best online phd. programs

A doctorate degree, or doctor of philosophy, is the absolute highest level of academic achievement that one can earn. Yale University was the first institution of higher learning in the United States ever to confer one of these advanced doctoral degrees in 1861. Back in 1861, ivy league online doctoral programs did not exist. However, Yale was also the place where the first doctoral student of color was awarded a doctorate degree. Doctoral student Dr. Edward Bouchet earned a Ph.D. in physics in 1876. Everyone is familiar with the term PhD, but the most common doctoral degree in the country is the M.D. or Medical Doctorate.

To earn a doctor of philosophy degree, it can take four years or more after you’ve obtained a bachelors degree. If you already hold a masters degree, a doctoral program can be completed in as little as three years if you’re studying in a doctoral program full time. Even though an online doctoral degree can be completed in that time frame, it often takes longer to complete an online doctoral program. The average age of doctoral students seeking an advanced degree in America is 34 years old. Opting to pursue a doctor of philosophy degree is a big commitment. Earning doctoral degrees in online doctorate programs is one that very clearly pays off.

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People that go through doctoral programs and hold a doctorate degree have the lowest level of unemployment, which was reported as a measly 2.5% in 2012! Additionally, doctoral degree earners have the highest median earnings when compared to everyone else. Because of this higher pay, doctors also see the most favorable debt to salary ratio. In an example, in the most recent reports, the average person with a bachelors degree has $30,100 in student loan debt, and the average salary in that group of people is $48,127. The average salary for a Doctor of Pharmacy is $106,630 while the average debt is $66,319. That student debt can be even more manageable if you choose to pursue a doctoral degree online.

There are fewer online doctorate programs than any other type of online degree program, but there are still hundreds of schools that offer online doctoral degree education options and earning doctoral degrees is a smart move. Some online programs come in a blended format. There are many that are entirely online (which is what you’ll see here). Although there are no ivy league online phd schools in this ranking, you’ll learn about the 20 best colleges for doctoral degree programs that offer an accredited online doctorate program.

Best Online PhD Programs Methodology

Each of the online schools on this list offering a doctoral degree was scored out of a possible 200 points. The initial list was gathered by compiling a list of every college and university that offers online doctoral programs including ivy league online doctoral programs. All for-profit schools were excluded regardless of online doctoral program offerings. After completing a school search, the initial pool of online schools offering doctoral degrees through online programs was nearing 1,000! There were many online programs, but in order to be eligible to be ranked on the list, each school was required to be:

Once the list was slimmed down to only include those online phd schools with doctoral programs, the remaining several hundred online schools were ranked according to the following criteria:

  • 50%: Freshman Retention Rate
  • 50%: Graduation Rate

The sum of these two rates was used to create a final score out of a possible 200 points. We used the school’s website to gather information. In cases where a school did not provide the information we required on their own website, we the U.S. News and World Report and National Center for Education Statistics databases. These two percentages were added together to get the score for each institution. Then the online doctoral degrees were ranked out of 20 based on this score.

In any instance where two or more schools with online learning programs offering a doctoral degree would have tied for a spot in this top 20 online doctoral programs, we utilized the alphabetical ordering of their names as our designated tie-breaking criteria. We chose the two ranking criteria listed above because when both rates are taken into account, they help to paint an accurate picture of a school’s overall performance.

Best Ph.D. Programs Online

Note: No school was given any preferential treatment and the methodology stated will allow anyone else to draw the same conclusion. It is also important to note that due to incomplete available data, or by request, some schools that would have ranked are not represented here.

While working toward a successful career, you may also enjoy our ranking of the top 100 colleges with online programs.

20: Duquesne University

phd programs online Duquesne University education edd

Duquesne University is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is a private Catholic university that was founded in 1878. At that time it was called the Pittsburgh Catholic College of the Holy Ghost. It attained university status in 1911 and was soon accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education in 1935. Several of their programs, including doctoral programs, have additional endorsement from reputable agencies such as the American Bar Association and the American Psychological Association, among many others. Members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit founded the school. It remains the only Spiritan institution of higher education in the world. It draws students in from nearly 100 different countries. There are currently 9,343 students of which the majority are graduate students and some are online students.

