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Best Online Doctorate in Finance Programs (PhD/ DBA)

We’ve provided the essential information you need to decide if earning an online PhD in finance or a DBA in finance is right for you. Learn about the best programs and get started on your doctoral journey.

Search hundreds of top schools for the doctorate YOU want.

Written By

Kyra Sutherland

Last updated

Jul 31, 2023

If you’re considering getting your doctorate in finance, you might be ready for a career as a college professor or as an executive-level financial expert. The world needs more finance professionals who can successfully navigate the financial risks and rewards that come with major organizational decisions as well as those who can teach those skills to business and finance students. 

To help meet the growing demand for highly educated finance professionals, more colleges are turning to distance education for their doctoral programs to meet the needs of working students who require flexibility, resources, and support to earn their degrees.

But which programs offer the best academics and other features? Is a DBA or PhD in finance the better choice for my career goals? How much will it cost and how long will it take?

The questions and concerns you have about earning your doctorate in finance online are valid and deserve thoughtful, thorough answers. This guide addresses these and other questions you have to help you make an informed choice about which program and school is the best for you. Keep reading to explore this year’s top-ranked programs and get other key information about getting your finance doctorate online.

Best Online Doctorates in Finance for 2023

We’ve highlighted two top-notch online doctoral programs in finance that stand out for their overall affordability, curriculum quality, and study flexibility. Learn more about each school below to see if one meets your budget, schedule, and career goals.

Liberty University Lynchburg, Virginia
Type: Private not-for-profit
Cost: $$

The ACBSP-accredited Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degree from Liberty University is offered in many concentrations, including finance. The finance specialization is ideal for current business professionals seeking professional growth into higher levels of management. While completing this fully online curriculum, students learn advanced business research and analytic skills within the financial realm, which can be critical in making strategic decisions for an organization. To apply, students need a master's degree in business or similar field and a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. While most students take about three years to complete the program, the curriculum is self-paced, which means students can take more or less time based on their personal and professional responsibilities and prior graduate coursework. Up to half of the DBA program requirements can be met with approved transfer credits.

Program Highlights:

Doctor of Business Administration in Finance

  • Credits: 60
  • Length: About 3 years
  • Cost: $595/credit (full-time) and $650/credit (part-time)
  • Mode: 100% online
  • Accreditation: ACBSP
Faculty Ratio
Kansas State University Manhattan, Kansas
Type: Public
Cost: $$$

Kansas State University's Personal Financial Planning doctorate has several distinctions that make it unique. One of the first to be available mostly online, this program's coursework during the spring and fall semesters is delivered online. However during the summer, students participate in 10-day summer intensives on campus. It's also one of only four programs to be registered with the CFP Board. The curriculum consists of 90 credits, 46 of which are in research. Supporting and professional courses make up 32 credits and the remaining 12 consist of electives, thus allowing students to tailor their degree to their personal interests and professional needs. Even though students' paces will vary, many finish their doctorate in less than five years.

Program Highlights:

Personal Financial Planning Doctorate

  • Credits: 90
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $635.60/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC
Faculty Ratio

Online Finance Doctorate Spotlights

Walden University

Walden University’s online Doctor of Business Administration finance specialization is designed to give students the knowledge and skills they need to maximize their firm’s value, including valuation, capital budgeting and structure, working capital management, multinational concepts, and Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM). As students work through the program and develop their leadership and expertise in finance, they’ll explore more advanced theories such as option pricing, derivatives, and hedging. The program requires two face-to-face residencies—one at the beginning of the program and one nearing its completion. They can be attended virtually or in person. Students will be continuously registered in the doctoral study course until their capstone project is completed and approved. 

  • Time to Completion: 2.5-8 years
  • Cost: $54,675-$163,335

Northcentral University

The online DBA in financial management from Northcentral University is the ultimate example of flexibility. Students don’t have scheduled lecture hours or group projects, and they have weekly assignments that they can complete around their own schedules. The program is designed to help students gain advanced skills in fiscal analysis, budgeting, and spending for public and private organizations. Students will also explore advanced business financial decision models and examine domestic and global financial issues, including the causes of fluctuations in interest and monetary exchange rates. Students who choose NCU’s Doctor of Philosophy in business administration with a specialization in financial management will become familiar with the research and development analyses used to manage and allocate financial resources and will develop effective strategic planning skills for projection and ROI issues. Students in both programs will learn advanced finance skills like financial statement analysis, investment selection techniques, and how financial institutions generate earnings and manage risks.

