The GRE test measures analytical reasoning, quantitative abilities, and verbal reasoning. For some, the standardized test acts as a barrier between them and graduate school. Many online Ph.D. programs require GRE scores for admission, but prospective students can also find schools offering options for an online Ph.D. with no GRE requirement.
Many fields, including business, education, psychology, and public health, make GRE scores optional or waive requirements for qualifying students. Other programs simply do not require the GRE test at all.
This article introduces the GRE exam, looks at the differences between the GMAT and GRE, and lists programs that often do not require the GRE.
Top 10 No GRE Ph.D. Programs
|1||Baker University||Baldwin City, KS|
|2||Bell State University||Muncie, IN|
|3||Bradley University||Peoria, IL|
|4||Concordia University — Irvine||Irvine, CA|
|5||Concordia University — Saint Paul||Saint Paul, MN|
|6||Creighton University||Omaha, NE|
|7||Endicott College||Beverly, MA|
|8||George Washington University||Washington, DC|
|9||Georgia College & State University||Milledgeville, GA|
|10||Gonzaga University||Spokane, WA|
What is the GRE, and Who Needs to Take It?
The GRE general test measures graduate-level skills for students pursuing degrees in the liberal arts, business, and law, among other fields. Many master's and doctoral programs call for GRE scores as part of their admissions process. Some even set minimum GRE score requirements for admission.
The test includes three sections: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. These sections test students’ ability to analyze data, draw inferences from passages, and solve problems. Students also demonstrate their critical thinking and analytical abilities on the written portion of the exam.
Test-takers complete six total sections over the course of three hours and 45 minutes. Each section takes 30-35 minutes, including a potential unscored or research section.
The GRE uses an adaptive design and is administered digitally. During the exam, test-takers can skip and return to questions or change their answers within the section. They can also use a calculator during the quantitative reasoning section. GRE scores range from 260-340, with an average score of around 300.
It costs $205 to take the GRE and scores remain valid for five years. In addition to the general test, the GRE also offers subject tests in biology, chemistry, literature, mathematics, physics, and psychology.
The GRE vs. GMAT
Most business schools accept either the GRE or the GMAT. As a result, prospective business graduate students must decide which test best fits their needs.
The GRE and GMAT overlap in several areas. Both tests take a little over three hours, and both test students on their verbal and quantitative skills. They also both include analytical writing sections. The GRE costs $205, while the GMAT costs $250. In both cases, test scores remain valid for five years.
However, the two exams do differ in format and content. The GMAT includes an integrated reasoning section, which leans heavily on graphic data analysis, while the GRE sets a higher bar for vocabulary. In general, the GRE has a reputation for asking tougher questions on the verbal section, while the GMAT asks harder quantitative questions.
The tests use different scoring methods, as well. GRE test-takers receive score on their verbal and quantitative reasoning sections ranging from 130-170, with a separate score in analytical writing. GMAT scores range from 200-800, with most test-takers receiving scores between 400 and 600.
Reasons to Choose a No GRE Ph.D.
Many doctoral programs do not look at GRE scores to evaluate potential students. In some fields, standardized tests do not closely predict performance in graduate school. Other fields rely more heavily on experience versus test performance.
A growing number of schools no longer rely heavily on standardized tests during the admissions process. For example, more than 50 colleges and universities have dropped their ACT or SAT requirement for 2021 admissions.
"A growing number of schools no longer rely heavily on standardized tests during the admissions process."
Some students choose an online Ph.D. with no GRE requirement because they simply do not perform well on standardized tests. With less pressure to perform on the GRE, prospective students can spend more time on other parts of their application.
Taking the GRE requires a significant investment. Many test-takers spend weeks or months studying for the test, and skipping the GRE appeals to busy students and working professionals. Opting out of the GRE also saves students $205, plus the cost of prep materials, which can easily run over $1,000.
Finally, doctoral programs that do not require the GRE tend to emphasize academic and professional training over test scores.
Finding Test Optional Colleges
Before signing up for the test, prospective students should carefully consider whether they want to put in the time and energy to take the GRE. If you decide not to take the GRE, it's time to start researching Ph.D. programs that do not require it.
How can you find Ph.D. programs with no GRE requirement? Prospective students should start their search early. Fortunately, many schools post their admission requirements online.
"...many programs that waive the GRE requirement require additional materials during the admissions process."
However, many programs that waive the GRE requirement require additional materials during the admissions process. Some programs waive the GRE for students with a minimum GPA or a master's degree in the field. In certain fields, like education, applicants with significant experience do not need to provide GRE scores. Other programs make the GRE optional for all students.
