30 Best Online PhD Programs for 2024

Ready to start your journey?

If you’re interested in pursuing an online PhD program, now may be the time. There are more online PhD programs available now than ever before.

Best Online PhD Programs

Many college programs can be taken 100% online. Some online programs are blended or hybrid programs, which means they offer mostly online courses but may require you to take certain exams or classes on campus or at designated locations.

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There are many online PhD degree programs that allow graduate students to earn their degrees in the same amount of time as they would on campus. There is a variety of online doctoral programs in many different subjects, so you can focus on your field of choice.

Types of Online PhD Programs

We’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular online PhD programs below. Click on the area you’re interested in to learn more about that program.

  1. Accounting
  2. Business Administration
  3. Counseling
  4. Criminal Justice
  5. Curriculum & Instruction
  6. Education
  7. Educational Leadership
  8. Finance
  9. Healthcare Management
  10. Higher Education
  11. Homeland Security
  12. Human Resources
  13. Information Technology
  14. Management
  15. Management Information Systems
  16. Nurse Practitioner (RN Required)
  17. Nursing Education (RN Required)
  18. Organizational Leadership
  19. Project Management
  20. Psychology
  21. Public Administration
  22. Public Health
  23. Public Policy
  24. Special Education
  25. Supply Chain and Logistics

Many of these graduate programs have concentrations that you can choose to specialize your studies even further.


accountant working in office

Online PhD programs for accounting are some of the most popular online doctoral programs in business. These programs are usually pursued by people with an undergrad and a master’s degree in the accounting or business management fields.

If you’re analytical and good with numbers, this may be a good advanced degree path for you to pursue.

These graduate programs are primarily research-based. The course requirements typically include several higher-level accounting classes and classes in research and theory. Common topics of study are empirical research methods, behavioral research methods, research in taxation, and capital markets research.

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Quantitative research tools and economics courses may also be a part of the curriculum. A few of the potential jobs a PhD in Accounting could lead to are senior accountant, owner of an accounting firm, college professor of accounting or business finance, consultant, researcher, and financial analyst.

Business Administration

accounting consultant checking the report of his colleague

This is another popular PhD that graduate students pursue, and there are many top-rated online business administration PhD programs. A PhD in Business Administration is the highest possible degree that can be attained in the business field in the U.S. and many other countries.

Students in these PhD programs typically have to complete coursework, independent research and study, and a comprehensive final exam to graduate.

Most Ph.D. in Business Administration programs require a bachelor’s degree in a relevant business field at a minimum to apply. A master’s degree in a business-related field is typically preferred. Most programs also require specific GRE or GMAT scores.

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Earning this advanced degree will likely require you to take higher-level courses in business-related classes, such as classes in strategy and innovation, leadership, project management, human resource management, accounting, and business intelligence.

Potential jobs after earning your PhD degree include private or government consultant, college professor, and more.


counselor listening to her client during counseling session

Online doctoral degree programs in the field of counseling are designed to help students obtain the knowledge needed to practice counseling in many different settings, including private practices, educational institutions, and agencies.

These programs are typically focused on providing students with a well-rounded education that includes studies in overall health and wellness. upper-level psychology theories, advanced counseling techniques, and patient diversity.

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Courses are usually taught using a variety of seminars, coursework, and research. Towards the program’s end, it’s possible you may have to complete an internship and a final dissertation.

Earning a Ph.D. in Counseling can help you develop a deep understanding of the importance of research, research skills, and clinical theory, the complexities of the human psyche, and knowledge of the American Psychological Association (APA) code of conduct and ethics.

Criminal Justice

lawyer reviewing documents in her office

In addition to general coursework and electives, PhD programs in criminal justice usually put a strong focus on studies in the following:

  • Criminal justice
  • Criminology
  • Qualitative empirical methods
  • Quantitative empirical methods
  • Justice policy

Coursework is often broken into online lectures and seminars, but a lot of your work will likely be done through research and practical casework.

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Earning your Ph.D in Criminal Justice can help you obtain the knowledge needed to staff various criminal justice agencies at the local, state, and federal levels and learn how to improve the safety of your area through advanced criminology techniques. It can also help you gain some experience in establishing research partnerships with various agencies.

Your criminal justice PhD could help you pursue jobs in criminal justice fields and institutions of higher education.

Curriculum & Instruction

teacher reviewing documents in his office

If you’re applying for a doctoral program in curriculum and instruction, chances are you’re already an educator. Most online doctoral programs in education are almost exclusively designed for certified teachers.

However, it’s possible you’re a graduate student moving straight from certification into the doctoral program.

Either way, if you’re seeking your PhD in Curriculum and Instruction, you’re likely looking to increase your knowledge of the educational field. This degree program is meant for people interested in pursuing careers in curriculum development, leadership development, advanced teaching, or pure research.

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If you’re already a certified teacher, this degree can usually be earned in three or four years if you’re taking a full class load each semester.

