Most Affordable Online PhD Programs

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for postsecondary teachers to grow by 9% between 2019 and 2029. This growth rate significantly exceeds the average projected rate for all U.S. careers. Professionals need a terminal degree to attain this job or a related position. Aspiring professors and lecturers should research the cheapest online Ph.D. programs to make their career goals a reality.

“No matter the academic subject, a Ph.D. program instills the research, writing, and communication skills professors need to teach students, perform original research, and present findings to colleagues.”

No matter the academic subject, a Ph.D. program instills the research, writing, and communication skills professors need to teach students, perform original research, and present findings to colleagues. Affordable online Ph.D. programs convey these skills just as well as on-campus programs.

Recommended Online Doctoral Programs

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Top 10 Affordable Online Ph.D. Programs

1Baker University
2Bradley University
3Columbia University in the City of New York
4Concordia University — Chicago
5Concordia University — Saint Paul
6Florida International University
7Gonzaga University
8Indiana University — Bloomington
9Indiana University — Bloomington
10Johns Hopkins University

What is a Ph.D.?

An affordable online doctoral program consists of a mix of graduate-level coursework and original research. Students become subject matter experts by reading primary source documents, collaborating with peers, and performing experiments, depending on the subject. These courses give degree-seekers the tools necessary to write a dissertation.

Ph.D. students start the dissertation process once they complete core coursework. Working with an advisor, they select a research topic, perform research, and conduct experiments if necessary. They use the results to write the dissertation, an extended essay approximately 100-200 pages long. To receive a Ph.D., learners must also defend their dissertation in front of a dissertation committee consisting of their advisor and other professors.

Why Get a Ph.D.?

  • New Job Opportunities: A Ph.D. qualifies professionals to apply to tenure-track positions at colleges and universities. Professors with tenure can advance their career by becoming a dean or provost.
  • Increased Salary Potential: Postsecondary teachers earned a median annual salary of nearly $80,000 per year as of May 2019, and postsecondary administrators earned more than $95,000 per year. Salaries vary throughout the United States.
  • Make a Lasting Impact: College professors can make a lasting impact in their field by publishing original research. This research can influence how other professors and the general public regard a subject.
  • Mentor Students: Like K-12 teachers, postsecondary teachers not only instruct but also mentor students. Mentoring can improve students’ academic outcomes significantly and inspire the next generation of postsecondary teachers.
  • Personal Satisfaction: Earning a Ph.D. can take four or more years, depending on the subject. As a result, graduates often feel immense personal satisfaction.


What are Ph.D. requirements?Like a bachelor’s or master’s degree, Ph.D. requirements include completing a prescribed curriculum. Students also perform in-depth research and write a dissertation.
Can you go into a Ph.D. program without a master’s?Multiple universities offer the cheapest online Ph.D. programs to degree-seekers who possess only a bachelor’s degree. However, these learners may need to take additional courses compared to students who already earned a master’s degree.
Is an Ed.D. or Ph.D. better?The answer depends on students’ career goals. An Ed.D. prepares learners for a top position within K-12 education, while a Ph.D. trains degree-seekers for a career in academia.
Can I complete a Ph.D. in two years?Unfortunately, affordable online Ph.D. programs take longer than two years to complete. Students should expect to need at least four years to earn a degree, especially if they do not possess a master’s.

Accreditation for a Ph.D. Program

Individuals researching the cheapest online Ph.D. programs should always determine whether the university that offers the degree is regionally accredited. In the United States, the Department of Education charters six agencies to evaluate postsecondary institutions in different regions. If a school’s programs meet specific standards, it receives accreditation, which it must renew every few years.

The cheapest online Ph.D. programs should also attain national accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). The DEAC compares a school’s on-campus and online programs. If the latter offers the same rigor and learning outcomes, the school receives national accreditation.

Some of the cheapest online doctoral programs may advertise their programmatic accreditation status. Programmatic accreditation agencies evaluate a single academic program to ensure that it offers an excellent curriculum that prepares degree-seekers for their future career. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation maintains a list of all legitimate U.S. programmatic accreditation agencies.

Courses for an Online Ph.D. Program

Courses for online Ph.D. programs vary by academic subject. However, all affordable online doctoral programs convey essential skills that graduates need to succeed in academia. These skills include research, writing, and oral communication. Learners hone these skills by taking subject-specific courses and those focusing on dissertation research.

