Easiest PhD and Shortest Doctoral Programs Online
Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy, programs are available in a variety of subject areas. Institutions that offer the best programs typically have exceptional funding, top-of-the-line research facilities, and abundant academic resources. When selecting one of the shortest doctoral programs or easiest Ph.D. programs, request info from each school for more details.
The easiest isn’t always the shortest nor the shortest the easiest.
While most doctoral degree programs last 2 or more years, we’ve found one university that offers an accelerated 12-month online doctoral program.
BREYER STATE UNIVERSITY – ethereal accelerated doctor of psychology in grief counseling. This online program is also one of the most affordable online doctoral programs on our list, offering tuition at $3,500.
More 1-year virtual doctoral programs will be added to this ranking as they are found. This list was last updated on June 7, 2021.
Obtaining a Ph.D. is a long-term commitment. Most doctoral programs can take well beyond five years to complete. Several universities across the country offer accredited accelerated Ph.D. programs.
For busy working professionals looking to jumpstart their careers, this list serves as a simple reference guide, comprising some of the shortest doctoral programs in the country. These online degree programs operate in either a full-time, part-time, fully-online, or hybrid format.
- FRONTIER NURSING UNIVERSITY – Doctor of Nursing Practice, MSN with DNP, 85 credit hours
- BOSTON UNIVERSITY – Online Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy, PP-OTD, 33 credits
- GWYNEDD MERCY UNIVERSITY – Accelerated Executive Doctorate of Education ABD (All But Dissertation) Completion Program, online EdD, 27 credit hours (18 months)
- DUQUESNE UNIVERSITY – Online Doctor of Nursing Practice, DNP, 35 credit hours
- THE COLLEGE OF ST. SCHOLASTICA – Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy, online DPT, 16 credits
- LIBERTY UNIVERSITY – Doctor of Ministry, online DMin, 30 credit hours
- UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA – Doctor of Nursing Practice, MSN to DNP, 35 credits (5 semesters)
- UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA – Post-Master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice, online DNP, 36 credit hours (5 semesters)
- SETON HALL UNIVERSITY – Doctor of Nursing Practice, online DNP, 31+ credits for post-MSN students, 73-79 credits for post-BSN students
- REGIS UNIVERSITY – Doctor of Nursing Practice, online DNP, 31-36 credit hours
- GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY – Curriculum and Instruction EdD, Educational Leadership EdD, on-campus EdD, 54 credit hours
- BOWLING GREEN STATE UNIVERSITY – Technology Management, web-based PhD, 66 credit hours
- HAMPTON UNIVERSITY – Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Management, online PhD, 60 credit hours
- INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA – Safety Sciences, online PhD, 54 credit hours
- EAST CAROLINA UNIVERSITY – Doctor of Nursing Practice, hybrid online DNP
To be sure, no online PhD program could be considered “easy,” but there are certain programs designed to be “easier” than others.
Typically, education, humanities, and the social sciences are considered the easiest fields in which to pursue degrees. With that in mind, our list of the easiest PhD programs includes schools and programs that offer significantly reduced residency requirements, accelerated courses, credit transfers, and integrated dissertation colloquia.
The rankings below display schools with accreditation from at least one of the six regional accrediting agencies, and all offer at least one virtual PhD. Online PhD programs were also organized according to the U.S. News and World Report and Forbes Magazine rankings.
Easiest Online PhD Programs & Online Doctoral Programs
- WALDEN – 170 Online Doctoral Programs
- REGENT UNIVERSITY – 83 online doctorate degrees, 3 programs online
- HAMPTON UNIVERSITY – 5 online doctoral degree programs
- UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA – 7 online doctoral degree programs; Tuition: $129.18 per credit (in-state), $552.62 per credit (out-of-state)
- UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI – 24 online and partially-online doctorate programs; Tuition: varies by program
- COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY – 4 online PhD programs; Tuition: $926-$1,085 per credit
- UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA – 10 online PhD programs; Tuition: $460.85-$784.13 per credit
- NOVA SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY – 18 online doctorate degree programs; Tuition: $967-$1,420 per credit hour
- LIBERTY UNIVERSITY – 34 online PhD, DBA, DPA, DWS, DME, ThM, DNP, EdS, DMin, and EdD programs; Tuition: $300 per credit hour
If you’re not looking for an accelerated program, the list below displays some of the best traditional PhD programs in the country, according to Study.com.
Best PhD Programs in the U.S.
|Cornell University||Conducts interdisciplinary research through at least 100 centers, institutes, and on-campus laboratories||Ithaca, NY|
|Northwestern University||Interdisciplinary clusters give students the option to collaborate with peers and faculty outside of their respective programs||Evanston, IL|
|Stanford University||Hosts a faculty comprised of 19 Nobel Laureates and 4 Pulitzer Prize Winners||Stanford, CA|
|University of California in Berkeley||Allows doctoral students to participate in customized interdisciplinary degree programs||Berkeley, CA|
|University of Michigan in Ann Arbor||Offers over 160 PhD programs||Ann Arbor, MI|
|University of Pennsylvania||Home to 142 research centers and institutes||Philadelphia, PA|
|University of Texas at Austin||Maintains 19 libraries stocked with over 10 million total volumes||Austin, TX|
|University of Washington in Seattle||Provides $11 million in graduate fellowships and other awards yearly, according to 2013 data||Seattle, WA|
|University of Wisconsin in Madison||Offers over 120 doctoral programs||Madison, WI|
Are a PhD and a doctorate the same?
The core differences between a PhD and a doctorate are:
- A PhD is an academic degree focused on original research, data analysis, and the evaluation of theory.
- A professional doctorate focuses on applying research to practical problems, formulating solutions to complex issues, and designing effective professional practices within your field.
Can You Get a PhD for Free?
Technically, you can’t get a PhD for free–or any degree of higher education, for that matter. In place of money, however, you can exchange your time by teaching or contributing research to a program.
Pursuing a fully-funded program is another way to get your PhD “for free.” Within a fully-funded program, students’ tuition and a percentage of their living expenses are paid for without the use of student loans. Some fully-funded PhD programs also provide health insurance, as well as funding for research and travel.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Doctorate?
The time it takes to earn a doctorate degree differs for each individual and their chosen field of study. According to North Central University, the average student takes 8.2 years to complete their doctorate degree. According to U.S. News, in 2017, 5.8 years was the median amount of time it took students to complete their doctoral degree. The median amount of time that it took for students to complete a doctorate degree such as Humanities and Arts was 7.1 years, according to a recent census of recent research doctorate recipients.