Duquesne offers 189 different degree programs through ten different schools. These schools include:

  • McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
  • Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences
  • Duquesne School of Law
  • A.J. Palumbo School of Business Administration
  • Mylan School of Pharmacy
  • Mary Pappert School of Music
  • School of Education
  • School of Nursing
  • Rangos School of Health Sciences

There are four different online doctorate programs offered to online students through the university in two different areas of study. These are the doctorate of nursing and PhD in education or EdD. The doctorate of nursing programs include:

School’s Website: To request info about online doctoral programs available, curriculum and instruction or financial aid, please visit: https://www.duq.edu/
Freshman Retention Rate: 86%
Graduation Rate: 79%
Final Score:165/200

19: Endicott College

phd programs online Endicott College

Endicott Junior College opened in 1939 thanks to the founder, Dr. Eleanor Tupper. It was a two-year community college for women. It was geared towards improving women’s position in the workplace and creating more independence for them. As radical an idea as it was at the time, the college continued to expand over the years. It was first accredited in 1952 by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education. Decades later, it received specialized accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Dr. Tupper’s husband, George Bierkoe, presided over the college until 1971 when Dr. Tupper herself took over. Men were first admitted in 1994. The main campus is in Beverly, Massachusetts.

Endicott began conferring associates degrees in 1952 and finally dropped the ‘Junior’ off its name in 1975. The college has expanded academically to offer 23 bachelors degrees and graduate programs in 5 different areas of study. The first doctoral program was added in 2014, the Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership in Higher Education, which is available online. All four of its doctoral programs are available to web-based students, and the majority of the graduate students (51%) are enrolled solely in distance education. The other programs offered at Endicott include a:

Each of them is presented in a cohort model with 20 or fewer students per cohort.

Endicott Website: To request info about curriculum and instruction or financial aid, please visit https://www.endicott.edu/
Freshman Retention Rate: 86%
Graduation Rate: 80%
Final Score: 166/200

18: University of Massachusetts-Amherst


School Profile

University of Massachusetts-Amherst

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is the flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts System. U.S. News & World Report has ranked them among the Top 50 Best Public Universities in the Nation and among the Top 100 Best National Universities. The university was founded in 1863 but didn’t admit its first class until 1867. At that time, UMass only served 50 students. Today, there are 30,037 students in attendance. That attendance makes it the largest public university in New England. These students have a broad selection of degree options:

The university is accredited as a whole by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education. All programs are offered through one of the nine schools and colleges that comprise the university.

These colleges are the:

  • College of Education
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Humanities and Fine Arts
  • College of Information and Computer Sciences
  • College of Natural Sciences
  • College of Nursing
  • College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Commonwealth Honors College
  • Isenberg School of Management
  • School of Public Health and Health Sciences
  • Stockbridge School of Agriculture
  • Graduate School

The bulk of the schools’ programs, the 122 graduate programs, are all offered through the Graduate School. UMass Amherst, through UMass online, offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program with an incredibly generous transfer policy. Through the other campuses, but still online, students can also access a few other doctoral programs.

UMass Amherst Website: If you’d like to request info about financial aid or educational technologies used in online education, please visit https://www.umass.edu/
Freshman Retention Rate: 91%
Graduation Rate: 76%
Final Score: 167/200

17: Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis is located in Indianapolis, Indiana. It came to fruition in 1969 after a merger of the Purdue Indianapolis Extension Center and Indiana University Indianapolis. Abbreviated simply as IUPUI, the university is a member institution of both the Purdue University System and the Indiana University System. IUPUI is a Higher Learning Commission accredited public university that serves 29,804 students. The merging of the two institutions has gone on to prove itself a massive success. IUPUI is home to the:

  • largest nursing school in the U.S.
  • second largest medical school in America
  • the only dental school in the state of Indiana
  • first school of physical education ever established in the country

IUPUI alone offers an excess of 225 degree programs, provided by 18 different schools. The university also operates 12 strategic research centers.

