Non Dissertation Doctorates

Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time

The disposable academic

This article originally appeared in the 2010 Christmas double issue of The Economist.

On the evening before All Saints’ Day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg. In those days a thesis was simply a position one wanted to argue. Luther, an Augustinian friar, asserted that Christians could not buy their way to heaven. Today a doctoral thesis is both an idea and an account of a period of original research. Writing one is the aim of the hundreds of thousands of students who embark on a doctorate of philosophy (PhD) every year.

In most countries a PhD is a basic requirement for a career in academia. It is an introduction to the world of independent research — a kind of intellectual masterpiece, created by an apprentice in close collaboration with a supervisor. The requirements to complete one vary enormously between countries, universities and even subjects. Some students will first have to spend two years working on a master’s degree or diploma. Some will receive a stipend; others will pay their own way. Some PhDs involve only research, some require classes and examinations and some require the student to teach undergraduates. A thesis can be dozens of pages in mathematics, or many hundreds in history. As a result, newly minted PhDs can be as young as their early 20s or world-weary forty-somethings.

One thing many PhD students have in common is dissatisfaction. Some describe their work as “slave labour”. Seven-day weeks, ten-hour days, low pay and uncertain prospects are widespread. You know you are a graduate student, goes one quip, when your office is better decorated than your home and you have a favourite flavour of instant noodle. “It isn’t graduate school itself that is discouraging,” says one student, who confesses to rather enjoying the hunt for free pizza. “What’s discouraging is realising the end point has been yanked out of reach.”

Whining PhD students are nothing new, but there seem to be genuine problems with the system that produces research doctorates (the practical “professional doctorates” in fields such as law, business and medicine have a more obvious value). There is an oversupply of PhDs. Although a doctorate is designed as training for a job in academia, the number of PhD positions is unrelated to the number of job openings. Meanwhile, business leaders complain about shortages of high-level skills, suggesting PhDs are not teaching the right things. The fiercest critics compare research doctorates to Ponzi or pyramid schemes.

Rich pickings

For most of history even a first degree at a university was the privilege of a rich few, and many academic staff did not hold doctorates. But as higher education expanded after the second world war, so did the expectation that lecturers would hold advanced degrees. American universities geared up first: by 1970 America was producing just under a third of the world’s university students and half of its science and technology PhDs (at that time it had only 6% of the global population). Since then America’s annual output of PhDs has doubled, to 64,000.

Other countries are catching up. Between 1998 and 2006 the number of doctorates handed out in all OECD countries grew by 40%, compared with 22% for America. PhD production sped up most dramatically in Mexico, Portugal, Italy and Slovakia. Even Japan, where the number of young people is shrinking, churned out about 46% more PhDs. Part of that growth reflects the expansion of university education outside America. Richard Freeman, a labour economist at Harvard University, says that by 2006 America was enrolling just 12% of the world’s students.

But universities have discovered that PhD students are cheap, highly motivated and disposable labour. With more PhD students they can do more research, and in some countries more teaching, with less money. A graduate assistant at Yale might earn $20,000 a year for nine months of teaching. The average pay of full professors in America was $109,000 in 2009 — higher than the average for judges and magistrates.

Indeed, the production of PhDs has far outstripped demand for university lecturers. In a recent book, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, an academic and a journalist, report that America produced more than 100,000 doctoral degrees between 2005 and 2009. In the same period there were just 16,000 new professorships. Using PhD students to do much of the undergraduate teaching cuts the number of full-time jobs. Even in Canada, where the output of PhD graduates has grown relatively modestly, universities conferred 4,800 doctorate degrees in 2007 but hired just 2,616 new full-time professors. Only a few fast-developing countries, such as Brazil and China, now seem short of PhDs.

A short course in supply and demand

In research the story is similar. PhD students and contract staff known as “postdocs”, described by one student as “the ugly underbelly of academia”, do much of the research these days. There is a glut of postdocs too. Dr Freeman concluded from pre-2000 data that if American faculty jobs in the life sciences were increasing at 5% a year, just 20% of students would land one. In Canada 80% of postdocs earn $38,600 or less per year before tax — the average salary of a construction worker. The rise of the postdoc has created another obstacle on the way to an academic post. In some areas five years as a postdoc is now a prerequisite for landing a secure full-time job.

These armies of low-paid PhD researchers and postdocs boost universities’, and therefore countries’, research capacity. Yet that is not always a good thing. Brilliant, well-trained minds can go to waste when fashions change. The post-Sputnik era drove the rapid growth in PhD physicists that came to an abrupt halt as the Vietnam war drained the science budget. Brian Schwartz, a professor of physics at the City University of New York, says that in the 1970s as many as 5,000 physicists had to find jobs in other areas.

