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Best PhD and Doctoral Programs in Missouri: Online & Campus

Learn about the many doctoral and PhD programs in Missouri. Discover what these programs can do for your career and earning potential.

Search hundreds of top schools for the doctorate YOU want.

Written By

Shannon Lee

Last updated

Jan 31, 2024

Missouri is home to numerous PhD and professional doctoral programs. Any one of them can lead to professional growth, whether in a current profession or a new one, but you might wonder if it’s worth the time, money, and effort to earn a doctorate. This guide answers that question. You’ll learn about the most popular PhD and doctoral programs available in Missouri. It also addresses why you might choose one type of program over another and how you can pay for your graduate education. Towards the end of the guide, you’ll discover the type of jobs and compensation you can expect after earning your terminal degree.

Top-Rated PhD and Doctoral Programs in Missouri for 2024

There are many high-quality PhD programs in Missouri, and figuring out which one is perfect for you might feel daunting. Three top-notch Missouri schools that offer doctorate degrees are identified below to help you being your school search. They were selected based on several factors, including their program options, convenience, and affordability. These schools give you a good idea of what to look for during your doctorate program search.

University of Missouri-Columbia

The University of Missouri–Columbia is the largest university in the state and the flagship institution of the University of Missouri System. It boasts more than 70 doctorate programs, eight of which are online and can be completed without making any campus visits.Some of these doctoral programs are what you might expect a major university to offer, such as a Doctor of Nursing Practice and a PhD in Economics, but there are also several unique programs, like a PhD in Agricultural Education and a PhD in Natural Resources with an emphasis in forestry. In addition to these diverse and convenient learning options, University of Missouri–Columbia students have access to robust and generous graduate student funding opportunities with a plethora of internal and externship fellowships, assistantships, and graduate-student-exclusive scholarships to choose from.

Maryville University of Saint Louis

Students thinking about earning their doctorate from Maryville University of Saint Louis have several on-campus and online doctoral programs to choose from. For those looking for on-campus programs, they can choose from two Doctor of Education degrees in Educational Leadership and Teacher Leadership as well as the Doctor of Physical Therapy Direct Entry program for freshmen. Students requiring the flexibility of online learning can enroll in the Doctor of Education in Higher Education Leadership or one of three Doctor of Nursing Practice tracks. These include BSN to DNP, MSN to DNP, and DNP-Nurse Practitioner, the latter of which has five concentrations to choose from. These online programs typically include significant in-person learning elements, such as on-campus residencies and/or on-site clinicals. However, arrangements can be made for some of the in-person learning requirements to be completed at a location close to where a student works or lives.

Saint Louis University

At Saint Louis University (SLU), students have one of the widest selections of doctoral programs in the state. With more than 70 doctoral programs to choose from, prospective SLU doctoral students are sure to find a program that’s right for them. Many of these doctoral programs are joint-degree programs. For example, in addition to the traditional Juris Doctor (JD) law degree, students can earn their JD degree with many other potential degrees, such as a Master of Accounting or PhD in Health Care Ethics. Of the 70+ doctoral programs at SLU, four are mostly online. These include a Nursing PhD, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (Post-BSN and Post-MSN tracks), and a PhD in Aviation. Some of these programs are 100% online, like the Aviation PhD, but some, such as the Doctor of Nursing Practice programs, have experiential learning components.

Types of PhD and Doctoral Programs Available in Missouri

There are multiple curriculum formats for PhD programs in Missouri available to accommodate the personal and professional needs of a diverse student body. These options largely exist to make it as convenient as possible to enroll, pay, and progress through the doctoral degree program. Below are some of the more common on-campus and online doctoral program formats to consider.

Full-Time PhD/Doctoral Programs in Missouri

Most PhD programs in Missouri are available in a full-time format. Before you get worried about trying to juggle your family and professional life with doctoral studies, understand that the typical full-time course load only consists of two to three courses per term. This is far more manageable than a typical bachelor’s degree course load, at least from a scheduling perspective. However, you still need to be prepared to work just as hard as you did in undergrad. 

Part-Time PhD/Doctoral Programs in Missouri

Despite the average Missouri PhD and professional doctoral full-time program consisting of as few as two or three courses per term, many students still need a lighter course load. Luckily, that’s where part-time doctoral programs come in where many students take as few as one to two courses per semester. Despite this smaller course load, this won’t always add that much more time to program completion since the dissertation often makes up the longest component of a PhD program.

Fully-Funded PhD/Doctoral Programs in Missouri

To help compensate for doctoral tuition rates, many on-campus and online doctoral programs offer special financial aid packages that pay for most, if not all, of a student’s education expenses. What’s unique about these financial aid awards is that they’re often automatically awarded to students who decide to enroll in a particular doctoral program. These awards can come in the form of a grant, scholarships, or fellowships, but they can also come in the form of guaranteed jobs, such as teaching and research assistantships. 

No-GRE PhD/Doctoral Programs in Missouri

Online PhD and professional doctoral programs are popular in Missouri because most classes can be completed remotely. However, getting into these programs can sometimes be difficult because of the admissions requirements. Some doctoral programs require applicants to provide GRE or other entrance exam scores for admission. Many prospective students don’t have the time to prepare and take these exams. In recognition of this challenge, there are plenty of PhD programs in Missouri that don’t require GRE scoresas part of the application process.

