If you want to go to graduate school after earning your bachelor's degree, then you probably already know that you have a long road ahead of you. It takes many years of schooling to earn your graduate degree, whether you're just pursuing a master's degree or something more, such as a Ph.D.

In order to get into graduate school for a doctoral program, there are many requirements that applicants have to meet. In many cases, one of the biggest requirements is taking the GRE test. However, if you're looking to find a doctoral program that does not require the GRE, there may be some options.

What Is the GRE?

The GRE, which stands for "Graduate Record Examination" and is also known as the "GRE General Test," is the most common test that students take if they want to get into a graduate program or business school. While there are other tests that you can take for graduate school, like the GMAT, the GRE is the most widely accepted, and students all over the world can take the test. The GRE is accepted at thousands of graduate schools, including those that offer programs in law and business.

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The GRE is intended for prospective graduates and business school applicants who are interested in getting their master's degree, MBA, J.D. or doctoral degree. Like other standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT, the GRE is a way for admissions offices to compare qualifications of students who are applying from all different educational backgrounds.

If you are thinking about taking the GRE, note that it usually takes several months to prepare for the test. The GRE analyzes your qualifications through three different sections, which are verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing. The test uses multiple-choice questions, is about four hours long and costs $250 to take.

Grad Schools That Don't Require the GRE

Some students do not think of themselves as very good test takers, or perhaps they find the idea of taking yet another big test to be anxiety inducing. While many graduate schools and programs do ask for GRE scores when applying, not all schools do. It is possible, therefore, to get into graduate school without needing to take the GRE, and these programs may be worth looking into if you're adamant about not having to take the GRE.

Graduate programs that are most likely to not request GRE scores are MFA programs, executive programs and online master's degree programs. In terms of other programs, the GRE will likely be required, though there are always exceptions to the rule.

Do All Ph.D. Programs Require the GRE?

If you're wondering whether or not all doctoral programs require the GRE, the short answer is no. However, it's a lot more complicated than that. Most Ph.D. programs require the GRE, but not all. While there are circumstances in which you can have the GRE requirement waived from programs that normally do require it, PrepScholar says that many graduate programs discourage this because it can hurt your chances of getting into the school to which you're applying.

Circumstances in Which the GRE Requirement Might Be Waived

If a school to which you're considering applying requires the GRE for its applicants, know that there are instances in which the GRE requirement can be waived. This is something to look into before going through the trouble of taking the GRE.

According to PrepScholar, there are three situations in which this can happen. One of the ways in which the GRE requirement can be waived is if your GPA was high enough in your undergraduate program. Another way the GRE requirement can be waived is if you have professional experience working in a related field. Usually, you'll need at least five years of relevant experience to waive the GRE requirement under this category.

Lastly, the GRE requirement can potentially be waived if you already hold another graduate degree. Since many doctoral programs require that you have a master's degree when applying, this might be your best bet. However, remember that every circumstance is different, and it all depends on the school and program to which you're applying.

Pros and Cons to Taking the GRE

There are many pros and cons to consider before taking the GRE. As for the most important benefits, the GRE can open many doors. Even though there are schools and programs that do not require the GRE, if you want to keep your options open, then it would be best to take the test. This way, you're not limited in doctoral programs to which you can apply.

However, there are some downsides. The GRE is not necessarily a cheap test, costing $250. Luckily, another benefit is that you can take the test as many times as you want and only send the scores with which you're happy to the schools to which you're applying. However, this can cost a lot of money depending on how many times you choose to take it.

In addition to money, the GRE also requires a lot of studying and preparation. According to Kaplan, students generally spend more than 100 hours studying for the GRE, which is a lot of time especially if you're working and/or going to school. Also, schools that do not require the GRE are likely much less prestigious than those that do. This is also very true if you're applying to a doctoral program that normally requires the GRE. However, this might not be so important to you as an applicant depending on your goals.

Doctoral Programs That Don't Require the GRE

All of this considered, there are still some doctoral programs that may not require the GRE for admissions, according to Study.com and GradSchools.com. That being said, you should always check the specific program's requirements beforehand, as each school can make its own decisions or change its requirements suddenly.