“However, all affordable online doctoral programs convey essential skills that graduates need to succeed in academia. These skills include research, writing, and oral communication.”

Most affordable online doctoral programs feature the courses below. Note that these courses represent a general overview, as titles and learning outcomes vary among universities. Prospective students can learn more about specific online Ph.D. programs by contacting schools’ academic departments.

Introduction to Graduate Studies

Most affordable online doctoral programs require that doctoral students pass this course in the first semester. Learners analyze research methods, practice academic writing, and explore different topics within the discipline. Course requirements may include writing a short thesis. The thesis allows professors to provide invaluable feedback that degree-seekers can apply in later courses and when writing their dissertation.

Research Methods

Over one or more courses, degree-seekers learn how to apply statistical analysis to research data. Mathematical topics include instrumental variables, regression, and other techniques. In class, students explore these concepts and master software programs that can help them during the dissertation research process. Research methods may also cover quantitative and qualitative research. Depending on the academic subject, professors modify the course to give learners the tools they need for academic and career success.

Participant Observation

Some of the cheapest online Ph.D. programs require degree-seekers to perform research that involves other people. Participant observation introduces students to different observation techniques, such as those in real-world and laboratory settings. The course also emphasizes ethnography — defining people’s customs and cultures through observation and research. Degree-seekers learn how to apply new research methods in the field, a skill they can carry over to their dissertation.

Graduate Research

In this course, students perform research that lays the groundwork for their dissertation. The course assigns each student a professor mentor. Professors and students meet several times throughout the semester, as professors help learners fine tune their research’s topic and scope. Some programs allow degree-seekers to take this course multiple times. However, a program may limit how many times students can attempt this course.

Dissertation Defense

After degree-seekers finish their dissertation, they perform a dissertation defense in front of their dissertation advisor and other faculty members. These professors make up the student’s dissertation committee. During the defense, learners present their research findings and answer questions from the committee. A typical committee asks degree-seekers to wait outside while they deliberate. If learners pass the defense, they earn a Ph.D. If they do not pass the first time, they can try again the following semester or academic year.

How Much Do Ph.D. Graduates Make?

The four most popular careers for Ph.D. graduates pay median salaries ranging from $58,110 to $95,410 per year. These positions include careers in academia and K-12 education. While earning one of the cheapest online Ph.D.s, learners can work with their advisors to take assessments, explore job paths, and review tips to make their resumes shine.

Geographic location and the economy also influence how much professionals with a Ph.D. make. The positions in the largest cities often pay more to attract the best candidates. However, the cost of living in cities often exceeds the cost of living in rural areas. Additionally, a poor economy may depress salaries as college and universities attempt to save money.

Professionals in academia possess multiple pathways to improve salary potential over their career. Professors can attain a tenure-track position that confers both a higher salary and job security. Others may decide to pursue a job in postsecondary administration. These jobs include academic dean, provost, or chancellor.

Career and Salary Outlook for Ph.D. Graduates

Four popular careers for Ph.D. graduates include postsecondary teacher, postsecondary education administrator, instructional coordinator, and career and technical education teacher. Each job offers a unique median salary and projected growth rate. The embedded links provide additional information about each job’s typical duties, salary, and growth rate in different states.

  • Postsecondary Teacher: These professionals work as professors or lecturers at colleges and universities throughout the United States. Typical job duties include teaching courses, creating curricula, and serving on committees. Many postsecondary teachers also perform original research and present their findings at national conferences. Adjunct professors cannot attain tenure and often earn less than tenured professors.
  • Postsecondary Education Administrator: At colleges and universities, these administrators oversee campus operations, academic standards, and admissions. Larger institutions employ multiple administrators to manage different departments. They report to a higher-level administrator or directly to the school’s president or chancellor. Many of these professionals possess significant teaching or managerial experience.
  • Instructional Coordinator: At K-12 schools, colleges, and universities, these coordinators use their extensive teaching experience to develop new curricula. They analyze students’ test results, collaborate with instructors, and mentor inexperienced teachers. Although some employers may require only a master’s for this position, a doctorate can make a candidate stand out in a crowded applicant pool.
  • Career and Technical Education Teacher: Schools that specialize in a specific career path, such as welding, auto repair, or culinary arts, employ teachers who possess both industry experience and honed instructional skills. Like K-12 and college educators, these teachers make lesson plans, mentor learners’ academic and personal growth, and ensure everyone’s safety. A Ph.D. may qualify these teachers for an administrative role or raise.