Prospective doctoral students should spend time researching programs before submitting an application Looking into GRE requirements during the research process can help students narrow their options.
Top Online No GRE Ph.D. Degrees
Many programs offer an online Ph.D. with no GRE requirement. This section covers the major fields that commonly offer a no-GRE Ph.D. option.
In business, doctoral students can pursue a doctor of business administration (DBA) or a Ph.D. Both degrees emphasize research and require a dissertation, but the DBA generally focuses on applied business while the Ph.D. focuses on theory.
Many doctoral programs in business do not require GRE scores. However, some may require GMAT scores or an MBA degree to enter the program.
Earning a Ph.D. in computer science prepares graduates for leading roles in the tech industry. During a doctoral program, students study current and emerging areas of research, conduct interdisciplinary research, and develop new technologies.
While some computer science doctoral programs require the GRE, a growing number no longer ask for it as part of the application package. Many programs do require a master's degree in computer science or a closely related field for admission.
The fields of counseling and psychology often require a doctorate. In a doctoral program, graduate students strengthen their analytical stills and learn to help patients cope with their environments. The degree meets the requirements for a counseling or psychology license.
Many Ph.D. programs in counseling and psychology do not require GRE scores for admission. Instead, applicants may need a master's degree, clinical experience, and letters of recommendation.
A Ph.D. in criminal justice prepares graduates for leadership roles in the field. Doctoral students learn about criminal justice theory, administration, and the criminal justice system in practice. Depending on their focus area, students may specialize in criminal behavior, leadership theory, or homeland security.
Many criminal justice programs that offer an online Ph.D. offer a no GRE admission option. Some programs may set minimum experience requirements or waive the GRE requirement for candidates with a master's degree.
In education, doctoral students can pursue a Ph.D. or an Ed.D. The Ph.D. is a research-focused option that leads to careers in research and academia. The practice-focused Ed.D. prepares graduates for leadership positions in educational organizations.
Education Ed.D. and Ph.D. programs without GRE requirements may expect applicants to show several years of teaching experience and a master's degree. In particular, Ed.D. programs appeal to experienced educators.
A doctorate in environmental studies blends research and practice in an interdisciplinary field. Doctoral students conduct research in a variety of areas, designing their coursework around their focus. The degree trains students for research, academic, and policy roles.
Environmental studies Ph.D. programs with no GRE requirement may require supplemental materials, such as work experience, a master's degree, and letters of recommendation. Most programs also set prerequisite coursework in the sciences.
In the healthcare field, doctoral students can specialize in healthcare management, healthcare administration, and healthcare economics. By bridging healthcare and business, the degree appeals to students with a variety of backgrounds. After completing a doctorate, graduates work in healthcare administration or research, including academic positions.
Many Ph.D. programs in healthcare do not require the GRE. Applicants may need to show experience in healthcare or business and hold a master's degree in a related field.
A doctorate in public health emphasizes research and field experience from a multidisciplinary perspective. The degree prepares graduates for academic and research roles in the field. Many programs offer specializations in areas like epidemiology, global health, and health services.
Applicants pursuing a public health doctorate often do not need to submit GRE scores. However, a Ph.D. in public health with no GRE requirement may need several years of work experience in the field.
A Ph.D. in theology prepares graduates for teaching roles in seminaries, colleges, and universities. Doctoral programs emphasize theological teaching and research. Students typically concentrate their training in an area like practical theology, the New Testament, or systematic theology.
Many Ph.D. programs in theology do not require a GRE. Applicants may need to hold a master's degree in theology and provide letters of recommendation.
Top No GRE Ph.D. Online Degrees
Business doctorate programs used to be rare, but in the last few years, online business doctorates have become more and more common. A more competitive job market has made it important for business professionals to distinguish themselves, especially if they want to move into the higher realms of executive life. For those with their eyes on the C-Suite, grit and determination aren't enough any more – expertise in areas like leadership, technology, and management tell recruiters that you're serious about getting to the top. In highly technical areas like finance doctorates and accounting doctorates, online business doctorates combine technical skills with business expertise to make well-rounded leaders.
Online, no-GRE PhD programs in business also fill the need for educators in business, as business schools expand to meet all of the demand for great managers and administrators. There's an important distinction in online business doctorates: the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) is mainly for those who want to work in the field as executives (say, for instance, an online DBA in Marketing) while the PhD in Business is primarily for those who want to teach business at the college level. For either, the old GRE vs GMAT question rears its head (see above), but choosing a no-GRE PhD program in business solves that problem before it even starts.
