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10 Best Online PhD Education Programs Under $40,000

An online PhD education grad at the blackboard

The world of education has been changing for years, but when you combine the digital revolution with disease outbreaks, the pace of change has accelerated. As we move into the next phase of the educational landscape in a changed world, experts are needed to help guide our educational systems to work in present world realities. Now is a great time to burnish your credentials to be one of the leaders by getting started on an online PhD in Education.

PhD in Education Salary

Many jobs in education don’t require a PhD, but to get to the top of the field of education leadership, whether in school or university administration, or policy and government, a terminal degree like an online PhD education is needed to get you there. If you want to teach about education in a university setting, or to do research to help shape education policy, a terminal degree is required. The demand for strong leadership is going to be great as the educational landscape shifts, so getting the top credential makes sense for many education professionals. And the best part is that an online PhD education in any specialty can be easy to arrange around your current job and family responsibilities.

Many jobs in educational administration, like school principal, pay quite decently with an average salary of $96,400 per year. Training and development managers, who work in corporations and organizations, do even better at an average salary of $113,350. But PhD in education salary averages can be much higher when you start to look at positions like college president, with an average of $276,226 per year, and some make closer to half a million dollars a year.

Positions in educational policy and research can be very highly rewarding as well as highly compensated. But many types of careers in education will pay much higher salaries once you have your doctorate. More doors open up, especially if you want to take your classroom or administrative experience and turn it into leadership gold with a terminal degree. You can definitely benefit from a PhD in education salary, as you can often get a raise in your current position or find a whole new and more interesting job to apply your advanced knowledge.

Online PhD Education Programs: Time & Cost

Most programs that grant the online PhD in Education take three or four years to complete, with the consideration that you usually have two or more years of coursework and then research and writing on a dissertation. Many online PhD programs in education have fully online courses, but require a short intensive face-to-face meeting on campus once a year or more, usually on weekends or in the summer. Some programs emphasize “live” video classes, which means you will have to schedule in the class meeting times, but others will allow you to complete your work around your own schedule. Consider the in-person requirements for the program you choose, as this can be harder to arrange around a busy work schedule.

Another consideration as you compare programs is cost. This guide shows you online PhD programs in education that will cost you less than $40,000 overall, but within that, many programs can cost as little as $27,000. We have only listed accredited online PhD programs in education, so you know that your money is going towards a worthwhile and accepted degree. Online PhD education needs to be rigorous and well respected, and the accredited online PhD programs in education we highlight all have well-regarded universities behind them, with quality faculty and comprehensive curriculums.

Choosing the Best Online PhD Education

The best online PhD programs in education have many similar qualities, so how do you pick the best one for you? To get a PhD in education salary, you need to choose one of the accredited online PhD programs in education. Many programs can cost you big bucks, but the programs listed here are some of the most affordable programs that are also highly respected. For those considering a doctoral degree in education, there is also the choice between the PhD and the EdD, which are both terminal degrees. In terms of qualifications for jobs, the PhD is generally more accepted if you want to teach at a university, but the degrees are pretty interchangeable. The PhD will have a bit more of a research focus, but most PhD programs in education still focus on applying that research to real-world problems in the field.

Think about which specialty you want to focus on. Some programs are tightly focused on one specialty, but more general programs may also allow you to do your research in the area that you are most interested in. For most people, their previous work experience may lead to a specialty, such as special education or higher education leadership, but you can also use the PhD to broaden or refocus your expertise to a new area within education. The most common specialties are leadership, higher education, instructional design and technology, curriculum and instruction, and organizational leadership. You will also find some online PhD programs in education that allow you to concentrate on education law, literacy, or that have a curriculum that emphasizes a Christian worldview.

If you need the degree to count towards any licensure in your state, make sure that your state board accepts the program that you choose. Other consideration include scheduling, preferred format for classes, and cost. Most of the online PhD in education programs on this list are going to be around $35,000, but you will find some a bit lower and some a bit higher, but check on discounts, education programs from the military or your employer, and scholarships to see if you can bring the cost down on the program you choose.

Now it is time to compare the PhD in Education programs that you can study online to find the one that fits with your life goals, your current responsibilities, and is within your budget.

10 Best Online PhD Education Programs Under $40,000

Now it is time to compare the PhD in Education programs that you can study online to find the one that fits with your life goals, your current responsibilities, and is within your budget.

