Experienced students who are interested in advanced research may want to consider taking the plunge and pursuing that most esteemed of qualifications: a doctoral degree. Doctoral degrees are the highest-level degrees available and cover an assortment of degree types, such as a Ph.D. or a DNP, depending on the discipline. Fortunately, many doctoral degree programs are available online, making this degree level more accessible than ever before.

Typically, doctoral degrees:

Earning a doctoral degree opens many doors that might otherwise be closed. Here are a few examples of the opportunities a doctoral degree can make accessible.

Benefits of Earning an Online Doctoral Degree

Online doctoral degrees are available in many fields, ranging from education to criminal justice, information technology to psychology and the health sciences. Some programs may require on-campus attendance while others may be available entirely online. The benefits to earning a doctoral degree include:

Should I Earn a Doctoral Degree?

Deciding to earn a doctoral degree is not a decision that should be taken lightly. While there are many benefits to this prestigious degree level, it can be a long and difficult road to attain it. Our article "Is a PhD Worth the Effort?" breaks down the pros and cons of doctoral education, and our article "Handling PhD Stress: Challenges of an Online PhD" goes into more depth on the challenges that can arise for these dedicated students. Make sure you're fully committed to the idea of earning a doctoral degree before you make your final decision.

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Best Online Colleges for Doctoral Degree Programs

To find the top online colleges for doctoral degree programs, we looked at factors such as affordability, available student or career services, number of online programs, program availability and more. In our descriptions below, we not only display hard data about each school, but we describe the ways each school offers options and resources for their doctoral students. View our full methodology by clicking the methodology button below.

Having trouble narrowing down your choice to just one of these top schools for doctoral degrees? Use our College Comparison Tool, which can compare data on up to three schools side-by-side to help you make a tie-breaking decision.

1

University of Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah)

Tuition & Fees
$9,222
Distance Education Participation
34%
Number of Programs Offered
15
School Type
4-year

Whether they're looking for an academic or professional doctorate, campus-based students at the University of Utah have a wide range of programs at their disposal. Top-level engineers have terminal degree options in nearly 10 individual engineering disciplines, and professional practitioners in audiology, kinesiology, integrative physiology and other valuable niche fields within the health sciences can earn their Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree at this Salt Lake City school.

  • Why it's good for online doctoral degrees: The only doctoral degree available fully online at the University of Utah is a Ph.D. in occupational therapy, one of the fastest-growing healthcare fields in the U.S., but individual online courses may also be able to help students in other doctoral fields fine-tune their degree plans.
2

Liberty University (Lynchburg, Virginia)

Tuition & Fees
$22,584
Distance Education Participation
90%
Number of Programs Offered
137
School Type
4-year

Few other doctoral institutions in the country report a higher percentage of students attending graduate and post-graduate courses online than Liberty University, a private, faith-based institution founded in 1971 by Christian preacher and televangelist Jerry Falwell. More than 96 percent of the students enrolled here take distance education courses. Along with its heavy online focus, Liberty maintains a sprawling 7,000 acre campus in central Virginia.

  • Why it's good for online doctoral degrees: The catalog of online doctorate degrees at Liberty features a more robust selection than most. Terminal degrees are available in osteopathic medicine, strategic leadership and criminal justice, and students can pursue Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.), and Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) programs with as many as a dozen areas of specialization.
3

University of South Alabama (Mobile, Alabama)

Tuition & Fees
$8,396
Distance Education Participation
48%
Number of Programs Offered
13
School Type
4-year

The University of South Alabama -- known to students and faculty as just South -- offers more than 100 academic programs in total and educates close to 15,000 students each year. Campus-based students can choose from around a half-dozen doctoral study plans, including an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in clinical and counseling psychology. The Mobile school also offers an Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) professional degree in a range of concentrations.

  • Why it's good for online doctoral degrees: Around 71 percent of graduate students at South take at least some online courses, so the virtual classroom infrastructure is likely to be strong. A Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) degree is also the only doctoral degree offered online here, which means that all online doctoral students are each other's potential colleagues.
4

Nova Southeastern University (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

Tuition & Fees
$30,900
Distance Education Participation
46%
Number of Programs Offered
109
School Type
4-year

This private, nonprofit university in South Florida has one of the largest populations of graduate students of any of the schools we surveyed. Of the more than 20,000 students counted on the rolls of Nova Southeastern University, less than 25 percent are pursuing undergraduate degrees. Nearly 2,000 master's, professional and doctoral degrees were awarded here in 2018.

