Should you pursue a masters or a PhD, it will still take several years to complete your degree, even if you are accepted to one of the easiest PhD programs to get into. You could be spending up to seven or eight years of your life pursuing a PhD, only to end up scratching your head thinking about how to transition from academia to industry or how to get a job after grad school. However, if you’re convinced you have the passion, patience, time, and resources to pursue a PhD and see it as a way to advance your career or professional ambitions, then you should read this article to find out more about how to find a postdoc, the easiest PhD programs to get into and how to apply.
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Easiest PhD Programs to Get Into
1. Adams State University – Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Counselor Education and Supervision (CE&S)
This is an online program offered by Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado. Students must complete 6 credit hours per semester, for up to 3 to 4 years. The entirety of the course is done online, but students are also required to participate in a one-week summer residency every year of their program at the Adams State University campus. This program is easy to get into because you do not need to submit GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores to be considered.
You do need to submit a letter of intent, so you would be better off reading about how to write an effective statement of intent before submitting your application. The length of the letter should be between 3–4 pages and address a series of questions like:
- “Why are you pursuing a doctoral degree in Counselor Education and Supervision at Adams State University?”
- “What personal and professional dispositions are essential for future counselor educators and supervisors?”
- “Describe your professional plans with a PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision, post-graduation.”
Want to learn top strategies you can use when writing your grad school statement of purpose? Watch this video:
You will also be asked to submit reference letters and a CV; all graduate students should know how to write a CV for grad school, as it is a common requirement for entry into graduate programs. Applicants with a master’s degree in counseling who also hold state certification to work as a counselor in their home state are given preference.
- A master’s degree from an accredited university or college
- Cumulative GPA of 3.0 (must be maintained throughout the four years)
- Minimum two years of professional experience as a counselor post-grad
2. The University of Texas at El Paso – PhD in English Rhetoric and Composition
UTEP offers several doctorate programs in areas such as biosciences, civil engineering, and business administration, but those programs have several high-level admissions requirements like submitting GRE scores and mastery of complicated subjects like statistics and mathematics. However, the PhD in English Rhetoric and Composition only requires either:
- A bachelor’s degree in English or
- A master’s degree in English
Students who apply with only a bachelor’s degree must first complete the Master of English Rhetoric and Composition at UTEP. They need to complete the six-credit course requirement and present a master’s thesis. After completing their master’s, they continue to complete the PhD program requirements.
Successful students are given up to eight years to complete the degree, but they may receive their PhD sooner as long as they satisfy the 45–51 credit hours required to obtain the degree. What makes this degree attractive is not only the academic requirements, but the many career opportunities afforded graduates who can apply their degree to fields as diverse as education, business, and government.
- Official transcripts of all previous work
- Three letters of recommendation either from previous instructors or professional references
- A description of their educational goals
- A description of their approach to writing and teaching
- Two writing samples: a research paper and a personal writing sample
3. Prescott College – PhD in Sustainability Education
Prescott College is a private university in Prescott, Arizona, that has a near 99% acceptance rate for all programs, including the newly created PhD program in Sustainability Education. This near perfect acceptance rate stands in contrast to much lower medical school acceptance rates, which are often in the single digits. This PhD program is interdisciplinary and blends disciplines like pedagogy, environmental science, and social justice studies.
The other aspects of the program that make it attractive are the fact that there are few admissions requirements. Students do not have to submit any GRE or GMAT scores. Neither do they have to pay any application fees. Successful applicants can choose to take classes part-time, if they have other responsibilities, but the entire class format is online, which is another accommodation to mature or professional students.
Similar graduate sustainability education programs in the US and Canada last for up to 4 years, but Prescott College does not mention how long their program lasts. The small class size and experienced faculty also make this PhD program an option for someone who wants to pursue research in environmental sustainability, with career options ranging from becoming faculty or working as a sustainability officer for businesses and government.
Contact the program director directly to find out more about admission requirements and other information.
4. University of Michigan/Rackham Graduate School – PhD in Anthropology
The Rackham Graduate School at the University of Michigan offers a 7-year PhD in Anthropology that has relaxed admission requirements, like not requiring students to take or submit GRE scores or any other standardized graduate school exams. But the program has other requirements, such as the documentation listed below.
Prospective students do not need a master’s degree to apply, but they must have at least a bachelor’s degree. However, students can complete a master’s while on the PhD track. The PhD program has an acceptance rate of 4.6%, so it is one of the easier PhD programs to get into, given that prospective students do not have to take any standardized tests or have a graduate degree.
