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Top PhD Programs in Oklahoma: Best Doctoral Schools for 2023

Discover how you can advance your career in business, healthcare, or STEM-related fields through doctoral programs in Oklahoma. Find out which schools stand out this year and learn more about online availability.

Search hundreds of top schools for the doctorate YOU want.

Written By

Blake Huggins, PhD

Last updated

Jul 30, 2023

If you’re an Oklahoman with a strong background in disciplines such as nursing, engineering, or management, earning a doctorate can be a great way to expand your professional portfolio. By elevating your experience to the highest levels of practice, doctoral programs in Oklahoma will help you become a highly skilled and sought-after industry expert.

This guide gives you the resources and insights you need to make sense of your options. Keep reading to find out about campus-based and online PhD programs in Oklahoma, which programs are ranked at the top, and the benefits they offer. Some occupations that require a PhD see earnings well above the national average in Oklahoma, and in some cases, more than two or three times the average.

Top-Rated PhD and Doctoral Programs in Oklahoma for 2023

At this level of education, everyone’s definition of “best” will differ depending on their background, work experience, and plans for advancement. Nevertheless, top-notch PhD and doctoral programs in Oklahoma share some common features, and we’ve identified three quality schools to give you a sense of what’s available. The institutions showcased below stand out with their emphasis on student support and flexible study.

Oklahoma State University

A public land-grant institution founded in 1890, Oklahoma State University (OSU) offers comprehensive programming at every level of education. Its online and hybrid doctoral programs cover fields such as aviation, leisure and human performance, forensic sciences, fire and emergency management, and healthcare administration. In addition, OSU administers more than 50 campus-based doctorates in science, engineering, education, and the humanities. Most of these programs accept new applications on a rolling basis, allowing prospective students to begin studying year-round at their convenience.

OSU doctoral students also benefit from a range of resources to support their studies and raise their professional profile. These include a state-of-the-art Center for Health Sciences, a Critical Skills Program, and a Center for Graduate Student Success. Doctoral students interested in building additional expertise also can concurrently enroll in one of OSU’s graduate certificate programs.

University of Tulsa

Located just off historic Route 66, the University of Tulsa (TU) offers over a dozen campus-based doctoral programs in disciplines spanning biology, chemistry, engineering, psychology, nursing, and English literature. The school also has an accelerated juris doctor program for qualified students interested in pursuing a career in law. TU’s graduate school boasts a 94% job placement rate, and about one-third of its students receive merit-based scholarships to support their studies.

For aspiring professionals in STEM-related fields, the school sponsors a number of joint industry projects in cybersecurity, environmental science, nanotechnology, and bioinformatics. Additional student resources include interdisciplinary research colloquia and initiatives in diversity and engagement. Alongside scholarships, most TU doctoral students secure additional funding through graduate assistantships.

Oklahoma City University

A private institution first established by developers associated with the Methodist church, Oklahoma City University (OCU) enrolls nearly 3,000 graduate and postgraduate students each year. Its doctoral programs encompass nursing and nursing practice, law, clinical psychology, and physical therapy. These campus-based offerings result in terminal degrees that equip students for advanced roles in leadership, research, and professional practice. OCU awards more than $34 million in financial aid, with 90% of its students qualifying, including doctoral degree seekers.

Qualified applicants interested in the school’s law doctorates can focus their studies on nonprofit leadership or business administration in addition to a generalist track. Professionals in nursing can earn either a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a PhD in the field. DNP concentrations include family nurse practitioner, executive leadership, public health, gerontology, and psychiatric mental health. 

Types of PhD and Doctoral Programs Available in Oklahoma

PhD programs in Oklahoma offer an array of pathways for degree attainment. The differences among them are significant and can impact funding, enrollment status, program and admission requirements, and pace of study. Learn more about available options and see which one is right for you.

Full-Time PhD/Doctoral Programs in Oklahoma

Most PhD programs in Oklahoma expect prospective students to enroll full-time and complete their studies along a specified timeline. This is true for each school discussed in the spotlights above and others like the University of Oklahoma (OU) and the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO). A typical course of study includes a sequence of core classes in advanced topics, a series of qualifying or comprehensive exams, and a substantial capstone project (most often a dissertation containing original research that contributes to your field).

Part-Time PhD/Doctoral Programs in Oklahoma

Part-time offerings give working professionals the option to earn their doctorate while remaining on the job. PhD programs of this type in Oklahoma aren’t as popular as other pathways listed in this guide, but some options are available. Naturally, most of them cluster around practice-oriented disciplines. At OU, qualified students can earn a PhD in information studies or nursing part-time. Northwestern Oklahoma State offers a similar option in nursing.

