Why This Matters

  • EARN $99,000+ PER YEAR

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average worker with a doctoral degree earns $1,909 per week, which adds up to $99,268 over the course of a year.

  • INDIVIDUALS WITH A DOCTORATE HAVE THE LOWEST UNEMPLOYMENT RATE

    The unemployment rate for individuals with a PhD is 1.5%, compared to 3.5% for people with a bachelor’s degree.

  • AMERICA NEEDS 159,400 MORE COLLEGE PROFESSORS BY 2031

    Employment for post-secondary teachers is expected to increase by 12% over the next decade, creating new job opportunities for people with PhDs.

Our Research

This list features some of the best 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 on-campus 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 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 49 PhD Programs

Best PhD Programs 2023
01
Intelligent Pick
California Institute of Technology
01
Best in the Northeast
Harvard Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
01
Best Computer Science Program
Stanford University
01
Best Nuclear Science Program
MIT Sloan School of Management
01
Best Foreign Language Programs
Princeton University
01
Best Public Institution
University of California at Berkeley
01
Best Music Program
Yale University
01
Best in the Midwest
University of Chicago
01
Best Theater Program
Columbia University in the City of New York
01
Best Business Program
University of Pennsylvania
01

Johns Hopkins University
01

University of California Los Angeles
01

Cornell University
01

Duke University
01

Northwestern University
01

University of Michigan at Dearborn
01

New York University
01

Carnegie Mellon University
01

University of Washington
01

UC San Diego
01

Georgia Institute of Technology
01

University of Texas at Austin
01

University of Illinois Gies College of Business
01

University of Wisconsin at Madison

 

What You Should Know About This Degree

Doctoral degrees typically fall into two categories. A Doctor of Philosophy, or PhD, is a research-focused degree, which prepares students for engaging in high-level research and scholarship in their field of study. Professional degrees, like a Doctor of Psychology or Doctor of Nursing Practice, specialize in teaching advanced professional skills for complex careers that require a significant level of training.

Depending on your career path, a doctoral degree may be optional or required. Many individuals pursue a PhD because they want to engage in research that advances their field. Others earn this type of degree because they want to teach at the university level and be eligible for tenure-track positions.

Whatever your reasons for pursuing a PhD, it’s important to note that these programs differ from bachelor’s or master’s degrees in that they are academically rigorous and typically more self-directed than other post-secondary degrees. They typically take several years to complete, including researching and writing a dissertation, and usually have a mentorship component in which students work closely with faculty. Therefore, when researching PhD programs, students should find out what kind of support and resources the school and program offers to ensure they will be positioned for success during this process.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching PhD programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? As the most advanced degree available, PhD and other doctoral programs typically have the most rigorous eligibility requirements. These requirements may include a master’s degree in a related field, work experience, and professional licenses or certifications. Be sure to review the program’s requirements before applying to ensure that you meet the basic eligibility qualifications.
  • What type of financial support is available? Because earning a doctorate requires a significant time commitment from students while bringing prestige to universities for the research that PhD students perform, many universities offer fellowships and assistantships to help support students in these programs. This can include full or partial tuition, housing subsidies, and other benefits. In exchange, students may be required to teach courses or work as research assistants.

While researching PhD programs, take note of application requirements and deadlines. A typical PhD application packet will include transcripts for undergraduate and graduate coursework, writing samples, letters of recommendation, standardized test scores, and a resume, although specific requirements will vary by program. If you have any questions about the application process, contact a program or admissions representative.

Find out what financing options are available to you, including scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, grants, and loans. If you are employed, find out if your employer offers tuition assistance benefits.