  1. Indiana State University

    Total Cost (In-State): $27,006

    Indiana State University has two options for the PhD online: Higher Education Leadership or Educational Administration with a specialization in K-12 school. The HE degree accepts students from the US and Canada, while the K-12 program is for US residents and military members only. Both programs operate on a cohort model, with a new group of students starting each fall and progressing through the program together. Both programs have five semesters of coursework, including one summer semester, before students progress to the dissertation phase. Students typically finish the dissertation in 18-24 months, but are allowed to take up to six years for this process. The programs require three or four weekend on-campus intensives along with the online coursework, as well as some campus residency in the summer. Much of the online coursework is asynchronous, but there are some required live online class times. The Indiana State PhD programs are great for scholar/practitioners who want an affordable PhD and who are able to travel to the on-campus sessions.

    Find Out More:
    Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Administration / Higher Education Leadership


  2. Texas Tech University

    Total Cost (In-State & Out-of-State): $27,049

    For an affordable online PhD in Education, the online PhD in Curriculum and Instruction at Texas Tech allows students to choose from different specialty tracks: Curriculum Studies and Teacher Education and STEM. Most of the programs have application deadlines in July for a fall start, while a few concentrations allow students to start in any semester. Applicants need a completed master’s degree in education or relevant subject, GRE scores, and timelines for admission decisions vary by program. Most programs are 100% online, but some have minimal in-person requirements. Financial aid, scholarships, and graduate assistantships are available, but tuition, especially for in-state students, is very low. Texas Tech PhD in education programs are great choices for students who are interested in one of the concentrations, some of which are not offered by many other universities.

    Find Out More:
    Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum & Instruction / STEM
    Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum & Instruction / Curriculum Studies & Teacher Education


  3. Notre Dame of Maryland University

    Total Cost (In-State & Out-of-State): $29,010

    Notre Dame of Maryland University offers the online PhD in Higher Education Leadership for Changing Population with a values-based curriculum focusing on social justice. With a unique emphasis on the changing demographics in higher education, this program prepares students to manage and organize diverse university and college communities. The coursework is 100% online, and NDMU offers rolling admissions and multiple start dates for this affordable doctoral program. Students come to the campus for one weekend to take their comprehensive exams before embarking on the dissertation. Tech support for those new to studying online is available 24/7, and the school offers personal success coaches in addition to the opportunity to work closely with faculty members. The PhD from NDMU is a perfect choice for those who seek to make a difference in their communities by pursuing a world-class, but very reasonably priced, advanced degree in education leadership.

    Find Out More:
    Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education Leadership for Changing Populations


  4. Old Dominion University

    Total Cost (In-State): $29,403 – $32,661

    Community colleges increasingly fulfill the role of workforce development in our communities, and if you are a leader in this setting, the PhD in Community College Leadership from Old Dominion University may be the perfect program for you. The 54-credit degree assumes students have prior course work in statistics, student and workforce development, and leadership theory. Classes meet “live” on video in the afternoon or evening, allowing students the opportunity to interact in real-time with their peers and instructors. The program usually takes about three and a half years to complete, and students will need to attend two-week on-campus intensives in June of their first and second years. For those with a background in statistics and instructional technology, the PhD in Instructional Design & Technology from Old Dominion University prepares students to perform advanced work in education, military, healthcare, and other settings. Admission is competitive, but the program may accept students without prior statistics or ID preparation by requiring extra coursework. A minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.8 and graduate GPA of 3.25 are recommended. Students may start in the fall, spring, or summer semesters. ODU is a great choice for those who value spending lots of face time with their colleagues and appreciate the small class sizes of approximately 16 students in each cohort. The very reasonably priced tuition is only slightly higher for out-of-state students, making this a great budget choice for students from anywhere.

    Find Out More:
    Doctor of Philosophy in Education / Community College Leadership
    Doctor of Philosophy in Education / Instructional Design & Technology
    Doctor of Philosophy in Education / Occupational & Technical Studies


  5. University of Kentucky

    Total Cost (In-State & Out-of-State): $30,383

    The online PhD in Educational Leadership Studies from University of Kentucky is an action-oriented program for those who want to affect change in the school system at any level. Admission for this 42-credit program requires a master’s degree with a 3.5 GPA and GRE scores. The program uses mixed-methods action research dissertation design to effectively bring advanced research into practice in real-world settings. Apply by May 1 for the August start date of the program. Some courses have live video sessions on Saturdays, and the coursework can be completed in under two years including fall, spring, and summer sessions. Students are strongly encouraged but not required to attend “Doc Week” in July each summer, which is an on-campus intensive social and academic experience designed to allow online students to spend intensive time with faculty and peers. The UK PhD program is considered an executive degree designed for motivated leaders working in education, meaning that you will study with an invigorating and challenging cohort of peers. For those who are more research-minded, UK also offers the PhD in Educational Sciences.

