These are the top 25 online PhD programs we could find. Our rankings take into account the reputation of the schools, their professional standing, costs, and their status as nonprofit or for-profit institutions. All of the schools in this list are accredited, and all of them can provide a quality education that can help prepare you for an advanced career. Doctoral degrees almost always have residency requirements, so few of these programs are 100% online. These kinds of details are important to keep in mind when deciding where to pursue such a degree. Tuition rates, as well as admission requirements, can change from one year to the next, and it is important to investigate these details thoroughly before applying to a given school. With that in mind though, this list can give you a starting point in your own search for the right online PhD program for you.
Popular Online Doctoral Programs
1. University of Southern California
The University of California's Rossier School of Education set up its doctor of education in organizational change to prepare the next generation of leaders of colleges and universities, corporations, nonprofits, and government agencies. The program requires students with a master's to complete 43 credits and all others to earn a total of 63 credits. You'll do most of your studying online, through the program does meet once a year for an immersion weekend. The curriculum emphasizes four themes, including the character of a leader, management skills, reflection, and problem solving. You must attend a capstone, which centers around the production of a dissertation.
2. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
You can enter the University of North Carolina's doctor of physical therapy program with an undergraduate degree in any field. The program requires three years of full-time study and completion of 108 hours of course and clinical work. Another 36 weeks of additional clinical rotations follow. You also must finish four clinical case studies, enroll in a capstone course, and finally, pass a comprehensive examination. To gain entry into the program, you must shadow a physical therapist for 100 hours. You should hold a minimum 3.0 GPA. UNC requires the GRE and a personal interview.
3. Northeastern University
Northeastern designed its transitional doctor of physical therapy for practicing physios. You may enroll on a part-time or full-time basis, and most degree candidates complete the program in a year or two. The innovative course of study takes place entirely online and allows you to select from several areas of concentration. These include pediatrics, geriatrics, orthopedics, nutrition, business, and education. You can also self-design a program of study within the field, working with an advisor. All participants must complete a capstone course and prepare a publication-worthy case report. Applicants should hold either a baccalaureate or master's degree in physical therapy.
4. University of Florida
The University of Florida's Ph.D. in classics offers high school and community college teachers, and anyone else with an interest, the opportunity to earn a terminal degree in ancient civilizations. The program requires 60 credits beyond the master's level. These credits must include five seminars in the classics, of which three must feature Latin. You must also show proficiency in German, Italian, or French and do a teaching practicum of at least three hours. The university requires that you complete 30 hours of study on campus, and most achieve this through the program's two-week, intensive, summer institutes. To graduate you pass written and oral examinations and publicly defend a dissertation.
5. Pennsylvania State University
Penn State's online doctor of nursing program stresses transformational leadership and advanced nursing practice. Intended for working nurses, the curriculum features modes of entry for nurses with bachelor's and master's. If you hold a baccalaureate degree you must earn 61 credits and do a total of 1,000 hours of practice time. With a graduate degree, your work load reduces dramatically to 30 credits and 550 hours. While you can earn most credits through the internet, Penn State's Nursing School does require three intensive on-campus sessions. To take home a diploma, you must also pass the qualifying exam, complete your "comprehensives," and present your capstone project.
6. George Washington University
George Washington University boasts one of the largest management and systems engineering programs in the nation. The doctorate in systems engineering takes full advantage of the school's traditions. The faculty developed a reputation for managing complex systems and risk, and you work closely with them. The university arranged the program to fit the needs of working people, and it meets online on Saturdays. Most students can earn their degrees in three years or less, studying part time. The cohort-based course of study splits into two phases, classwork and research. You must earn a 3.4 GPA while working your way through the classroom courses. Any grade less than a B- proves cause for dismissal from the program.
7. Clemson University
Clemson built its online doctorate in recreational therapy around synchronous, web-based classes and three, five-day residencies. Aimed at producing teachers in the field, the program stresses research, mentoring, and faculty interaction. The 60-credit curriculum spreads across three years. As a student, you prepare your own individualized plan of study with an advisor. You must produce a dissertation and receive acceptable scores on a series of comprehensive exams to graduate. Applicants must hold professional certification in recreational therapy. You must also have at least 2,000 hours of recreational therapy experience beyond the internship level.
8. Indiana University
Indiana University's doctorate in nursing science readies nurses to conduct clinical research in health sciences and nursing education. The 90-credit program emphasizes clinical nursing science, including the entwined relationships of health promotion, health behavior, and acute and chronic care. Using videoconferencing technology, you attend class with your peers at set times. You must also visit campus for two, four-day residencies. Coursework explores nursing theory, data analysis, research methods, statistics, and relationship-based leadership. You can pursue two tracks. The BSN to Phd. track allows you to earn certification as a clinical nurse specialist. In the MSN to Ph.D. track you can transfer in as many as 30 credits in your research area.
9. University at Buffalo – SUNY
The University at Buffalo's Ph.D. in curriculum, instruction, and the science of learning offers teachers an interdisciplinary course of study. You can elect to specialize in English, mathematics, or science education. The 72-credit program takes an evidence-based approach, emphasizing research. You must complete 24 credits in your concentration, 28 in research, 10 in relevant master's level courses, and 10 more in writing your dissertation. During the course of the program, you work with faculty, participate in research, and investigate modern problems using multiple disciplines. Most students graduate within five years. You must submit GRE scores to apply.