Fully Funded PhD/Doctoral Programs in Oklahoma

PhD programs with full funding give students the resources they need to focus on their studies with less stress and fewer financial obstacles. After all, pursuing an advanced degree at the highest levels of study is a big commitment. Recognizing this, the doctoral programs in business management and creative writing at OSU include full tuition waivers in addition to fellowships and living stipends. The communication department at OU provides similar opportunities, but specifics vary each year.

No-GRE PhD/Doctoral Programs in Oklahoma

No-GRE doctoral programs streamline the admissions process, making it easier for you to gather and submit your materials. Some programs drop standardized test scores entirely, while others offer waivers or replace results with more manageable requirements. Other programs even provide the option to submit scores as a means of strengthening your admissions application. Examples include programs in environmental science at OSU and business administration at Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OKWU).

Accelerated PhD/Doctoral Programs in Oklahoma

A pathway more prominent in nursing, education, and other hands-on disciplines, accelerated doctoral programs allow you to complete your studies on an expedited timeline. An accelerated course of study will likely be more rigorous than other options, but the intensive pacing means you will graduate much more quickly. Southern Nazarene University (SNU) offers an accelerated doctorate in education (focusing on leadership and administration), and OKWU administers a similar program in nursing practice.

No-Dissertation PhD/Doctoral Programs in Oklahoma

No-dissertation doctoral programs in Oklahoma are rare and, like other types listed here, prepare students for work in practice-based fields rather than teaching or research. These programs usually result in a professional doctorate instead of a standard PhD and could involve capstone requirements that replace the traditional dissertation. OSU’s online doctorate in healthcare administration provides a good example.

In-Demand Doctoral and PhD Programs in Oklahoma

Nursing

Practicing RNs with active licenses and other nursing professionals can choose from two different doctorates in Oklahoma. The more popular DNP empowers candidates to deliver and assess quality healthcare at the highest levels of specialization (nurse practitioner, mental health, pediatrics, etc.). Meanwhile, a PhD in nursing equips students for roles in research and nursing education. 

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Quality Examples of Hybrid/Online Programs

Engineering

Engineering is a wide-ranging field, and in Oklahoma, available doctorates span applications in science, industry, and manufacturing. Doctoral programs in engineering prepare you for advanced work designing and analyzing complex structures, systems, and materials. They’re ideal for applicants with a strong background in related fields such as chemistry, biology, computer science, and civil infrastructure.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Business

Professionals with a doctorate in business often use their credentials to manage large organizations as corporate leaders and to conduct focused research on topics such as information systems, marketing, economics, and hospitality and tourism. Similar to other fields, prospective students can earn a professional doctorate in business administration or follow a more academic pathway, often resulting in a PhD. 

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Quality Examples of Hybrid/Online Programs

Education

Often a natural step for experienced educators interested in more advanced roles in leadership or administration, this pathway builds expertise in curriculum development, policy, and instructional design. Graduates with a doctorate in education typically find work as principals or superintendents, university administrators, program directors, and policy analysts. Most programs give you the option to specialize in a particular setting (K-12, postsecondary, etc.).

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Quality Examples of Hybrid/Online Programs

Physical Therapy

A doctorate in this field is necessary for candidates seeking to become licensed physical therapists. Applicants typically need a strong background in biology, anatomy, and physiology, plus a substantial number of observation hours and on-the-job experience. Oklahoma doctoral programs in this field typically offer specializations in orthopedics, sports medicine, pediatrics and geriatrics, neurology, and other applications. 

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Earning Your Online PhD or Professional Doctorate in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, online and hybrid doctoral programs focus on professional and practice-oriented fields such as business, nursing, and education. Major public university systems, including OSU and OU, offer some options, as do private institutions, including OKWU and SNU. Flexibility in study, pacing, and delivery means you’ll be able to move through requirements on your own terms and often at a time and place of your choosing.

In most cases, accepted students are able to complete all didactic instruction and other coursework entirely online, using synchronous or asynchronous tools (or some combination, depending on the school and program). For hybrid programs, in-person requirements begin to take effect following coursework and usually involve internships, clinical placements, or some form of cohort immersion. For fully online programs, the benefits of flexible study continue through graduation, enabling candidates to even finish capstone components at their convenience.

Get a closer look at three of the best Oklahoma universities to earn your doctorate online in our school rankings below.

Best Online Doctoral Programs in Oklahoma for 2023

or
1
Type: Public
Cost: $

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) from Northwestern Oklahoma State University is a hybrid program consisting of online and in-person components. Most of the coursework is delivered online, but students must complete two in-person requirements. First is the summer residency, which occurs each year in July and lasts one week. Second are the practicum hours, which amount to 1,020 total hours. For added flexibility, students can proceed through the program as either full-time or part-time students. Customized curriculum pacing is also possible, but only with prior approval. Even though this is a BSN to DNP program, students who already have an MSN are eligible to enroll and, if accepted, begin the program with advanced standing that requires them to complete 37-39 credits to graduate.

