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Best PhD and Doctoral Programs in Iowa: Online & Campus

Find PhD programs in Iowa that will help you level up in your career and qualify you for higher positions and more money. This guide details how these programs can help you reach your goals.

Search hundreds of top schools for the doctorate YOU want.

Written By

Angela Myers

Last updated

Jan 31, 2024

Have you been thinking about what earning a PhD could mean for your career? Maybe a terminal degree is required for the type of position you ultimately want to land, or you want to boost your place in your industry and open more doors for advancement. Whatever your motivations, PhD programs in Iowa can help you become one of the many people in the state who have taken this educational path. 

The Education Data Initiative reports that of the 42,740 students who graduate from colleges and universities around the state annually, 2,710 (just over 6 percent) earn doctorate or professional degrees. This page tells you how you can reach the pinnacle of your profession with a PhD program in Iowa by overviewing what you can expect when you enroll in one of the many doctoral programs in Iowa. Keep reading to get a glimpse of some of the best schools offering doctoral-level programs in Iowa.

Ranking the Best PhD and Doctoral Programs in Iowa for 2024

Below is a list of the top institutions offering PhD programs in Iowa. While what’s best for one student may not be best for another, this list can help you know how to judge other programs as you do your research. The colleges below have been selected based on their flexibility, affordability, and quality, so even if none of them are quite right for you, they give you an idea of what to look for when considering both traditional and online PhD programs in Iowa.

Iowa State University

Iowa State University offers doctoral-level degrees, some of which can be earned online, across several disciplines. Graduate students are generally charged $5,498 per semester; however, tuition is higher for certain disciplines. Engineering graduate students, for example, pay $7,038 per semester. The school offers assistantships where students dedicate time each week to an assignment — teaching, research, or administrative tasks within the department, for example — in exchange for having their tuition reduced in part or in full. To help students explore all their options for paying tuition, the school’s Office of Student Financial Success provides advice on how to manage money, handle student loans responsibly, and generally make the best personal finance decisions.

University of Iowa

Whether you’re interested in health, physical, or social sciences, the University of Iowa offers a variety of doctoral degrees. Additionally, if you’re a nurse who prefers a virtual option, the school has a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program that can be completed partially or entirely online.

To help students get the most out of their graduate school experience, the University of Iowa has a Grad Success Center that offers resources to help students succeed on an academic, professional, and personal level. There are workshops covering topics related to career preparation, research, teaching, and getting the most out of the graduate school experience. Students can also get assistance with grants and fellowships, so they’re most likely to be successful when they submit applications for research funding.

Graceland University

Graceland University offers online doctoral programs in healthcare disciplines, so busy professionals can advance their education as they continue working. The school’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program is delivered in a hybrid format that includes online classes and on-campus lab experiences. The program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapist Education and can be completed in two years.

Graceland University also offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice program that can be completed entirely online. The degree is designed for registered nurses and advanced practice nurses who want to take on more responsibilities in their clinical work as well as on the administrative side of nursing. The program includes courses in biostatistics, epidemiology, nursing ethics, organizational leadership, and healthcare policy and regulations.

Types of PhD and Doctoral Programs in Iowa

Do you want to find a program that allows you to enroll on a part-time basis? Are you concerned about investing time to prepare for the GRE? Do you want the opportunity to earn your degree as quickly as possible? Whatever your situation, there’s a program that can accommodate your needs and lifestyle. This section looks at the available types of PhD programs in Iowa to help you choose the one that is right for you.

Full-Time PhD/Doctoral Programs in Iowa

Full-time PhD programs in Iowa, regardless of the degree, are a huge commitment. In fact, you may be required to dedicate as much time to your studies as you do to your full-time job. Although online doctoral programs may make the process a little easier because of their flexibility, you’ll still be required to dedicate a great deal of time each week to your degree when you enroll on a full-time basis.

Quality Examples of Programs

Part-Time PhD/Doctoral Programs in Iowa

You may be wondering if it’s even worth it to enroll in doctoral programs on a part-time basis but rest assured, it is for many students. Although studying part-time does mean it’ll take longer to finish your degree, this more flexible option won’t completely disrupt your lifestyle, which is ideal if you’re juggling earning your degree with family and work responsibilities.

Quality Examples of Programs

Fully-Funded PhD/Doctoral Programs in Iowa

Fully funded doctoral and PhD programs in Iowa usually require students to make a commitment to work for their school in exchange for tuition. You may be required to do administrative work for your department, assist professors with research, or provide support to instructors in the classroom. Some doctoral students, however, may receive full funding through scholarships that are awarded based on merit or need. As a result, they can be reimbursed for their tuition without making any work commitments to their school.

Quality Examples of Programs

No-GRE PhD/Doctoral Programs in Iowa

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) has been a standard for evaluating applicants for PhD programs in Iowa and beyond because it reveals an individual’s analytical and reasoning skills. However, more and more doctoral programs are waiving this requirement, instead relying on factors such as undergraduate grades, extracurricular activities, and work experience. 

