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Most Affordable Online Ph.D. Programs in 2024

Pursuing a Ph.D. can be a costly endeavor, but it doesn’t have to break the bank.

We’ve ranked the 20 most affordable online Ph.D. programs based on a methodology weighing three key factors.

Ranking Methodology

  • Annual Tuition Costs: This accounts for 50% of the ranking score. We looked at the total annual tuition cost for a full-time course load. Lower tuition receives a higher score.
  • Cost Per Credit Hour: 30% of the ranking score is based on the cost per credit hour. A lower cost per credit equals a higher score.
  • Flexibility and Accessibility: The remaining 20% of the score focuses on program flexibility and accessibility. Programs that are 100% online with multiple start dates per year and no residency requirements receive the highest marks.

The Top 20 Most Affordable Online PhD Programs in 2024

Using this ranking methodology, here are the top 20 most affordable online Ph.D. programs for 2024.

North Carolina A&T State University – Doctor of Philosophy in Leadership Studies

Doctor of Philosophy in Leadership Studies

  • $4,194 – $15,480 annual tuition
  • 60 credits, 100% online

With in-state tuition of just $233 per credit hour, NC A&T tops the list as the #1 most affordable online PhD program. This flexible 60 credit program has no residency requirements and focuses on leadership theory and research methods.

Columbia Southern University – Doctor of Business Administration

Doctor of Business Administration

  • $8,845 annual tuition
  • 61 credits, 100% online

At $435 per credit hour, CSU offers one of the cheapest online business doctorates. This 100% online, 61 credit DBA has a dissertation requirement but no residency.

William Howard Taft University – Doctor of Education

Doctor of Education

  • $6,480 annual tuition
  • 60 credits, 100% online

Taft’s EdD only costs $360 per credit and has no additional fees. The 60 credit degree is fully online with a choice of concentrations.

American College of Education – EdD in Leadership

EdD in Leadership

  • $6,528 annual tuition
  • 64 credits, 100% online

For $306 per credit hour, ACE offers an affordable leadership-focused doctorate in education completely online. Students complete a dissertation.

Indiana State University – Doctor of Nursing Practice

Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • $8,103 – $10,527 annual tuition
  • 37 credits, 100% online

With tuition of $438 per credit, ISU’s 37 credit DNP is a top choice for an affordable nursing doctorate. The program is 100% online with no residencies.

Texas Tech University – EdD in Agricultural Education

EdD in Agricultural Education

  • $8,779 annual in-state tuition
  • 72 credits, hybrid

Texas residents pay only $488 per credit for this 72 credit education doctorate with an agricultural focus from TTU. It is mostly online with minimal campus visits.

Post University – Doctor of Nursing Practice

Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • $13,860 annual tuition
  • 42 credits, 100% online

Post offers its 42 credit DNP for only $770 per credit hour. The program is entirely online in an accelerated 28-month timeline.

Liberty University – Doctor of Education in Community Care & Counseling

Doctor of Education in Community Care & Counseling

  • $13,566 annual tuition
  • 57 credits, 100% online

Liberty’s CCC EdD costs just $595 per credit with discounts for full-time students. The 57 credit program is 100% online.

University of Wyoming – EdD in Higher Education Administration

EdD in Higher Education Administration

  • $6,460 – $19,340 annual tuition
  • 75 credits, mostly online

UW’s education doctorate costs only $359 per credit for in-state students. It is mostly online with one initial campus visit.

Missouri State University – Doctor of Nursing Practice

Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • $14,700 annual tuition
  • 29 credits, 100% online

MSU’s DNP runs $14,700 in flat annual tuition, making it one of the most affordable nursing doctorates. The 29 credit program is completely online.

Abraham Lincoln University – Juris Doctor

Juris Doctor (JD)

  • $11,375 annual tuition
  • 140 credits, 100% online

ALU offers an ABA-approved law doctorate for only $325 per quarter unit. The 140 unit JD is 100% online with flexibility.