Courses are typically heavily focused on designing curriculums, educational administration and leadership, curriculum instruction, research methods, qualitative and quantitative design, and analysis and advanced education studies. You’ll probably be required to give a dissertation at the end of the program.


university professor teaching in a classroom

A PhD in Education is just one of the doctoral degrees available in education. Another is a Doctor of Education (EdD). Earning either of these degrees can help you gain employment in a clinical, administrative, or academic research position.

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Speaking specifically of the PhD in Education, courses are most often taught as a mixture of coursework, online lectures, and seminars. Plenty of research and a final dissertation are also usually required before you can officially earn your doctorate in this field.

Once you’ve earned your PhD in Education, you’ll have the potential to teach as a professor at the university level. You might also use this degree to become a school administrator or superintendent.

Educational Leadership

training manager conducting a seminar to various professionals

PhD in Educational Leadership programs are geared towards helping those in education gain the skills they need to become effective leaders.

Coursework for an educational leadership program typically focuses on critical thinking, higher reasoning, and how to solve problems effectively. Learning these skills can help you make positive changes at all levels of education, including elementary, middle, and high schools. These skills are beneficial for working in institutions of higher learning, corporate training facilities, and military educational institutions as well.

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Those who graduate with a PhD in Education Leadership often become any of the following:

  • Educational administrators
  • University professors
  • Survey researchers
  • Social service managers
  • Community service managers
  • Training and development managers
  • Superintendents
  • Deans

Obtaining your PhD in Education Leadership can help you extend your dream career further and pursue lucrative job opportunities.


financial managers reviewing their work on laptop

Online doctoral degree programs in finance usually focus on a vast array of financial topics and courses, such as pricing and asset valuation, practical decision-making by financial intermediaries, and the behavior of finance on a global marketing scale.

Most coursework is handled through a series of online seminars and lectures, developing theoretical models, and testing them empirically.

Earning your doctoral degree in finance can help you develop an excellent grasp of all areas of finance, most notably as it relates to the empirical testing of theoretical modeling.

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Students that graduate with a  PhD in Finance pursue a variety of different jobs. People with this degree often become chief financial officers, budget analysts, compensation and benefits managers, financial managers, and sales agents in financial services, commodities, and securities.

Healthcare Management

healthcare managers working on laptop in the office

PhD programs in healthcare management are open almost exclusively to students with a master’s degree in healthcare management or something similar. A few doctoral programs offered online in this field, though, are even more selective. They require applicants to have some experience working in healthcare management or management in a closely related field.

The coursework for an online PhD in Healthcare Management program usually consists of studies in organizational strategies, the development of communication skills, and research. The goal of these programs is to ready graduate students for upper-level leadership roles in healthcare administration.

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The politics of healthcare and healthcare reform, including economic factors that drive specific policies and legislation, are typically studied also. There are generally some courses in accounting, finance, and economics as well.

Higher Education

administrative officers researching on their laptop

As the name suggests, earning a PhD in Higher Education can help prepare you for a career in higher education, particularly in higher education administration.

Taking this course of study online is often a little different from taking it on campus.

Coursework for this doctoral degree for online learners typically centers around one-on-one virtual time with professors and a lot of research. The research component is particularly important because it can help you learn research skills that are needed to perform duties in higher education, such as understanding statistics and writing grants.

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Because of this, a research-based dissertation is almost always required before your degree is conferred.

This field often appeals to people who love to learn and are research-oriented and incredibly focused. This degree can help prepare you for advanced leadership roles or senior administrative roles within higher education institutions.

Homeland Security

Homeland security control room staff

If you have excellent critical thinking and decision-making skills and a master’s degree in a field related to homeland security, getting a PhD in Homeland Security might be a great choice for you.

Also, if you have an interest in what’s going on in our country today and think you might be able to find creative solutions to problems in domestic security, you might be interested in this degree program.

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Some common topics of study in an online homeland security program include:

  • Advanced critical reasoning
  • Decision-making skills
  • Communications
  • Media communications
  • Legal statutes and regulations
  • Intelligence operations
  • Cybersecurity
  • Government
  • Global relations
  • Effective defense tactics

Earning your degree in this field can allow you to pursue government work at the local, state, and federal levels, in homeland security, or in national defense.

Human Resources

human resource manager assisting an employee

A career in human resources can help you pursue jobs in many different fields because just about every industry and business requires a human resources person.

A PhD in Human Resources can help you work towards a job in human resource management, which is the upper-level tier of human resources.

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Human resource managers are often expected to perform the following duties:

  • Recruit/hire new employees
  • Be the link between employees and management
  • Plan and coordinate administrative functions
  • Educate new employees about company policies and current employees about new or changing company policies
  • Assist employees with understanding their benefits and tax information

A PhD in Human Resources degree program can help you develop the skills necessary to perform these duties.

Aside from becoming human resource managers, people with this doctoral degree often obtain other higher-lever jobs as well. A PhD in Human Resources could help you pursue a job as a compensation manager, employee manager, staffing director, or higher-level executive.

Information Technology

IT engineer fixing cables on data room

Information technology (IT) is one of the fastest-growing career fields available. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of information technology is projected to have an 11% job growth over the next ten years.