Program Highlights:

Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • Credits: 37-39 or 73
  • Length: 3-4 years
  • Cost: $388.50/credit (resident) and $642.50/credit (nonresident)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: CCNE
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
14
AccreditationHLC
2
Type: Public
Cost: $$

One of the benefits to earning a doctorate from Oklahoma State University is the fact that the school has some of the most unique doctoral programs, all of which can be completed at least partially online. There's the Doctor of Education (EdD) in Applied Educational Studies -- Aviation and Space Education, which is tailored for individuals who seek management and administrative positions within their academic, private sector, or government organizations. Another unique program is the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Health, Leisure, and Human Performance -- Leisure Studies. This program is ideal for anyone who wants a career in teaching, research, or management in academic or corporate settings. For students seeking more typical doctoral degrees, there's the PhD in Fire and Emergency Management Administration, Doctor of Forensic Sciences, and Doctor of Healthcare Administration. The online curriculum delivery is ideal for students who want to continue working while in school.

Program Highlights:

PhD in Health, Leisure, and Human Performance -- Leisure Studies

  • Credits: 60
  • Length: 2-4 years
  • Cost: $230.45/credit (resident) and $360/credit (nonresident)
  • Mode: 100% online
  • Accreditation: HLC

PhD in Fire and Emergency Management Administration

  • Credits: 60
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $533.60/credit (resident) and $663.80/credit (nonresident)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC

Doctor of Forensic Sciences

  • Credits: 60
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $294.28/credit (resident) and $424.48/credit (nonresident)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
18
AccreditationHLC
3
Oral Roberts University Tulsa, Oklahoma
Type: Private not-for-profit
Cost: $$$

Prospective doctoral students can choose from two online programs at Oral Roberts University. Those interested in nursing can apply to the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), which is a post-BSN program designed to prepare students to pass the Family Nurse Practitioner exam upon graduation. While most of the nursing coursework can be completed online, students are required to complete campus residencies most semesters. Full-time students can expect to graduate in about three years and part-time students can take up to five years. Oral Roberts University also has the Doctor of Strategic Leadership (DSL) program, which was created for mid-career and late-career professionals who want to learn advanced research, management, and problem solving skills to advance in their respective organizations. Once enrolled, DSL students pick from the following four concentrations: Applied Research, Leadership Coaching, Strategic Foresight, and Change Management.

Program Highlights:

Doctor of Nursing Practice

  • Credits: 70
  • Length: 3-5 years
  • Cost: $515/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: CCNE

Doctor of Strategic Leadership

  • Credits: 48
  • Length: About 3 years
  • Cost: $595/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
16
AccreditationHLC

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

Specifics will likely vary depending on your discipline and school of choice. Still, most doctoral and PhD programs in Oklahoma offer some form of financial aid to new and returning students. These programs recognize the demands that come with earning a high-level terminal degree and often extend fellowships, scholarships and grants, and other forms of aid to help lessen the burden. 

In addition to the fully funded PhD programs in Oklahoma listed above, schools such as UCO and ORU provide a range of funding options, including scholarships, fellowships, and tuition waivers. Prospective doctoral students in nursing at OCU benefit from similar opportunities based on merit and academic performance. See our main financial aid page for more information on how to secure funding for your doctoral degree.

Oklahoma Doctorate Holders’ Income: How Much Do They Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, working professionals with a doctorate see higher earnings and lower employment rates than those with other degrees or certificates. These trends hold true nationwide, and the possibilities for growth and advancement are even stronger for experts in Oklahoma with a doctorate. Currently, the annual mean wage for all professions in the Sooner State is $48,360, a figure consistent with the national average ($45,760 at present).

Each of the occupations listed below delivers earnings well above both of those figures—and in some cases, more than two or three times the average. Industry professionals in business and healthcare-related roles stand to benefit the most. 

Job TitleRelated Doctoral Degree(s)Median Earnings90th Percentile Earnings
Chief Executive OfficerDoctor of Business Administration (DBA)$109,460
$208,000
Computer Research ScientistPhD in Computer Science$85,000
$118,940
EpidemiologistPhD in Public Health / Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)$62,390
$81,940
HistorianPhD in History$60,340$76,060
Human Resources ExecutiveDoctor of Business Administration (DBA)$98,980
$170,440
Nurse PractitionerDoctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)$109,660$152,130
Physical TherapistDoctor of Physical Therapy$79,220$126,210
PsychologistDoctor of Psychology (PsyD) / PhD in Psychology$99,420
$124,900
School Principal/AdministratorDoctor of Education (EdD)$77,190
$104,410
Speech Language PathologistPhD in Applied Language and Speech Science$76,730
$100,670

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021