Arizona State University – Doctor of Education in Leadership & Innovation

Doctor of Education in Leadership & Innovation

  • $10,170 annual tuition
  • 90 credits, 100% online

ASU’s EdD is $565 per credit but offers grants and scholarships to lower costs further. The 90 credit program is online in a supportive cohort model.

University of Massachusetts – Doctor of Nursing Practice

Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • $14,850 annual tuition
  • 36 credits, online after MSN

UMass’ 36 credit DNP is $825 per credit hour for a total cost under $15,000 a year. It is online after completing an MSN degree.

New Mexico State University – PhD in Curriculum & Instruction

PhD in Curriculum & Instruction

  • $17,551 annual tuition
  • 66+ credits, mostly online

NMSU’s C&I doctorate is $444 per credit for all students. It is mostly online with some summer campus sessions required.

Pacific College of Health and Science – Doctor of Acupuncture

Doctor of Acupuncture

  • $9,988 annual tuition
  • Varies, 100% online

At $454 per credit, this DAOM completion degree is one of the most affordable doctorates in acupuncture. The program is 100% online.

Colorado Technical University – PhD in Computer Science

PhD in Computer Science

  • $13,393 annual tuition
  • 100 credits, online with residency

CTU offers a flexible 100 credit PhD in computer science for $598 per credit hour. Online with occasional on-campus research.

Indiana University – Doctor of Public Health

Doctor of Public Health

  • $10,350 – $22,500 annual tuition
  • 45 credits, mostly online

IU’s online DrPH costs between $690-$1500 per credit depending on residency. It includes some face-to-face meetings over two years.

Hampton University – PhD in Nursing

PhD in Nursing

  • $9,382 – $10,425 annual tuition
  • 54-60 credits, 100% online

Hampton’s online nursing PhD ranges from $695-$750 per credit. The flexible 54-60 credit program has no residency requirements.

Auburn University – PhD in Polymer & Fiber Engineering

PhD in Polymer & Fiber Engineering

  • $17,082 annual tuition
  • 30-36 credits, mostly online

Auburn’s engineering Ph.D. is $949 per credit. The program is mostly online, with potential campus visits for exams and defense.

Liberty University – PhD in Public Policy

Ph.D. in Public Policy

  • $11,900 annual tuition
  • 60 credits, 100% online

Liberty’s 60 credit public policy Ph.D. costs $595 per credit. The online program incorporates Christian doctrine.

Rankings Analysis and Insights

  • Public and state colleges tend to offer the most affordable options, with lower in-state tuition rates. Private universities are typically more expensive for online doctoral programs.
  • Certain fields like nursing, education, business, and public policy have numerous affordable online options, likely due to high demand. Fields like law, medicine, and hard sciences have fewer cheap online programs available.
  • Total credit requirements range widely from 30 credits up to over 90 credits, impacting overall program cost. Shorter programs with no dissertation requirement are sometimes cheaper.
  • Annual tuition costs of $10,000-15,000 are quite common even for affordable online PhDs. Programs under $10,000 are rare, making financial aid and support crucial.
  • 100% online programs with no residency provide the most cost savings on travel and lodging. Programs with some on-campus elements have higher overall costs.
  • Part-time and flexible pacing options can lower per credit tuition rates at some schools, ideal for working professionals.
  • Even affordable programs often have extra fees for technology, resources, and graduation costs that add to the total price.
  • Ranking strictly by annual tuition cost provides just one data point. Cost per credit and program flexibility also influence value.

In summary, public universities tend to offer the most affordable online Ph.D. options, especially in high-demand fields like nursing and education. But additional financial support is still key, even with cheaper programs. Flexibility, required credits, and fees also impact total costs.

Guide to Affordable Online PhD Programs

Pursuing a PhD can be expensive, but online programs can provide a more affordable option for advancing your education and career. This guide covers key factors to consider when researching cheap online doctoral programs.

