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Methodology

Our Ph.D. rankings showcase the universities offering the best online doctoral degree programs this year. We based our calculations on the quantifiable factors that we believe contribute to the ideal online learning experience: program cost; student-to-faculty ratio; and institutional financial aid, acceptance, retention, graduation, default, and default rate. Learn more.

Top Online PhD Programs

  1. RankSchoolStudent to
    Faculty Ratio
    Graduation
    Rate
    Retention
    Rate
    Acceptance
    Rate
    Enrollment
    Rate
    Institutional
    Aid Rate
    Default
    Rate
  2. Rank
    1
    School

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    St to Faculty
    Ratio
    13/1
    Graduation
    Rate
    90.02%
    Retention
    Rate
    96.09%
    Acceptance
    Rate
    27.59%
    Enrollment
    Rate
    49.89%
    Institutional
    Aid Rate
    46%
    Default
    Rate
    N/A
    Tuition
    Address
    103 South Bldg Cb 9100
    Chapel Hill, NC 27599
    (919) 962-2211
    Websites
    School Description

    UNC’s online PHD programs are some of the most selective in the country, as only 27% of applicants are accepted. Thanks to world class professors and a low, 13:1 student to faculty ratio, admitted students thrive as they pursue their degree: the school boasts a 90% graduation rate and a retention rate exceeding 95%.

    Currently, UNC offers two doctoral programs entirely online: an executive doctoral degree in health leadership and a doctoral of physical therapy. The physical therapy degree can be completed in two years of part-time study, while the cohort-based public health program requires 3-5 years, counting coursework and the time required to complete your dissertation. Students in this program are occasionally required to attend campus in Chapel Hill or at one of UNC’s world locations.

  3. Rank
    2
    School

    University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

    St to Faculty
    Ratio
    17/1
    Graduation
    Rate
    75.4%
    Retention
    Rate
    90.22%
    Acceptance
    Rate
    44.42%
    Enrollment
    Rate
    28.99%
    Institutional
    Aid Rate
    51%
    Default
    Rate
    N/A
    +
    Tuition
    Address
    100 Church Street SE
    Minneapolis, MN 55455-0213
    (612) 625-5000
    Websites
    School Description

    Minnesota offers an online doctoral degree in international education and a doctor of nursing practice degree that allows students to specialize in one of 14 nursing subfields. Popular specializations include:

    • Public Health Nursing
    • Nursing Informatics
    • Health Innovation and Leadership
    • Nurse Anesthesia
    • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

    All doctoral degrees are hybrid programs that require students to spend some time on campus.

    Minnesota’s online format makes it easy for distance students to take advantage of the university’s resources. All distance learners have access to the school’s digital library, and they can access these materials and more through their MyU profile. Both programs are taught by internationally recognized faculty members who work hard to build effective professional relationships with their online students.

  4. Rank
    3
    School

    University of Florida

    St to Faculty
    Ratio
    21/1
    Graduation
    Rate
    86.54%
    Retention
    Rate
    96.46%
    Acceptance
    Rate
    46.55%
    Enrollment
    Rate
    50.51%
    Institutional
    Aid Rate
    32%
    Default
    Rate
    3.60%
    +
    Tuition
    Address
    Gainesville, FL 32611
    (352) 392-3261
    Websites
    School Description

    The University of Florida awards doctoral degrees across five of its schools, offering programs in audiology, pharmacy, nursing and several degrees through their colleges of education and arts and sciences. The school boasts a graduation rate above 85% along with one of the highest retention rates in the country.

    Florida’s online PhD programs are just as demanding as their on-campus equivalents. Each department is staffed with internationally-renowned professors, and students work closely with their advisors to develop their skills (or thesis). Some programs require students to attend campus semi-regularly; coursework is presented digitally in these programs, with the in-person component covering meetings and presentations.

  5. Rank
    4
    School

    University of Nebraska - Lincoln

    St to Faculty
    Ratio
    21/1
    Graduation
    Rate
    66.78%
    Retention
    Rate
    83.64%
    Acceptance
    Rate
    64.04%
    Enrollment
    Rate
    63.15%
    Institutional
    Aid Rate
    64%
    Default
    Rate
    N/A
    +
    Tuition
    Address
    14th and R St
    Lincoln, NE 68588
    (402) 472-7211
    Websites
    School Description

    Nebraska offers one online PhD program in educational studies. The program is intended for teachers and administrators throughout the educational spectrum, from elementary school administrators to college professors. The curriculum is open-ended: the only specific classroom requirements are a statistics course and three credit hours of doctoral courses. A dissertation is also required.

    Most work in the educational studies program can be completed online, although the school does require students to complete six credits in residence at Nebraska. The program offers a few opportunities for students to complete those credits in a single of week of on-campus study, convenient for out-of-state distance learners or those who can’t commute to campus regularly.