Former Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, obtained his law degree from the university in 1986. Other interesting alumni include the author and illustrator of the beloved children’s series Clifford the Big Red Dog Norman Bridwell and NASA Astronaut David Wolf. Distance education is certainly offered through the university, but it hasn’t truly taken off yet. Only 22% of graduate students take online courses that are at least partially online. Despite that small number, the school has a fairly substantial list of doctoral degrees that can be pursued online. These include a:

  • Doctor of Occupational Therapy
  • Doctor of Education in Instructional Systems Technology
  • Doctor of Education in Literacy, Culture, and Language Education
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice

Ph.d programs in Nursing Science and Public Health as well as Global Health Leadership are also offered.

IUPUI Website: To request info about doctorate of health administration, nurse educator or nurse practitioner degrees, please visit https://www.iupui.edu/
Freshman Retention Rate: 91%
Graduation Rate: 76%
Final Score: 167/200

16: Indiana University-Bloomington


School Profile

Indiana University-Bloomington

Indiana University-Bloomington is the Bloomington, Indiana campus of Indiana University. It is the flagship institution of the Indiana University System. The university was founded in 1820 as a seminary. While it boasts no religious affiliation now, it remained a seminary for several years. When the curriculum started to fill in with a broader range of courses in 1829, it became Indiana College. In a decade’s time, it achieved university status and adopted its present name. The first classes only had 12 students and growth was so slow in the beginning that in 1851, students enrolled had not yet surpassed 100 students. In spite of these humble beginnings, IU Bloomington is the largest university in its system by enrollment size with a student body nearing 50,000 strong. An interesting fact about enrollment at IU Bloomington is that it was the fourth university in the nation to admit a woman. Sarah Parke Morrison enrolled in 1867 and became the school’s first female professor in 1873.

The first Ph.D. ever awarded by IU Bloomington was in 1883. The university has an excess of 550 degree programs and majors that students can choose from ranging from associates to doctoral programs, with a variety of certificate options. Six of the doctoral degree programs at IU Bloomington are online doctoral programs. While a few of them require one or more face to face meetings, all of the coursework can be completed from home. Offerings include:

  • two Doctor of Education degrees in Instructional Systems Technology and Literacy, Culture, and Language Education
  • a Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • a Doctor of Occupational Therapy
  • two Ph.D. programs in Nursing Science and Public Health with a focus on Global Health Leadership

The OTD program is the shortest one requiring students to complete just 30 credit hours. All programs can be completed in as little as 3 years, but students have up to seven years if they should need that much time. IU Bloomington also offers generous transfer credit policies for these professional doctorate degree programs.

IU Bloomington Website: To request info about an online doctorate program in health care, please visit https://www.indiana.edu/
Freshman Retention Rate: 91%
Graduation Rate: 76%
Final Score: 167/200

15: Creighton University

Creighton University

Creighton University is the largest private religious university in the state of Nebraska. It is a private Jesuit university situated on 132 acres in Omaha, Nebraska. Following the death of a prominent businessman and his wife, the wife left $100,000 towards the creation of a school in her husband’s memory. The Society of Jesus established Creighton College in 1878 with just seven faculty members and over 100 students. Creighton was officially established as a men’s-only school. It did not become coeducational until 1951. Despite that fact, Kate Drake graduated from the College of Medicine in the 1890’s. Interestingly, the majority of the 8,393 students are women at 57%. The college became a university in 1958. It offers more than 50 degree programs at the associates, bachelors, masters, doctoral, and certificate levels. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

The first doctoral degree was awarded in 1971. Now there are 23 different programs offered at the doctoral level with hundreds awarded every year. Many of those programs can be completed online. These degree programs are only offered in a hybrid or blended format, with a majority of material being presented online:

The most popular program is the OTD program, which was the first hybrid style option in this field to be created. The board pass rate for graduates of Creighton has been consistently 100% for the past few years. Graduation rates in this program are also consistently above 90%. The programs that have their coursework entirely online may still require some on-campus time at least once during the time you are working towards your degree. These programs are:

The Doctor of Pharmacy degrees are partially asynchronous. Some of the things you will do for class must be done live with a traditional class. The clinical component is eight five-week rotations that can be completed at an approved location where you live.