Almost every business needs the services of an IT person at some point. This means the potential to find a lucrative career in the information technology industry is high.

A degree program for a PhD in Information Technology usually consists of coursework, research, and a dissertation that is typically started early on in the program.

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Earning your PhD in Information Technology can help you pursue many high-level  IT jobs. You might become a professor of IT, chief information officer, Vice President or President of IT, senior IT manager, IT director, lead systems analyst, senior consultant, or systems administrator.


management consultant talking to colleague in his office

If you’re interested in joining an online PhD in Management program, there are a few options you can choose from.

Many of these programs have very comprehensive course curriculums that incorporate facets of the social sciences, research skills, strategy, human resource management, organizational behavior, and more.

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Some potential classes for this degree include:

  • Various levels of economics classes
  • Human resources research
  • Family business research
  • Network theory

To be successful in this program, it helps if you are a hard worker and very driven. Most management programs are fast-paced and appeal to those who are both excellent leaders and multitaskers.

A management degree program can help prepare you to work in management fields in different industries. It can help give you access to many potential jobs. You might become a corporate entrepreneur, a professor of business, an upper-level executive, a policy analyst, or a management consultant.

Management Information Systems

computer and information systems managers working in data center

If computers, research, and science are your thing, you might be looking to work towards obtaining a PhD in Management Information Systems. Programs for this degree typically focus heavily on methodology, research, and conceptual skills, all while incorporating technology into every aspect of the program.

If you’re into statistical analysis and designing complex programs, this might be the degree for you.

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Potential jobs you could be eligible for after earning your management information systems degree include professor of business or professor of information systems at the secondary or post-secondary level. You might also become a computer network architect, a computer hardware engineer, a computer and information systems manager, or a computer and information research scientist.

Your management information systems degree can help open the door to potential careers that are sustaining and lucrative.

Nurse Practitioner (RN Required)

nurse looking after a young patient

If you are looking to further your nursing expertise, there are a few different nursing programs you can pursue, depending on your career goals. Two options are to work towards a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD in Nursing).

Although both doctorate degrees can help you obtain the extended education in nursing you need to excel in your chosen career, the primary focus of each nursing program can take you on different paths.

PhD in Nursing

A Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD in Nursing) focuses on research in health services. This degree typically takes an approach to nursing programs that is more scientific, research-based, and academic.

The coursework for this doctorate degree nursing program typically concentrates heavily on healthcare policy, data analysis and statistics, education, and research. A dissertation is usually required to complete this degree.


A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) focuses on nursing practices in health care. Earning a DNP can potentially take you down an academic path, but it typically concentrates more on clinical practice and leadership.

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Your DNP coursework will likely focus on medical research and how it applies to patient care. It can give you opportunities to continue learning how to excel at nursing and managing teams. It can also help you gain knowledge that will help you improve hospital and clinic administration and learn how to use the latest technology. A scholarly project is usually required to complete a DNP degree.

If you are looking to conduct independent research or help improve healthcare policies or would love to teach, earning a PhD in Nursing may be the avenue to take.

If you are looking to continue your clinical work or become a nurse practitioner and hope to improve healthcare systems and the way people are cared for, earning a DNP may be a great option.

Nursing Education (RN Required)

head nurse helping another nurse with her assignments

A PhD in Nursing Education is actually quite similar to the PhD in Nursing listed above. Both of these fields typically appeal to a very similar set of people. Usually, nurses who have been in the nursing field for a long time and want to move into the research, theory, and educational fields of nursing apply for this program.

If you’re interested in becoming a professor of nursing or someone who trains other nurses, then a PhD in Nursing Education may be perfect for you.

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The common goal for these programs is to prepare nurses for new careers in clinical research, education, health administration, and sometimes advanced clinical practice. In short, this doctorate degree should prepare nurses to transition out of pure nursing and move into leadership roles instead.

Organizational Leadership

team of professionals meeting in a conference room

Organizational leadership graduate programs are usually quite similar in layout to programs for a PhD in Business Administration.

Earning a PhD in this field usually appeals to people who already work in supervisory, management, or leadership positions but want to update their skills and become better leaders within their organizations.

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This is usually a coursework-heavy doctorate degree that focuses on a wide variety of subjects, including but not limited to:

  • Systems design
  • Ethics
  • Technology
  • Strategy
  • Organizational behavior
  • Statistics
  • Sociology
  • Psychology

Part of the reason the classes are so varied is that it takes a well-rounded individual with many different attributes to become a good leader.

This particular degree can help improve the leadership skills of managers, supervisors, or leaders in almost any field. There is no single career path that lends itself to this degree. It can be implemented in almost all businesses.

Project Management

project manager discussing a project with her team

In certain ways, earning a PhD in Project Management is like receiving a PhD in Organizational Leadership. Both degrees appeal to similar types of people working in supervisory or leadership positions, and both degrees have a wide range of required courses in several different subjects and disciplines.

The difference is this: A PhD in Project Management typically focuses more on how to become a better leader within a team setting, whereas a PhD in this field usually helps students learn how to work more independently.