  6. Rank
    5
    School

    Texas A&M University

    St to Faculty
    Ratio
    23/1
    Graduation
    Rate
    79.08%
    Retention
    Rate
    91.43%
    Acceptance
    Rate
    69.47%
    Enrollment
    Rate
    46.97%
    Institutional
    Aid Rate
    58%
    Default
    Rate
    N/A
    +
    Tuition
    Address
    805 Rudder Tower
    College Station, TX 77843-1244
    (979) 845-3211
    Websites
    School Description

    The soil and crop sciences department at Texas A&M offers both a master’s and a PhD program in plant breeding. The program requires students to complete 64 credits beyond their master’s and to complete a thesis based on their original research. Distance learners may complete all research and communication work (as well as their thesis defense) online. Your dissertation topic or focus may be directed by the school’s student advisory committee. Students also have to take some courses outside of agronomy.

  7. Rank
    6
    School

    University of Alabama

    St to Faculty
    Ratio
    21/1
    Graduation
    Rate
    66.65%
    Retention
    Rate
    87%
    Acceptance
    Rate
    56.55%
    Enrollment
    Rate
    36.85%
    Institutional
    Aid Rate
    50%
    Default
    Rate
    N/A
    +
    Tuition
    Address
    739 University Blvd
    Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0166
    (205) 348-6010
    Websites
    School Description

    With two nursing and seven education programs, Alabama offers more terminal degrees online than all but a handful of schools throughout the country. While all of these programs are classified as online or distance programs, some may require you to participate in on-campus activities from time to time. Check with the department chair for information on any specific program you may be interested in.

    Alabama uses Blackboard to facilitate their online instruction. Here, students can watch lectures and interact with classmates and professors over email and discussion forums. The format allows students to collaborate in real time and helps engender the quality discussions and relationships that on-campus students enjoy. Distance learners can access all of the same resources as residential students, including the university’s digital library.

  8. Rank
    7
    School

    University of Illinois at Urbana

    St to Faculty
    Ratio
    20/1
    Graduation
    Rate
    83.8%
    Retention
    Rate
    93.06%
    Acceptance
    Rate
    62.39%
    Enrollment
    Rate
    35.38%
    Institutional
    Aid Rate
    42%
    Default
    Rate
    N/A
    +
    Tuition
    Address
    601 E John Street
    Champaign, IL 61820-5711
    (217) 333-1000
    Websites
    School Description

    Students pursuing a terminal degree in public health may be interested in Illinois’s offering, which only requires students to make one on-campus visit and to take 96 semester credits to graduate. Applicants should already have a master’s degree, and enrollees ought to anticipate completing a doctoral thesis alongside their course requirements. Field experience is also a significant part of the curriculum. Only students with at least three years of full-time experience in a leadership position in healthcare are qualified to apply. Just 33% of applicants are admitted, and the school’s graduation and retention rates are among the best in the country.

  9. Rank
    8
    School

    Temple University

    St to Faculty
    Ratio
    14/1
    Graduation
    Rate
    66.32%
    Retention
    Rate
    88.83%
    Acceptance
    Rate
    63.87%
    Enrollment
    Rate
    36.53%
    Institutional
    Aid Rate
    73%
    Default
    Rate
    5.60%
    +
    Tuition
    Address
    1801 North Broad Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19122-6096
    (215) 204-7000
    Websites
    School Description

    Temple offers doctoral degrees in physical therapy and occupational therapy. The physical therapy program is classified as a transitional degree, and it is geared towards practicing physical therapists looking to obtain their PhD. The occupational therapy degree only requires students to complete 30 credits, and allows distance learners to specialize in an area of their interest.

    Students at Temple enjoy the university’s low student to faculty ratio, and work with leaders in their field. They have access to all of the online resources afforded to residential students, including digital library materials and web software that allows for easy collaboration between students and professors.

  10. Rank
    9
    School

    University of Northern Iowa

    St to Faculty
    Ratio
    16/1
    Graduation
    Rate
    66.49%
    Retention
    Rate
    83%
    Acceptance
    Rate
    83.31%
    Enrollment
    Rate
    50.81%
    Institutional
    Aid Rate
    59%
    Default
    Rate
    4.80%
    +
    Tuition
    Address
    1227 W 27th St
    Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0005
    (319) 273-2311
    Websites
    School Description

    Northern Iowa offers two PhD programs: a doctor of education and a doctor of industrial technology. The technology degree requires students to complete 60 credits, including 38 of required advanced courses. Key classes include:

    • Research Design in Technology
    • Technology and Societal Trends: Case Studies
    • Technology Ethics and Leadership
    • Advanced Statistics

    The education program is similarly rigorous. In addition to basic courses, which are taken by all students, distance learners have the opportunity to pursue a concentration of their choice. Options are:

    • Curriculum and Instruction
    • Educational Leadership
    • Allied Health, Recreation, and Community Service

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