2024 Easiest PhD Programs to Get Online [Guide]

By Joy Cromwelle
Edited by Briana Sukert
Updated on July 4, 2024
Edited by Briana Sukert
Ready to start your journey?

If you’ve always wanted to put the title of “Doctor” in front of your name, then you might be curious about the easiest PhD to get. While all PhD studies require hard work, you may find some programs easier than others.

Easiest PhD Programs to Get Online

Surveying the landscape of available programs can give you an idea of which degree would be most suitable for your interests, availability, and academic skills.

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Then, you can settle on the PhD program that not only will be easiest for you but could also contribute to achieving your goals.

Universities Offering Easiest Online PhD Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer PhD programs online or in a hybrid format with no dissertation, no residency requirement, no GRE or GMAT requirement, less math and science required, or accelerated programs.

Adams State University

Adams State University offers a PhD Counselor Education and Supervision. The low-residency program requires campus visits over the course of 4 summers. Cohorts begin each fall and follow a semester schedule.GRE or GMAT scores are not required. Adams State prefers 2 years of counseling experience for applicants.

Adams State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Amridge University

A PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies can be earned online through Amridge University. Courses are 8 to 14 weeks long. There are no residency requirements. On average, the 51 required credits may be completed in 4 years.

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

Capella University

Capella University offers several PhD programs, including Psychology, Education, Business Management, and Behavior Analysis. Most programs require a dissertation or capstone project. Capella does not require GRE or GMAT scores. Some programs require short residencies or field experiences. Courses are 10 weeks long.

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Colorado State University

A PhD in Music Therapy can be earned through Colorado State University. The program is in an accelerated format and may be completed in as little as 3 to 5 years. All courses are online and there are no residency requirements. The program does not require GRE or GMAT scores.

Colorado State is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Concordia University – Chicago

Concordia University – Chicago offers a PhD in Leadership with an emphasis in Sports Leadership through its fully online program. Most courses are 8 weeks long, and dissertation and research courses are a full semester. On average, the program requirements may be completed in 3 years.

Concordia University – Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

East Carolina University

A PhD in Nursing is available through East Carolina University. All coursework is fully online. The low-residency program requires campus visits for immersive experiences for the first 2 years. GRE or GMAT scores are not required to apply. The program offers concentrations in Nursing Education and Nursing Leadership.

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

Faulkner University

Faulkner University offers 3 online PhD programs, including Health Sciences, Humanities, and Biblical Studies. A dissertation is required and the program may allow presentation through a virtual meeting. Faulkner does not require applicants to submit GRE or GMAT scores. On average, the program may be completed in18 months.

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

Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University offers multiple PhD programs. All programs are a PhD in General Psychology with emphases like Performance Psychology, Cognition and Instruction, and Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Most programs have low residency requirements and require sessions of 3 to 5 days on campus. Test scores may not be required.

GCU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Hampton University

Hampton University offers 4 online PhD programs, including Business Administration, Nursing, Counselor Education and Supervision, and Education Management. Some programs are in a hybrid format and require short residencies during the summers. Applicants are not required to submit GMAT or GRE scores. There are start dates in the fall, spring, and summer.

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

Indiana State University

A PhD in Educational Administration with a concentration in Higher Education Leadership is offered through Indiana State University. The program requires 45 coursework hours and 15 dissertation hours. The program requires residencies during the summer. The required coursework can typically be completed in 5 semesters.

Indiana State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Johnson University

Johnson University offers a PhD in Leadership Studies. The program is designed for those who want to further their careers. There are various concentrations, including Educational Leadership, Ministry Leadership, and Theology of Leadership. The program is online with start dates in the fall or spring semesters.

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

Liberty University

Liberty University offers a wide selection of online PhD programs. Many programs are fully online with some requiring short campus residencies for intensives. Courses are 8 weeks long, and there are 8 convenient start dates each year. Programs include Aviation, Organization and Management, Strategic Media, Bible Exposition, and Criminal Justice.

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

National University

A PhD can be earned online through National University. While most programs are fully online, some require short residencies or internships. Courses are 4 weeks long, and there are several start dates throughout the year. National’s PhD programs include Business Administration, Technology Management, Human Resource Management, and Marriage and Family Therapy.

