2021 Best Accelerated Doctoral Programs Online
If you don’t want to spend 5 years or so in graduate school, you might be intrigued by the accelerated doctoral programs online.
Online PhD and professional doctorate programs come in many shapes and sizes. Some accelerated online programs don’t require a thesis or extensive research requirements, helping you earn a doctoral degree in less time.
Accelerated Doctoral Programs Online
You can find online programs for PhDs and professional doctorates across almost every field. If you want a fast track to graduation, you may want to consider online programs with accelerated study options from accredited institutions.
Select the program that most interests you to jump to that section of the guide:
- Business Administration
- Criminal Justice
- Healthcare Administration
- Human Services
- Information Technology
- Public Administration
- Public Health
- Public Policy
Both of these fields offer plenty of opportunity for growth, a lot of different job prospects, and plenty of job security.
Online Doctor of Business Administration
Getting a doctorate in business administration allows you to develop cutting-edge insights and expertise needed for leadership or consulting roles in business.
You’ll study topics in business management, organizational leadership, entrepreneurship, and marketing. You’ll also study principles related to financial management and accounting.
A doctorate in business administration can help qualify you for postsecondary teaching and research roles. Some DBA graduates also pursue careers as top executives, business consultants, or management analysts.
Online PhD in Criminal Justice
Top jobs in the criminal justice field include leadership positions with law enforcement agencies or fraud investigation units. This can include jobs with the FBI, IRS, DEA, Homeland Security, or NSA.
Getting a criminal justice PhD may also qualify you for university teaching jobs. An online PhD in Criminal Justice can give you high-level training in criminal laws, evidentiary procedures, and forensics.
In a doctoral program, you can also learn research skills and methods. You can study topics related to organizational leadership and get experience doing criminal justice-related research and public policy analysis.
Online PhD in Education
Leadership jobs in the education field often require past teaching experience as well as advanced degrees.
If you’ve been working as a teacher or in a related job, a PhD in Education or a professional education doctorate degree (EdD) can help prepare you for a range of school leadership roles. Common leadership positions include school principal and school district director.
Doctoral graduates may also pursue postsecondary teaching or postsecondary school administration roles.
If you pursue an education doctorate, you’ll study or research topics related to instructional design and methods, education policy and reform, or school governance and effective organizational leadership. Some leaders in this field also wind up in rewarding consulting jobs.
Online Doctorate in Finance
In a finance doctoral program, you can learn advanced budget analysis skills as well as advanced methods for financial planning and modeling.
With a financial engineering concentration, you might learn complex asset analysis and financial forecasting methods to apply in industries such as insurance, banking, and business consulting.
With an advanced degree and the right work experience, professionals in the field tend to pursue senior financial management roles. They may also work as senior budget analysts, banking or business consultants, or chief financial officers (CFOs).
Online Doctor of Healthcare Administration
Doctor of Healthcare Administration programs can give you thorough insights into commercial, financial, regulatory, operational, technology-related, and management-related issues and topics in the field.
Specializing in healthcare administration can help you develop the skills needed for critical leadership roles. Your learned skills can help you navigate the complexities of delivering safe, high-quality healthcare products and services.
A healthcare administration program can also help prepare you for the managerial and financial complexities of managing hospitals and other service-related facilities.
Healthcare administration experts might also find jobs in healthcare-related public policy work or healthcare management consulting work. Professionals can also pursue senior roles with medical device and technology companies or healthcare insurance networks.
Online PhD in Human Services
An array of government and nonprofit organizations work to shape public policy related to critical human services needs.
Broadly defined, the human services sector engages many areas of community support related to physical and mental health, education, food and housing insecurity, poverty, unemployment, and disaster relief.
In doctoral-level degree programs, you can learn about research methods and organizational leadership and management skills. You’ll also study policy issues related to your area of concentration.
Getting a PhD in Human Services can help you qualify for positions in academia. Some professionals in the field conduct research in conjunction with government or nonprofit agencies.
Your developed organizational leadership practices can also be applied in an executive director position. Public policy and advocacy work or political lobbying, in relation to human services, are other sectors where you might apply your knowledge and research training.
