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Best Online PhD in Information Technology (IT) Programs

Review the top schools that offer online information technology (IT) PhD programs. Explore how much these programs cost, what to look for when choosing a school and what careers are available after graduation.

Best Schools for an Online IT Ph.D. Program

When determining the best schools for an online information technology Ph.D. program, we looked at factors like admissions requirements, costs, flexibility and program length. The best schools with online information technology Ph.D. programs are discussed below.

1. Dakota State University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Madison, SD $5,939

Dakota State University offers a flexible online Ph.D. in Information Systems program that enables students to choose one of three program concentrations: security, analytics and health care. Students can take classes part-time or full-time, finishing the program in as few as 3 years or as many as 7 years. The program consists of 60 credit hours of coursework, including courses in information technology policy, system design, project management and enterprise modeling. Students do not need a master's degree or graduate entrance exam for admission, and they pay affordable graduate tuition rates of $466 (in-state) or $575 (out-of-state).

2. Nova Southeastern University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Fort Lauderdale, FL $19,665

Nova Southeastern University has a student-to-faculty ratio of 17:1 and offers an online Ph.D. in Information Systems. The program consists of 67 credit hours and is open to students with a master's degree (entrance exam not required). Students take courses in business intelligence and analytics, risk management and information security, human and computer interaction and databases. The program includes once-per-term on-campus sessions in which students can interact with one another and faculty and participate in research assistance, seminars and other educational experiences.

3. University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Little Rock, AR $5,760

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock offers an online Ph.D. in Computer and Information Sciences program that has an extremely affordable tuition at just $383 per credit. Students can select from two concentrations: information science, which focuses on the manipulation and retrieval of information, or information quality, which emphasizes delivering information effectively. The program is open to students with a bachelor's degree and includes 75 hours of coursework. Students will attend three on-campus experiences that include dissertation activities as well as candidacy exams.

4. University of the Cumberlands

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Williamsburg, KY $5,670

The Computer Information Sciences Department at the University of the Cumberlands has 123 faculty members, 99 of which have a terminal degree. The school offers an online Ph.D. in Information Technology program that consists of 60 credits and offers four concentration options: blockchain, information systems security, digital forensics and information technology. Students have an affordable tuition rate of $500 per credit hour and do not need a graduate entrance exam for admission. Courses in the program cover topics like information threats and risk management, data science, strategic planning in IT and data analytics.

5. Capitol Technology University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Laurel, MD $11,124

Capitol Technology University offers 8 doctoral programs relating to information technology, including those in cybersecurity leadership, artificial intelligence, business analytics & data science, quantum computing and a Ph.D. in Technology. The technology program consists of 60 credit hours and offers a track for students with a master's degree as well as a track for students with a bachelor's degree. Students can complete their entire programs online, with no on-campus requirements. The school offers several student associations relating to STEM, including the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers.

Note: All table data is provided by the National Center for Education Statistics. Tuition represents the 2019-2020 school year.

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Overview of Online IT Ph.D. Programs

Online information technology Ph.D. programs give students an in-depth understanding of practical and theoretical information technology topics. Students explore research and analysis methods as well as practical methods for information management, security, communication and storage. Many of these programs allow students to select from a discipline of information technology and concentrate more of their coursework on specific areas, such as cybersecurity and data analysis.

Program Length

The time that it takes for students to complete their programs depends on the number of courses required and the number of classes that students take each semester. Doctoral students are considered full-time when taking 6 credits during a semester. A student in a 60-credit program who takes 6 credits each semester will finish their program in 10 semesters. 10 semesters would encompass 5 years in a traditional school year (taking classes in fall and spring) or 3.5 years at a school that utilizes a full summer semester.

Practical Requirements

Some online Ph.D. in Information Technology programs can be completed entirely online, with no in-person requirements. However, many programs do require students to go to campus one or more times during their program for various academic experiences. These can include things like exams, seminars, networking and other learning sessions.

How Much Does an Online Information Technology Ph.D. Cost?

The total cost of an online information technology Ph.D. program depends on a few factors, including cost per credit (tuition), other fees and student savings.

  • Tuition - Tuition is usually charged per credit hour, and can range from less than $400 to more than $1,000. Since many programs require 60 credits, many students could be looking at a total tuition of around $24,000 to $60,000.
  • Other Fees - Other fees can include those for course registrations, class materials, graduation, distance learning or technology fees and more. Because these vary by school, students should consult with their student accounts offices for estimated totals.
  • Student Savings - Students who have previously completed qualifying graduate coursework can transfer those courses into their new programs, which enables them to save on the total degree completion time as well as the total cost.

Accreditation for Online IT Ph.D. Students

Accreditation can be institutional, applying to a school itself, or programmatic, which affects departments or programs. IT Ph.D. programs don't have programmatic or specialized accreditation, but students can greatly benefit from attending an accredited school. When a school is accredited, it means that an outside organization has reviewed and approved the school in regards to quality criteria like curriculum and graduation requirements. One major benefit of attending an accredited school is that students are eligible for more types of financial aid than they would be at an unaccredited school (like federal aid).

How to Choose a School for an Online Ph.D. in IT

In addition to cost and accreditation, there are several things that you should keep in mind as you narrow down your school choices for an online IT Ph.D. program.

