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, research, facilities and resources. When choosing one of the shortest doctoral programs or easiest Ph.D. programs, request info from each school to find out how each school rates on the above criteria.
The easiest isn’t always the shortest nor the shortest the easiest.
While most programs last 2 or more years, we’ve found one university that offers a 12-month online doctoral program.
BREYER STATE UNIVERSITY – accelerated doctor of psychology in grief counseling. This program is also one of the most affordable online doctoral programs on our list at tuition of $3,500.
As we find more 1 year online doctoral programs, we will add them to this list. This list was last updated on April 1, 2019.
Obtaining a Ph.D. is a long-term commitment. Most doctoral programs can take well beyond five years to complete, although, there are accredited accelerated Ph.D. programs available from universities.
For working professionals that are crunched for time yet looking to advance their careers, we provide this list as a starting point of the shortest doctoral programs. Many of the Ph.D. programs in our list are full-time, part-time, and completely online or a hybrid of online and on-campus.
- FRONTIER NURSING UNIVERSITY – doctor of nursing practice, with MSN 19 credit hours. This is the shortest doctoral program we found.
- BOSTON UNIVERSITY – Online Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy, 33-37 credits
- GWYNEDD MERCY UNIVERSITY – Accelerated Executive Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership ABD completion program, minimum 27 credit hours/18 months
- DUQUESNE UNIVERSITY – Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, 35 credit hours
- THE COLLEGE OF ST. SCHOLASTICA – Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy (tDPT) program online for doctoral students, 2 years, 100% online, 16 credit hours. This is the shortest doctoral program online that we found.
- LIBERTY UNIVERSITY – Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) program online, 33 credit hours, 100% online
- UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA – Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program 35 credit hours, 5 semesters
- UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA – Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, 2 years
- SETON HALL UNIVERSITY – Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program online, with MS 32-33 credit hours, with BSN 73-79 credit hours, 100% online
- REGIS UNIVERSITY – Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program online, 2-3 years, 100% online
- GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY – 60 credit hours
- BOWLING GREEN STATE UNIVERSITY – 66 credit hours
- HAMPTON UNIVERSITY – 66 credit hours
- INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA – 11 semesters
- EAST CAROLINA UNIVERSITY – hybrid online curriculum
No Ph.D. program will be “easy” but there are Ph.D. programs that are easier than others.
Typically, the easiest college majors have been education, humanities, and social sciences–we will use that criterion for our list. 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 colloquium.
The rankings below contain schools that are accredited by at least one of the six regional accrediting agencies. At least one Ph.D. program had to be offered online by a school. Online programs were also ranked by U.S. News and Forbes Magazine rankings.
Easiest PhD Programs Online
- UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA – 11 doctoral programs online. Tuition – $3,876 (in-state) or $16,580 (out-of-state) yearly
- UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI – 10 online doctoral programs. Tuition $18,745-$49,046 total
- COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY – Systems Engineering PhD or Higher Education Leadership PhD online. Tuition – $882-$1,035 per credit
- UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA – 4 PhD programs online, including the PhD in Higher Education and PhD in Nursing. Tuition – $410 per credit
- NOVA SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY – 10 doctoral programs online. Tuition – $635-$1,040 per hour
- LIBERTY UNIVERSITY – 25 online PhD programs. Tuition – $595 (full-time) or $650 (part-time) per hour
For those looking at normal PhD programs that aren’t accelerated or “easy”, here’s a list of the top PhD programs in the U.S. according to Study.com.
Best PhD Programs in the U.S.
|Cornell University||Conducts interdisciplinary research through at least 100 research centers, institutes and laboratories housed at the university||Ithaca, NY|
|Northwestern University||Has interdisciplinary clusters that give students the option to study and conduct research with students and faculty outside of their program that have similar interests or who are trying to resolve a common problem||Evanston, IL|
|Stanford University||Has a faculty that includes 20 Nobel Laureates and four Pulitzer Prize Winners||Stanford, CA|
|University of California in Berkeley||Allows doctoral students to customize an interdisciplinary degree program||Berkeley, CA|
|University of Michigan in Ann Arbor||Offers more than 100 Ph.D. programs||Ann Arbor, MI|
|University of Pennsylvania||Is home to nearly 200 research centers and institutes||Philadelphia, PA|
|University of Texas at Austin||Has 13 libraries stocked with over 10 million 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 100 doctoral programs||Madison, WI|
Are a Ph.D. and a doctorate the same?
The core difference between a Ph.D. and a doctorate is
- 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 Ph.D. for Free?
Technically, you can’t get a Ph.D. for free but, in place of money, you can exchange your time or teaching or doing research for a Ph.D.
Another option for getting a “free” Ph.D. is to find a “fully-funded” Ph.D. Fully-funded Ph.D. programs can mean that tuition and at least a percentage of living expenses are paid for without you paying or using student loans.
Some fully-funded Ph.D. programs will provide health insurance and research and travel funding.