Creighton University Website: To request info about attending Creighton University online, please visit https://www.creighton.edu/
Freshman Retention Rate: 89%
Graduation Rate: 79%
Final Score: 168/200

14: North Carolina State University at Raleigh

North Carolina State University at Raleigh

North Carolina State University at Raleigh is the flagship institution of the University of North Carolina System. It is a public land-, sea-, and space-grant research university in Raleigh, North Carolina. In 1887, the school that would become NC State was founded. It was called the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. The college evolved over the years to include engineering as well. During the Great Depression, the governor combined the college with two other institutions, the University of North Carolina and the Woman’s College at Greensboro. In 1931, the North Carolina State College officially came to be. The other names that it operated under over the years include North Carolina State University, North Carolina State of the University of North Carolina, and after protest from students and alumni finally settled to its present title. The university is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges.

There are 33,755 students in attendance who are pursuing any one of the myriad of programs available. There are:

  • nine associates degree options
  • 102 bachelors options
  • 108 masters options
  • 60 doctorate options

There are 11 academic divisions of NC State. These divisions are the:

  • College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
  • College of Design
  • College of Education
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • College of Natural Resources
  • Poole College of Management
  • College of Sciences
  • College of Textiles
  • College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Graduate School

Though there is a graduate school, some of the other divisions include graduate programs as well. The only doctoral degree online that students can pursue online at NC State is a Doctor of Design. Students must attend a week-long workshop each of the six semesters that the program will span. It was designed to include three years of coursework. However, it can be accelerated to meet the needs of the student.

NCSU Website: To request info about distance learning or financial aid, please visit https://www.ncsu.edu/
Freshman Retention Rate: 93%
Graduation Rate: 77%
Final Score: 170/200

13: University of Pittsburgh

University of Pittsburgh

The University of Pittsburgh is a public research university that enrolls 28,664 students. The main campus is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with several others campuses through the state. The university is accredited as a whole by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. It has been accredited since 1921, more than a century after its founding in 1787. Often abbreviated as just Pitt, the university was granted its university status in 1908. It began as a prep school. Higher demand for quality education in the area put pressure on school officials to expand the curriculum and solidify itself as a reputable institution of higher learning. It has certainly done so, producing scholars, Nobel prize winners, and even the man who discovered the polio vaccine. Pitt is a leading producer of Fulbright scholars. It was the only public university to claim both Rhodes and Marshall scholars in 2007.

Pitt is organized into 16 different colleges and schools. These are:

  • Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences
  • School of Business
  • School of Computing and Information
  • School of Dental Medicine
  • School of Education
  • Swanson School of Engineering
  • College of General Studies
  • School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
  • Honors College
  • School of Law
  • School of Medicine
  • School of Nursing
  • School of Pharmacy
  • Graduate School of Public and International Affairs
  • Graduate School of Public Health
  • School of Social Work

The two online doctoral programs are offered from the School of Nursing. There is a Doctor of Nursing Practice program and a Joint Master of Public Policy and Management/Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

Pitt Website: To request info about becoming a family nurse practitioner or education specialist, please visit https://www.pitt.edu/
Freshman Retention Rate: 92%
Graduation Rate: 81%
Final Score: 173/200

12: Florida State University

Florida State University


School Profile
Florida State University is a public sea- and space-grant university that is comprised of 16 different colleges and schools and over 100 research centers and institutes. The main campus is in Tallahassee, Florida. It was the first university established in the state of Florida. It is among the largest by enrollment size in the nation with a total of 41,173 students. The university was founded as a seminary in 1851. University status was officially granted in 1947. The university has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges since 1915. There are nearly 150 undergraduate majors and approximately 231 graduate degrees available at FSU through its various academic divisions. Two new schools were added to the university as recently as 2017. These were the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship and the School of Physician Assistant Practice.

Florida State University has aspirations to become one of the top public research universities in America. They are steadily working on academic improvement in order to reach its goal of having a third of their doctoral programs rank nationally. Research efforts at the university include great strides in computing and the creation of an anti-cancer drug. U.S. News & World Report has ranked FSU as being in the top 100 in more than 20 fields. It came in 33rd in the 2017 publication honoring the Top Public Universities. The only online doctoral program currently available is a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and Policy. Beginning in summer with a mandatory on-campus seminar, this program is presented in a cohort model and is designed to take three years to complete. Students will have to attend the seminar each year in order to meet with faculty and their fellow students in their cohort.