In America the rise of PhD teachers’ unions reflects the breakdown of an implicit contract between universities and PhD students: crummy pay now for a good academic job later. Student teachers in public universities such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison formed unions as early as the 1960s, but the pace of unionisation has increased recently. Unions are now spreading to private universities; though Yale and Cornell, where university administrators and some faculty argue that PhD students who teach are not workers but apprentices, have resisted union drives. In 2002 New York University was the first private university to recognise a PhD teachers’ union, but stopped negotiating with it three years later.

In some countries, such as Britain and America, poor pay and job prospects are reflected in the number of foreign-born PhD students. Dr Freeman estimates that in 1966 only 23% of science and engineering PhDs in America were awarded to students born outside the country. By 2006 that proportion had increased to 48%. Foreign students tend to tolerate poorer working conditions, and the supply of cheap, brilliant, foreign labour also keeps wages down.

A PhD may offer no financial benefit over a master’s degree. It can even reduce earnings

Proponents of the PhD argue that it is worthwhile even if it does not lead to permanent academic employment. Not every student embarks on a PhD wanting a university career and many move successfully into private-sector jobs in, for instance, industrial research. That is true; but drop-out rates suggest that many students become dispirited. In America only 57% of doctoral students will have a PhD ten years after their first date of enrolment. In the humanities, where most students pay for their own PhDs, the figure is 49%. Worse still, whereas in other subject areas students tend to jump ship in the early years, in the humanities they cling like limpets before eventually falling off. And these students started out as the academic cream of the nation. Research at one American university found that those who finish are no cleverer than those who do not. Poor supervision, bad job prospects or lack of money cause them to run out of steam.

Even graduates who find work outside universities may not fare all that well. PhD courses are so specialised that university careers offices struggle to assist graduates looking for jobs, and supervisors tend to have little interest in students who are leaving academia. One OECD study shows that five years after receiving their degrees, more than 60% of PhDs in Slovakia and more than 45% in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany and Spain were still on temporary contracts. Many were postdocs. About one-third of Austria’s PhD graduates take jobs unrelated to their degrees. In Germany 13% of all PhD graduates end up in lowly occupations. In the Netherlands the proportion is 21%.

A very slim premium

PhD graduates do at least earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree. A study in the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management by Bernard Casey shows that British men with a bachelor’s degree earn 14% more than those who could have gone to university but chose not to. The earnings premium for a PhD is 26%. But the premium for a master’s degree, which can be accomplished in as little as one year, is almost as high, at 23%. In some subjects the premium for a PhD vanishes entirely. PhDs in maths and computing, social sciences and languages earn no more than those with master’s degrees. The premium for a PhD is actually smaller than for a master’s degree in engineering and technology, architecture and education. Only in medicine, other sciences, and business and financial studies is it high enough to be worthwhile. Over all subjects, a PhD commands only a 3% premium over a master’s degree.

Dr Schwartz, the New York physicist, says the skills learned in the course of a PhD can be readily acquired through much shorter courses. Thirty years ago, he says, Wall Street firms realised that some physicists could work out differential equations and recruited them to become “quants”, analysts and traders. Today several short courses offer the advanced maths useful for finance. “A PhD physicist with one course on differential equations is not competitive,” says Dr Schwartz.

Many students say they are pursuing their subject out of love, and that education is an end in itself. Some give little thought to where the qualification might lead. In one study of British PhD graduates, about a third admitted that they were doing their doctorate partly to go on being a student, or put off job hunting. Nearly half of engineering students admitted to this. Scientists can easily get stipends, and therefore drift into doing a PhD. But there are penalties, as well as benefits, to staying at university. Workers with “surplus schooling” — more education than a job requires — are likely to be less satisfied, less productive and more likely to say they are going to leave their jobs.

Academics tend to regard asking whether a PhD is worthwhile as analogous to wondering whether there is too much art or culture in the world. They believe that knowledge spills from universities into society, making it more productive and healthier. That may well be true; but doing a PhD may still be a bad choice for an individual.

The interests of academics and universities on the one hand and PhD students on the other are not well aligned. The more bright students stay at universities, the better it is for academics. Postgraduate students bring in grants and beef up their supervisors’ publication records. Academics pick bright undergraduate students and groom them as potential graduate students. It isn’t in their interests to turn the smart kids away, at least at the beginning. One female student spoke of being told of glowing opportunities at the outset, but after seven years of hard slog she was fobbed off with a joke about finding a rich husband.

Monica Harris, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, is a rare exception. She believes that too many PhDs are being produced, and has stopped admitting them. But such unilateral academic birth control is rare. One Ivy-League president, asked recently about PhD oversupply, said that if the top universities cut back others will step in to offer them instead.

Noble pursuits

Many of the drawbacks of doing a PhD are well known. Your correspondent was aware of them over a decade ago while she slogged through a largely pointless PhD in theoretical ecology. As Europeans try to harmonise higher education, some institutions are pushing the more structured learning that comes with an American PhD.