    Find Out More:
    Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership


  6. State University of NY (SUNY) at Albany

    Total Cost (In-State): $32,131

    State University of New York at Albany offers the online PhD in Literacy for students who want to work in research and teaching, policy and government, or in P-12 school districts. Applications need to be submitted by January 30 for the fall start of the program, and working students can enroll part time or full time to accommodate their work and life responsibilities. Tuition costs for out-of-state online students are slightly higher than residents of New York State, and students may need to do field work experience to complete the degree. SUNY Albany also has a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction that offers online options and many concentrations including learning sciences and technology, science and mathematics education, TESOL, and teacher education. The SUNY Albany PhD program in Literacy is the perfect choice for students who want to focus on literacy in schools and across the lifespan, while the curriculum and instruction PhD offers other areas of specialization.

    Find Out More:
    Doctor of Philosophy in Literacy


  7. University of Idaho

    Total Cost (In-State & Out-of-State): $33,300

    With numerous possible specialties, University of Idaho’s online PhD in Education will have a concentration for many aspiring leaders. Students can focus on career and technical education, curriculum and instruction, STEM, special education, or leadership and counseling. Applicants should have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 and a graduate GPA of 3.5 along with at least three years of professional experience, however, the faculty may elect to admit exceptional candidates who don’t meet these criteria. Students will be expected to perform an immersion experience relevant to their research which may require residency. The immersion experience could be teaching at the university level, publication of research in a journal, research with a mentor, or service within a specific professional context. Out-of-state students will pay higher tuition for this program, but the UI PhD program is a bargain for in-state students. Students who want to design their own, unique immersion experience in consultation with faculty will especially appreciate this program.

    Find Out More:
    Doctor of Philosophy in Education


  8. Columbia International University

    Total Cost (In-State & Out-of-State): $34,200

    For a program aligned with a Christian worldview, Columbia International University offers the online PhD in Educational Leadership to develop leaders who want to share a biblical perspective on education with the broader society. Graduates may work in K-12 education, university or community college leadership, or teach or research education in universities or other organizations. Applicants should have a minimum GPA of 3.2 but the GRE is not required. International students are welcome with additional application requirements. The program usually takes four to six years to complete, is geared to working professionals, and includes 60 credits of coursework. Interest-free monthly tuition payment plans and financial aid are available. Columbia International University is a respected non-profit university, making this an excellent choice for those who work in any educational sector but are motivated by their faith to organize, lead, and have a positive impact on education.

    Find Out More:
    Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership


  9. Liberty University

    Total Cost (In-State & Out-of-State): $37,193 – $37,790

    Liberty University offers the online PhD in Education with an emphasis on scripture and a Christian worldview. The different concentrations available are education law, higher education administration, curriculum and instruction, instructional design and technology, education policy, special education, and organizational leadership. The three year program allows you to work on your dissertation while completing your coursework. There are optional on-campus intensives and students may transfer in up to 15 credits of the 60 credit degree. There are generous tuition discounts for current or former military members and spouses, first responders, small business owners, and courses are offered in short 8-week formats. The classes are 100% online and there are multiple start dates per year. Liberty University’s online PhD in education programs are perfect for students who need a flexible format and prefer a biblically-oriented curriculum. The bargain prices for military members make this particularly attractive to budget-minded veterans or active duty military.

    Find Out More:
    Doctor of Philosophy in Education / Curriculum & Instruction
    Doctor of Philosophy in Education / Educational Law
    Doctor of Philosophy in Education / Instructional Design & Technology
    Doctor of Philosophy in Education / Organizational Leadership
    Doctor of Philosophy in Education / Special Education
    Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education Administration / Education Leadership


  10. University of Toledo

    Total Cost (In-State): $38,762

    The online PhD in Curriculum & Instruction from University of Toledo has a focus on special education. Applicants need to have a 3.0 GPA on previous undergraduate and graduate work with a completed master’s degree. The GRE is optional for application, but higher scores may improve chances of acceptance as admission is competitive. Evidence of at least two years of professional experience is required. The program allows students to start in fall or spring semesters and takes four to five years to complete. Expect a rigorous curriculum that will prepare graduates to lead in special education at the local, regional, state, or national level. The online resources for students are extensive, including face-to-face meetings with faculty, tutoring, tech support, and library access. The University of Toledo PhD is great for special education professionals who want to apply research to real-world problems and incorporate evidence-based practices into their work helping disabled students and their caregivers.

    Find Out More:
    Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum & Instruction / Special Education

Start Your Online PhD in Education Today!

Online learning makes obtaining a terminal degree—the Doctor of Education—a much more affordable goal, both in money and time. You can keep your current job while you work towards a higher degree that will allow you to make a PhD in education salary, which will likely mean that you will not only be able to achieve your career goals, but your financial goals as well. Take the time to consider your options for a cost-effective education PhD, and get out there and apply!

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