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Online PhD Programs without GRE Requirements [2019 Guide]

Online PhD Programs without GRE Requirements [2019 Guide]

PhD Programs No GRE


After getting my master’s in business administration, I wanted to go back to school once again. I knew that a PhD would advance my career, but I figured that getting a doctorate would require GRE testing.

Knowing that this standardized exam would be rigorous, I wasn’t sure I wanted to squeeze test prep into my life.

Fortunately, I learned that I could get my PhD without GRE testing.

Can You Get Into a PhD Program Without GRE Scores?

Some PhD Programs Have No GRE Requirement

The Graduate Record Examinations have come to be recognized as synonymous with grad school acceptance. Despite that, however, there are many schools that will admit you to their doctoral programs even if you’ve never taken this test.

In particular, online PhD programs often base their admissions decisions on factors other than exam scores.

Therefore, you may want to start your school-selection process by identifying programs that do not include GRE scores as one of their admissions factors.

Some PhD Programs Offer GRE Waivers

High marks from your last educational endeavor — your master’s degree, for example — may be enough to get you into a PhD program without needing to provide GRE scores.

If you already have work history in your intended field of study, this may also serve as sufficient proof of your competency for the school’s PhD program.

Waiver requirements can vary between schools and may be determined on a case-by-case basis.

What Types of PhD Programs Have No GRE Requirement?

Quite a few doctoral programs have no GRE requirement. Let’s take a look at the most common ones.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Despite the name, this degree is not limited to the study of philosophy. You can earn a doctor of philosophy degree in many areas, including science, the humanities or education. Your coursework will involve completing a dissertation.

A PhD program is often recommended for students interested in pursuing research or teaching.

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

This is a different type of doctoral degree; it can also be referred to as an applied doctorate or a professional doctorate. A dissertation may still be required, but there are a growing number of doctorate degrees with no dissertation requirements.

Not surprisingly, a DBA is useful for those in the business world. You may want to pursue this degree if you are interested in consulting or business management.

Doctor of Education (EdD)

This applied doctorate is for those who work in the education field. Many graduates work in schools, but others serve in government agencies, nonprofit organizations and more.

If you are currently teaching in a K-12 school, an EdD may broaden your career options. Potential uses of this degree would be teaching at the university level or entering school administration.

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Although this degree sounds similar to a doctor of philosophy, this one is a professional doctorate for those in the psychology field.

This degree program is often recommended for people who want to work directly with clients. It can be useful in a clinic, hospital or school setting, and it may be an essential step toward getting licensed in your state.

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

If you’re interested in helping facilitate societal change, a DSW may be the professional doctorate for you.

Getting a DSW can help those who currently have social work jobs learn about new developments in this field. It may also be useful for those in healthcare, therapy, business and the public sector.

Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)

This professional doctorate equips students to serve in careers related to public affairs.

People who graduate with a DPA may work in government settings or organizational leadership positions with non-profit entities. The degree may be helpful for policy analysts, federal employees or local government leaders.

Doctor of Computer Science (DCS)

If you have strong science skills, you may want to pursue this applied doctorate that provides a scientific foundation for understanding technology.

DCS graduates often go on to open their own tech-based companies. In addition, because many different industries rely on technology and computer science, graduates may find work in a wide variety of fields.

Doctor of Information Technology (DIT)

The workforce is becoming increasingly dependent on technology, and obtaining a DIT will help you stay up on the latest developments in this area. You will explore ways that information technology can benefit society.

This degree can be quite useful in business settings. Graduates may lead IT departments or serve as tech consultants.

Doctor of Healthcare Administration (DHA)

For those who want to work in a leadership position in a healthcare organization, a DHA can be a good choice.

This degree program is suited toward those who want to make business decisions for a hospital rather than practicing medicine. Graduates of these programs often work as hospital CEOs or CFOs.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Graduating with a DNP is one way to achieve the highest level of nursing education and certification; this means that it is a terminal degree.

