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Best PhD and Doctoral Programs in Kentucky: Online & Campus

Kentucky is home to a wide range of online, hybrid, and on-campus doctoral programs. This guide goes in depth to reveal top-notch PhD programs in Kentucky and show the ROI of this prestigious degree choice.

Search hundreds of top schools for the doctorate YOU want.

Written By

Christopher Murray

Last updated

Jan 31, 2024

Are you ready to earn the highest academic distinction — either a PhD or professional doctorate? If so, it’s important to remember that pursuing a doctoral degree can be an intense but rewarding experience. But at the end of it, you’ll have a degree that proclaims your expertise in your chosen field. 

And if you’re looking to study in the Bluegrass State, you’re in luck: From traditional campuses to virtual classrooms, you’ll find plenty of doctoral and PhD programs in Kentucky that work for you — whether you’re a busy professional seeking work-school balance or interested in life as a full-time student. 

Keep reading to learn about standout programs, popular fields of study, and your future earning potential as a PhD holder — it’s all within reach.

Top-Ranked PhD and Doctoral Programs in Kentucky: 2024

Kentucky is home to many colleges, but the three distinguished universities below will help you pursue a PhD or professional doctorate specifically. You’ll find schools featuring diverse programs, flexible online-based options (including some hybrid degrees, which offers the best of on-campus and online experiences), and affordable tuition. 

While every student’s definition of “best” will be different, the quality of these three schools can establish a baseline for your future research. Ready to explore your options? Let’s dive in. 

University of Louisville

The University of Louisville offers close to 50 doctoral programs in Kentucky, almost all of which must be completed in person on one of the three campuses. The only program that can be completed online is the Doctor of Social Work (DSW).

UofL provides a unique array of dual degree programs that conveniently combine graduate options and prepare you for professional success. From law degrees to dental and medical degrees, you’ll find programs like the combined Doctor of Dental Medicine and Master of Business Administration (DMD/MBA) and combined Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Philosophy (MD/PhD).

In terms of tuition, the price you’ll pay varies by the degree you’re pursuing. Kentucky residents who are medical students, for example, pay $2,181 per credit hour, while non-residents pay $3,312 per credit hour. Dental students pay a little less at $1,856 per credit hour for residents and $3,864 for non-residents.

Eastern Kentucky University

Eastern Kentucky University offers a small selection of reputable graduate programs. Most are concentrated in the medical field, with options to secure a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD), and Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). EKU also offers an Educational Doctorate (EdD) program.

Some of EKU’s doctoral-level medical programs are online-based and have accelerated learning options. Courses open three times each year, making EKU a flexible option for students all over the country. These doctorate programs are more affordable than most, with a cost of $702 per credit hour.

While EKU’s cost of attendance is relatively affordable, the college still offers plenty of scholarship options to offset your expenses. You’ll find a variety of university-based scholarships that are typically dependent on merit, as well as department and program-based scholarships like the Baccalaureate and Graduate Nursing Scholarship or the Family Nurse Practitioner Scholarship.

University of Kentucky

The University of Kentucky offers numerous professional degrees and PhD programs in areas like Art Administration, Public Policy, and Business Administration. Many of UK’s programs must be completed on campus, but certain programs (like the Art Admin PhD and Social Work) are entirely online based.

UK’s online PhD and doctoral programs come in three forms: self-directed, online in real time, and hybrid. Real-time courses require you to be signed on and in class at a certain time, also commonly called synchronous learning, while self-directed courses are entirely online with coursework you can access according to your schedule. Hybrid courses combine on-campus and online elements.

Because the University of Kentucky is a large state school, you’ll find a long list of scholarship and financing options available to graduate students to offset tuition costs.

Types of PhD and Doctoral Programs You Can Get in Kentucky

You’ll find that PhD programs in Kentucky tend to be rigorous, smaller programs, but there are still many options. Doctoral programs often take the form of medical degrees, such as for doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, or psychiatrists. But many other disciplines — including education and business administration — also offer professional degree programs. 

Here are common types of doctoral programs in Kentucky. 

Full-Time PhD/Doctoral Programs in Kentucky

Full-time doctoral programs typically involve attending on-campus courses for a few years. Some full-time programs have hybrid elements to them, allowing you to take certain courses online; but because these programs are often medical in nature, the on-campus component is vital. 

Programs like the University of Louisville’s Doctor of Philosophy in Civil Engineering (CE PhD) and Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry are full-time programs requiring lab work and in-person study, as these lead to hands-on careers that require physical training.

Part-Time PhD/Doctoral Programs in Kentucky

Studying part time is a must for many students earning professional degrees. Once you’ve reached that point in your studies, you may have a family and/or a job you must balance with schoolwork. Part-time PhD programs help create this balance, offering less time-intensive course loads. In exchange, however, your degree takes longer to earn. The University of Kentucky, for example, offers both full-time and part-time degree options, understanding the unique needs of the UK student body.

Fully Funded PhD/Doctoral Programs in Kentucky

Fully funded doctoral programs are competitive programs because your entire tuition is typically covered, and you pay little to no money out of pocket to earn your degree. These programs typically require the student to work on campus or complete a fellowship to receive the funding. To give you an example, the University of Kentucky’s English department offers fully funded PhD programs to those seeking degrees. Students must complete teaching fellowships to earn their funding and stipend.

No-GRE PhD/Doctoral Programs in Kentucky

The Graduate Record Examination — also known as the GRE — is a standardized exam certain graduate schools require. The GRE is mostly required for business school, but each department at different universities can choose whether to require this exam. Some programs also require that you get a minimum score to be accepted. Many universities recognize that this exam doesn’t predict success, so many opt not to require it. The University of Kentucky, for example, doesn’t require the GRE for its Biology graduate program.