Quality Examples of Programs

Accelerated PhD/Doctoral Programs in Iowa

While students generally finish full-time doctoral/PhD programs in Iowa in three to five years, an accelerated program can significantly reduce the amount of time spent. In some cases, particularly with certain professional doctoral degrees, you can finish your studies in about two years.

Quality Examples of Programs

No Dissertation PhD/Doctoral Programs in Iowa

Dissertations can take a significant amount of time to complete, but not all PhD programs in Iowa degree require one. Some schools may instead expect students to complete a capstone course and project to graduate. The following are some examples of doctoral programs in Iowa that do not require a dissertation.

Quality Examples of Programs


Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) programs provide a curriculum designed for executive-level professionals who want to build on their experience to become more familiar with academic literature. In addition to learning how business theory is effectively applied to real-world problems, students gain an understanding of the qualitative and quantitative research methods used to advance knowledge in the field.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs


Psychology degrees on this level can be beneficial to graduates in different ways. For example, those who earn a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) generally work in clinical settings, so this degree focuses on the practice of psychology with patients. If you’re more research focused in your career, a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is the right choice because it heavily focuses on how research is produced and disseminated.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs


Whether you want to practice nursing care at the highest level or contribute to the education of future nurses, a doctoral program can help you achieve your goals. A Doctor of Nursing Practice, for example, focuses on direct patient care and allows you to specialize in a specific area of nursing, whether you’re interested in working with a specific patient population or a particular nursing specialty. Those who are interested in the more theoretical side of nursing can earn a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing, which focuses on the research that guides how nurses practice their craft.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Quality Example of Hybrid/Online Program


Whether you want to become an educational researcher, teach on the college level, or pursue a school administrator position, a doctoral-level education degree can give you the skills you need. Depending on your concentration, you could focus on research skills that allow you to conduct your own studies and have them published in journals. If you’re interested in an administrative role, a doctorate gives you the advanced leadership skills needed to run a school or assume other leadership positions.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Quality Example of Hybrid/Online Program


Engineering doctoral degrees allow students to prepare to teach at the college level or conduct research as well as use their advanced knowledge and skills to pursue entrepreneurship. Whether you focus on mechanical, industrial, environmental, or computer engineering, these programs help you gain an understanding of the cutting-edge technology being developed in the field. 

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Earning Your PhD or Professional Doctorate Online in Iowa: Key Details

Online doctoral or PhD programs in Iowa can be found at schools like the University of Iowa and Iowa State University in various academic disciplines. You may even find an entirely online program, which can provide the most flexibility. With these programs, your lectures and assignments are delivered through the school’s online learning management system, and you don’t have to travel to campus at all.

Programs may also be delivered on a hybrid basis, so some elements may be online while others require campus visits. Hybrid programs vary in the number of on-campus activities required. You may be expected to only come to campus periodically for things like practicums, or you may have in-person activities held every week.

Where to Get Financial Aid for Your PhD or Doctoral Degree in Iowa

Earning a doctoral-level degree can come with a big price tag, even if you enroll in an online PhD program in Iowa. However, that doesn’t have to stand in the way of your aspirations. You may be able to find multiple financial aid opportunities, including scholarships, grants, and fellowships. For example, the University of Northern Iowa offers merit-based scholarships as well as need-based grants to its students. Awards may also be available through a specific academic department, such as the ones offered through the psychology department at Iowa State University.

Earnings for Doctorate Level Careers in Iowa

Generally, those who complete PhD programs in Iowa can expect their earnings to increase as they qualify for higher-level positions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who complete doctoral and professional degrees make $2,083 and $2,080 per week respectively. However, those with lower-level degrees make significantly less, with master’s degree graduates earning $1,661 weekly and bachelor’s degree holders making $1,432.

Specifically for Iowa, the Future Ready Iowa Initiative reports that the median annual income of those with a doctorate, like a PhD or EdD, is $106,587. Similarly, those in the state who earn a professional degree like a JD or DDS make $132,049. These earnings are significantly higher than the salaries of those with master’s ($72,081), bachelor’s ($59,532), and associate ($45,969) degrees.

To learn what professionals in specific positions earn after completing doctoral programs in Iowa, review the table below, which includes salary information for several careers as well as what degrees these professionals earn. 

Job TitleRelated Doctoral Degree(s)Median Earnings90th Percentile Earnings
Chief ExecutivesDoctor of Business Administration (DBA) / Online PhD in Business$147,950$239,200+
Clinical and Counseling PsychologistsDoctor of Psychology (PsyD) / PhD in Psychology$84,490$140,960
Education Administrators, PostsecondaryDoctor of Education (EdD)$81,060$170,970
Education Teachers, PostsecondaryPhD in Education / PhD in Special Education$48,420$78,940
EpidemiologistsDoctor of Public Health (DrPH)$68,000$91,400
Financial ManagersFinance Doctorate (PhD/DBA)$120,900$209,650
Instructional CoordinatorsDoctor of Education (EdD)$75,810$94,290
Mechanical EngineersDoctorate in Engineering (DEng/PhD)$84,800$129,240
Nurse PractitionersDoctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)$123,460$158,730
PharmacistsDoctor of Pharmacy (PharmD)$130,630$147,680
Physical TherapistsDoctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)$84,700$105,670

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2022