10 Best All But Dissertation Completion Programs [2024 ABD Guide]

By Jason Collins
Edited by Briana Sukert
Updated on April 24, 2024
Edited by Briana Sukert
Ready to start your journey?

Students who completed their doctoral coursework and received doctoral candidacy but left the program before completing their dissertation may qualify for ABD completion programs.

Best All But Dissertation Completion Programs

All but dissertation programs provide doctoral students with the opportunity to finish what they’ve started.

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Let’s take a look at how an accredited dissertation only PhD program may help you achieve your academic goals. You can also discover some of the current degree programs available for returning PhD students.

Universities Offering Online All But Dissertation Completion Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

1. Alverno College

Alverno College offers an ABD to help with the completion of EdD degrees. There is also a concentration in Teaching & Learning in Higher Education available. Most of the program is online with 2 weekend residencies in Milwaukee. The program requires approximately 6 semesters.

Alverno College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

2. American College of Education

An EdD in Leadership is available through the American College of Education. Those who are considered ABD may be able to follow a customized pathway to completion. The program is fully online, and there are no residency requirements. Courses are in an asynchronous learning format.

American College of Education is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

3. Baker College

Those with 32 credits toward a DBA may finish their degree through Baker College’s ABD completion program. The dissertation program requires an additional 28 credits and may be completed entirely online. On average, the program may be completed in 18 months.

Baker College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

4. Bay Path University

Bay Path University offers an EdD in Educational Leadership. Those who have completed doctoral coursework may be eligible for the ABD program. All coursework is online with 1 weekend residency per year. The dissertation requires 21 credits. The school offers multiple concentrations including Higher Education Leadership and Transformative School Leadership.

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

5. Brenau University

Brenau University offers an online EdD in Education program that features an ABD path for those who have completed core courses. There are start dates each fall and spring, and the program follows a semester schedule. The program requires 2 weekend residencies over the course of the program.

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

6. Centenary University

An EdD in Educational Leadership through Centenary University’s ABD program. The program requires 13 to 21 credits. Courses are online or in a blended format. A faculty advisor is available throughout the program. Courses follow a semester schedule.

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

7. Gwynedd Mercy University

Gwynedd Mercy University offers an EdD for ABD students. The program is in an accelerated format. All coursework is fully online with 1 weekend residency required. The required 27 credits can typically be completed in 18 months.

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

8. Indiana Wesleyan University

Those classified as ABD can earn an EdD through Indiana Wesleyan University. The program is fully online, and there are no residency requirements. The program is taught through a Christian worldview. The program’s required 30 credits may be completed in as little as 20 months.

Indiana Wesleyan University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

9. Manhattanville College

Manhattanville College offers an EdD in Educational Leadership for those who have completed all doctoral coursework except the dissertation. Courses may be completed online or on campus. Online programs start each spring. Courses are in an accelerated format. The program requires 30 additional credits for a total of 59 credits.

Manhattanville College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

10. Union Institute & University

A PhD can be earned through Union Institute & University’s ABD program. All coursework is online with 1 week of residency required at the start of each term. There are start dates are in January and July. The program requires 9 to 12 credits. On average, the program may be completed in 3.

Union Institute & University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Online ABD Completion Programs

Woman attending an Online ABD Completion Program

If you’re interested in completing an all but dissertation (ABD) or dissertation only PhD program, there are a few steps involved.

The process is different for every school and dissertation completion pathway, but you’ll typically be asked to:

  • Submit an application. You’ll be asked to share your educational history, including doctorate coursework completed. Each school will determine if and how they will offer transfer credits for the courses you’ve taken.
  • Complete coursework. Some schools ask students to complete a few prerequisite courses, often regarding research, writing skills, or communications.
  • Seek mentorship and resources. Many schools provide students with a staff mentor who can provide them with support and guidance during the dissertation process.
  • Complete your dissertation. Finally, you’ll have the opportunity to complete your dissertation.

Generally speaking, you’re often asked to have a proposal for your dissertation at the time of admissions. So, you may want to be prepared to speak with the program and admissions staff about your upcoming dissertation during the application process.

Select jobs require candidates to have a doctoral degree, though many careers do not. At the same time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that professionals who have a doctoral degree experience the lowest average levels of unemployment.

Due to many different circumstances, a surprising number of adult students do not complete their dissertation after finishing their doctoral coursework. As a result, they must often start over to earn their PhD—unless they choose an ABD completion pathway.

Why PhD Candidates Quit

students taking PhD degree

Though you may feel alone on an incomplete educational path, there are many other students who find themselves on a dissertation completion pathway.

