Online Doctorate Degrees

Affordable online PhD programs offer opportunities for learners to further their careers and increase their salaries. Students exploring advanced degree options, working professionals looking to improve their career prospects and earning potential, and people deciding between a professional certification or a doctoral degree can benefit from pursuing their PhD from a top online school. A doctoral degree provides avenues for advancement for many types of students and professionals.

While many online doctoral program aren’t cheap, an affordable PhD can help you kickstart your career. Doctoral degrees serve as the most advanced degree for many fields, allowing degree holders to practice in specialized careers like psychiatry, surgery, orthodontia, and anesthesiology. Although degrees in these fields require a great deal of time and training, the average salaries for these professionals remains high, giving graduates an excellent return on their investment. 


Time to completion can be affected by your field of study, research focus, faculty and student services support, and your motivation and availability to complete the degree requirements. The general curriculum includes coursework, followed by comprehensive exams, and completion of an original research project. The time it takes to design, execute, and analyze the dissertation project, as well as work through the process of approval by a faculty committee, varies by project and student.

Total number of courses, core and elective, and other learning requirements, such as internships, apprenticeships, clinical experiences, and teaching, also vary by discipline and whether or not you pursue a research or professional doctorate degree. You’ll find a range of credits from 36 to 90 or more, plus credits earned as part of the dissertation process. Having completed a related master’s degree before enrolling in the doctorate may reduce the total number of course credits required.

Among traditional campus-based doctoral programs, the average time to completion is 5.9 years. Online doctoral programs feature similar degree requirements – coursework, exams, dissertation research. But many advertise slightly shorter completion times, ranging from 3 to 5 years. Accelerated tracks rely on transferring graduate-level credits related to the doctoral program of study, prior related work experience for professional programs, and ideas about a research agenda. 

How Much Does An Online Doctoral Degree Cost?

Cost is a factor that should always be considered when choosing any online degree program. Doctoral programs are usually more expensive than master’s programs since they require completion of more credit hours. Students who rely on loans to pay for school should be careful to calculate payback amounts that include interest rates. Consider living expenses and school expenses in your budget as you plan your financial future as an online student.

In addition to tuition, students should anticipate additional costs and fees related to academic work, such as textbooks, software, hardware, and Internet access required for participating in online classes. Doctoral programs can also include costs related to residency requirements (i.e., fees plus travel and lodging) and prior learning assessment. When researching options, compare cost-per-credit, which varies by school and can also vary by program and type of course.

Who Should Consider an Online Doctoral Degree?

Students who pursue a doctoral degree are interested in developing advanced knowledge in a specific area of study, as well as learning how to conduct academic research. This level of academic work goes beyond what you’ll find in a master’s degree program, to include the opportunity to develop expertise in the area of interest and contribute original research to other professionals in your field. Most students who complete an online Ph.D. or research doctorate degree are interested in finding positions at colleges and universities or research centers. Students who pursue professional doctorate programs (e.g., D.B.A., Ed.D., D.N.P., Pharm.D.) are usually interested in working in senior-level clinical or practical application positions after graduation, often in business and industry settings.