1-year PhD programs online is a bit of a misnomer, at least, the 1-year part. There are few to no legitimate PhD programs online or in-person that last only one year. The minimum for how long does it take to get a PhD is three years, and even those programs are few and far between. Even the easiest PhD programs to get into will take up to three or four years to complete, so don’t expect a fast track when it comes to completing your doctorate. In this article, we’ll give you a list of some of the shortest online graduate programs available for doctorate degrees in both the US and Canada. 

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1-Year PhD Programs Online in the US 1-Year PhD Programs Online in Canada Pros and Cons of 1-Year PhD Programs Online How to Get into 1-Year PhD Programs Online FAQs

1-Year PhD Programs Online in the US

1. Online Doctor of Education PhD at the University of Southern California

Degree Required: Master’s degree in education or a related field.

Tuition: $60,000-$80,000

Program Length: 3-5 years (you must complete 43 units)

This PhD program online is focused on leadership in education and consists of four specific concentration areas that you can focus on:

  • K-12 Leadership in Urban School Settings
  • Leading Instructional Change
  • Higher Education Administration
  • Educational Psychology

You do not have to have a background in Education, and you can explain in your graduate school statement of purpose why you have decided to pursue this degree. The delivery method is completely virtual so you won’t have to attend any in-person class. You can attend virtual lectures synchronously and all your completed assignments can be delivered online. You must also have a minimum 3.0 GPA to be considered.

2. Online PhD in Computer Science program at Northcentral University

Degree Required: Master’s degree in computer science or a related field.

Tuition: $45,000-$60,000

Program Length: 3-4 years

This 1-year PhD program online takes around three years to complete. The graduate program requirements include completing 60 credits, which you can satisfy by choosing from over 20 different courses in various subjects from artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. As with other PhD programs you can choose from six different concentrations within the program to choose as your dissertation. Based on your research proposal, you can choose from three different research methods to explore your topic, such as quantitative, qualitative or constructive research. You can apply online through National University’s streamlined application process that lets you upload your application materials and personal information in only a few minutes.

3. Online Doctor of Business Administration at the University of Phoenix

Degree Required: Master’s degree

Tuition: $50,000-$70,000

Program Length: 3-4 years

The DBA at the University of Phoenix takes about three years to complete and has a 54-credit requirement. You can begin working on your dissertation as you as enter the program, while also completing the 18 core courses that will provide a foundation to complete the rest of your degree. You don’t have to choose between the GMAT or GRE as this 1-year PhD program online is one of the few graduate programs that don’t require the GRE. You must have at least a 3.0 GPA for all your graduate level courses, and you must also have a graduate degree from an accredited program in the US. International students on student visas are allowed to apply, but, as an international student, you must also provide English proficiency test scores to gain admission.

4. Online PhD in Psychology at Walden University

Degree Required: Master’s or Bachelor’s degree

Tuition: $50,000-$70,000

Program Length: 2.5-8 years

You’ll have three different tracks to complete your PhD in Psychology from Walden, with the fastest giving you at least 2.5 years to meet the degree requirements. You can also choose Track 1 or Track 2 both of which give you more time (up to eight years) to complete this 1-year PhD program online. Track 1 requires you to complete at least 85 credits and Track 2 requires you to complete a minimum of 112 credits to earn your degree. As a health-care related program, you can choose to complete a psychology residency either in-person or virtually, but the “residency” refers more to an academic conference where you will meet and learn from program faculty and other psychology professionals.

5. Online Doctor of Nursing Practice at the University of Colorado Denver

Degree Required: Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing

Tuition: $60,000-$80,000

Program Length: 3-4 years

This combined degree program (BS-DNP) is the first hybrid program on this list, as you must complete courses online and in-person at the University of Colorado Denver Anschutz campus. You must have a bachelor’s degree in nursing science to be considered. This is not strictly a 1-year PhD program online, as it is a dual-degree program. You will first earn your master’s in nursing science through the program and then a doctorate certificate in up to eleven different nurse practitioner programs, such as a family nurse practitioner or a nurse midwife program. When you complete the nurse practitioner program, you’ll be eligible to take the licensing exam to earn your nursing license to work in all 50 states.