FSU Website: To request info about educational technologies, curriculum and instruction or financial aid, please visit https://www.fsu.edu/
Freshman Retention Rate: 93%
Graduation Rate: 80%
Final Score: 173/200

11: Clemson University

Clemson University


School Profile
Clemson University is a public land- and space-grant research university in Clemson, South Carolina. The founder of the university, Thomas Green Clemson, married the daughter of a prominent figure John C. Calhoun. Calhoun’s daughter, Anna Maria Calhoun, left her estate to Thomas when she passed away. He then left in his will to be used to establish a college. His dream was a college modeled after what became Mississippi State University that would teach agriculture and mechanical arts. In 1889, the Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina opened. It operated under that name until 1964. After the Great Depression and World War II, Clemson went through a thorough restructuring and expansion that finally granted its university status and new name.

The seven colleges that comprise Clemson are:

  • College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Life Sciences
  • College of Architecture, Arts, and Humanities
  • College of Behavioral Science and Health Science
  • College of Business
  • College of Education
  • College of Engineering, Computing, and Applied Sciences
  • College of Science

Students enrolled totals 23,406. By enrollment, Clemson is the second largest university in the state of South Carolina. It offers degrees at the certificate levels as well as from associates to doctoral degrees. There are 15 graduate programs offered online at Clemson University. Only 23% of graduate students are taking advantage of these online learning opportunities. All three of the doctoral programs offered online require on-campus meetings for the defense of the dissertation. All coursework can be done at a distance. The programs offered are:

Clemson Website: To request info about attending Clemson University online for your doctorate degree, please visit https://clemson.edu/
Freshman Retention Rate: 92%
Graduation Rate: 81%
Final Score: 173/200

10: George Washington University

The George Washington University

The George Washington University is a private research university located in our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. George Washington had always aspired to establish a university in D.C. and even left some shares of a nearby county in his will to assist in its creation. Due to financial strain, the money had to be independently raised. A Baptist minister named Luther Rice was able to do so. In 1821, Columbian College was approved. The first class of students graduated in 1824. The college became a university in 1821. It didn’t adopt its new name until 1904. That’s when it made an agreement with the George Washington Memorial Association. The George Washington University took off from there, expanding physically and academically. It was accredited in 1922 by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

The George Washington University offers degrees at the associates level all the way up to the doctoral level, including many certificates. The university serves 27,159 students. The majority of them are graduate students. GWU has received the highest Carnegie Classification that can be awarded for its research. It has a host of impressive alumni. Some notable people include:

  • Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
  • the CIA Director Allen Dulles
  • Alec Baldwin

The doctoral options for distance-learners include a variety of degrees in the fields of specialization:

  • Educational Leadership and Administration
  • Engineering Management
  • Health Care Quality
  • Nursing
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Systems Engineering

Many of the programs can be pursued on a part-time basis and are taught by the same instructors that teach the on-campus counterparts.

GWU Website: To get more info about obtaining a professional doctoral degree, please visit https://www.gwu.edu/
Freshman Retention Rate: 90%
Graduation Rate: 84%
Final Score: 174/200

9: Apex School of Theology

Apex School of Theology

The Apex School of Theology is a private seminary school in Durham, North Carolina. It was founded in 1995 as the Apex Academy School of Religion by the Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Perkins. The school only enrolls 976 students creating a close-knit atmosphere. The school is sometimes referred to as just Apex but most often ASOT. It has been accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, Accreditation Commission since 2000. ASOT has a strong commitment to diversity and to service. The school holds fast to its Christian values preparing students to serve in the church and their communities. Online programs are the most popular delivery format for all of the programs at any level offered at ASOT. About 94% of all students are enrolled solely in distance education; less than 6% of students are enrolled exclusively in traditionally delivered classes.