CareerMedian Annual SalaryProjected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Postsecondary Teacher$79,5409%
Postsecondary Education Administrator$95,4104%
Instructional Coordinator$66,2906%
Career and Technical Education Teacher$58,1102%

Source: BLS

Scholarships for Online Ph.D. Programs

The cheapest online Ph.D. programs may save degree-seekers money, but they still require a significant financial investment. However, prospective students can apply for numerous scholarships to help fund their education. The five awards below are just a few scholarships that help learners avoid debt. Click the embedded links to review application requirements and award amounts.

Army Nurse Corps Association Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Active-duty service members and veterans who worked as military nurses can apply. Application requirements include earning an undergraduate or graduate degree in nursing and not receiving federal assistance to cover tuition costs. This scholarship also accepts applications from military spouses and other dependents.
Amount: $3,000

Don’t Text and Drive Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Digital Responsibility offers this award to undergraduate and graduate degree-seekers majoring in any subject. During the scholarship’s multi-step application process, applicants first submit a brief message about the risks associated with texting and driving. Digital Responsibility then selects 10 finalists, who write essays of 500-1,000 words to expand on their ideas.
Amount: $1,000

Ford Emerging Voices Scholarship
Who Can Apply: In partnership for the Alliance for Women in Media (AWM), Ford Motor Company awards funding to two women earning a graduate degree in any subject. Applicants must submit an essay and academic transcripts. Scholarship recipients receive more than money, as AWM asks them to write up to four posts for the organization’s blog.
Amount: $1,000-$3,000

Gen and Kelly Tanabe Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Education authors Gen and Kelly Tanabe funded this scholarship to help degree-seekers fulfill their education goals. The scholarship committee considers only applicants’ personal essays. Recipients can use the scholarship for any education expense, such as textbooks or housing. Applicants can apply Aug. 1 – Dec. 31.
Amount: $1,000

Return 2 College Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: This program awards funding to both recent high school graduates and nontraditional students earning an undergraduate or graduate degree. The short application does not require transcripts or test scores and only asks that applicants write three sentences describing why they want to earn a degree. Applicants must apply by the Sept. 30 deadline.
Amount: $1,000

Most Affordable Online Ph.D. Programs

1. Baker University

Baker University was founded in 1858 as the first four-year college in Kansas. The only program of its kind in the region, the 59-credit Ed.D. in instructional design and performance technology (IDPT) teaches educators how to lead online learning and training in a variety of settings.

The Ed.D. in IDPT offers a fully online curriculum that learners can complete in just three years. The curriculum covers topics such as project management, design principles for instructional design, and instructional models and tools for online learning. Participants apply theoretical knowledge during fieldwork at a host institution or organization. Courses and fieldwork wrap up in two years, leaving a year for the dissertation process.

Learners pay a flat fee over three years, making this one of the cheapest Ph.D. programs in the region. Early enrollment rewards students with a $30 per-credit tuition discount. Baker ranks in the top 8% nationwide for return on investment, including job opportunities and earnings for graduates. No GRE scores are required for admission.

2. Bradley University

At Bradley University, students receive the personalized learning they can expect from a small college while benefiting from the institution’s significant resources. Bradley, located in Peoria, Illinois, offers an online Ed.D. in higher education for educators seeking postsecondary teaching or administrative roles.

Enrollees choose one of two pathways: community college or higher education leadership. All students explore topics such as learning in an era of technology and boards and educational governance.

During a two-semester internship, participants apply learning in real-world contexts as they build relationships and examine leadership challenges at an institution. During the dissertation process, students employ action research methodology embedded in the coursework. This program does not lead to state licensure or certification.

Students can complete the degree in as few as seven semesters. Enrollees pay the same competitive per-credit tuition regardless of residency. Admission to one of the nation’s most affordable online Ph.D. programs requires transcripts and a portfolio of achievements.

3. Columbia University in the City of New York

Columbia University’s school of engineering established the Columbia Video Network (CVN) in 1986 so that working professionals can pursue graduate engineering degrees through distance education. Only students in Columbia’s MS in computer science can enroll in the 30-credit hybrid doctor of engineering science (DES) in computer science. Enrollees can pursue a specialization such as artificial intelligence, software engineering, or web technologies.

The school also offers CVN doctorate programs for non-Columbia students. The 30-credit hybrid DES in Earth and environmental engineering requires coursework and research focused on the impact of industrial and human activities on the environment. Engineers can also complete a hybrid DES in mechanical engineering or DES in electrical engineering through CVN.

