Easiest PhD and Shortest Doctoral Programs Online

Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy, online degree 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.

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1-year Online Doctoral Programs | 18 Month Doctorate Programs Without Dissertation | Shortest Doctoral Programs Online and On-campus | Easiest PhD to Get Online and On-campus

Doctorate Degree vs PhD

The difference between PhD and doctorate programs is that the PhD programs are more theoretical while doctorate programs are more practical. Doctoral degrees are 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. This degree will get you ready to teach at the university level or get a higher-level management position in some companies.

PhD programs are oriented toward research and knowledge acquisition while doctoral degrees are oriented more towards teaching and application of knowledge.

1 Year PhD Programs Online

Can you get a PhD in one year? 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

Boston University

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 in various areas and after this, they can choose what to learn to complete their credit requirement.

This is an online degree program that allows students to take two courses every semester. Each semester program takes seven weeks to complete. Courses start 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. A doctoral project is also required for online graduate courses.

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 it can be a flexible program that allows many students to achieve their goals.

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 clinicals.

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 a Master of Public Health to Doctor of Pharmacy degree, but the Transitional Doctoral Program in Physical therapy may be earned in 18 to 24 months fully online.

The program provides online and distance learning courses to help licensed physical therapists enhance their skills. Additionally, they may be able to complete clinical hours in their workplace. The program offers an advanced degree that focuses on clinical skills.

This program offers students the opportunity to choose a degree field for their needs by completing a clinical foundation core of classes. There are also clinical practice core courses that will help students develop their skills in the field they have chosen. After this, students can choose concentrated practice core classes that may include a capstone project. No dissertation is required as part of this program, but some schools may require one as part of the graduation requirements.

The University of Tennessee – Knoxville

Doctor of Social Work in Clinical Practice and Leadership (DSW) Program

The University of Tennessee – Knoxville offers a Doctor of Social Work in Clinical Practice and Leadership program that is fully online. The program takes 18 to 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.

This educational track requires students to take three classes every semester. These are credit hour classes. There are a total of eight semesters

This educational track requires students to take three classes every semester. These are credit hour classes. There are a total of eight semesters of education to complete, which includes both self-paced education and live lectures.

The Doctor of Social Work in Clinical Practice and Leadership program is a professional practice degree that prepares students for work as leaders within a clinical setting. It may include working with at-risk populations, such as veterans and military professionals, as well as children. The degree does not require a dissertation, making it an affordable option for those seeking to enter the field quickly.

Liberty University

Doctor of Education (Ed.D) Program

Liberty University offers a Doctor of Education degree program that is completed fully online. There are no in-person classes, and up to 50 percent of credits may be transferred into the program. The average time required to earn the degree is 18 months, but it can take up to 3 years for students to complete all 54 credits. The courses are each 8 weeks long and students may earn these credits in 18 months or up to 3 years.

This course does not have a dissertation requirement. Many students will not complete the program in 18 months, though.

The Doctor of Education degree program provides a curriculum that focuses on developing innovative programs, as well as a capstone project. The completion programs range, with students able to apply this degree to business administration and education.

Shortest Ph.D. Programs Online and On-campus

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.

Easiest PhD Programs Online and On-campus

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 degree. 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


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.

College/University NameDistinctionLocation
Cornell UniversityConducts interdisciplinary research through at least 100 centers, institutes, and on-campus laboratoriesIthaca, NY
Northwestern UniversityInterdisciplinary clusters give students the option to collaborate with peers and faculty outside of their respective programsEvanston, IL
Stanford UniversityHosts a faculty comprised of 19 Nobel Laureates and 4 Pulitzer Prize WinnersStanford, CA
University of California in BerkeleyAllows a doctoral student to participate in customized interdisciplinary degree programsBerkeley, CA
University of Michigan in Ann ArborOffers over 160 PhD programsAnn Arbor, MI
University of PennsylvaniaHome to 142 research centers and institutesPhiladelphia, PA
University of Texas at AustinMaintains 19 libraries stocked with over 10 million total volumesAustin, TX
University of Washington in SeattleProvides $11 million in graduate fellowships and other awards yearly, according to 2013 dataSeattle, WA
University of Wisconsin in MadisonOffers over 120 doctoral programsMadison, 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 advancing 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 in 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 teach 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.