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In addition to some of the same classes required for this degree, the curriculum for a project management program typically includes courses on cost control, budget management, bid negotiation, and risk assessment.

Potential jobs for those with this degree include project director, program director, construction manager, and general operations manager.


psychologist listening to a young patient during therapy session

There are many PhD programs offered online in psychology. It’s probably one of the most popular choices for receiving an online doctoral degree.

Being hardworking and dedicated can help you succeed in obtaining this degree. Having a curious mind, a love of research, an empathetic personality, and the ability to listen to some of the most horrible stories imaginable without judgment can be very helpful as well.

A PhD in Psychology is, like most PhDs, a research-based doctoral degree. You’ll likely be expected to do a lot of independent research and case studies.

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There may be some online lectures and seminars, but much of your advanced degree program will likely require you to work independently of your professors and other PhD candidates.

Earning this degree can help equip you to work as a psychologist, counselor, mental health specialist, substance abuse counselor, and more in a variety of different settings, including private practices, hospitals, schools and universities, and prisons.

Public Administration

budget analyst working on her laptop

To apply for an online PhD program in public administration, you need to have at least your bachelor’s degree in either public administration or public policy. Many doctoral programs prefer applicants to have a master’s degree in either of those two fields.

Public administration doctoral programs, including online DPA programs, often have quite a bit of leeway in their course curriculum, and for that reason, very few programs are exactly alike. However, at their cores, they’re designed to teach students the best ways to oversee public assets.

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This degree often includes studies in advanced communications (particularly between disparate groups), policymaking, and public budgeting. A dissertation is usually required to graduate.

Those with this degree often become budget analysts, auditors, financial managers, human resources managers, and purchasing agents.

Public Health

biologist looking into a microscope in a laboratory

The main focus of PhD programs in public health is the successful education of students so that they can help improve public health in the United States.

Earning a PhD in Public Health can help you develop the skills, background, and research-savvy necessary to help further our collective knowledge of how to best keep ourselves healthy and live longer. Your studies can also help you learn how to avert or mitigate crises affecting public health.

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Public health doctoral programs usually have a few different areas of concentration. These may include health policy and management, epidemiology of microbial diseases, environmental health, biostatistics, social science, and chronic diseases.

A love of biology, chemistry, research, and medicine can help you in this program. A healthy curiosity and a natural inclination towards the scientific method are also helpful. Many students that earn this degree go on to work for the CDC.

Public Policy

politician talking during a conference

A PhD in Public Policy often goes hand-in-hand with a PhD in Public Administration. In fact, in many cases, the two fields are combined into one degree simply called a PhD in Public Policy and Administration.

This means that most of the classes and goals listed above in the public administration section are the same ones that should be listed for this degree.

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The two degrees often appeal to the same type of person, which is someone who is driven, outspoken, outgoing, and unafraid to make waves. Many of the same attributes that make people good politicians also make for good public policy and administration degree seekers.

In fact, many politicians start out as public administrators or policymakers. Other potential career fields include civil service, urban/strategic planning, and social justice.

Special Education

special education teacher teaching a child with down syndrome in his house

Receiving your online PhD in Special Education may be one of the most rewarding decisions you ever make. This field typically attracts people who are kind, loving, patient, empathetic, warm-hearted, and full of guidance.

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If you’re seeking a doctorate in special education degree, though, you’ve probably been teaching students with special needs for a while and are looking to move into a leadership position in a special education team or into a research field. You may desire to learn more about the options for this degree and possibly improve the methods used in educating students with special needs.

As far as the curriculum goes, you’ll likely have a mixture of courses in teaching, administration, and other education-related fields. You’ll also likely do a lot of research and a dissertation at the end of the program.

Supply Chain Logistics

logistics manager checking stocks for delivery

The final PhD on our list is the PhD in Supply Chain Logistics. Common studies for this online doctoral program include:

  • Advanced research tools, skills, and methods
  • Transportation and supply chain economics
  • Industrial organization
  • Logistics modeling
  • Supply chain and information technology
  • Supply chain research
  • Logistics research
  • Analytics

You’ll probably be required to do a mixture of coursework and multiple research papers during the degree program. Towards the end, you’ll likely take both written and oral exams and deliver and defend a dissertation.

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After earning your degree, you could potentially get a job in supply chain logistics in just about any industry that sells goods. Whether it’s marshmallows or microphones, someone has to transport them.

How Do Online Doctoral Programs Work?

PhD student studying in library with his laptop and books

If you work a full-time job all day and have a family to take care of on top of that, don’t worry. Online doctoral programs were practically tailor-made for people just like you.

Many online graduate programs are specifically set up so that working professionals can earn their doctorates in their free time. There are two types of online degree programs, hybrid programs and those that are 100% online courses.

Hybrid or Blended Programs

A Woman Taking blended Phd Program

The first type of degree program online is known as a blended or hybrid program. In this type of program, almost everything you do towards your degree is done online, though in addition to online learning, there are a few things that must be done face-to-face.

