This article profiles the top 10 cheapest online PhD finance programs.
Up until recently, online PhD degree programs were limited, and traditional programs were the norm. In recent years, reputable and accredited public and private universities started offering online doctoral programs, including the online PhD in finance program or online DBA in finance. We reviewed several schools to find the top 10 cheapest online PhD in finance programs.
Top 10 Cheapest Online PhD in Finance Programs Methodology
We looked at approximately 30 colleges and universities listed by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) College Navigator that offered online PhD in finance programs or closely related doctoral programs, such as Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) with finance courses or specializations. We narrowed our original pool of schools by applying the following criteria: Offerings of at least one online PhD in finance or closely related degree, school and/or program reputation with rankings from U.S. News and World Report, and affordable graduate tuition and fees less than $20,000 per year. Some of the schools on our list offer stipends and tuition waivers. However, for the sake of clarity, we listed the school according to raw affordability based on graduate tuition presented by NCES.
Below is our list of the top 10 cheapest online PhDs in finance.
Note: This ranking/article was originally published in July 2019 and was last updated in June 2022. The 2022 tuition updates may affect the ranking order, but the list has not been re-ordered.
#10 – New England College of Business
Online Doctor of Business Administration in Quality Systems Management
The New England College of Business offers an affordable online DBA in finance program focusing on systems management. The program is designed for working professionals wanting to maintain their current professional and personal obligations while pursuing a PhD in finance program online. Completion of the program readies graduates for top executive positions within nearly all business contexts and industries that value leadership, analytical thinking, and complex problem-solving. Courses may include:
- business analytics and decision making
- business operations and supply chain management
- financial management and fiscal leadership
- organizational development and change management
U.S. News and World Report ranks the New England College of Business #147 in best online MBA programs.
Editor’s Note: The New England College of Business became a subdivision of Cambridge College in 2020.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $16,442
#9 – Northcentral University
Online PhD in Financial Management
La Jolla, California
Northcentral University offers an online PhD in finance designed for working professionals seeking the rigor and flexibility of a PhD program. Graduates go on to positions as college or university faculty or a variety of research and private positions in investment banking, financial planning/analysis, and more. The program consists of 60 credits divided into 20 courses that require 45 months to complete. The program blends rigorous research with practical application. Students engage in:
- advanced financial statement analysis
- financial business decision modeling
- investment selection techniques
- earning and risk management
U.S. News and World Report ranks Northcentral University #57 in regional colleges Midwest.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $18,411
#8 – Creighton University
Online DBA in Finance
Creighton University offers an online doctor of business administration in finance that is two-thirds online and one-third residency. The program is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International and draws students from over 26 states. The program is designed for working professionals to complete over a three-year period. The program embeds seven residencies per year for the first two years and zero residencies in the third year. Courses may include:
- applied behavioral research design and methods
- applied finance research
- applied information systems research
- survey of innovative business pedagogy
U.S. News and World Report ranks Creighton University #1 in regional universities Midwest and #20 best online graduate business programs.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $19,096
#7 – Franklin University
Online DBA in Finance
Franklin University offers an online DBA in finance designed for working professionals seeking a doctorate degree to increase their skills and knowledge and prepare them for the highest occupational levels within their organizations. The PhD in finance online can be completed in just three years and allows students an entire year to complete their dissertation. Additionally, upon approval, students can transfer up to 24 credits of previous coursework from other programs or institutions. In addition to advanced business concepts such as accounting, finance, and management, students also dive deeply into the political, cultural, and ethical issues that drive and impact business decision-making.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $16,080
#6 – California Baptist University
Online DBA in Finance
California Baptist University provides an online DBA in finance that can be completed in just three years including the dissertation. The 50-unit program is designed to blend advanced theory with a praxis that develops students into outstanding business executives and leaders within a wide variety of organizational contexts. The structure of the program allows students to work on only one course at a time every eight weeks. Strategic residencies are placed in the program that allows students to network with peers and faculty. Courses may include:
- applying economic theory to business
- ethics in organizations and management
- financial analysis for decision making
- orientation to the doctorate in business administration
U.S. News and World Report ranks California Baptist #32 in regional universities West.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $14,320
#5 – Johnson & Wales University
Online Doctor of Business Administration