Some no-GRE PhD programs in business include:
- American University – DBA
- Bellevue University – PhD in Human Capital Management
- George Fox University – DBA
- Grand Canyon University – DBA with Emphasis in Marketing
- Northcentral University – Advanced Accounting PhD in Bus. Admin., Financial Management D.B.A., Financial Management PhD in Bus. Admin., Human Resources Management DBA, Human Resources Management PhD in Bus. Admin., Public Administration DBA, Public Administration PhD
- Trident University International – PhD in Business Administration
- University of Dallas – DBA Management
- Walden University – Online Doctor of Business Education, Online Doctor of Business Education w/ Accounting focus
- William Howard Taft University – DBA
- Wilmington University – Doctor of Business Administration
Computer science is an interesting field for a graduate student, because the culture in the tech industry is so complex. On the one hand, the tech and computer industry has more respect for the self-taught, self-motivated entrepreneur than probably any other field. The conventional wisdom within tech tends to assume that colleges and universities develop too slowly to be on the cutting edge, and that graduate programs are a waste of time when innovators could be out innovating. On the other hand, computer science is used in every industry – not just Silicon Valley, but government, banking, education – and most industries trust a graduate degree, making a doctorate in computer science a sound investment, especially in emerging areas like data science, where conventional industries need the reassurance of a degree.
Online education is a natural fit for computer science – where else would computer science students learn? Computer science students often thrive, even working at the doctoral level, in an online environment. Computer science schools are looking for students with drive, experience, technical skills, and that spirit of self-motivation that drives tech. But there is, in all honesty, not a lot that GRE test scores can tell a computer science school about how a doctoral student is going to perform, so a no-GRE PhD program makes a lot of sense for computer science.
Some no-GRE PhD programs in computer science include:
- Colorado Technical University – Doctor of Management in Technology Management, Online Doctor of Computer Science (DCS)
- Northcentral University – Computer & Information Security PhD in Bus. Admin., Computer and Information Security DBA
- University of Hawaiâi at MÄnoa – PhD Program in Computer Science
From the time fully online degrees became viable (around the mid-1990s), counseling and psychology have been prime candidates for online graduate education. That's especially true when it comes to a degree like the PhD, where students are usually already working professionals who have experience and connections in the field. They can easily set up clinical experiences, for example, and don't need the hand-holding and mentorship that a less-experienced student might need. That makes the convenience of an online psychology PhD or an online PhD in counseling well worthwhile.
Some professionals in psychology and counseling are interested in careers in research and education, but many just want to help people, directly and one-on-one. For those counselors, a no-GRE PhD program makes sense. It bypasses the headache of an academic exam that doesn't really fit the skills of a practitioner, and gets more dedicated experts into a field that needs all it can get. Since counseling and psychology online degrees are so common, a no-GRE PhD is just an extra step in the right direction for universities.
Some no-GRE PhD programs in counseling and psychology include:
- Argosy University – Doctor of Education in Counseling Psychology, Doctor of Education in Counselor Education and Supervision, Doctor of Education in Pastoral Community Counseling
- California Institute of Integral Studies – online PhD program in transformative studies
- California Southern University – Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
- Capella University – PhD in General Psychology, PsyD School Psychology, Doctor of Social Work, Doctor of Philosophy in Human Services, Doctor of Philosophy in Human Services: Social and Community Services Specialization
- Christian Leadership University – Doctor of Christian Counseling
- Georgia State University – PhD in Counseling Psychology, PhD in Counselor Education and Practice
- Grand Canyon University – DBA with an Emphasis in Management, PhD in General Psychology: Integrating Technology, Learning, and Psychology, PhD in General Psychology: Performance Psychology, PhD in General Psychology with an Emphasis in Cognition and Instruction, Ph.D. in General Psychology with an Emphasis in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, PhD in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in Special Education
- Keiser University – PhD in Psychology
- Liberty University – Doctor of Education: Community Care & Counseling: Marriage & Family
- Northcentral University – DMFT Child and Adolescent Therapy, DMFT Couple Therapy, DMFT General Family Therapy, DMFT Medical Family Therapy, DMFT Mental Health Administration, DMFT Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship, DMFT Therapy with Military Families, General Family Therapy PhD In Marriage/Family Therapy, Couple Therapy PhD In Marriage/Family Therapy: Child & Adolescent Therapy, PhD In Marriage/Family Therapy: Industrial Organizational Psychology, PhD of Psychology Industrial/Organizational Psychology DBA, Industrial/Organizational Psychology PhD in Bus. Admin., Mental Health Policy and Practice: Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology, Health Psychology PhD
- Oregon State University – PhD in Counseling
- The Chicago School of Professional Psychology – Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Counselor Education
- Walden University – PhD in psychology
Criminal justice, and all of its many related fields – Homeland Security, cybersecurity, public administration, law enforcement, and many others among them – represent some of the fastest-growing job markets in the US. In a complex, interconnected world defined by globalization, security is a concern at all levels – worldwide and nationally, real world and online, government and business, home and community. Online doctoral programs in criminal justice and security, or online doctorate in public administration, are just some of the opportunities respected online universities have to offer.
