Earning a Doctoral Degree Online Fast

How-To Guide on Accelerated Doctoral Degree Programs

Earning an accelerated online doctoral degree is ideal for students looking to earn an advanced degree quickly. Accelerated programs let students earn a degree in a shorter time than traditional on-campus and online programs.

This guide covers important information about pursuing accelerated doctoral programs online, including common courses, types of degrees, and formats.

Earning a 12-Month Accelerated Doctoral Degree: A Timeline

Before Enrollment: Research

  • Figure out which schools offer your degree in an accelerated format.
  • Ensure that you have already completed the education necessary to enter the program.
  • Calculate the total cost of attendance and research available financial aid options.
  • Identify admissions requirements and whether you can meet them.
  • Determine the technology requirements for remote learning, such as software and hardware requirements.
  • Find out if the program features in-person requirements. If it does, ensure you can meet those requirements.
  • Consider the different types of doctoral degrees you can pursue, as some take less time to complete than others. One of the key differences between programs lies in the research phase of the degree.
  • Doctor of philosophy programs, more commonly known as Ph.D.s, require a large research component called a dissertation. Non-accelerated versions of these degrees may take more than eight years to complete, while accelerated versions may take three years or less.
  • Instead of a research-focused Ph.D. program, you can pursue a practice-oriented doctorate that requires a shorter time commitment. Some options include a doctor of business administration (DBA), a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.), a doctor of education (Ed.D.), and a doctor of public health (DPH).
  • Enrollment: Apply

  • Complete the application.
  • Submit all required documents, including transcripts, personal statements, letters of recommendation, and proof of English proficiency.
  • Demonstrate that you have completed the required credit hours or degree to enter the accelerated program.
  • Pay all fees by the deadline.
  • Apply for financial aid.
  • Attendance: Year 1

    Most universities offer courses on a semester system, while some institutions follow a quarter-based or trimester-based system. In many online accelerated doctoral programs, courses do not follow the campus schedule and take place in shorter blocks that may last between five and eight weeks.

    In the beginning of a doctoral program, students take introductory courses that explain the basics of the field. As they move through coursework, classes become more advanced and eventually give way to specialized electives. In accelerated doctoral programs, students take classes year-round, including the summer months.

    Graduation: End of Year 1

    Credit requirements vary by program. After students complete all required coursework, including electives, core classes, and research classes, they may need to submit a research project, typically a dissertation, to graduate. Once they finish their research, Ph.D. candidates submit it for review and defend their conclusions.

    Example Curriculum: Accelerated Doctoral in Counseling

    Courses vary by program. The following includes a sample curriculum for a doctorate-level counseling program.

    Quarters 1-2 or Semester 1

    Psychotherapy Overview
    Grief Counseling
    Ethical Issues in Counseling

    Quarters 3-4 or Semester 2

    Counseling Across the Lifespan
    Treating Complicated Grief
    Group Grief Counseling

    Accelerated Online Doctoral vs. Online Doctoral Timeline

    Candidates should compare timelines of accelerated and non-accelerated doctoral programs. Through the link below, you can learn about the typical time commitment for an online doctoral degree.

    What's the Fastest Online Doctoral Degree to Get?

    Accelerated online Ph.D. programs attract many types of students looking to earn a terminal degree in a short amount of time. Members of the military, those seeking high-paying jobs, and students looking to quickly enter the healthcare field make great candidates for fast-track doctoral programs. In the next section, you can explore some doctoral degree options for each of these groups.

    Check out our guide to online programs for working adults to learn more about earning a college degree while working full-time.

    Accelerated Online Doctoral Programs For Military Members

    Accelerated Online Doctorate in Criminal Justice
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      Completion Time

      Through accelerated doctorates in criminal justice, students can earn their Ph.D. in significantly less time than traditional programs. These programs may let students start the dissertation process early and work on research throughout the program. Through accelerated courses, students can finish their Ph.D. in three years.

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      Example Courses
      • History and Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice: Students explore the history and developments of crime, policing, and terrorism.
      • Policy and Analysis in Criminal Justice Systems: In this class, Ph.D. candidates explore the development and evaluation of criminal justice policy.
      • Quantitative Reasoning and Analysis: This research-focused course teaches students the statistical techniques they need to conduct advanced research projects.
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      Program Requirements

      Ph.D. programs in criminal justice require students to hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution and often also requires a master's degree. Applicants must submit official transcripts and may be required to demonstrate at least a 3.0 GPA. Some programs prefer a professional background in criminal justice.

    Accelerated Online Doctorate in Human and Social Services
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      Completion Time

      Students who pursue an accelerated online doctorate in human and social services can expedite graduation by taking a full course load each term. They may also start their research early in the program and take dissertation seminars throughout their studies.

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      Example Courses
      • Introduction to Human Services: This course covers major human services areas, such as counseling, criminal justice, family studies, and social work.
      • Leadership Development in Human and Social Services: Students explore the roles and strategies of managers in the public sector.
      • Grant Writing: This course teaches students the skills they need to secure funding for organizations.
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      Program Requirements

      These programs often require a master's degree. Additionally, students typically need to submit official transcripts that demonstrate at least a 3.0 GPA. Doctoral programs in human services do not usually require standardized test scores or professional experience.

    Accelerated Online Doctorate in Forensic Psychology
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      Completion Time

      Accelerated forensic psychology programs let students expedite graduation by taking a heavy course load each semester. Learners typically take three courses each term rather than the traditional two. Students also start their dissertation research early in the program instead of working on it after finishing coursework.

