Best Online Ph.D. Programs

Updated September 21, 2022 | Reese Lopez

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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

A T Still University of Health Sciences

School Information
Location Kirksville, Missouri
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Concentrations Available: Doctor of health administration - healthcare law, medical care economics, and organizational theory; doctor of medical science - education, leadership, and professional

Accredited By: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

ATSU, located in Kirksville, Missouri, offers healthcare-focused online doctorates in athletic training, education in health professions, health administration, health sciences, medical science, and nursing practice. Learners can also pursue post-professional doctorates in audiology and physical therapy.

Admission requirements vary by program, but most require a master's degree from an accredited institution and a minimum 2.5-3.0 GPA. Applicants to some programs need board certification, state licensure, and leadership or work experience.

Distance learners can access online academic advising, technology help, and research support. Employees of partner organizations who enroll in the College of Graduate Health Studies receive a 20% tuition discount.

Available Scholarships: Graduate Health Professions Scholarship

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Amridge University

School Information
Location Montgomery, Alabama
Graduation Rate 33%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

Amridge is a Christian-based institution based in Montgomery, Alabama. The university offers online doctoral programs in higher education administration, interdisciplinary studies, marriage and family therapy, ministry in family therapy, organizational leadership and management, and professional counseling. Learners can also pursue theology degrees in ministry and biblical studies.

Applicants to the school's doctoral programs submit graduate transcripts from an accredited institution and a professional or academic writing sample. Candidates participate in a phone interview.

Amridge delivers online coursework through Canvas. Students can view live-streamed chapel sessions. Active-duty military members and veterans, military spouses, and first responders receive discounted tuition rates.

Available Scholarships: Corporate Alliance Award, Dr. Rex and Barbara Turner Ministerial Award

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Andrews University

School Information
Location Berrien Springs, Michigan
Admission Rate 67%
Graduation Rate 59%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 27% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Concentrations Available: Doctor of physical therapy - orthopedic manual therapy

Accredited By: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

A Seventh-day Adventist institution based in Berrien Springs, Michigan, Andrews delivers online doctoral degrees in several fields. Doctoral candidates can study educational leadership, higher education administration, leadership, nursing practice, or physical therapy. Andrews also offers a doctoral degree in education, curriculum, and instruction.

Applicants to most of the university's doctoral programs need a master's degree and a minimum 3.3 GPA. Some programs require only a bachelor's degree. Applicants may need to submit GRE scores or a writing sample. Some programs require licensure, certification, or professional experience.

Andrews delivers online coursework through Learning Hub. Distance learners participate in discussions through videoconferencing. Online students can access digital library databases and resources, a virtual writing center and math tutoring, academic advising, and technology support.

Available Scholarships: School of Graduate Studies Scholarship

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Ball State University

School Information
Location Muncie, Indiana
Admission Rate 77%
Graduation Rate 67%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 44% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Public

Concentrations Available: Doctor of education - adult and community, administration and supervision, elementary, and special education

Accredited By: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? No

Located in Muncie, Indiana, Ball State offers more than 100 fully online programs, including a doctoral program in education. Concentration options include adult and community education, educational administration and supervision, and elementary education. Students can also pursue a Ph.D. in elementary education or a mostly online Ph.D. in special education.

Courses are primarily asynchronous. Learners interact with professors and peers through email, discussion boards, and blogs. Distance learners can access online orientation, a help desk, a technology store, and academic support.

Doctoral applicants need a master's degree from an accredited school and a minimum 3.2 GPA. Some programs require prerequisite coursework.

Available Scholarships: Margaret Griner Hoffmann Scholarship, Inclusive Excellence Graduate Scholarship

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Barry University

School Information
Location Miami, Florida
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 35%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 16% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Concentrations Available: N/A

Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

A Catholic school based in Miami Shores, Florida, Barry delivers online doctorates in occupational therapy and transformational school leadership.

The post-professional online doctorate in occupational therapy program requires 36 credits, including a capstone project and experiential practicum. Applicants need a master's degree, a minimum 3.2 GPA, and certification as a registered occupational therapist. Applicants submit GRE scores. New students can receive up to six credits for submitting a portfolio of work experience.

The 60-credit doctor of transformational school leadership program features synchronous and asynchronous online classes. Degree-seekers complete a dissertation addressing a problem in their school or learning community. Applicants need a master's degree and a minimum 3.25 GPA.

