35 Shortest Doctoral Programs Online [Fastest Doctorate & PhD Degrees]

By Joy Miller
Updated on July 17, 2024
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We've ranked 35 Shortest Doctoral Programs Online for 2023. Explore Accelerated PhD Programs & Doctorates for the fastest online degree programs.

Have you ever dreamed of getting your PhD or doctorate without spending ages in school? We’ve got you covered!

We’ve compiled a list of the 35 shortest doctoral programs available online. These programs can be ideal if you are looking to fast-track your education.

shortest doctoral program online

Online accelerated PhD programs are growing in popularity, but they vary widely in their graduation requirements. We’ve put together this guide showcasing online doctorate programs that require less than 60 credit hours to help you find the one that meets your needs.

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The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that doctorate degree holders earn more than $19,000 a year on average than those holding a master’s degree only.

And because a doctoral degree is the highest level of academic achievement, you will also receive the accompanying scholarly respect as you make valuable contributions to your field and society as a whole.

Accredited Schools Offering the Shortest Doctoral Program Options

Methodology

To decide which universities to include in our guide, we looked at several criteria, including the total number of credit hours required, accreditation, programs offered, and quality of online programs. Each of these universities offers accredited, accelerated online doctoral programs.

Completion time can differ for each student, but it’s exciting to know that some accredited schools now offer doctorate degrees that require fewer than 40 credit hours to complete! This can offer more flexibility and efficiency in your educational journey.

Before you apply, it’s important to carefully review your potential program’s tuition fees, graduation criteria, and classes offered.

Boston University

Boston University offers an accelerated Doctor of Occupational Therapy program that can be completed in 18 months. The program requires 33 to 37 credits and includes courses in evidence-based practice and health care management. It is fully online, allowing flexibility for working professionals. No dissertation is required, but a doctoral project is necessary.

Boston University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Capella University

Capella University’s doctoral programs offered in FlexPath provide a unique, self-paced learning format that allows you to complete your degree at your own speed, potentially much faster than traditional programs.

Some programs even allow up to 24 transfer credits, further accelerating your studies. Whether pursuing a Doctor of Education or a Doctor of Business Administration, FlexPath provides the flexibility to advance your career on your terms.

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Colorado Christian University

Colorado Christian University offers an online Doctor of Nursing Practice program that can be completed in just over 2 years. The program requires 30 credit hours and includes courses in advanced nursing practice and leadership. It features a flexible online format and culminates in an evidence-based practice (EBP) project.

Colorado Christian University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Concordia University Chicago

Concordia University Chicago offers an online PhD in Exercise Science. This asynchronous program can be completed at your own pace and allows students to accelerate their studies by completing them with fewer breaks. The program requires the completion of 69 credit hours, including a dissertation. Coursework covers topics in exercise science, research, statistics, and leadership.

Concordia University Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Duquesne University

Duquesne University offers an online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Clinical Leadership program that can be completed in 2 years. This 35-credit program focuses on clinical leadership, quality improvement, and evidence-based practice. It includes three unique residency experiences and culminates in a doctoral practice project.

Duquesne University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Drexel University

Drexel University offers an online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program that can be completed in 2 years. The program requires 45 credits and includes comprehensive clinical requirements. Students must complete 1,000 post-baccalaureate clinical hours. The program also culminates in a DNP project, focusing on practical, evidence-based improvements in healthcare.

Drexel University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

East Carolina University

East Carolina University offers an online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program that is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. It requires 36 semester hours, 1,000 clinical practice hours, and 1- to 3-day on-campus sessions at the beginning of each semester.

Coursework is focused on advanced clinical practice, leadership, and quality improvement. The program culminates in a DNP scholarly project designed to address real-world healthcare challenges.

East Carolina University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Frontier Nursing University

Frontier Nursing University offers an online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program that can be completed in 18 months. The program requires 30 credits and 500 clinical hours. Coursework focuses on advanced practice, leadership, and evidence-based care. The program culminates in a quality improvement project, designed for practical, real-world impact.