6. Online PhD in Education at Capella University

Degree Required: Master’s degree

Tuition: $50,000-$70,000

Program Length: 3-6 years

This 1-year PhD program online is another degree program focused on education, as you can choose from two concentrations including Leadership in Higher Education, and Leadership in Educational Administration. You can determine your own program length, but to complete the program you must complete at least 92 credits spread out over a variety of core and required courses, as well as electives and virtual residencies. This 1-year PhD program online is not fully online, as you must complete a few comprehensive exams on campus. You must meet the minimum GPA requirement to be considered (3.0), but you do not need to submit either GRE scores or GMAT scores.

Want to know some hard truths of grad school? Watch this video:

7. Online PhD in Public Health at the University of South Florida

Degree Required: MPH, MHA, MSPH, or other relevant Master’s degree

Tuition: $60,000-$80,000

Program Length: 4-5 years

This 1-year PhD program online is another hybrid course, as part of how to get a PhD you must complete at least three, one-week PhD seminars on campus at the University of South Florida. You can do the rest of the program online and complete the 46 credit requirements in up to five years, although you can complete your program in only three years. You must also take a series of core and required courses in subjects as varied as Introduction to Doctoral Training in Public Health and Transforming Public Health Practice. As part of how to get into grad school, you must have at least five years of experience in the public health field along with submitting a graduate school resume, and at least three grad school letters of recommendation.

8. Online Doctor of Social Work at the University of Southern California

Degree Required: Master’s in Social Work or a related field

Tuition: $60,000-$80,000

Program Length: 3-5 years

This 1-year PhD program online is aimed at professionals who have at least five years of experience in the social work, after they have received their master’s in social work. As the program is geared toward professionals, you can choose from two different tracks to complete the program’s 42 credit requirements. You can choose the standard track, which takes three years to complete, or the accelerated track that takes only two years. You can earn your PhD without dissertation in this program, as, in lieu of a thesis or dissertation, you can complete a capstone project aimed at demonstrating your knowledge and capacity in innovative social work practices or leadership.

9. Online PhD in Criminal Justice at Nova Southeastern University

Degree Required: Master’s degree in related field

Tuition: $45,000-$60,000

Program Length: 3-4 years

You can take several admission pathways to get into this fully online 1-year PhD program online in Criminal Justice. If you don’t have a master’s degree, you can apply with a high GRE score (above 300), or, you can also apply with a JD degree, but not any other law degree types. You must complete 60 credits to earn your PhD, which you can do by taking three courses over each available semester; this format lets you complete the program in two and a half years. You can choose from among three specific concentrations (Organizational Leadership, Behavioral Science, Juvenile Justice) to complete your dissertation, as there is a 12-credit dissertation courses involved in the program’s curriculum.

1-Year PhD Programs Online in Canada

1. Online PhD in Business Administration at Athabasca University

Degree Required: MBA or other master’s degree

Tuition: $50,000-$70,000

Program Length: 3-7 years

This 1-year PhD program online at the fully online Athabasca University can be completed in only three years, but you have a seven-year time limit to complete the program’s 21 credit requirements. You must submit a PhD motivation letter, as well as research interest statement and since this program is aimed at working professionals, you must also have at least five years of professional or managerial experience. Although the program is online, you must attend a one-week research seminar on campus three times a year, where you will formulate dissertation topic, but only after you’ve completed the core courses of the program.

2. Online Doctor of Education at the University of Calgary

Degree Required: Master’s degree in a related field

Tuition: $60,000-$80,000

Program Length: 3-6 years

This 1-year PhD program online at the University of Calgary is a hybrid course, as you must complete two summer residencies on-campus; the fall and winter terms are completed online. This program requires you have a minimum 3.5 GPA for all your graduate courses, as well as have at least some professional experiences in the field of education (no specific number of years). The course is made up of four central components, which are course work, candidacy, research, and completion of a dissertation. You can start and then defend your dissertation at the end of the program, after you’ve completed four specialization courses and four required courses.

3. Online PhD in Languages, Cultures and Literacies at Simon Fraser University (French-only)

Degree Required: Master’s degree

Tuition: $50,000-$70,000

Program Length: 3-6 years

This 1-year PhD program online is one of the few online PhD programs available at Simon Fraser University and it is only the PhD program taught completely in the French language. You must have a 3.5 GPA to qualify for admission and submit several application materials, including a resume, a statement of intent and at least three letters of reference. The program’s aim and focus are broad, but it is an ideal program for education professionals. The classes are split between online and one-week summer seminars that you must attend at the school’s Burnaby campus.