The organisations that pay for research have realised that many PhDs find it tough to transfer their skills into the job market. Writing lab reports, giving academic presentations and conducting six-month literature reviews can be surprisingly unhelpful in a world where technical knowledge has to be assimilated quickly and presented simply to a wide audience. Some universities are now offering their PhD students training in soft skills such as communication and teamwork that may be useful in the labour market. In Britain a four-year NewRoutePhD claims to develop just such skills in graduates.

The interests of universities and tenured academics are misaligned with those of PhD students

Measurements and incentives might be changed, too. Some university departments and academics regard numbers of PhD graduates as an indicator of success and compete to produce more. For the students, a measure of how quickly those students get a permanent job, and what they earn, would be more useful. Where penalties are levied on academics who allow PhDs to overrun, the number of students who complete rises abruptly, suggesting that students were previously allowed to fester.

Many of those who embark on a PhD are the smartest in their class and will have been the best at everything they have done. They will have amassed awards and prizes. As this year’s new crop of graduate students bounce into their research, few will be willing to accept that the system they are entering could be designed for the benefit of others, that even hard work and brilliance may well not be enough to succeed, and that they would be better off doing something else. They might use their research skills to look harder at the lot of the disposable academic. Someone should write a thesis about that.

Let’s be perfectly clear: Fast track programs to Ph.D. degrees are rare. That said, more and more legitimate online “accelerated” programs devised by brick and mortar schools are becoming available, particularly targeting working individuals, with master’s degrees, who want to earn that Ph.D. while continuing in their job.

What exactly is the definition of a fast-track degree? Two, three years rather than four to six? Yes. That works. Example: Earning a Nursing Practitioner (DNP) degrees in two years; an online program allowing an RN to accelerate to a DNP while still on the job? Sure.

You won’t likely find an engineering or medical doctorate offering accelerated fast tracks to a Ph.D., but in other fields, business, counseling, yes. Believe us, we looked.

A note of warning: if a school says that they can “award” you a Ph.D. based “solely on your life experience” consider that a warning flag for a so-called diploma mill. Immediately check out the school thoroughly before you pay any fees. Google the words Diploma Mills, then the name of the school you suspect is one. [It might not be.] In compiling this list we looked for those red flags.

Meanwhile, as you can see by the list that follows, there are accredited schools that legitimately offer fast-track programs towards earning a Ph.D. [And by the way, that holds true to an even greater extent for those looking to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree.]

We presented the list in alphabetical order. These are 50 top programs, all accredited, but rating one over the other in terms of importance (is a nursing Ph.D. any more valuable than a doctorate in education?) wasn’t a logical thing to do. Instead, enjoy the range of options available. If you are contemplating moving forward to get a Ph.D., one of these schools might have a program fit just for you and your academic skills.

Adizes Graduate School

  • Tuition: $400 per semester unit

Degree offered: Ph.D. in Organizational Transformation
Fast Track: on average, 3 years
Students (only 10 students per class, we are told) explore change management in organizations and society. This is a multi-disciplinary business program that includes coursework such as Spiral Dynamics, and Systems Thinking: modeling complexity. You’ll find the program offers a flexible, interactive forum with a global student body of senior managers.
Accreditation: California State Bureau for Private, Postsecondary and Vocational Education

American Museum of Natural History

  • Tuition: Students who are accepted pay no tuition, thanks to a stipend

Degree offered: Ph.D. in Comparative Biology
Fast Track: Accelerated 4 year program. 62 credits through coursework, teaching assistantships, and individual dissertation research
This is really cool. This is a highly unique combination of courses and electives with field work opportunities with AMNH scientists in locations around the world. Students may be offered special opportunities for teaching experiences, ranging from university level to the Museum’s exhibition and K-12 education programs.
Accreditation: New York State Board of Regents

American University

  • Tuition: $1,526 per credit

Degree offered: Ph.D. in Communications
Fast Track: 3 years
The accelerated program here operates on an 11-month learning and research structure that aside from formal coursework, includes participation in research groups, one-on-one mentoring with faculty, dedicated time for dissertation research and defense, and student collaboration and peer support.
Accreditation: National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)

Argosy University

Degree offered: Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Also offered, a DBA. Below, we have described just the Ed.D. But students looking for accelerated coursework should thoroughly explore this website.
Fast Track: A large number of courses are fast tracked to accelerate the time needed to earn a Ph.D.
Students who graduate from this Ed.D. program will have the ability to (among other things), to advance social justice and transformative practice by fostering democratic and empowering environments that promote understanding and respect for diversity; cultivate the active engagement of diverse communities in social justice initiatives that enhance student development and learning; and demonstrate critical reflection that strengthens or improves themselves, their institutions, and their professional community.
Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges

Boston University

Degree offered: Doctor of Occupational Therapy
Fast Track: The program can be completed in 16 months, depending on how many foundation courses, if any, you need to complete. There are four semesters with each semester lasting 14 weeks.
BU’s program will prepare students to critically evaluate theory and evidence in your area of practice; identify gaps or shortcomings in current intervention methods and programs; and design innovative responses to fill those unmet needs.
Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges

