Easiest PhD and Shortest Doctoral Programs Online

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.

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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

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 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 application.

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.

Liberty University

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.

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


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.

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 Ph.D. 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 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 the availability of online Ph.D. programs and the streamlining of modern universities. If you are a student intending to pursue an online doctorate degree, the guide below is meant to ease your decision-making process.

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 ROI. 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 vital 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, you must be careful to make the right decision for an online Ph.D..

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