Frontier Nursing University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University offers two online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs. The DNP in Advanced Practice Registered Nurse requires 39 credits and the DNP in Educational Leadership requires 48 credits.

Both programs can be completed in approximately 2.5 years and include courses in leadership, clinical practice, and evidence-based research. They both culminate in a scholarly project aimed at real-world improvements in healthcare and education.

Grand Canyon University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Gwynedd Mercy University

Gwynedd Mercy University offers an accelerated, online Executive Doctorate in Educational Leadership (EdD) program that can be completed in less than 3 years.

The program requires 54 credits and includes courses in strategic leadership, organizational change, and educational policy. Personal doctoral completion support is offered from day one, ensuring guidance and resources throughout your academic journey.

Gwynedd Mercy University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Hampton University

Hampton University offers an online Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing program that can be completed in 3 years. The program requires 48 credit hours and includes 8-week courses in nursing theory, research methods, and health policy.

Students receive personalized support throughout their studies and must complete a dissertation to contribute original research to the field of nursing.

Hampton University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Indiana State University

Indiana State University offers an online, 37-credit-hour Doctor of Nursing Practice (Post-Master’s). Its curriculum is approved by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and fully accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc.

The program aims to develop new leaders in nursing and allows students to shape their education around their interests, expertise, and goals.

Indiana State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Indiana University of Pennsylvania offers an online, accelerated Doctor of Nursing Practice to PhD program. By allowing 27 credits from a DNP degree to transfer, this program can be completed in half the time as a traditional nursing PhD, requiring only 33 semester hours to complete.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Liberty University

Liberty University offer several doctoral degrees. Many of which can be completed 100% online and may be accelerated. Courses are primarily offered in an 8-week format with no set login times, allowing you to complete your courses at your own pace. Fields of study offered include ministry, public administration, education, nursing, and counseling.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Monmouth University

Monmouth University offers a 36-credit, online Post-Master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program that is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The curriculum focuses on the translation, application, and evaluation of new science to create nursing professionals capable of creating innovative changes in the field.

Monmouth University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

National University

National University offers several online doctoral programs to fit the needs of busy schedules. The university offers 4-week, flexible online courses that can be completed at your own pace. Fields of study offered include public administration, education, criminal justice, and business administration.

National University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Nova Southeastern University

Nova Southeastern University offers several online and hybrid doctoral programs. These programs offer flexible, online courses and summer courses to help fit busy schedules and accelerate the time it takes to earn a degree.

Topics of study available include education, leadership, human services administration, nursing, organizational leadership, occupational therapy, and special education.

Nova Southeastern University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Penn State World Campus

Pennsylvania State University offers an online Post-Master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice—Leadership through its World Campus. The program requires 38 to 46 credits that can be completed in 2 years. Most courses are offered in an asynchronous format to better fit busy schedules.

Pennsylvania State University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Regent University

Regent University offers several online doctoral degree programs. The school’s generous transfer policy and 8-week course offerings allow many programs to be completed faster. Areas of study offered include ministry, business administration, nursing, communication, leadership, education, and counseling.

Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Seton Hall University

Seton Hall University offers a Post-Master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice that requires the completion of 31 to 33 credits. The program’s courses can be completed fully online. The curriculum prepares students for advanced practice roles, such as nurse practitioners, midwives, or anesthetists, or administrative and leadership positions.

Seton Hall Univesrity is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Temple University

Temple University’s Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) program requires 21 credits and may be completed in up to 3 years. It is designed for licensed occupational therapists who hold a master’s degree in occupational therapy or a related field. The program offers a flexible format to help working professionals advance their careers while balancing other commitments.

Temple Univesrity is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

University at Buffalo

The University at Buffalo offers post-master’s, online programs for a Doctor of Nursing Practice. Each of these degrees requires the completion of 36 credit hours. Specializations offered include Child Health, Family, Psychiatric/Mental Health, and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, and Nurse Anesthesia.

