Most Affordable and Cheapest Online PhD Programs

A PhD or doctorate crossing a spectrum of fields – education, technology, healthcare, among others – is the ultimate attainment signifying your mastery over a particular domain, and the most advanced degrees are available online.

Here, we’ll handhold you through the best online phd cheap programs that minimize student debt, inspire you to contribute original research, teach others, and bring impactful change.

We’ve mentioned the school’s Carnegie classification, research activity, rankings methodology, and probable graduate earning potential to guide you in making an informed choice regarding the right degree.

ACE,  Annual Tuition $7,488

American College of Education. A private-for-profit providing distance learning in four significant disciplines – leadership, education, nursing, and healthcare. Students have a choice of seven cheap online phd degrees in these disciplines, highlighting the following domains:

Curriculum and Instruction

Instructional Technology

Second Language Instruction

Nursing Education

Public Health Education

Course completion could be three years or less, considering the student’s academic background, work-life balance, and intended career path.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Higher Learning Commission bestows accreditation to ACE’s doctoral degrees.

The Flagship University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa (AL) Annual Tuition $6,600

UA’s online doctoral degrees enjoy massive popularity, with nearly 42 percent of its students opting for off-campus online courses.

The University of Alabama offers one of the cheapest phd online in Communication, Engineering, and Leadership, covering the following happening fields:

Communication and information sciences

Mechanical engineering

Education leadership

Special education

Nursing Practice (DNP)

The student’s knowledge and domain expertise are honed to advance academic growth and expand professional opportunities in public and private services and industrial sectors.

UA’s Carnegie Classification is high, and accreditation body SACSCOC extends accreditation for UA’s phd online cheap associate, baccalaureate, master’s and doctorate degrees.

The average SAT is 1080-1340, and financial aid benefits over 79 percent of the student enrollment.

TTU, Lubbock (TX), Annual Tuition $6,534

Texas Tech University, with a humongous following exceeding 7,000 students, offers ten of the cheapest online phd degrees focusing on education, helping graduates dig deeper into teacher education, program development, and evaluation.

TTU offers nine of the cheapest online phd programs in the world in Higher Education Administration, Special Education, and Philosophy in Curriculum plus instruction through the Texas eLearning and Academic Partnerships initiative.

Additionally, an online Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership helps students focus on problem-shooting educational best practices, implementing beneficial interventions, and leading the way to impactful and instructional change in the education sector.

The SACSCOC awards accreditation extending to TTUs associate, baccalaureate, master’s and doctorate degrees and certificates, and the university’s Carnegie Classification is top-rated.

The average SAT is 1070-1260, and financial aid benefits over 78 percent of the student enrollment.

University of Illinois Urbana, Champaign (IL) Annual Tuition $7,111

The vibrant innovation hub, CITL, Illinois, attracts a 20,000 student following, with 47 percent of students attending online courses, competing for five top-rated cheapest phd programs online.

Diversity and Equity in Education

Global Studies in Education

Human Resource Development

International Education Administration and Leadership

Learning Design and Leadership.

Please note that these are some of the cheapest online phd in the world, customized primarily with teachers in mind, bestowing impeccable credentials necessary to impact students meaningfully.

The EdD in Human Resources is also tailor-made to kickstart careers in the business ecosystem.

The Illinois University’s Carnegie Classification rides high, and accreditation is by the Higher Learning Commission, recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

The University of Illinois SAT score averages 1210 to 1470, and financial aid options benefit 64 percent of students.

Aspen University, Phoenix, Arizona, Annual tuition $6,750

AU has an online student graduate 3000-strong community enrolling for seven of the cheapest phd online programs in three highly evolving fields – education, nursing, and technology. Prized programs are:

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

The online EdD in Leadership and Learning targeting mid-career professionals.

Doctor of Science in Computer Science (DSCS)

The Distance Education Accrediting Commission, or DEAC, a Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) member, is primarily responsible for the accreditation of all Aspen’s doctoral degree programs.

Most Affordable and Cheapest Online PhD Programs: Your questions answered here

Is there a viable online option for earning a Doctorate Degree?

Research and professional doctorates are available online; the courses much in demand among working professionals are the following:
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

The online route helps students manage their career goals without the discomfort of a residency stipulation, as the coursework can be built around professional commitments without dislocation.

How do affordable online phd programs compare with on-campus programs?

Online and in-person courses have similar requirements – admission norms, a minimum bachelor’s degree with a higher GPA, a competitive GRE or entrance exam score, and submission of outstanding references and erudite personal essays.

The time and effort you put into developing and conducting primary research is similar. In online courses, students can expect a few on-campus meetings, topic-customized conferences, some practicums, or residencies lasting two days to two weeks.