4. Online PhD in Aging and Health at Queen’s University

Degree Required: Master’s in a related field

Tuition: $60,000-$80,000

Program Length: 3-4 years

This hybrid program at Queen’s University requires you to attend two, on-campus sessions every year, which last between three to four days and supposed to teach you how to find a PhD topic. This 1-year PhD program online also takes about four years to complete its six credit requirements spread out over two core courses and three elective courses. You must have a master’s in a relevant field and have a GPA at or above 3.5 to be considered. As part of your application, you must submit a professional resume, and three letters of reference. You must submit your research proposal in the second year, and know how to prepare for a thesis defense, since you must defend your thesis in your final year.

5. Online PhD in Criminology and Social Justice at Ontario Tech University

Degree Required: Master’s of Arts or a related field

Tuition: $60,000-$80,000

Program Length: 3-4 years

Ontario Tech University offers several 1-year PhD programs online in both hybrid and fully-online formats, but this online PhD in Criminology and Social Justice is a hybrid course and you must attend several seminars on-campus in Oshawa. You must have completed a master’s degree in any relevant subject and have maintained a 3.7 GPA to be considered. You can complete the course’s 55-credit requirements in only three years if you decide to study full-time, and you’ll have to take comprehensive examinations at the end of your first year to advance to the final year, where you will present and defend a thesis.

Pros and Cons of 1-Year PhD Programs Online

Pros of 1-Year PhD Programs Online

1. Flexibility for Working Professionals and Mature Students

Doing any PhD program requires a serious investment of time and money but pursuing a 1-year PhD program online offers you a flexible schedule, so you can more easily balance work, family and other responsibilities with your studies. Many of these 1-year PhD programs online were designed specifically for this demographic, and offer both full-time or part-time schedules, while they also let you submit references from employers rather than academic sources. Some of the online MBA programs on this list require that you have work experience, so they are conscious of the fact that you will have other responsibilities to attend to.

2. Advanced-Technology Learning Environments

One interesting aspect of 1-year PhD programs online is that you can use and train on advanced technologies that you wouldn’t normally use in an in-person setting. Of course, you do have access to these types of programs and software as an in-person student, but the nature of online, distance courses mean you rely more heavily on interactive simulations, virtual laboratories, and dynamic multimedia content. You can even benefit from the online platforms and document management software that many universities use, to help you submit your assignments and upload your essays, by enhancing and refining your technical skills.

3. Cost Savings and Accessibility

A large part of what makes any undergraduate, graduate and professional programs expensive is the associated cost-of-living expenses that can balloon over time. Fortunately, 1-year PhD programs online eliminate those costs through their distance and virtual formats so you do not have to spend money on living accommodations, transportation, food and other costs.

For the online PhD Psychology program at Walden University, you only have to pay your tuition costs, which at $665-per credit for a 60-credit program comes out to around $39,900 per year. If we compare this figure to a similar PhD program at, let’s say Harvard University - $51,904 per year, over five or six years: $259,520 to $311,424 - which is an extreme example, we can see that there are significant savings in pursuing a 1-year PhD program online rather than in-person.

Additionally, some universities offer reduced tuition rates for online students, and you can still apply for different types of scholarships and financial aid if you apply to an online program. This accessibility makes getting a PhD easier for people from low-income backgrounds and marginalized groups who might otherwise face financial and geographical constraints.

Cons of 1-Year PhD Programs Online

1. Limited Networking Opportunities

One drawback of online PhD programs is the fact that you don’t have a lot of face-to-face interactions with your fellow students, faculty or other professionals. Traditional, in-person graduate programs often offer more networking opportunities through seminars, conferences, and on-campus events. While many of these 1-year PhD programs online offer virtual platforms to make it easier to connect with other students, they do not always replicate the depth or warmth of in-person relationships. Being in a virtual format also removes the ability of speaking directly with professors and faculty who can help guide your academic or career goals, which are usually highlights of attending in-person classes.