The University at Buffalo is accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

University of Arkansas

The University of Arkansas offers a mostly online Doctor of Education in Education Leadership. The program consists of online courses with weekly synchronous meetings and three weekend seminars. It requires 42 credit hours and can be completed in 3 years. It prepares for leadership roles at a variety of education levels.

The University of Arkansas is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Bridgeport

The University of Bridgerport’s hybrid Post-Master’s Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership program is mostly online and can be completed in 3 years. Designed for working professionals, all classes can be completed online except for two one-week doctoral summer residencies.

The University of Bridgeport is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

University of Florida

The University of Florida offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice (Post-Master’s) program that can be completed online. It requires requires the completion of 35 credits and can be completed in 5 semesters. The coursework culminates in a final project designed to help you build clinical expertise and scholarship and could lead to publication or conference presentations.

The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Michigan – Flint

The University of Michigan – Flint offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice—Executive Leadership that can be completed with 30 to 34 credits. The curriculum adheres to the standards of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s “Triple Aim” criteria. The program is taken online and offers 7-days-a-week support.

The University of Michigan – Flint is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota offers an online Post-Master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice. This program is designed for nurses with master’s degrees in a specialty who want to take the next step into an advanced role. It requires the completion of 37 to 38 credits and one four-day session each semester. The program can be completed in 1 year, including a summer semester.

The University of Minnesota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Missouri

The University of Missouri offers an online Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership with optional on-campus opportunities. The program requires 54 credits. Typically, students take two classes a semester and graduate in 3 years.

The University of Missouri is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of North Carolina – Greensboro

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro offers an online PhD in Economics. This program can require as little as 45 credit hours and be completed in just 3 years with equivalent core master’s courses to transfer. This customizable program allows you to select labor, health, macroeconomics, technology, entrepreneurship, public, or environmental economic focus.

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of North Dakota

The University of North Dakota offers an online Post-Master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice. The program requires 37 credit hours and can be completed in 5 semesters. The curriculum is designed for healthcare leaders, focusing on leadership in topics like nurse education, safety and ethics, organizational systems, and integrated leadership.

The University of North Dakota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Northern Colorado

The University of Northern Colorado offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice (Post-Master’s) for practicing MSNs and APNs. It requires 44 credits and can be completed in 2 years. The curriculum is designed to create clinical experts with a focus on leadership, advocacy, and critical thinking.

The University of Northern Colorado is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Tennessee – Knoxville

The University of Tennessee – Knoxville offers several online doctoral programs, several of which require less than 50 credits. Topics of study available include industrial engineering, social work, and nursing. UT offers 24/7 mental health and wellness support for its online learners and synchronous and asynchronous classes to fit your scheduling needs.

The University of Tennessee – Knoxville is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Texas at Tyler

The University of Texas at Tyler offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice that can be completed primarily online. The curriculum consists of 39 credits and a scholarly project. The program can be completed in 3 years of part-time attendance. It focuses on evidence-based practice, systems change, leadership, and healthcare policy.

The University of Texas at Tyler is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University offers an online Ed.D. in Leadership and Learning in Organizations, requiring 54 credits, with transfer credits available for eligible students. The program can be completed in as little as 3 years, providing a rigorous yet flexible path for professionals aiming to lead in educational settings.

Vanderbilt University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Wilmington University

Wilmington University offers several online, flexible doctoral programs. Three of these programs can be completed in 3 years or less: a Doctor of Nursing Practice, an Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership, and a Doctor of Business Administration.

Wilmington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Popular Online Doctoral Programs

Accelerated online doctoral programs can help you finish your doctorate faster. These are some of the most popular fields of study in which a doctorate can be earned in an accelerated format.

Below we’ve provided information about each of these fields of study. Click on the links above to shortcut to your field of interest.

