Easiest PhD and Shortest Doctoral Programs Online 2023
A large number of degree programs fall under the title of doctorate, including Doctor of Philosophy degrees, or Ph.D.
These Ph.D. degree programs are available in a variety of subjects and are intended to help students understand their specialty in the abstract and as a school of thought and theory, rather than strictly as a practice.
Institutions that offer the best programs typically have exceptional funding, prestigious reputations, top-of-the-line research facilities, and abundant academic resources.
When selecting one of the shortest online doctoral programs or easiest online Ph.D. programs, you can access more info by visiting the links provided in each school description to ensure that you find the best program for you!
The easiest isn’t always the shortest nor the shortest the easiest.
Ready to start your journey?
1-year Online Doctoral Programs | 18 Month Doctorate Programs Without Dissertation | Shortest Doctoral Programs Online and On-campus | Easiest Ph.D. to Get Online and On-campus
Doctorate Degree vs PhD
Ph.D. programs focus more on the theoretical and abstract aspects of their respective fields of study to understand it as a school of thought rather than just a practical application.
Usual doctorate programs tend to be more practical in their study and focus on the application of knowledge rather than understanding more abstract perspectives.
Ph.D. degrees are often offered in the same fields that have standard doctoral degrees available usually offered in fields such as engineering, mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.
Doctorate programs are made up of advanced coursework, research projects, or thesis work almost strictly for practical application. Such degrees will get you ready to teach at the university level or help you advance to the leading edge of your field researching, serving, and creating.
Ph.D. and Doctorate degrees can often achieve the same ends and should be considered more or less equal in weight.
1 Year Ph.D. Programs Online
While most online doctoral degree programs last 2 or more years, we’ve found one university that offers an accelerated 1-year online doctoral program.
BREYER STATE UNIVERSITY – Ethereal Accelerated Doctor of Psychology in Grief Counseling. This shortest doctoral program online is also one of the most affordable online doctoral programs on our list, offering tuition at $3,500.
Online Doctorate Programs That Might Interest You
18-Month Doctorate Programs Without Dissertation
Post Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy Degree
Boston University offers a Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree program that can be completed in 18 months. The program consists of 10 courses, which are about 33 to 37 credits. Students may concentrate on various areas and can then choose what else they would prefer to learn to complete their credit requirements.
This is a fully online degree program that accelerates each semester’s worth of class to take only seven weeks to complete with new courses starting every September, January, and May. The program is available to doctoral students who have completed an accredited occupational therapy program. There are foundation courses, which include evidence-based practice and health care management, but no dissertation is necessary whereas a doctoral project is still required.
Frontier Nursing University
Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree Program
The Maryville University of St. Louis offers a Doctor of Nursing (DNP) program that is available online. The DNP program requires students to complete a total of 33 credit hours, including 18 to 20 months for completion. Many students in the online DNP program are working as nurses in the field, and this affords them a flexible program that allows many students to achieve their academic goals while active in the healthcare industry.
This course is an online program that does not require a GMAT or GRE. It may have a waiting list, but unlike other programs, it does not require clinical hours. The Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership is an online program that offers personal coaching throughout the process. It is a cohort learning method with online education, and students might need a bit more time to complete it.
University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
Transitional Doctoral Program in Physical Therapy
The U of North Carolina – Chapel Hill offers a range of educational options for students who wish to pursue a doctorate degree in health sciences. One option is to earn an online Ph.D. in Nursing, while another option is to earn their Medical Degree at the same time as their Master of Business Administration, but the Transitional Doctoral Program in Physical therapy may be earned in 24 months fully online. This part-time program provides online learning courses to help licensed physical therapists enhance their skills and gain access to higher career options. Some credits can be earned through workplace applications.
The University of Tennessee – Knoxville
Doctor of Social Work in Clinical Practice and Leadership (DSW) Program
The University of Tennessee – Knoxville offers a fully online Doctor of Social Work in Clinical Practice and Leadership program. The program takes 36 months to complete, depending on the type of courses taken. This is designed as a fast-track format for those who are already working in the field or may allow students to move through courses quickly and keep working while learning.