Providence, Rhode Island
Although not a PhD in finance online, Johnson & Wales offers an online Doctor of Business Administration that provides advanced courses in finance and financial management. These courses include contemporary issues in finance and accounting and business analytics and intelligence. Other courses include advanced strategies in organization development, contemporary leadership issues, and problems and methods in marketing management. The program is divided into eight-week courses with an expected completion of three years. Students are provided a lock-step dissertation model that they begin working on at the end of the first year. Johnson & Wales is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. U.S. News and World Report ranks Johnson & Wales #104 in best online graduate business programs.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $14,706
#4 – Atlantic International University
Online PhD in Finance
Atlantic International University offers a cheap online finance doctorate to prepare graduates for a variety of occupations in private industry, higher education, and more. Additionally, the program focuses on key research areas in computer science within the context of financial decision making and modeling. Students choose from a wide list of courses to tailor the degree according to their career trajectory and personal interests. Featured finance courses include:
- financial economics
- economic statistics
- empirical applications in finance
- linear statistical methods
- time series analysis
The program is completed entirely online and is designed for working professionals who are unable to attend traditional on-campus classes due to work and personal obligations.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $13,000
#3 – Kansas State University
Online Doctorate in Personal Financial Planning
Kansas State University offers an affordable online finance PhD focusing on personal financial planning. Graduates go on to careers in academia and private industry. The hybrid program blends online learning in the fall and spring semesters along with 10-day summer experiences. The institution is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The program is housed within the School of Family Studies and Human Services. The program is designed to be completed in five years or less and includes courses such as:
- advanced research methods
- clinical research and applications in financial counseling and planning
- estate planning for families
- financial therapy theory and research
Kansas State is ranked #147 in national universities by U.S. News and World Report.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,069
#2 – Liberty University
Online DBA in Finance
Liberty University offers an online DBA in finance for individuals possessing an MBA from a regionally or nationally accredited institution and a minimum 3.0 GPA. The Liberty DBA in finance is completed entirely online, making it an excellent option for working professionals seeking to advance their skills and knowledge through the attainment of the highest academic degree. Finance courses include:
- business valuation
- investments and derivatives
- managerial finance
- mergers and acquisitions
Graduates of go on to careers as financial managers, chief sustainability officers, chief financial officers, and corporate treasurers. U.S. News and World Report ranks Liberty University #98 in best online graduate business programs.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,630
#1 – William Howard Taft University
Online Doctor of Business Administration
Similar to online PhD in finance programs, William Howard Taft University provides individuals with an online doctor of business administration focusing on business leadership and financial management. The program is conducted entirely online, with no campus visits or residential requirements. The flexibility and 100% online model make the degree a viable option for mid-career professionals seeking to increase their knowledge and skills along with furthering their career options. Courses may include:
- conceptual foundations of accounting and finance
- global business practices and challenges
- global strategic management
- negotiations and dispute settlement
William Howard Taft is accredited by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $5,590
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do by earning a cheap online finance doctorate?
An individual with an online PhD in finance has a wide range of occupational options considering the transferability of skills and knowledge learned throughout the degree program that apply to most organizational contexts. Graduates can pursue careers as:
- accountants and auditors
- budget analysts
- financial managers
- financial researchers
- financial economists
- personal financial planning and management
- college and university faculty
Additionally, individuals with a PhD in finance may be qualified for executive-level positions such as:
- chief financial officer
- chief executive officer
- similarly related positions that oversee entire departments and organizations
It is common for investment banks, hedge funds, and private equity firms to hire finance PhDs as research associates performing quantitative analysis of financial organizations and instruments. Many research associates start off their careers performing finance research for a specific industry or sector such as biotechnology, software, and energy.
Finance PhDs are also employed by the government as economists. Specifically, the federal government hires individuals to perform economic research measuring and analyzing how economic activity impacts local, regional, and national economies both domestic and abroad. These positions pay well, but typically less than those in private industry. The research conducted by individuals with these positions helps to inform and influence government policy.
Along with applied work as private researchers and economists, many finance PhDs work as college and university faculty. The main charge for academic jobs include conducting and publishing research and teaching classes.