Accounting Doctoral Programs

2 year PhD program course

If you enjoy working with numbers and financial concepts, you may enjoy delving deep into the field with a doctorate in accounting. You can earn this degree to prepare for a position as the chief financial officer of an organization, serve as an auditor, teach accounting at the college level, or oversee a team of accountants.

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Doctoral accounting programs include classes in statistical analysis, financial research methods, and accounting theories. Available concentrations include Public Accounting and Forensic Accounting.

Online Doctorate in Business Administration

fastest PhD programs

A doctorate in business administration can prepare you for leadership roles and skillful operation within global markets.

With this degree, you can pursue leadership positions in a variety of fields, including for-profit companies, non-profit organizations, and government groups. You can also work in education, whether in an administrative role or as a professor.

In preparation for such positions, your coursework will cover topics like quantitative and qualitative research methods, statistics, economics, management theories, and organizational behavior.

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As a more exclusive degree than an MBA, a DBA can set you apart and help you land top leadership positions. Plus, the number of courses required is typically less, making it one of the shortest doctoral options.

Counseling Doctoral Degree Programs

doctorate in one year

A doctoral degree in counseling or therapy can equip you to help others work through their mental health or interpersonal struggles, and it can prepare you for leadership roles in counseling organizations.

With this degree, you can pursue careers in social work, private practice, or program administration. You may also tailor your education with concentrations like Counselor Education and Supervision, Art Therapy, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Addiction Counseling.

Coursework often covers topics like group and individual counseling, trauma response, ethical behavior, and diversity. Some universities require that you already be licensed as a counselor in your state before beginning their programs.

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A PhD in Counseling can allow you to pursue a career as a college or university educator, an advanced counselor who trains and leads others, or a primary researcher for innovative studies.

If you’re currently a counselor and training other counselors or managing a counseling program are career goals of yours, a PhD in Counseling can make those goals a reality.

Criminal Justice & Homeland Security Doctorate Degrees

accelerated doctoral programs online

With a doctorate in criminal justice or homeland security, you can pursue a career in law enforcement, government, or private practice.

Your chosen career may provide opportunities to protect your community, conduct investigations, work with criminals, or collect intelligence. Often, doctoral graduates gain leadership positions, such as serving as a chief of police.

In pursuit of this doctoral degree, you’ll take classes in psychology, emergency and disaster situations, the justice system, and victimology.

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Your program may offer concentrations like Terrorism, Criminology, Information Assurance, Security, or Emergency Management.

Education

accelerated doctoral programs in education online

Whether you want to teach in a classroom, serve in school administration, provide teacher support, or equip the next generation of instructors, a doctorate in education can help you achieve your goals.

Many graduates remain in the classroom and take on leadership roles. Others become principals, superintendents, professors, policymakers, curriculum specialists, or educational consultants.

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While earning this degree, you’ll take classes in curriculum development, organizational leadership, student assessment, and education research. You could select an EdD concentration in an area like Special Education, Administration, Curriculum and Instruction, or Early Childhood Education.

A PhD in Education and an EdD are quite similar degrees. Both programs focus on education and can prepare you for leadership roles. PhD programs, however, are more research-based.

A PhD can be a better match for someone looking for a career in research, publishing, or teaching at the university level. It focuses less on application than an Ed.D., but the same types of careers are possible with either of these two degrees.

In terms of time to completion, the shortest program option is usually the EdD because there’s often no dissertation required.

Finance

doctorate in 2 years

People with strong math and money skills can be good candidates for pursuing a doctoral degree in finance. Many doctoral graduates take leadership positions with investment firms, large banks, hedge funds, universities, or government agencies. Some earn CEO or other C-suite roles.

A doctorate in finance can even prepare you for an international career. As you study for your degree, you’ll take classes in market analysis, global markets, financial planning, theories of finance, taxation, and leadership.

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You can also choose to prepare for leadership roles in this field by pursuing a DBA with a concentration in Finance.

