Final doctoral projects can be intimidating or time-consuming, which is why many students look for a PhD without dissertation. What they soon discover while learning is that the Doctor of Philosophy degree itself is heavily tied to research capabilities and publishing scholarship. As a result, it is very difficult to find PhD programs specifically that have no dissertation requirement. However, other doctoral degrees in various fields do exist and can be granted from programs without a traditional dissertation or thesis defense process.
This article lists the kinds of doctorate-level programs that do not have traditional dissertation requirements necessary for completion. We also cover what are the reasons a doctorate program without dissertation may or may not be beneficial for students, and how can be used to make the decision.
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Note: This is not an exhaustive list. These examples are simply meant to highlight the various types of doctorate programs that are available and how they address the lack of a traditional dissertation to complete their program.
This virtual option from Nebraska Methodist College does not require any formal dissertation nor the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Instead, students in this full-time 24-month (or 36-month, part-time) program must complete a Doctoral Capstone Project. The final submission is a translational research project that explores a question within a field relevant to the program that is meant to align with your career goals.
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This on-campus program in Fort Lauderdale, Florida offers two Capstone options for completing your education. One is an applied dissertation and the other is a Strategic Research Project (SRP). Both options are meant to prepare graduates for educational leadership. Career paths after this degree include school superintendent, professor of education, and education consulting, among others.
In this 100% online program, students can choose from various specialized paths to further their education of management in the corporate world. Through mentorship from respected business professionals, you will learn the skills to advance your career. No dissertation is required for completion of this DBA program.
At one of the top , this transitional DPT program with web-based instruction is for licensed physical therapists who wish to continue practicing while pursuing this degree. It is only offered on a part-time schedule over 2 years and requires the completion of 27 credits of approved coursework. There is no final or dissertation project.
Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey offers a rigorous DNP curriculum that provides guidance from program advisors to help every step of the way. This program consists of six semesters of doctoral-level and clinical coursework that is delivered completely online. There are no dissertation requirements, but DNP Project and Leadership Immersion courses close out the degree.
This program from USC prepares experienced professionals to develop practical solutions for issues affecting the most disadvantaged in society. There is a capstone project to complete, which can be a business plan, large contract proposal, prototype, or organizational redesign plan. This project is meant to be ready for public communication and implementation and is required for completion of the doctorate degree instead of a proper dissertation.
Discover increased teaching experience, advanced clinical education spaces, a supportive academic environment, and an internationally renowned faculty at the Temple OTD program. This program has a tight-knit community and is designed to be completed in three years of full-time study. Rather than a dissertation, students are required to complete a 14-week capstone field experience based within the principles of occupational therapy and public health.
This EdD program develops the next generation of leaders in competitive academic and professional sports by using global study abroad components. It is supported by sports executives and an energetic academic faculty to support working sports practitioners and take them to the next level. Completion of this program requires a Doctoral Capstone Project and not a traditional dissertation.
A DHA from Capella University focuses on ethics, problem-solving, and collaboration in the transformation of health care systems and improvement of patient care. For this online program, there is no traditional dissertation process, but matriculated students must complete 2 virtual residencies and a Capstone research project that displays the knowledge you have acquired throughout degree coursework.
This program can be taken in two different tracks, one being the Advanced Public Leadership in Public Health and the other is Public Health and Clinical Laboratory Science and Practice. Both do not have any dissertation requirements, but a field-based doctoral project is necessary to complete the program. These submissions must include at least 3 evidence-based deliverables.
As you see from the list above, it is very uncommon for a PhD program to not have a dissertation or thesis at the end of it. Programs labelled with the Doctor of Philosophy moniker tend to be based in research, which lend themselves to the student completing a final cumulative research project such as a dissertation. When you answer, , your answer will typically involve specific research interests you wish to pursue. If you want to pursue a PhD but do not want to complete a dissertation, you may want to explore other viable education options. PhDs and research are inherently linked, so it is difficult to find PhD programs specifically that do not require any form of dissertation.
Instead, what you will likely find is that there are various other degrees, such as a Doctor of Education, that do not require a formal dissertation. In these cases, a traditional thesis is replaced by another form of cumulative project or work experience. In some cases, there could be no final project at all. These are still not common but are more likely to appear in your search results. Deciding what path you would like to pursue will come once you figure out your plans for . The eventual career you are aiming for may impact your ultimate decision to enroll in a doctorate program without a dissertation to complete. Here are some of the pros and cons of these rare kinds of programs:
- No Thesis Responsibility. One of the main pros of a doctorate degree without dissertation is that you will not have to learn . While some other capstone project or culminating experience may be required, you may not necessarily need to defend your research in front of professors or other faculty. Preparing for a thesis defense can be one of the most nerve-wracking parts of your PhD. After having done all the research over the last year or so and written a document that could be hundreds of pages long, justifying your work puts a lot of pressure on your shoulders. Having no dissertation at all will waive this requirement and prevent you from having to review any .
- No Limitations. Doctoral programs without a dissertation can also be more flexible in nature. They could be delivered online, for instance, so you do not need to be living in the same city as your university to successfully complete your degree. That is a huge advantage for those who are employed or cannot afford the travel expenses. It allows higher education degrees to become more accessible overall. Depending on the requirements of the program and the department offering it, these types of programs can become some of the due to their open access.
- No Wasted Time. These types of degrees may also take less time to complete since there is no long dissertation to complete beforehand. You will need to spend less time finding , working on the project with your supervisor, and can focus on coursework or other commitments instead. It is no secret that graduate students have a lot on their plate. Working on a dissertation can make a PhD a very singular and lonely experience, so having the option to opt out of it may be very beneficial for the education and well-being of many students.