  • Credits: 48 (DBA), 60 (PhD)
  • Average Time to Complete: 39 months (DBA) and 45 months (PhD)

Benefits of Earning Your Finance Doctorate Online

Earning an online PhD in finance versus opting for a traditional on-campus degree opens up many opportunities for students who don’t have the time or means to travel to a campus. Working students, full-time professionals, stay-at-home parents, and military members choose online degrees for many reasons, including:

  1. Flexible schedules. Online courses are often asynchronous which means that while students still have deadlines, they can watch lectures and read over coursework on their own time, whether that’s late at night, on their lunch hour, on the bus, or during a child’s nap. If a course is synchronous, lectures are often held one night a week, but students will still have the flexibility of location. As long as they have internet access, students can carve out time to watch the lecture without ever having to go to campus.
  2. Affordability: Choosing to earn your doctorate in finance online can save money. While not always the case, some online courses carry a distance learning fee, but it’s typically cheaper than paying the facility and parking fees that on-campus students pay. Studying online also eliminates the expense of traveling to and from campus. You’ll also find that in some online programs, students are charged the same tuition whether they are located in the same state as the school or a different one. 

With online learning becoming more popular, opportunities for education in finance are more accessible than ever, but that doesn’t mean it’s a one-size-fits-all. Before you jump in, take a look at the types of online learning being offered to see if online learning can meet your needs.

Learning Formats for Online Doctorates in Finance

As a potential online doctorate student of finance, there are two program formats that you need to be familiar with—fully online and partially online (hybrid). Here we’ll give you an idea of what they are, but you’ll need to do your own research to determine which one is right for you in your current situation. 

Fully online programs will have all coursework, communication, and lectures available online. They can be synchronous, which means you’ll meet virtually at a specified time for lectures or discussions, or asynchronous, meaning that everything is prerecorded, and you can watch or participate at your own convenience. It’s important to research each program thoroughly, because while some programs advertise that they are available 100% online, they require doctoral students to come to campus to defend a dissertation or present a project at the end of the program.

A partially online, or hybrid, program typically has lectures on campus and all required coursework online. Since many doctoral students are full-time professionals or have familial obligations, lectures are often held in the evenings or on the weekends and sometimes will have several weeks between meetings. Students in a hybrid program will also probably be required to come to campus for various intensives or residencies to learn and network with peers and professors. Some programs even require an international capstone experience that exposes students to financial issues in a comparative and global framework.

PhD vs. DBA: Which Finance Doctorate is Right for You?

Whether you choose an online PhD in finance or an online DBA in finance depends on your goals. PhDs. are geared to students who want to pursue a career in academia and make a contribution to business knowledge and theory. A DBA in finance is a professional doctorate for students that want to contribute to the practice of management and make a difference in the industry. Below you’ll learn about some of their major differences.

Online DBA in FinanceOnline PhD in Finance
PurposePractical application of finance principles in a business or industry settingFinance theory and scholarship
Student TypeMid-careerEarly career
Student GoalA technical leadership position in industry or the public sectorAcademic or research position
FundingIndustry or public sector employerGrant- or scholarship-based
PrerequisitesAccredited master’s degree in business or a business-related fieldUndergraduate degree from an accredited university or college
Length3-5 years3-5 years
CapstoneResearch projectDissertation & presentation

Timeline for Earning Your Finance Doctorate Online

The timeline of a PhD or DBA in finance can vary from one student to another. Students who can study full time may be able to finish their degrees in three years, but students who need to study part-time may take six years or more. Most programs require students to finish their degree in no more than seven or eight years. If you’ve completed industry-related master’s coursework beforehand, that can also help speed things up. Learn what students can generally expect to study each year of their degree program below.

Year one

Students begin with courses that focus on proficiency in business operations and the basic disciplines. These credits may be completed by taking graduate courses prior to program application, after being admitted to the program, or sometimes through approved independent study. Students will also take several elective courses to help narrow down their interests and identify potential faculty advisors. At this point, students are usually required to submit a plan of study that outlines the courses they will take for the duration of the program.

Year two

Once students’ plans of study are approved, they will start taking courses that relate to their area of interest, will help them become proficient in those areas of research methodology and statistical analysis, and may help them identify potential capstone project/dissertation topics. At the end of this year, students will need to be moving toward or taking their comprehensive/candidacy examination.

Year three

Full-time students will have passed their candidacy examination to be nominated for PhD candidacy or their qualifying examination to become eligible for the master’s in business degree. part-time students may still be preparing for their qualifying exams. Advanced research coursework, the choosing of dissertation committees, and the proposal and progression of the student’s dissertation will all happen this year. Some full-time students may get so far as to complete the defense of their dissertation at the end of year three.

Year four

Full-time students should successfully defend their thesis by the middle or end of year four. This includes registration for the defense as well as distribution of the paper to the committee beforehand. Getting their dissertations published may also happen during this year. Part-time students should have passed their comprehensive/candidacy exams, chosen their dissertation committees, presented their dissertation proposal, and started their research. Since the dissertation or capstone project represents a major research project, students can expect to spend a year, or the equivalent of a year, of full-time work in close cooperation with their committee.

Year five

Full-time students will spend the remainder of their time working to get their dissertations published. Part-time students will work closely with their dissertation committee to finish up the writing portion of their dissertation and will be preparing for the defense. 

Year six-seven

Part-time students should be working toward and finishing up the defense and publication of their dissertation.