2. You Must Develop Self-Discipline and Time Management

These kinds of skills are necessary for in-person programs as well, but as you have more freedom in a 1-year PhD program online, you must be more vigilant and disciplined as it will be easier for you to procrastinate and put off either listening to a virtual lecture or doing your homework. As you’ll be responsible for organizing your time, you must also have a high degree of time management skills. Without the structure of regular on-campus classes, you must be self-motivated and proactive in managing your coursework and deadlines. You also have to set a study schedule and stick to it, even though it may be hard to do so if you are working full-time or have a family.

How to Get into 1-Year PhD Programs Online

1. Have a High GPA and Excel Academically

Many of these 1-year PhD programs online do not ask for any standardized test scores, so the only way they can properly assess your fitness for an advanced, doctorate-degree program is by reviewing your transcripts. Not only is having a high GPA a requirement to get into the program, it can also help you get scholarships for these programs. If you’ve decided to get an advanced degree you might already be an excellent student, so you may not have to find out how to get into a grad school with a low GPA. But if you're coming from a professional background and haven’t been in school for a long time, many of these programs will consider your professional experience (if in a related field) as a sign of your academic prowess and potential, which you can convey in your resume, CV for grad school and your letters of recommendation. 

2. Write Excellent Statements and Proposals

Getting into a graduate program relies not only on your academic performance but displaying your knowledge, writing skills, and creativity through your research proposals, letters of intent, statement of purpose or personal statement. Different programs will ask for different letters, but they all ask for a combination of these documents, which you must take your time in crafting and writing. A research proposal should follow the strict format guidelines of most conventional research proposals in that you must set forth an objective, a research method, and thesis, among other elements. But your personal statement or statement of purpose can be more about your motivations to pursue your field of study, and why you want to do it at the school you’re applying to. Of course, some 1-year PhD programs online have content requirements that you must write about in your statements so you should always follow what they set out as what you should write.

3. Get Great Letters of Recommendation

Your letters of recommendation play a pivotal role in opening doors to these programs, as there are very few ways for how to get into grad school without letters of recommendation. You require specific skills to successfully complete a 1-year PhD program online and there is no better way for schools to know you have these skills outside of recommendation letters, as they do not require standardized test scores. If you’re applying for a doctorate in business administration, a sterling letter of recommendation from any employer can emphasize your professional aptitudes, initiative, and problem-solving skills. If you’re going into a research-heavy program, such as a humanities or social sciences program, an exceptional letter from a professor should focus on your research acumen and your creative contributions to your class or degree program. You should tailor your letters to your specific field and program, but at the same time, remember to get letters only from the sources your program stipulates.


1. What are 1-year PhD programs online?

1-year PhD programs online do not exist, but there are several online PhD programs that take longer than one year; an online PhD program takes a minimum of three years to complete, but more, depending on the program and subject. 

2. What are the main benefits of a 1-year PhD program online?

The benefits of a 1-year PhD program online are their affordability, the flexible schedule, the quality of the program, and the skills you’ll learn taking classes virtually. 

3. What are the disadvantages of a 1-year PhD program online?

The disadvantages include not having direct access to your fellow students and professors, not being able to access the social, academic, professional and recreational facilities of a university. You also have to act more responsibly and manage your time better than you would as an in-person student. 

4. How does a 1-year PhD programs online differ from traditional PhD programs?

The main differences between a 1-year PhD program online and traditional PhD programs are the costs associated with a 1-year PhD program, which are much less than in-person programs that come with attendant costs. 

5. What career opportunities are available for graduates of 1-year PhD program?

Fortunately, you have the same opportunities as a 1-year PhD program online student as in-person students. You can apply for the same positions including as a professor or faculty member, a managerial or executive position, or go on to do more research at another academic institution. 

6. Do employers accept a 1-year PhD program online as they would with an in-person PhD?

Whether employers will look or “accept” your 1-year PhD depends on the position you’re applying for and what their requirements are. Many of these schools are reputable, accredited institutions so there is no reason why their degrees will not be accepted in the job market. 

7. Can I work and take a 1-year PhD program online at the same time?

Yes, many of these 1-year PhD program online have flexible schedules as well as asynchronous elements so you can review materials, watch lectures, study and write your essays on your own time. 

8. Should I take a 1-year PhD program online?

Taking a 1-year PhD program online depends on what your goals are. If you want to advance in your current position or take up teaching or even get a better salary, a PhD program online can help you do that, but you must be clear in your intentions and whether a 1-year PhD program online can help you. 

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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