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      Example Courses
      • Criminal Behavior: Students examine a variety of nonviolent and violent criminal behaviors from a biological, sociological, and psychological viewpoint.
      • Psychology in the Courts: This course explores consulting, expert testimony, and other important ways that forensic psychologists participate in the court system.
      • Understanding Forensic Psychology Research: Through this course, students learn to interpret data and critically evaluate psychology literature.
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      Program Requirements
      Prospective students must submit an application and official transcripts. They often need a minimum 3.0 GPA in undergraduate coursework. Some programs may include residencies. Forensic psychology programs with a clinical emphasis may include a supervised clinical practicum.

     

    Accelerated Online Healthcare and Medical Doctoral Programs

    Accelerated Online Doctorate in Behavioral Health
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      Completion Time

      Students earning a fast-track doctoral degree in behavioral health online expedite graduation through accelerated classes that may run just 7.5 weeks each.

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      Example Courses
      • Psychopharmacology: This class covers medications that psychologists and other professionals use to treat behavioral and mental issues.
      • Healthcare Systems and Delivery: Through this course, students explore the U.S. healthcare system and may study other systems.
      • Legal, Ethical, and Professional Issues: This course prepares students to approach legal or moral problems they may encounter during their career.
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      Program Requirements

      These programs often require a master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Some clinically focused behavioral health doctoral programs require a master's in a health-related field along with licensure in an approved healthcare profession. Some programs also require in-person clinical components.

    Accelerated Online Doctorate in Nursing Practice
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      Completion Time

      An accelerated online doctorate in nursing may let students complete their degree in two years or less. Some programs shorten the time it takes to earn a degree through flexible online classes. Some universities let students with a master's degree in the field take fewer courses, expediting graduation.

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      Example Courses
      • Epidemiology: Students explore the basic principles of epidemiology and examine its relationship to public health.
      • Healthcare Policy: Students learn to develop policies that influence healthcare delivery at the local, state, and federal levels.
      • Clinical Information Systems: This course covers the selection and use of information systems that healthcare professionals use.
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      Program Requirements

      Doctoral programs in nursing prepare current nurse practitioners, registered nurses, nurse anesthetists, and other nursing professionals for more advanced clinical work. These programs include supervised clinical internships that build high-level skills. Applicants need an active RN license, a satisfactory GPA, and clinical experience.

    Accelerated Online Ph.D. in Psychology
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      Completion Time

      An accelerated Ph.D. in psychology may allow students to begin their dissertation work earlier than they can in traditional programs. Additionally, students may take extra courses each term to finish faster. Accelerated Ph.D. programs may take three years or less.

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      Example Courses
      • Social Psychology: Students explore social psychology theories to understand relationships, motivation, prejudice, group behavior, and aggression.
      • Research Theory, Design, and Methods: This course prepares students to analyze existing psychological literature and design their own studies.
      • Lifespan Development: Students examine psychological development throughout a person's lifespan, including childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
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      Program Requirements

      Applicants to online Ph.D. in psychology programs sometimes need a master's degree, but many universities accept bachelor's degrees. Prospective students may need a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants might also need to submit GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and an essay. These programs sometimes include a practicum.


     

    Accelerated Online Doctoral Programs for High Salary Careers

    Accelerated Online Doctorate in Education
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      Completion Time

      Students who pursue an accelerated online doctorate in education can earn their degree in three years or less. Programs may feature accelerated courses and on-campus intensives that speed up completion time.

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      Example Courses
      • Theories of Educational Leadership: This course covers educational and organizational leadership theories. Students learn to effectively lead academic organizations.
      • Advanced Learning Theory and Research: Learners study the latest literature on learning theory, classroom management, motivation, assessment, and other key areas.
      • Curriculum Theory: Students explore the basic concepts behind the K-12 curriculum and learn about the curriculum development process.
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      Program Requirements

      Doctoral programs in education typically require a minimum 3.0 GPA, GRE scores, and professional recommendation letters. Applicants often need relevant professional education experience, a master's in the field, and/or a current teaching position. Ed.D. programs sometimes include on-campus residencies that complement online coursework.

    Accelerated Online Doctorate in Business Administration
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      Completion Time

      Typical doctoral programs in business administration may take six years or more to complete. Students in accelerated programs can graduate in three years or less. Accelerated programs feature shorter classes and an accelerated dissertation process.

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      Example Courses
      • Organizational Leadership: Students explore leadership concepts and theories, assess their strengths and shortcomings, and build leadership skills.
      • Organizational Performance Analysis: Students learn to assess overall workplace performance using data points, including shareholder value and organizational learning.
      • Ethics and Social Responsibility: Business students learn to apply ethical decision-making theories to the workplace. They examine social responsibility in modern organizations.
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      Program Requirements

      DBA programs typically accept students with many years of management experience. Additionally, many universities require a master's degree in business administration or another business-related field. Applicants may also need to demonstrate a minimum 3.0 GPA.

    Accelerated Online Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership
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      Completion Time

      Accelerated Ph.D. in education leadership programs might feature shorter courses and a faster dissertation process than traditional programs, allowing students to graduate in three years or less.

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      Example Courses
      • College and University Administration: This course studies administrative and organizational structure in higher education institutions.
      • Educational Law: Students explore educational law and the ways that society and culture impact legal precedent.
      • Teaching the College Student: Learners examine the college student from a sociological, psychological, and cultural standpoint.
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      Program Requirements

      Applicants typically need to submit a statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, GRE or MAT scores, and transcripts. Prospective students do not typically need professional experience or a master's degree in the field.

    Other Popular Accelerated Degree Subjects