Best Online Ph.D. Programs

Updated November 14, 2022

Doctoral programs prepare students to pursue high-level careers in academia, research, and the private sector. Online PhD programs offer excellent flexibility.

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Advance your career with a Doctorate Degree

A doctoral degree is the highest level of education students can complete. The degree demonstrates deep commitment and mastery of an academic discipline. Online doctoral programs are more advanced than master's programs. Candidates build comprehensive, highly specialized knowledge in one academic area. Learners may study fields such as law, psychology, or education.

Doctoral programs prepare students to pursue high-level careers in academia, research, and the private sector. Online Ph.D. programs offer greater flexibility than campus programs. Students can get an advanced education without relocating. Online doctoral programs also allow enrollees to continue their careers.

This guide offers an overview of online doctoral programs. Read on to learn about coursework, costs, and career prospects.

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Why Consider a Doctoral Program?

Online doctoral programs train learners to become experts in their fields. Students develop comprehensive skills and knowledge. Earning a Ph.D. prepares graduates to pursue their industry's most advanced careers. These careers often pay the highest salaries.

Ph.D. graduates can work as college professors, psychologists, or top executives. These professionals can earn $80,00 to over $100,00 annually. Pursuing an online Ph.D. can help students continue their current career while completing coursework. This allows them to earn an advanced degree without losing their salary.

Top Online Ph.D. Programs

How Much Does an Online Ph.D. Program Cost?

Tuition rates for online doctoral programs vary. Many factors can affect costs, including program length, available financial aid, and whether the school is private or public. Doctoral programs usually offer more financial assistance than master's programs. EducationData.org reports that the average cost of a doctoral degree is $114,300 as of July 2021.

Most students enrolled in online doctoral programs use some kind of financial aid. Learners should always consider the amount of funding an online Ph.D. offers.

Additional Online Student Fees

Students spend the most on tuition, but they should budget for other fees. Many online programs charge technology fees. Online students may need to pay graduation fees and other administrative expenses. Textbooks and class supplies can also add to expenses.

Some online programs include required campus visits. Students should plan for travel and lodging costs. Some graduates must pay professional licensure or certification fees to practice in their field.



Best Online Doctoral Programs

#1 Best Online Ph.D. Programs

A.T. Still University

  • Kirksville, MO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Headquartered in Kirksville, Missouri, A.T. Still University is a private institution. The school makes seven doctoral programs available online for distance learners. In order to apply for a doctoral program, applicants typically need a master's degree, but a bachelor's is enough for some programs.

The time commitment for a doctoral program is significant, typically 4-7 years. Though this can be a big undertaking, online coursework's flexibility helps.

For students who work full time or cannot relocate for school, this institution and its online programs are an attractive choice. Degree-seekers can complete all or the majority of these programs online, although in-person attendance might occasionally be required for components such as labs and special trainings.

Average Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
3,857
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#2 Best Online Ph.D. Programs

Amridge University

  • Montgomery, AL
  • 4 years
  • Online

Headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, Amridge University is a private institution. The school offers four of its doctoral programs online for long-distance learners. Applicants generally need a master's degree in order to apply to a doctoral program, but some programs accept applicants who only have a bachelor's.

Degree-seekers should anticipate a substantial time commitment, typically 4-7 years, since the doctorate is the highest degree in most fields. Online coursework is a flexible option that makes this commitment more manageable.

Learners with commitments that make them unable to relocate for school, such as working a full-time job, will find the online programs at this institution especially helpful. Degree-seekers can complete all or the majority of these programs online, although in-person attendance might occasionally be required for components such as labs and special trainings.

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,000
Out-of-state
$9,000
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
833
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#3 Best Online Ph.D. Programs

Andrews University

  • Berrien Springs, MI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

A private college, Andrews University has its main campus in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Through this school, distance learners can study in six doctoral programs. In order to apply for a doctoral program, applicants typically need a master's degree, but a bachelor's is enough for some programs.

Since the doctorate is the terminal degree for most fields, doctoral programs usually require a time commitment of 4-7 years. The flexibility that online coursework offers helps make this attainable.

For learners unable to relocate or who are working full-time jobs, the online programs this institution offers are great choices. Occasional visits to campus might be necessary to fulfill program components such as labs or other special training.

