18-Month Doctorate Without Dissertation: Fast Track Doctoral Programs

Fast track doctoral programs are revolutionising higher education, allowing you to finish a doctorate programs as fast as 18 months. 

These accelerated programs cater to busy professionals seeking to advance their careers without the lengthy commitment of conventional doctoral studies.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits, structure, and key considerations of these innovative degree programs.

The aim? helping you to determine if an 18-month doctorate without a dissertation is the right path for your academic and professional aspirations.

Can You Get A Doctorate In 18 Months?

Earning a doctorate in 18 months is possible, but it’s not common. Many traditional doctoral programs require extensive dissertation research and writing.

However, some programs offer alternatives, allowing you to earn a doctorate degree without completing a traditional dissertation.

For example, some online EdD programs no dissertation required focus on a capstone project instead of a dissertation. These programs, like those in higher education leadership, often emphasize practical application over research.

In most cases, a doctoral capstone project, may replace the traditional dissertation requirement. Programs like these are designed to be completed faster, to help with graduation timeline.

It’s important to note that these accelerated programs without dissertation may still be rigorous. They often require a significant amount of work and dedication. The dissertation or capstone process is intensive, even if it’s shorter than a traditional dissertation.

Programs that do not require a dissertation can be an attractive option, but ensure they meet your professional and academic goals.

Fast Track vs Traditional Doctorate Program

Compared to traditional doctorate program, fast-track doctorate programs can differ in several ways. Here’s a few major ones for you:

Duration and Pace

The most obvious difference is the time it takes to complete the program. Traditional doctoral programs typically span 4 to 7 years. They require extensive dissertation research and writing.

Fast track programs, including 18-month doctorate programs, are designed for quicker completion. These accelerated programs often use intensive schedules and condensed coursework.

Dissertation Requirements

In traditional programs, the dissertation is a cornerstone. You’re required to complete a dissertation, which involves original research and can take years to finish. The dissertation process includes:

  • selecting a topic,
  • conducting research,
  • writing, and
  • defending your work before a dissertation committee. 

Fast track programs, like some online EdD programs, often replace the dissertation with a capstone project.

This applied project focuses on practical solutions in professional settings and is less time-consuming than a traditional dissertation.

Flexibility and Delivery Mode

Traditional doctoral programs usually require in-person attendance, with rigid schedules and face-to-face interactions.

These programs often require you to enrol as a full-time student, making it challenging for working professionals.

Fast track programs are often available online, offering greater flexibility. Online doctoral programs allow you to balance your studies with personal and professional responsibilities.

Some universities with fast track doctorate programs usually offer online doctoral degrees that can be completed fully online, providing a flexible learning environment.

Cost and Financial Commitment

Traditional programs can be more expensive due to their longer duration and additional campus-based fees. The extended time also means more tuition payments over the years.

Fast track programs, by contrast, often have a higher cost per credit but result in lower overall expenses because you complete the degree faster. 

These fast track programs are also offered online, which helps with lowering the overall spending on fees. You also spend less on commuting to classes, and many more.

Focus and Curriculum

Traditional programs tend to have a strong emphasis on theoretical knowledge and original research. They prepare you for academic and research-based careers, requiring deep engagement in your field.

Fast track programs are more professionally oriented. They focus on practical skills and immediate application of knowledge.

There programs often cater to working professionals aiming for career advancement rather than academic research.

A professional doctorate in higher education leadership might prioritise leadership skills over theoretical research. 

Admissions and Prerequisites

Admission to traditional programs often requires a master’s degree, strong academic records, and sometimes a published research background.

These programs can be highly competitive. Fast track programs might have different prerequisites.

Some online doctoral programs, may admit students directly from undergraduate programs or those with significant professional experience. The emphasis is on your potential to apply knowledge rather than your research history.

Support and Resources

In traditional programs, you’re closely guided by faculty and have access to extensive on-campus resources. This includes:

  • libraries,
  • labs, and
  • in-person mentorship.