What to Look For in Affordable Online PhDs

  • Low Tuition Costs – Compare annual and per credit tuition rates. In-state public schools tend to be cheaper.
  • Limited Fees – Watch out for extra fees that can increase the overall cost.
  • 100% Online – Fully online programs eliminate travel and on-campus costs.
  • Flexibility – Look for self-paced options with multiple start dates per year.
  • Financial Aid – Ask about scholarships, grants, assistantships, and other aid opportunities.
  • No Residency – Programs without residency requirements maximize cost savings.

Most Affordable Online Ph.D. Fields

Certain subjects tend to have lower-cost online doctoral options:

Ways to Save on Online PhDs

If tuition is still high, here are some tips to reduce costs:

  • Apply for financial aid through the school and external scholarships
  • Use employer education benefits or tuition reimbursement
  • Attend part-time to qualify for lower per-credit rates
  • Find paid research or teaching assistant roles
  • Take advantage of in-state tuition if moving is an option

Top Paying PhD Degrees

A Ph.D. can lead to high-paying jobs in academia, research, or specialized industries.

These degrees offer high salaries because they require a high level of skill and knowledge. They also lead to careers in in-demand fields.

  1. PhD in Electrical Engineering
    • Early Career Salary: $103,000
    • Mid-Career Salary: $144,000
  2. PhD in Computer Science
    • Initial Salary: $118,000
    • Pay at mid-career level: $145,000
  3. PhD in Organic Chemistry
    • Early Career Salary: $83,400
    • Mid-Career Salary: $146,000
  4. PhD in Chemical Engineering
    • Early Career Salary: $96,100
    • Mid-Career Salary: $146,000
  5. PhD in Physics
    • Early Career Salary: $93,700
    • Mid-Career Salary: $135,000
  6. PhD in Biomedical Engineering
    • Pay in Your Early Years: $88,100
    • Pay at mid-career level: $133,000
  7. PhD in Statistics
    • Salary for an Early Career: $105,000
    • Pay at mid-career level: $131,000
  8. PhD in Engineering
    • Early Career Salary: $93,600
    • Mid-career salary: $137,000
  9. PhD in Pharmacology
    • Early Career Salary: $75,400
    • Mid-Career Salary: $141,000
  10. PhD in Physical Chemistry
    • Early Career Salary: $73,600
    • Mid-Career Salary: $138,000

Common Questions About Affordable Online PhD Programs

Pursuing an online PhD program can provide flexibility and convenience for working professionals and parents.

However, earning a doctoral degree remotely also raises many questions about cost, financial aid, legitimacy, and more.

The section below answers some of the most frequently asked questions about affordable online PhD options.

What are some of the cheapest online doctorate programs?

While tuition costs vary, some particularly affordable options include:

  • North Carolina A&T State University’s online Doctor of Philosophy program charges just $233 per credit hour for in-state students.
  • Columbia Southern University offers doctoral programs starting at $435 per credit hour, including textbooks and eBooks.
  • Many schools provide financial assistance, which can lower out-of-pocket costs for online learners. Checking a program’s aid opportunities is advisable.

Can I get financial aid for an online PhD program?

Yes, financial aid, including scholarships, grants, work-study, and loans, is often available for online doctoral students–some of which are known as “fully funded online PhD programs“. Steps to take:

  • Complete the FAFSA if the program/school accepts it.
  • Research scholarships and grants specifically for online learners.
  • Ask about aid directly through the school or program.
  • Explore employer education benefits and professional development funds.

Are online PhD programs seen as legitimate credentials?

Absolutely. Top schools like Stanford, Columbia, and MIT now offer online doctorates. Be sure to verify:

Can I earn a Ph.D. online for free?

A small number of schools provide full funding for select on-campus Ph.D. students. But free online options besides the GI Bill for veterans are very limited. Realistically, expect to pay some tuition costs unless you secure a full scholarship or grant.

Affordable online Ph.D. programs do exist but require diligent research. Seeking aid and evaluating total costs are key steps for remote doctoral students.

Finding an affordable online Ph.D. is possible with research and utilizing all financial aid opportunities available. Being flexible about the school and program can also help you find the best value.