The 25 Best Colleges for Doctoral Degree Programs Online for 2018

By BCR Staff
July 2018

Doctoral degrees represent the highest level of education one can achieve in a certain area of study. Of course, not all doctorate programs are in medicine. In addition to MD programs, other types of degrees such as EdDs, DBAs, and PhDs, for example, can be pursued in a wide range of subjects such as education, business, criminal justice, computer science, and more. More and more colleges and universities are offering doctoral degrees via distance education. In this ranking, we explore the top 25 universities with online doctoral degrees.

Rating and Ranking Methodology
Tuition Points:

  • Under $30,000—1 point
  • Under $25,000—2 points
  • Under $20,000—3 points
  • Under $15,000—4 points
  • Under $10,000—5 points
  • Under $5,000—6 points

US News and World Report Recognition (Highest Ranking at the Graduate Level)

  • Top 5—6 points
  • Top 10— 5 points
  • Top 25 —4 points
  • Top 50 —3 points
  • Top 75 —2 points
  • Top 100—1 point

Number of Online Doctoral Degrees Offered

  • More than 50—4 points
  • More than 25—3 points
  • More than 10— 2 points
  • More than 5 – 1 point

Ranking the Best Online Colleges for Doctoral Degree Programs

To develop this ranking of the 25 best colleges for doctoral degree programs, we began with an initial pool of over 60 schools. To narrow the pool, we applied the rating and ranking methodology above, using data from College Navigator, U.S. News & World Report, and each school’s website. In cases of a tie, the schools offering the more affordable online doctoral degrees received the higher rankings.

#25 –Union University

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 3
Website
Points: 8
Union University is one of the best online colleges for doctoral degrees in the areas of nursing and education. The school currently offers a NCATE-accredited Doctor of Education in Leadership in School Reform as well as an RN to DNP in Executive Leadership, and a Post-Masters DNP in Executive Leadership. Full and part-time options are available for some programs. It is important to note that Union University is a Christian school, and the curricula for its online doctoral offerings may reflect this status.
In-State Tuition: $8,000

#24 –University of Arkansas

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 4
Website
Points: 8
University of ArkansasFor the most part, the University of Arkansas has concentrated its online doctoral efforts in the areas of education and nursing. Current offerings include an online Doctor of Nursing Practice, EdD in Adult and Lifelong Learning, EdD in Educational Leadership, and EdD in Human Resource and Workforce Development Education. Although the EdD offerings require minimal campus visits, the DNP program is offered entirely online and features concentrations in family nurse practitioner, adult-geriatric acute care, and nurse practitioner.
In-State Tuition: $7,563

#23 –University of South Dakota

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 2
Website
Points: 8
University of South DakotaThe University of South Dakota’s School of Health Sciences is one of the leading schools with online doctoral degrees in the nation, and the university itself offers more than 40 completely online programs. Offerings at the doctoral level include a Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy, Doctor of Philosophy in Health Sciences, and Post-Professional Doctorate in Occupational Therapy. It is important to note that although most of the coursework for these programs can be completed online, some campus visits may be required for the purposes of orientations, dissertation training, dissertation defense, proctored exams, and more.
In-State Tuition: $7,553

#22 –Georgia Southern University

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 1
Website
Points: 8
Georgia Southern University offers a top online doctoral program through its School of Nursing and College of Health and Human Sciences. The Doctor of Nursing Practice is an 8-semester post-masters offering designed for full-time working nurses. Optional cognates include public health, epidemiology, business, and nursing informatics. Students are expected to take 2-3 courses per semester, and one on-campus, week-long intensive is required during the summer.
In-State Tuition: $6,636

#21 –New Mexico State University

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 4
Website
Points: 8
New Mexico State University offers top-ranked online doctoral programs in the areas of education and nursing, including both a Doctor of Education and Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership as well as a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and a Ph.D. in Nursing. It is important to note that these are technically hybrid programs, meaning some campus visits will be required for the purposes of residencies and proctored exams.
In-State Tuition: $4,390

#20 –Creighton University

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 6
Website
Points: 9
Known as one of the best online schools for doctorate degrees, particularly in the areas of business and education, Creighton University offers nearly a dozen online doctoral degrees as well as numerous online graduate certificates. Specific programs include the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), EdD in Interdisciplinary Leadership, OTD in Occupational Therapy, and Doctor of Pharmacy. There are multiple start dates for some programs, making it easy for students to begin their doctoral studies. Some campus visits are required, though.
In-State Tuition: $15,300

