Some individuals may feel writing a dissertation is a daunting and insurmountable task and hope to avoid it. While they still are the norm for most doctoral programs, especially for academic Ph.D.s and Ed.D.s, and particularly those in research-based areas, there are several programs where you can skip the dissertation.

Physical Therapy

A physical therapist is working with her patient.
A physical therapist is working with her patient.

Physical therapy doctorates do not require a dissertation because they are clinically and practically based. Instead, coursework is taken for up to two years and then rotations begin in real clinics, hospitals and medical environments. A physical therapy doctorate is referred to as a DPT, or a Doctorate in Physical Therapy. Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, offers a snapshot that is similar to many DPT programs: extensive, hands on clinical experience that is supervised and followed by comprehensive examinations to prepare for licensure.

Law

A legal gavel and a textbook.
A legal gavel and a textbook.

The most common law degree is a J.D. or Juris Doctorate. The J.D. is not the terminal degree for law, as the Master of Law degree (LL.M) and the Doctor of Judicial Science (S.J.D.) are both higher degrees. A dissertation is not required for the J.D. degree. This degree is obtained through coursework and comprehensive examination. The passage of the bar exam is not necessary for the J.D. to be conferred.

Medicine

A medical doctor and his patient.
A medical doctor and his patient.

A medical degree likewise does not involve the writing of a dissertation. In a way, it is similar in structure to DPT programs in that medical students have clinical rotations in hospitals and other settings under strict supervision. Medical programs typically require several more years of study and involve various aspects of medicine and surgery. Medical doctors must pass board exams to practice, but they do not write dissertations.

School Preference

Three researching students in a lab.
Three researching students in a lab.

While there are not many, a select few universities do offer doctorates without a dissertation. Colorado Technical University allows students to choose between writing a series of publishable research articles or a dissertation for the Doctor of Management degree. Columbia Southern University offers a doctorate of business administration degree that allows participants to decide between a dissertation or a culminating research project. Regent University also offers the choice between a dissertation and a publishable research project.