Accelerated Online Doctoral Degrees to Get Quickly [Shortest Ph.D. Programs in 2023]

Not every doctorate has daunting study times. Save time with these degrees — some of the fastest doctoral programs available.
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Updated on June 7, 2023
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When envisioning a doctorate, people think of long years of intensive study. But that's not always the case. In fact, many disciplines offer accelerated doctoral programs that let you earn a terminal degree much quicker than you might imagine.

Throughout this page, we go through the shortest Ph.D. programs and the fastest doctorate degrees for various fields.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Featured Online Doctorate Degrees

Fastest Doctorate Degrees to Get Online Quickly

The shortest doctoral programs typically award professional degrees. While Ph.D. programs often require extensive research and lengthy dissertations, professional degrees have more practical and career-based studies.

Below we highlight fast doctoral programs for each discipline on this list.

1. Fast Online Accounting Doctorate Programs

Online accounting programs at the doctoral level examine complex issues in ethics, auditing, and taxation. You learn to apply advanced theory to solve common problems or improve processes and policies.

With an accounting doctorate, you can pursue upper management and executive positions.

Featured Accounting Doctorate Programs

While a Ph.D. can often take up to five years, a DBA in accounting can take less than three years.

2. Fast Online Business Administration Programs [Ph.D. and DBA]

At the doctoral level, online business administration programs teach you to confront the biggest challenges in business. You'll discover ways to evaluate and analyze research and combine theory and practice.

Doctoral graduates can take on leadership and executive positions in various organizations or become an entrepreneur.

Featured Business Administration Doctorate Programs

The shortest doctoral programs in business are DBAs, which usually take around three years to complete.

3. Fast Online Business Management Doctorate Programs

Schools may offer online management programs with two practical degree types: a DBA in management and a doctor of management (DM).

These two professional degrees have similar components and outcomes, but the DM includes more research analysis. The DBA has more market analysis.

Featured Business Management Doctorate Programs

You can often complete both accelerated doctoral programs in management in less than three years. But a DBA may require more professional experience than a DM.

4. Fast Online Counseling and Therapy Doctorate Programs

Online counseling programs delve into the latest research and theories in counseling and therapy. You'll learn to apply your findings to improve counseling techniques, awareness, and leadership while furthering research and scholarship in the field.

With a doctorate in counseling and therapy, you can access counseling and postsecondary teaching positions.

Featured Counseling and Therapy Doctorate Programs

The shortest doctoral programs in counseling typically last between 3-4 years. However, the timeline may depend on how long it takes you to complete your dissertation.

5. Fast Online Computer Science Doctorate Programs

Doctoral students in online computer science programs typically pursue highly specialized or interdisciplinary studies. You'll research underserved or emerging fields to develop an innovative application or add to computing discussions.

Doctoral candidates typically pursue research, teaching, or industrial careers.

Featured Computer Science Doctorate Programs

While study times depend on the extent of your research, the shortest doctoral programs in computer science take about four years.

6. Fast Online Criminal Justice Doctorate Programs

You have several online criminal justice programs to choose from at the doctoral level, including a Ph.D., Psy.D., or doctor of criminal justice (DCJ). The DCJ was designed for experienced criminal justice professionals seeking leadership, policy, and administrative roles.

Featured Criminal Justice Doctorate Programs

As one of the most accelerated doctoral programs available, DCJ programs take 2-3 years to complete.

7. Fast Online Data Science Doctorate Programs

Data science doctoral programs examine the tools and techniques for managing, analyzing, and applying data. These programs empower you to develop new innovations and methods for using data to solve practical problems.

You can go on to developmental and analytical careers in data science.

Featured Data Science Doctorate Programs

The shortest doctoral programs in data science usually take between 3-5 years, but that time may vary depending on the dissertation process.

8. Fast Online Education Doctorate Programs

A doctorate in education helps you understand and improve educational policies, laws, technologies, and outcomes. You may specialize in curriculum, leadership, or teaching strategies.

Career paths vary, but Ph.D. graduates often pursue research and teaching careers. Ed.D. graduates often pursue administrator and policymaker roles.

Featured Education Doctorate Programs

The fastest doctorate in education may take between 2-3 years and award an Ed.D.

9. Fast Online Finance Doctorate Programs

Online finance degrees at the doctoral level typically result in a Ph.D. or a DBA. A Ph.D. program focuses more on research. It equips you with the knowledge to understand and analyze financial markets from a theoretical viewpoint.

A DBA in finance explores financial markets and questions from a practical and problem-solving perspective.

Featured Finance Doctorate Programs

DBAs in finance are usually more accelerated than Ph.D. programs and last between 3-4 years.

10. Fast Online Healthcare Administration Doctorate Programs

In a doctorate in healthcare administration program, you often have two options: a research-focused Ph.D. or a practical doctor of healthcare administration (DHA).

While the Ph.D. encourages you to find new research areas, the DHA pushes for new applications for research. As a result, Ph.D. graduates often go into academia, and DHA graduates may enter leadership positions in healthcare organizations.

Featured Healthcare Administration Doctorate Programs

Study times can vary, but the shortest doctorates in this field are DHA programs that take about three years to complete.

