Ph.D. stands for doctor of philosophy and denotes the highest university degree in any field. In Ph.D. programs, students become experts in their field of study. They produce original research and defend their knowledge against committees of established scholars.
Professors, researchers, and scientists need a Ph.D. to work in settings such as universities, research institutions, and nonprofits. Earning a Ph.D. typically takes 4-7 years. Accelerated Ph.D. programs allow degree-seekers to save time and money. The fastest Ph.D. programs allow students to enter the workforce earlier and begin building their postdoctoral careers.
The Top Seven Fastest Online Ph.D. Programs
|1||Bowling Green State University|
|2||East Carolina University|
|3||Georgia State University|
|5||Indiana University of Pennsylvania|
|6||Kansas State University|
|Can I earn a Ph.D. online?||Yes, many schools offer online Ph.D. programs. However, degree-seekers can explore more options through on-campus programs. Online Ph.D. programs do not exist in every field of study, so learners may be limited in what they can study online.|
|Do you need a master's degree before pursuing a doctorate?||Sometimes. Many doctoral programs allow students to earn a master's degree on their way to getting their Ph.D. These programs embed master's-level requirements into the Ph.D. program. However, students can earn a terminal master's before entering a Ph.D. program.|
|What is the fastest way to earn a doctorate?||One of the fastest ways to earn a doctorate is by matriculating into a program with graduate-level credits and having previous academic or research experience. Students can also find programs that offer an accelerated option.|
|How long does it typically take to earn a doctorate?||A Ph.D. program typically takes 4-7 years to complete. Students must complete coursework as well as a research project culminating in a dissertation.|
Accreditation for Online Ph.D. Programs
School accreditation is a form of quality assurance and allows students to know they are receiving a certain standard of education. The United States features regional accrediting agencies and national accrediting agencies. Regional accrediting agencies are generally considered to be more prestigious and adhere to a more consistent standard. Credits earned at regionally accredited institutions transfer easier to other regionally accredited institutions.
National accrediting agencies typically specialize in vocational, technical, or professional programs and can be discipline-specific. An online Ph.D. program may be housed in a regionally accredited institution and accredited by a program-specific national accrediting agency. An example of a discipline-specific accrediting agency that focuses on doctoral-level programs is the American Psychological Association (APA). The APA evaluates doctoral, internship, and postdoctoral programs in psychology.
Students should ensure their desired program is accredited. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) provides a database of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs.
Financial Aid for Doctoral Students
Doctoral students can apply for many types of funding, including loans, grants, scholarships, fellowships, and teaching or research assistantships. Learners should begin by submitting the FAFSA to determine their eligibility for federal aid. Graduate students are eligible for direct unsubsidized loans and direct PLUS loans. However, only undergraduates may receive direct unsubsidized loans. Students with unsubsidized loans must pay interest during all periods. With subsidized loans, the ED pays interest while students are enrolled at least part time.
Degree-seekers can also research financial aid opportunities at the institutional level, including fellowships and teaching or research assistantships. Fellowships are similar to scholarships in that they include a tuition waiver and stipend that do not require repayment. Some programs fully fund every student, making the admissions process highly selective. Students can also work as teaching or research assistants, trading their labor for a tuition waiver and stipend.
Scholarships for Doctoral Students
Many scholarships exist for doctoral students, including merit-based awards and scholarships for specific communities or fields. Graduate students may also be eligible for fellowships, which provide more comprehensive financial benefits. Some fellowships cover tuition and provide a stipend for living expenses, allowing students to focus on their studies. Others fellowships support research activities.
American Psychological Association Minority Fellowship
Who Can Apply: Available to minority students pursuing doctoral or postdoctoral education in psychology, this fellowship aims to increase the number of minority professionals in the field. Awardees also gain access to developmental resources and mentorship.
AICPA Fellowship for Minority Doctoral Students
Who Can Apply: This fellowship is available to minority students who have applied to, been accepted to, or are currently enrolled in a doctoral program accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, Accreditation Council for Business Programs and Schools, or International Accreditation Council for Business Education. Candidates must be U.S. citizens and have a master's degree.
Amount: $12,000 annually
Ford Foundation Fellowships
Who Can Apply: This fellowship is available to all U.S. nationals and permanent residents who demonstrate evidence of academic excellence and are committed to a career in teaching and research upon graduation.