There are many reasons why a student may find themselves in ABD status, including:

  • Finances and personal circumstances. Some students need to take a break in their studies due to practical situations. Whether due to the cost of tuition or the amount of time spent working toward a degree, life may interfere with your studies.
  • Intimidation or fear. Dissertations often range from 30,000 to 60,000 words and beyond. Many individuals find researching, organizing, and drafting a document this size to be intimidating.
  • Time management challenges. For some students, losing the structure of a school setting can mean losing sight of writing the final dissertation. Without a school and study schedule, they may fall behind in writing their dissertation.

Though a dissertation isn’t an easy challenge to take on, all but dissertation programs help students who are ready for the final step in their doctoral degree. ABD programs could provide resources, mentors, and guidance throughout the process, such as knowing how to decompose the PhD project into distinct dissertation chapters can help in the writing phase.

ABD PhD Completion Programs Admissions Requirements

Woman preparing requirements for ABD PhD Completion

Schools that offer all but dissertation programs will have their own guidelines and admissions requirements for students. So it’s beneficial to review the admissions process and application for each school carefully.

Some common requirements include:

  • GRE or GMAT scores (only some schools require them)
  • Complete undergraduate and graduate transcripts
  • Doctoral work transcripts demonstrating completion of doctoral coursework
  • Minimum GPA standing
  • Academic writing samples

You may be asked to provide course descriptions or syllabus-level course details for some of your graduate and doctoral degree work. This will help each school determine which credits apply toward their doctoral completion program.

Unlike many educational opportunities, an ABD program often involves working with admissions and program counselors to determine your placement within their program.

PhD ABD Programs Accreditation

University offering PhD ABD Programs

As you review various PhD ABD programs, it’s beneficial to check whether the programs that interest you most are accredited, just like checking online doctoral programs in education without dissertation.

Accreditation is offered to schools and programs that demonstrate a higher level of educational excellence. Organizations such as CHEA, or the Council for Higher Educational Accreditation, provide more information about the regional accreditation process.

There can be many benefits to selecting an accredited program. Many financial assistance opportunities, including federal student aid, are provided exclusively to those who attend accredited schools. Plus, required steps for employment in your field, such as licensing, certification, or membership in a professional organization may require accredited education.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

ABD Completion Programs Financial Aid

For many students, the first step toward receiving financial aid is completing the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Completing this application helps determine your eligibility for need-based federal assistance.

You can also research what scholarship or grant opportunities the school you will attend may offer. They might also offer financing or repayment opportunities. Other scholarship opportunities might come from your community, local businesses, large corporations, or private donors. There may be financial aid options specifically for those on a dissertation completion pathway.

Additionally, your employer may offer assistance for those who are returning to school. This could potentially include employer-sponsored scholarships, tuition reimbursement programs, or an educational allowance.

What Does ABD Mean?

PhD students taking ABD programs

All but dissertation (ABD) means that a student has completed every step in their doctoral degree program except the final dissertation. Typically, earning a doctoral degree includes 2 to 3 years of classwork followed by exams. After this, students propose, research, write, present, and defend their dissertation in front of a committee.

ABD status means you’ve done everything but the dissertation step. While there is no “ABD degree,” many schools offer all but dissertation (ABD) programs that help provide you with the structure, environment, resources, and timeframe to complete this important final step of earning a PhD.

How Long Are ABD Completion Programs Online?

Man taking ABD Completion online

All but dissertation completion programs online typically take 1 to 3 years to complete, depending on the university and your chosen specialty.

Some universities require students with ABD status to complete a few courses in order to remain eligible for their degree. These prerequisites often highlight helpful skills for dissertation writers, including research, writing, organization, and communication.

In many cases, students are asked to check in regularly with their mentors or advising staff to consider the scope of their projects and findings.

Is an ABD Completion Worth It?

 Woman pursuing ABD Completion, doing research works

Yes, an ABD completion is worth it for many students. While writing a dissertation can be seem intimidating and stressful, many doctoral candidates find that completing the process is rewarding and beneficial.

Not all careers require a PhD. But the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that professionals who have earned their doctoral degrees typically earn higher median salaries and experience lower incidences of unemployment.

While a dissertation only PhD program can’t guarantee your professional success, it can be helpful for those wishing to gain employment in the highest levels of their field.

Finishing Your Doctorate Degree Online

doctorate student taking ABD programs online

Plenty of doctoral candidates find themselves unable to complete their degree due to the final dissertation. Selecting a dissertation completion pathway can help students in this situation find the structure and guidance they need to finish this last step.

If you are ready to complete your doctorate or PhD degree, you may wish to consider all but dissertation programs to help you conquer this final challenge. Regardless of what caused the delay, you can still complete your terminal degree.

You can explore some of the accredited ABD programs offered online around the country to take this next step in your academic and professional journey.

Ready to start your journey?