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Best PhD and Doctoral Programs in Wisconsin: Online & Campus

Discover the best PhD programs in Wisconsin. Learn what schools offer them, career options, online programs, and more. This guide is your key to the top-rated doctoral programs in the state.

Search hundreds of top schools for the doctorate YOU want.

Written By

Angela Myers

Last updated

Jan 31, 2024

Getting a doctoral degree is an exciting career move, but deciding which one to pursue can be overwhelming. At the University of Wisconsin alone, for example, there are over 100 PhDs to choose from. With so many degree types, universities, and learning formats, many students face decision fatigue about which doctoral program is right for them. If you want to be more confident and less overwhelmed when choosing a PhD program, you’re in the right place. This guide covers the best doctoral programs in Wisconsin, popular subject areas for PhDs, and financial aid options specific to Wisconsin residents.

Top-Rated PhD and Doctoral Programs in Wisconsin for 2024

The best PhD program in Wisconsin is different for everyone. However, there are standout programs in terms of academic rigor, financial support services, and credibility. Top programs also often include flexible study options, such as online or hybrid degrees, and professional development opportunities. For a better idea of what a top-rated program PhD and doctoral program looks like, explore the three spotlighted schools below.

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The University of Wisconsin-Madison provides one of the largest varieties of PhD degrees in Wisconsin. On campus, students can earn doctoral degrees in over 50 fields from agriculture to educational leadership and policy to biomedical data sciences. Students can get doctorates in nursing or occupational therapy online. The school also offers hybrid programs, including a PhD in epidemiology and population health. For those who want to finish their degrees faster, there’s an accelerated degree in investigational psychology. Many of the school’s graduate students receive fellowship funding that covers tuition and provides a living stipend, making the University of Wisconsin-Madison one of the most affordable universities for doctoral students in the state.

Concordia University Wisconsin

Concordia University provides high-quality degrees for Wisconsin graduate students. The school has over nine degrees, including in-person doctorates in physical therapy and pharmacy and a pharmacy/MBA dual degree. Students looking for hybrid or online PhDs should consider the school’s degrees in business, leadership and innovation, nursing, occupational therapy, and pharmacy/MPH. Concordia University has two in-house fellowships and connects students to external aid options. To set students up for success, the school offers online support services like virtual office hours with faculty and online appointments with the student professional development center.

University of Wisconsin-Stout

The University of Wisconsin is known for having great PhDs across its many campuses, including its Stout location. At the University of Wisconsin-Stout, students choose from fewer doctoral degrees than other University of Wisconsin campuses, but the degrees are all online. One of the most popular online doctoral degrees is the Doctorate of Education in Career and Technical Education Leadership. PhD students also have access to online student support resources like online appointments with university librarians to work on their thesis or virtual student professional development sessions. To help its doctoral students financially, the school also offers a high number of fellowships where students work as teaching or research assistants in exchange for a tuition waiver and living stipend.

Types of PhD and Doctoral Programs Available in Wisconsin

The formatting, program requirements, and application eligibility differ greatly among PhD programs in Wisconsin. To help you understand these differences, the most popular doctoral types of programs are outlined below. Read on to learn about formatting options for online PhD programs in Wisconsin and decide which is right for you. 

Full-Time PhD/Doctoral Programs in Wisconsin

Those who want their PhD to be their primary focus should consider full-time PhD programs in Wisconsin. In these programs, students graduate faster but often find holding down a full-time or part-time job difficult while getting their degrees. Stand-out full-time PhD programs in Wisconsin include the Engineering PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the Doctorate of Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin Whitewater.

Part-Time PhD/Doctoral Programs in Wisconsin

In part-time programs, students take a lighter course load to help them better balance a PhD with a full-time job or other life responsibilities. The downside of a part-time program is that it can take longer to complete all course requirements, though there are some accelerated or no dissertation programs where students might be able to graduate in five years while attending part-time. Examples of part-time PhD programs in Wisconsin include the Education Policy and Leadership PhD at Marquette University and the PhD in Public and Community Health from the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Fully-Funded PhD/Doctoral Programs in Wisconsin

If finances are an issue for you, consider a fully funded PhD program where you can a receive tuition waiver, living stipend, and health insurance in exchange for working as a research or teaching assistant. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, for example, students in all departments can be fully funded. Another school, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, provides its psychology students with fully-funded fellowships in exchange for teaching undergraduate classes or conducting research.

No-GRE PhD/Doctoral Programs in Wisconsin

If you have test anxiety or didn’t get the best GRE scores, a no-GRE doctoral program in Wisconsin might be a good option for you since applicants don’t need to submit scores from the GRE. Two schools offering no-GRE programs are the University of Wisconsin through its PhD in architecture and the University of Wisconsin-Madison with all of its graduate degrees.

Accelerated PhD/Doctoral Programs in Wisconsin

Want to get your PhD but don’t want to take three to six years to get it? An accelerated PhD program in Wisconsin may be for you. Programs like the PhD in English at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and the Doctorate in Business Administration at Edgewood College allow students to graduate in as little as three years. Some accelerated programs only take one year to graduate, though these are rare and can be quite time-consuming.