Residency Requirements

Not all programs require students to attend on-campus learning experiences. While these can give students excellent networking and learning opportunities, you'll need to make sure that your schedule and location permit you to attend. Review each of your candidate schools' residency requirements to find out if they will work with your needs.

Faculty

While earning your information technology doctoral degree online, it's important to have knowledgeable, available and supportive faculty. You can check with your candidate schools to find out about faculty experience and education levels. Also, ask how long faculty typically take to respond to student inquiries, as you may need to get assistance quickly during your program.

Flexibility

Before deciding on a school for your online IT Ph.D. program, consider how much time you can dedicate to your studies. While many schools offer flexible scheduling options, some programs are only offered as full-time or part-time. After determining your availability, talk with your admissions counselors to see how much time the programs require each week and if they are a good fit.

How to Become an Information Technology Professional

There are a few routes that individuals can take to become information technology professionals, depending on what type of work they want to do.

Step 1. Earn a Degree

A bachelor's degree is typically the minimum requirement o become an information technology professional. Depending on their position, they may also need to have a master's degree. For instance, an aspiring computer and information systems manager might find a position with a bachelor's degree, but someone looking to become a computer and information research scientist would need to complete a master's in the field.

Step 2. Gain Experience

Because of the technical nature of the industry, many information technology positions require some experience. Recent graduates can gain useful experience through entry-level jobs and advance as they develop a better understanding of IT practices.

Step 3. Get Certified

This step is not applicable to all IT positions (see careers below). In some fields, candidates who obtain certification in relevant areas have better employment opportunities because they can articulate their expertise through the credential.

Step 4. Maintain Up-to-Date Knowledge

Because technology is constantly evolving, it is essential that IT professionals maintain familiarity with new and emerging technologies. This can be done by taking professional development courses and/or participating in a professional organization that provides IT news and networking.

Certification for IT Professionals

Information technology professionals can obtain certification through several different organizations and in many areas of technology. Some of the organizations that offer certifications are listed below.

  • (ISC)2 - This organization offers multiple information security certification options for IT professionals across the globe, including certificates in:
    • CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional)
    • CISSP - ISSMP (Information Systems Security Management Professional)
    • CISSP - ISSAP (Information Systems Security Architecture Professional)
  • Microsoft - Microsoft offers more than 80 certifications, with options at intermediate, beginner and advanced levels.
    • SQL Server
    • MCSE Productivity Solutions Expert
    • MCSE Core Infrastructure
  • IEEE Computer Society - IEEE offers three certifications for software professionals:
    • Associate Software Developer
    • Professional Software Developer
    • Professional Software Engineering Master

Careers for Online IT Ph.D. Graduates

Some of the careers available to online information technology Ph.D. graduates are discussed below along with applicable certification.

Computer Systems Analysts

Computer systems analysts review the computer procedures and systems or organizations and help them find ways to improve efficiency. Their duties can include researching new technologies, creating cost estimates, finding methods for improving the use of current systems and overseeing new system installation. Computer systems analysts don't need to have any special certifications, but can greatly benefit from an understanding of the field they specialize in (such as healthcare or business).

Information Security Analysts

Information security analysts manage the security of computer systems, networks and activities of organizations. Their duties can include monitoring networks, installing security software, conducting security tests and documenting security breaches. Information security analysts may have better employment opportunities if they have the CISSP credential or another certification relating to information security.

Database Administrators

Database administrators oversee the organization and storage of data and ensure relevant users have access to the right data. Their duties can include backing up data, modifying databases, testing databases and merging old and new databases. Database administrators can acquire certification through specific software vendors to show their expertise and may be required to obtain certification for some positions.

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Computer and information research scientists create ways to use new and existing technology as well as explore new methods in technology. Their duties can include exploring issues in technology, assisting engineers and scientists with problem-solving, creating new technology tools and languages, and conducting and analyzing experiments. Computer and information research scientists don't need to have a specific certification but may benefit from a knowledge of their industry (such as biology knowledge for biomedical technologies).

Computer Network Architects

Computer network architects create communication networks for organizations, including wide area networks (WANs) and local networks (LANs). Their duties can include designing and presenting plans for networks, upgrading network hardware, researching technologies and troubleshooting. Computer network architects can obtain certification through specific vendors of software. Some employers can require computer network architects to obtain certification for the software that they use.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Network and computer systems administrators oversee and maintain the communication networks and data systems of organizations. Their duties can include evaluating organizational needs, upgrading networks and equipment, optimizing system and network performance and training users on how to use software and hardware components. Many companies prefer candidates to have certification, which can be obtained through vendors of software and hardware products.

Computer and Information Systems Managers

Computer and information systems managers oversee the IT activities of organizations. Their duties can include planning the installation and modification of software or hardware, determining the benefits and expenses of proposed changes, planning IT staff work schedules and tasks, and determining their department's staffing needs. These professionals don't need a specific certification but may already have certification from the required prior experience.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2019) Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)
Computer Systems Analysts $99,920 9%
Information Security Analysts $99,730 32%
Database Administrators $93,750 9%
Computer and Information Research Scientists $122,840 16%
Computer Network Architects $112,690 5%
Network and Computer Systems Administrators $83,510 5%
Computer and Information Systems Managers $146,360 11%

All career data is provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.