Accelerated doctoral programs allow you to complete an advanced graduate degree in a fraction of the time it would take on a normal academic track. Knowing the characteristics of these programs -- from admission procedures to overall advantages -- can help you assess if the quickened pace of an accelerated degree is right for you.


Admission to an accelerated doctoral program is highly selective. American University’s accelerated doctoral degree in communication studies, for example, admitted only five students in its inaugural 2011-2012 year. Accordingly, these programs typically require more application materials than a traditional program. For joint bachelor’s and doctoral programs, you can be invited to apply for the accelerated track after your first undergraduate year, provided your grade point average is adequately high. For those programs that combine a master’s and doctoral degree, you will need to provide GRE exam scores, a personal statement, professional recommendations and possibly submit to a personal interview.


Accelerated doctoral programs take approximately three to four years to complete. This is notably less than the national average for traditional doctoral programs, which the National Science Foundation reported as just over 10 years across all fields of study. Some programs allow you to enroll as a part-time student, which can extend your degree by several years. Programs that combine a bachelor’s degree with a doctoral degree typically require seven years to complete. Students already holding a master’s degree in a related field will need to supply evidence of their degree completion and possibly copies of their master’s degree thesis.

Fields and Format

Students can pursue accelerated doctorates in a variety of fields such as biochemistry, mathematics, nursing, Arabic studies or communications. While the programs differ in format depending on the discipline and requirements, they generally share the requirement of 40 to 50 credits for degree completion. Your first year is typically devoted to coursework, accompanied by close supervision by a faculty adviser to assess your progress. You will then be required to assemble a doctoral committee, pass your qualifying exams, and begin the development of your dissertation by the end of your second year.


Completing your degree at a faster pace can mean earlier entry onto the job market. Fields like communications and nursing have experienced an exponential rise in demand for trained professionals, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics echoing a projected growth for both fields at larger than average numbers through 2020. Completing your doctoral work at an accelerated pace can also yield reduced overall education expenses.

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