No Dissertation PhD/Doctoral Programs in Wisconsin

Most PhD programs in Wisconsin require students to complete a dissertation. While this experience can be rewarding and build up a student’s research skills, it’s not essential for every career path. If you’re getting a PhD to enter a C-suite position in a Fortune 500 company, for example, completing a dissertation may not be as valuable to you as it is to a doctoral candidate hoping to conduct cancer research. The Wisconsin School of Business offers non-dissertation options, and the Doctor of Nursing Practice at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is another no-dissertation doctoral program in Wisconsin.


Education is an ever-evolving field. To work in a higher-up position, such as a principal or superintendent, you likely need a doctorate or PhD in education. In Wisconsin, there are many great doctoral programs in this field. Keep in mind that some are geared toward higher education and others K-12 education. Choose the option that better suits your professional goals. 

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Quality Examples of Hybrid/Online Programs


To more fully understand how the mind works, consider earning a PhD in psychology. Doctoral psychology programs create experts in specialty areas like industrial or abnormal psychology. Students often complete dissertations with original research and go on to work in a clinical or higher education setting. Some work with patients directly. Like many doctoral degree types, make sure a school specializes in whatever subfield of psychology you want to work in. 

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs


To become a master of the English language, consider getting a PhD in English. With a doctoral degree in English, graduates work as English professors, book publishers, and novelists. These programs usually specialize in either writing or literary analysis, so it’s important to determine which is the focus and if its subspecialties relate to your professional goals.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs


To work as a licensed nurse practitioner in Wisconsin, you likely need a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). A doctorate in nursing also opens opportunities to work in nursing administration or management. Fortunately, many DNP programs are online or at flexible class times to allow nurses to complete their degrees while working full-time.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Quality Examples of Hybrid/Online Programs


Experienced business professionals who are ready to take their careers to the next level should consider getting a doctorate in business. Typically, students major in one area of business, such as international business or supply chain operations, so it’s important to look at the disciplinary strengths of each program before applying. To start your search, explore these top business PhD programs in Wisconsin.

Quality Examples of On-Campus Programs

Quality Examples of Hybrid/Online Programs

Earning Your PhD or Professional Doctorate Online in Wisconsin

Online PhD programs in Wisconsin eliminate the commute time and costs associated with traveling to and from campus. While all hybrid and online programs offer this benefit, attendance requirements for these programs vary widely. Some online programs, for example, like the Population Health Nursing, DNP at the University of Wisconsin-Madison don’t require any campus visits. Others, like Concordia University’s Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) and Master of Public Health Dual Degree, have significant in-person components.

Some fully online programs have asynchronous class sessions where students watch lectures on their own time, and others have scheduled virtual meeting times. Asynchronous online programs, such as the Doctor of Public Health at the Medical College of Wisconsin, are great for independent learners who work while getting their degrees. Synchronous PhD programs in Wisconsin, like the educational doctorate at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, are better for students who still want some face-to-face interaction with faculty and peers.

Before registering for an online or hybrid program, check out if it fits your learning needs. It’s important to find a learning format you prefer, so avoid signing up for the first online program you come across in your search.

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

On average, grad school costs $18,947 in the U.S. While some doctoral programs in Wisconsin cost less, they still come with a high price tag. Fortunately, there are financial aid opportunities available to doctoral students in Wisconsin. Some of the most popular forms of financial aid include:

When looking at financial aid options, your school or Wisconsin-specific funding is often your best bet. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction outlines scholarship options available through the government, and Wisconsin universities often have even more funding opportunities available. For an example of what schools offer, consider the distinguished graduate fellowship from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which covers tuition costs and offers a $15,500 stipend. The University of Wisconsin-Madison also has great financial aid options for graduate students in all disciplines.

Earnings for Doctorate Holders in Wisconsin

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly salary for all workers in Wisconsin is $56,120. Jobs requiring a doctorate usually make more per year than the average. Some jobs, such as economists and pharmacists, made almost double the average, coming in at $119,920 and $134,070 a year, respectively. For a better idea of how much you can expect to make, check out the median salaries for job titles related to specific doctoral degrees in the table below.

JobRelated Doctoral Degree(s)Median Earnings90th Percentile Earnings
Clinical and Counseling PsychologistsDoctor of Psychology (PsyD) / PhD in Psychology$84,440$163,220
Computer and Information Research ScientistsPhD in Computer Science$137,240$198,990
EconomistsPhD in Economics$119,920$179,410
Education Administrators, PostsecondaryDoctor of Education (EdD)$106,200$215,700
Education Teachers, PostsecondaryPhD in Education / PhD in Special Education$77,020$110,150
EpidemiologistsDoctor of Public Health (DrPH)$79,830$118,970
Financial ManagersFinance Doctorate (PhD/DBA)$161,710$239,200
Instructional CoordinatorsDoctor of Education (EdD)$73,710$119,320
Nurse PractitionersDoctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)$110,860$141,490
PharmacistsDoctor of Pharmacy (PharmD)$134,070$165,610
Physical TherapistsDoctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)$97,780$127,920

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2022