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Best online Ph.D. programs: Doctoral degrees ranked

Online Ph.D. programs provide a flexible, effective path to becoming an expert in your field. Here are our top picks for the best online doctoral degrees to meet your needs.
Written by Melissa Sartore, Contributor
An Asian man celebrating his doctorate degree graduation while looking at a laptop.
LPETTET/E+/Getty Images

An online doctorate program has a lot in common with a traditional, in-person program. By studying online, you'll complete the same courses and classes on a schedule that accommodates yours. An online doctoral program includes research and dissertation requirements, all of which you complete under the guidance of a mentor. 

If you're looking for an undergraduate education first, we've compiled the best online colleges to help with prerequisites.  

If you're already ready to further your education, We've ranked the schools offering the best online doctorates below. 

Top 5 online Ph.D. programs: Quick facts

College

Program stats

How much?

A.T. Still University

Kirksville, MO

  • Health and healthcare doctoral programs
  • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
  • Graduation rate: Not publicly available
  • Athletic training doctorate focuses on real-world clinical applications
  • The nursing doctorate includes required clinical practice hours

Per credit hour: $587-$800

Application fee: $70

Amridge University

Montgomery, AL 

  • Ph.D., D.Min., and Ed.D. programs available
  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Graduation rate: 32%
  • Ph.D. in biblical studies includes New Testament and Old Testament emphases
  • Two doctor of ministry in family therapy degrees available

Per credit hour: $500-$760

Application fee: $50

Andrews University

Berrien Springs, MI

  • D.Sc., Ph.D., and Ed.D. programs available
  • Acceptance rate: 49%
  • Graduation rate: 55%
  • Online physical therapy programs include short intensive on-campus requirements

Education programs include study-abroad opportunity

Per credit hour: $1,428

Application fee: $60

Ball State University

Muncie, IN

  • All online doctorates are in education
  • Acceptance rate: 87%
  • Graduation rate: 61%
  • Ed.D. and Ph.D. programs two areas
  • Special education Ph.D. requires on-campus coursework based on focus areas

Per credit hour: 

$438 resident

$656 nonresident

Application fee: $60

Barry University

Miami, FL

  • Four kinds of doctorates available
  • Acceptance rate: 65%
  • Graduation rate: 48%
  • Six nursing doctorates available 
  • Accelerated transformational school leadership Ed.D. program

Per credit hour: $666-850

Application fee: $70

What should I expect in an online Ph.D. program?

An online Ph.D. is comparable to what on-campus learners experience. The program typically begins with coursework designed to build your fundamental understanding of the discipline alongside research essentials. 

Once you complete the required classes, you will sit for comprehensive exams and submit a dissertation or project proposal. This is something you develop with a mentor. 

As an online student, you'll connect one-on-one with faculty via online office hours, email, and video conferencing. A bad internet connection or technical difficulties can hinder you.  You may also need to or want to travel to meet with them personally.

Some online Ph.D. programs may provide you with a computer, while others have research resources to help you. 

Much of the research you undertake is done independently and requires self-motivation and dedication. Asking questions, reaching out for help, and remaining in close contact with your mentor is key throughout the process. 

The best online Ph.D. programs: Our picks

We picked the best online Ph.D. programs using ZDNet's ranking methodology. Our proprietary formula for assessing online doctoral degrees uses federally reported data, programmatic and professional outcomes, and industry insights. We consider the whole picture to offer an unbiased look at the top online Ph.D. programs. 

Unless otherwise indicated, data is drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, College Scorecard, and each school's website. Note that for public colleges, the average annual net price given is for in-state students.

1. A.T. Still University
Kirsville, Missouri

About the program: ATSU offers online doctoral programs in health professions, health administration, health sciences, medical science, and nursing practice. 

  • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
  • Graduation rate: Not publicly available
  • Avg. annual tuition: $40,978
  • Time to completion: Varies
  • Average MCAT score: 505
  • Enrollment periods per year: Four
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous programs 

Accreditation: A.T. Still University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). 