Bowling Green State University

  • Tuition: $10,606 for in-state students; $17,914 for non-residents

Degree offered: Doctorate in Technology Management
Fast track: 59 plus hours
BGSU’s online coursework contains four elements. First, within the construction management, specialization is directed toward applied research, the advancement of the construction organization, and professional management leading to the effective and efficient control of the construction process. After that, the elements of the program are Digital Communications, Human Resource Development and Training and Manufacturing Systems.
Accreditation: Distance Education and Training Council Accrediting Commission

Bradley University

  • Tuition: $830 a credit hour

Degree offered: Doctor of Nursing Practice, Leadership
Fast track: 39 credit units
If you already are a licensed registered nurse who holds an MSN you can add to that through instruction in advanced leadership theory and practicum. All this leads to preparing you for upper-level management positions in a variety of health care settings.
Accreditation: National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission

California Coast University

Degree offered: Doctor of Education in Educational Psychology (Ed.D.)
Fast track: completely online, 66 credits. Start when you want, work at your own pace. An accelerated program, if you want it to be.
The program includes just some of the following courses: Philosophical Foundations of Education, Learning Theory, Analysis of Current Issues in Education, Organizational Behavior and Adaptive Leadership, Educational Research -Group Dynamics, and Advanced Educational Psychology.
CCU also offers two other Ed.D.s: Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership and Doctor of Education in Educational Administration
Accreditation: Distance Education and Training Council (DETC).

California Intercontinental University

Degree offered: Doctorate in Global Business and Leadership
Fast track: the online school offers an accelerated path to DBA, in 24 months
The doctorate program at CIU prepares students for careers in the fields of global business management and consulting, enterprise architecture, content management, development specialist, and application architecture. Students pursing this emphasis will learn about theories, practices, and ethics of leadership, risk management, global leadership business interaction and project management.
Accreditation: Distance Education and Training Council Accrediting Commission.

Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Degree offered: PsyD
Fast track: The school permits students with bachelor’s degrees to enter and complete the 5-year PsyD degree program.
Students in the program are expected to develop essential diagnostic, therapeutic, and consultative skills through rigorous coursework, challenging practicum and internship experiences, and an applicable dissertation. The successful graduate will be equipped with expert knowledge in theory, research, and practice in clinical psychology, and be prepared to serve as lead practitioners and/or senior administrators in both educational and clinical settings.
Accreditation: The American Psychological Association.

Cleveland University

  • Tuition: $108,885 for the full 10 trimester tuition. Each trimester costs a bit different, but the $108,885 is the total

Degree offered: D.C., Doctor of Chiropractic
Fast track: CCC offers a 4-year Doctor of Chiropractic degree, as well as an accelerated program covering the same curriculum in just 10 trimesters.
At Cleveland Chiropractic College, students begin true hands-on learning in their very first trimesters. All health care educational programs begin with the basic sciences of anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry because these are the building blocks of human life.
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

College of St. Scholastica

  • Tuition: $790 per credit hour

Degree offered: Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy
Fast track: A condensed 2-year program
The Ph.D. curriculum is designed to expose students to a variety of teaching methods, including lectures, laboratory exercises, reading, role-playing and clinical experiences.
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Colorado Technical University

  • Tuition: $598 per credit hour

Degrees offered: Example: Doctor of Management, Private Sector Higher Education Leadership (but there are 14 Business management Doctorate degree programs available online)
Fast track: For the Doctor of Management, 3 years
Students accepted into the program will be required to complete concentration courses that apply leadership theory and management principles with key elements including policy, assessments, managing resources, organizational development and the regulatory environment.
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission and North Central Association of Colleges and Schools

Columbia University

  • Tuition: $1,184 per credit hour

Ph.D Degrees offered: Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Industrial Engineering / Operations Research, and Mechanical Engineering
Fast track: Students with a strong engineering background do not need to formally matriculate into a degree program before beginning their studies
Columbia has gone “all in” on online degrees and they offer accelerated, fast track programs for busy professionals. Columbia students can focus on one of several areas of concentration or prepare for future endeavors such as architecture. Some typical concentrations are: Structural engineering: applications to steel and concrete buildings, bridges, and other structures; Geotechnical engineering: soil mechanics, engineering geology, and foundation engineering; and Construction engineering and management.
Accreditation: Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC)

Dominican University

  • Tuition: $1,500 per credit unit

Degree offered: MLIS/Ph.D.
Fast Track: 4 years
This fast-track (it is, although you might not think 4 years is a fast track) designed for students who want to earn MLIS and Ph.D. degrees through an accelerated sequence of courses. The accelerated degree option is particularly relevant to practicing information science professionals who have an undergraduate degree, but not a master’s degree, and are interested in pursuing doctoral level coursework and research.
Accreditation: The American Library Association’s Committee on Accreditation

