Accelerated Online Doctoral Degrees to Get Quickly

You may not find one-year Ph.D. programs online, but there are fast-tracked doctorates. Explore popular accelerated online doctoral degrees.
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One of the biggest hurdles for doctoral students is the time it takes to complete a doctorate. These programs often require 5-7 rigorous years to complete, which can make them difficult to pursue for many people.

An accelerated online doctorate introduces an alternative pathway for you. These degrees allow you to complete a traditionally lengthy program in a fraction of the time. Learning online can also make your study schedule more flexible and may be more accessible than on-campus learning.

In this guide, we'll introduce you to some of the most popular accelerated doctoral degrees and answer your common questions.

Featured Online Doctorate Degrees

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Is an Accelerated Doctoral Degree Program?

Schools use a variety of methods to accelerate doctoral programs, including accepting large numbers of transfer credits, allowing heavier course loads, and condensing study schedules.

Through online delivery, schools can accelerate these programs and still offer flexible schedules.

Accelerated online doctoral degrees appeal to many types of students, but they may suit working students best since they can more easily accommodate nontraditional study schedules. On the flip side, an accelerated doctoral program could mean a more rigorous program.

Before enrolling, consider both the advantages and drawbacks of an online and fast-tracked program and how it might affect your learning experience.

10 Popular Online Accelerated Doctoral Degrees

Online accelerated doctoral degrees come in many different packages, but some disciplines lend themselves better to this format than others. Below, we take a look at some of these options.

1. Accounting

Most accelerated accounting programs award professional degrees, such as a DBA in accounting.

These programs require less intensive research and dissertation requirements and focus more on career-based coursework, such as advanced accounting methods and techniques. This creates more opportunities for accelerating the program via self-paced studies or a master's-to-DBA pathway program.

2. Business Administration

An online DBA provides the best opportunity for you to accelerate a business doctorate. While these programs take an average of three years to complete, several schools offer fast-tracked online DBAs that offer more condensed schedules and classes year-round.

In place of the larger dissertations of Ph.D. programs, DBAs usually feature smaller dissertations and applied research projects.

3. Counseling and Therapy

Many doctoral programs in counseling feature significant clinical components in order to qualify graduates for state licensing requirements, making it difficult to accelerate them.

Programs that don't lead to licensing, however, such as an Ed.D. in counseling or therapy, can offer accelerated online options by reducing the clinical and research requirements. These programs focus more on enhancing the practical knowledge of already licensed counselors with courses like counselor education and supervision.

4. Data Science

While you can find accelerated professional doctoral degrees in data science, such as a D.Eng. in data science, some schools have accelerated Ph.D. programs as well.

While these programs typically feature the same dissertation requirements as traditional Ph.D. programs, they fast-track the program by offering condensed courses like data engineering and machine learning and a faculty-assisted dissertation process.

5. Education

Education doctorates are some of the most commonly accelerated degrees, as they feature less intensive research requirements than a Ph.D. and fewer practical requirements than many clinical degrees. Accelerated online Ed.D. programs often focus on building administrative and leadership skills in experienced educators with courses like curriculum design and instructional strategies.

If you have experience and some doctoral coursework, you may even be able to enroll in an All But Dissertation (ABD) education doctoral program.

6. Healthcare Administration

Many doctor of healthcare administration (DHA) programs offer accelerated pathways by bypassing the dissertation and delivering practice-based studies instead, such as health leadership, human resources, and an applied research project.

Some DHA programs also offer advanced standing for relevant graduate-level training or professional experience.

7. Nursing

DNP programs offer one of the fastest routes to a doctorate in nursing. By focusing more on evidence-based and advanced practice courses than intensive research, these programs can be complete more quickly. Some possible courses include healthcare policy and health informatics.

While DNP programs feature significant clinical requirements, you can still complete this degree in as little as two years.

8. Organizational Leadership

You have several options for an accelerated organizational leadership doctorate, including a DBA or Ed.D. in organizational leadership, which feature less intensive research requirements than the usual.

However, you can also find Ph.D. programs that stray from the traditional five-year curriculum by offering accelerated leadership and performance management courses before the dissertation.

9. Psychology

At the doctoral level, most accelerated psychology programs award Psy.D. degrees because these programs focus more on clinical practice than research. In addition to fast-tracked courses in applied research and evidence-based practice, many Psy.D. programs feature applied doctoral projects instead of lengthy dissertations.

10. Public Administration

When you want an accelerated doctorate in public administration, a professional doctor of public administration (DPA) is likely your best bet. Unlike research-heavy Ph.D. programs, DPA programs typically emphasize coursework and practical project-based training.

Often designed for working professionals and aspiring practitioners, DPA programs may offer more flexible schedules as well.

Frequently Asked Questions About Accelerated Online Doctorate Degrees

How quickly can I get a doctorate?

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The length of your doctoral program depends on the school and your previous training and experience, but most accelerated doctorates take about 3-4 years to complete. With advanced standing and/or a heavy course load and condensed schedule, you might graduate in less than three years in some cases.

Do all doctorate degrees require a dissertation?

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While Ph.D. programs typically require you to write a dissertation, not all doctoral programs require one. For example, many professional doctoral programs include an applied research project or put more emphasis on coursework and clinical work. In fact, the lack of a dissertation is what helps professional degree programs offer accelerated pathways.

Can you get a doctorate degree online?

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Many schools allow you to earn a doctorate through online studies. You can watch recorded or live online lectures, attend virtual labs, and complete much of your research without ever visiting campus.

However, many clinical components of professional doctorates require in-person attendance, though you can often complete these requirements at a location near you.

What is the difference between a Ph.D. and a doctorate?

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A Ph.D. is one type of doctorate — a research-based doctor of philosophy, to be specific. Other doctorates include an Ed.D., a DBA, a DPA, a DNP, and a DHA. These doctoral degree types may be classified as professional doctorates as they feature more practitioner-focused studies.

Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by BestColleges. Page last reviewed May 13, 2024. 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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