What is the job outlook for individuals with an online doctorate in finance?
The job outlook is expected to remain very strong for financial managers and researchers across all sectors of the economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the occupational growth rate for financial managers is expected to be 19% during the time period 2016-2026. This is a much higher growth rate compared to the average occupation. For context, the average growth rate for all jobs during this same time period is expected to be 7%.
Job growth is driven by several factors. Specifically, in the fall out of the economic and financial crisis, organizations are seeking individuals with expertise in regulatory reform and risk mitigation. As financial institutions seek stability and profit, individuals with these skills will be in high demand.
As organizations increase cash reserves both domestically and abroad, individuals with financial management skills including cash and risk management will be sought after as organizations seek professionals who know how to manage finances in a global economy involving foreign markets.
As online money management continues to increase, banking institutions will continually need to adapt to the changing landscape where internet money management is the norm compared to traditional in-person banking. As such, finance PhDs with knowledge of online money management and IT platforms will be in high demand.
How much money can I make with an online finance doctorate?
According to the United States Government Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary (median pay) for a financial manager is $127,990 per year. Compare that to the median salary of $38,640 for all occupations and it is easy to see that individuals with an online finance PhD make attractive salaries. As with other occupations, variables such as industry, years of experience, and geographic location all play salient roles in determining pay. Financial managers working in professional, scientific, and technical contexts earn the highest average pay of $151,610 annually. Government financial managers earn the lowest of any sector with a median annual salary of $112,830.
Financial and budget analysts earn wages ranging from $101,410 for investment-related jobs to $81,420 for credit intermediation (online banking) occupations. Fund managers may make far more than the above stated salaries as many of these analysts earn bonuses based upon investment performance. It is not uncommon for high-yield analysts to make in the high six-figures and even seven-figures on an annual basis based on strong investment performance.
Individuals living in high-population metropolitan areas will find the highest paying jobs and the most job openings. California and New York employ the highest numbers of financial managers and also pay the highest salaries. New York-based financial managers earn an average salary of $210,510 annually.
What is the difference between an online finance PhD and a DBA?
There are several differences between an online finance doctorate and an online DBA (Doctor of Business Administration). Read on to find out the distinctions between the two degrees.
A PhD in management is generally for individuals seeking to become academics. These individuals work as professors, instructors, and researchers within academic institutions or think tanks where researching theory and publishing in peer-reviewed journals are the main objectives of the occupation. Research is primarily conducted as a means to contribute to the field of existing knowledge within the discipline. Additionally, PhD students are typically recent graduates with little professional experience. The DBA degree is designed for the seasoned professional seeking to gain practical knowledge and skills needed to succeed on the job. While research is an important part of the curriculum, DBA students engage in more applied research to directly integrate it into their careers. DBA students are typically older, non-traditional students with several years of experience.
The Doctor of Business degree is relatively new compared to the PhD. The PhD is universally recognized by academic institutions whereas the DBA is still developing. As such, students enrolled in PhD finance programs may be required to teach as well as publish their dissertation in a peer-reviewed academic journal. While DBA students complete dissertations as well, they can be applied projects and may not be required to publish in academic journals.
How long does it take to earn an online doctorate in finance?
Graduate degrees require a lot of time and dedication. A PhD is a well-respected and universally known degree that propels the graduate to the highest level of academic distinction. The time to complete an online PhD in finance is largely dependent on the student and the programmatic structure. Typical online programs take between 3-5 years to complete. The advantage of online programs is their ability to cater to students with full-time careers and other outside obligations that inhibit them from taking full-time course loads.
Because Doctor of Business Administration programs are designed for working professionals, there is an abundance that allows students to take courses on a part-time basis. Part-time coursework typically means taking one course at a time per term. For many graduate programs, including full-time PhD and DBA programs, full-time enrollment requires two courses per term, which can be taken concurrently or one at a time. It is common for DBA degrees to take approximately three years to complete, with PhD programs taking longer. In addition to minimum completion times, it is critically important that students know the maximum time allowed to finish the degree. Some programs give students up to ten years or longer to finish provided they have everything done but the dissertation.
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