A Ph.D. or doctoral degree is one of the highest academic qualifications you can earn as a student. A doctoral degree can set you apart from others in your field, increase your salary, and prepare you for a career as a professor, among other benefits. There are main ways to ways to get into a doctoral program. The first is to earn bachelor's and master’s degrees, and then apply to a doctoral program. The second way is through fast tracking, which is entering the program directly after earning a bachelor's degree. Fast tracking can take a couple years off a student’s academic training.

Advantages

A fast track doctoral degree is a way to speed up the path to a Ph.D. by allowing students the ability to enter the program without having to earn a master’s degree first. Completing a fast-track program can take one to two years off your graduate training. Since you’ll be in school for less time, you will reduce your overall school-related debt. You can also enter the work force earlier, which allows you to start earning an income and pay down school debt sooner.

Applying to a Fast-Track Doctoral Program

A fast-track doctoral program doesn’t require a master’s degree to apply to the doctoral program. Some schools allow you to earn both a master’s degree and Ph.D. concurrently, whereas other fast-track programs grant only a doctoral degree. The application requirements for each school can vary, so applicants should check with each program they’re interested in entering. A bachelor’s degree and a superior undergraduate record are required, and in most cases GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores must be submitted. Students may also need to have a research proposal even at the time of application into the program. The university committee charged with reviewing the application will also consider the applicant’s probability of successfully finishing the degree program.

Online Fast Track Doctoral Degrees

According to Online-PhD-Degree.net, many schools are offering fast-track doctoral degree programs. Distance-learning programs offer flexibility to students, but they may not be as fast as traditional doctoral programs. Examples of universities that offer accelerated online Ph.D. programs include Atlantic International University, Capella University and Walden University.

Considerations

Most students who start fast-track Ph.D. programs end up getting their degrees, but just because you are admitted to the program doesn’t mean you’ll graduate with the degree. According to GradSource.com, “Students may be asked to leave or strongly discouraged from continuing in the program if the faculty decides they cannot meet the requirements." A fast-track Ph.D. program includes course work, but stresses research. According to GradSource.com, the number of Ph.D. certificates awarded in the next decade is expected to rise by 10 percent. In the U.S., the fields with the most doctoral degrees include education, engineering, biological and life sciences and psychology.