National University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Regent University

Regent University offers the opportunity to earn a PhD in Organizational Leadership with an emphasis in Entrepreneurial Leadership. The program is fully online and does not require GRE or GMAT scores. Courses are taught through a Christian worldview and include Kingdom Business Leadership Strategies. The program requires 60 credits.

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

Trident University International

Trident University International offers a PhD in Educational Leadership. The program is fully online. Various concentrations are available including Educational Technology and Teaching, Learning, and Development. Courses are 12 weeks long and are offered during the fall, winter, spring, and summer. The program may allow credit for prior experience.

Trident University International is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Arizona

The University of Arizona Global Campus offers 3 online PhD programs including Organizational Development and Leadership, Education, and Human Services. All residencies are virtual. Courses are asynchronous. Most doctoral courses are 6 weeks long, while capstone courses are 9 weeks. UAGC does not require GRE or GMAT scores.

The University of Arizona is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

University of Florida

The University of Florida offers multiple online PhD programs including Classical Civilization and Latin & Roman Studies. The programs are designed with flexible schedules and special sessions during breaks. Courses are online with aPhDresidency during the summer. The program requires 60 credits.

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

University of Missouri – Columbia

The University of Missouri – Columbia offers a PhD in Human Environmental Sciences with an emphasis in Architectural Studies. The program is fully online with no required residencies. UM offers an optional on-campus workshop during the summer. Courses follow a semester schedule. The program can typically be completed in 5 years.

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

University of Tennessee – Knoxville

A PhD in Educational Psychology and Research with a concentration in Adult & Continuing Education is available through the University of Tennessee – Knoxville. The program is fully online. Courses follow a semester schedule with fall and spring start dates. Test scores are not required to apply.

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

Walden University

Walden University offers several PhD programs online, including Counselor Education & Supervision, Criminal Justice, and Health Education & Promotion. Most programs are fully online and some require short residencies. The school offers course-based and self-paced programs with several yearly start dates.

Walden is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

What Is the Easiest PhD to Get?

You can expect every PhD program to be rigorous and challenging. Even still, there may be some programs that you’d find easier than others.

Because people have unique aptitudes and interests, everyone’s definition of “easy” is a bit different. Despite that, the following characteristics are often associated with easier PhD programs:

  • Asynchronous online classes
  • Fast-track course format—often involving 8 week classes
  • Fewer in-person campus visits required
  • Fewer science and mathematics classes
  • No dissertation required
  • Opportunity to transfer in multiple credits
  • Shorter overall length

The following programs are often listed among the easiest and fastest PhD programs online. Select the program that most interests you to jump to that section of the guide:

Exploring your options may help you determine which academic path is right for you.

PhD in Business Administration

Business administrator monitoring company operations

For a business PhD, you may take classes in econometrics, information systems, decision-making, innovation, and statistics.

There are often many concentration options available, including finance, organizational leadership, marketing, and management. Your focus area will largely determine what classes you take. A business-related PhD will address theories of effective business practices and leadership.

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This degree could help prepare you to teach business courses or spearhead research in management and operations. Having a business PhD could also equip you to take a lead role in your organization, such as becoming a chief executive.

PhD in Counseling

Counseling psychologist in a session with patient

Topics addressed in counseling PhD programs often include counseling techniques, personality theories, human development, and mental disorders. The classes may also teach you about developing and evaluating programs.

You may gain practical experience in a real-world counseling setting. Some students who get this degree opt for a concentration in counselor supervision. That track would prepare you to help future psychology students gain the education and experience they’ll need.

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With this degree, you might teach psychology classes or become a licensed counseling psychologist who works with patients.

PhD in Criminal Justice

Criminal profiler working in his office

As a student in a criminal justice PhD program, you will study criminology and victimology. The classes may teach you about terrorism, intelligence, and security. It’s possible you will learn about new developments in forensics. You’ll also spend time thinking about policies and practices for preventing crime and rehabilitating offenders.

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Having this degree would qualify you to teach criminal justice to college students, but there are also many practitioner paths you could take with it. The options might include policymaking, criminal profiling and investigations, and military leadership.

PhD in Education

College professor giving lecture in class

PhD students in education programs often study learning theories and educational technology. If you enroll in this program, you may also discuss issues facing modern schools and consider solutions.

Many education PhDs focus on curriculum and instruction. Students study the best ways to help learners acquire and retain new information. Within that discipline, there may be a variety of concentrations available, such as early childhood and literacy.