Available Scholarships: Jose Marti Scholarship Challenge Grant Fund, Florida Bright Futures

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Baylor University

School Information
Location Waco, Texas
Admission Rate 45%
Graduation Rate 78%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Concentrations Available: Doctor of nursing practice - adult-gerontology acute care, executive nurse leadership, family nurse practitioner, neonatal nurse practitioner, nurse-midwifery, and pediatric nurse practitioner; doctor of education - learning and organizational change

Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

Based in Waco, Texas, Baylor delivers academic programs from a Christian perspective. The university offers online doctoral programs in education, nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and social work.

Baylor offers doctoral programs in fully online and hybrid formats. Some programs feature on-campus immersions. The university helps learners secure worksites and preceptors for programs requiring hands-on experience.

Depending on the degree and track, admission requirements may include a bachelor's or master's degree, a minimum 3.0 GPA, state licensure and/or board certification, and work experience. Some programs require GRE or placement exam scores.

Available Scholarships: School of Nursing Scholarships, Ph.D. in social work funding

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Bethel University

School Information
Location Saint Paul, Minnesota
Admission Rate 79%
Graduation Rate 73%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Concentrations Available: Doctor of education - higher education leadership and K-12 administration; doctor of nursing practice - dual master's in strategic leadership or MBA

Accredited By: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

A Baptist university located in St. Paul, Minnesota, Bethel offers online doctoral degrees in nursing practice and education. Doctor of nursing practice students complete coursework fully online and practicum hours in their community.

The school's doctor of education programs require annual one-week intensives on campus. Learners complete a dissertation, comprehensive exam, and portfolio review. The Ed.D. in K-12 administration program features an internship.

DNP applicants need a college-level statistics course and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Candidates not pursuing the dual degree need a master's in nursing and advanced practice nurse credentials. The Ed.D. program requires a master's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Available Scholarships: George Floyd Scholarship

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Boston University

School Information
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 19%
Graduation Rate 88%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Accredited By: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

Located in Boston, Massachusetts, BU offers online doctorates in music education and occupational therapy. The online music education doctorate requires a one-week residency and a dissertation.

The entry-level doctor of occupational therapy program features on-campus and online instruction, fieldwork, and a capstone. Post-professional occupational therapy students work with a faculty mentor and complete a doctoral project. BU delivers program coursework primarily online.

Distance learners can access an online bookstore, digital library services, and online tutoring. Depending on the program, applicants need a bachelor's or master's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Music education applicants need three years of music teaching experience. The post-professional occupational therapy program requires board certification.

Available Scholarships: College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Scholarships

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Brandman University

School Information
Location Irvine, California
Admission Rate 89%
Graduation Rate 60%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 96% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Concentrations Available: Doctor of nursing practice - family nurse practitioner and psychiatric mental health

Accredited By: WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

Formerly Brandman University, UMass Global offers doctor of education and doctor of nursing practice programs. The online doctoral programs feature online and on-campus instruction.

With mentor support, Ed.D. students complete a dissertation and field experience. Learners attend cohort-based immersions in Irvine, California, or other campus locations. Applicants need a master's degree, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and leadership experience.

DNP-seekers can pursue a bridge program for BSN-holders or a post-master's track. Enrollees complete clinical experiences at the Irvine campus. Admission requires a nursing degree and a state license. Applicants to the BSN-to-DNP program submit GRE scores.

Available Scholarships: The Chancellor's Doctoral Incentive Program

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Brenau University

School Information
Location Gainesville, Georgia
Admission Rate 58%
Graduation Rate 46%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 60% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fast Facts

School Type: Private

Concentrations Available: Doctor of education - all-but-dissertation completion, elementary education, leadership in higher education, middle grades education, and teaching and learning

Accredited By: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

Do Distance Learners Pay In-State Tuition? Yes

Based in Gainesville, Georgia, Brenau is a member of the Women's College Coalition. The university offers online doctor of education degrees with several pathways. Students progress through the program with a cohort. Coursework covers doctoral core topics, research and dissertation preparation, and a concentration area.

The elementary and middle grades tracks require a practicum. Middle grades specialists focus on math and science or language arts and social studies.

Applicants to the Ed.D. program need a master's degree, a minimum 3.25 GPA, and three years of relevant experience. The elementary and middle grades concentrations require a teaching license.

Available Scholarships: AARP Foundation Women's Scholarship

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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

Featured Online Ph.D Education Programs

Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

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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