- Application form
- Application fee
- Admissions Conduct Code
- Statement of purpose (1000–1500 words)
- Personal statement (500 words maximum)
- Letters of recommendation (3)
- Official transcripts
- Writing sample (optional, 30-page maximum)
5. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville – PhD in Sociology
UTK offers several PhD level programs, but the PhD in sociology is one of the easiest PhD programs to get into since applicants do not need to take the GRE. All successful students must choose from one of the four core concepts to complete the sociology degree, which are:
- Critical Race and Ethnic Studies
- Environmental Sociology
- Political Economy and Globalization
Students explore each aspect of their chosen subject, which all have their unique credit and non-credit requirements to complete the degree. Along with this first area of study, students must choose a second area of study revolving around social theory or statistics. All students must complete a minimum of 27 credits or 9 courses within each core concept and take another 12 elective credits or 4 courses in one of the other four concentrations, a foreign language course, a graduate certificate in statistics, or a science minor.
If accepted, students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 throughout the duration of the program and meet academic benchmarks established by them and the sociology department. The school does not state the length of the program, but all students must pass exams in one of the four main concepts, write a dissertation, and present and defend it orally to complete the degree requirements.
- Master’s or JD degree in sociology or a related field
- Overall undergraduate and graduate GPA of 3.00 or higher
- Three letters of recommendation
- Writing sample
- Personal statement
6. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee – PhD in Urban Education: Adult, Continuing, and Higher Education Leadership (ACHEL)
This PhD program gives students seven years to complete all the degree requirements but does not require that they take the GRE or submit GRE scores no older than five years for admission. Some of the admissions requirements are document-based, meaning students must submit several types of writing to qualify.
All applicants must have at least a 2.75 undergraduate GPA, which is much lower than the typical 3.0 that most PhD programs require, to be considered. They must also have an undergraduate or master’s degree. The written requirements include submitting one of the following, with a maximum word count of 1500 words:
- Master’s thesis
- Undergraduate senior thesis
- Technical report
- Term paper
- Written description of a project
- Action research project
- Writing sample answering the question, “How would you conceptualize and analyze issues in urban education?”
Students must also submit a Reasons Statement, in which you are encouraged to talk about the entirety of your background, such as why you are pursuing a PhD, your interests and background in the field, skills and training, and academic honors or awards.
Aside from the above written samples, prospective students must also submit a graduate CV and three letters of recommendation. There are no specific requirements for who must write the letters, but the letter writers are encouraged to write about the candidate’s past experiences and how they connect to the school’s PhD program.
- Undergraduate or master’s degree
- Cumulative GPA of 2.75
- 1500-word writing sample
- Reasons Statement
- 3 letters of recommendation
Should I Get a PhD?
There are as many persuasive reasons to pursue a PhD as there are not to pursue one. If you want to know how to find a PhD topic or program, this article has outlined a few examples of some of the “easiest” PhD programs to get into. But completing a PhD is another matter. There are no “easy” PhD programs to complete since they all take years of hard work and dedication. Ultimately, the easiest program for you will be one you are completely immersed in and thoroughly enjoy; focusing on why the program is a great fit is a winning strategy when preparing your application materials.
One reality you have to confront is that the attrition rate for most PhDs is somewhere between 36–51% across a variety of fields and disciplines ranging from the arts and humanities to engineering and life sciences. The other thing you should know – and something all PhD admission consultants should tell you – is that pursuing a PhD is an all-encompassing commitment that will take over your life. As discussed above, program lengths are measured in years (minimum of five) and there are few guarantees that, if you do finish, you will be able to reap the rewards, at least in the short term.
Another growing demographic comprises people who complete all the requirements to obtain a PhD (coursework, credits) but fail on the most crucial element: writing and defending a dissertation. These students are known as “all but dissertation” and are forced to explain to prospective employers why they failed.
As if actually completing the degree wasn’t hard enough. the labor market is not always welcoming to PhDs either. High-level positions in government and academia often filled by PhDs are not plentiful, and other industries will require skill sets that PhD graduates typically do not have, such as managerial or organizational knowhow.
Whether you benefit from obtaining a PhD in the end depends on many factors, like your field and whether you’re an expert in an in-demand profession (computer science, bioengineering, engineering). While many graduate students enter doctorate programs to secure financial stability, other students are interested purely in acquiring knowledge and researching a topic or subject that they are passionate about. For these students, getting a PhD and all the attendant aspects (learning, investigating, writing) have an inherent value, so the less-than-stellar employment prospects or salary gains are not a priority. That’s not to suggest they are not mindful of the real-world costs of a getting a doctorate; rather, they are willing to put in the effort to fund their studies by applying for grants, working as part-time faculty or securing public or private loans, and accepting the bare-bones lifestyle of many graduate students.