CMA Doctoral Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: This scholarship is available to any student in an accredited doctoral accounting program specializing in financial management or management accounting. Awardees receive a comprehensive benefits package that allows them to take the certified management accountant exam at no cost.
Amount: Approximately $1,310
Hispanic Scholarship Fund
Who Can Apply: This scholarship is available to full-time students of Hispanic heritage who have earned a minimum 2.5 GPA in their undergraduate coursework in an accredited graduate program.
Why Get a Ph.D.?
Earning a Ph.D. allows professionals to work as college professors, researchers, and specialized therapists. Not all doctoral programs are Ph.D. programs. For instance, the doctor of pharmacy and the juris doctor are professional doctorates that allow graduates to practice pharmacy and law, respectively.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals with a Ph.D. typically earn higher median salaries and experience lower unemployment rates than other professionals. They work for universities, research institutions, for-profit businesses, government agencies, and profits.
Aside from career advancement, professionals may pursue a doctorate out of passion or intellectual interest in a particular field. They may desire to expand their knowledge in a certain topic or conduct research to make new discoveries.
Fastest Online Ph.D. Programs
Accelerated online Ph.D. programs, including one-year Ph.D. programs online, are becoming increasingly available. Fast online Ph.D. programs allow students to save money on tuition because they do not need to pay for as many years of tuition or course materials.
Read below for an alphabetical listing of some of the country's fastest online Ph.D. programs.
The Ph.D. in Technology Management from Bowling Green State University is a web-based program that attracts students from a diverse set of backgrounds. With five specializations to choose from, including Construction Management, Digital Communications, Human Resource Development and Training, Manufacturing Systems, and Quality Systems, there is a course of study for any technical professional. The program is offered in cooperation with five other accredited institutions and can be completed within 66 credit hours. This program offering is a great fit for working professionals with industry experience that are highly motivated to advance their career.
Prepare for a leadership role in nursing science and health care. East Carolina University offers a hybrid online curriculum for students pursuing a Ph.D. in nursing, with a progressive number of online courses available to students as they advance through the program. The paths of study available in the College of Nursing include BSN to PhD, MSN to PhD, and DNP to PhD. The DNP to PhD program is an accelerated pathway that allows students to apply coursework from a DNP program to fulfill PhD requirements.
The Ph.D. in Nursing program at Georgia State University is almost exclusively online, with minimal on-campus meetings. As one of the oldest nursing programs in the state, it's a well-established and well-known programs for students looking to advance their nursing career. As opposed to other advanced nursing degrees, the Ph.D. does not require clinical practice.The program can be accomplished full time or part time to accommodate the needs of working professionals. In total, the program is 60 credit hours in length.
The Ph.D. in Educational Management program at Hampton University teaches students innovative educational strategies to advance their careers. This online, accelerated program focuses on relevant current topics in education leadership. Students can select one of four specialization areas: pre-K-12, higher education, special education, or STEM. Students typically complete the program in 66 degree credits over 2.5 years. As education becomes more complex, this program helps students gain the skills they need to be at the forefront of the field.
The nursing program at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania will prepare students for a teaching career in the dynamic nursing field. Attend courses with experiences faculty and conduct cutting edge research as you advance your career. This program can be completed in as few as 11 semesters and courses are offered in a hybrid format to meet the needs of working professionals. The university also offers a DNP to Ph.D. program that students can select to shorten the time to earning a Ph.D.
Kansas State University's Ph.D. in Personal Financial Planning is an outstanding program for working professionals. It's the first program of its kind in the nation to be offered almost entirely online, and students in the program can earn their degree in 5 years or less. Annual, on-site summer intensives and a cohort model help students feel connected, even when studying remotely. Full time and part time program options are available, and students can opt to complete the program on campus. This program is proud to be one of five doctoral programs currently registered with the CFP Board.
Walden University offers multiple advanced degree programs in an entirely online format. The university caters to working professionals and has a diverse student body. As a Certified B Corporation, Walden University prides itself on giving back and fostering growth in its students. Doctoral programs available from the university include Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, Ph.D. in Criminal Justice, Ph.D. in Education, Ph.D. in Management, Ph.D. in Public Health, Ph.D. in Nursing, Ph.D. in Social Work, and more.