some programs may require an on-campus interview or a certain amount of work experience in the field.

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

Nova Southeastern University View School Profile Fort Lauderdale, Florida

NSU offers online Ph.D. degrees in disciplines including computer science, cybersecurity management, information systems, and nursing. Some programs contain on-campus components, such as in-person residencies.

Online Ph.D. programs at NSU require 60-67 credits and take 2-4 years to complete. Students take core and doctoral research courses and produce a final dissertation. The Ph.D. in criminal justice allows students to select from concentrations in organizational leadership, behavioral science, and juvenile justice.

Applicants need a master's degree in a relevant major from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 3.25 GPA. Candidates must also submit a resume or CV, an essay, and three recommendation letters.

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

Old Dominion University View School Profile Norfolk, Virginia

ODU offers online Ph.D. programs in fields including instructional design and technology, community college leadership, public administration and policy, and engineering management and systems engineering.

These Ph.D. programs require 48-60 credits and take 2-4 years to complete. Students take core and specialized courses and complete a dissertation. Some programs, such as the Ph.D. in community college leadership, require students to participate in a two-week, on-campus intensive.

Applicants need a master's degree from an accredited institution with a minimum 3.25 GPA. Candidates must also submit a resume, three recommendation letters, an essay, and GRE/GMAT scores. GRE waivers are available to qualified applicants.

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

Texas A & M University-College Station View School Profile College Station, Texas

Texas A&M offers two online Ph.D. programs: a Ph.D. in plant breeding and a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary engineering. Plant breeding students must work with an educator or supervisor who qualifies as an adjunct faculty member at Texas A&M. Engineering students must work in an industry or laboratory setting that can support a Ph.D. project.

Both degrees require 64 credits beyond the master's degree. Interdisciplinary engineering students must complete and pass a qualifying exam within two years of matriculating into the program. All Ph.D. students must write and defend a dissertation.

Texas A&M considers various factors in the admissions process, including research interests and goals, experience and education, GPA, recommendation letters, and test scores.

Texas A&M University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Texas Tech University View School Profile Lubbock, Texas

Texas Tech offers online Ph.D. programs in curriculum and instruction, family and consumer science education, systems and engineering management, and technical communication and rhetoric. Systems and engineering management students must participate in two residencies, consisting of two weeks each summer. The program delivers all other coursework entirely online.

Texas Tech's online Ph.D. programs require 90 credits beyond the bachelor's degree or 60-72 beyond the master's degree. Students typically complete core courses, elective or specialization courses, research seminars, and dissertation credits. All Ph.D. students must write and defend a dissertation.

Texas Tech bases admissions decisions on GPA, recommendation letters, work experience, and test scores.

Texas Tech is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville View School Profile Knoxville, Tennessee

UT Knoxville offers several online doctoral programs, including a Ph.D. in nursing and a Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering. The Ph.D. in nursing is a blended program combining two required face-to-face sessions per term, synchronous online activities, structured asynchronous work, and individual mentorship and guidance. The Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering delivers courses entirely online.

These online Ph.D. programs require 72-83 credits beyond a bachelor's degree. Students progress to doctoral candidacy when they pass a comprehensive exam and defend their dissertation proposal. All of the school's Ph.D. programs culminate in a dissertation defense.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree in a relevant discipline from an accredited school. The engineering management concentration also requires two years of work experience as an engineer or scientist.

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

University of Florida View School Profile Gainesville, Florida

UF provides two online Ph.D. programs: a Ph.D. in classical civilization and a Ph.D. in Latin and Roman studies. These programs prepare high school and community college teachers for leadership roles.

These online Ph.D. degrees require 60 credits beyond the master's degree. Students take classics courses; electives; and language courses in German, French, or Italian. They also complete supervised teaching experiences. In addition, Ph.D. students must pass written exams and a comprehensive oral exam. They must also complete and defend a dissertation.

Applicants need a master's in a related discipline with a minimum 3.25 GPA. Candidates must also demonstrate reading knowledge of German, French, Italian, or Modern Greek.

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

University of Memphis View School Profile Memphis, Tennessee

UofM Global offers several online programs, including an online Ph.D. in nursing. This Ph.D. takes 3.5 years of full-time study to complete. Doctoral students work with an advisor and faculty committee to conduct a research project and produce a dissertation.

Applicants need a master's degree in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA. UofM does not require GRE scores, but applicants can submit them to compensate for a lower GPA. Applicants must also submit a personal statement, three reference letters, a writing sample, and a CV.

The University of Memphis Global is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Nevada-Las Vegas View School Profile Las Vegas, Nevada

UNLV offers an online Ph.D. in nursing. The program requires students to participate in an on-campus orientation prior to beginning the first semester. Students must also return to campus throughout the degree for oral comprehensive exams, proposal defense, and dissertation defense.

The online Ph.D. in nursing requires 62 credits beyond a master's degree. Learners who hold a master of science in nursing may opt for an accelerated track. All students must complete and defend a dissertation.

Applicants need a master's in nursing or another health-related discipline with a minimum 3.5 GPA, an active registered nurse license, and adequate GRE scores. Candidates must also submit three recommendation letters, two samples of scholarly work, a personal statement, and a CV.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

University of North Dakota View School Profile Grand Forks, North Dakota

UND offers online Ph.D. programs in engineering and health disciplines, including degrees in aerospace sciences, biomedical engineering, indigenous health, and nursing. The Ph.D in indigenous health is the nation's first degree of its kind.

Most of these online Ph.D. programs require 90 credits and take 4-7 years to complete. UND delivers courses synchronously so students can participate in real-time interaction with faculty and peers.

Applicants need a master's or graduate degree in a related discipline from an accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Candidates must also submit a personal statement, a CV, and recommendation letters. Some programs also require GRE scores, an additional research statement, or work experience.

University of North Dakota is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Northern Colorado View School Profile Greeley, Colorado

UNC offers several online Ph.D. programs, including nursing degrees focused on education and special education.

The online Ph.D. programs require 66-81 credits and take 3-5 years to complete. The nursing: education degree requires short campus visits, including a five-day initial orientation. Ph.D. students in the special education program complete courses and requirements entirely online. They must also complete a comprehensive performance assessment and an externship.

Applicants need a master's degree in a relevant discipline from an accredited institution with a minimum GPA. Nursing education candidates need a current registered nurse license in Colorado and two years of teaching experience. Candidates for the special education degree must complete a prerequisite graduate research course.

University of Northern Colorado is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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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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