The latest survey on distance learning conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics shows that 75% of undergraduate students have taken at least one online course and 44% take all classes online. Online college classes are becoming increasingly popular, and these classes are not just limited to undergraduate programs. Depending on where you attend school and which major you select, you may be able to earn a master’s degree or even a Ph.D. online as well.

In this guide, we will show you the benefits of earning a Ph.D. online, review some of the top schools that offer such programs, and go over everything else you need to know about reaching the highest level of education in your field through online classes.

Benefits of Earning a Ph.D.

The most obvious benefit of getting a Ph.D. is that it will likely increase your earning potential. According to a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) study, the average Ph.D. holder earns $1,909 per week. Over the course of a year that adds up to an annual salary of $99,268. This is significantly more than the average income for those who only have a master’s degree ($1,574 per week) or bachelor’s degree ($1,334 per week), and it’s over twice as much as the average income for those who only have a high school diploma ($809 per week).

This BLS study also reveals another benefit of earning a Ph.D. The average unemployment rate for workers with this level of education is just 1.5%, which is lower than the rate for workers with only a master’s degree (2.6%), bachelor’s degree (3.5%), or high school diploma (6.2%). If you want to increase your income and reduce your unemployment risk as much as possible, you should strongly consider getting a Ph.D.

Benefits of Earning Your Degree Online

Online degree programs are an excellent option for college students with children, a full-time job, or any other responsibilities outside of school that demand a lot of time and energy. Compared to in-person classes, online classes are much more flexible, making it easier to find time to earn your degree.

Also, some schools charge less for online courses than in-person courses. You should be able to save money by choosing online classes even if there isn’t any direct per-credit discount. Otherwise, you would probably need to pay for on-campus housing or commute to and from in-person lectures.

100% online vs. hybrid programs

It should be noted that in-person and 100% online programs aren’t the only formats available for earning a Ph.D. There’s also a third option, hybrid programs, which offer a combination of in-person and online learning.

For example, suppose you were enrolled in a hybrid Ph.D. in Nursing program. In that case, you may be required to participate in research activities on campus in addition to completing your online coursework. Some degree programs aren’t available in a 100% online format. If you plan to pursue jobs that you can’t do entirely on a computer, such as an archaeologist or conservation scientist, your only options for earning your Ph.D. may be in-person and hybrid programs.

Even if 100% online programs are available for your chosen career path, you may consider attending a hybrid program instead. While this will require occasional trips to campus, sacrificing some convenience may be worth it if you believe participating in hands-on learning activities will help you learn course materials and prepare for your career.

Synchronous vs. asynchronous classes

There are two types of online classes: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous classes allow you to attend lectures remotely, ask instructors questions, and interact with other students in real time. In contrast, asynchronous classes involve completing on-demand assignments, quizzes, and tests at your own pace.

Online students who are interested in replicating the “traditional” college experience as much as possible should seek out synchronous classes. However, if you’re trying to fit a Ph.D. program into an already-busy schedule and your highest priority is flexibility, then asynchronous classes would be a better option for you.

Which Ph.D. Majors Are Available Online?

It’s worth noting that some Ph.D. majors are available in an online format more often than others. Specifically, the following online Ph.D. programs are offered by an especially high number of schools:

Where Can I Earn a Ph.D. Online?

It’s also worth noting that some schools offer more online Ph.D. programs than others. Many colleges don’t offer any at all, while some offer a variety of these programs. The best schools for earning a Ph.D. online include:

  • Azusa Pacific University: This private Christian institution offers hybrid Ph.D. programs for the fields of higher education and rehabilitation, and movement science. Azusa Pacific University stands out as a particularly military-friendly school, as they offer benefits such as active-duty tuition assistance, ROTC scholarships, and prior learning credits for military experience.
  • Nova Southeastern University: There are nine online Ph.D. programs available at Nova Southeastern University, including 100% online programs for computer science, criminal justice, and health sciences.
  • Keiser University: This school also offers a strong selection of online Ph.D. programs, with options available for psychology, criminal justice, educational leadership, and several other majors.
  • University of Florida: Some of the most prestigious colleges in the country offer online Ph.D. programs. The University of Florida, currently ranked as the 29th best school out of 443 national universities by U.S. News, provides online options for Ph.D. in Classical Civilization and Ph.D. in Latin and Roman Studies.
  • Texas Tech University: There are eight 100% online Ph.D. programs available at Texas Tech’s School of Education. This university also offers a few hybrid programs, including Ph.D. in Systems and Engineering Management and Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric.

How to Get a Ph.D. Online

Assuming you have already selected a major and earned a master’s degree in your area of study, you can follow the steps below to get your Ph.D. online:

  1. Determine Your Needs: Are you only interested in a 100% online program, or are you willing to meet the on-campus requirements of a hybrid program? Do you prefer the interactivity of synchronous classes or the flexibility of asynchronous classes? Before you even start looking for a program, you should make sure that you fully understand what you’re looking for first.
  2. Find A Matching Ph.D. Program: Once you’ve found an online Ph.D. program that meets your needs, you’ll need to confirm that you meet all of the program’s requirements as a student. For example, many programs require applicants to have a GPA of at least 3.0 in their master’s degree program. Most PhD programs require students to submit official transcripts from both their bachelor’s and master’s programs. You may need to submit GRE test scores as well.
  3. Enroll In Your Courses: After you are accepted into an online Ph.D. program, be sure to enroll in each course as soon as possible — otherwise, you might not get a chance to join before all the slots are full, and this can end up delaying how many semesters it will take for you to earn your Phd. In most cases, a faculty member or program coordinator will advise you on which courses to enroll in, especially in the first few terms of the program. They can also let you know if there are any prerequisite courses or orientations you need to complete before starting the program.
  4. Complete Your Assignments: Depending on your program, your courses may involve live lectures on video chat platforms, on-demand educational videos, online assignments and quizzes that you can complete at your own pace, and other remote learning activities. If you’re in a hybrid program, on-campus activities such as seminars, labs, and in-person exams may also be involved. The cornerstone of PhD education is a dissertation or capstone project. Students complete these research-focused projects independently under the guidance of a faculty member. The dissertation process includes several steps, such as topic proposal and approval, research, writing, and defending your dissertation. Working on this project will take up the bulk of your time in your PhD program, and a successful dissertation defense is critical to earning your PhD. In order to succeed in an online PhD program, students should be prepared to dedicate a lot of time and energy to their dissertation, complete other assignments on time, and maintain a high GPA.
  5. Interested in a degree instead?

    Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.