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Best PhD and Doctoral Programs in Arkansas: Online & Campus

Ready to take your academic and professional achievements to the top level? Explore the pinnacle of educational achievement with our comprehensive guide to the best doctoral and PhD programs in Arkansas.

Search hundreds of top schools for the doctorate YOU want.

Written By

Shannon Daigle

Last updated

Jan 31, 2024

Whether you’re an aspiring psychologist in Little Rock or an up-and-coming school administrator in Fayetteville, doctoral programs in Arkansas can establish and elevate your credentials. There are many PhD and doctoral programs available in The Natural State and choosing the right one for you can be a challenge. This guide can help you navigate the landscape of doctoral and PhD programs in Arkansas, from identifying top schools to previewing your future earnings potential. 

With insights into flexible program formats and funding options, discover how these programs can accommodate your lifestyle while helping you reach new professional heights. Whether you’re aiming to enrich your knowledge or achieve breakthroughs in your career, traditional and online doctoral programs in Arkansas offer a gateway to your goals.

Top-Rated PhD and Doctoral Programs in Arkansas for 2024

While each person’s definition of the best PhD programs in Arkansas is different, these three universities embody the academic excellence doctoral candidates should look for in a quality education. Whether you’re drawn to the traditional campus experience or need the convenience of online or hybrid formats, these schools set a high standard for measuring what’s best for your academic and career aspirations.

Arkansas State University

Arkansas State University offers 13 distinct doctoral degrees in the fields of Nursing Practice, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Education, and Philosophy. Online doctoral programs are available for the general Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), as well as DNP specializations in education or leadership. For those in education, the Doctor of Education is also available online in the general or higher education administration concentrations. These flexible online programs are available to full- and part-time scholars in accelerated, 7-week terms. Tuition varies by program and residency status; in-state and online students pay $346 or $416 per credit, while out-of-state students pay $692 or $832 per credit. A complete listing of doctoral program costs is on the university’s website.

Harding University

Harding University is a private Christian University offering four distinctive doctoral programs that cater to a diverse field of interests. These programs cover various academic disciplines; subsequently, they vary in format, length, and cost. The in-person Doctor of Physical Therapy program consists of a continuous eight-semester study, priced at $15,530 per semester. For education leaders, there’s the hybrid Doctor of Education in Leadership, which operates on a cohort model and costs $615 per credit. The in-person accelerated Doctor of Pharmacy program condenses studies into 3.5 years and costs $1,079 per credit. Lastly, the hybrid Doctor of Ministry program, priced at $750 per credit, accommodates professionals seeking to deepen their ministerial practice.

University of Arkansas

At the University of Arkansas, scholars can choose from over 50 doctoral and PhD programs, spanning the sciences, arts, liberal arts, business, and medical fields. This wide variety of options ensures that postgraduate candidates can find their niche, whether it be in educational leadership or cutting-edge research. Online learners can select from a general Doctor of Nursing Practice, a dual DNP-EMBA degree, or a Doctor of Education in Adult and Lifelong Learning, Educational Leadership, or Human Resource Development. Tuition rates vary by program, and online students pay in-state tuition rates of $507-$676 per credit. Additionally, the University of Arkansas has several graduate assistantship opportunities that include a full tuition waiver, health insurance benefits, and an annual stipend.

Types of PhD and Doctoral Programs Available in Arkansas

Doctoral and PhD programs in Arkansas come in many different formats. Whether you’re looking for full-time study, part-time pacing, or fully-funded programs, there’s a doctoral path to suit your needs. The types of PhD and doctoral programs in Arkansas are outlined below, so you can see which one aligns with your academic ambitions and lifestyle.

Full-Time PhD/Doctoral Programs in Arkansas

Are you able to dedicate the majority of your time and energy to doctoral studies? If so, full-time postgraduate programs in Arkansas might be for you. Full-time students of in-person and online doctoral programs in Arkansas usually graduate within four to six years. Full-time study also lends itself to hands-on programs like the University of Arkansas’ Occupational Therapy Doctorate and the University of Central Arkansas’s Doctor of Occupational Therapy or Doctor of Physical Therapy.

Part-Time PhD/Doctoral Programs in Arkansas

For those balancing work with academic pursuits, part-time in-person or online PhD programs in Arkansas offer flexibility without compromising on academic opportunity. The best part-time PhD programs in Arkansas allow students to conveniently study outside of their work hours. For example, the Doctor of Nursing Practice programs at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the University of Central Arkansas offer full-time nurses part-time study schedules. Part-time doctoral students can expect to graduate in five to eight years.

Fully-Funded PhD/Doctoral Programs in Arkansas

In-person and online PhD programs in Arkansas can be pricey, and that can present a significant obstacle for many doctoral candidates. However, fully funded programs can pave the way for students to pursue a doctorate without bearing the financial burden. Look for programs with generous funding like those at the Walton Graduate School of Business at the University of Arkansas or research assistantships like the PhD in Health Promotion and Prevention Research at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

No-GRE PhD/Doctoral Programs in Arkansas

While grad school programs often request student submission of Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, many schools are moving toward a no-GRE requirement. Though many PhD programs in Arkansas still require GRE scores, some allow you to forego the requirement, provided you can prove your academic credentials via transcripts and recommendations. Two doctoral programs in Arkansas with no GRE requirements are the EdD in Rural and Diverse Educational Leadership from Southern Arkansas University and the Doctor of Education in School Leadership from Arkansas Tech University.

Accelerated PhD/Doctoral Programs in Arkansas

Working toward a doctoral degree is a time-consuming process that takes most students several years. Though most PhD programs in Arkansas take three to eight years, students who want to graduate sooner can fast-track their education with an accelerated PhD and doctoral program. For example, Harding University offers an accelerated Doctor of Pharmacy, while Arkansas State University’s online doctoral programs offer courses in seven-week terms.

