Why This Matters

  • EARN $1,909 PER WEEK ON AVERAGE WITH A PHD

    According to a 2021 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, individuals with a doctoral degree earn, on average, $335 more per week than those with a master’s degree and $575 more per week than those with a bachelor’s degree.

  • UNEMPLOYMENT RATE FOR WORKERS WITH A PHD IS ONLY 1.5%

    Individuals with a PhD enjoy the lowest unemployment rate of all workers in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their advanced skills and knowledge make them sought-after by employers.

  • NEED FOR COLLEGE PROFESSORS TO GROW 12% BY 2031

    Many people who earn a PhD do so to further their careers in post-secondary education. A doctorate is a common prerequisite for tenure-track teaching positions and administrative roles at universities.

Our Research

This list features some of the best online PhD programs at top colleges across the country. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions.

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation as well as the student resources provided for online students. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of online PhD programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report among others to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

The Top 40 Online PhD Programs

Best PhD Programs 2023
01
Intelligent Pick
Azusa Pacific University
01
Best Research Institution
Nova Southeastern University
01
Best Communications PhD
University of North Dakota
01
Best Technology PhD
Capitol Technology University
01
Best Counseling PhD
Concordia University Irvine
01
Best Kinesiology PhD
Concordia University at Saint Paul
01
Best for Liberal Arts PhDs
University of Florida
01
Best Religion PhD
Regent University
01
Best Educational Leadership PhD
Keiser University
01
Best for Hybrid PhD Programs
Texas Tech University
01

Endicott College
01

Liberty University
01

The University of Alabama
01

Mississippi State University
01

Gonzaga University
01

Shenandoah University
01

University of South Carolina
01

Andrews University
01

Purdue University
01

University of the Cumberlands
01

The College of St. Scholastica
01

University of Missouri
01

University of Wisconsin System
01

Villanova University
01

Duquesne University
01

Wilkes University
01

Hampton University

What You Should Know About This Degree

Although all coursework for the listed programs can be completed online, some programs may require on-campus attendance for your dissertation defense or have an in-person practicum experience component. When selecting a program, check out its in-person requirements and make sure they fit into your schedule and budget.

When contemplating a doctorate degree, it’s important to determine if you want a PhD or a professional degree. Both are terminal degrees, but a PhD focuses more on research and scholarly development. As the name implies, a professional degree concentrates more on gaining knowledge and developing advanced skills for a particular profession. Many disciplines offer both PhDs and professional degrees. Consider what your career goals are and whether a PhD or a professional degree will be best suited for helping you obtain those goals.

Even an online PhD program is a significant commitment of time and energy. As this is the highest level of education one can obtain, the coursework is intellectually rigorous and demands focus and innovative thinking. For working adults, especially those who have been out of school for a number of years, enrolling in a PhD program is a big life change that requires preparation and planning.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching online PhD programs:

  • Do I meet the eligibility requirements for this program? Because of the advanced nature of doctoral study, most programs have specific educational requirements. They may include a master’s degree in a related field of study as well as professional experience in that field. Some programs may allow students to take foundational graduate-level coursework as part of the doctoral program, although this can add to the degree completion time.
  • What kind of faculty support does this program offer? At the doctoral level, it’s common for students to work closely with faculty on their research and dissertations. Having a good faculty support system in place is essential to success in a doctoral program, especially one that you’re completing online.

Once you’ve found the programs that interest you, research their application processes and requirements. This information is typically available on the program’s webpage; you can also contact the program directly if you have questions.

Financing your education is another important consideration. Research scholarship opportunities and financial aid deadlines. If you are currently employed, check with your employer to see if tuition remission/reimbursement benefits are available.