  • Doctor of Business Administration
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice
  • Doctor of Criminal Justice
  • Ph.D. in business management
  • Ph.D. in anthropology
  • Ph.D. in civil engineering
  • Ph.D. in marketing
  • Ph.D. in health care management
  • Ph.D. in finance
  • Ph.D. in accounting
  • Ph.D. in counseling/psychology

In general, you should not base your doctoral program of choice on whether or not there is a GRE requirement. While studying for the GRE takes time and hard work, it is worth the effort if it means having the chance of getting into a doctoral program in which you want to be. A doctoral program is much harder than the GRE, and you wouldn't want to be putting all that effort into a program that's not what you want just because you didn't feel up to taking the test.

Schools That Offer a Ph.D. With No GRE Requirement

If you're still curious as to which schools have doctoral programs that do not have a GRE requirement, it will take some research. You can easily do a search online using the search phrase "Ph.D. programs that do not require the GRE" to see what comes up. You might see lots of graduate schools that do not require the GRE that will come up in your search, but you'll need to investigate further to see if this applies to that school's specific Ph.D. programs as well.

To help jump start your search a bit, GradSchools.com has a list of schools with doctoral programs that do not require the GRE:

  • Smith's College Ph.D. in social work
  • California Southern University's DBA
  • Chicago School of Professional Psychology's online Ph.D. in organizational leadership
  • Georgetown University's DNP
  • Northcentral University’s online DCJ in white collar crime
  • Nova Southeastern University’s Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy   
  • Colorado Technical University's online Doctor of Management in homeland security   

Consider Online Schools

As you can see, some of these programs are offered online. That's because in general, a majority of doctoral programs and graduate programs that don't require the GRE are fully run online. If this is something that appeals to you, then you can narrow your search down to online programs only and consider taking a look at Walden University, which offers many doctoral programs that do not require the GRE.

Keep in mind that while online schools have many benefits, schools like Walden University can be very expensive. You should always consider the pros and cons of different programs and schools before applying to a school that may not be a good fit after all.

What Other Requirements Are There for Doctoral Programs?

In addition to whether or not you will need to take the GRE or GMAT as a requirement for your prospective doctoral program, there are also, of course, other requirements. These requirements will differ from one school to another and from one program to another, but there is a standard on some of these requirements across the board.

All doctoral programs and graduate schools will require that you send your transcripts from your bachelor's program and, if applicable, your master's program. Not all graduate programs require that you have a master's as a prerequisite, but most Ph.D. programs do.

For instance, Brown University requires that Ph.D. applicants have at least three years of full-time study after earning their bachelor's degree in addition to taking the GRE. However, that's not the case everywhere. For instance, many schools have a combined master's and Ph.D. program, which is something worth looking into if that interests you. After this point, you will also need to present your ideas for your dissertation topic. If and when that is approved, you'll officially be a Ph.D. candidate.

Tips for Taking the GRE

After weighing the pros and cons and considering all the various outcomes, you will eventually need to decide if taking the GRE is the right choice for you. If you decide that it is, then you'll need to set aside around a year for studying, taking the test and ultimately applying to doctoral programs that interest you.

This can be a complicated and stressful process, but if you've already gone through a bachelor's and master's program, then you should know more or less what to expect. Even so, it's helpful to have some GRE tips at your disposal to minimize some of these concerns:

  • Learn about the different sections on the GRE so you know what it will be testing.

  • Buy GRE workbooks to familiarize yourself with what questions will be on the test.

  • Take GRE practice tests online.

  • Join GRE study groups if that's something that might help you.

  • If you would rather study alone, set aside time to study weekly and eliminate all distractions as you study.

  • Don't get discouraged if you don't do as well as you wanted the first time you take the test. You can take the GRE as many times as you need.

About the Author

Hana LaRock is a freelance content writer from New York, currently living in Mexico. She has spent the last 5 years traveling the world and living abroad and has lived in South Korea and Israel. Before becoming a writer, Hana worked as a teacher for several years in the U.S. and around the world. She has her teaching certification in Elementary Education and Special Education, as well as a TESOL certification. Hana spent a semester studying abroad at Tel Aviv University during her undergraduate years at the University of Hartford. She hopes to use her experience to help inform others. Please visit her website, www.hanalarockwriting.com, to learn more.