Program completion times vary for the DBA and PhD in finance depending on many factors. When choose a program, be sure to take this into consideration and ask your program advisor any specific questions about completion timeframes you have.

Learning Outcomes of Finance Doctorates

Learning outcomes are the backbone of a program’s curriculum. They indicate where the students should be at the end of the program and provide a goal that students and instructors should work toward. Learning outcomes explain to the students why the knowledge and skills they are learning will be useful to them and help guide instructors in performing assessments and evaluations of their students.

  1. Develop Business Knowledge: Students will study and evaluate current theoretical and applied research in business administration to obtain broad, industry-wide knowledge and attain a good understanding of the methods used in theoretical modeling and empirical testing.
  2. Obtain Knowledge of Advanced Models & Software: Students will gain the knowledge and capability to apply advanced models that are related to asset pricing, corporate valuation, and financial risk management. Students will also become proficient in advanced software programs for statistical and econometric analysis such as time series and cross-sectional analysis.
  3. Perform Quality Research: Throughout the program, students will gain the ability to formulate a research question and apply appropriate testing methodologies to provide empirical evidence. This ability will translate into solving practical business problems based on the student’s original research, designing scholarly papers and dissertations, and defending them orally.
  4. Recommend Solutions: Students will recommend solutionsfor the improvement of business and organizational systems and practices based on their understanding of current research and their knowledge of relevant literature and best practices. These solutions will be founded on the practical application of current theories. 
  5. Create Business Strategies: Students will evaluate business practices that positively impact society and become familiar with ethical codes and standards. These tenets will guide their professional decisions as they construct socially responsible and ethical business strategies.

Accreditation for Online Finance Doctorates

Attending an accredited university is critical because accreditation proves to the world that the curriculum is rigorous, appropriate, and upholds high standards. Accreditation can be given at the program or institutional level. There are many accredited universities and programs out there, but when considering an online doctorate in finance, you should know about the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). 

The ACBSP is an organization that offers accreditation services to business programs focused on teaching and learning. Some of the best business programs receive the distinction of being ACBSP accredited. If possible, choose an accredited online degree in finance doctorate that has the ACBSP’s badge of approval in addition to the school being accredited as a whole, either regionally or nationally. If a school offers online programs, its regional or national accreditation should include any online degrees as well.

Applying to an Online PhD or DBA in Finance Program

The application process for graduate business finance programs is a little more rigorous than for undergraduate programs. You’ll need to submit your past college transcripts and proof of English proficiency (if applicable), pay an application fee, and meet a minimum GPA requirement to be considered for your PhD or DBA in finance. You might also find programs that require written statements, letters of recommendation, interviews, and a professional resume. 

  • Prior Education: Though most college programs require you to submit all your college transcripts, an online PhD in finance will require you to have at least completed a bachelor’s degree, though not always in a related field. A DBA in finance will require you to have a master’s degree in a relevant field, for example, an MBA.
  • Written Personal Statement: A written personal statement will help the admissions committee get to know you and understand your intent in pursuing additional education and your plans once the program is completed. This is also where you should detail your qualifications for the program as well as a history of relevant business experience.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Letters of recommendation help the admissions committee verify whether you are qualified to start your studies in the program. A well-written letter of recommendation will also indicate how you have developed and applied your skill set in a way that might be applicable to your program of interest.

Tuition and Fees

The option of online learning could be the tipping point for some students as they consider furthering their education, especially when it comes to cost. Many universities charge online students the resident tuition rate regardless of their location. Additionally, many fees typically charged to an on-campus student, like facility and parking fees, aren’t applicable to online students, which could add up to hundreds of dollars in savings over a few years. 

Studying remotely allows you to skip commute costs and forgo opportunity costs, like taking time off of work or missing a child’s basketball game. Online students need to secure their own computers and internet access, but renting one from the school or using your local library are both affordable options. Below you’ll find a tuition comparison to help you get an idea of what your baseline cost will be.

SchoolCost per CreditTotal CreditsSubtotal
Liberty University Online$59560$35,700
Walden University$1,02549+$50,225+
Northcentral University$1,10548$53,040
Atlantic International University$400variable$19,200+

NOTE: It’s worth looking into your college’s financial aid options since many schools offer tuition assistance, grants, and other payment help specifically for PhD and doctorate students. This could significantly reduce your out-of-pocket cost. As you research online PhD finance programs, don’t let yourself be paralyzed by the dollar signs. Contact a financial aid representative to learn what your options are, and keep in mind you’ll often pay far less than the advertised program’s price. Also, read through our guides to scholarships and grants and financial aid to find financial aid options you can start working on now.

Salaries with an Online PhD or Doctorate in Finance

Your salary as a PhD finance graduate will largely depend on your experience, but to give you a frame of reference, professionals with a PhD in finance earn an average base salary of $125,000 per year, according to PayScale. The yearly median salary for accountants was $77,250, while the yearly median salary of a chief executive was $179,520, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Your area of expertise, geographical location, and relevant experience will be strong determining factors when it comes to how much you’ll earn with your finance doctoral degree.