The Apex School of Theology offers degrees at the associates, bachelors, masters, and doctoral levels. The distance education initiative at the school has been dubbed ApexDE, and the goal centers on making high-quality education accessible and affordable. ASOT is highly committed to the success of their students. The online doctoral program offered is a Doctor of Ministry. The program doesn’t require any face-to-face meetings. It has a tuition rate of less than half the national average among comparable programs. The program is designed to be completed in as little as three years when earning a doctorate online. We have previously ranked the Apex School of Theology as the number 1 school in the state of North Carolina in our recent article, Top 20 Best Online Colleges in North Carolina.

Apex Website: To learn more about the Doctor of Ministry program, please visit https://www.apexsot.edu/
Freshman Retention Rate: 77%
Graduation Rate: 98%
Final Score: 175/200

8: Pepperdine University

Pepperdine University

Pepperdine University is a private research university located in Malibu, California. There are six graduate campuses dotted across southern California. Pepperdine also has international campuses in Germany, England, Italy, China, Switzerland, and Argentina. It is a Christian-affiliated university. It was founded as a Christian liberal arts college in 1937. At that time it was called George Pepperdine College. It was named after its founder that used his fortune from the Western Auto Supply Company to establish a school. There are 7,826 students. Degrees at the bachelors, masters, and doctoral levels in a broad range of fields are available. Pepperdine University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission and boasts a few programmatic endorsements as well.

The only online doctoral programs available at Pepperdine are in the field of education. Each of the degrees are presented in a hybrid format rather than entirely online. The programs include a:

A majority of the coursework at 60% is presented in a traditional setting. However, the classes are flexibly held on evenings and weekends. Regardless of which program you choose to enroll in, you will have to travel to campus for a portion of your classes for the entire 3.5 years that the program is designed to fill. After that is completed, you will have to complete a dissertation.

Pepperdine Website: For more information about doctorate degrees in education administration, please visit https://www.pepperdine.edu/
Freshman Retention Rate: 90%
Graduation Rate: 87%
Final Score: 177/200

7: Ohio State University

Ohio State University

The Ohio State University is a public land-, sea-, and space-grant university with its main campus in Columbus, Ohio. The university originally began as the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1870. It was created as a result of the Morrill Land Act of 1862. Classes started shortly after in 1873, hosting only 24 students at the time. That is a far cry from the astounding 59,482 students the university serves today. OSU expanded relatively quickly. It was granted university status in 1878 and took on its current name. In the 1880’s graduate programs were added to the curriculum. The Higher Learning Commission accredited the university in 1913. It was elected into the Association of American Universities in 1916. According to the latest data, OSU is one of the top three largest universities by enrollment. It has the third largest campus in the nation.

Academically, Ohio State has been nationally recognized by The Washington Monthly, U.S. News & World Report, Times Higher Education, and more. Authors Howard and Matthew Greene dubbed OSU a public ivy in 2000, which recognizes public universities as having programs of the highest educational quality. There are 16 constituent colleges and schools operated by the university, and upwards of 700,000 living alumni. The distance education offered at Ohio State is taught by the same faculty as the on-campus courses. It offers incredible flexibility while not skimping on student support. Surprisingly, only 3% of OSU’s students are pursuing a degree this way. The doctoral program that OSU offers online is the Doctor of Nursing Practice. This program is 5th in the nation according to reputable ranking publication U.S. News & World Report. In 2017, Ohio State University was recognized by OnlineCollegePlan as the top university in the state of Ohio.

The Ohio State University Website: To learn how to become a nurse practioner or nurse educator, please visit https://www.osu.edu/
Freshman Retention Rate: 94%
Graduation Rate: 84%
Final Score: 178/200

6: Boston University

Boston University

Boston University is a private research university located in Boston, Massachusetts. Boston University, or BU, is a non-sectarian university. It was founded in 1839 as the Newbury Biblical Institute in Newbury, Vermont. It was a theological school until the Massachusetts Legislature chartered it as a university in 1869. It was renamed at that time. Boston University is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education. BU has 20 program-specific accreditations as well. It serves 32,695 students with an undergraduate majority, providing degrees at the bachelors, masters, and doctoral levels as well as a myriad of certificates. Alexander Graham Bell, credited with the invention of the telephone, did so in a Boston University research lab. Another interesting fact about BU is that it was the first university in America to grant a doctoral degree to a woman in the year 1877. It also graduated the first black psychiatrist.