#19 –University of Kansas

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 3
Website
Points: 9
The University of Kansas offers affordable online doctoral degrees in healthcare and nursing, including an online OTD in Occupational Therapy, an online DNP in Nursing, and an online Ph.D. in Nursing. The online DNP is a particularly flexible option, including specialty areas in Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse-Midwife, and Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. Some synchronous elements are required for the school’s online doctoral programs, meaning students may have to log in at scheduled times.
In-State Tuition: $9,716

#18 –West Virginia University

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 3
Website
Points: 9
West Virginia University offers three affordable online doctoral degrees: a BSN to DNP, a Doctor of Nursing Practice, and an EdD in Special Education. Coursework for these programs is delivered via live online sessions, meaning students are required to log in at certain times. Residencies are also required. Online doctoral students have the option of completing degree requirements on a part-time or full-time basis.
In-State Tuition: $9,450

#17 –University of Missouri

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 9
Website
Points: 9
As one of the best online colleges for doctoral degrees in the United States, the University of Missouri offers online doctorate and Ph.D. programs from various schools and departments, including the renowned Sinclair School of Nursing and UM’s College of Education. Specific offerings include a Ph.D. in Art Education, Ph.D. in Architectural Studies, DNP in Family Nurse Practitioner, and EdD in Educational Leadership. Prospective students should be advised that minimal campus visits may be required in addition to online coursework.
In-State Tuition: $8,640

#16 –Ball State University

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 4
Website
Points: 9
ball-state-universityBall State University is one of the best online colleges for doctoral degrees in education. U.S. News & World Report ranks the school #36 in its list of top online graduate education programs. Ball State’s doctoral students can pursue one of three EdD tracks: Adult and Community Education, Educational Administration, and Supervision, and Higher Education and Community College Leadership. Minimal campus visits may be required for some tracks. The university is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education to award these online doctorate degrees.
In-State Tuition: $8,554

#15 –University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 2
Website
Points: 9
The University of Nebraska- Lincoln is one of the best online colleges for doctoral degrees in education. U.S. News & World Report recently recognized the university’s online graduate education program as the twelfth best in the nation. The School’s Office of Graduate Studies offers both a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Higher Education and an EdD in P-12 School Leadership. Both programs require on-campus seminars. UNL also offers numerous online graduate certificates.
In-State Tuition: $7,518

#14 –University of Colorado-Denver

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 3
Website
Points: 9
The University of Colorado-Denver is home to over 450 online courses and numerous online degree programs, including top online doctoral degree programs. Offerings include an online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing, and Doctor of Pharmacy as well as a hybrid Doctor of Education in Leadership for Educational Equity. Proctored exams are available for these programs, but students may also opt to take exams online. U.S. News & World Report has ranked UC-Denver’s online graduate education programs in the top 100 programs in the nation.
In-State Tuition: $6,714

#13 –Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 3
Website
Points: 9
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center has positioned itself as one of the best online colleges for doctoral degrees in healthcare and nursing. U.S. News & World Report has ranked its online graduate nursing program in the top 50 in the nation. Currently, the school offers a Doctor of Science in Physical Therapy degree from its School of Health Professions and a BSN to DNP and Doctor of Nursing Practitioner degree from its School of Nursing. Prospective students should keep in mind that these programs may include on-campus “executive sessions.”
In-State Tuition: $5,724

#12 –University of Nevada-Reno

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 1
Website
Points: 9
The University of Nevada- Reno is nationally recognized as one of the best online schools for doctorate degrees in nursing. The university’s distinguished Orvis School of Nursing offers an online Post-Masters Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) that is available entirely online as well as an online BSN to DNP program that is offered primarily online. Specialty tracks are available for each of these programs. Online doctorate in nursing students are expected to attend a 2-day on-campus orientation.
In-State Tuition: $4,842

#11 –University of South Carolina

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 4
Website
Points: 10
The University of South Carolina has been nationally recognized as one of the best online colleges for doctoral degrees in education; U.S. News & World Report ranks the school’s online graduate education programs in the top 100 compared to similar offerings across the country. USC’s doctoral students can pursue a Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction with concentrations in Curriculum Studies and Educational Technology. The programs take 36 months to complete, and course delivery is asynchronous.
In-State Tuition: $12,854

#10 –Arizona State University

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 3
Website
Points: 10
Arizona State University is home to over 150 online degree programs including three doctoral programs: the Doctor of Behavioral Health (Clinical track), Doctor of Behavioral Health (Management track), and the Doctor of Education. Classes are accelerated and last seven and a half weeks. The university offers six different start dates per year, making it convenient for students to begin their online doctoral degree programs.
In-State Tuition: $11,240