11. Fast Online Human Services Doctorate Programs

Doctoral human services programs typically come in two forms: a Ph.D. and a doctor of human services (DHS). The Ph.D. program takes a research and theoretical approach and prepares you more for roles in academia.

The DHS explores new and improved applications for evidence-based practices, leading to policy development and program and system director careers.

Featured Human Services Doctorate Programs

The DHS is the fastest doctorate degree of the two degree types, and you can complete it in less than three years.

12. Fast Online Information Systems and Technology Doctorate Programs

As in many fields, online information technology degrees are research-focused or professional-focused. A doctor of information technology (DIT) has a more practical approach and a shorter timeline than a Ph.D.

DIT programs equip you with the skills to innovate and find new uses for IT.

Featured Information Technology Doctorate Programs

While program lengths depend on the school, DIT programs often take between 3-4 years to complete.

13. Fast Online Media Communication Doctorate Programs

Online media communication programs investigate the media industry's technologies, institutions, and practices. You'll analyze the methods and means of communication and how it impacts people, organizations, and industries.

Graduates of these programs can enter organizational executive or academic roles.

Featured Media Communication Doctorate Programs

Media communication has some of the most accelerated doctoral programs, with many programs taking about 3-4 years to complete.

14. Fast Online Ministry and Theology Doctorate Programs

Online ministry programs give you a better understanding of biblical teachings, more diverse communication strategies, and enhanced outreach capabilities.

These programs often provide specialization and practical training opportunities in teaching, ministry leadership, and church management. Awarded with a doctor of ministry degree (DMin), you can pursue a role as a church leader or advance theological scholarship.

Featured Ministry/Theology Doctorate Programs

As one of the shortest doctoral programs, DMin programs may only take two years to complete.

15. Fast Online Nursing Doctorate Programs

A nursing Ph.D. and a doctor of nurse practice (DNP) program take you down different paths. Ph.D. students study nursing literature and theory to advance their understanding of illness and care.

DNP students strive to translate that research into more effective practices and systems.

Featured Nursing Doctorate Programs

Of the two degree types, DNP programs offer the fastest doctorate degree, taking 2-3 years.

16. Fast Online Project Management Doctorate Programs

Much like business degrees, project management doctorates usually come in Ph.D. and DBA forms. These programs focus on the theory and practice of managing projects. They cover topics in ethics, organizational theory, human resources, and communication.

With one of these degrees, you can pursue executive roles or help teach future business leaders.

Featured Project Management Doctorate Programs

The shortest doctoral programs in this discipline are DBA degrees, which usually last three years.

17. Fast Online Psychology Doctorate Programs

Online psychology programs at the doctoral level focus on research (Ph.D.) or professional practice (Psy.D.). Both degrees can lead to licensure for academia or clinical psychologist roles, but they typically have different formats.

For example, Ph.D. programs often require you to complete a dissertation, while Psy.D. programs may require a practical project and an internship.

Featured Psychology Doctorate Programs

While most Psy.D. and Ph.D. in psychology programs take five years to complete, you may find accelerated doctoral programs that take less than four years.

18. Fast Online Public Administration Doctorate Programs

An online doctorate in public administration (DPA) can prepare you for academia or executive leadership roles in public service. The DPA prepares you to use research and data-driven evidence to improve public program development, strategic planning, and community management.

Featured Public Administration Doctorate Programs

You can complete a DPA program in 2-3 years, making it the most accelerated doctoral program in this discipline.

19. Fast Online Public Health Doctorate Programs

You have two types of online doctorates in public health available to you: a Ph.D. research degree or a doctor of public health (DrPH) practitioner degree. A DrPH program focuses on interdisciplinary leadership and management skills for public health professionals.

You can pursue positions in the government and healthcare systems, developing and applying improved policies and programs.

Featured Public Health Doctorate Programs

The most accelerated doctoral programs in this field typically take at least three years to complete.

20. Fast Online Public Policy Doctorate Programs

You may pursue a Ph.D. in public policy or a doctor of public policy (DPP). In a DPP program, you learn to analyze, make, and implement public policy. You'll also learn to lead effectively at the top levels of government and other public service organizations.

Featured Public Policy Doctorate Programs

The fastest doctoral program of the two options, the DPP, allows you to graduate in about three years.

Frequently Asked Questions About Accelerated Online Doctorate Degrees

What is the quickest online doctoral program?

A DM in program might be the fastest doctorate overall, with some programs taking only two years to finish.

But the fastest doctoral degree varies depending on the school and student. The shortest doctoral programs take 2-3 years to complete, whereas the shortest Ph.D. programs take 3-4 years.

How quickly can I get a doctorate?

Study times for doctorates depend on the type of degree. Most Ph.D. programs take about five years, while professional doctorates take 3-4 years. Many schools offer accelerated doctoral programs that allow you to shave a year or so off of that timeline.

You should note that with accelerated programs come more condensed classes and more intensive study requirements.

Do all accelerated Ph.D. programs require a dissertation?

The answer to this depends on the program. In many cases, Ph.D. programs require a dissertation, regardless of whether they are accelerated. Some Ph.D. programs have alternative requirements, such as a project or a publishing requirement.

Professional doctorates often ask you to complete a project rather than a dissertation. As a result, these are often the shortest doctoral programs available.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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