10 Best Part Time PhD Programs for 2021

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Explore part time PhD programs. Compare schools and see what earning your doctorate could do for you.

Part Time PhD Programs

If you’d like to earn your doctoral degree but don’t really have much time to spare, you might want to consider enrolling in one of the many available part time PhD programs.

Part time PhD programs require less of a time commitment, and there are both online and on-campus options.

Types of Part Time PhD Programs

The following are ten of the most popular part-time PhD programs people are enrolling in right now. Click on one to jump to that part of the page.

  1. Business Administration
  2. Counseling
  3. Education
  4. Finance
  5. Healthcare Administration
  6. Management
  7. Nurse Practitioner (RN Required)
  8. Public Administration
  9. Public Health
  10. Psychology

PhD graduates in these fields often enjoy very rewarding careers as professors, researchers, or industry experts.

Business Administration

project managers discussing financial reports

If you’re looking for part time graduate school programs in business, taking courses toward your PhD in Business Administration may be an excellent choice. In addition to being the gold standard of business degrees in America, this degree is also recognized globally as the highest possible business administration degree.

Some universities also offer the option to select an area of concentration. For example, you could opt to get your online PhD in Accounting, or a similar field of business like marketing, human resources, or project management.

Depending on whether you take this degree online or at an on-campus university, the course curriculum will be a little different. However, the basic admissions requirements and courses should be quite similar for both programs.

For example, you’ll need, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and a master’s degree in this field or another business-related field is highly preferable.

Some programs also have a specific GMAT or GRE score requirement before you can be accepted into them as well. However, a growing number of universities are waiving this requirement.

You’ll usually have some lecture courses and written coursework. Classes are mostly comprised of upper-level business classes in accounting, human resources or project management, leadership, business innovations, and strategy, etc.

Your primary focus, though, should be on independent research toward your final dissertation. This, along with a final exam, is usually the last step before earning your PhD. After receiving your PhD, you could potentially become a professor of business, a consultant for private companies or the government, or even a CEO or President.


counselor talking to a client in her office

If you have an empathetic nature, curious mind, a good listening ear, and the desire to genuinely help people, you might pursue a PhD in Counseling. PhD courses in the counseling field have been specifically tailored to do two things:

  • 1. Help students obtain the skills needed to become a counselor in practically any environment, including inside K-12 schools and institutions of higher learning, at a private practice, in prisons and/or mental hospitals, and more.
  • 2. Help students obtain the skills and knowledge needed to teach counseling skills to others as a professor of counseling at an institute of higher learning.

The course curriculum is designed to educate students in a holistic, entire body approach to treating patients. Specific courses include higher-level classes in psychology, as well as counseling theories and techniques.

Other courses cover holistic health and wellness, psychological techniques, research classes, and more. A heavy focus is put on understanding potential patients of all races, backgrounds, genders, cultures, etc.

In addition to lectures, either online or on-campus and seminars, you’ll also be required to complete coursework and do a lot of research.

If your ultimate goal with your PhD is to teach psychology at the post-secondary level, you may even be required to design and teach your own curriculum as part of a hands-on internship experience.

Your original dissertation should be your final step toward earning this PhD, after you which you could potentially teach or continue on in counseling.


college professor writing on chalkboard

If you’re considering a doctoral program in the education field, there are three different paths you can take. There’s the PhD path, which we’ll discuss here, and then there is the D.Ed. path and the Ed.D path, which are the Doctor of Education and Doctor in Education, respectively.

Earning a PhD in Education literally means you’ve received a Doctor of Philosophy in Education. (All PhDs are Doctor of Philosophy degrees; only the specific field is different. This is why so much of their coursework focuses on research.)

Deciding whether or not a PhD is the right choice for you depends on what you want to do with it after you earn it. If you want to teach at the post-secondary level or work in educational research, then a PhD may be perfect for you.

The typical course format is a mixture of seminars, lectures and coursework. As with practically any other PhD, your primary focus will be on independent research toward your dissertation, which should be a completely unique project of your choice relating to the field of education.

Your final project should consist of this dissertation, given before a panel of professionals in the field. You’ll deliver it and then defend it.

Some programs may also require you to pass a final exit exam. After you’ve earned your degree, you could potentially use it to become an educational researcher, a professor of education, a school administrator, superintendent, or other board of education member.


financial manager working on his laptop

If you have a mind for numbers, money, and budgeting, or if you work on the books and assets side of a company, a doctoral degree in finance may help further your career.

Online coursework in a finance PhD program focuses most heavily on a wide variety of financial and budgetary classes. Some of these include:

  • Global Marketing
  • The Behavior of Finance Locally, Nationally and Globally
  • Decision-Making of Firms and Other Financial Institutions
  • Assets Pricing
  • Assets Valuation
  • and More

For many, this is considered one of the best possible PhD programs to take online, but it works well as an on-campus program, too. Most work is done through lectures, seminars, and hands-on experience first developing and then rigorously testing theoretical models.