Boston University offers almost 300 different courses of study in a very broad range of fields through the 18 schools and colleges that comprise the university. There are over 100 different doctoral programs available but only a handful are offered online. The ones that can be pursued at a distance include a Doctor of Occupational Therapy, which is the most popular. Other programs provided via web include a:

Programs admit students in a cohort model and are orchestrated to take just three years to complete all coursework. Students will have up to seven years to finish the doctoral degree program if they should need to.

Boston Website: To get more information on professional doctoral degrees offered at BU, please visit https://www.bu.edu/
Freshman Retention Rate: 93%
Graduation Rate: 87%
Final Score: 180/200

5: Northeastern University

Northeastern University


School Profile
Northeastern University was originally established in 1898. At the time, it was the Evening Institute for Younger Men and held its classes at the YMCA building. After a number of shifts and expansions, the institute was granted university status. It adopted its current name in 1917. However, it wasn’t accredited until 1940 by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education. The former abbreviation for the university was NEU, but now it is simply NU. Degrees are offered to the current 20,381 students. They have bachelors, masters, and even doctoral degrees, along with a small selection of certificate programs. There are 63 research centers and institutes at the university, which is considered an R1 institution by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. This means that they have the distinction of the Highest Research Activity. The university has also jumped to 40th from 96th in the past ten years according to rankings published by U.S. News & World Report.

The colleges and schools that make up Northeastern are the:

  • College of Arts, Media, and Design
  • D’Amore-McKim School of Business
  • College of Computer and Information Science
  • College of Engineering
  • Bouvé College of Health Sciences
  • College of Professional Studies
  • College of Science
  • College of Social Science and Humanities
  • School of Law

Each entity has further academic divisions within itself. There are over 60 online degree programs offered at NU. Only two of them are at the doctoral level. Both are provided through the College of Professional Studies. One of the programs is the Doctor of Education degree program. All coursework is online. There is a week-long residency requirement for the first two years that you’re enrolled. The second program is the Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program. It is fully online and designed for people who are already professionals in the field.

Northeastern Website: To request info about distance learning doctoral programs, please visit https://www.northeastern.edu/
Freshman Retention Rate: 97%
Graduation Rate: 86%
Final Score: 183/200

4: University of Florida

University of Florida

The University of Florida is a public land-, sea-, and space-grant research university. It was founded in 1853. The campus is in Gainesville, Florida and that is the only one. It is a member of the State University System of Florida. While UF is not the largest school in the system or even the state, it is counted as one of the largest universities in America by enrollment size. UF is accredited by The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. Accreditation, in this case by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, should be an important factor when finding an advanced degree for online students. UF has several accreditations for some of their programs from agencies related to the field. The university operates almost 200 different research centers and institutes and has 16 academic colleges within it. UF offers degrees at the associates and bachelors level, and at the graduate level provides students with the choice of 123 masters programs and 76 doctoral programs.

There are 94 online programs at the graduate level and 24% of graduate students are obtaining their education entirely at a distance. At the doctoral level, there are nine programs:

UF Website: To request info about financial aid or educational specialist degree programs, please visit https://www.ufl.edu/
Freshman Retention Rate: 97%
Graduation Rate: 87%
Final Score: 184/200

3: University of Southern California

University of Southern California

The University of Southern California is a private sea- and space-grant university in Los Angeles, California. It was founded in 1880. It was originally affiliated with the Methodist church. It doesn’t maintain that affiliation today. USC has always been forward thinking, mandating that “no student would be denied admission because of race” nearly a century before America was integrated and tuition at the university was online $15.00 per term. There are almost 44,000 students at the University of Southern California. It is very uncommon for graduate students to make up the majority of a student body. However, that is the case at USC with just over 25,000 students studying at the graduate level. A quarter of them do so online. The university is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission. USC can confer degrees at the bachelors, masters, certificate, and doctoral degrees to eligible students. There are currently more than 365,000 alumni.

Entertainment greats like George Lucas, Will Ferrell, John Ritter, and many other familiar faces all walked across a commencement stage as Trojans. Niche ranked USC as 10th in the nation based on academics in 2016. U.S. News & World Report has it positioned as #21 in the 2018 annual ranking publication for national universities. There are three online doctorate programs available at USC. There is the Global Executive Doctor of Education, which is primarily online but requires intensives in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and other cities abroad; the Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership and; the Doctor of Social Work offered through the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. It is the first program of its kind to be delivered in a distance-learning format from an elite research university.