Average Tuition
In-state
$28,992
Out-of-state
$28,992
Retention Rate
87%
Admission Rate
67%
Students Enrolled
3,390
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
27% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#4 Best Online Ph.D. Programs

Ball State University

  • Muncie, IN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Headquartered in Muncie, Indiana, Ball State University is a public institution. The school makes nine doctoral programs available online for distance learners. While a master's degree is required by most doctoral programs for applicants, some require only a bachelor's.

Expect a substantial time commitment when pursuing a doctorate, as completing the terminal degree usually takes 4-7 years. This becomes more manageable with online coursework, which is typically flexible.

Online programs provide options for people who work full time or cannot relocate for school, making the institution an attractive choice for busy students. Some degree requirements, such as labs or special training, might require participants to visit campus occasionally.

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,358
Out-of-state
$26,138
Retention Rate
75%
Admission Rate
77%
Students Enrolled
22,443
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
44% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#5 Best Online Ph.D. Programs

Barry University

  • Miami, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Barry University, a private college, is located in Miami, Florida. The school is also accessible to distance learners, with four of its doctoral programs available online. A bachelor's degree is sufficient for admission to some programs, though most require a master's.

The time commitment for a doctoral program is significant, typically 4-7 years. This becomes more manageable with online coursework, which is typically flexible.

The institution's online doctoral programs are ideal for people with many commitments, students who work full time, and anyone who cannot relocate. Some degree requirements, such as labs or special training, might require participants to visit campus occasionally.

Average Tuition
In-state
$29,700
Out-of-state
$29,700
Retention Rate
65%
Admission Rate
51%
Students Enrolled
7,401
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
16% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#6 Best Online Ph.D. Programs

Baylor University

  • Waco, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Baylor University is a private university located in Waco, Texas. Online study is also possible at this institution, as it offers four doctoral programs online for distance learners. Learners who wish to apply for a doctoral program typically need a master's degree, although some programs only require a bachelor's. Students at this university generally pay about $1,676 per credit.

A doctorate, the terminal degree for most fields, generally takes 4-7 years to complete. As a more flexible alternative, online coursework can make this easier to manage.

These online programs make this institution a great choice for students that work full time or cannot relocate for school. Some schools might require occasional visits to the campus to complete degree requirements like labs or special training.

Average Tuition
In-state
$42,842
Out-of-state
$42,842
Retention Rate
88%
Admission Rate
45%
Students Enrolled
18,033
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#7 Best Online Ph.D. Programs

Bethel University

  • Saint Paul, MN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Headquartered in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Bethel University is a private institution. The school is also accessible to distance learners, with six of its doctoral programs available online. Applicants generally need a master's degree in order to apply to a doctoral program, but some accept applicants who only have a bachelor's. At the school, $426 is the average cost per credit.

Degree-seekers should anticipate a substantial time commitment, typically 4-7 years, since the doctorate is the highest degree in most fields. This commitment can be difficult, but the flexibility of online coursework makes it more manageable.

For students who work full time or cannot relocate for school, this institution and its online programs are an attractive choice. Occasional visits to campus might be necessary to fulfill program components such as labs or other special training.

Average Tuition
In-state
$38,300
Out-of-state
$38,300
Retention Rate
83%
Admission Rate
79%
Students Enrolled
4,005
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#8 Best Online Ph.D. Programs

Boston University

  • Boston, MA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Boston University is a private university located in Massachusetts. This institution makes four of its doctoral programs available for online study. Learners pursuing a doctorate generally need a master's degree, though some programs only require a bachelor's.

As the highest degree in most fields, doctoral programs require a substantial time commitment, typically in the range of 4-7 years. Online coursework is a flexible option that makes this commitment more manageable.

For students who work full time or cannot relocate for school, this institution and its online programs are an attractive choice. Labs and other special training might require degree-seekers to visit the campus on occasion.

Average Tuition
In-state
$54,720
Out-of-state
$54,720
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
19%
Students Enrolled
33,720
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

#9 Best Online Ph.D. Programs

Brandman University

  • Irvine, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Headquartered in Irvine, California, Brandman University is a private school. For off-campus learning, the institution offers six online doctoral programs. A master's degree is typically a prerequisite for application to doctoral programs, although some programs accept a bachelor's. A student at this university generally pays about $874 per credit.