The DES differs from the Ph.D. in that DES students can enroll on a part-time basis and must self-fund their education. However, students pay competitive tuition rates for the DES, making the degree an affordable online doctoral program. Admission requires GRE scores.

4. Concordia University-Chicago

Students at Concordia University-Chicago enjoy a rigorous, values-based education in the Lutheran intellectual tradition. The college relies heavily on e-learning to give learners access to CUC’s extensive catalog.

CUC offers several online doctoral programs, including a doctorate in business administration (DBA). The 60-credit program gives learners advanced leadership and management skills. The degree offers four specializations, including marketing innovations and strategic leadership and innovation.

CUC’s 61-credit Ed.D. in leadership offers 12 specializations. The program cultivates practitioner-scholars skilled in applying management, decision-making, and change management skills in educational and business contexts.

Professionals planning to pursue academic careers can opt for the 67-credit Ph.D. in leadership, which offers the same specializations as the Ed.D. but emphasizes research scholarship.CUC’s doctoral programs rank among the cheapest online Ph.D. programs due to flat and affordable tuition rates regardless of residency. Admission requires GRE or MAT scores.

5. Concordia University-Saint Paul

Part of a nine-college system affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Concordia University-Saint Paul administers more than 100 programs. CSP’s online Ed.D. maximizes participants’ scholarship and leadership potential through a 64-credit curriculum. Faculty deliver the program’s 17 courses using both synchronous and asynchronous formats. Topics include leadership and scholarship, organizational theory, and data and quantitative analysis.

Faculty assign each student a leadership coach who serves as a mentor throughout the program. The program includes a K-12 internship that enrollees may use to help fulfill principal and other administrator licensure requirements. All participants must engage in two one-week, on-campus residencies in July.

CSP offers competitive tuition rates, payment plans, scholarships, and grants that help make this one of the nation’s cheapest online Ph.D. programs. Students also pay the same tuition regardless of residency. Admission requires transcripts, a writing sample, and recommendations.

6. Creighton University

Creighton University is a Jesuit Catholic college located in Omaha. About 2,000 Creighton students engage in online learning, representing about one-quarter of the school’s student population.

The school’s online doctoral programs focus on business and healthcare. The doctor of business administration provides a hybrid curriculum that emphasizes research, analytical, and critical thinking skills. With part-time enrollment, students can complete the 54-credit degree in just three years.

The hybrid DNP molds RNs into strong leaders and expert clinicians who embody compassionate nursing. Nurses can choose from multiple DNP tracks, supplementing online coursework with clinical experiences in their workplace.

The online doctor of pharmacy ranks among the top in the nation. Pharm.D. students complete 143 credits that advance their expertise in domains such as patient data collection, patient counseling, and medication therapy management and delivery. Creighton also offers an Ed.D. in interdisciplinary leadership.

Students pay the same affordable per-credit tuition regardless of where they live. Admission requirements vary for these affordable online Ph.D. programs, but students typically need not submit GRE scores.

7. Florida International University

Florida International University enrolls about 50,000 students on two campuses and at multiple centers in South Florida. FIU, a top 50 public college, boasts 20 years of experience delivering online programs and maintains a significant e-learning footprint. FIU Online’s 36-credit doctor of nursing offers several clinical specializations, including pediatric, adult gerontology, and family health.

All students complete courses that examine translational research, healthcare informatics, and patient safety and quality improvement. RNs supplement coursework with a clinical residency in their chosen specialty. A capstone project highlights their proficiencies.

FIU has a budget-friendly program designed just for working RNs. Students can help pay for tuition with a comprehensive suite of financial aid options, making the degree among the cheapest online doctoral programs for nurses. Admission requires no GRE scores.

8. Gonzaga University

In keeping with the school’s Jesuit heritage, Gonzaga University’s educational programs develop the whole person. Thirty years of distance learning experience makes Gonzaga a pioneer in innovative delivery systems. Located in Spokane, Washington, Gonzaga offers online doctoral programs in leadership and nursing.

The 60-credit Ph.D. in leadership studies gives learners the flexibility to choose a dimension of leadership that drives their research. The 51-credit Ed.D. in educational leadership features a 24-month cohort. Students learn to use evidence-based practices and tools.

