Quick Degree Finder
bestchoiceschools.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured programs and school search results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other information published on this site.

Are Online Doctorate Degrees Faster than Traditional Ones?

Earning a Ph.D. is a process that takes years, and it may behoove future Doctors of Philosophy to inquire whether online doctorate degrees are faster than traditional ones. The average Ph.D. program takes years to complete, and it’s common for program administrators to place a time limit of seven years for completion.

It’s so common for students to drop out of their doctoral programs just shy of completion that former Ph.D. candidates will often type “ABD” on their resume to indicate they completed “all but [the] dissertation” for their degree. Dedicating seven years of one’s life to a single, educational task isn’t something everyone is able to complete.

In fact, the results of a survey conducted by U.S. News & World Report indicates that the median number of years that Ph.D. students take to earn their degree is more than seven years. Are online doctoral degrees likely to feature shorter timelines to completion?

Related resource: 20 Best Online Schools for Doctorate Degrees

Online Classes May Facilitate Swifter Degree Completion

The ability to finish a Ph.D. online in fewer years or months than it might take via on-campus study is entirely up to the dedication of the student. However, the ease with which a student can attend online classes may allow for faster completion time for some degree seekers. Ph.D. candidates may complete some classes on a schedule that is entirely their own, without the burden of specific class times.

Turning on a computer and sitting in front of a screen might also feel easier than heading into class. Online classes may also help students maintain their current employment during the years they are enrolled in a degree program. Some Ph.D. programs require or are best completed with full-time dedication, but online doctorates may offer alternatives with part-time enrollment.

Online Doctorates Commonly Feature Hybrid Classes

There are some online doctoral programs that students may complete without ever stepping foot in a classroom, but many programs do require time spent on campus for important events, as well as participation in a practicum or internship at a business or organization. Students who wish to become certified in their profession or gain licensure may need to spend thousands of hours in a work setting.

However, despite these requirements, the benefit of attending the majority of the program’s class requirements online may help busy students who can’t come to class regularly. Online classes may also make it possible for remote students who want to attend a particular university but live in a completely different state or country to complete their degree. Distance is no longer a stumbling block for students interested in going to a school.

Avoiding Diploma Mills for Online Doctorates

The respect given to earners of online degrees has increased in the past decade due to the expansion of legitimate online degree programs from regionally accredited institutions of higher education. However, it may not matter if a student can complete his or her online degree in fewer years than it might take at a traditional institution if that college isn’t accredited.

Doctoral programs take years to complete, whether they’re in a traditional format or are earned through online study. Any doctoral program that is offered by a non-accredited school or that promises that students can earn their doctorate in just a few months or less than a year is likely a “diploma mill” and not worth the time or money invested in the experience.

The bottom line is that doctoral programs take years. Choosing the right program means educating one’s self about a program’s outcomes, its reputation, and the amount of time it might take to earn the degree. Figuring out whether online doctorate degrees are faster than traditional ones is an important question to ask, but it’s not the only one that should guide a degree-seekers final decision.