For example, some online doctorate degree programs may require you to takes tests at a physical testing location either on- or off-campus. With others, you may have to do hands-on casework at a designated location. For almost all doctoral programs, you may do all your coursework online but still have to present your final dissertation to a panel of professors in person.

If your class is blended, you should be told immediately after enrolling—or even before enrolling—how many times you’ll be required to visit physical locations, why you must visit them, and where they are.

100% Online

The other type of online doctoral program is one that is 100% online. If your degree program is 100% online courses—and most are—then you won’t have to worry about going to any specific locations for your classes. Every single bit of this degree—aside from perhaps the dissertation—is taken care of online.

There may be a few telephone calls thrown in every now and then, but in a 100% online degree program, you never meet anyone face-to-face, aside from the possible exception of your dissertation.

Online Programs: The Set-Up

Online Programs

Other than online learning using your computer and mobile devices, most PhD programs online are actually very similar to on-campus doctoral programs.

You’ll probably have some courses in your online program that require you to attend lectures, which will be on your computer—sometimes live, sometimes prerecorded. You’ll likely have online discussions and group chats as well.

You may even be required to complete assignments in forums to encourage “classroom discussion.”

Between the lectures and the discussion through online learning, one thing that’s absolutely essential for you to have is access to reliable internet to access your online classes. Without it, you could find yourself in trouble very quickly.

Mostly, you’ll be doing a lot of research and independent study. This isn’t much different from an on-campus doctoral program. Once you hit the doctoral level, it’s mostly up to you alone to do what needs to be done.

PhD student working on her dissertation


One of those things that needs to be done is your dissertation, which is one of the most essential parts of your doctoral program. Your dissertation must be a unique, original project on a topic that correlates with your chosen field of study.

It usually must be approved by your advisor before you can start, but once approved, you’ll likely be working on it pretty much throughout the entire program.

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At the program’s close, you may then be required to deliver and defend your dissertation orally in front of a panel of professors. Although there are one or two colleges that are exceptions to the rule, almost all colleges require that you travel to the university and do this in person.

Earning the Degree

If your dissertation passes scrutiny and is approved by the board, you may be granted your PhD. However, be aware that in some fields, a final exam is given and must be passed before your degree is conferred upon you.

Accreditation for Online PhD Programs

Accreditation for Online PhD Programs

Accreditation for online doctoral programs is quite similar to accreditation for on-campus doctoral programs. You should look for regional accreditation. Each particular program may have a different association that accredits it, but if you do a little research, you’ll be able to find which accreditations are best for each online program.

It’s best if your school and program are both regionally and programmatically accredited. There’s also such a thing as national higher education accreditation, but regional is the gold standard.

Financial Aid Opportunities for PhD Students

Financial Aid Opportunities for PhD Students

You cannot get Federal Pell Grants when working towards your PhD, but you may be able to get financial assistance through federal loans, which usually have the best repayment options if you fall within a certain income bracket.

You can apply for those loans by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). One of these is the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program.

However, the best financial assistance option is typically to apply for grants or fellowships. There are usually plenty of these to be found in every field of study. Once you’ve decided on a school, you can also look on that school’s website to find any fellowships or grants they may offer to doctoral students.

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Another critical thing doctoral students often overlook is financial assistance from their employers. If you are hoping to earn your PhD in the same field in which you’re already working, you may be entitled to financial aid or tuition reimbursement from the company you work for.

Finally, there is one last option, although it doesn’t really apply to online students. However, if you’re still on the fence about online vs. on-campus programs, this is useful information to have.

If you’re an on-campus PhD student, you can apply for an assistantship, which allows you to work as a research assistant, a teacher’s assistant, or some other on-campus job that usually involves teaching or working with undergrads in some capacity.

PhD student studying on his laptop at a cafe

Can You Get a PhD Online?

Yes, there are online programs leading to a PhD in many different fields. In fact, because the average age of doctoral students is rising, most PhD candidates are working professionals who don’t have the time to earn a degree any other way than through an online program.

For this reason, more and more programs are providing students with the option to earn their PhDs online. If you want to receive your PhD in any of the above fields—and in some areas not listed here—you likely have the option to do so online.

Are Online PhD Programs Respected

Are Online PhD Programs Respected?

Yes, online PhD programs are respected by many. As long as the online PhD program in which you’re enrolled has higher education accreditation, then your PhD will likely be respected.

If your online doctoral program is only accredited nationally, it may only be recognized in specific areas, which is why it’s better to enroll in programs with regional accreditation.

Degrees earned by online learners through programs with regional accreditation are more accepted by employers and usually hold just as much gravity as regionally accredited degrees earned from on-campus programs.

PhD student studying on her laptop

How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD Online?

The average is 4-7 years, but it’s nearly impossible to put a time limit in years on earning a PhD.

There are simply too many factors to consider, such as the program of study in which you’re seeking to earn your online doctorate degree, how many courses you’re taking each semester, and whether you take courses year-round or take summers off. In addition, it also depends on whether you enroll in a full-time or part time PhD program.

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If you’re looking for a more precise answer, you can look up your specific field of study and see how many course credits are required to earn a PhD in that field.

How Much Does Online PhD Cost?