Gonzaga also offers a 28- to 78-credit DNP with entry points for those with a bachelor’s or master’s and specializations in family nurse practitioner and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

Gonzaga offers competitive tuition, financial aid opportunities, and payment plans to help make these degrees among the most affordable online doctoral programs in the country. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA.

9. Indiana University-Bloomington

Founded in 1820, Indiana University-Bloomington is the flagship institution of a seven-campus system. IU operates a robust virtual college that offers doctoral programs in nursing, education, and public health.

The 37-credit DNP prepares graduates for leadership roles in the field. With their cohort, students complete synchronous courses in one of four tracks. Nurses interested in a research-intensive doctorate may prefer the 90-credit Ph.D. in nursing science, a hybrid degree that offers specializations in nursing education, health systems, and clinical science.

IU also offers fully online Ed.D. programs in instructional systems technology and literacy, culture, and language education. While curricula vary, all students complete 60 credits and develop a dissertation in their specialization.

The 45-credit doctor of public health in global health leadership enrolls mid- to senior-level professionals who work within healthcare organizations and can impact public health outcomes. IU offers among the cheapest online doctoral programs thanks to competitive tuition and extensive financial aid opportunities. Some programs require GRE scores.

10. Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University is one of the nation’s preeminent research institutions. Based in Baltimore, Johns Hopkins offers online doctoral programs in education, healthcare, and engineering. The School of Nursing offers a DNP with nine tracks, including executive leadership and adult-gerontological primary care nurse practitioner. RNs complete 24-43 credits in their specialization, supplementing coursework with clinical hours and immersions.

The School of Education’s 90-credit Ed.D. trains students to play an integral role in improving health outcomes. The 90-credit Ph.D. in education develops scholars with advanced research skills focused on policy analysis and education improvement. The Ph.D. in mechanical engineering has no formal curriculum. Instead, enrollees develop their own technical program incorporating coursework, research, and a dissertation. Johns Hopkins also offers doctoral programs in public health and molecular microbiology and immunology.

Online students pay the same tuition regardless of residency. Admission requirements vary for each of these affordable online doctoral programs.

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11. Lewis University

Located in Romeoville, Illinois, Lewis University offers students a values-centered education inspired by the college’s Catholic and Lasallian heritage. The doctor of nursing practice builds on RNs’ clinical skills with an online curriculum that accommodates busy schedules and tight budgets.

The 30-credit curriculum emphasizes evidence-based performance, systems approaches, and quality improvement. RNs can save time and money by transferring almost half of the DNP’s 1,000 residency-hour requirement from an MSN-level practicum. All RNs present a scholarly project at one of the program’s two required immersions.

Lewis provides discounts and scholarships that help make this degree one of the cheapest online doctoral programs for nurses. Notably, graduate assistants receive tuition and fee reimbursement when they perform duties at Lewis’ College of Nursing and Health Sciences. DNP students pay the same per-credit tuition regardless of residency. Admission requires a minimum 3.25 GPA.

12. Michigan Technological University

Founded in 1885, Michigan Technological University educates some of the nation’s finest engineers. Distance learners can pursue the school’s online Ph.D. in mechanical engineering.

Students can choose from specializations in areas such as autonomous systems, intelligent systems, and molecular dynamics modeling. Participants engage in extensive research, complete a qualifying exam, and develop a dissertation.

The program ranks among Best Colleges’ top 20 schools for return on investment. Enrollees pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency. The department reports that 80% of Ph.D. graduates find jobs in the industry. Applicants need not pay a fee to apply to one of the nation’s most affordable online Ph.D. programs. Admission requires no GRE scores.

13. North Carolina State University at Raleigh

North Carolina State University at Raleigh ranks among the nation’s leading public research colleges. The school offers two online doctoral programs. The doctor of design suits established practitioners seeking to advance their expertise in applied design and innovation.

The 54-credit curriculum immerses students in research design and methodology in year one. Participants conduct extensive research and complete a dissertation during the rest of the three-year program. The program requires a week-long workshop each semester.

The 54-credit Ed.D. in education administration and supervision develops school principals. The curriculum, which leads to district/superintendent licensure in North Carolina, examines school law, educational finance, and the politics of P-12 education. Educators complete an internship and dissertation.

Students in both programs pay competitive tuition rates. Admission requires GRE or MAT scores.

14. Northwest Nazarene University

A comprehensive Christian college located in Idaho, Northwest Nazarene University blends faith and learning in all disciplines. The school’s two online doctoral programs equip educators with the competencies and credentials necessary to assume leadership roles in education.