Upon completion of the program and the earning of your degree, you should be able to enter into many different potential careers, such as a career as a compensation and/or benefits manager, chief financial officer, director of securities or commodities, financial manager, or a budget analyst.

You may also be eligible for promotions of the highest level in budgeting, acquisitions, and sales. This PhD should well prepare you for a career as a high-level sales agent in almost any field.

However, as with most PhDs, what this degree is really designed to do is help you obtain the skills to teach a program in your subject of expertise, in this case, finance. For that reason, after your PhD, you may consider becoming a professor.

Healthcare Administration

medical professor with his students working on an activity

If you’re planning to get your PhD in healthcare administration, there’s a strong possibility that you’re already working somewhere in the healthcare field, possibly even in healthcare administration.

This is because most PhD in Healthcare Administration programs are usually open only to those who already have a master’s degree in this same field or one that’s closely related to it.

There are even some of these programs that require you to already be working in the healthcare administration field before you can be accepted into their particular PhD programs.

So, if none of these things apply to you, this might not be the degree for you, and if you do have your heart set on it, then you’re probably going to have to put in quite a bit of extra work first.

In addition to the desire to help and heal people, possessing a good head for business, a love of research, and excellent people skills are beneficial for pursuing this degree. You should be comfortable with economics, finance, accounting, and grant-writing, as well.

This degree is usually sought by those who want to become professors of the subject at a university or those who want to move into upper-level management and leadership roles within large healthcare organizations.

Some of the most commonly shared classes between different healthcare administration PhD programs are related to research, communication, and organizational strategies. There are also seminars on healthcare reform and legislation, as well as the role of politics in healthcare.


team of professionals in a meeting

If your goal is to earn your PhD in Management, you have so many options. Other than doctoral programs in business and business administration, programs in management are some of the most numerous programs out there right now.

You have plenty of choices of programs, whether you want to go the online or on-campus route.

Another great thing about a PhD degree program for management is that it has such wide-reaching possibilities. Whether you work in retail, factory-work, or engineering, chances are you have a management team.

That’s because every field needs managers and supervisors. Therefore, a PhD in Management can appeal to a considerable number of different types of people.

Some characteristics that may help you in this path, though, are as follows:

  • Hardworking
  • Driven
  • Research-minded
  • Analytical
  • Good communicator
  • Multitasker
  • Fair leader

Courses in management are usually pretty fast-paced, and the subject matter is just as varied as the types of people who pursue the degree. Courses incorporate everything from classes on research skills, human resource management, social sciences, economics, strategic planning, networking, and more.

You’ll likely be required to research, put together, deliver and defend a unique dissertation before you can officially earn your degree. Most programs require an exam, as well.

Once you’ve received your PhD in Management, though, potential job paths include management consultant, professor, CEO, entrepreneur, and more in a variety of different fields.

Nurse Practitioner (RN Required)

nurse talking with a doctor in a hospital

If you’re a nurse practitioner looking to become a better and higher paid nurse, then you might not want to pursue your PhD in Nursing. Instead, you may want to work toward your Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.

However, if you’re a nurse practitioner who wants to transition into pure research, nursing theory, or the education/training of future nurses and nurse practitioners, a PhD may be the right choice for your needs.

Although a PhD in Nursing usually takes fewer years to earn than a DNP and requires almost no clinical work – unlike the DNP – you’ll likely be required to do massive amounts of research into the field of nursing, nursing theory and the education and training processes and methods most commonly used in nursing education.

The goal of this program, in addition to teaching students what they need to know to educate future nurses, is to prepare them for careers in clinical research and education strategy. The aim is for them to be able to improve upon the research processes and education methods to make the training of future nurses more innovative and all-encompassing.

Less often, graduates of this program go on to work in advanced clinical practice or even healthcare administration, but this isn’t the most common career path for people receiving this particular degree.

Many of the courses do, however, focus on leadership and best management practices for those who do want to take this route.

Public Administration

financial managers checking documents

If your goal is to pursue a PhD in Public Administration, you have a wide variety of programs from which you can choose. Because regulations governing this program are looser than some of the other programs, each public administration program is structured differently.

However, despite their differences, there are a few things that almost every public administration program, whether online or on-campus, has in common. The admissions requirements for the programs are one example.

While not all programs require you to have a master’s degree before enrolling in the program, most prefer it. For those that don’t need it, you’ll still be required to have a bachelor’s degree in either public policy or public administration.

When it comes to the actual curriculum, though, the programs all seem to differ slightly. The classes taught in one program are often different from the classes taught in another program at a different university.

A few courses you could probably expect in every program are courses on public vs. private budgeting, advanced communications, and policymaking. The electives and other classes can be quite different, though.