Drexel University

  • Tuition: $1,157 a credit (Education graduate students); $845 a credit for nursing students going for a DNP

Degree offered: Nursing, DNP and Education, Ed.D.
Fast track: online doctorates (and master’s, incidentally) are designed to get the degree “in as little as two years.” PLEASE check with the school for more details about the specific program you are interested in.
The online doctorate degrees offered by Drexel University are in the fields of Education, Healthcare, and Nursing, and can be completed on a part-time basis. The curriculum has been designed for optimal turnaround; spend less time in the classroom and more time getting your foot in the door with an employer that values a hard-earned education.
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Duquesne University

  • Tuition: $1,402 a credit (warning: it is not clear what the tuition per hour rate is for DNP students. The University needs to add to its tuition rates page. Check with the school for the latest information)

Degree offered: Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
Fast track: 32 credit program towards the DNP
Nurses prepared at the DNP level will function from a strong evidence-based foundation, effectively assessing health care policy, organizational effectiveness, and economic trends in health care to design new models for patient care services.
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

East Carolina University

  • Tuition: $233.36 a credit for N.C. residents; $851.57 for non-residents

Fast track degree offered: DNP to Ph.D. in Nursing. Total of 56 credits required (but the school allows for 21 semester credits from your DNP studies to go towards the 56)
The Ph.D. program prepares nurses for leadership roles in the administration of clinical services in a variety of community-based or acute care provider agencies. The DNP to PhD is designed for nurses wishing to build on education gained while earning their practice doctorate to develop research skills and competencies. It is an accelerated pathway.
Accreditation (for the nursing degree): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

Frontier Nursing University

  • Tuition: $18,645 for 33 credits

Degree offered: Doctor of Nursing Practice
Fast track to a DNP: Frontier’s Post-Master’s DNP program is designed for certified nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners who want to improve their skills in the areas of leadership, clinical scholarship, evidence based practice and clinical evaluation. When you receive the Master of Science in Nursing degree at Frontier, you can continue seamlessly into the 17 credit hour companion DNP program
Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)

George Fox University

  • Tuition: $737 per credit hour

Degree offered: Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
Fast track: 3 years
Core courses in the George Fox Ed.D. program are designed to equip students with knowledge and skills foundational to their discipline. Successful candidates will demonstrate expertise in (among other things) the ability to reflect critically and ethically on matters of equity and social justice in educational settings; and to collaborate to solve educational problems and implement strategic actions that reflect justice for all students and stakeholders.
Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Georgia State University

  • Tuition: $382 a credit for Ga. residents; $1,243 for non-residents

Degree offered: BSN to Ph.D. track
Fast track: An amazing program. 4 years to go from bachelors to Ph.D., with the fourth year a dissertation year
The curriculum includes seven core masters courses and 16 core doctoral courses. The school boasts: Only 4 percent of all nursing schools in the country offer this entry level to doctoral education. Note: this is a hybrid program. But consider the fast track. Is it worth it (Ga. State is in downtown Atlanta…not a bad place to be)? You decide.
Accreditation: SACS and NCATE

Gwynedd Mercy University

Degree offered: Ed.D. [Doctorate in Educational Leadership]
Gwynedd Mercy University’s Online Accelerated Executive Doctorate in Educational Leadership is a 54-credit program, which can be completed in less than three years. It offers students a motivational learning community in which to develop the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to lead and transform educational institutions. Some basic coursework involves the articulation of an educational organization’s mission, goals, and guiding principles that distinguish it from others. Graduates will understand the foundational base of organizational theory and demonstrate the ability to bridge theory and practice.
Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Hampton University

Degree offered: Ph.D. in Educational Management
Fast Track: 66 credit hours
This accelerated 66 credit-hour Ph.D. program is designed to provide specialized instruction, and is focused on giving students the experience they need by providing concentrations such as Higher Education, Pre-K-12 Education, STEM Leadership and Special Education. These concentrations, in combination with critical leadership training, provide graduates with a comprehensive set of skills that allow them to facilitate positive change in the educational landscape
Accreditation: International Assembly of Collegiate Business Education (IACBE)

Holy State University

  • Tuition and costs: $4,000 for the entire degree program

Degree offered: Many Ph.D.s. Go to the above URL for more information.
Fast Track: up to 3 years
We hesitated at first to list this school as legitimate, but we found no concrete evidence that this is a scam or a diploma mill. However, tread softly. The “school” gears your Ph.D. to your skill sets. The accelerated courses mean (they explain) that at most it would take 3 years to earn that Ph.D. We highly recommend that you learn everything you can about Holy State before committing to it.
Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Educational Standards of Schools and Universities (ACESSU). NOTE: Be very careful here. We have not heard of ACESSU. That doesn’t mean it’s a bogus accrediting agency. But it could be. We looked through lists of diploma mills and did not find this university listed. That is a good thing. So, we included it in this list. We recommend further research before you lay out any tuition fees.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