The 66-credit Ed.D. in educational leadership focuses on the application of leading-edge professional competencies, including research skills, to advance K-12 education. Faculty allow Ed.D. enrollees to pursue a focus area of their choosing.

The 71-credit Ph.D. in educational leadership explores practices and policies that impact schools and school systems. The two degrees use a cohort model that students complete in 26 months. Both programs require two-week, on-campus summer sessions for dissertation and research activities.

The low tuition for both programs makes these degrees among the cheapest online doctoral programs for educators. Furthermore, students pay the same tuition regardless of residency. Admission to either degree requires an educational specialist degree or the equivalent.

15. Oklahoma State University

Oklahoma State University offers more than 200 master’s and doctoral options. The Stillwater-based college offers a fully online Ed.D. in applied educational studies with a specialization in aviation and space education. The 61-credit curriculum focuses on aviation leadership and executive development, covering topics such as aviation administration, aviation law, and aerospace risk assessment.

The 60-credit Ph.D. in fire and emergency management administration develops leaders in law enforcement, emergency management, homeland security, and similar fields. The hybrid curriculum explores topics such as the politics of disaster; hazard, vulnerability, and risk analysis; and emergency management and public policy.

Non-residents pay nominally more than their in-state peers. Active-duty military personnel pay in-state tuition rates. Scholarships help make these degrees among the cheapest online doctoral programs in the nation. Admission requires GRE scores.

16. Purdue University-Main Campus

Learners can join the ranks of Purdue’s more than 130,000 online students through select online doctoral programs.

Purdue offers a hybrid Ph.D. in higher education to prepare leaders to teach in two- and four-year colleges. Alternatively, the Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy studies prepares educators for PK-12 superintendent licensure. Both degrees require 90 credits and use a cohort model that incorporates online and in-person coursework, internships, and mentorship opportunities.

Purdue’s online JD prepares law students to sit for the California Bar Exam. Students can complete 92 credits in a fully virtual classroom in just four years. Purdue also offers an online DNP and innovative doctor of technology focused on STEM education.

Students enjoy competitive tuition regardless of residency, making these degrees among the cheapest online Ph.D. programs in the nation. Admission requirements vary by program.

17. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Recognized for innovative programs and cutting-edge research, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center graduates more healthcare professionals than any institution in Texas. The school’s online doctoral programs include a fully online doctor of occupational therapy degree designed for licensed occupational therapists. Students complete 27-33 semester credits, including independent study and capstone projects.

A first of its kind in the Southwest, the doctor of science in physical therapy enrolls physical therapists who want to advance their expertise. The 78-credit curriculum blends web-based classes and laboratory experiences conducted during long in-person weekends.

TTUHSC also offers a hybrid DNP for RNs with a master’s degree. Through coursework focused on evidence-based strategies and leadership skills, the program cultivates clinical scholars who can improve population health in rural and urban settings.

In addition to competitive tuition, students benefit from tuition loans and scholarships. Admission to these affordable online doctoral programs requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and no GRE scores.

18. The College of Saint Scholastica

The College of Saint Scholastica blends academic rigor with Catholic Benedictine values. The school’s growing online platform includes one doctoral program designed for practicing physical therapists.

Experienced clinical practitioners teach the fully online transitional doctor of physical therapy curriculum. The condensed program requires only six classes. Working physical therapists examine topics such as pharmacology, healthcare policy, diagnostic imaging, and evidence-based practice.

The program enrolls physical therapists with a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Students may transfer some credits into this program to save time and money. Learners study in small classes and pair up with a personal advisor who supports them throughout the program.

All students pay the same low tuition rate regardless of residency. Admission to one of the cheapest online doctoral programs for physical therapists requires official transcripts.

19. University of Florida

With more than 170 online degrees and certificates, the University of Florida ranks among the largest virtual colleges in the nation. UF Online’s doctoral degrees mostly focus on education and healthcare. The blended, 90-credit Ed.D. in educational leadership develops educational leaders who can apply research to practice at the school, district, and state levels.

The 54-credit Ed.D. in educational technology provides an option specifically for educators who plan to conduct research focused on the effective use of educational technology in school environments. A practice-focused DNP offers entry points for both BSN- and MSN-educated nurses. RNs complete 35-78 credits focused on innovation and evidence-based practice in the contemporary healthcare environment.