Accelerated PhD/Doctoral Programs in Missouri

Accelerated programs are more common at the undergraduate and master’s levels because they usually don’t have a dissertation or major research project requirement. For many students, the classes are the quickest and easiest part of the doctoral process, especially for PhDs. This means that a more effective way for doctoral students to reduce the time it takes to graduate is to work as quickly and as hard as possible on the dissertation or final project. Even when there’s no accelerated track available, many curriculums are self-paced, allowing students toexpedite their doctoral education.

No Dissertation PhD/Doctoral Programs in Missouri

Most doctoral programs in Missouri require students to complete some sort of final project, usually involving research. However, the final project that is the most research-intensive and typically takes the most time to complete is the dissertation. For some potential doctoral students, avoiding a dissertation means graduating more quickly. Since practically all PhD programs in Missouri require a dissertation, any doctoral programs that don’t usually result in a professional doctorate.

Doctor of Nursing Practice

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is the highest degree available for nurses who want to continue their clinical practice. With this degree, nurses can work as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and provide clinical care in any number of specialty areas, such as women’s health, psychiatric mental health, primary care, or anesthesia. There are also DNP programs that train future nurse executives for existing registered nurses who want to move into a managerial role within their organization.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Quality Examples of Hybrid/Online Programs

Doctor of Physical Therapy

A Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree is required for anyone wishing to become a licensed physical therapist. These professionals help sick or injured individuals find ways to manage pain and discomfort. Physical therapists usually work with patients who are having trouble moving parts of their body because of injury or illness. One of the key responsibilities of a physical therapist is diagnosing and assessing patients and then determining their plan of care, which is why a DPT is necessary to work as a physical therapist.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Doctor of Education

Unlike a PhD in education, a Doctor of Education (EdD) is mostly focused on training education professionals on how they can apply advanced concepts and theories to the real world. As a result, the EdD degree is ideal for existing educators and education administrators who want to work in the executive role developing and implementing education policy. This degree is also great for professionals seeking to shift into non-classroom roles within an organization involved in education.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Quality Examples of Hybrid/Online Programs


The primary reason to earn a PhD in English is to pursue a career in academia, specifically to teach English, literature, and related subjects at the post-secondary level. Graduates also pursue research on topics relating to the English field. This degree is also helpful for individuals looking to work in the for-profit industry, such as publishing or teaching at the community college or secondary school levels.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Clinical Psychology

The primary reason to earn a doctoral degree in clinical psychology is to become a licensed psychologist. The Doctor of Psychology, or PsyD, is perfect for individuals who wish to work with clients in clinical practice. The PhD in clinical psychology also works for clinical practice. Because it’s a more research-driven degree, though, it can also serve students well for future careers in research and academia.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Earning Your PhD or Professional Doctorate Online in Missouri

Online doctoral programs in Missouri are popular because they make it much easier for working adults to earn graduate degrees. There are two main variables to be aware of when enrolling in an online PhD or doctoral program in Missouri. First, while there are some fully online programs, such as the EdD in Higher Education Leadership from Maryville University, many online doctoral programs aren’t 100% online. Instead, they combine online lectures with in-person learning requirements. DNP programs, such asthe one offered by the University of Missouri-Kansas City that combines online didactic instruction with in-person instruction, are great examples of this. Second, online classes can be offered synchronously and/or asynchronously, depending on the school. The former means online courses occur at scheduled times, while the latter means the online class lectures can be watched later, even in the middle of the night. Missouri University of Science and Technology’s online doctoral programs offer a combination of both, depending on the class.

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

Doctoral students in Missouri have a variety of sources of financial aid, including traditional student loans from the federal government such as Direct PLUS Loans. One of the advantages of being a doctoral student is the greater availability of funding awards that don’t have to be paid back, like fellowships and assistantships. For instance, the University of Missouri-Columbia offers a plethora of assistantships where doctoral students assist in teaching and/or research.

Keep in mind that while these financial awards are sometimes guaranteed just by getting accepted into a program, students need to work for their financial assistance while completing their studies. Other schools, like theMissouri University of Science and Technology, also have graduate scholarships available. Finally, there are also scholarships and grants from outside organizations like corporations and nonprofit organizations.

Earnings for Doctorate Holders in Missouri

Graduating from a doctoral or PhD program in Missouri is likely going to lead to higher wages. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, someone with a doctoral degree has a median weekly income of $2,083. If they have a master’s degree, however, the median weekly income they can expect is $1,661. This difference is even more pronounced when examining data from ZipRecruiter, which says that the $2,262 average weekly compensation for someone with a doctorate in Missouri is more than double the $838 per week average someone who has a master’s degree can expect. Check out the following table to review wage data for specific professions that can benefit from a doctorate.

Job TitleRelated Doctoral Degree(s)Median Earnings90th Percentile Earnings
Chief ExecutivesDoctor of Business Administration (DBA) / Online PhD in Business$142,740$239,200
Civil EngineersDoctorate in Engineering (DEng/PhD)$80,700$132,300
Clinical and Counseling PsychologistsDoctor of Psychology (PsyD) / PhD in Psychology$70,530$127,510
EconomistsPhD in Economics$98,740$172,630
Education Administrators, PostsecondaryDoctor of Education (EdD)$101,790$215,950
Education Teachers, PostsecondaryPhD in Education / PhD in Special Education$63,100$124,170
EpidemiologistsDoctor of Public Health (DrPH)$55,390$85,300
Financial ManagersFinance Doctorate (PhD/DBA)$128,710$225,540
Instructional CoordinatorsDoctor of Education (EdD)$58,520$95,690
Nurse PractitionersDoctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)$106,640$138,170
Physical TherapistsDoctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)$88,900$115,520

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2022