Online doctoral degree programs are quite varied when it comes to price. The cost per year will depend on the university, the program of study, and how many online classes you’re taking at a time.

Some colleges advertise options for as little as $4,000 a semester. Other programs can cost upwards of $30,000 a semester. This extreme cost is rare, though. Usually, online doctoral programs run between $5,000 and $8,000 per semester.

businessman working on his computer in the office

What Are the Cheapest Online PhD Programs?

Although no PhD program is going to be “cheap,” there are some that are less expensive than others. As the job market fluctuates, so, too, does the price of online programs. However, as of right now, the cheapest programs leading to a PhD for online learners are usually in the fields of business. This includes programs in business administration, human resources, and marketing.

One of the main reasons business doctoral programs are often the least expensive is because there are so many of them. Most universities, both online and on-campus, offer PhD programs in business. Therefore, the programs have to be inexpensive to remain competitive.

Universities Offering Online PhD Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Andrews University

Andrews University

As the first school for higher education opened by the Seventh-day Adventists, Andrews University commenced in 1874 as a private postsecondary school.

Giving students a choice of about 200 undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. programs, Andrews University has eight schools of discipline, including technology, science, education, and business.

  • Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Ph.D. in Educational Leadership
  • Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration
  • Ph.D. in Leadership

Andrews is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Catholic University of America

Catholic University of America

The Catholic University of America was established in 1887 by the Catholic Church and is located in the heart of Washington, D.C. This private institution is known for its extensive research centers and its acclaimed undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees.

Students looking to receive a faith-based, liberal arts education often turn to CUA for their educational needs.

  • Ph.D. in Nursing

CUA is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Clemson University

Clemson University

Clemson University began in 1889 as a military school that only accepted male students. Today, thousands of men and women enroll in Clemson University’s world-renowned public school to gain undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees in a variety of academic majors.

Located in South Caroline, Clemson University serves students throughout the world with online and campus programs.

  • Ph.D. in Healthcare Genetics
  • Ph.D. in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management
  • Ph.D. in Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design

Clemson is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Colorado State University

Colorado State University

Colorado State University is well known throughout the world for its revolutionary research developments. CSU first opened in 1870, and through growth and development, it has expanded internationally to offer undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees in many academic areas.

Colorado State University works to provide students with a valuable first-rate public education.

  • Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership
  • Ph.D. in Systems Engineering

Colorado State is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Concordia University—Chicago

Concordia University - Chicago

Taking private education to the next level, Concordia University—Chicago incorporates practical learning with cultural experiences to assist students in gaining a world-class learning experience.

Opening in 1864, this faith-based institution offers undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. programs as well as co-ops, internships, and study abroad opportunities. Students can choose to explore online or traditional learning options.

  • Ph.D. in Leadership – Curriculum and Instruction
  • Ph.D. in Leadership – Early Childhood Education
  • Ph.D. in Leadership – Education Technology
  • Ph.D. in Leadership – Educational Leadership
  • Ph.D. in Leadership – Gerontology
  • Ph.D. in Leadership – Health and Human Performance
  • Ph.D. in Leadership – Higher Education
  • Ph.D. in Leadership – Organizational Leadership
  • Ph.D. in Leadership – Reading, Language and Literacy
  • Ph.D. in Leadership – Special Education
  • Ph.D. in Leadership – Sports Leadership
  • Ph.D. in Leadership – Teacher Leadership

Concordia University Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

George Washington University

George Washington University

As a notable private school located in Washington DC, George Washington University first began in 1821. With a reputation of educating prominent leaders, authors, and other significant figures throughout history, George Washington University offers numerous undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees in many academic areas.

Students attending GWU can enroll in virtual or face-to-face classes.

  • Ph.D. in Nursing
  • Ph.D. in Systems Engineering

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

Hampton University

Hampton University

Classified as a historically black school, Hampton University commenced in 1868. Hampton University provides thousands of students with a first-rate private education that blends culture with practical learning applications.

Offering an array of undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. programs, HU has online and in-person learning options to help meet each student’s needs.

  • Ph.D. in Business Administration
  • Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision
  • Ph.D. in Educational Management
  • Ph.D. in Nursing

Hampton U is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Indiana University

Indiana University

Indiana University was first launched in 1820 and is considered to be at the top of the educational world by QS Global World Rankings. It provides public education to students seeking undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees in over 100 academic areas.

Indiana University blends research and technology in all of its programs to help students become leaders in their respective fields.

  • Ph.D. in Nursing Science

Indiana U is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University

John Hopkins University was the first private school to offer research as an integrated part of its curriculum when it opened in 1876. JHU works to ensure that students graduate with essential industry skills that include innovation and technology.

John Hopkins University has hundreds of academic programs that allow students to obtain undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees.

  • Ph.D. in Education

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

Liberty University

Liberty University

As a private school that enrolls more than 100,000 students annually, Liberty University opened in 1971 and took education to the next level. LU strives to meet all learner’s needs by offering a large number of degree programs that can be obtained through online, hybrid, or campus-based learning.

