Do you want to earn the PhD you’ve always dreamed of without the commitment of full-time study? We understand: life is expensive, and pausing work isn’t always feasible for everyone.
An online PhD is a fantastic option, as it allows you to easily juggle study, work, and family commitments. Of course, just like other programs, online doctorates come with tuition and other fees, which can be pricey. However, these costs vary wildly, and there are plenty of cheap PhD programs around.
Here are the 15 cheapest online PhD programs in 2022 that offer you the opportunity to pursue a valuable qualification without breaking the bank!
The Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) at Missouri State University is one of the cheapest online PhD programs in nursing. It offers a great deal of flexibility, including the choice between synchronous and asynchronous delivery and full-time or part-time learning. The program provides a clear overview of modern scientific methods and practices, entrepreneurship, finance management principles, and health policy for senior nursing professionals.
This online program is designed for anyone who has already completed a master’s degree in acupuncture. It aims to give students a deeper understanding of Chinese medicine and biomedicine in general, and acupuncture in particular. It will also sharpen your knowledge of healthcare ethics, build leadership skills, and enhance your problem-solving capabilities. This is one of the cheapest online doctorate programs available today, especially considering how many credit hours you are required to learn.
Cost per credit: $508 per credit hour in-state, as per the tuition estimator; according to Texas Tech University, students can expect to pay around the same for out-of-state (although there may be some fees)
In-Person requirement: Hybrid
Credits required to graduate: 72 credit hours minimum
This doctorate from Texas Tech University is one of the cheap online doctoral programs in education and is delivered entirely online. To be eligible for the program, you need relevant professional experience. For the Higher Education specialization, you’ll need professional experience in a post-secondary institution.
The Agriculture Education stream of the program will help you develop critical thinking in agricultural research, statistics, and communication.
Cost per credit: $233 per credit hour for in-state students, $860 per credit hour for out-of-state students
In-Person requirement: As far as we can tell, this program is fully online
Credits required to graduate: 60 credit hours minimum; 48 hours of coursework and 12 hours for your dissertation
This is an interdisciplinary program for master’s degree holders who want to research sociology and behavior to learn more about leadership qualities. The program requires 42 program credits and 12 dissertation credits, so 54 credits in total. This doctorate degree is relevant to various industries and disciplines, and upon successful completion, you’ll be qualified for a range of roles in consultancy, research, and education.
In-Person requirement: Courses are 100% online, but on-campus residency is required during research
Credits required to graduate: 100 credit hours, obtainable in as short as three years though you can take your time if you prefer
This 100-credit program in computer science provides a modern, relevant approach to computing. With deep knowledge in a specialized area of computer science, you’ll be equipped to predict future trends in the field and make significant contributions to the sector. This program will help you to become an expert in computer design, security, and processes and is one of the most affordable online PhD programs in computer science. Classes are flexible, so you’ll be able to arrange your studies around your schedule.
Considering you need to earn 100 credits to graduate, this program from Colorado Technical University is one of the most inexpensive PhD programs you can earn online.
Cost per credit: $432 per credit hour in-state; out-of-state students who are admitted to an online program at Indiana State University can obtain the rate of $562 per credit hour. Note that a fee of $50 per graduate course is added to online learning courses. More information is available here
In-Person requirement: 100% online
Credits required to graduate: 37 credit hours, no dissertation required
You need a master’s qualification in Nursing to be eligible for Indiana State University’s online DNP program. This program doesn’t involve writing a dissertation — you can complete the entire in 37 credit hours. It is designed to develop and sharpen your knowledge of care delivery, ethics, leadership, and decision-making. The program will also help you develop critical thinking skills based on a scientific outlook to providing care to patients.
This offering by Indiana State University is one of the more affordable PhD programs online if you want to earn your DNP.
Cost per credit: $444.4 per credit hour for all students; more information here
In-Person requirement: One week of in-person learning at the Las Cruces campus during the summer session, required for three summers
Credits required to graduate: 66 credit hour minimum, more may be requested depending on your advisor and your committee’s suggestions
The C&I (Curriculum and Instruction) online doctorate at New Mexico State University is a generalist doctoral qualification. You can choose to specialize in topics such as multicultural teaching, early childhood education, education and technology, cultural studies, and critical pedagogies. The program also offers the option to choose independent courses to enhance your particular area of study.
This program is one of the most affordable PhD programs online, especially considering the fact that it’s offered at a flat rate of $444.4 per credit hour whether you are in or out-of-state.
Cost per credit: $690 per credit hour in-state, $1500 per credit hour out-of-state
In-Person requirement: Three face-to-face meetings per year in year one and two, otherwise all online (80-99% online)
Credits required to graduate: 45 credits over an average of three years
This doctoral qualification specializing in global and public health is suitable for students all over the world and taught with a global curriculum by a global faculty. The program takes in two cohorts, one with seven years of work experience following completion of a master’s degree, while the second cohort is for less experienced students. The program is aimed at professionals in active roles in the public health field and can be completed in 45 credit hours.
