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The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the number of American adults with a doctorate doubled between 2000 and 2018. Reasons people earned this terminal degree included increased salary potential, new career opportunities, and a sense of accomplishment. However, traditional programs require many years to complete.
Fortunately, advances in online learning mean many universities can offer accelerated Ph.D. programs. Graduating sooner than on-campus students has many potential advantages, such as paying less tuition and entering the workforce as quickly as possible. Some of the fastest doctorate degrees take three years or fewer.
Consider one-year online Ph.D. programs if you hold a master's degree or significant graduate transfer credit. This credit can help you skip introductory courses and move directly to advanced coursework or the dissertation. Two-year Ph.D. programs may appeal to you if you plan to work or raise children while in school.
Featured Online Ph.D. Programs
Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.
What to Expect From the Shortest Ph.D. Programs
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.
- Identify admission requirements and whether you can meet them.
- Calculate the total cost of attendance and research available financial aid options.
- Determine the technology requirements for remote learning, such as software and hardware.
- Find out if the program features in-person requirements. If it does, make sure you can meet those requirements.
Consider the different types of doctoral degrees you can pursue. Some take less time to complete than others. One of the key differences between programs lies in the research phase of the degree.
A doctor of philosophy program, more commonly known as a Ph.D., requires a research component called a dissertation. Non-accelerated versions of these degrees may take more than eight years to complete. Accelerated versions may take three years or less.
Instead of a research-focused Ph.D. program, students can pursue a practice-oriented doctorate that requires less time. 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 (DrPH).
- Complete the application.
- Submit all required documents, including transcripts, personal statements, recommendation letters, 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: One Year
Most schools offer courses on a semester system. However, some institutions follow a quarter-based or trimester-based system. In many online accelerated doctoral programs, courses do not follow the campus schedule. Instead, they occur in shorter blocks that last between 5-8 weeks.
At 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. Students also take specialized electives. In accelerated doctoral programs, learners take classes all year, including over the summer.
Graduation: End of Year One
Credit requirements vary by program. After students complete all required coursework, they must often submit a dissertation to graduate. Once they finish their research, doctoral candidates submit it for review and defend their conclusions.
Examples of Fastest Doctoral Degree Programs for High-Salary Careers
Examples of Accelerated Doctoral Degree Programs for Healthcare and Medicine
Other Popular Accelerated Degree Subjects
- Accelerated MBA Programs
- Accelerated Business Programs
- Accelerated Accounting Programs
- Accelerated Computer Science Programs
- Accelerated Nursing Programs
- Accelerated MSW Programs
Frequently Asked Questions About Accelerated Ph.D. Programs
Can I do a Ph.D. in one year?
Yes, but only if you're returning to a doctoral program after an absence. The fastest doctorate degrees take at least three years if you lack transfer credit. Even if a counselor tells you you can complete a one-year online Ph.D. program, you may need more time to finish your capstone project or dissertation.
What is the quickest Ph.D. to get?
Universities with doctoral fast-track options may offer you accelerated Ph.D. programs in criminal justice, forensic psychology, psychology, and more. Contact schools' admissions departments to learn more about their three-, two-, and one-year online Ph.D. programs.
Can I get a Ph.D. without a master's?
Yes, some top universities offer combined master's-Ph.D. programs. These programs take five years or more, as you complete master's and doctoral coursework before the dissertation or capstone. You may receive some transfer credit through work experience or examination.
Benefits of a combined program include earning at least a master's if you do not complete the Ph.D. A master's can help you advance your career and salary potential.
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