10. University of Alabama
Bama By Distance, the online arm of the University of Alabama, offers a doctorate in aerospace engineering to engineering professionals with five or more years of experience. While instruction takes place primarily over the internet, the program does mandate a visit to campus at least once a semester. The research-based curriculum requires you to produce and defend a dissertation in a research field that contributes to aerospace engineering. You must complete 72 total credits for a Ph.D., including 33 electives that you can use to tailor your studies to your own interests. All degree candidates must pass qualifying exams.
11. Iowa State University
New cohorts start each summer for Iowa State's doctorate in apparel, merchandising, and design. The Ames university developed the program to ready students for careers in fashion, museums, and academia. You can earn most of the 72 required credits online, but you will need to attend two, brief, on-campus sessions to meet residency requirements. You can select from either a thesis or a non-thesis track. Every Ph.D. candidate must do a teaching practicum and prepare a dissertation. Coursework delves into history, consumer behavior, management, entrepreneurship, and global issues.
12. University of Missouri
Hosted by the University of Missouri's well-known digital college, Mizzou Online, the university's doctorate in human environmental sciences focuses on how and where we live. Architecture and interior design form the core of the 72-credit program. You can earn all necessary credits over the internet, but the school invites students to visit for optional summer sessions. The program emphasizes the aesthetics of design, management, housing and neighborhood design, accessibility, and sustainability. Each student must write a dissertation. Most complete the curriculum within five years. The university does not require the GRE. You should hold a 3.0 or better GPA on your last sixty credits.
13. University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Enroll in the University of Nebraska, Lincoln's doctoral program in educational studies and you can choose whether to focus on higher education or educational leadership. The College of Education and Human Sciences created the 90-credit curriculum to equip students with the skills they need for careers in academia and scholarship. Coursework takes place largely online, but you must complete six credits on campus. Because of the program's orientation toward research and scholarship, you must prepare and present several research projects. All students must also defend a dissertation that contributes to the knowledge base of a particular area.
14. University of Kansas
Established in 1983, the University of Kansas' Ph.D. in nursing program prepares you for careers in academia, research, and healthcare settings. The course of study emphasizes four primary areas: teaching, research, philosophy, and leadership. Most full-time students can complete the required 67 credits in three years. Part-time students often take as long as five. You pursue most coursework online, but the university does require attendance at three intensive sessions at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. Each student readies a dissertation. Applicants can select from BSN to Ph.D. or MSN to Ph.D. tracks.
15. Catholic University of America
Though available online, the Catholic University of America's doctorate in nursing features a strong clinical component. You must complete several live sessions of clinical practice to earn your degree. The 70-credit, research-intensive program grounds nurses in the philosophy of science, qualitative and quantitative research, statistics, and theory. The Washington, DC-based university stresses that it developed the program to produce nurse scientists, nurse scholars, and nurse educators. Those interested in nurse practice should look at the school's doctorate in nursing practice. One of the earliest degrees of its kind, Catholic University's program dates to the 1960s. You must produce a dissertation to graduate.
16. Mississippi State University
Mississippi State's doctorate in community college leadership aims to produce the next generation of leaders in the nation's two-year schools. Offered by the school's Center for Distance Education, the program requires 61 credits beyond the master's degree to complete. You can earn the vast majority of them across the internet, but some required courses only take place on-campus in Starkville. The university constructed the program around a core of classes in leadership, interdisciplinary study, rural schools, and research and statistics. You must have three years of community college experience to apply. You should also hold a 3.4 GPA on all graduate-level credits completed.
17. Texas Tech University
Texas Tech's doctorate in technical communication and rhetoric gives you the kind of credentials needed to work at the professorial level in a university. The degree requires 60 credits beyond the bachelor's level, 15 of which may go toward a related minor. To earn your diploma, you must demonstrate proficiency in research methodology. Coursework runs largely online, utilizing web-cam meetings. You must, however, attend a two-week meeting every May in Lubbock. The curriculum focus includes pedagogy, research, rhetoric, and the foundations of technical communication. You can elect to focus in an emphasis area like gender studies, rhetoric of science or technology, visual rhetoric, rhetorical analysis, or theory. Most students can complete their course of study in two or three years.
18. University of North Dakota
The John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Science at the University of North Dakota offers a doctorate in aerospace sciences intended to launch careers in research. Set up as an online degree, the program does require a minimum of one week per year on campus. You must earn 90 credits beyond the baccalaureate level to take home a Ph.D.. To advance to candidacy for a doctorate, you must pass a qualifying exam. The school's experienced faculty deliver classes in a synchronous format, requiring you to meet in digital classrooms at certain times. The university gives preference to experienced aerospace professionals in the admissions process. You should hold a GPA of 3.25 or better.
19. University of South Dakota
The University of South Dakota established its doctorate in health sciences to give working professionals the opportunity to further their careers in human services, academia, and research. The program requires you to earn 75 credits beyond your bachelor's. The curriculum focuses on four key areas: teaching, leadership, advanced practices, and scholarship. The course of study begins with an on-campus orientation, and features a dissertation-study residency, and then a final dissertation defense. You can complete all of the other required credits online. The University of South Dakota will accept at maximum of 30 credits earned at another accredited institution.
20. New Mexico State University
You'll learn to design learning environments at the highest level in New Mexico State's doctoral program in curriculum and instruction. Created for working teachers with master's degrees, the program functions as a hybrid. Most coursework takes place in digital classrooms, but all students gather for three, two-week, on-campus sessions in consecutive summers. The curriculum revolves around classes in leadership and pedagogy, and you gain the skills to develop innovative solutions to educational problems. The university expects students to develop professional leadership skills by researching, publishing, grant writing, and service. To enroll you must win admission to New Mexico State's graduate school and interview with the Learning Technologies department faculty.