USC Website: To learn more about education administration, education specialist or public administration programs, please visit https://www.usc.edu/
Freshman Retention Rate: 96%
Graduation Rate: 92%
Final Score: 188/200

2: Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University is a private research university in Baltimore, Maryland. It was founded in 1876 and was the first research university ever to be established in America. The concept of a graduate school was inspired by the ancient Heidelberg University in Germany. Johns Hopkins was the first benefactor of the university which is why it is named after him; his bequest equates to 150 million dollars in today’s money. The university is referred to most often as just Johns Hopkins, but sometimes JHU as well. There are additional campuses in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. areas, as well as in China and Italy. Similar to the University of Southern California, graduate students drastically outnumber undergraduate students. Of 23,917 students, only 6,042 are enrolled in an undergrad program. Certificates and bachelors degrees are both provided by the university; however, the graduate programs are exceedingly more common.

Johns Hopkins as a whole is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. It is made up of nine academic divisions and operates well over 100 research centers and institutes. For the past four decades, Johns Hopkins has been the recipient of the most money in federal research grants in the US. 35% of Johns Hopkins students seeking a graduate degree are enrolled solely in online courses, including computer science. The online doctoral programs at Johns Hopkins are offered in the fields of:

  • Applied Health Sciences Informatics
  • Civil Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Education
  • Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • History of Medicine
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Nursing Practice

The Doctor of Nursing Practice draws in the most students.

Johns Hopkins Website: To learn more about how to become a family nurse practitioner or other doctorate of health programs, please visit https://www.jhu.edu/
Freshman Retention Rate: 96%
Graduation Rate: 92%
Final Score: 188/200

1: Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University is a private research university in Nashville, Tennessee. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges accredited the university in 1895. It was created in 1873. There are many different research centers and institutes operated by Vandy, as the school is often called. Vanderbilt is also home to the most extensive collection of television news coverage in the world, the largest DNA databank in the world, and the largest space and defense electronics research facility. There are almost 13,000 students, and even though the university has a large student body, the student to faculty ratio is just 8 to 1. The university is made up of a number of different colleges and schools. These are the:

  • College of Arts and Science
  • Blair School of Music
  • Divinity School
  • School of Engineering
  • Graduate School
  • Law School
  • School of Medicine
  • School of Nursing
  • Owen Graduate School of Management
  • Peabody College of Education and Human Development

Students can earn degrees from the bachelors level all the way up to the doctoral level with a richly varied selection from the constituents. The Peabody College of Education and Development offers the only online doctoral degree program a student can earn at Vanderbilt. There are not very many online opportunities for students at Vanderbilt and paired with the gorgeous campus architecture and the fact that it is an arboretum, less than 3% of students at Vanderbilt are learning online. The online doctoral program available culminates in a Doctor of Education in Leadership and Learning in Organizations. The coursework is 100% online. Students will have to attend Vanderbilt for a yearly immersion and to present their capstone project.

Vanderbilt Website: To request info about an educational specialist doctoral degree, please visit https://www.vanderbilt.edu/
Freshman Retention Rate: 97%
Graduation Rate: 92%
Final Score: 189/200

Online PhD Programs FAQ

Are there any online top PhD programs?
Yes. There are many prestigious schools that offer online doctoral degrees through best online doctoral programs.

What are the best online doctoral programs?
Are yo interested in earning an online degree? While there are many online programs to choose from, Online College Plan has ranked the top 20 best colleges that offer online PhD programs. The top ranking online PhD college this year is Vanderbilt University.

How do I get an online PhD?
Doctoral programs offer a doctorate degree. It is the highest level of academic achievement. You can earn a PhD in as little as four years after completing a bachelors degree or three years after completing a masters degree.

Online doctoral programs vary from school to school. We hope that this college ranking of online top Ph D programs at doctorate schools has given the prospective doctoral student many online course options to consider to earn an online doctoral degree through online doctoral programs to work toward a successful career.

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