No Dissertation PhD/Doctoral Programs in Arkansas

Traditionally, the capstone experience of a doctoral program is a dissertation – a project representing the culmination of a student’s learning and original research. While most doctoral programs in Arkansas require a dissertation, there are a few that are dissertation-free. Two such degrees are the Doctor of Nursing Practice at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences or the Juris Doctorate at the University of Arkansas Little Rock.


A Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree in Arkansas prepares you with the clinical and research experience needed to practice as a psychologist. While you can work as a counselor or therapist with a master’s degree, a PsyD allows you to provide specialized diagnostic evaluation, intervention, and treatments for clients. In Arkansas, doctoral candidates can gain skills to address unique regional challenges, whether that’s delivering mental health services to rural areas or contributing to the state’s academic institutions.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs


If you want to stand out in the job market as an educator or educational professional, Arkansas is ripe with opportunities for those seeking a doctoral degree in education. These programs prepare you to become an educational leader capable of navigating the complexities of modern pedagogy and policy. With a focus on innovation and leadership, education doctoral programs prepare graduates for influential roles, from shaping educational frameworks in public schools to crafting the future of academic research and administration.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Quality Examples of Hybrid/Online Programs

Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapists evaluate and treat people with injuries, illnesses, or disabilities to help them gain the ability to live independently. A Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degree is tailored for those committed to enhancing health and wellness across all ages and abilities. OTDs from Arkansas are trained to meet the specific needs of the state’s populations, preparing them for a profession where therapy and practical research converge to improve everyday life in communities from the Delta to the Ozarks.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs


While you can practice nursing with an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in the field, a doctorate is the ultimate degree for advanced practice nurses. If you want to elevate your credentials and practice into a career as a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, or clinical nurse leader, a DNP is the way to go. In Arkansas, DNPs are not just clinicians but pioneers in healthcare, ready to transform patient care across the state’s diverse medical landscape.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Quality Example of Hybrid/Online Program

Public Health

A doctoral degree in Public Health is more than a degree; it’s an entry into the frontline of public health advocacy in Arkansas. Designed to combat the unique health challenges of the region, nation, and world, these programs produce leaders in health policy, community health improvement, and epidemiological research. Graduates emerge ready to spearhead initiatives that directly impact the well-being of Arkansans.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Earning Your PhD or Professional Doctorate Online in Arkansas

PhD and doctoral programs in Arkansas are adapting to the digital era with increasing numbers of universities offering online options for earning a doctorate either partially or entirely online. While some programs like the PhD in Change Leadership for Equity and Inclusion at the University of Central Arkansas are available 100% online, others blend online coursework with occasional on-campus intensives or in-person clinical rotations.

Online doctoral programs in Arkansas may be asynchronous for maximum flexibility or synchronous with scheduled virtual meetings. In these programs, in-person components like clinical practice for the Doctor of Nursing Practice at Arkansas State University are planned well in advance for convenience.

Online PhD programs give you the ability to maintain career commitments and the flexibility to study from anywhere. However, be prepared to exercise strong self-discipline and time management skills. Be ready to embrace self-directed study and become adept at navigating online learning platforms. 

Where to Get Help Paying for Your PhD or Doctoral Degree in Arkansas

Doctoral programs in Arkansas require a significant investment of not only time but also money. Navigating the financial aspects of your postgraduate studies can be one of the most intimidating and complicated parts of considering a PhD program. Fortunately, there are a range of financial aid opportunities in the state. Scholarships, fellowships, and grants are available through specific universities, like the Distinguished Doctoral and Doctoral Academy Fellowships at the University of Arkansas. Work-study programs are also an option, allowing you to gain experience and funding simultaneously. For example, Arkansas State University offers graduate assistantships for doctoral candidates that include a full tuition waiver. Scholarship opportunities for doctoral studies are also available. The University of Central Arkansas, for instance, provides a full tuition scholarship for PhD candidates in the Department of Leadership Studies.

Earnings for Doctorate Holders in Arkansas

Earning a doctorate in Arkansas can significantly boost your salary potential. Nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that professionals with doctoral degrees make over 25% more on average than those with a master’s. In Arkansas, doctorate holders enjoy competitive wages. For example, the Arkansas House of Representatives reports that professionals with a doctoral degree can expect first-year earnings of $58,100. That’s almost $10,000 more than with a master’s degree, and you can expect your earnings potential to increase with time. Earning a doctoral degree often marks the shift from intermediate roles to leadership or specialized positions, reflecting heightened earnings. The table below outlines how specific doctorate-level careers fare financially.

Job TitleRelated Doctoral Degree(s)Median Earnings90th Percentile Earnings
Chief ExecutivesDoctor of Business Administration (DBA) / Online PhD in Business$111,780$239,200
Clinical and Counseling PsychologistsDoctor of Psychology (PsyD) / PhD in Psychology$64,160$239,200
EconomistsPhD in Economics$102,830$139,820
Education Administrators, PostsecondaryDoctor of Education (EdD)$82,260$203,200
Education Teachers, PostsecondaryPhD in Education / PhD in Special Education$59,500$99,980
Engineers (Mechanical)Doctorate in Engineering (DEng/PhD)$71,570$110,090
Financial ManagersFinance Doctorate (PhD/DBA)$101,660$200,160
Instructional CoordinatorsDoctor of Education (EdD)$77,030$119,560
Nurse PractitionersDoctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)$102,880$128,190
PharmacistsDoctor of Pharmacy (PharmD)$128,570$151,840
Physical TherapistsDoctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)$98,180$118,720

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021