Best Online Colleges for Doctoral Programs Methodology

Eligibility for Ranking

In order to be eligible for these rankings, schools must offer at least two online doctoral programs in at least two subject areas, and they must have an annual research expenditure greater than $0.

Rankings Methodology

These rankings are based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which is the primary government database for the collection and reporting of educational data. The NCES data points that were incorporated into these rankings are number of faculty members, number of full-time faculty members, student-faculty ratio, research expenditure per full-time student, total research expenditure, and percentage of total expenditure dedicated to research.

These data were collected for over 150 schools offering online doctoral programs, and then entered into an internal algorithm to determine an overall final score for each school. In calculating the final score, each of the data points was weighted equally. Any school with an annual research expenditure per full-time student greater than $8,000 was then given a small boost in the rankings.

NCES data are subject to a meticulous review and quality control procedure before release, so the data available on the NCES website that were used for these rankings do not necessarily represent the most recent school year.

Fully Online Status

Schools with programs that require some on-campus coursework were still considered for our rankings if the amount of in-person work required was limited to two weeks or less. This allows students to retain their current employment or other personal responsibilities.

Other Data Sources

Tuitions were manually researched and reflect the lowest tuition rate available at the specified degree level. Out-of-state tuitions were used unless in-state tuition is offered to all online students. Figures are accurate at the time of publication; please check with the institution for current tuition rates.

Program data including available degrees, tuition rates, and details about program coursework were collected from official school websites, reflecting data for the 2018-2019 school year. These data were collected in August of 2018.

Programmatic accreditation and profit status of schools were collected from official websites of the accreditation agencies or from the NCES. NCES data are updated annually. The NCES does not release data into downloadable formats until they have been approved, so the most current available data will not be for the most recent academic year.