How Do I Earn a Ph.D. Degree Online?

Many schools offer online Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees in subjects ranging from education to physical therapy. Earning a Ph.D. degree online requires prior completion of either a bachelor's or master's degree program and perhaps some on-campus work.

Online Ph.D. Degree Program Information

The online Ph.D. degree programs available to you will depend on your previous education. Many online Ph.D. programs also require a certain amount of work on campus, so location may also affect availability. Since much of a Ph.D. program involves research for a dissertation, these programs are easily adaptable to online study.

Important Facts About These Programs

Possible Careers Psychologist, research scientist, college professor
Programs Fellowship programs are available in areas such as public health, social work, and journalism
Continuing Education Training programs for professional certifications such as the Certified Professional in Training Management are available
Other Program Requirements Some programs offer/require internship experience

Prerequisite Education Requirements

A bachelor's degree or master's degree is required before beginning a Ph.D. degree program. Usually the previous degree needs to be in the same field as the Ph.D., but some schools offer alternate tracks for students with degrees in other fields. Most Ph.D. programs can be completed faster with less coursework by people who have a master's than by those with a bachelor's, who may have to complete additional courses.

Choosing a School and Program

Both public and private for-profit schools offer online Ph.D. degree programs. Examples of public schools with online Ph.D.s include Michigan State University, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Arizona. Online Ph.D. degree programs are available in subjects such as:

  • Nursing
  • Engineering
  • Classical civilization

Students may also choose a focal area within their field. For instance, a student in an online nursing Ph.D. program may specialize in health risk reduction or elder care.

On-Campus Residency Requirements

Many online Ph.D. programs often require some period of residency at a local campus. The purpose of this residency is to introduce students to faculty and classmates, conduct classes not available online and provide access to on-site resources and research materials. For this reason, it's important for students to check a program's residency requirements and choose a school within traveling distance.


The primary focus of a Ph.D. degree program is research for a dissertation that makes a substantive, original contribution of knowledge to the field of study. The program may also call for additional written or oral examinations. At the end of the program, students will submit their dissertations and appear before a panel of professors for an oral defense of their work.

Coursework in an online Ph.D. program consists of classes in the core subject, research classes and electives. Research courses include instruction in methodology, statistics and data analysis.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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