Online Doctorate in Healthcare Administration

fastest online doctorate

Earning a doctoral degree in the field of healthcare administration can prepare you for leadership positions in healthcare and medical settings. With it, you can work in hospitals, nursing homes, medical records companies, political think tanks, government agencies, or universities.

In this discipline, you’ll take classes on global health, business, law and policies, finance, and organizational leadership. Many DHA programs offer concentrations like Public Health, Leadership, and Health Policy.

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An alternative academic path is earning a DBA with a concentration in Healthcare Administration, which can offer a shorter route to a doctorate when no dissertation is required.

Human Services

Human services doctor

Earning a doctorate in human services can prepare you for leadership positions in organizations that provide services and assistance for various groups of people. You may work in schools, clinics, community outreach programs, or non-profit organizations.

Some people who pursue this degree are licensed counselors who want to serve in a leadership capacity in a mental health practice. Others desire teaching positions in human services at the university level.

Common topics of study for this degree include grant writing, leadership, communication, financial management, and ethics. Some of the concentration options are Mental Health, Gerontology, Marriage and Family, and Leadership and Management.

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A PhD in Human Services can prepare you for leadership positions or help you become a policymaker in public and human services.

A PhD in Human Services is a flexible degree. If you have an undergraduate or master’s degree in public service, including social services, child welfare, criminal justice, or healthcare, you may find this degree interesting.

Information Systems / Technology

MIS and CIS professionals

Companies and organizations rely on systems to keep their data and records safe and accessible. To be at the forefront of this field, consider a doctorate in information technology.

With this degree, you can pursue work as a C-suite executive, a director in a tech department, a consultant, a leader in a government agency, or a strategist. You could also be well-poised to open your own company.

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Your classes will equip you with knowledge about data collection and analysis, threat and risk management, policy-making, strategic planning, and research.

Management / Leadership Doctorate Degrees

1 year phd programs online

If you want to hold one of the highest roles in an organization, then earning a doctoral degree in management may be in order. Some with this degree become C-suite executives, such as chief operating officers. Others take the helm of school districts or universities or accept teaching or research roles in higher education.

While earning this doctorate, you will study leadership, ethics, consulting, decision-making, innovation, and research. Many students pursue concentrations in Technology, Homeland Security, Non-Profit Organizations, or Healthcare.

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Alternatively, some schools offer DBA programs with Management concentrations. This often adds more flexibility and can be the shorter option when compared to a PhD, which usually requires a dissertation.

Ministry (D.Min.) or Theology Doctorate Programs

Dmin student with Bible

You can take your religious education to the next level with a doctorate in ministry or theology. After earning this degree, you can choose to put your education into practice in church, parachurch, counseling, or chaplaincy positions.

Coursework for this degree typically helps students grow not only academically, but also spiritually. Topics covered include leadership, spiritual disciplines, evangelism, social justice, and teaching methods.

Some doctoral candidates pursue a specialization. Options include Counseling, Worship, Chaplaincy, Spiritual Disciplines, and Urban Ministry.

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A career as a professor is a possibility with this degree, or you could become a missionary leader or lead pastor at a church.

Many universities require students to hold professional ministry positions before admitting them into their programs.

Online Doctoral Nursing Programs (Doctor of Nursing Practice)

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The top-educated nurses have their doctoral degrees in nursing practice. With this degree, you can continue offering direct patient care. For example, you might work as a specialty nurse in a clinic. You could also use your degree as a care coordinator, manager of a nursing team, policymaker, or nurse educator.

For RNs (Registered Nurses) who want to teach and train other nurses in academic settings, a PhD in Nursing is the best doctorate-level nursing degree to pursue. A PhD in Nursing can also prepare you for a career in research as a nursing scientist.

Coursework for this degree includes classes on information technology, finance, organizational leadership, safety, and healthcare law. Keep in mind that a doctoral degree in nursing is a terminal degree in the field and will not qualify you for a position as a physician.

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DNP programs have gained a lot of popularity over the years and are designed for RNs who seek advancement while remaining practicing nurses.

