Top Online PhD Programs

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Find the best schools to earn your PhD online, and learn more about what these institutions and programs offer.


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

RankSchoolStudent to
Faculty Ratio
Aid Rate

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


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.

103 South Bldg Cb 9100
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
(919) 962-2211

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities


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.

100 Church Street SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455-0213
(612) 625-5000

University of Florida


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.

Gainesville, FL 32611
(352) 392-3261

University of Nebraska - Lincoln


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.

14th and R St
Lincoln, NE 68588
(402) 472-7211

Texas A&M University


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.

805 Rudder Tower
College Station, TX 77843-1244
(979) 845-3211

University of Alabama


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.

739 University Blvd
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0166
(205) 348-6010

University of Illinois at Urbana


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.

601 E John Street
Champaign, IL 61820-5711
(217) 333-1000

Temple University


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.

1801 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122-6096
(215) 204-7000

University of Northern Iowa


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
1227 W 27th St
Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0005
(319) 273-2311

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