  • Tuition: $705 per credit hour

Degree conferred: DNP to Ph.D. program
Fast track: You can earn your Ph.D. in half the time, the school claims. As 27 credits from a DNP degree transfer to this Ph.D., coursework is completed in a highly accelerated format, requiring only 33 semester hours of graduate credits to complete the DNP to Ph.D. degree as opposed to the 60 hours required of the traditional nursing Ph.D. NOTE: you will be required to be on campus two times a semester.
Now to the overview: Students enrolled in the program will gain knowledge in everything from curriculum evaluation in nursing to conducting various kinds of research necessary for teaching in the university level nursing classroom. IUP’s DNP to Ph.D. program prepares students for a career as a professor of nursing in various academic settings, including colleges and universities, and is for nurses that already have a DNP who wish to obtain tenure track faculty positions within a university setting.
Accreditation: IUP as an institution is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. According to their own website, this particular graduate program is seeking specific accreditation. Please return to the college website for the latest news.

Jacksonville University

  • Tuition: The total tuition for the Fall 2016 cohort is $87,000 (or $28,000 per year)

Degree offered: Doctor of Business Administration
Fast Track: up to 3 years, 60 credits
This is a doctoral program for executives with a curriculum that builds on the skills students have mastered professionally, while heightening their ability to be agile and fluid as managers. The JU D.B.A. program is based on the three pillars of “Leadership,” “Globalization,” and “Business Analytics.” The 3 year, 60-credit DBA program, prepares candidates to scope out the best paths for data discovery, innovation, and quantitative analysis and global challenges.
Accreditation: AACSB

Johns Hopkins University

Degrees offered: Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
Fast Track: 54 credits in the Doctoral program
This online program prepares practicing educational leaders to meet the challenges associated with improving both the public and private education environment. Graduates of this part-time program will be prepared for a wide variety of leadership positions in pre-K-12 settings and the education industry.
Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)

Kansas State University

  • Tuition: $566.10 per credit hour

Degree conferred: Ph.D. in Personal Financial Planning
Fast track: This hybrid program allows students to take online courses during the fall and spring semesters and participate in intensive 10-day summer experiences, during three consecutive summer residency sessions on the K-State campus.
The personal financial planning doctorate offers students a wide array of concentrations. Class work includes such topics as Family Resource Management, Statistical Research in Family Studies and Human Services, and Money and Relationships.
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Maryville University

  • Tuition: $788 a credit hour

Degree offered: Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
Fast Track: 18 month commitment
The program at MU is comprised of 30 credits over five semesters in a blended learning format. Additional content beyond the MSN includes: systems thinking; patient safety and quality; ethics in advanced nursing practice; health policy aimed at patient advocacy; and the completion of a scholarly project that uses evidence-based practice.
Accreditation: CCNE/NLNAC

Monmouth University

Degree offered: Doctor of Nursing Practice
Fast Track: 36 credits
The DNP curriculum focuses on evidence-based practice, organizational and systems leadership, information technology, inter-professional collaboration, emerging practice challenges, and implementing translational research and science into practice. This use of advanced clinical skills and research is consistent with school’s commitment to experiential education.
Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

National Graduate School of Quality Management

  • Tuition: $2,993.32 for four-credit courses

Degree conferred: Accelerated DBA program, Online/In class
Fast track: The Doctor of Business Administration in Quality Systems Management (DBAQSM) degree program at The National Graduate School of Quality Management (NGS) requires the completion of 60 credits designed to be completed over a 30-month period.
Overview of the program: the key components of the program include two in-residence courses, 14 online courses, and the completion of an individual Doctoral Dissertation Project, which is conducted in parallel to the program.
Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. through its Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.

New York Medical College

  • Tuition: $2,200 for each 4-week medical program

Degree offered: Ph.D. in Medical Sciences
Fast track to a Ph.D.: 2 years plus dissertation
Ph.D. degrees are awarded in six basic medical sciences. During the first year of study, students undertake an interdisciplinary core curriculum of courses and rotate through laboratories throughout the Graduate School. After that you can choose a major discipline of study and dissertation sponsor, complete the remaining didactic requirements in the chosen discipline, and begin intensive research training. Formal course work is usually substantially completed within two years, after which the student completes the qualifying exam, forms a dissertation advisory committee, presents a formal thesis proposal, and devotes his or her primary effort to the dissertation research project.
Accreditation: N.Y. State Board of Regents

Regis University

Degree: Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP)
Fast Track: The school offers two plans of study for the DNP program: a 2 year (6 semester) option, or a 3 year (9 semester) option.
This program educates nurses working in advanced practice and leadership roles with the values and additional knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to practice in an ever-changing health care environment. The DNP graduate will be poised to take on a leading role in direct patient care, in the management of care for individuals and communities, in health care policy decision making, and at the senior level of management within healthcare organizations.
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Sam Houston State University