Students at LU can work towards associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

  • Ph.D. in Bible Exposition
  • Ph.D. in Communication
  • Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision
  • Ph.D. in Criminal Justice
  • Ph.D. in Education
  • Ph.D. in Higher Education Admin
  • Ph.D. in History
  • Ph.D. in Nursing – Nursing Education
  • Ph.D. in Psychology
  • Ph.D. in Public Policy
  • Ph.D. in Strategic Media Online

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

Medical University of South Carolina

 Medical University of South Carolina

The Medical University of South Carolina is a public school of medicine that opened in 1824. MUSC operates six colleges, a research center, and a public hospital. MUSC has a variety of medical programs that allow students to earn master’s, Ph.D., M.D, or other professional degrees in the medical field.

  • Ph.D. in Nursing Science

MUSC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Mercer University

Mercer University

Established in 1833, Mercer University has an array of opportunities for students to find success in their educational and professional goals. Allowing online and campus-based learning, this private school has degree options that range from undergraduate to the Ph.D. level. Students at Mercer University have access to a diverse academic catalog.

  • Ph.D. in Nursing

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

Mississippi State University

Mississippi State University

As one of the world’s most renowned public educational institutions, Mississippi State University began in 1878. Through distance learning and study abroad programs, Mississippi State University reaches students worldwide to offer academic studies that lead to undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees.

Research, technology, and innovation are all valuable assets for students enrolled at MSU.

  • Ph.D. in Community College Leadership
  • Ph.D. in Computational Engineering
  • Ph.D. in Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Ph.D. in Engineering – Aerospace Engineering
  • Ph.D. in Engineering – Civil Engineering
  • Ph.D. in Engineering – Mechanical Engineering
  • Ph.D. in Industrial & Systems Engineering

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

National University

National University

National University aims to provide flexible, quality education by providing advanced degrees through distance learning platforms.

Founded in 1971, NU is a network of nonprofit educational institutions committed to providing an array of undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs to help students gain the knowledge and experience needed to flourish in their academic fields.

  • PhD in Business Administration
  • PhD in Computer Science
  • PhD in Data Science
  • PhD in Education
  • PhD in Educational Leadership
  • PhD in Human Resource Management
  • PhD in Instructional Design
  • PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy
  • PhD in Organizational Leadership
  • PhD in Psychology
  • PhD in Technology and Innovation Management

National University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Nova Southeastern University

Nova Southeastern University

Nova Southeastern University is a private learning facility that offers more than 100 academic programs to students seeking undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees.

Opening in 1964, NSU allows students to take fewer classes at a time to improve focus and learning ability and accelerated classes to decrease the time needed to gain a degree.

  • Ph.D. in Computer Science
  • Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution
  • Ph.D. in Criminal Justice
  • Ph.D. in Cybersecurity Management
  • Ph.D. in Health Sciences
  • Ph.D. in Information Systems
  • Ph.D. in Nursing
  • Ph.D. in Occupational Therapy

The university also offers accelerated doctoral programs online.

NSU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Robert Morris University

Robert Morris University

Known for its outstanding academic programs, Robert Morris University opened in 1921 and has excelled in academia ever since. This private learning institution provides over 80 academic majors that allow students to attain undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral degrees.

Popular programs offered at Robert Morris University include business, math, science, and engineering.

  • Ph.D. in Instructional Management and Leadership

Robert Morris University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University

Offering hundreds of academic programs for students interested in gaining undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral degrees, Texas Tech University opened its doors in 1923. This public school works to provide students with a renowned education that can be accessed through online or campus-based platforms.

Texas Tech University helps students gain hands-on experience and develop critical thinking skills.

  • Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction – Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education
  • Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction – Language, Diversity & Literacy Studies
  • Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction – STEM
  • Ph.D. in Educational Leadership Policy
  • Ph.D. in Family and Consumer Science Education
  • Ph.D. in Special Education

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

University at Buffalo

University at Buffalo

One of the most respected public schools in the nation, the University at Buffalo commenced in 1846 and now serves more students than most schools in the SUNYs (State University of New York). The University at Buffalo has thirteen colleges that award bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and professional degrees in hundreds of academic areas.

  • Ph.D. in Information Science

University at Buffalo is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

University of Alabama

University of Alabama

Changing the way education looks since 1820, the University of Alabama uses research and technology to emphasize key program areas to better students’ understanding. Awarding thousands of bachelor’s, master’s, and professional degrees every year, the University of Alabama is the only public school in Alabama to operate a law school.

  • PhD in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics

The University of Alabama is accredited and/or recognized by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Florida

University of Florida

Marking the beginning of an educational era, the University of Florida commenced in 1853 as a public school. To this day, it caters to traditional and nontraditional students.

Students enrolled in one of the many undergraduate, graduate, or professional degree programs offered at UF have access to top-notch facilities and curricula. Courses at UF strive to provide hands-on learning experiences and help students develop critical thinking skills.