Many people holding this degree serve as nurses in medical settings. It’s worth noting that the education provided in this type of program is quite different from the doctorate-level training that physicians receive; therefore, obtaining a DNP does not qualify someone to work as a physician.

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (DOT)

To take the test for licensure as an occupational therapist, you must earn either a master’s degree or a doctoral degree in this field. A doctoral-level education may provide a greater variety of career or leadership options than a master’s-level education in occupational therapy.

An entry-level DOT program is designed to help you enter the occupational therapy field for the first time.

Doctor of Public Health (DPH)

Like a DHA, a DNP or a DOT, a DPH degree is an applied doctorate for students with a desire to work in the healthcare sector. You may want to choose this particular option if your career plans involve crafting healthcare policies or working as an administrator.

The goal of this doctorate is often to help improve health at a large-scale level: for whole populations rather than individual people.

GRE Waivers

Minimum Undergraduate GPA

Some universities allow GRE exemptions for students who demonstrated academic competency during their undergrad years. These schools may set a minimum GPA that students must have achieved during their earlier education to be considered for this type of academic waiver.

GPA requirements may vary among a school’s many programs. Waivers may be subject to approval on an individual basis.

Previously Earned Graduate Degree

The GRE is intended to demonstrate preparation for higher education. However, if you’ve already earned an advanced degree, the school’s admission department may consider that sufficient proof that you can handle the rigors of their PhD program.

For this waiver, some schools may require not only that you have an advanced degree but also that you achieved a particular GPA.

Professional Experience

Because extended employment in a field may demonstrate competency, some schools consider work experience in their area of focus just as valuable as high scores on the GRE.

If you have several years of relevant work experience, that may earn you a GRE waiver. Some schools specifically include relevant military service in their rules about qualifying for waivers.

Some Programs Have No GRE Requirement

If the program for which you are applying has no GRE requirement, then you won’t need a waiver. The school isn’t looking for test scores, so you won’t need to furnish them.

Just be sure to read all admission requirements closely. Some schools require GRE scores for only a few of their doctoral programs.


The GMAT, also known as the Graduate Management Admissions Test, is similar to the GRE but it has a more specific focus. The GMAT is an exam designed expressly for those entering business school.

Some business schools do accept GRE scores. However, if you are applying only to business programs, you should opt for the GMAT.

If GRE Scores Are Optional, Should I Send Them?

To some faculty, GRE scores carry a lot of weight. Therefore, high marks on this test may elevate you in their eyes. In other words, even if the GRE is optional, furnishing a good score may be beneficial.

On the other hand, low scores may have the opposite effect. When the GRE is optional, rather than required, it may be best to keep your low marks under wraps so that your other merits take center stage.

If you’ve never taken the GRE, is it worth it to try, just so you can submit your results to a GRE-optional program? There’s no cut-and-dry answer to that question, but current program participants may be able to lend insight.

Should I Apply to PhD Programs Without GRE Programs?

Your decision to apply to a PhD program should have nothing to do with whether or not they require the GRE. The main consideration should be the university’s accreditation.

Here are a few points to consider…

GRE is a Poor Predictor of Performance in Graduate School

If a doctoral program doesn’t require GRE scores, it’s an indication that the school understands the limitations of this exam.

The GRE won’t provide clear evidence about whether you will succeed in the classroom, get good grades, make it to graduation or be a leader in your professional field someday.

Accredited Universities Offer No GRE PhD Programs

Not having GRE requirements is not a sign that a program will be weak or substandard. Many respected, accredited programs don’t require that you take this test before you can be admitted.

Instead of using GRE requirements to evaluate a school’s strength, consider whether the program has received accreditation. Also, gather reviews from current or recent students, and get advice from the school’s graduate coordinator.

You Still Have to Meet Other Admissions Standards

All PhD programs are selective about their candidates. Therefore, whether or not they require that you submit GRE scores, they all have admissions requirements that you must meet in order to get into the school.

Other factors considered for acceptance may include:

  • Your resume
  • Letters of recommendation from people familiar with your work
  • Your transcripts from other higher education endeavors.
  • A statement from you about your goals
  • Your proficiency in the English language

Your Master’s Degree Might Be Enough

If you’ve already completed a master’s degree, that shows that you’re able to perform at the graduate level.

