Choosing a Short Doctorate Program: Factors to Consider

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6 Factors to Consider When Choosing the Shortest Doctorate Programs

Any professional student can enroll in an accelerated doctorate program. However, since these types of academic programs require significant financial resources, time, and effort, it is crucial to look at all essential factors before enrolling. Since you’ve already decided to pursue an online, fast-tracked doctorate program, the next step is identifying an option in your chosen academic discipline.

It will help students avoid investing their effort and resources in a particular area of interest that doesn’t spark motivation in the long run. Therefore, professional students must take their time to evaluate each academic program’s faculty, curriculum, concentration, and student support services.

See also: The Shortest Doctoral Programs Available along with the schools offering the programs!

Choosing the appropriate doctorate program with a shorter duration is important to help students reach their highest academic and professional goals and potential. See these important factors for choosing the shortest doctoral degree programs:

1. Credentials and specializations of faculty and academic/thesis advisors

The professional credentials (e.g., academic degrees, research papers published, and credible awards received) and specializations of faculty members and academic advisors are crucial in your choice because their expertise, knowledge, and skills in their fields will be shared during your doctoral journey! You will then likely enjoy world-class postgraduate education and mentorship that will contribute to your professional success. 

Your doctoral journey will also be more productive through participation in faculty-led research projects, access to meaningful networking and professional development opportunities, and access to research funding and grants; the latter is of particular importance for doctoral students in research-centric programs.

2. Dissertations or residency programs

The pursuit of doctorate degrees in numerous fields, from the STEM fields to education, usually requires the completion of a doctoral dissertation and participation in in-person intensive residencies as the culminating requirements.  You should take into account the dissertation process, including requirements for choosing the topic and academic advisors, the recommended timeline and maximum time-to-degree, and the publication requirements, among others. 

Your research into these aspects will also determine your:

  • Program fit (i.e., if the program aligns with your educational and professional goals)
  • Schedule fit (i.e., if the program can work well with your current personal and professional obligations) 
  • Finance fit (i.e., if the program offers dissertation and residency financial assistance)

3. The flexibility of course schedules

As a doctoral student, you’re likely also meeting personal and professional responsibilities (e.g., raising a family and maintaining full-time employment) in addition to your academic commitments. The flexibility, convenience, and access to course materials and requirements are vital to your success! 

You should look into the following aspects: 

  • Availability of online courses and hybrid learning format 
  • Duration and timing of on-campus residencies and other in-person requirements 
  • Option for part-time enrollment 
  • Allowances for leaves of absence 

4. If applicable, the accreditation requirements for licensure or certification requirements

Regional and programmatic accreditations for doctoral degree programs are a must for the following reasons: 

  • Compliance with quality standards set by regulatory government agencies, industry associations, and professional organizations 
  • Access to federal and state financial aid is a must, considering the cost of attendance of a doctoral degree and the expenses related to research projects, including completion of a doctoral dissertation.  
  • Recognition by prospective employers that will affect access to career advancement opportunities 

Ask the institution about its regional and programmatic accreditations, but be sure to verify them with the accreditation agencies cited.

5. In-person attendance requirements

As a working professional with personal responsibilities, you want to ensure that, indeed, you have the time and resources (e.g., money for transportation and accommodations) to comply with in-person attendance requirements. This is particularly important if your place of residence is far from the campus or you’re an out-of-state student. 

6. Structure of the curriculum

The best short doctorate programs usually have an intensive curriculum with condensed courses (i.e., accelerated coursework) combined with the standard academic requirements. These include participation in colloquiums, research projects, and workshops, compliance with qualifying and comprehensive examinations, and publication of an approved dissertation. 

You must then ask yourself, “Will I be able to comply with these challenging curriculum requirements? Will completion of these academic requirements contribute to my personal growth and professional advancement?” If you answered in the affirmative, then it may well be the best short doctorate program for you! 

Short online programs at the doctorate level can be quite daunting, but gaining the aptitude for learning a specific field of work takes effort, patience, and time. Meeting the requirements is the first step. An assessment of your capacity to ace the rigorous curriculum comes second.

The shortest online doctoral programs might imply reduced stringent requirements and expectations, but the truth is, it is actually at par with in-person learning! Most doctoral candidates also comply with some coursework requirements of attendance in classes and laboratory work.

Identifying Reputable, Short Doctorate Programs

A variety of colleges and universities have their set of criteria for offering short doctoral degree programs. However, the quality of each program varies per school. Initially, professional students will evaluate the school’s plan of study or curriculum, the reputation of the academic institution within their industry, and the regional and programmatic accreditations.

Although the completion time may be the top priority, comprehensive student support and learning resources are equally important to help students finish their doctorate studies on time. Otherwise, they’ll eventually quit their program halfway.

Here are three crucial aspects of identifying reputable doctoral degree programs with shorter durations:

1. Learning Resources, Facilities, and Tools

Since some of the shortest doctorate degree programs are research-driven, students must ensure their academic program will provide them with access to the school’s comprehensive library system virtually and on-campus. Both research assistants and librarians are also available to help students find their needs.

2. Student Support Services

Completing graduate studies doesn’t necessarily mean accomplishing alone. Regardless of program length, professional students should pursue doctoral degree programs that offer graduate advisors, faculty advisors, thesis advisors, and other graduate student support services to help them thrive more easily.

3. Plan of Study/Applied Coursework

Professional students currently working while pursuing doctorate studies must find an academic program that will highlight and develop doctorate-level communication, research, and critical thinking skills that can be applied to real-world problems.

Malcolm Peralty
Chief Editor