The time commitment for a doctoral program is significant, typically 4-7 years. Though this can be a big undertaking, online coursework's flexibility helps.

For students who work full time or cannot relocate for school, this institution and its online programs are an attractive choice. Degree-seekers may need to visit the campus on occasion to fulfill requirements such as labs or special training.

Average Tuition
In-state
$12,000
Out-of-state
$12,000
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
89%
Students Enrolled
10,231
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
96% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#10 Best Online Ph.D. Programs

Brenau University

  • Gainesville, GA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

A private college, Brenau University is located in Gainesville, Georgia. Distance learners can study three doctoral programs online through the institution. Most doctoral programs require applicants to have a master's degree, but programs in some fields allow applicants with only a bachelor's. The cost of pursuing a degree at this institution is $816 per credit, on average.

Since a doctorate is the highest degree in most fields, completing one often takes 4-7 years. Though this can be a big undertaking, online coursework's flexibility helps.

The online doctoral programs this institution offers are perfect for those working full time or unable to relocate for school. Labs and other special training might require degree-seekers to visit the campus on occasion.

Average Tuition
In-state
$29,370
Out-of-state
$29,370
Retention Rate
52%
Admission Rate
58%
Students Enrolled
2,817
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
60% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Available Online Ph.D Programs

Learners who enroll in online Ph.D. programs develop specialized knowledge in one area of study. Students complete high-level courses that build a comprehensive understanding of their academic or professional discipline.

Most doctoral programs require heavy research. Learners complete courses dedicated to research design and methodologies. Doctoral programs expect students to complete their own research and contribute new knowledge to their field of study. Candidates typically complete a comprehensive, book-length dissertation that details their research into a specialized topic.

See below for three common online doctoral programs.

Ph.D. in English

A doctorate in English trains students as experts in the study and interpretation of literature. Ph.D. candidates study the history of literature and various approaches to its analysis and criticism. English graduates often teach at colleges. They may also pursue careers in writing, advertising, or communications.

Ph.D. in Psychology

A Ph.D. in psychology builds advanced knowledge of human behavior and the mind. Candidates explore specialized psychological approaches and research methods. Students typically specialize in one area of psychology, such as counseling or clinical psychology. With a Ph.D., psychologists can move into clinical practice, teaching, and scientific research.

Juris Doctor

Also known as a Doctor of Law, a Juris Doctor (JD) prepares candidates to practice law in the United States. JD programs cover major areas of the law and case history. Students specialize in one area, such as environmental law or constitutional law.

Career and Salary Outlook for Doctoral Degrees

Online Ph.D. programs prepare graduates for advanced positions in many career fields. Graduates can pursue academic or research careers. A doctorate can also lead to private sector careers. A Ph.D. can lead to high-paying careers with strong advancement potential.

See below for three common careers for graduates of online doctoral programs.

  • Postsecondary Teacher

    These professionals instruct students at colleges, universities, and community colleges. They may instruct both undergraduate and graduate students. College professors design lesson plans, teach classes, and evaluate student work. They also conduct research in their field.
  • Psychologist

    Psychologists study human behavior and cognitive processes. These professionals perform many different types of work. Clinical psychologists treat patients' mental health issues. They work with doctors, social workers, and other professionals. Research psychologists explore new methods and approaches to psychology that inform clinical practice.
  • Top Executive

    Executives direct businesses of all types and help organizations meet their goals. They often determine a company's overall direction. Executives take responsibility for organizational, strategic, and managerial practices. These professionals work with other executive staff members to oversee different departments.
CareerMedian Annual SalaryProjected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Postsecondary Teacher$80,56012%
Psychologist$82,1808%
Top Executive$107,6808%

Source: BLS

Frequently Asked Questions About Doctoral Degrees

What is the most common doctoral degree?

The most common doctoral degrees in the United States include law, medicine, and pharmacy. Other popular programs include dentistry, physical therapy, and educational administration.

How many years does it take to complete a doctoral degree?

Most doctoral degrees take 4-8 years to complete. Students with a master's degree in their field can sometimes earn a doctorate sooner.

What's the difference between a doctoral degree and a Ph.D.?

A Ph.D. is just one type of doctoral degree. Other common doctoral degrees include doctor of psychology, doctor of education, and doctor of pharmacy.

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