An online, no-GRE PhD program is a sound option for students in criminal justice careers. Most people interested in a doctorate in criminal justice are already seasoned professionals who need advanced skills and credentials for advancement, so they're already self-motivated for online learning. Plus, the GRE is an academic test, while most fields in criminal justice (aside from research-intensive scientific careers) are more practical; the GRE might not be the best indicator of success.
Some no-GRE PhD programs in criminal justice include:
- Northcentral University – Criminal Justice D.B.A., Criminal Justice PhD in Bus. Admin., Homeland Security Leadership & Policy DBA, Homeland Security Leadership & Policy PhD in Bus. Admin.
- Nova Southeastern University – Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Criminal Justice
Like counseling and psychology, teacher education was one of the first fields to go online for graduate education, for many of the same reasons. Few educators go straight from undergraduate to graduate programs, usually going right into the classroom from their bachelor's degree and planning for more schooling later. For that reason, by the time educators get to their graduate programs, they have ample real-world experience. They don't need mentorship and camaraderie – they need specialized credentials, like an online doctorate in special education, to amp up their careers.
Online Doctor of Education (EdD) degrees have become especially common, preparing seasoned professionals for administration and advocacy. While the GRE exam definitely tests a lot of the skills and knowledge a well-rounded educator should know, by the time a student gets to the doctor of education, experience, recommendations, and accomplishments are far more important for admissions than one exam. Online no-GRE PhD programs in education are plentiful and invaluable for helping educators increase their credentials and earnings – and get the recognition they deserve.
Some no-GRE PhD programs in education include:
- Colorado State University, Fort Collins – PhD in Education and Human Resource Studies
- Concordia University Portland – Doctorate of Professional Leadership, Inquiry, and Transformation, Educational Administration EDD, Higher Education EDD, Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction Educational Technology Leadership Teacher Leadership EDD, Transformational Leadership EDD
- Edgewood College – Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership
- Grand Canyon University Ed. D. in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in Health Care Administration, Ed.D in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in Organizational Development, Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership Christian Ministry, Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in K-12 Leadership, Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in Behavioral Health, Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in Higher Education Leadership
- Keiser University Ft Lauderdale – PhD in Educational Leadership
- Liberty University – Doctor of Education: Community Care & Counseling: Marriage & Family, Doctor of Education: Curriculum and Instruction, Doctor of Education: Curriculum and Instruction/Elementary Education, Doctor of Education: Curriculum and Instruction/Middle-Grades Education – Doctor of Education: Curriculum and Instruction/Secondary Education, Doctor of Education: Curriculum and Instruction/Special Education
- Michigan State University – PhD in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology
- Northcentral University – Curriculum and Teaching, Doctor of Education Curriculum and Teaching PhD in Education, Doctor of Education Nursing Education, E-Learning Doctor of Education, E-Learning EdS, E-Learning PhD in Education, Early Childhood Education Doctor of Education, Early Childhood Education EdS, Early Childhood Education PhD in Education, EdD Learning Analytics in Higher Education, Educational Leadership Doctor of Education, Educational Leadership EdS, Educational Leadership PhD in Education, English Second Language Doctor of Education, English Second Language PhD in Education, International Education Doctor of Education, International Education Doctor of Philosophy in Education, International Education EdS, Leadership in Higher Education Doctor of Education, Leadership in Higher Education EdS, Leadership in Higher Education PhD in Education
- University of Alabama – Doctor of Education in Higher Education Administration
- University of Nebraska – Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Studies
- University of New England – Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.)
- USC Rossier School of Education – Doctor of Education (EdD) in Organizational Change and Leadership
In an era of climate change, natural disasters, man-made pollution, and vanishing wildlife, environmental studies and sustainability are poised to be the next most-important fields for college degrees. While environmental studies has a long pedigree, college programs in sustainability are younger (like the idea of sustainability itself), and the field is still very much in development. It's a new model, and a new field, so new technology has stepped right in and made doctorate degree programs in sustainability and environmental studies a fertile ground for online education.
