Find the Right PhD Program
Our list of the best online PhD programs is designed to help students become more familiar with the entire process of receiving a higher degree online. This list should not only help a prospective student consider their academic field, but also consider the time and money they must invest in achieving this degree. Please use our list below to help you answer questions about your potential higher degree.
Whether you wish to enhance your career prospects or better your education, an online PhD allows students a great deal of flexibility in their time commitments and, sometimes, requirements. In order to provide you with the best selection of PhD and Doctorate programs online, we have examined the cost, time commitment, national and international rankings, availability of financial aid, and special, unique offerings from the college that might make a student’s time there worthwhile. All of these colleges and universities have institutional accreditation by respected organizations, and therefore will help students advance their employment and academic prospects. Additionally, earning a terminal degree drastically increases the degree holder’s prospects of finding a well-paying job, which helps pay off any remaining student loans not covered or reduced by financial assistance.
Table of Contents:
2016 Top Online PhD Programs
- Degree Title/area: Doctor of Management (business)
- Location: College Park, Maryland (northeast border of Washington, DC)
- Ranking: US News: #57 National Universities, Princeton Review: #20 Green Colleges
- Cost: $52,176 annually
- Time to Finish: The program requires a minimum of 48 credits to earn the degree, divided into 36 credits academic courses, and 12 credits of dissertation courses. No transfer credits are accepted. Students have a maximum of 7 years to complete the program, but they earn the degree when they have completed the required credits and successfully defended their dissertation.
- In-Person Requirement: One mandatory residency, lasting two days, for each term enrolled.
- Admission Reqs: Successful completion of the prerequisite course, DMGT 600, before offered official admission to the DM program.
- Degree Title/area: Doctor of Philosophy in Human Capital Management (business)
- Location: Bellevue, Nebraska
- Ranking: US News: #85 Best Online Graduate Business Programs (Excluding MBA)
- Cost: $695 per credit hour
- Time to Finish: 58 credit hours, although some credits may be transferred. Students generally take 4 years to complete their degree.
- In-Person Requirement: 2 residencies total
- Admission Reqs: Must have a graduate degree from an accredited university, with a minimum 3.0 GPA on graduation. Because this degree is designed for working professionals, 5 or more years of professional experience in the potential degree field are required.
Engineering & Computer Science
- Degree Title/area: Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science (technology)
- Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
- Ranking: Diversity: Issues of Higher Education ranks Nova as one of the top most diverse universities in the country.
- Cost: $39,066.00 total
- Time to Finish: 64 credits minimum, along with dissertation, required to graduate. Once that is achieved, students may graduate at any time.
- In-Person Requirement: Nova Southeastern University groups online students together by region, so that they can meet on weekends. This is called the Cluster Format, and students benefit from working together in addition to being on their own to study.
- Admission Reqs: Master’s in Computer Science or related field; or equivalent experience with higher degree in computer-related field such as programming languages.
- Degree Title/area: Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering (technology)
- Location: Houghton, Michigan
- Ranking: US News: #123 National Universities, US News: #60 Top Public Schools
- Cost: 3-credit semester long course costs approximately $3,025.
- Time to Finish: Students must complete all coursework, including on-campus requirements, within 5 years.
- In-Person Requirement: 2/3rds of non-research courses must be completed on campus.
- Admission Reqs: Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering with a 3.3 GPA, or degree in related field. Additionally, GRE scores of 162 Quantitative, 153 Verbal.
- Degree Title/area: Doctor of Education in Professional Counseling (counseling)
- Ranking: US News: #87 Regional Universities (South), US News: #42 Top Public Schools
- Cost: $312 per credit hour
- Time to Finish: 2 years total, two courses per term
- In-Person Requirement: Some residency requirements.
- Admission Reqs: At least one previous degree related to counseling, with a 3.5 GPA on the 4 point scale. GRE with minimum scores of 1000; see the school’s website for further details on GRE scores and changes over the years. Minimum of three years of counseling experience in private or public schools, community agency, university, hospital, or private practice.
- Degree Title/area: Doctor of Health Science in Rehabilitation Sciences (healthcare)
- Location: Four campuses total: three in Philadelphia, and one in Sacramento
- Ranking: US News: #99 National Universities, US News: #8 Most Innovative Schools
- Cost: $860 per credit hour
- Time to Finish: 48 credit hours; most students take between 3 and 5 years to complete their degree, with many part-time options.
- In-Person Requirement: Some in-person sessions
- Admission Reqs: Admission requirements are strenuous in the medical field, so Drexel, like many universities both online and in person, requires degrees and licenses. The online program requires a master’s or clinical doctoral professional degree in physical therapy or a related field such as MPT, MSPT, MOT, DPT, or OTD, with at least a 3.0 GPA on the 4.0 scale, as well as a current US or Canadian professional license to practice.
- Degree Title/area: Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP-nursing)
- Location: Lehigh County, Pennsylvania
- Ranking: US News: #71 among Regional Universities (North); #53 Best Colleges for Veterans
- Cost: $1,090 per credit hour
- Time to Finish: 13 courses plus scholarly project and portfolio; 525 residency hours; 38 – 45 credits. Should take about 2 years to complete the degree.
- In-Person Requirement: Each new cohort is in residence on-campus for four days in August for orientation and an introduction to the first two courses. For the final semester, students meet on-campus to defend their scholarly project.