UT Knoxville’s Doctor of Social Work in Clinical Practice & Leadership program requires two classes every semester for the three-semester duration of the program. The DSW program is a professional practice degree that prepares students for work as leaders and healers within a clinical setting and does not require a dissertation.
Doctor of Education (Ed.D) Program
Liberty University offers a Doctor of Education degree program that can be completed fully online. The minimum time to earn the degree is about 30 months for completion of all 54 credits. The courses are each 8 weeks long and no dissertation is required. The Doctor of Education degree program provides a curriculum that focuses on developing innovative programs, as well as a capstone project.
Shortest Ph.D. Programs Online and On-campus
Obtaining a Ph.D. can be a long-term commitment and many doctoral programs can take over five years to complete. To help busy working professionals looking to jumpstart their careers and those looking to begin their careers at a high level, this list serves as a simple reference guide, compiling information on 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.
- Baylor University – online EdD in Learning and Organizational Change, 54 credits, 36 months
- Maryville University – online Doctor of Nursing Practice (Online DNP), 20 months, no GRE or no GMAT requirement
- University of Dayton – online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Leadership for Organizations, 36 months, 60 credits
- Capella University – online Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision, 0 max transfer credits, 60 credits, CACREP accredited
- Franklin University – online Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), 58 credit hours, transfer up to 24 hours of previously earned credit, 36 months + 1 year for dissertation
- Walden University – online Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology, up to 53 credits, fast-track option, earn MPhil at the same time
- Frontier Nursing University – online Doctor of Nursing Practice, MSN with DNP, 675 clinical hours for MSN plus 360 additional for DNP
- Boston University – Online Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy, PP-OTD, 33-37 credits
- University of Florida – online MSN to DNP, 35 credits, five semesters
- 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 tDPT, 16 credits
- Liberty Univesity – Doctor of Ministry, online DMin, 30 credit hours, 24 months
- 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, 28-33 credit hours, 8-week terms
- Georgia State University – Curriculum and Instruction EdD, Educational Leadership EdD, on-campus EdD, 54 credit hours
- Bowling Green State University – Technology Management, web-based Ph.D., 66 credit hours
- Hampton University – Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Management, online Ph.D., 60 credit hours
- Indiana University of Pennsylvania – Safety Sciences, online Ph.D., 54 credit hours
- East Carolina University – Doctor of Nursing Practice, hybrid online DNP
Easiest Ph.D. Programs Online and On-campus
To be sure, at the Ph.D. level, no program could be considered “easy,” but there are certain programs designed to be “easier” than others. Generally, 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 Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. degree. Accredited online Ph.D. programs are also organized according to the U.S. News and World Report and Forbes Magazine rankings.
Easiest Online Ph.D. Programs & Online Doctoral Programs
- WALDEN UNIVERSITY – 156 Online Doctoral Programs
- REGENT UNIVERSITY – 81 online doctorate degrees, 6 Ph.D. programs online
- HAMPTON UNIVERSITY – 5 online doctoral degree programs
- UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA – 8 online doctoral degree programs
- UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI – 4 online doctorate programs
- COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY – 3 online Ph.D. programs, 1 online doctoral program
- UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA – 12 online Ph.D. programs, 3 online doctoral programs
- NOVA SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY – 10 online doctorate programs, 8 online Ph.D. programs
- LIBERTY UNIVERSITY – 19 online Ph.D. programs, 16 online doctorate programs
If you’re not looking for an accelerated program, the list below displays some of the best traditional Ph.D. programs in the country, according to Study.com.
Best Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. 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
Fewer positions requiring this advanced level qualification and reduced competition for such job opportunities among job seekers are some of the reasons behind the few doctoral graduates.