An online, no-GRE PhD in sustainability or environmental studies looks like the next frontier. Lots of degree programs in environmental studies and sustainability are interdisciplinary, experimental programs that don't fit into any one department or conventional college. The GRE, on the other hand, is fundamentally traditional, tied to conventional academic boundaries. Because of that divide, it could be argued that the GRE isn't the best indicator of whether a student will fit into a graduate program in environmental studies or sustainability; that means a no-GRE PhD program ought to be a no-brainer.
Some no-GRE PhD programs in environmental studies/sustainability include:
- Antioch University New England – PhD Environmental Studies
Nowhere are experienced professionals in more demand, and more shortage, than in healthcare. With a nationwide nursing shortage and some of the highest projected job market demand for the next decade, online doctoral programs in the health sciences have become crucial to closing the gap. Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs, online pharmacy doctorates, online Doctor of Physical Therapy, Doctor of Occupational Therapy, and many more degrees and specializations are becoming common, and critical.
Online, no-GRE PhD programs in healthcare are much like those in education – hardly anyone goes into a graduate program in nursing or physical therapy without already earning years of experience in the field. These professionals don't need GRE test scores to tell admissions officers that they're ready for a doctoral program; they have years of direct care, continuing education credits, and employer recommendations to do the talking for them. For professionals planning to earn an online doctorate in the healthcare field, a no-GRE PhD is the shortest, most convenient way forward – one with significant impact on their career.
Some no-GRE PhD programs in healthcare include:
- Abilene Christian University – DNP Doctor of Nursing Practice
- American Sentinel University – DNP
- Brandman University – DNP
- Chatham University – DNP
- Clarke University – DNP
- Frontier Nursing University – DNP
- Georgia Southern University – DNP
- Liberty University – DNP
- Loyola University New Orleans – DNP
- NorthCentral University – Health Care Administration – DBA Health Care Administration, PhD in Bus. Admin.
- Simmons College – DNP
- South University – DNP
- Texas Christian University – DNP
- University of Missouri Kansas City – PhD in Nursing
- Walden University – Doctor of Healthcare Administration
- Western Michigan University – PhD in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences
- Wilkes University – DNP
Public health is one of the most important professional fields in modern life – and one of the most misunderstood, by those outside of the profession. Public health professionals may be doctors and nurses, but they may also be researchers, administrators, civil servants, marketers, public educators, and more. It's a broad field united by one particular focus – understanding and improving health on the mass, population level. That work is done through the cooperation of government, private industry, healthcare, nonprofits organizations, education, and media. In other words, the field is complex, enormous, and fascinating – and it's online.
Online doctor of public health programs are common now, offered by some of the most prestigious public health schools in the nation. The online format works well for public health, offering working professionals in a variety of fields (like nursing nonprofit management, and public administration) the chance to add public health expertise to their current A no-GRE PhD in public health is a sensible choice, since these experienced experts don't need to prove their competence in literacy and mathematics. They need the education to reach the next level of their career.
Some no-GRE PhD programs in public health include:
- Capella University – DrPH Public Health Doctorate
- Drexel University – PhD in Public Health
- Emory University – PhD in Public Health
- Loma Linda University – PhD in Public Health
- University of Illinois at Chicago – Doctor of Public Health in Leadership
- University of North Carolina Chapel Hill – PhD in Public Health
- Walden University – PhD in Public Health
A ministry career is a many-sided thing – it's partly public speaking, partly research and writing, partly counseling, and partly management. A professional theologian, on the other hand, is primarily research, writing, and teaching, usually in an academic environment (as a professor). In both cases, a doctoral degree is recognized as a standard. In many churches, a Doctor of Ministry is the expectation for a senior pastor, and no one is going to become a theology professor without a Doctor of Theology.
Standardized tests for a field like theology and ministry are a tricky proposition; we're talking about a career based on faith, after all, but one rooted in learning and literacy. In that respect, a GRE would make sense as a standard for admissions. But at the same time, many theology and ministry schools choose to opt out of secular standards like regional accreditation and standardized exams. That would make the GRE pretty insignificant for admissions. But in any case, an online, no-GRE PhD program can help prepare ministry and theology professionals for the next stage in their careers, faster and more efficiently.
Some no-GRE PhD programs in theology and ministry include:
- Catholic University of America – Doctor of Ministry