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PhD holders may be leaders in school districts and state boards of education. Being a college professor who trains future educators is another potential option.

PhD in Human Services

Researchers on social issues, discussing results of their surveys

As a student in a human services program, you are likely to study social issues and potential solutions. Possible topics include mental health, crime, disaster management, and aging populations.

In addition, you may gain practical skills related to the responsibilities involved in leading human services organizations. For example, you might study grant writing, needs assessment, and program implementation.

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With a human services PhD, you may become a researcher or a policymaker who considers ways to address social issues. You could also lead community organizations designed for meeting people’s needs.

PhD in Public Administration

Public administrator of an NGO, discussing with staff

The courses in a public administration PhD program often cover organizational theories, policymaking procedures, management techniques, and program leadership. You might also study economics, finance, human resources, decision-making, and strategic planning.

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Some PhD programs include joint studies in both public administration and public policy. Learning about public administration at the doctoral level might help prepare you to lead government or nonprofit organizations. It could also be useful for anyone interested in directing public policy, conducting policy-related research, teaching public administration courses, or working in a legislative capacity.

PhD in Public Health

Healthcare services manager, greeting some hospital staff

Doctoral candidates in public health learn about biostatistics and epidemiology. It’s also helpful to understand factors that influence people’s health, such as genetics, environment, and human behavior.

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If you get a PhD in Public Health, you may study grant writing, health ethics, and the structure of the healthcare system as well. This PhD could be useful for anyone who wants to be involved in research and development for public health policies. The degree could also lead to a career as a public health professor or the leader of a healthcare organization.

PhD in Public Policy

Government researchers discussing research data

Advanced study in public policy requires learning about economics, political science, sociology, and statistics. You’ll also practice both quantitative and qualitative analysis.

Your curriculum may include classes in modern social justice issues, nonprofit leadership, policy ethics, and international development. The degree may allow you to specialize in a certain area of public policy. Examples include education, healthcare, poverty, and energy.

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Public policy PhD holders know how to conduct critical analyses that can influence policy development. As researchers or educators, they may work in university, government, or NGO settings.

PhD in Psychology

Clinical psychologist assessing a patient's progress

The curriculum for your PhD in Psychology might include classes in psychological testing, human development, cognitive processes, change management, and survey methods.

You may also learn how to teach psychology concepts to students and provide valuable consulting services to organizations. As a student in psychology, you might choose a concentration area. Ideas include health psychology, developmental psychology, educational psychology, and community psychology.

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People with PhDs in Psychology often work as professors, social science researchers, or consultants. They might also qualify to become licensed to work in private practice or other healthcare settings as clinical or counseling psychologists.

PhD in Theology

Ministry leader talking with a church member

For a degree in theology, students may learn about religious traditions, sacred texts, belief systems, and ethical teachings. Theology degrees are often offered by religious universities, and most focus on the teachings and practices of the Christian tradition.

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To earn this PhD, you might be required to become proficient in one or more languages. Common examples are Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. French and German may be options too. Graduates may become theology or religion professors in the US or overseas. Alternatively, they may become authors or ministry leaders.

Easy PhD Programs Admissions Requirements

Man preparing requirements for PhD programs

Even if you are selecting one of the easiest or shortest PhD programs, you’ll still go through an extensive application process. A few common requirements are listed below:

  • Goal statement to let the school know about your research interests and career plans
  • Official transcripts from all colleges you’ve attended
  • Recommendation letters
  • Resume
  • GRE or GMAT test scores (not required at all schools)

Many PhD programs require you to hold a master’s degree before applying.

Easiest PhD Programs Accreditation

University offering PhD Programs

When you’re searching for the easiest doctoral degree, you may come across some unaccredited universities that promise easy PhDs. While their programs may be tempting, it’s advantageous to focus your attention only on accredited schools. Even when hoping for an easy degree, you don’t want to compromise on quality.

Regionally accredited colleges have shown themselves to be quality institutions where you’ll receive a credible education. The credits often transfer between schools, and the degrees they confer earn employers’ respect.