- No Unnecessary Research. If you are planning to figure out , a doctorate degree without dissertation may be worth it for you. The research required for lends itself to academic jobs, meaning that jobs in industry are less likely to see as much value in a complex research project. When a career in industry is of interest to you, you may to consider alternative doctoral programs that better suit your interests. Whatever field you are interested in, getting professional experience at the end of a PhD may be more beneficial to you than a dissertation will.
- Career Preparation. Those that wish to learn know that it can be competitive and difficult, even if you have a doctorate degree. It is never guaranteed that you will find a stable position at a college or university after graduation. Getting a role with tenure or finding the right amount of teaching experience is not the simplest of tasks, which can lead to a lot of uncertainty and doubt in PhD students. Resolving those worries starts with getting as much research possible. Being aware of is key, but your dissertation is also a great way to indicate that you have what it takes to succeed in a career in academia from a research perspective. If you need to find a postdoc position or hope to continue working as a professor, completing a dissertation during your PhD will be a step in the right direction.
- Skill Recognition. A program without a dissertation may not be the best representation of your skills or abilities. They are often very specific or only benefit a particular subset of students/professionals already working in the field. In contrast, PhD programs with a dissertation can lend themselves more to what you are good at if you are a talented writer and researcher or do not meet the criteria for a more specified program. If this is the case, traditional research programs might be more appealing to you. An internship or another type of project may not be the most ideal reflection of how you can contribute to a future career. Therefore, a doctorate degree without a dissertation may be too much of a jump away from your goals.
- Negative Reputation. Due to a doctorate degree with no dissertation being a more modern concept, it may also be seen as of lower value than a traditional research PhDs in a variety of industries as well as academic settings. As these programs are more likely to be fully online, this may give them a bad rap as well. Changes to the traditional format of academic study may require additional explanation to employers and could result in lower job prospects. As always, this will certainly depend on what field you are entering, but not completing a dissertation can potentially sour your CV in the eyes of those who are hiring.
- Restrictive Matriculation. As much as graduate programs without a dissertation may be flexible, they are also restrictive in other ways. While online programs can be extremely convenient for some students, others simply do not learn the best in that environment. Virtual delivery of courses can be one of the , but can also alienate other types of students and deter them from applying. The majority of these doctorate programs are completely online or require you to already be a working professional, which might not be the case for some of those.
The higher education landscape is ever-changing. What is necessary to access the highest level of learning possible constantly shifts as the years go by. With online programs, you have more options than ever before when considering the ways to achieve a valuable education that will lead to a fulfilling career. When evaluating , really get down to the reason why you are completing a graduate degree. Search different universities and programs to see what is out there for you. An informed decision is always the smartest one, so it is important to become very familiar with the choices available early on.
Speaking with can also be helpful for your applications or for determining what is the right program that will serve you best based on your individual goals. Depending on your discipline and interests, a dissertation (or a graduate program, in general) may not always be necessary to achieve your dream. Ideally, you will want your eventual program to match with your and get you the best shot at securing your future plans. It is up to you with regards to how you get there.
1. Why are dissertations such a common final requirement for PhD programs?
PhD programs in particular are meant to prove your suitability for the field you are pursuing. With the degree, you are expected to be a working academic with the expectation of contributing to current scholarship in some way. This means that you have to be able to present forward-thinking research and fill gaps in contemporary publications. The dissertation or thesis is a culmination of your graduate school research displayed in one final project that you must defend.
2. What are some advantages of a doctorate degree without dissertation?
While you may have another form of final project, not having to write a long dissertation or prepare for a thesis defense will be a plus for a lot of applicants. They can also be fully delivered online and be more accessible to students living in another place. These types of programs seem to suit more industry jobs rather than other careers in academia, which may be appealing to applicants who wish to transition to industry.
3. What are some disadvantages of a doctorate degree without dissertation?
The programs that do not require a dissertation may be seen as less valuable than ones that do, depending on the discipline. The online format most of the programs entail may be a benefit for others, but a detriment to others. A doctorate degree can also be not as useful for students who wish to continue working in academic settings, where research experience is crucial.
4. What are the common doctoral degrees that do not require a dissertation?
Some of the most common doctoral degrees you will find that do not require a PhD are Doctor of Education (EdD), Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), and other doctorates related to public health domains.
5. What do doctoral programs assign instead of a dissertation?
Many programs will still have a final submission or capstone project as part of their curriculum that does not need the same amount of research effort as a formal dissertation. They may also need to complete for some of field experience that illustrates their capabilities for working within the discipline chosen. For instance,
6. Should I complete one of these programs before applying to medical school?
Most of the time, you do not . If you meet the other academic requirements such as high MCAT and GPA scores, a graduate degree will not necessarily boost your chances. If you were to complete a master’s or doctorate-level degree, you will likely need to have research experience regardless, so choosing a program with a thesis or dissertation will probably be more beneficial to you in the long run.
7. What is the difference between academic and industry jobs?
Academic positions are more focused on teaching and research in a higher education setting. They could be listed as on the tenure-track, which leads to permanent employment, or the non-tenure-track, which does not guarantee permanent employment. Industry jobs tend to work outside of universities and are based within enterprises and other for-profit companies. Many PhDs and other doctoral-level graduates can work in either the academic or industry setting, depending on their interests or job prospects in the field.
8. Who can help me with applying to PhD or other doctorate programs?
Seeking professional help from a can improve all aspects of your application. They are typically trained experts who are very knowledgeable about competitive academic programs at the graduate level. They can assist with writing or editing , conduct interview simulations, situational judgment test preparation, and more. If you are struggling with deciding between a dissertation and non-dissertation doctoral programs, consultants can point you in the right direction that aligns with your goals.