Fast track programs, particularly online ones, provide support in different ways. You might have virtual access to libraries and online resources.

Programs often offer digital platforms for collaboration and learning. The support is designed to suit a remote learning environment, with resources like virtual dissertation committees and online research tools.

How Reputable Are These 18 Month Doctorate Programs?

The reputation of fast track degree programs can vary widely. Quite many are highly respected, particularly those offered by established institutions. 

Generally, fast track programs often meet rigorous academic standards, even if they don’t require a traditional dissertation.

These programs may still involve significant dissertation work, but focus on applied projects rather than lengthy research papers.

Some online doctoral programs, such as those in higher education leadership, are designed for working professionals. They provide flexibility without sacrificing quality.

These programs typically offer a blend of online learning and cohort-based interactions, ensuring a supportive environment for doctoral students.

Critics argue that fast track programs might lack the depth of traditional doctoral programs, which often require a dissertation committee to oversee research.

However, the practical nature of fast track programs can be an advantage. They prepare you for real-world challenges, unlike other programs that might focus more on theoretical knowledge.

When considering a fast track program, it’s essential to research the institution and the specific degree program. Look for programs that offer:

  • robust support,
  • practical applications, and
  • accreditation.

Programs available from reputable universities often carry significant weight, even if they don’t require students to complete a dissertation.

Doctorate Programs That May Not Require A Dissertation

Here are some doctorate programs that usually do not require a dissertation. Instead, you earn your doctorate through:

  • capstone projects,
  • clinical work, or
  • practical research

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership

The Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership is perfect if you aim to lead in higher education or administration. Many online Ed.D. programs, offer a capstone project instead of a dissertation. 

You’ll work on real-world problems, making a direct impact on educational practices. This professional doctorate focuses on practical solutions rather than extensive research and writing.

You’ll engage in projects that improve:

  • educational systems,
  • policies, and
  • leadership practices.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

If healthcare is your passion, the online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) may be your ideal path.

Unlike traditional Ph.D. programs in nursing, a DNP focuses on clinical practice. You’ll complete a capstone project that applies research to practical healthcare challenges.

This program is designed for working professionals, often allowing you to finish in 18 months. With a DNP, you’re not required to complete a traditional dissertation, making it an appealing option for those in the healthcare field.

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)

For those in business, the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) offers a practical alternative to a Ph.D. in Business.

DBA programs, often require a doctoral project instead of a dissertation. This project typically involves solving real-world business problems, allowing you to apply what you’ve learned directly to your career.

DBA programs are tailored for professionals seeking leadership roles, providing a fast-track to executive positions without the lengthy dissertation process.

Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)

The Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) is another program where you won’t need to complete a dissertation. Instead, you’ll engage in applied research projects.

DPA projects focus on improving public policies and administration practices. This program is ideal for those looking to advance in government or nonprofit sectors.

You’ll work on practical issues, making a tangible difference in public service without the burden of a dissertation.

Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.)

A Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) offers a path for those interested in clinical practice over research. Psy.D. programs emphasize practical experience and often require a clinical project instead of a dissertation.

This project involves hands-on work in your field, such as case studies or treatment plans. Programs without a dissertation may appeal to those eager to start practicing psychology sooner.

You’ll gain the skills needed for clinical settings without the extensive research and writing of a Ph.D.

Doctor of Liberal Arts (DLA)

The Doctor of Liberal Arts (DLA) is a unique option that focuses on interdisciplinary studies. Unlike other programs, a DLA often requires a series of smaller projects instead of a dissertation.

This approach allows you to explore various topics and apply your knowledge in creative ways. It’s perfect for those who enjoy broad academic exploration without the traditional dissertation requirement.

This degree is versatile, opening doors to various career paths in education, arts, and beyond.