Accelerated PhD/Doctoral Programs in Kentucky

Accelerated PhD or doctoral programs in Kentucky involve a shorter time frame to earn your degree. Rather than taking three or four years, you’ll do the program in a year or two — which can translate to a lower overall cost and a quicker path to degree-related career progression. Typically, these accelerated programs are online based, as that helps accomplish the accelerated study requirements. EKU’s Doctorate in Nursing is an example of an accelerated course of study.

No-Dissertation PhD/Doctoral Programs in Kentucky

A no-dissertation PhD/doctoral program offers an alternative pathway to earning a doctoral degree without the traditional dissertation requirement. Dissertations are time-consuming, intimidating aspects of grad school that many students could do without. Instead of a dissertation, you typically engage in comprehensive exams, capstone projects, or hands-on work. For example, Morehead State University offers an online Doctor of Education program that relies on a capstone project instead of a dissertation.


An advanced degree in nursing can open doors to leadership positions within healthcare systems, allowing nurses to play a part in creating hospital policy, improving patient care, and contributing to the advancement of the nursing profession. Or, for those looking to teach, a doctoral degree provides the framework for nurses to transition into higher education. 

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Quality Examples of Hybrid/Online Programs

Business Administration

Pursuing a doctoral degree in business offers a range of benefits for individuals aiming to advance their careers. It provides a deep, specialized understanding of business theories, strategies, and practices, positioning graduates as experts in their fields. This expertise is often a prerequisite for leadership roles in academia or high-level positions within corporations. A business administration PhD alsoenhances credibility and opens doors to opportunities for entrepreneurship and executive leadership roles.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs


A PhD in an education field can be a transformative and rewarding endeavor for several reasons. It qualifies you as a true expert in your field and prepares you to discuss and implement educational theories and policies. This expertise is invaluable and often required if you’re looking to assume leadership roles in an educational setting.

A doctoral degree in education opens doors to diverse career paths, including academic positions, educational administration, curriculum development, and educational consulting. It provides a platform for shaping the future of teaching and learning.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Quality Example of Hybrid/Online Program


Earning a PhD in psychology gives you a profound grasp on psychological theories and clinical practices. This expertise helps when you’re applying for leadership roles in various medical or academic settings. Graduates typically contribute significantly to psychological knowledge through original research, addressing pressing issues in mental health. With a psychology doctorate, students can enter careers in clinical psychology, counseling, research, and academic settings.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs


One of the fastest-growing industries in all communities is the medical industry. From therapists to nurses to doctors and physician’s assistants, medical jobs are on the rise, and getting a doctoral degree in one of these fields prepares you to make a difference. These degrees go above and beyond, advancing your medical knowledge and reshaping how you approach patient care. 

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Quality Example of Hybrid/Online Program

A Closer Look at Online PhD and Doctoral Programs in Kentucky

There are more limited options for earning your PhD entirely online than a bachelor’s or master’s. This is due to the nature of the industries that typically seek out those with PhDs— namely, the medical, science, education, and finance industries. To get an advanced degree in these industries, hands-on learning is often a must. 

Still, there are some options. Eastern Kentucky University chooses to offer its PhD programs online; in turn, you have very limited options to choose from. Major universities with multiple campuses may offer hybrid options, meaning you take some classes online and must be in person for others. The University of Kentucky is large enough to offer all three options: on-campus, hybrid, and online-only.

Funding Your PhD or Doctoral Degree in Kentucky

When you’ve reached the point in your education where you’re considering a doctoral degree, you may already have education debt from your other degrees. Many universities in Kentucky understand this and offer financial aid to help. 

Additionally, when you get to graduate-level study, there are fellowships, work-study programs, and graduate research assistantships most students take on to cover tuition costs. Plus, many departments within universities offer their own specific scholarships and grants, often also attached to on-campus employment. 

The University of Kentucky has an exhaustive list of financing options, from work study to fellowships to grants you don’t need to pay back. Eastern Kentucky University provides a similar list of scholarships and fellowships it offers to graduate students.

Earnings for Doctorate Holders in Kentucky

One of the many reasons you may have to earn your doctoral degree is to advance in your career and income. Getting a PhD or other doctoral degree does tend to pay off. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average weekly earnings of someone with a master’s goes from making $1,661 per week on average to $2,083 per week with a doctoral degree.

As with most degrees, those in medical fields or engineering fields tend to make more on average than those in education or art fields. As you can see from the table below, financial managers and others in the finance industry are also top of the list for high earners. Here’s a look at more high-paying career paths that have the potential for growth with a doctoral degree:

Job TitleRelated Doctoral Degree(s)Median Earnings90th Percentile Earnings
Clinical and Counseling PsychologistsDoctor of Psychology (PsyD) / PhD in Psychology$93,000$171,990
Computer and Information Research ScientistsPhD in Computer Science$90,190$114,830
Computer Hardware EngineerDoctorate in Engineering (DEng/PhD)$88,100$125,920
Education Administrators, PostsecondaryDoctor of Education (EdD)$81,070$160,140
Education Teachers, PostsecondaryPhD in Education / PhD in Special Education$65,580$124,300
EpidemiologistsDoctor of Public Health (DrPH)$52,110$76,560
Financial ManagersFinance Doctorate (PhD/DBA)$113,800$239,200
Instructional CoordinatorsDoctor of Education (EdD)$63,780$96,890
Nurse PractitionersDoctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)$104,630$129,590
Nursing Instructors and Teachers, PostsecondaryPhD in Nursing$66,920$114,680
PharmacistsDoctor of Pharmacy (PharmD)$129,690$160,240
Physical TherapistsDoctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)$85,710$114,380

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2022