Therefore, your school of choice may not require GRE scores as additional proof, especially if your degree is paired with a master’s thesis, a high GPA or years of professional experience.

GRE Scores: What They Tell Us, What They Don’t

GRE scores are not as helpful as you may have been led to believe. Let’s take a look at some recent studies on the reliability of GRE results.

GRE Scores Do Not Predict Classroom Performance

Creativity, interpersonal skills and internal motivation are just a few of the components that contribute to how well you do in the classroom.

However, the GRE measures none of those. It focuses only on your test-taking skills.

So, doing well on the test doesn’t guarantee classroom success.

GRE Scores Lose Impact over Time

Researchers have discovered that your scores on this test may give a school an idea of what kinds of grades you’ll achieve during the first year in their program.

However, your scores do nothing to predict your academic success after that first year.

The GRE Lacks Reliability in Predicting Final Outcomes

The GRE can’t determine whether a first-year doctoral student will end up completing the program.

Some high-scoring students may not possess enough tenacity to stick with school until graduation. On the other hand, some low-scoring students may have been the ones most likely to persevere.

Applying to Graduate School with No GRE Test Scores

There are some things that you should consider before specifically seeking out a no GRE required doctoral program:

  • While some high-profile schools may admit you without this test, not taking the GRE will automatically close many prestigious schools to you.
  • Some fields are more likely to require the test than others.
  • Sometimes, it’s easier to find a no-GRE-required online program than an in-person one.

Consider your motivation for not submitting scores:

  • Because you’ve already settled on a program that doesn’t require this test? Great!
  • Because you’re too busy to study? Think hard about whether you have time for a doctoral program.
  • Because you received a low score? Nearly 25 percent of test-takers improve their results second time around.

If one of your primary concerns is the amount of time required, you may be interested in our article discussing accelerated PhD programs online.

Frequently Asked Questions

PhD Programs without GRE

What is the GRE, and Who Needs to Take It?

The GRE is a test designed to show that you learned enough during your undergrad years to be ready for the rigors of grad school. The exam includes sections on verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing. You may need to take it if you’re applying to graduate programs.

Is the GRE Test Required for Graduate School?

No, not always. Some graduate schools don’t require the GRE. Some offer alternative options, and others have no GRE requirements. Some schools require that you submit exam scores for only some of their graduate programs.

Is the GRE Required for PhD Programs?

Many doctoral programs require applicants to take the GRE, but not all do. Others allow waivers or base their admissions decisions solely on other criteria. In particular, online PhD programs may allow you to enroll even if you’ve never taken the GRE.

What’s the Difference Between GRE vs. GMAT?

While the GRE is used for a variety of different graduate programs, the GMAT is designed specifically for admission to business schools. However, some business schools accept GRE scores as well. Even still, those who have their hearts set on business school would do best to take the GMAT.

Is There Any Reason to Take the GRE for a PhD Program?

If your top school choice requires GRE scores, then you should take the test. Also, if you are planning to apply to quite a few programs, then there’s a good chance that you’ll need to submit test scores with some of those applications.

What is a GRE Waiver?

Some schools require GRE scores for admission to their doctoral programs, but they will make an exception if you meet other qualifications.

These qualifications may include:

  • High GPA scores during undergraduate studies
  • Relevant work or military experience
  • Related master’s degree

Which PhD Programs May Waive the GRE?

Online doctoral programs across a variety of fields may admit students without requiring GRE scores. Commonly, this may include programs related to education, healthcare, human services and technology, and you may have options for PhD or applied doctoral degrees.

Key Takeaways

You may be able to get a PhD or a professional doctorate without ever taking the GRE.

Options include:

  • Choosing a program with no GRE requirements
  • Qualifying for a waiver

Skipping GRE test prep may allow you to speed up the process of beginning a fulfilling and challenging doctoral education.

This article is brought to you by

Joy Miller
Joy Miller
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