Campus-based Ph.D. Programs

Benefits
  • 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.
Disadvantages
  • 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

Benefits
  • 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.
Disadvantages
  • 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.

Online PhD programs are a relatively newer idea. They can be seen as an extension of the online master’s degree programs, with the exception of the need to complete research and dissertation projects. Online PhDs will usually not take more than five years to complete, compared to more than four years for traditional on-campus PhDs.

PhD programs are an important part of higher education in many countries. Students usually complete these studies for the sake of knowledge and to advance the field of their profession. In this post, we will take a look at online PhD programs and how they may be helpful for students who want to get a PhD but don’t want to relocate from their country or from their current location.

There are currently many online PhD programs available to students who wish to further their education.

Online PhD degrees are convenient for the student, as they allow them to work and study at the same time.

Online PhD programs also provide an alternative for students who cannot afford traditional graduate programs, or the time commitment is too demanding.

Students enrolled in online PhD programs can either enroll as full-time or part-time students.

A PhD is a doctoral degree that requires intense study and original research in order to provide new insight into a given area. Usually, students complete this degree after completing a Master’s degree or other qualification in the same area. As such, it takes about 4-6 years of study before someone can graduate with a PhD in any field.

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 Program

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 Program

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.

Online PhD Programs FAQ

Are a PhD and a doctorate the same?

The core differences between a PhD and a doctorate are:

  1. A PhD is an academic degree focused on original research, data analysis, and the evaluation of theory.
  2. A professional doctorate focuses on applying research to practical problems, formulating solutions to complex issues, and designing effective professional practices within your field.

Source: https://www.waldenu.edu/

Can You Get a Free PhD Online?

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 PhD program, students’ tuition and a percentage of their living expenses are paid for without the use of student loans. Some fully-funded online 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.

What is the quickest Doctorate degree to get?

The Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) is one of the quickest online doctoral programs that only take 2 years with 33 credits for completion. Another accelerated online doctorate program is Ph. D. in Education Management that can be completed in 2.5 years with 66-degree credits.

Who is the youngest person to get a PhD?

Charles Home Haskins is the youngest person to get a PhD from Johns Hopkins University. He was a prodigy and was fluent in both Latin and Greek as a young boy. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University at the age of 16. Later on, he became the Youngest Ph.

PhD & Doctorate Statistics

What percentage of the population has doctorate degrees?

According to Census.gov, about 4.5% of Americans have a doctorate degree, which has doubled over the past 20 years.

Doctorate Demographics

How many people 25 years and older hold a doctorate degree? (2018 statistics)

  • Males: 2,597,000
  • Females: 1,872,000
  • 25-34 years old: 779,000
  • 35-54 years old: 1,759,000
  • 55 years and older: 1,931,000
  • All Races: 4,468,000
  • White: 3,390,000
  • Black: 323,000
  • Asian: 683,000
  • Hispanic (of any race): 193,000

Top 50 doctorate-granting institutions ranked by the total number of doctorate recipients, by sex: 2020

(Number)