Transitional Doctoral Program in Physical Therapy (tDPT)

If you’re in physical therapy, consider the Transitional Doctoral Program in Physical Therapy (tDPT). This program is designed for practicing physical therapists who want to advance their careers.

Instead of a dissertation, you’ll complete clinical projects that enhance your skills and knowledge. This program typically involves:

  • case studies,
  • treatment plans, and
  • practical applications in physical therapy.

It’s a streamlined path to a doctoral degree, allowing you to continue working while you study.

Executive Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

The Executive Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) is tailored for high-level educational leaders. This program focuses on strategic leadership and management in educational settings.

Many executive Ed.D. programs use a cohort learning method with online education, emphasizing collaboration and practical projects.

Generally, you won’t be required to complete a traditional dissertation. Instead, you’ll work on capstone projects that address real challenges in education leadership.

This approach prepares you for top roles in education without the extensive dissertation work.

Doctor of Information Technology (DIT)

For those in the tech industry, the Doctor of Information Technology (DIT) offers an excellent alternative to a traditional Ph.D.

DIT programs focus on applying advanced IT practices to solve real-world problems. Instead of a dissertation, you’ll complete a doctoral project that demonstrates your ability to innovate and lead in the technology sector. 

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)

The Doctor of Ministry (DMin) is ideal for those in religious leadership roles. DMin programs emphasize practical ministry skills over academic research.

Instead of a traditional dissertation, you’ll complete a ministry project that addresses a specific need within your community or religious organisation. This hands-on approach allows you to directly apply your learning to your ministry work.

How To Choose A Fast-Track Doctoral Program?

Suppose you are looking out for a place to get started on a fast-track doctoral program. In this case, here are a couple of tips to help you make your decision:

Check The Academic Pedigree

When choosing a fast-track doctoral program, pay close attention to the academic pedigree of the institution.

A regionally accredited university with specific accreditations, like AACSB for business or CAHME for health management, ensures the quality of your doctoral program.

Go For Prestigious Universities

Consider the university’s with a strong profile. Schools with a long history of doctoral education attract top scholars and offer vast resources.

For instance, a Doctorate of Education (EdD) in Education Leadership from a prestigious university can significantly enhance your career prospects.

Customised Learning Models

Look for customisable learning models that fit your schedule. Many programs offer a blend of live video classes and asynchronous lectures.

This flexibility is crucial if you’re balancing work and study.

Quite many online doctorate programs often use a cohort learning method, allowing you to progress with a group of peers, fostering a supportive community. These programs may work better for you.

The Curriculum Matches Your Career Goals

The relevance of the curriculum to your career goals is vital. Programs that integrate theoretical knowledge with practical applications are the most beneficial.

Ensure the program includes a capstone project or an applied research component instead of a traditional dissertation if you prefer a more practical approach.

Check The Faculty Member’s Credentials

Examine the credentials and expertise of the faculty. Interacting with experienced scholars and industry leaders enriches your learning experience.

Look for programs where faculty members have extensive academic and professional backgrounds.

Funding Options

Funding assistance can make a significant difference. Investigate the availability of financial aid, scholarships, and grants.

Many online doctoral programs offer extensive support to help manage tuition costs. Some also may have openings for research or teaching assistants to financially support their doctoral candidates.

Strong Technical Infrastructure

Reliable technical infrastructure is essential for online learning. Ensure the program provides seamless access to:

  • portals,
  • virtual classrooms, and
  • tech support.

This ensures you remain engaged and can focus on your studies without technical difficulties. You may also find it easier to access your academic supervisor.

18-Month Doctorate Without Dissertation: An Option

Fast track doctoral programs offering 18-month degrees without dissertations present a compelling option for professionals eager to advance their careers quickly.

These programs provide rigorous academic training, practical experience, and valuable credentials without the traditional dissertation burden.

By choosing the right program, you can achieve your doctoral ambitions efficiently and effectively. In turn, your doctorate can be your key to unlocking new opportunities and achieving your professional goals.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.