  • Tuition: $1,477.50 for three credit hours

Degree conferred: Ed.D.
Fast track: 60 credits
This is an interdisciplinary doctoral program designed to prepare educators to develop and administer programs for under-prepared community college and university students in math, reading, and/or writing.
Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education

Seton Hall University

  • Tuition: $1,135 per credit

Degree offered: Ed.D. program
Fast Track: 2 year program
This is an all-inclusive, two-year accelerated doctoral program. It’s a flexible course format that includes traditional in-seat, online, and on-site practicums scheduled during the weekends and summer. One thing the university promotes: that this is a good program for aspiring superintendents.
Accreditation: NCATE

South University

  • Tuition: $12,045 per quarter

Degree offered: PharmD
Fast Track: three year program
This accelerated pace is only available at a handful of institutions across the country. South University’s program was designed to meet the increasing demand for well-trained pharmacists. The program is tailored to accentuate the future of the pharmacy profession while also developing pharmacists who are familiar with contemporary practice. The curriculum is structured to educate and prepare competent pharmaceutical practitioners who can provide care in a variety of institutional, community, and other settings. Students learn the skills needed to assess, monitor, initiate, or adjust drug therapy programs.
Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education

Texas A&M University

  • Tuition: $240.93 per credit hour, residents; $637.92, non-residents

Degree offered: Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), completely online

Fast track: 64 credits
Major themes presented in the College’s mission statement and vision form the three intertwined goals of the Ed.D.: in Curriculum and Instruction: Leadership, Discovery and Application of Knowledge. Texas A&M offers a terminal professional degree for educational leaders in curriculum and instruction contexts serving teachers and administrators in K–12 public and private education.
Accreditation: NCATE

Thomas Jefferson University

  • Tuition: $1,075 per credit

Degree offered: DNP, Doctor of Nursing Practice
Fast Track: 3 year program
Jefferson offers multiple pathways to the DNP degree: Traditional Post-BSN Program, and a Post-MSN Program. These DNP programs are designed for the working healthcare professional: all coursework is completed online and the program can be completed on a full- or part-time plan of study. Jefferson also offers a full-time, on-site Post-BSN to DNP Program in Nurse Anesthesia. According to their website, all of Jefferson’s DNP programs focus on leadership, systems thinking, reflective practice, health policy, implementation science and evidenced-based clinical practice.
Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs

Trine University

  • Tuition: $14,040 a semester

Degree offered: DPT, Doctor of Physical Therapy
Fast Track: 6 year program in total, from B.S. to DPT (an accelerated track to a Doctorate). The DPT program itself is 3 years
Students receive clinical training in hospitals and clinics through its membership with the Life Science Consortium of Northern Indiana. The university’s newly renovated Health Sciences Education Center in Fort Wayne is equipped with leading-edge anatomy labs, clinical labs, and classrooms.
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission and has been granted Candidate for Accreditation status by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education

University of Bridgeport

Degree offered: Ed.D., Doctorate of Educational Leadership
Fast Track: 3 year program
The Hybrid, fast-track Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) at the University of Bridgeport (UB) offers an expedited way of pursuing an Ed.D. degree. The program is designed to enhance the effectiveness and enlarge the perspective of public and private organization leaders, policy makers, and researchers. The advanced graduate curriculum integrates the principles of administration, management, organizational psychology, law, program evaluation, international education, and research methodologies. UB’s hybrid Ed.D. program will provide graduates with the necessary knowledge and skills to excel as leaders in an institution or agency involved in dealing with educational issues, policy makers in the educational field, or scholars involved in research and teaching. This is mostly online, but requires a week long summer residency.
Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and the Connecticut Office of Higher Education.

University of Cincinnati

Degree offered: DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
Fast Track: 45 credit hours
Take note: this is a hybrid program, meaning there is some in-class time required (just a few days at the beginning of the program). Still, at 45 credits, it is an accelerated program. This is essentially a BSN to DNP program, enabling nurses with a bachelor’s degree to obtain master’s level and doctor of nursing practice education in an abbreviated timeframe. Hybrid BSN to DNP specialties include Adult-Gero Primary Care NP, Family NP, Nursing Administration, Pediatric Acute Care NP and Pediatric Primary Care NP. The Nurse Anesthesia specialty is delivered onsite. Cool program.
Accreditation: The DNP is approved by the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees and the Ohio Board of Regents

University of Delaware

  • Tuition: DE Resident: $837 per credit hour;   US Student: $1088.10, International: $1506.60

Degree offered: A Ph.D. in Urban Affairs and Public Policy
Fast Track: 3 years plus dissertation
The Ph.D. in Urban Affairs and Public Policy is an interdisciplinary, research-oriented degree that focuses on analysis of the critical policy challenges of our times. The program prepares scholars to create useable knowledge to inform decision making, and to positively impact the quality of life in communities at all scales, from cities to nations.
Accreditation: The Network of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA)