- Admission Reqs: Bachelor’s and Master’s from ACEN or CCNE accredited institution with at least a 3.3 GPA on the 4.0 scale; additionally, current nursing license, RN.
- Degree Title/area: Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP-nursing)
- Location: Marion, Indiana
- Ranking: Niche.com: #1 Best College Dorms in Indiana, and #1 Best Colleges with No Application Fee in Indiana, US News: #30 Regional Universities (Midwest); #12 Best Value Schools
- Cost: $1,000 per credit hour
- Time to Finish: 31 credits total, which most students complete in 2 to 3 years.
- In-Person Requirement: Students are required to participate fully in three one-week onsite residencies in Marion, Indiana. These residencies are five days in length, Monday through Friday. Students are expected to be in attendance throughout the residency and are not allowed an absence from required workshops, events, or class sessions that are scheduled during the residency.
- Admission Reqs: master’s in nursing from accredited university with at least a 3.25 GPA on a 4.0 scale; current RN license, and/or APN license; Satisfactory completion of a graduate level course in statistics (grade of B or higher).
- Degree Title/area: Doctorate in Human and Organizational Psychology (psychology)
- Location: main campus is located in the San Francisco Bay Area, California
- Ranking: Best Graduate Programs.com: #162 for Graduate Degree Programs in California; #109 Psychology Graduate Programs in California
- Cost: $700 per semester credit
- Time to Finish: 51 credits total, which most students complete over 3 to 4 years
- In-Person Requirement: No in-person requirements to receive a degree
- Admission Reqs: Master’s degree from an accredited university with at least a 3.4 GPA
- Degree Title/area: Doctor of Public Administration (social sciences)
- Location: Valdosta, Georgia
- Ranking: US News: #76 Regional Universities (South), #35 Top Public Schools
- Cost: $32,228 for 2 terms
- Time to Finish: Students generally take 3 years to complete the program, but they have 7 years maximum to complete their studies.
- In-Person Requirement: 2 onsite residencies, 2 days each (Friday and Saturday)
- Admission Reqs: To apply for this degree program, students must have taken the GRE with scores 295 [1000 old] on the verbal and quantitative portions, or 153 [500 old] on the verbal and 5.0 on the analytical writing section. They must also have a master’s degree with a 3.0 GPA.
- Degree Title/area: Doctor of Education (teaching)
- Location: Baltimore, Maryland
- Ranking: US News: #10 National Universities, #20 Best Value Universities, #9 Best Colleges for Veterans
- Cost: $740 per credit hour
- Time to Finish: 54 credit hours, which are completed over 3 years.
- In-Person Requirement: 3 day residency on campus each July, one for each of the three years.
- Admission Reqs: Master’s Degree from an accredited university consisting of at least 36 credits, with a 3.0 GPA. However, there is no GRE requirement.
The Need for an Online PhD
Statistically, Americans work longer hours than previous decades, which means that more workers seek to increase their skills but have less free time to do so. With the advent of online education, American workers and students sought to expand their knowledge and career horizons while simultaneously working full time or caring for their families. Online technology has kept up with the demand of online education, and now students not only avail themselves of chat rooms and shared documents, but high-quality online video tutorials and video chats. Online degrees are increasing not only in popularity, but in legitimacy; not only has the technology improved, but the number of accredited and recognized schools offering fully online degrees and supplemental online classes has gone up in the last ten years.
One of the most important metrics when choosing an online degree is accreditation. Dozens of accredited schools offer online degrees, but several non-accredited schools also offer online education. While a student might find value in a non-accredited class, employers rarely find these degrees valid. Accreditation is offered by specific organizations which examine the value of a program or institution in meeting its educational goals. Our list of colleges and universities all have institutional accreditation, not just programatic accreditation. This is particularly valuable for terminal degrees such as PhD’s and Doctorates. Please read our page on accreditation for more information.
Terminal degrees indicate mastery of a subject, allowing the degree earner to pursue teaching positions, publications, and a wide range of other positions which involve a combination of research and practical application. However, these programs can be expensive on their own, especially if the degree seeker begins their pursuit from a bachelor’s degree level – many PhD or Doctorate programs require a master’s degree, which can be earned in the course of the PhD, or special licenses or certificates. Fortunately, there are funding opportunities that can help degree seekers and candidates. In some cases, employers may offer financial assistance, because it is also to their benefit to have more educated and experienced workers. In many cases, students qualify for the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which allows students federal dollars to help them continue self-improvement. Pell Grants are another source of government funding which help low income prospective students. Many universities and colleges also offer college fellowships, which benefit students working on terminal degrees, and many doctoral candidates may work as teaching assistants or in other positions in the college to help defray some of their tuition. We have compiled a list of scholarships that can help PhD and Doctorate candidates, so please look at our list here.
Workers with PhD’s or other terminal degrees typically earn above $50,000 per year, although this vastly differs depending on degree field. Completion of a terminal degree differs greatly between institutions, as well as in-person requirements, so that can dictate which program a student ultimately chooses to pursue. Cost may also be a factor. However, overall institutional value is a combination of finances, time, and the overall benefits to the student; we believe it is important for a student to take into account the quality of the professors, accreditation, location, and other aspects of the terminal degree program, in addition to the short-term issues of money and time commitment.