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.
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.
Popular Doctorate Degree Fields in Kentucky
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:
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2022