The online system requires the same time management skills, excellent communication, and meticulous adherence to project deadlines.

Do affordable phd online programs command the same legitimacy as resident programs?

The acceptability of a program and its credibility rests with the accreditation awarded to the university. Accreditation indicates that the university’s capabilities and infrastructure have been independently evaluated to ensure Doctoral Degrees fulfill the highest accountability standards.

The stringent standards of online Doctoral Degree coursework, the difficulty level of examinations, and the excellence of research work are of the same caliber as an on-campus course.

What are the core qualifiers for admission to affordable phd programs online?

Just as the traditional doctoral courses, the online programs require a master’s degree in a related field or a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field, over and above the following standards:

A GPA of 3.0 or better

Impeccably referenced letters of recommendation

Persuasive and purposeful personal statements

Competitive GRE/other exam scores

Some universities may insist on a certain amount of field experience or some years of working experience.

Is a Master’s a must-do before getting a Doctorate?

US schools are permitting students to bypass the master’s degree to earn a doctoral degree directly, which is a very welcome opportunity.

For candidates aiming to kickstart a career in academia, locating a PhD program that entertains students with only bachelor’s degrees would be possible. The rigor of coursework is so elevated that many students are awarded a master’s degree on the way to earning a doctorate.

If students earn their master’s degree first, they would have explored their niche topics threadbare and become better acclimatized to the performance expectations and standards of the university.

Students with a master’s degree can also customize their subjects and research work in the university, adding maximum value. It’s always advisable to ensure the new university accepts your master’s credits earned in the first institution.

How do we choose the perfect, most affordable phd programs online?

The choice of the program hinges mainly on the career you wish to pursue. A doctor, pharmacist, occupational therapist, or tenured professor must earn a doctoral degree. On the other hand, we have a slew of high-paying, high-level jobs across economic sectors that do not require a doctoral degree.

Executive management posts, education administrators, healthcare administration, and mental health professionals are positions where a doctorate isn’t necessary.

Generally, the doctoral degree is valuable for candidates desiring to enter teaching and research fields instead of non-doctoral degree options that cover workplace jobs in institutions and businesses.

For example, if you consider the job of a Speech-Language Pathologist who treats communication and speech disorders, the candidate with a master’s degree can earn at least $58,000 annually. The SLP with a doctorate is better placed to grab academic and research positions commanding higher salaries.

What would be the median cost of an online PhD?

The average total expense for an online graduate degree, master’s or doctoral degree, is $12,200 at public schools to $27,800 at nonprofit private schools, according to data released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Notwithstanding the statistical data, the ground reality pegs affordable online doctorate degrees from $15,441 in public schools to $13,188 at private universities.

A silver lining is that many students are not compelled to pay the total cost of their degrees but enjoy either fully funded programs or some form of partial financial assistance in completing the degree.

What is the average length of an online doctoral program?

The duration of a doctoral program depends on the credit hours involved, and these average around 36 to 126 hours of coursework. It follows that the average time taken to complete an online or on-campus degree works out to be three to eight years.

The overall course duration may be further reduced if credits for related coursework are transferred from previous universities.

The duration of the dissertation or capstone project is another factor lengthening the period of the doctoral degree. Some students may experience repeated submissions of their dissertations to secure necessary approval.

In the later stages of the doctoral degree, factors such as workplace commitments for professionals and family obligations could weigh in to delay the graduate degree.

Research-oriented doctoral degree or doctorate in applied fields: Which is better?

Research-oriented doctoral graduates might hit the brick wall of many degree holders chasing too few jobs in academia and the institutional framework. Only exceptional talent breaks the glass ceiling of top institutional/ Academic positions. On the other hand, the demand for doctorate holders in the applied fields is stronger, especially in applied sciences and technology.

Before investing your time, energy, and resources in a doctorate of your liking, review the professional degrees appearing on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) current listing of fastest-growing occupations. Physical therapists, teachers in the healthcare sector, and lawyers are currently in better demand.


The high-level, highest-paying jobs in governments, companies, and nonprofits with smooth career progression are usually the domain of the doctorate holders.

Indeed, the doctorate holder is at the pinnacle of prowess having notched up an impressive achievement. Luckily, the revolution in online education has opened plenty of opportunities to advance education and career goals if you display the right attitude and determination.

Traditional courses demand full-time participation and are more expensive. In comparison, the online doctoral degree presents convenient options through distance learning; they cost much less than their on-campus counterparts. Besides, the online doctorate is the most feasible way to plan your career goals in coverage, curriculum, and affordability.

The institutions we have listed above are at the top of their league. They enjoy their hard-won reputation as harbingers of better education, offering some of the cheapest online doctoral programs.