2. Amridge University
Montgomery, Alabama 

About the program: Dedicated to academic programs infused with the ideals and heritage of the Churches of Christ, Amridge offers six online Ph.D. programs alongside three doctor of ministry programs and one doctor of education degree.

  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Graduation rate: 32%
  • Avg. annual net price: $17,618
  • Time to completion: Three to seven years
  • Minimum GRE/GMAT/LSAT score: N/A
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous 

Accreditation: Amridge University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). 

3. Andrews University
Berrien Springs, Michigan

About the program: Steeped in the beliefs and traditions of the Seventh-day Adventist church, Andrews offers online doctoral programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, nursing, and education.

  • Acceptance rate: 49%
  • Graduation rate: 55%
  • Avg. annual net price: $23,408
  • Time to completion: Three to seven years
  • Minimum GRE/GMAT/LSAT score: N/A
  • Enrollment periods per year: Varies
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous 

Accreditation: Andrews University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

4. Ball State University
Muncie, Indiana

  • About the program: All of Ball State's online doctoral programs focus on education. Areas of study include adult and community education, educational administration and supervision, elementary education, and special education.
  • Acceptance rate: 87%
  • Graduation rate: 61%
  • Avg. annual net price: $14,765
  • Time to completion: Varies
  • Minimum GRE/GMAT/LSAT score: N/A
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

Accreditation: Ball State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

5. Barry University
Miami, Florida

About the program: Grounded in the Roman Catholic Dominican tradition, Barry offers online doctoral programs in nursing, occupational therapy, and education. 

  • Acceptance rate: 65%
  • Graduation rate: 48%
  • Avg. annual net price: $20,539
  • Time to completion: Varies
  • Minimum GRE/GMAT/LSAT score: GRE required, no minimum
  • Enrollment periods per year:  Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous 

Accreditation: Barry University is accredited by the Southern Commission of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

6. Baylor University
Waco, Texas

About the program: A Baptist institution, Baylor offers online doctoral programs in occupational therapy, physical therapy, nursing, and education.

  • Acceptance rate: 68%
  • Graduation rate: 76%
  • Avg. annual net price: $37,309
  • Time to completion: Varies
  • Minimum GRE/GMAT/LSAT score: GRE required, no minimum
  • Enrollment periods per year:  Varies
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous 

Accreditation: Baylor University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

7. Bethel University
Saint Paul, Minnesota

About the program: Bethel, the largest member of a 13-institution Baptist college consortium, offers online doctorates in K-12 education administration and higher education leadership.

  • Acceptance rate: 87%
  • Graduation rate: 71%
  • Avg. annual net price: $28,178
  • Time to completion: Three to five years
  • Minimum GRE/GMAT/LSAT score: N/A
  • Enrollment periods per year:  Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous 

Accreditation: Bethel University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

8. Boston University
Boston, Massachusetts

About the program: BU offers online doctoral programs in mechanical engineering and occupational therapy.

  • Acceptance rate: 20%
  • Graduation rate: 87%
  • Avg. annual net price: $30,395
  • Time to completion: Varies
  • Minimum GRE/GMAT/LSAT score: Varies
  • Enrollment periods per year:  Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous 

Accreditation: Boston University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

9. University of Massachusetts Global
Irvine, California

About the program: Dedicated to serving non-traditional students and adult learners, UMass Global offers two online doctoral degrees: A education doctorate organizational leadership, and a post-masters to doctor of nursing practice program.

  • Acceptance rate: 93%
  • Graduation rate: 64%
  • Avg. annual net price: $26,346
  • Time to completion: Varies
  • Minimum GRE/GMAT/LSAT score: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year:  Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous, synchronous, hybrid 

Accreditation: The University of Massachusetts Global is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

10. Brenau University
Gainesville, Georgia

About the program: Brenau offers six online doctoral programs in education. Concentration areas include elementary education, higher education leadership, higher education teaching and learning middle grades, and special education. A degree completion program is also available.

  • Acceptance rate: 92%
  • Graduation rate: 44%
  • Avg. annual net price: $22,402
  • Time to completion: Two to five years
  • Minimum GRE/GMAT/LSAT score: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year:  One
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous 

Accreditation: Brenau University is accredited by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). 

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