InstitutionRankTotalMaleFemale
Walden U.1867276591
U. Michigan, Ann Arbor2846500346
U. Illinois, Urbana-Champaign3821505316
U. California, Berkeley4797475322
Purdue U., West Lafayette5794529265
Texas A&M U., College Station and Health Science Center6772466306
Stanford U.7769494275
U. Texas, Austin8744438306
U. Wisconsin-Madison9724374350
Ohio State U., Columbus10704400304
Pennsylvania State U., University Park and Hershey Medical Center11688389299
U. Washington, Seattle12681335346
Columbia U. in the City of New York13673362311
U. Florida14650345305
U. Minnesota, Twin Cities15647340307
U. California, Los Angeles16632381251
Harvard U.17630331299
Massachusetts Institute of Technology18579414165
U. Maryland, College Park19568328240
U. North Carolina, Chapel Hill20556254302
Arizona State U.21536304232
North Carolina State U.22533305228
Michigan State U.23524282242
Cornell U.24514277237
Georgia Institute of Technology25512377135
U. California, San Diego25512330182
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State U.27495295200
U. California, Davis28493254239
U. Arizona29473252221
U. Pennsylvania30469255214
U. Georgia31449209240
U. Southern California32437244193
Northwestern U.33433237196
Johns Hopkins U.34426240186
Yale U.35423209214
U. California, Irvine36420241179
U. Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh36420211209
New York U.38411220191
Duke U.39407241166
Iowa State U.39407259148
Indiana U., Bloomington41395205190
Rutgers, State U. New Jersey, New Brunswick41395209186
CUNY, Graduate Center43394187207
U. Tennessee, Knoxville44393222171
U. Colorado Boulder45392249143
Florida State U.46381192189
U. Chicago47370245125
SUNY, U. Buffalo48358193165
Texas Tech U.49356172182
Boston U.50337176161
Note(s):

Tied institutions are listed alphabetically.

Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Earned Doctorates.

Doctorate recipients from U.S. colleges and universities: 1958–2020

(Number and percent)

YearDoctorate recipients% change from the previous year
19588,773
19599,2135.0
19609,7335.6
196110,4137.0
196211,50010.4
196312,72810.7
196414,32512.5
196516,34014.1
196617,9499.8
196720,40313.7
196822,93712.4
196925,74312.2
197029,49814.6
197131,8678.0
197233,0413.7
197333,7552.2
197433,047-2.1
197532,952-0.3
197632,946*
197731,716-3.7
197830,875-2.7
197931,2381.2
198031,019-0.7
198131,3551.1
198231,108-0.8
198331,2800.6
198431,3340.2
198531,295-0.1
198631,8971.9
198732,3651.5
198833,4973.5
198934,3252.5
199036,0655.1
199137,5304.1
199238,8863.6
199339,8002.4
199441,0343.1
199541,7471.7
199642,4371.7
199742,5390.2
199842,6360.2
199941,101-3.6
200041,3690.7
200140,744-1.5
200240,031-1.7
200340,7621.8
200442,1223.3
200543,3853.0
200645,6205.2
200748,1325.5
200848,7761.3
200949,5521.6
201048,028-3.1
201148,9091.8
201250,9434.2
201352,7033.5
201453,9862.4
201554,8861.7
201654,809-0.1
201754,552-0.5
201855,0851.0
201955,6141.0
202055,283-0.6

* = value < |0.05%|.

Source(s):

State or location of doctorate institution ranked by the total number of doctorate recipients, by sex: 2020

(Number)

State or locationRankTotalMaleFemale
California15,9883,3962,591
Texas24,2012,3241,875
New York34,1682,1741,994
Massachusetts42,8151,5711,244
Pennsylvania52,6021,4331,169
Illinois62,4351,3821,052
Florida72,3861,2461,140
Michigan81,9671,093874
Ohio91,9531,054899
North Carolina101,873987886
Indiana111,613970643
Minnesota121,545626919
Virginia131,532797735
Georgia141,484821663
Maryland151,269684585
Colorado161,079630449
Arizona171,052576476
Tennessee181,023533490
Washington191,015514501
New Jersey20991535456
Wisconsin21976509467
Missouri22960552408
Connecticut23764362402
Iowa24727417310
Alabama25692368324
Louisiana26638364274
South Carolina27603304299
District of Columbia28579285294
Oregon29551290261
Kansas30548306242
Utah31543326217
Kentucky32504270234
Oklahoma33492272220
Mississippi34445225220
Nebraska35361183178
Rhode Island36311150161
New Mexico37300135165
Arkansas38270159111
Nevada39251133118
Delaware40218117101
West Virginia4121411995
New Hampshire4219810197
Hawaii4319583112
North Dakota4418910386
Puerto Rico451294980
South Dakota461267947
Montana471206060
Idaho481147143
Wyoming49946232
Maine50693137
Vermont51573027
Alaska52542529
Source(s):

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Earned Doctorates.

National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Earned Doctorates.

Online PhD Programs for You