Earning a DNP can prepare you for leadership careers in the nursing industry. It will teach you how to advocate for and make policies, manage and direct nursing programs, and ensure communities offer the best healthcare to citizens who need it the most.

Public Administration

Doctor of Public Administration

Whether you want to work in a government agency or would prefer a position with a related organization, a doctorate in public administration can help you achieve your goals.

People with this doctoral degree often serve as politicians, lobbyists, non-profit directors, grant writers, administrators, or government affairs directors. If you want to go into government or politics, you could work at the local, state, or national level.

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In this field, you’ll study human resources, public policy, budgeting, ethics, organizational leadership, and decision-making.

Online PhD in Public Health

Public Health Doctorate

With a doctoral degree in public health, you could choose to conduct research in the fields of epidemiology, environmental science, clinical trials, or academia.

Instead, you could choose to pursue leadership roles in public health as a safety engineer, a clinic manager, or an executive of a hospital system.

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Classes for this degree cover health equity, data analysis, biostatistics, and healthcare policy. Concentrations are available at many universities. Common options include Health Education, Leadership, and Laboratory Science.

Online PhD in Public Policy

Public Policy Doctoral Students

If you want to have a hand in creating or modifying the policies that shape people’s lives and communities, then a doctoral program in public policy can provide the education that you need. Graduates often work for government agencies, universities, think tanks, and various institutions.

While earning this degree, you’ll study ethics, decision-making, research, leadership, and cultural diversity. You’ll also practice identifying problems, gathering valuable data, and creating effective solutions.

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You may focus on Urban Policy, Health Policy, Financial Management, or other areas of specialization.

Online Ph.D. in Psychology Programs

Psychology PhD Programs

A doctoral degree in psychology can help you understand how people think and the influence that thought has on behavior. Many people pursue this degree because they want to work as licensed clinical psychologists in schools, private practices, hospitals, or organizational settings.

Coursework for this degree covers counseling theories, psychopathology, culture, motivation and behavior, and cognition.

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Programs leading to licensure typically require a lengthy supervised practicum.

FAQs

What Is the Difference between a PhD and a Doctorate?

A PhD, or Doctor of Philosophy, is just one type of doctorate, of which there are many.

Common doctorate degrees include:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
  • Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)
  • Doctor of Education (EdD)
  • Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
  • Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

Although the PhD is just one type of doctorate, it does have one distinguishing feature: the dissertation requirement. Nearly every PhD program requires adding to your field’s body of knowledge by performing original research on an approved topic of interest.

So, if you’re looking for fast-track doctoral programs, professional doctorates are generally a better choice.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Doctorate?

someone walking in a long but picturesque trail

The length of time it takes to complete your doctorate will depend on the university and the type of doctoral program you attend.

On average, it takes 3 to 5 years to earn a doctorate.

The answers to the following questions can significantly impact completion time:

  • Does the doctorate require a dissertation?
  • How many classes can you take at one time?
  • Are you transferring any credits into the program?
  • How many weeks long are your classes?
  • Is there a residency requirement?
  • Is there a professional internship requirement?

As you can see, the best answer we can give you is: it depends.

To give you a ballpark, if you are working toward a professional doctorate (DBA, EdD, PsyD, etc.) and there is no dissertation requirement, you should be able to complete your program in about 2 to 3 years. Some people may be able to complete it in less time, and some may take longer. This is simply an average.

The dissertation requirement of Ph.D programs can significantly impact your completion time. Generally speaking, it takes most doctoral students 3 to 5 years to complete a Ph.D.

What’s the Quickest Way to Earn a Doctorate Degree?

What are the shortest doctoral programs?

The shortest path to a doctorate will vary depending on your background, the program selected, and the university’s requirements.

The time it takes to complete a doctoral program online varies widely by university. For some universities, 3-year PhD programs are the norm. The official timeline on most university websites is about 3 – 5 years to complete a doctoral degree, but that’s just a general guideline.