Indiana University’s offering is one of the cheapest PhD programs you can find online in the public health space.
In-Person requirement: If you already have an MSN and are a certified practice nurse (advanced), you can join the DNP completion program which is fully online
Credits required to graduate: 36 credit hours
The University of Massachusetts’ online doctorate program in Nursing Practice allows professionals to enhance their practical skills and knowledge of medical care. It also helps them to think critically about advanced scientific knowledge in healthcare, analyze clinical results, and perfect their leadership skills while taking an evidence-based approach through the latest healthcare and nursing research.
Cost per credit: $337 per credit hour in-state, $537 per credit hour out-of-state
In-Person requirement: Initial campus visit, then almost entirely online
Credits required to graduate: Roughly 75
This doctoral program aims to create leaders in the education field that can effectively manage higher education institutions and handle challenges in the industry. You can complete the program with around 75 credits. This program can be completed almost entirely online, though it does require an initial campus visit. If you’re looking for the cheapest PhD online, this is certainly one of them.
In-Person requirement: You may be required to visit the campus for oral exams and project/thesis/dissertation defense
Credits required to graduate: 30 credit hours minimum for thesis option, 36 credit hours minimum for the non-thesis option
This is one of the few online doctoral specializations available for professionals in the field of chemical engineering. It is also one of the cheapest PhD programs in the discipline. It requires 30 course credits and ten research credits for completion. If you are looking for a cheap online PhD in engineering, this offering from Auburn University might be for you.
Specialization subjects include polymer chemistry and conduction in polymers, mechanics of materials made of textiles, fabrics used for producing paper, along with many others. Anyone with a master’s degree in a relevant field is eligible for the program.
Credits required to graduate: 54 to 60 credits over an average of 4 years; 7 years maximum
This online doctoral degree requires a minimum of 48 credits for completion. You’ll need a master’s degree in a relevant field to be eligible to apply for the program. This is a flexible program where students have the option to pursue areas of interest beyond the core subjects.
Cost per credit: $595 per credit for full-time online (enrolled in 6 to 15 credits per semester)
In-Person requirement: 100% online
Credits required to graduate: 57 credit hours over 2.5 years on average
This is a 100% online and highly flexible program with 57 credit hours. The program specializes in diagnosis, treatment, and counseling, especially in the areas of family and marriage, as well as research and education methodology.
Cost per credit: $595 per credit hour for full-time online (enrolled in 6 to 15 credits per semester)
In-Person requirement: 100% online
Credits required to graduate: 60 credit hours over 3 years on average
This online doctoral program can be completed in 60 credit hours and aims to equip students for the world of public policy. It encourages new research to improve and transform the public policy sector.
How to Make the Cheapest Online PhD Programs Even More Affordable
We’ve pulled together the cheapest PhD programs from respected institutions in a range of fields. However, even when looking at the most affordable online doctoral programs, tuition and other fees can add up. Luckily, there are many sources of financial support that can help.
Many universities and colleges provide financial aid to students. There are also scholarships, loans, and grants available for deserving students. You can even ask your employer to cover all or part of your tuition and other study expenses.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the cheapest online doctorate?
In the age where online learning is becoming the norm, it comes as no surprise that more and more institutions are offering doctoral degrees online. Online education, by its nature, tends to be cheaper than in-person learning. To give you a better idea, some of the cheapest online doctoral programs are:
Shiloh University’s Doctor of Ministry in Relational Leadership — at 36 credits to complete, this degree will cost you $18,000 at $500 per credit hour.
Columbia Southern University offers its doctorate programs at $435 per credit hour. There is even a CSU Learning Partner rate of $391.50 per credit hour if you are a member of the school’s Learning Partner program. On top of that, Columbia Southern University tries to include textbooks and eBooks in the total cost to further lower your costs. Of course, this may not always be valid for those working toward doctorates, so your mileage may vary.
It’s worth mentioning that many doctorates (even those online) offer financial aid opportunities to help you pay part or all of your tuition costs. It may be worth looking into programs where these opportunities exist just to lower your costs further.
Do online doctorate degree programs provide financial aid options to students?
If you’re looking to earn your doctorate online, you can still apply for the FAFSA as long as the school/program you’re interested in accepts it. Look for colleges and institutions that accept FAFSA and consider online schools and programs that offer financial aid. Most universities will offer scholarships and grants to qualifying students, whether they are attending in-person or online classes. For example, Doctor of Nursing Practice students at Missouri State University can apply for MSU’s annual scholarship.
Know that although you can apply for various scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid, there are no guarantees that you’ll be able to get them — especially since it’s pretty likely that many others will apply too.
An online doctoral qualification not only helps you to advance your career but also encourages your own personal development. Critical thinking, leadership, and analytical skills are qualities necessary not only for a successful career but also in your personal life and relationships. You’ll find that pursuing one of the cheapest online PhD programs in 2022 will provide many benefits!
Lisa is a full-time writer specializing in career advice, further education, and personal development. She works from all over the world, and when not writing you'll find her hiking, practicing yoga, or enjoying a glass of Malbec.