University of Michigan, Flint

  • Tuition: Michigan residents: $530.75 per credit hour;   $795.50 non-residents

Degree offered: Doctor of Nursing Practice
Fast Track: MSN to DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) program is 33 to 36 credit hours (accelerated program)
100 percent online program. Nurse practitioners assess and manage both medical and nursing problems in a variety of settings. You will serve as the primary care provider and consult and collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide quality comprehensive care for individuals, families, and communities in a variety of ambulatory and inpatient settings.
Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

University of Massachusetts

Degree offered: The Ph.D. program is offered in (a) physics, (b) radiological sciences, and (c) medical physics. These programs require 60 credits beyond the bachelor’s degree, including dissertation research. Here (below), we’ll discuss the Physics program, which is listed as an accelerated program.
Fast Track: 60 credit hours
Areas of research in this program include experimental nuclear physics, experimental and theoretical solid-state physics and materials science, optics, laser physics, submillimeter (terahertz) wave applications, nano-science and technology, astronomy, space physics, energy applications including nuclear and solar, applied mechanics, radiological health physics, and medical physics.
Caution: Peterson’s guide lists this as an accelerated online course. This is open to question IF you go to their website. Be careful in your due diligence to ensure that what you are signing up for (an accelerated program) is exactly that. Let the buyer beware. That said, this is one of America’s great schools.
Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges

University of Pennsylvania

  • Tuition: $4,784 per cost unit (for part-time graduate students)

Degree offered: Hillman Scholars in Nursing Innovation program, a BSN to PhD program
Fast Track: No specific time given on their website, but this accelerated program takes students from the basic bachelor’s to Ph.D.
This very unique program incorporates interdisciplinary education with research career development and close mentoring that starts upon selection as a Scholar. Scholars work closely with their faculty mentors and collaborate with established research teams in Penn Nursing’s renowned research centers. The program focuses on innovation, integration, and impact. Not to be underestimated, Penn is one of the most prestigious universities in the U.S.
Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

University of St. Augustine for Health Science

  • Tuition: $12,300 per trimester, in Florida. Prices vary, you need to check this constantly

Degree offered: Doctor of Physical Therapy
Fast Track: 12 trimesters, 4 years
The Doctor of Physical Therapy program offers foundational courses needed for the general practice of physical therapy and courses leading to several specializations, including manual physical therapy. The program curriculum comprises 126 credits of coursework including two practicums and three clinical internships to give students real-world professional experience.
Accreditation: The Physical Therapy Program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE)

University of Tennessee

  • Tuition: $6,178 a semester for in-state students; $15,387 for non-residents

Degree offered: Doctor of Social Work
Fast Track: 3 years
The DSW differs from other social work doctorates in that it is a professional practice degree, designed to prepare students for advanced clinical practice and advanced practice leadership. Geared toward working professionals, the DSW is an intensive accelerated program that enables students to satisfy all degree requirements in three years, without career disruption.
Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

University of Texas at Dallas

  • Tuition: $4,238 for 6 credit hours. Students taking online courses add $80 per credit for what they call a distance learning fee

Degree offered: Ph.D. in Management Science
Fast Track: 4 years (last two years, working on dissertation)
UT’s Jindal School offers doctoral programs, each with several areas of concentration. In both cases, doctoral students will develop strong analytical and empirical skills; take part in interdisciplinary coursework and research; integrate theory with practice; and work closely with senior faculty.

The Ph.D. in Management Science trains students to conduct rigorous scientific research across multiple fields of study. The Ph.D. in International Management Studies degree prepares students to conduct interdisciplinary research involving international management, organization theory, corporate strategy and organizational behavior. Most students in this program, upon completion, pursue academic careers.
Accreditation: AACSB

Utica College

  • Tuition: $1,132 per credit

Degree offered: Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy
Utica’s transitional DPT is a program that offers practicing licensed Physical Therapists the post-professional degree they need to advance their careers in a convenient and accelerated online format. Designed specifically for practicing licensed Physical Therapy professionals with BS/MS degree credentials, the program provides each student with an individualized program of study that takes into account prior education and work experience. The online curriculum covers a wide range of topics that includes: Foundations of Autonomous Practice, Prevention and Wellness, Diagnostic Imaging, and Pharmacology and Pathophysiology.
Accreditation: Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools

Walden University

  • Tuition: The Walden website does not have a definitive answer to what your tuition is. They want you to fill out request forms, including what your chosen field will be

Degrees offered: Quite a few doctorates, ranging from business (DBA) to education (Ed.D.) to Psychology (PsyD). And more.
Fast track (or not): Anywhere from 3 years to 7. It all depends on how heavy you want to load your schedule.
The above URL is just the starting point. Walden is a 100 percent online school with numerous options, from Bachelor’s to Doctorates. Say what you will about the large number of courses offered: they are accredited. What does bother us is the lack of transparency when it comes to tuition and fees. We therefore caution you if you choose to attend this online school.
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

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