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.
Online Doctorate Programs for You
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. Accredited online PhD programs are 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 a doctoral student 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|
Guide to Online Doctorate Degrees
In most fields, doctorate degrees are considered the highest level of education one can achieve. These degrees are meant for students who are committed to advance their knowledge in specific areas of study.
Unfortunately, many people do not go up to this advanced educational level. Fewer positions requiring this advanced level qualification and reduced competition for such job opportunities among job seekers are some of the reasons behind few doctoral graduates.
With technological advancements in almost all areas of life, acquiring education, significantly advanced level education has become more accessible. Graduate students now do not have to attend physical classes to pursue their dreams of developing and advancing their skills.
You can pursue your doctorate at the comfort of your home or even your office. There has been a substantive growth in students pursuing doctorate degrees between 2000/2001 and 2015/2016 academic years, according to NCES. This growth of about 49% has been attributed to the availability of online PhD programs. If you are a student intending to pursue an online doctorate degree, the guide below is meant to ease your decision-making process.
Types of Online Doctorate Degrees
As students, you have many advanced degree programs to choose from. A ph.D or the Doctor of Philosophy is the most common and recognized doctoral degree but certainly not the only one. Ph.D. is a research degree whose curriculum includes conducting and designing research through the dissertation process. It prepares you as a student to work as professors in academia, conduct research to add your base knowledge, and serve as consultants in different settings.
Professional doctorate degrees are for fields like business (D.B.A), pharmacy (Pharm.D), nursing (D.N.P), and education (Ed.D). These online PhD programs prepare you to apply what you have learned in the work environment. Like Ph. D students are required to conduct research and, in addition, develop a unique project or a portfolio.
However, there are no clear distinctions between professional doctorate and PhD graduates, only that Ph. D graduates work in industries and the other graduates teaching at the college level. Therefore, before choosing an area of specialization, you should understand all that is entailed in that specific area regarding working environments, learning period, qualifications, and even fees charged.
Period of Learning
Most Ph. D programs will take 4 to 6 years with 2-3 of course work followed by supervised teaching and research leading to completing the dissertation or the original research project. Time taken to complete these programs may, however, depend on several factors, which may include:
- The research project and topic
- Whether online or campus-based learning
- Relevant working experience and related master’s level degrees.
Online Ph. D programs and professional doctoral degrees like Ed. D are both available online. However, they take a shorter period to complete than campus-based learning. It is even shorter if you have related degrees at the master’s level and an advanced relevant working experience.
If you are interested in an online doctorate degree program, it is essential that you closely consider the requirements of the curriculum:
- On-site fieldwork and clinical experience
- What you should expect
- How the program will help you achieve your goals
Choosing between campus-based and online doctoral degrees
It may be hard to decide whether to go on-campus learning or online PhD courses. If you are such a student, stuck between options, not knowing what to settle for, here is a guide to help you make the most informed decisions. Considering the benefits and the drawbacks of both programs will help you decide.
- The opportunities to study across departments are increased.
- Provide opportunities for immersion in faculty mentorship and research projects
- Increased networking opportunities and participated in collaborative projects with other students, supervisors, lecturers, and faculty.
- Instance clarification and response to questions.
- Restrictions on your schedule, especially for students who are also working at the same time studying. Most doctorate students are part-time students doing other activities asides from learning. Going to class will automatically affect your schedule if you are such a student, in which case you may consider online or hybrid learning or evening and weekend classes.
Online Ph. D Programs
- Flexible with your schedule as there is no need to make a physical appearance to class to meet the professors, supervisors, or other students. Attending class does not mean stopping what you are doing. It is easy to combine work and learning.
- You can study anywhere- This learning method allows you to study anywhere in the world. Moreover, you do not have to be physically in that country to learn there because online programs used online platforms and forums to connect with the professors.
- You can also connect with other students from different parts of the world
- Improves your self-discipline and motivation skills as no one will know whether you attended the class or not. It is within the discretion of the students to do so.
- Distance learning is a cheaper learning method because some costs such as transport to and from school and hostel accommodation are avoided.
- Students require technological know-how and technical equipment such as laptops, computers, smartphones, and the kind. This may be expensive to some extent.
- With this form of learning, it is challenging to create faculty mentorship relations with other faculty members.
As a student, you can go through the disadvantages and advantages of each method to find out the most appropriate for you.
Cost of an Online Doctoral Degree
When choosing any doctoral degree program, it is crucial to consider the cost factor involved. Even though online PhD courses may be cheaper than on-campus learning, students need to be careful with their budgets because several costs are involved. You should be cautious about calculating payback, including interest rates if you rely on loans for fee payments.
In your costs, consider expenses such as school fees and other living expenses when planning your financial requirement as an online student. In addition, it would be best to consider other additional charges to tuition that relate to your academic work. Such costs include hardware, software, internet access, and textbook costs. All these costs must be incurred in an online course. Finally, consider the cost per credit when conducting your research options, which may vary depending on the program, type of course, and school.
Below are the annual tuition rates of different institutions as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
- Private-For profit institutions- $14,208
- Private-Not for-profit institutions- $27,776
- Public institutions- $12,171
In addition to the average costs according to the NCES, you should keep in mind the average time taken to complete a doctorate program which is around five years. You also have to remember that these rates are not standard and that they can change every year. Therefore, when budgeting your financial requirements to complete an online doctorate program, you can start at this point as your basis.
Choosing an Online Doctoral Degree
Since doctoral programs require many investments in commitment, money, and time, it is vital to consider all the necessary factors before deciding. Suppose you have settled for an online Ph. D, the next step is comparing your options in your field of interest. This is to help you avoid investing your resources in an area that will not help you achieve your academic goals. Take some time to consider the uniqueness of each program in terms of specialization options, curriculum, and faculty.
To reach your career and educational goals, you must be careful to make the right decision for an online PhD. It would help if you also explored the following considerations.
- The flexibility of the class schedules
- If the program will fulfill certification or licensure requirements.
- If there is in-person attendance required.
- Specialties of the faculty members.
- Organization of the program.
Who is Eligible for an Online Doctoral Program
Any student who intends to pursue a doctorate is suitable for an online program. If you desire to advance your academic levels in a different country from your home country or join any institution worldwide, an accredited online PhD program is your best option.
How Cheap is it to Get an Online Doctorate?
As more schools offer online PhD degree programs, the difference in cost between online and on-campus programs is becoming narrow. Most institutions are currently offering both programs at almost the same rate. Even though tuition costs might be the same for both programs, being an online student can still be financially advantageous. This is due to reducing some costs factors such as commutation and transport costs, hostel and parking costs.
As a student, you may also enjoy some government grants and stipends. For example, if you are working with a company that encourages the advancement of education, you may receive a scholarship that will make your online learning cheap. In addition, aid such as federal loans, state grants, federal grants, and institutional grants are all available for online students who intend to pursue an online doctorate.
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 Free PhD?
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 degrees. 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.