Should I Get a PhD?

students getting a PhD degree

If you want to be a college instructor, then getting a PhD would certainly be an asset. The academia-focused PhD degree is often a strategic choice for aspiring university-level educators.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that postsecondary instructors earn a median of $79,640 annually. A PhD is a large commitment, though. Even if you choose one of the easiest programs, you’ll dedicate significant time and effort to this undertaking. It can help to be a person who thoroughly enjoys school, particularly the research and writing aspects.

Do You Need a Masters to Get a PhD?

Do You Need a Masters to Get a PhD

Not all PhD programs require a masters degree as part of the admissions process. Some regularly admit students straight from undergraduate programs. Whether you’ll be able to find PhD programs like that will likely depend on your field of study.

Keep in mind that master’s degrees prepare students for graduate-level research. If you haven’t previously earned a graduate degree, then you may be required to take some foundational classes near the beginning of your PhD program.

What Can You Do with a PhD?

scientific researchers with PhD degree

People with PhDs often become educators at the college level. Working as a higher education administrator is a similar line of work for people with PhDs to consider. Other graduates become scientific researchers. Examples include medical scientists, information research scientists, sociologists, and economists.

A PhD may qualify someone to head up research projects. Some people with PhDs work as practitioners in their field. For example, some PhD professionals work as business executives or clinical psychologists, depending on their field.

Can You Get a PhD Online?

Man taking his PhD degree online

Yes, many students earn their PhDs online! Programs offered online are often considered among the easiest PhDs to get because of their flexible nature. They don’t require relocating to a college campus or attending classes at set times. Rather, you can fit online studies into your regular life.

Some PhD programs ask online students to come to campus occasionally. You may be required to attend a week-long intensive session or meet with your faculty advisor. Other programs are fully online, and you can even defend your dissertation through the computer.

How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD Online?

Woman getting a PhD degree online

In general, 3 to 5 years is a pretty common timeframe for earning a PhD. Usually, programs involve a couple of years of classes followed by several years of dissertation work.

If you can complete your dissertation quickly—or if your program doesn’t require a dissertation—you can graduate sooner. Many no-dissertation online PhD programs can be completed in 3 years or less. In some fields, you may even find the option for a 12-month or 18-month doctorate without dissertation.

How Much Does a PhD Cost?

People taking PhD, doing their research works

There’s a wide range of typical costs for PhD programs, but many schools charge between $600 and $1,000 per credit hour.

The number of credit hours required will depend not only on how many classes you’re required to take but also on how long you spend working on your dissertation. For a less expensive degree, you could focus your school search on in-state public universities. You might be able to receive a resident rate of just $300 to $400 per credit hour.

Are There 1 Year Online Doctoral Programs?

student taking a 1-year online Doctoral program

It may be possible for you to earn a doctorate in close to 1 year. Most PhD programs take 3 years or more, but there are exceptions. To finish school in 1 year, it’d be necessary to pick the easiest PhD without dissertation.

Writing a dissertation can take several years, but not all doctoral degrees require this major project. For 1 year online doctoral programs, you’ll likely want a program with year-round coursework offered in an accelerated format. For example, you may be able to complete each course in just 1 month or 2 months.

What’s the Difference Between a Doctorate vs. PhD Degree?

There are different types of doctoral degrees, including professional doctorates and PhDs. Consider which is best for you.

Doctorate Degree PhD Degree
  • Practitioner focused
  • Involves applying existing research
  • Helps professionals rise to the top of their fields
  • May require a doctoral project, a portfolio, or a dissertation
  • Academia focused
  • Involves creating new research
  • Helps aspiring academics break into professor or researcher positions
  • Typically requires a dissertation

Many students can finish professional doctorates more quickly than PhDs—often 1 year or 2 years faster.

Getting Your PhD Degree Online

student getting her PhD Degree online

Your future plans may include earning one of the easiest doctorate degrees. Getting a PhD could enhance your life and career in many ways. You may feel personally fulfilled after achieving this goal, and it might help you secure your dream career as well.

How many PhD programs should you apply to? To ensure that you have sufficient time to create well-crafted applications for each university, it is generally advised by experts to consider applying to a range of 4 to 6 PhD programs.

If you choose easy PhD degrees, doctoral studies may not take over your life. Rather, you might be able to quickly complete school while also balancing your personal responsibilities. Getting your PhD online could really help with that.

With online PhD studies, you can earn your degree from anywhere. What could you get a PhD in? You could start exploring accredited universities with easy PhD programs today!

Ready to start your journey?