Online Learning

Shortest Doctoral Programs: What You Need To Know

No matter what doctoral program you choose, earning your doctorate is a significant commitment. Accelerated programs can offer a way to earn your doctorate in less time, but completing a rigorous doctoral program at a faster pace will take dedication and hard work.

If you’re looking to earn a doctorate degree to advance your career, here are some of the main considerations when evaluating program duration.



What Are The Different Types of Doctoral Programs and How Long Do They Take?

There are two main types of doctorate degrees: a Ph.D. and an applied doctorate.

  • Ph.D. programs focus on conducting academic research to expand the discipline
  • Applied doctorate programs focus on improving the practice of your discipline using existing research

Ph.D. programs take an average 8.2 years to complete. They also focus more on theory than application. For these reasons, applied doctorate programs continue to increase in popularity, especially with working professionals.


Earning a doctorate is challenging and rewarding, but do you know what to really expect? Download this free guide for tips and insights to help you prepare for success.


Online Applied Doctorate Programs

Another consideration when choosing a doctoral program is the instruction method. Many working adults look for online programs that provide flexibility and can be tailored to their schedules. If you manage your time well, online programs are typically faster to complete.

However, all online doctoral programs are not created equal. Some programs offer doctorates in as little as a year. At face value, the reduced time to graduation is appealing, but are these programs worth the investment? The answer is most likely no. The quality of education and reputation of these programs won’t pay off in the long run.

Reputable online programs can offer you a doctoral degree in about three years and provide a rigorous education that will deepen your knowledge, improve your critical thinking and leadership skills and open new doors in your career.

If you’re going to spend the time, energy, and money it takes to earn a doctorate, you need to ensure you’re getting a high-quality education to match.

What Affects The Overall Time It Takes to Complete A Doctorate?

There are a variety of factors that influence the length of time it takes to earn a doctorate. Program requirements, instruction methods, and personal commitment all impact how long it will take you to graduate.

Here are some of the top considerations when evaluating the length of a doctoral program:

  • Dissertation Methodology and Approach: The culmination of your doctoral degree is your dissertation. In traditional programs, it often takes a year or two just to choose a topic for your dissertation. With integrated programming and support, some accelerated programs can help you complete your dissertation in a year.
  • Part-time vs. Full-time Enrollment: While a part-time program may offer more flexibility than a full-time program, it will also take longer to graduate. Whichever way you decide to pursue your degree, the total time commitment is significant.
  • Transfer Credit Eligibility: By getting credit for completed courses or professional experience, you can make the most of your previous experience and decrease your time to graduation. Look for programs that make it easy to transfer credit and get a jump start on your doctorate.
  • In-person vs. Online Classes: The strict scheduling of in-person classes can make it more difficult to get the credits you need in a timely fashion, especially if you’re taking courses while working. Online classes give you the flexibility to complete courses around your schedule but require diligence to stay on-track for graduation.

Perhaps the biggest influence on the time it takes to complete your doctoral program is personal commitment. You need to take a full course load, conduct research, and write your dissertation, all while balancing your personal and professional life with your degree.

How Can I Identify a Top-Quality Accelerated Doctoral Program?

Many options exist that can help you reduce the time it takes to earn your doctorate. However, program quality varies widely. Research the program to determine how the university builds its curriculum, the university’s accreditation status, and the recognition of the institution in your industry.

Outside of accelerated coursework, here are some of the hallmarks of high-quality online professional doctoral programs:

  • Applied Coursework: If you’re a working professional, you need to find a program that helps you apply doctoral-level thinking, research and communication skills to applicable real-world problems.
  • Academic Support: Undertaking a doctoral program isn’t something you should have to accomplish alone. Look for programs that provide faculty advisors, graduate advisors and other support services to help you succeed.
  • Academic Resources: Doctoral programs are heavily research-based. Make sure a program will offer you access to their library system and librarians or research assistants who can help you find what you need.

While time to completion may be a top factor in your decision, without the proper resources and support you may not finish your degree on time, or you may be tempted to quit your program before completing your degree.

Is a Doctoral Program Right For You?

There are many reasons you may consider pursuing your doctorate. While many professionals want to increase advancement opportunities and earning potential, these motivators alone may not make you a successful doctoral student.

In fact, 50% of doctoral students quit before they finish their degree.

To make sure you aren’t one of them, you should identify your goals and expectations so you choose the right program, for the right reasons. Here are some of the attributes that make some students more successful than others when completing a doctoral program.

Want to Know If You’re Set Up For Success? Ask Yourself:

  • Am I truly passionate about my course of study? Passion is key to success in doctoral programs. You need to have an intense curiosity and desire to learn about your topic because the coursework and process is difficult. If you don’t sincerely enjoy what you’re studying, it will be more tempting to quit when the going gets tough.
  • Am I motivated to learn new concepts and ideas? This may seem like a no-brainer, but your willingness to open your mind and evolve can make or break your pursuit of a doctorate. If you’re simply looking for an update to your résumé, rather than a diligent effort to learn and grow, you may want to consider other avenues for advancement.
  • Can I commit the time, energy and headspace? Balancing a career and your personal life can be challenging in itself. Adding a doctoral program into the mix means you will need to protect and schedule time to complete your coursework, as well as research, write and edit your dissertation. You need to make sure getting your doctorate is a priority and have a detailed plan to finish your program.

Ready to Pursue Your Doctorate? Start Your Search For The Right Program.

If you’re ready to invest the time and hard work it takes to get your doctorate, finding the right program is your next step. You need to evaluate programs holistically to determine if they’re the right fit for your professional goals, learning style and personal life.

At Franklin University, our goal is to make a doctoral degree more attainable for highly motivated students. We’ve built our programs around the needs of working professionals, so you can not only get your degree, but apply your learnings in real time to your career.

From the moment you enroll, we support your success through our academic approach. We offer applied curriculum, dedicated faculty and an innovative dissertation methodology, plus all of the support and resources you need along the way.

Explore Franklin University’s Doctoral Degree programs to decide if one of our programs could be the right fit for you.