However, despite the courses, the end goal of the programs are all very similar: They aim to educate students on the best practices governing the use and overseeing of public assets.

If you complete the program and pass your final dissertation, you could potentially find a career as a purchasing agent, budget analyst, human resources manager, auditor, financial manager, or something similar.

Public Health

environmental scientists checking water quality of a river

Working in public health requires certain specific qualities. For instance, being able to keep calm under pressure is important. Being intelligent, analytical, and comfortable with the research and testing of potentially deadly viruses and diseases are also beneficial.

Public health isn’t entirely about diseases and outbreaks, though, no matter how it may seem.

The number one goal of the public health PhD program is to educate students in all aspects of public health and how to present information and findings in a way the public can easily understand.

Another goal is to give students the knowledge and skills needed to help improve the overall public health of American citizens.

This includes instructing you on research skills and theory, particularly how to use research and the scientific method to improve upon methods already being used in the public health sector.

It’s also imperative that you be able to present crisis-level information to the public in a way that keeps people from panicking.

The most common concentrations for a public health degree program are as follows:

  • Bio-Statistics
  • Environmental Health
  • Health Management and Policies
  • Social Sciences
  • Chronic Diseases
  • The Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases

After graduation, jobs with the CDC and federal, state, and local governments are common. Other potential jobs include environmental scientist, bio-statistician, epidemiologist, safety engineer, and more.


psychologist talking to a couple in her office

Part time psychology PhD programs are also very popular choices for PhD seekers. This means there are plenty of online and on-campus programs available from which you can choose.

Although it can be taken as an on-campus class very easily with excellent results, most people tend to take it online for the simple fact that it’s more convenient. This means there are a ton of accredited online options for psychology.

Although the PhD degree in psychology is typically meant for those who want to move out of practicing psychology and into the realms of psychological research and secondary education – much like the PhD in Nursing – some people do take it to become better, higher paid psychologists.

If you’re one of these people, being empathetic, curious, and non-judgmental are three helpful qualities to have.

If you’re pursuing this degree in order to teach or move into pure research, an analytical mind, enjoyment of research, and a good grasp of the scientific method and process will also serve you well. This degree depends heavily on independent research.

You’ll have coursework, lectures, and case studies, but most of your time should be spent researching your dissertation.

If you’re successful in earning your PhD in Psychology, you may continue to work in the psychological fields as a counselor, psychologist, or something similar. However, don’t limit yourself to those jobs. You may also teach or work as a psychological researcher.

Also, keep in mind that in addition to a part time PhD in Psychology, some universities offer part time PsyD programs. This is the Doctor of Psychology and this degree may be a good option for practitioners more interested providing psychological services to clients.

Accreditation for Online Part Time PhD Programs

Accreditation for Online Part Time PhD Programs

The specific accreditation for your online program will depend on the degree field. Different fields have different boards certifying them as accredited programs. You should be able to check any program’s accreditation on the school’s website.

The best accreditation to have is regional accreditation. National accreditation is acceptable, as well, but it only accredits your program within a specific region of the U.S. Regional accreditation should be recognized throughout the entire U.S., no matter where you relocate.

Absolutely do not waste your money on a college or program without accreditation.

Financial Aid for PhD Part Time Students

Financial Aid for PhD Part Time Students

There are three main types of financial aid for you if you’re a PhD student. These are loans, grants/fellowships, and assistantships.

The first two, loans and grants/fellowships, are available to both online and on-campus students. Loans have to be repaid, so use them sparingly or not at all. The best place to start looking for loans is the federal government. You can apply for loans by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

Fellowships and grants are similar to scholarships. They’re usually given out to students with financial need who have completed applications proving they’re also deserving of the grants.

Many of these may be listed on your school’s specific website. Others can be found on Fastweb and other similar sites. Finally, assistantships are available only to on-campus students. These are similar to the work-study program.

You may work as either a teacher’s assistant, research assistant, or something similar. Working in the lab or as a teacher to undergrads are both typical assistantship duties.

PhD student studying on his computer in library

Can You Do PhD Part Time?

Yes, you may do PhD part time. There are several programs, both online and on-campus, that allow students to take part time PhD classes.

Is PhD Full Time or Part Time?

Depending on your budget and available free time, you can take either full time or part time PhD classes.

The only difference is that it will take you longer to graduate if you only take part time classes.

Is a PhD Worth It?

university professor teaching in a computer classroom

Yes, a PhD is worth it for many professionals. Earning your PhD can help open up new doors of opportunity and even room for advancement in your current field. Plus, if you’ve ever considered teaching in your career field, a PhD can help give you that opportunity.

Do some research to find an online PhD program or campus-based program that’s right for you. You now have the option to take PhD classes either online or on-campus, and some of the programs are more affordable than they’ve ever been. Now may be the time for you to take the next step toward bettering yourself.

Jordan Meeks
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.