Reasons to Get a PhD
More Employment Opportunities
PhDs do make more money than other degree types, like masters, but not by a lot. Some studies say PhDs earn up to $13,000 more than lower degree-holders, but it is more complicated than that. Those earnings only start to show after decades. Master’s graduates have a head-start on PhDs and enter the workforce much earlier than PhD students, so they start saving and earning more.
PhDs may have more employment opportunities open to them, in either academia or the private sector, but starting salaries for PhDs top out at $50,000. Moreover, by the time PhD graduates start looking for jobs, master’s graduates have already ascended to senior or executive positions earning six figures and more. Positions that offer starting six-figure salaries also do not often require candidates to have PhDs, giving master’s graduates yet another advantage.
Life-Long Research and Learning Opportunities
Money isn’t everything. Many PhD students are not motivated by financial gain or opportunity but are simply passionate about exploring and investigating a particular field for a lifetime. Funding this research is always a concern, but one component of becoming a PhD is learning how to write grant applications or fundraise in other ways that are essential to keeping research projects going.
Learning Valuable Skills
Skills like grant writing, fundraising, and networking are good to have if you want to know how to find a job in academia, and there are private sector companies that value them as well, but PhDs should also try to incorporate other skill sets into their toolkit. If they are interested, they can pursue dual-degree programs that pair a PhD with another degree type like an MBA or a medical degree, such as an MD-PhD program. They can also seek out professional development courses that prepare them for entering the workforce once they complete their degree, if they decide to go into the private sector.
Becoming an Expert
Some of the allure of a PhD is the authority it gives in a specific topic or subject, which means you are someone who is regularly sought out by various sectors and industries for expert advice. Being the foremost expert in a particular field can unlock many opportunities, but your specialty determines how much you can earn or what those opportunities are.
You can find that your expertise suddenly falls out of favor, like all the hundreds of Soviet physicists who had nothing to do once the USSR defunded the space program. But the opposite can also happen. Think of all the previously anonymous MDs and PhDs who became household names during the COVID-19 pandemic because they were experts in virology, immunology, or epidemiology.
The easiest PhD programs to get into are not the easiest ones to complete. Ultimately, if you are thinking about entering a PhD program, you need to weigh the benefits (potentially higher earnings, more employment opportunities, expert-level education) of pursuing the degree and the disadvantages (significant investment of time and money, uncertain job market, lost earnings). Go into the project with eyes open and a topic you want to study for many years, and your PhD experience will be much easier.
1. Should I get a PhD?
There is no easy answer. If you are someone who wants to pursue a particular line of investigation that requires years of observation and experimentation, then getting a PhD may seem like a natural path. But if you are more concerned about raising your earning potential or seeking more senior positions, in general, a master’s degree checks all those boxes without having to invest so much time and money.
2. What are the easiest PhD programs to get into?
Any PhD program that does not require applicants to submit standardized test scores (GRE or GMAT) or have a master’s degree is generally easier to get into than other programs, but these programs have their own requirements, which could involve anything from writing personal statements and letters of intent to one-on-one interviews.
3. What do you usually need to get into a PhD program?
All PhD programs are different, and they can variously require applicants to have a master’s degree, GRE or GMT scores above 300, and demonstrated aptitude in various fields, especially if you are pursuing a PhD in the sciences or engineering. There are also written requirements like submitting letter of intent, research resume, and a record of other notable academic or non-academic achievements.
4. Will I earn more money if I get a PhD?
The answer is yes and no. Over many years, your education and training will pay off as you slowly start to pull away from other degree types in terms of salary. But it will take many years. During this time, other degree holders can attain higher positions and salaries that are comparable to yours, thereby negating any future gains.
5. How many years does it take to complete a PhD?
The duration of every PhD program is different, but the minimum length of most PhD programs is six years. Some schools have degree time limits – six or seven years, in some cases – meaning you must complete the program and present your dissertation by the time limit or be ejected. Master’s degrees, in comparison, usually take only about two years to complete.
6. Do you need a masters or PhD to apply to medical school?
If you are wondering whether you need a master’s or PhD to apply to medical schools, the answer is no. However, if you are applying as a non-traditional medical school applicant who has a master’s or doctorate in another field, it can help improve your medical school application.
7. What kind of jobs can a PhD get?
The assumption is that PhD graduates generally do very well in the labor market. They do have low unemployment rates when compared to other degree holders. But one obstacle PhD graduates run into is having “surplus schooling”; in other words, they are over-qualified for a majority of positions. Only 2% of positions in the labor market require a PhD, which is one thing to remember if you are thinking about pursuing a doctorate.
8. How much does it cost to take a PhD?
The cost of a five-year degree ranges between $150,000 and $200,000, but there are some PhD programs that provide full funding as well as a stipend. PhD students also work as teaching assistants for up to two years and can apply for grants or secure other funding sources like federal aid loans.
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