#9 –Mississippi State University

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 7
Website
Points: 10
Mississippi State University is one of the best online schools for doctorate degrees, particularly in engineering and education. U.S. News & World Report ranks the school’s online graduate engineering program in the top 50 in the nation and its online graduate education program in the top 100. Specific offerings include a Doctor of Philosophy in Community College Leadership, a Doctor of Philosophy in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Industrial and Systems Engineering. It is important to note that these online doctoral programs may require minimal visits to campus.
In-State Tuition: $8,208

#8 –University of North Dakota

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 15
Website
Points: 10
The University of North Dakota has been nationally recognized as one of the best online colleges for doctoral degrees, particularly in education and engineering. Specific program offerings include a DNP in Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering, an EdD in Educational Leadership, and a Ph.D. in Petroleum Engineering. Accelerated options are available, allowing students to earn some doctoral degrees within just two years. U.S. News & World Report has also named the University of North Dakota one of the most innovative schools in the country.
In-State Tuition: $7,688

#7 –Texas A&M University-Commerce

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 4
Website
Points: 10
The top online doctoral programs from Texas A&M University-Commerce are offered through the university’s College of Education and Human Services and College of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Art. The school offers one completely online doctoral program—the Doctor of Education in Educational Administration—as well as three blended learning programs. These blended options include the Doctor of Education in Higher Education, the Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Psychology, and the Doctor of Philosophy in English. Doctoral students may be asked to complete an oral examination and/or dissertation.
In-State Tuition: $3,630

#6 –University of Florida

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 9
Website
Points: 11
University of Florida Top Online Bachelor's in Sports ManagementThe University of Florida has been lauded as one of the best online colleges for doctoral degrees in education, but it offers advanced degrees in other subject areas as well. Some of the university’s doctoral offerings include the Ph.D. in Classical Civilization, Doctor of Nursing Practice, EdD in Educational Technology, and Ph.D. in Latin and Roman Studies. UF is home to many other online programs as well, including bachelors and masters degrees in subjects such as education, nursing, liberal arts, sciences, and public health.
In-State Tuition: $10,770

#5 –University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 2
Website
Points: 11
The University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill is home to 19 online degree and certificate programs, two of which are online doctoral offerings. These programs include an Executive DrPh in Health Leadership and a Transitional Doctoral Program in Physical Therapy. The affordable online doctoral degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill are offered through the Center for Continuing Education where over 1,000 students are enrolled per year.
In-State Tuition: $9,943

#4 –Clemson University

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 3
Website
Points: 11
Clemson University is well-known as one of the best online schools for doctorate degrees. Doctoral offerings include a Ph.D. in Healthcare Genetics; a Ph.D. in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management; and a Ph.D. in Rhetoric, Communication, and Information Design. Numerous online graduate certification programs are also available from the university. It is important to note that some online doctoral offerings may require minimal campus visits for the purpose of residencies and faculty mentorship.
In-State Tuition: $9,226

#3 –Sam Houston State University

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 2
Website
Points: 11
Sam Houston State University is home to a top online doctoral degree in education: the EdD in Developmental Educational Administration. The program is fully online and interdisciplinary, including courses such as Advanced Learning Theory in Developmental Education, Applied Leadership in Higher Education, and Methods of Educational Leadership, for example. Students follow a cohort model as they complete their coursework, and they can earn their degree within three and a half years. U.S. News & World Report ranks SHSU’s online graduate education program in the top 30 in the nation.
In-State Tuition: $5,391

#2 –Indiana University-Bloomington

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 6
Website
Points: 12
Indiana University-Bloomington offers affordable online doctoral degrees in education, public health, and health sciences. These programs include an EdD in Instructional Technology; Doctor of Nursing Practice; Doctor of Public Health- Global Leadership; and EdD in Literacy, Culture and Language Education. Most of these programs can be completed entirely online with no required visits to campus. US News & World Report has ranked the university in the top 50 schools for online graduate education programs.
In-State Tuition: $8,956

#1 –Liberty University

Number of Online Doctoral Programs: 52
Website
Points: 13
As one of the best online schools for doctorate degrees in the nation, Liberty University offers terminal degrees in subject areas such as behavioral sciences, nursing, education, business, divinity, and more. Specific program offerings include a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision, Doctor of Strategic Leadership, Doctor of Ministry, and Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration, for example. Coursework for these programs is delivered asynchronously, meaning students can work at their own pace with no scheduled log-in times. Liberty has received the highest accreditation available from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCC).
In-State Tuition: $8,217