Online PhD in Information Technology
An information technology PhD program can allow you to do specialized study and research into topics at the intersection of computer technology innovations and workplace design and management.
PhD graduates may work in academia, teaching university courses in IT or business administration. Professionals in the field might choose to pursue IT director or IT planning jobs or project management positions in any number of business settings.
Others find work in the computer and software industry as computer and information research scientists. New technology designs and applications are rapidly changing how companies deploy IT tools. So, getting an advanced degree may also give you valuable insights and research skills for working in IT consulting roles.
Online PhD in Management
Of course, a management career path includes very broad job definitions. That said, having the knowledge and ability to apply advanced methods and practices across diverse business teams can be very valuable.
What you study will depend on the program concentration you choose and your own professional interests. You can learn about advanced topics in financial management, HR administration, accounting, statistics, logistics, and organizational leadership.
You’ll likely study effective management methods and practices that you can apply regardless of specialization. A PhD program can also allow you to learn valuable research and problem-solving skills.
You might use your advanced training and past work experiences to pursue jobs in operations and logistics management, financial management, or sales and customer service management. Graduates may also pursue senior office administration roles and senior project management roles.
Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
Since nursing can involve lots of hands-on patient care work, it may be hard to see yourself pursuing a doctorate in the field. Where would a DNP lead you?
Depending on your program and your interests, you could use your advanced degree in nursing to pursue licensure as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). APRNs can include nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, and nurse anesthetists.
You might use your developed expertise in clinical settings or to mentor other nursing professionals. DNP graduates can also apply their training in management roles or in policy research and advocacy roles related to the nursing field.
Online Doctor of Public Administration
Getting a Doctor of Public Administration can give you exposure to advanced best practices in the field. Graduates can use their advanced training to pursue more senior management roles or to problem-solve challenges in complex public administration settings.
You’ll learn more about budget analysis and oversight, organizational communication and leadership, HR administration, leadership ethics, public relations, and decision-making processes.
Professionals in the field may earn a DPA to help them be effective senior managers or organizational directors. Graduates may pursue senior management and leadership roles in local or national government offices or in nonprofit organizations.
Online Doctor of Public Health
What you study in a Doctor of Public Health program can depend on a wide range of career options and interests. For example, you might want an advanced degree in public health to pursue a career as a specialist in epidemiology or as a skilled biostatistician in the private or public sector.
Some professionals in the field want to focus on public health research, policy, and advocacy or lead a nonprofit organization involved in public health policy or services. Others might want to work for a large nonprofit or NGO as a public health policy lead or public health advisor.
In your online program, you’ll generally study public health issues and policies. In addition, you’ll likely learn advanced research and statistical methods related to health management, epidemiology, and product safety. Other concentrations in this field include community health services and environmental health issues, research, and policy.
Online PhD in Public Policy
Careers in the public policy sector include legislative analyst or policy advisor, lobbyist, and public interest advocate. Getting a Ph.D. in Public Policy can help you advance your expertise and qualify for positions in research and academia.
A public policy doctorate program will often involve learning about methods for conducting public policy research and applying that research to more practical public policy development and communication tasks.
Most public policy programs also help you develop your analysis skills so you can better evaluate public policy documents in terms of their social, legal, political, and financial impact. Most public policy PhD students will do more specialized research in a specific area of public policy based on their interests.
Online PhD in Psychology
Many professionals in the psychology field will pursue a doctoral degree as a pathway toward higher-paid work in their own practice or in larger clinical networks, facilities, or hospitals.
Some qualified psychologists might also pursue careers in organizational psychology, postsecondary teaching, or academic or applied research. Based on your career interests, you may use your PhD studies to learn advanced clinical skills, to develop your expertise in the field, or to gain skills in research statistics and methodology.
For many roles in this field, you may need to obtain specialized licensure or certification, which may include a year or more of supervised clinical practice. A doctorate is often a requirement for licensure as well.