  • Ph.D. in Classical Civilization
  • Ph.D. in Latin and Roman Studies

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

University of Louisiana—Monroe

University of Louisiana Monroe

The University of Louisiana—Monroe is a public learning facility that opened in 1931. Students enrolled at ULM have access to a dynamic campus and an extensive distance learning platform.

Offering an array of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees, some of the popular programs at the University of Louisiana—Monroe include science, business, theater arts, and pharmacology.

  • Ph.D. in Systemic Studies

ULM is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Missouri

University of Missouri

The University of Missouri has a vibrant campus life with a diverse community that started in 1839. This public educational facility houses thousands of students each year who are pursuing undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees.

With a large assortment of academic fields to choose from, UM has academic counselors available to assist students in determining their paths.

  • Ph.D. in Architectural Studies

Mizzou is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Nebraska—Lincoln

University of Nebraska Lincoln

The University of Nebraska—Lincoln first started offering public education in 1869. With eight academic schools and a variety of research facilities, UNL helps students obtain undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees in their academic fields of interest.

By providing hands-on experiences and applied applications, UNL helps students gain the comprehensive education needed to be competitive in their industries.

  • Ph.D. in Educational Studies – Educational Leadership and Higher Education
  • Ph.D. in Educational Studies – Innovative Learning Technologies
  • Ph.D. in Educational Studies – Special Education
  • Ph.D. in Educational Studies – Teaching, Curriculum and Teaching

UN—Lincoln is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of North Dakota

University of North Dakota

Opening in 1883, the University of North Dakota has shown its ability to adapt to a growing society. Offering a comprehensive public education, the University of North Dakota has a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree options in various academic fields. Popular programs include education, business, and engineering.

  • Ph.D. in Aerospace Sciences
  • Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

UND is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

University of South Dakota

University of South Dakota

Commencing in 1862, the University of South Dakota is a renowned public education center that provides valuable research opportunities to students and faculty looking to grow academically.

Providing students with the means of earning undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees, the University of South Dakota has both online and on-campus programs available.

  • Ph.D. in Health Sciences

USD is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Texas at Tyler

University of Texas at Tyler

Located beside the beautiful Harvey Lake, the University of Texas at Tyler enrolls more than 10,000 students annually who are interested in gaining undergraduate, graduate, or professional degrees.

With more than 90 academic areas to choose from, UTT is divided among six colleges, each offering first-rate education to help students become leaders in their field.

  • Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
  • Ph.D. in Nursing

UTT is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

University of the Cumberlands

University of the Cumberlands

The University of the Cumberlands opened as a private school in 1888. Providing economic stability to the area, the University of the Cumberlands offers job opportunities for the community and students.

Offering an array of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees, UC encourages students to become involved in community projects and apprenticeships.

  • Executive Ph.D. in Business
  • Executive Ph.D. in Leadership
  • Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision
  • Ph.D. in Leadership

UCumberlands is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Villanova University

Villanova University

Villanova University is a private school that was started in 1842 by the Catholic Church to help serve the community and teach students to become global citizens.

Students attending Villanova University have access to online and on-campus learning formats that allow them to earn associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or professional degrees in many academic areas.

  • Ph.D. in Nursing

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

Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University

Veering off from another college in 1838, Virginia Commonwealth University began to thrive as its own entity. This public educational facility has expanded its ability to provide research and education worldwide.

Students who attend Virginia Commonwealth University can obtain undergraduate, graduate, or professional degrees in a variety of academic areas.

  • Ph.D. in Health-Related Sciences
  • Ph.D. in Nursing

VCU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Walden University

Walden University

Allowing students flexible options for obtaining higher education has been Walden University’s goal since opening in 1970. Today, Walden University is made up of five academic schools that allow students to attain their undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees through distance learning platforms.

Classes at Walden are designed to be completed quicker in order to lessen the time it takes to graduate.

  • Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
  • Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision
  • Ph.D. in Criminal Justice
  • Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology
  • Ph.D. in Education
  • Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology
  • Ph.D. in Health Education and Promotion
  • Ph.D. in Health Services
  • Ph.D. in Human and Health Services
  • Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • Ph.D. in Management
  • Ph.D. in Nursing
  • Ph.D. in Psychology
  • Ph.D. in Public Health
  • Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration
  • Ph.D. in Social Work

Walden is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Is a PhD Worth It?

university professor teaching in a classroom

Yes, a PhD is worth it for many professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects for the next ten years a 6% job growth for occupations where doctoral degrees are required for entry, which is faster than the average for all occupations.

Now that more and more doctoral options are being offered online, there may never have been a better time to earn yours.

Being able to take most, if not all, of your coursework online as your schedule permits means you’ll have less worry about taking time off from work, missing your children’s basketball games or dance recitals, or feeling rushed and overwhelmed.

There are a wide variety of programs at competitive prices, which can help you have more options when it comes to picking a program. Additionally, there are fellowships, grants, and other means of financial aid available to apply for.

A PhD can help you pursue higher-level jobs and better paychecks.

With all these potential benefits, why not consider checking out some PhD programs available online in your career field? Who knows? In a few short years, you might have a Dr. in front of your name.

Ready to start your journey?
Jordan Meeks
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.