If you are looking for the shortest PhD programs, you’ll want to select a program that does not require a dissertation. Dissertations are notorious for taking 2+ years to complete beyond the actual course requirements.

The following doctoral programs do not always require a dissertation: EdD, PsyD, DBA, DPA, and similar professional degrees. Most PhD programs require a dissertation (which means they’ll take longer to complete).

Another way to speed up your degree is by enrolling at a university that offers accelerated (8-week) doctoral courses. Since the courses take half the time to complete, you can finish your studies in less time.

Finally, you’ll want to pick a program that requires fewer credit hours. For example, one university may require 64 credit hours for an EdD while another may only require 42 credits. When looking for the shortest doctorate programs, you’ll want to examine the credit hour requirements closely.

This is also a great way to find the cheapest online doctoral programs. Generally, you’ll pay less tuition if you don’t need as many credit hours for program completion.

Are There Any One-Year Online Doctoral Programs?

1 year online doctoral programs
When exploring the fastest route to a doctorate, it’s important to understand the available options and their typical timelines.

While some schools offer the possibility of finishing a professional doctorate in 12 to 18 months, most accredited universities generally promote their doctorate programs as taking 3 or more years to complete.

These are some things to consider when looking for a faster doctoral program:

  • Standard PhD duration: The usual time frame for completing a PhD is about 3 to 5 years. Occasionally, you might come across a 2-year PhD program, but these are quite rare.
  • No-dissertation degrees: Choosing a program without a dissertation requirement can speed up the process. Typically, no-dissertation doctorates are found in professional fields, such as
    • Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)
    • Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
    • Doctor of Education (EdD)
    • Other career-focused doctorates
  •  Strategies for accelerated completion:
    • Select an online program with fewer credit hours required.
    • Enroll in accelerated courses, often structured as 8-week classes.
    • Consider no-dissertation programs
    • Look for programs that don’t require a GRE for admission.
  • Capstone project as an alternative: Consider programs requiring a capstone project instead of a traditional dissertation. Capstone projects require research but generally take less time to complete than dissertations.

So, while 1-year online doctorate programs are not commonly available, especially from accredited institutions, these strategies can help you find a doctorate program that can be completed in a significantly shorter time.

Do All PhD Programs Require Students to Complete a Dissertation?

Shortest PhD Programs student

PhD programs usually require dissertations, but professional doctorates, such as a Doctor of Business Administration or Doctor of Education, generally do not require dissertations. Instead, they typically require capstone projects.

We’ve assembled a list of doctorate degrees that don’t require dissertations here.

What Is the Fastest PhD Program Available?

fastest PhD program

The fastest PhDs available will be those that require 30 credit hours or less to complete. Once you’ve selected a PhD that requires fewer credit hours than the norm, try to narrow your list further by selecting a university with accelerated PhD classes, which generally only take 8 weeks to complete.

If a PhD is not absolutely necessary, you will likely find it easier to find a professional doctorate program that meets these criteria, and it will likely not require a dissertation.

Having to fulfill a dissertation requirement can significantly increase the time it takes to complete your degree.

If speed is the most important factor, then a professional or applied doctorate, such as an online Doctor of Business Administration, Doctor of Psychology, or Doctorate of Education, will likely be the fastest option.

Looking for the Fastest Doctorate Programs?

Accelerated PhD Programs

When looking for the fastest doctorate degrees available, the first thing to consider is how much you’re willing to compromise in the name of speed.

Yes, there are accredited online doctoral programs that can be completed in less time than traditional, campus-based programs. The key is finding the shortest doctoral program offering the exact studies you seek.

In your search for efficiency, focusing on programs with short completion times and fewer course requirements can be a strategic choice.

Choosing a fast-track online doctorate program with minimal required courses, accelerated online classes, and no dissertation requirements can be a smart move toward efficiently achieving your academic goals. We invite you to start exploring accredited programs today with our program finder below.

Ready to start your journey?