Doctorate Careers & Salaries
Your career options will vary based on your concentration and experience. Overall, though, a PhD can help you qualify you for postsecondary teaching jobs in an any number of fields.
A PhD can increase your research credentials as well. Some graduates pursue careers in research or policy work in academia, in the private business sector, or in government or nonprofit settings.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a graduate degree and the right work experience can open the doors to a range of meaningful and lucrative careers.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Computer and Information Systems Managers||$151,150|
|Human Resources Managers||$121,220|
|Medical and Health Services Managers||$104,280|
|Postsecondary Education Administrators||$97,500|
These jobs pay well above the national average and represent a small number of the many careers you might pursue by boosting your present credentials with an online doctoral degree.
In most fields, a PhD or professional doctorate will qualify you for senior administration or leadership roles. Professionals may use their doctoral training to work as senior analysts or as independent consultants in their fields.
How to Choose an Accelerated PhD Program Online
There are many accelerated PhD programs out there. When choosing the program that’s right for you, you may want to consider which of the following factors bests aligns with your goals and preferences:
- PhD vs. professional doctorate. A PhD is typical for those wanting to conduct research or enter the field of academia. A professional doctorate can require less research and offer more practical, job-related capstone requirements.
- Bachelors vs. masters prerequisite. If you only have a bachelors degree, you may want to find a PhD without masters requirements. There are doctoral or bridge programs that accept undergraduate applicants.
- Online vs. hybrid program. Some programs are fully online while others are a combination of online and on-campus requirements. If you’re considering hybrid PhD programs, you may want to ensure the in-person learning requirements are doable with your schedule.
Taking stock of what online study options best fit your professional goals and interests can help save you time as you search for accredited online doctoral programs.
Schools and programs can differ greatly in their admissions requirements. It’s helpful to review the specific requirements, especially any prerequisites, of each program you’re interested in.
Common admissions requirements include:
- Bachelor’s or master’s degree
- Satisfactory college GPA
- GRE or GMAT scores (if required)
- Letters of recommendation (if required)
- Prerequisite courses, skills, or certifications
Knowing exactly what’s required when you apply may save you time. If online resources don’t provide all the admissions information you need, you can talk to an admissions officer.
Applying only to fully accredited schools and programs is a strategic way to safeguard the investments you’ll make in your doctoral studies. Regional accreditation is awarded after a school’s curricula and educational services and practices are evaluated by a recognized and independent third-party organization.
The accreditation status of a school or program can help ensure that its educational content meets satisfactory professional and academic standards in your chosen field. Accreditation can also be a precondition for some forms of financial aid.
Sticking with regionally accredited schools helps ensure that other schools and prospective employers will honor your degree and the accomplishments it represents. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) can help you learn more about regional accreditation and accredited schools.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
As you search for the best fast track PhD programs for your goals and interests, you might want to compare the tuition costs and fees required for each program. Doctoral students who qualify may also be able to receive financial aid.
Common forms of financial aid include federal and state grants, need-based and merit-based scholarships, and student loans. The terms of loans and other offers can vary, so it can be prudent to look over financial aid offers carefully before proceeding.
Doctoral candidates may also be able to find work-study programs in their field. If you know you’re likely to need some assistance, you can start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD?
Because PhD programs typically involve research and dissertation requirements, the general timeframe for completing a PhD is usually 3 to 5 years.
If you want the fastest PhD track possible, you may want to consider earning a doctorate degree online no dissertation option. If you only have a bachelors, you can also explore accelerated bachelors to PhD programs.
Alternatively, professional doctorate programs are popular in many fields, such as business (DBA), health (DPH), education (EdD), and nursing (DNP). Professional doctorate programs often offer practical, more work-oriented capstone projects as an alternative to the lengthy process of researching and writing a dissertation.
A fast track professional doctorate program online that requires less than 60 credits may make it possible for some students who already have a masters to finish within 3 years or less.
When calculating your PhD program length, you may want to take into account any internship or residency requirements if they’re necessary for graduation or licensing.
Can I Get a PhD in 2 Years?