With technological advancements in almost all areas of life, acquiring education, a significantly advanced level of 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 in the comfort of your home or even your office. There was a 20% growth in students granted doctorate degrees between the 2009/2010 and 2019/2020 academic years, according to NCES. This growth has been attributed in part to online Ph.D. programs and the streamlining of modern universities.
Online Ph.D. programs are a relatively newer idea and online schooling in general has greatly increased access, flexibility, and convenience.
Students typically complete these degrees soon after completing a Master’s degree in the same area. As such, and with bachelor’s degrees being necessary stepping stones, students can expect their journey from primary school to a Ph.D. to take about nine years, barring any accelerated tracks and failed classes.
Cost of an Online Doctoral Degree Program
When choosing any doctoral degree program, it is crucial to evaluate the costs and salary after attending. Even though online Ph.D. courses may usually be cheaper than on-campus learning, secondary schooling is rarely cheap and not every field will allow you to make back the cost in a reasonable amount of time.
Tuition, materials, technology, transportation, housing, and groceries should all be factors brought into account when deciding whether or where to attend, and in what field you can find the most success and fulfillment.
Below are the annual tuition rates of different institutions as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
- Private-For profit institutions- $23,200
- Private-Not for-profit institutions- $28,100
- Public institutions- $14,200
Choosing an Online Doctoral Degree Program
Since doctoral programs require considerable investments of money and time, it is important to consider every factor before deciding on a school or program. Take some time to consider the marketability, cost, and difficulty of each program and your own interest in the subject. To reach your career and educational goals, do your best research.
Top 50 doctorate-granting institutions ranked by the total number of doctorate recipients, by sex: 2020
|U. Michigan, Ann Arbor||2||846||500||346|
|U. Illinois, Urbana-Champaign||3||821||505||316|
|U. California, Berkeley||4||797||475||322|
|Purdue U., West Lafayette||5||794||529||265|
|Texas A&M U., College Station and Health Science Center||6||772||466||306|
|U. Texas, Austin||8||744||438||306|
|Ohio State U., Columbus||10||704||400||304|
|Pennsylvania State U., University Park and Hershey Medical Center||11||688||389||299|
|U. Washington, Seattle||12||681||335||346|
|Columbia U. in the City of New York||13||673||362||311|
|U. Minnesota, Twin Cities||15||647||340||307|
|U. California, Los Angeles||16||632||381||251|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||18||579||414||165|
|U. Maryland, College Park||19||568||328||240|
|U. North Carolina, Chapel Hill||20||556||254||302|
|Arizona State U.||21||536||304||232|
|North Carolina State U.||22||533||305||228|
|Michigan State U.||23||524||282||242|
|Georgia Institute of Technology||25||512||377||135|
|U. California, San Diego||25||512||330||182|
|Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State U.||27||495||295||200|
|U. California, Davis||28||493||254||239|
|U. Southern California||32||437||244||193|
|Johns Hopkins U.||34||426||240||186|
|U. California, Irvine||36||420||241||179|
|U. Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh||36||420||211||209|
|New York U.||38||411||220||191|
|Iowa State U.||39||407||259||148|
|Indiana U., Bloomington||41||395||205||190|
|Rutgers, State U. New Jersey, New Brunswick||41||395||209||186|
|CUNY, Graduate Center||43||394||187||207|
|U. Tennessee, Knoxville||44||393||222||171|
|U. Colorado Boulder||45||392||249||143|
|Florida State U.||46||381||192||189|
|SUNY, U. Buffalo||48||358||193||165|
|Texas Tech U.||49||356||172||182|
Tied institutions are listed alphabetically.
National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Earned Doctorates.
Doctorate recipients from U.S. colleges and universities: 1958–2020
(Number and percent)
|Year||Doctorate recipients||% change from the previous year|
* = value < |0.05%|.
State or location of doctorate institution ranked by the total number of doctorate recipients, by sex: 2020
|State or location||Rank||Total||Male||Female|
|District of Columbia||28||579||285||294|
National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Earned Doctorates.