  • Why it's good for online doctoral degrees: The catalog of online post-graduate programs at NSU features several specialized types of doctoral degree, such as Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) and Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) programs, a Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology (D.S.L.P.) plan, a Doctor of Health Sciences (D.H.Sc.) degree, and Ph.D. programs in computer science, criminal justice, health sciences and nursing.
5

Regent University (Virginia Beach, Virginia)

Tuition & Fees
$18,380
Distance Education Participation
91%
Number of Programs Offered
81
School Type
4-year

Despite maintaining a 70-acre campus in Virginia Beach, the numbers suggest that Regent University is one of the top schools for students looking to earn a bachelor's, master's or doctorate degree online. This private, Christian school reports that more than 92 percent of its students attend at least some of their classes digitally, and the selection of degrees available online is more than twice as large as the one offered to campus-based students.

  • Why it's good for online doctoral degrees: Regent University has earned recognition from several national outlets for its commitment to educating servicemembers and veterans. It was listed among the top three Yellow Ribbon online schools in 2017, and earned top Military Friendly honors among large private institutions the same year.
6

East Carolina University (Greenville, North Carolina)

Tuition & Fees
$7,188
Distance Education Participation
45%
Number of Programs Offered
67
School Type
4-year

East Carolina University offers a total of nearly 20 campus-based and online doctoral degree programs, including a few that might not be easy to find elsewhere on the post-graduate education landscape. Students here can pursue advanced degrees in bioenergetics and exercise science, coastal resources management, biomedical physics and rhetoric, writing and professional communication, among other disciplines.

  • Why it's good for online doctoral degrees: Students hoping to earn their doctorate without putting too much of a strain on their financial future may like what they see at ECU. The North Carolina school reported an average graduate tuition of around $4,700 per academic year, with some part-time graduate and professional learners being billed less than $4,000 for a 6-8 credit year.
7

University of Alabama at Birmingham (Birmingham, Alabama)

Tuition & Fees
$8,568
Distance Education Participation
57%
Number of Programs Offered
18
School Type
4-year

Education, healthcare and medicine dominate the University of Alabama at Birmingham's catalog of online doctoral and professional degree programs. Distance education students here can work toward a clinical doctorate in occupational therapy or choose among three Ed.S. degree concentrations. Degrees available through partially online doctoral programs at UAB include a Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) in administration health services and a D.N.P. for experienced working nurses.

  • Why it's good for online doctoral degrees: Students hoping to streamline their journey into an advanced medical field have a unique option at UAB. The Birmingham school offers nearly a dozen coordinated programs that can lead to both a Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) degree and a professional doctorate in medicine, dentistry, optometry, pharmacy or veterinary medicine, among other professions.
8

University of North Dakota (Grand Forks, North Dakota)

Tuition & Fees
$8,695
Distance Education Participation
49%
Number of Programs Offered
74
School Type
4-year

Founded in 1883, the University of North Dakota is six years older than the state of North Dakota itself, but in no way does that mean that its degree offerings are behind the times. A total of more than 80 degree and certificate programs can be earned via distance education at UND, including around 15 online doctoral degree programs in subjects like aerospace sciences, educational leadership and biomedical engineering.

  • Why it's good for online doctoral degrees: With over 200 individual courses available in the virtual classroom and nearly 25 percent of its student population taking courses exclusively online, UND has the digital education experience that it takes to help its students feel comfortable while they get accustomed to the virtual classroom environment.
9

Texas Tech University (Lubbock, Texas)

Tuition & Fees
$9,080
Distance Education Participation
50%
Number of Programs Offered
52
School Type
4-year

Texas Tech University is one of the largest schools in the Lone Star State, educating more than 38,000 undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate and professional students each year. No fewer than 50 doctoral degrees are available online and on campus at this Lubbock institution, and the Texas Tech law school features multiple award-winning professors.

  • Why it's good for online doctoral degrees: Texas Tech is one of the more affordable doctorate-level institutions in Texas, posting an average cost of graduate tuition and fees that checks in at around $1,400 less than the statewide average for public, four-year institutions. Depending on the program you choose, you may be able to save as much as $2,500 per year off of the state's average cost.
10

Purdue University Global-Davenport

Tuition & Fees
$14,343
Distance Education Participation
100%
Number of Programs Offered
114
School Type
4-year

Purdue University Global is a relatively new name in higher education. This nationally distributed institution was known as Kaplan University until being purchased by Purdue in 2018. Few other institutions can claim the online education bona fides on display at Purdue Global -- fully 100 percent of students take at least some online courses, for example, and over 180 online programs are available at all levels -- and nontraditional students may be able to earn college credit for their career training and professional experience.

  • Why it's good for online doctoral degrees: The lone doctorate degree offered online at Purdue Global, a D.N.P. program for master's-level nurses, is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and includes practicum options for students with fewer than 1,000 post-baccalaureate practice hours.

Most Affordable Online Colleges for Doctoral Degree Programs

The five colleges that offer the lowest tuition costs for their online Ph.D. programs are listed here.

 

View Online College Courses Below

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