If you already have a masters degree and enroll in a program that requires less than 60 credits and no dissertation, you might find a 2 year PhD online program in your field that works for you. Most likely, though, the fastest programs will be for professional doctorates.
Unlike part time PhD programs, an accelerated program often requires full-time, continuous study year-round. As you speed through your program, you may sacrifice some educational experiences as well, such as elective courses, opportunities for more in-depth critical thinking, and individualized research.
What Can You Do with a PhD?
A PhD can qualify you for positions in academia and research as well as help you develop expertise that can separate you from the pack as a job candidate. If you have an interest in working in academia, getting a PhD is often a critical step for pursuing teaching or administrative positions in most colleges and universities.
Holding a PhD can also help qualify you for leadership roles and senior administration roles in many fields. Some graduates leverage their new knowledge and advanced research skills to work as researchers or consultants.
If you’re interested in leading or contributing to public policy or public advocacy work in your field, improving your credentials and insights by getting a PhD and writing a dissertation can be a good step forward.
What’s the Easiest PhD to Obtain?
It may be easier to obtain a PhD if you already have a masters in the same field. A masters allows you to start out with important prerequisite knowledge and skills. For some, the easiest PhD to obtain is one without too many restrictive admissions prerequisites.
For others, the easiest program may equate to the shortest doctoral program online. PhD programs with no dissertation requirement often take less time to complete. It’s most commonly professional doctorates that don’t always require dissertations, though.
If you want to get a doctorate more quickly, you may consider choosing a professional doctorate program that requires less than 60 credit hours and no dissertation. You may also want to search for programs that require the shortest residency or internship requirements.
What’s the Difference Between a PhD vs. Doctorate?
Sometimes PhD and doctorate are used interchangeably to represent doctoral level study or a doctoral degree. In terms of actual university programs, there are some real differences between getting a PhD and a professional doctorate.
|PhD Programs||Professional Doctorate Programs|
In most cases, a PhD program emphasizes more extended academic research and theoretical training in the field, including writing a dissertation. A professional doctorate degree, on the other hand, typically involves a shorter completion time and emphasize more practical, job-related learning and capstone activities.
What’s the Difference Between a Masters vs. PhD?
Getting a masters degree usually involves completing intensive survey courses in addition to elective coursework focused on core areas of specializing in the field. A PhD is a terminal degree and emphasizes research-focused learning, comprehensive examinations, and a dissertation or other significant capstone project.
These two kinds of graduate-level degrees have quite different focuses. It may help to consider which kind of graduate degree best fits your career goals and interests.
Is a PhD Worth It?
Yes, a PhD is worth it for many professionals. Master degrees can help some people achieve their goals, but there are some lucrative career paths that require a doctorate. Going all the way for a PhD or professional doctorate can also help you stand out from the crowd.
A PhD can help you qualify for jobs in academia or help you develop specialized expertise and analysis methods needed for senior management roles or consulting jobs.
In a PhD program, you’ll learn advanced research skills that you can leverage for pursuing policy development and analysis work or other research-related roles outside of academia.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that management occupations in general will experience 5% job growth over the next ten years. Postsecondary teachers are projected to experience 9% job growth, and many lucrative fields are on the rise as well.
Universities Offering Accelerated Doctoral Degree Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format. In addition, these schools offer accelerated online courses, typically lasting 8 weeks or less.
APUS is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
California Baptist University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.
Campbell University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Concordia University Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
EKU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Fairleigh Dickinson University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Grand Canyon University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Gwynedd Mercy University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Hampton University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
National University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
NSU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Regis University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Southeastern University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Cloud State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of Phoenix is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of South Carolina is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of West Alabama is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Getting Your Doctoral Degree Online
If you’re passionate about the field you work in—or if you aspire to be an exceptional leader, policy maker, or educator in your field—you may want to pursue a doctoral degree online.
Doctoral studies can also help you gain confidence, knowledge, and professional connections that can open doors to new job opportunities in leadership, consulting, or academia.
Ready to get started? You will find a range of programs out there from accredited institutions, including online accelerated doctoral programs that can help you get your degree sooner so you can get back to doing the real work you love!