UF also offers online doctorates in Latin and Roman studies and higher education administration. Tuition varies depending on the program, but it remains consistently affordable. These affordable online doctoral programs require GRE scores for admission.

20. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s online doctoral programs focus exclusively on education. The 64-credit Ed.D. in education policy, organization, and leadership offers several concentrations, including global studies in education.

The Ed.D. in learning design and leadership also requires 64 credits. It emphasizes how to use new media to create more dynamic learning environments. A 64-credit Ed.D. in human resource development focuses on how to improve individual learning and workplace performance within organizations. All Ed.D. participants complete a dissertation regardless of their specialization.

Illinois charges the same affordable per-credit tuition for each program. Factoring in payment plans and financial aid options, Illinois administers some of the cheapest online doctoral programs in the nation. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA.

21. University of Iowa

The University of Iowa’s health systems program offers an online DNP. The program prepares RNs for administrative and leadership roles through a curriculum that emphasizes quality improvement and evidence-based practice and management. The program offers pathways for BSN- and MSN-educated nurses, requiring 44-83 credits depending on RNs’ educational background and chosen specialization.

Students can choose from specializations in areas such as health systems, family nurse practitioner, and adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. Graduates leave the program with expertise in advanced nursing practice, healthcare policy, and population health interventions.

Incoming students may qualify for up to $3,000 per semester of DNP traveling scholarship funding, making this degree one of the cheapest online doctoral programs for nurses. Furthermore, the school offers a loan forgiveness program for RNs interested in teaching. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and no GRE scores.

22. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill classifies as a Public Ivy thanks to its elite academics. Distance learners can choose from two online doctoral programs: an executive doctor of public health (Dr.PH.) in health leadership or a transitional doctoral program in physical therapy (Transitional DPT).

The 45-credit Dr.PH. suits working healthcare professionals living in the United States or abroad. Enrollees can complete the degree in three years by blending virtual sessions with on-campus visits.

The 29-credit Transitional DPT program enrolls licensed physical therapists who want to advance their clinical knowledge and skills. The web-based curriculum allows clinicians to continue to work as they explore subjects such as advanced patient management and advanced clinical practice.

Applicants need not submit GRE scores for admission to two of the cheapest online doctoral programs at an elite college.

23. University of South Florida-Main Campus

The University of South Florida operates three campuses that serve more than 50,000 students in the Tampa Bay region. Students need not attend many classes on campus to earn the 59-credit Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction. The degree offers a concentration in career and workforce education that teaches students how to build and sustain systems that facilitate effective workforce development.

Learners study topics like emerging workplace competencies and vocational and adult education program planning. Students also complete a minimum of 10 research methodology credits. All students pay the same low tuition regardless of residency. Admission to one of the cheapest online Ph.D. programs in the nation requires GRE scores.

24. University of St. Francis

The University of St. Francis empowers students with a rigorous Catholic education that incorporates Franciscan values in keeping with USF’s namesake. USF Online administers doctoral programs in education and nursing.

The 60-credit Ed.D. in educational leadership combines coursework, research, and experiential learning components. Educators choose one of two concentrations: superintendent endorsement (hybrid) or leadership, learning, and stewardship (fully online). All Ed.D. students complete a common core that focuses on research, servant leadership, and dissertation experience.

The DNP trains nurses to address the needs of vulnerable populations. The 40-hour curriculum covers topics such as professional and organizational communication; healthcare policy, politics, and practice; and healthcare finance and practice management.

Competitive tuition and graduate financial assistance programs help make these degrees affordable online doctoral programs. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA.

25. Upstate Medical University

Part of the SUNY college system, Upstate Medical University is a distinguished hub of higher education, research, and patient care located in Syracuse, New York. The College of Nursing designs the part-time online DNP specifically for post-master’s nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists.

The 40-credit program develops clinical nurse experts skilled in health policy and advocacy, information technology, interprofessional practice, and evidence-based practice. The curriculum also explores legal and ethical issues and biostatistics for the DNP.

Nurses supplement coursework with targeted clinicals. Participants culminate the DNP with a final scholarly project grounded in clinical practice and evidence-based practice. The curriculum uses an asynchronous format and requires minimal on-campus visits. RNs can complete the degree in 2.5 years.

Financial aid opportunities and SUNY’s affordable tuition make this degree among the most affordable online doctoral programs for RNs in New York State. Admission requires no GRE scores.