Top 9 Fastest Accelerated Online Psychology Doctorates (PhDs)


Are you looking for a career boost and want a doctoral degree as quickly as possible? We rank the fastest online PhD doctoral programs in psychology.

Key Takeaways

  • The average time to earn a PhD in psychology through online doctoral programs is six to ten years.

  • Accelerated online doctoral degree programs in psychology can take as little as two to four years!

  • While accelerated online doctoral degree programs take less time to finish than traditional ones, they do require students to carry a heavier workload.

Featured Programs

Why are accelerated online doctoral programs in psychology a good option?

For most working professionals, especially those who want opportunities for a tenure track in academia, PhD doctoral programs are the ultimate goal. However, traditional and most online programs take a long time to complete.

Unfortunately, many students don’t have the time or financial resources to enroll in traditional doctorate degree programs.

According to U.S. News & World Report data, the average time for completing a PhD is six to ten years. The curriculum in a traditional psychology PhD doctoral programs involves up to 100 credits of advanced seminars, dissertation work, and research assistantships.

According to a report, the rate of students actually completing all coursework for their PhD doctoral programs in ten years is only 56.6%.

Bottom Line: A traditional doctorate degree program in psychology is a huge time and financial commitment to complete. On the other hand, an online doctoral degree in psychology can be completed in less time and potentially for a lower total investment.

Psychologist speaking to a patient
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PsyD Doctorate Degree vs. PhD Doctoral Program in Psychology

The most significant distinction between a PhD doctoral program in psychology and a Doctor of Psychology is the focus. Psychology PhDs focus on the theoretical and abstract aspects of psychology. On the other hand, PsyD programs typically concentrate on the application of information.

An online doctorate degree and PhD online programs degree frequently serve the same purposes and should be given roughly equal weight.

Whether choosing a PhD or PsyD, advanced coursework, research projects, and the dissertation are the main components of accelerated online doctorate programs in psychology.

An online PhD doctorate degree typically leads to a career in academia or research, while the PsyD doctorate degree leads to a career boost in the field of psychology or counseling.

What do we mean by fastest accelerated doctorate and PhD programs in psychology?

Psychology doctorate degrees, especially PhDs, can take up to ten years to complete. Students who enroll in traditional coursework and follow the suggested course sequencing graduate within four to six years.

Accelerated online doctorate degree programs in psychology provide a quicker route to a degree for individuals who want to finish their studies sooner. These programs typically take from two to four years to complete.

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Consider the Advantages and Disadvantages of Fast Accelerated Online Doctorates and PhD Programs

Many colleges offer accelerated PhD programs that guarantee faster degree completion. Prospective students with other important obligations may consider an accelerated degree program as they start selecting the best curriculum.

But just because accelerated online programs have a significant advantage, they still come with a cost.

Consider the advantages and disadvantages of fast, accelerated online doctorate degree programs in psychology before enrolling in one.

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What is the workload in an accelerated doctoral degree program in psychology?

The shortest doctoral program online in psychology typically attracts non-traditional students who have other obligations. These prospective students either have family and work commitments or want a faster way to get that career boost.

For these students, attending six to ten years of graduate school is just not realistic.

While the prospect of obtaining a degree more quickly can be quite alluring, if the student is unprepared for the time commitment, the fast pace can become too much and result in failing and/or dropping out.

In accelerated doctorate degree programs, students must finish the coursework in a condensed amount of time. This means that students will take on a much heavier workload compared to obtaining a doctorate degree through a traditional program.

So, instead of enrolling in the usual 2 courses per term, students usually enroll in at least 3 courses per term. Or the length of a term may be condensed.

According to the Carnegie Unit Report, a traditional 14-week course equates to at least 3 hours of weekly student involvement and 6 hours for a 7-week course, essentially doubling the workload.

The Journal of Continuing Higher Education published the result of their qualitative study of accelerated degree programs. Some faculty and critics of the study found that these programs hinder the information transfer process and prevent the content from moving to the student’s long-term memory.

In contrast, one professor in the same qualitative study stated that the increased pace of the accelerated classes raised attendance rates. Additionally, the fast-paced courses helped the students stay on task and prepare for class.

Many colleges that provide graduate degrees online have switched to competency-based course completion models. The capacity of a student to complete a course is independent of when they started.

Students must instead demonstrate proficiency in key knowledge and/or skill areas. They can now advance at their own pace as a result. Through quick mastery and progression, highly driven students can breeze through classes and save critical time.

Even better, because you spend less time in school, accelerated degree programs frequently incur lower costs. Many students also choose online programs because they save money by forgoing some expenses and fees related to on-campus study.

Male psychologist with glasses in a blue suit

Learning Methods in Accelerated Online Psychology PhD Programs

Synchronous learning occurs when all of the students in a class are actively engaged in the learning process at the same time while listening to a lecture.

Asynchronous learning is learning on a student’s own time. They listen to pre-recorded lectures or complete guided projects or independent research.

Professors can choose synchronous, asynchronous, or hybrid learning environments. In many accelerated online doctorate degree programs, professors choose synchronous learning most often because of the rigid schedule.

A live lecture, live chat room, conference call, video conference, or Google Hangout are all used for synchronous learning.

Benefits of synchronous learning include:

  • Students can ask questions to their professors in real-time.
  • Students develop a better sense of community and connection with peers and advisors.
  • Students feel more engaged.
  • Students develop enhanced collaboration skills.

Students can access recorded lectures, PowerPoint presentations, or reading assignments for asynchronous study at their convenience.

Benefits of asynchronous learning include:

  • Students can move forward with their education whenever, in whatever order, and at whatever speed they choose.
  • There is more time for students to consider what they have learned.
  • Shy or introverted students will feel more comfortable and feel less pressure talking with their professors or peers.
  • Students can participate in the same activities regardless of their location or time zone.

For students enrolled in remote education, the most significant disadvantage of synchronous learning is the need to be online at a specific time. This indicates that students are not free to access content whenever they wish. This can be a challenge for college students who have full-time jobs and other commitments like family.

Bottom Line: While synchronous learning is more engaging, asynchronous learning helps students engage with the material more deeply.

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Why Choose an Accelerated Online Doctoral Degree in Psychology

Accelerated online doctorate degree programs could appeal to people who wish to enter the workforce sooner rather than later. Most prospective students are already employed and want to change or develop careers.

Some students may want to finish a degree program they started in the past or pursue an advanced degree. Some people consider an accelerated degree a quick method to switch careers.

Those who want to complete their education relatively quickly should be certain of their major and long-term objectives. Students pursuing an accelerated online doctoral degree boost their chances of success if they have a strong work ethic and the ability to encourage themselves, regardless of their educational background or experience.

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Getting Started with an Accelerated Online Doctoral Degree in Psychology

Pursuing an accelerated PhD in psychology doctoral degree program is one of the hardest decisions in your life. Choosing the wrong program or university can cost you a fortune. So, it’s very important to do your research first.

Many universities claim that their accelerated online programs offer a comprehensive curriculum. This can only be proven through accreditation. The US Department of Education-approved accrediting agencies grant accreditation to the top colleges.

The following accrediting agencies grant regional accreditation in the United States:

Key Point: A college or university must be accredited in order to be eligible to offer financial aid to their students, even those in an online program. Visit the Federal Student Aid website for more information on applying for financial aid.

When considering online PhD programs, you can also see if the college or university is good by checking the following:

  • University’s name, history, and reputation
  • Student services and resources
  • Faculty credentials
  • Alumni network

If you have researched psychology online doctorate programs and have several on your wishlist, here are a few factors to include when comparing which university best suit your needs:

  • Admission requirements
  • Learning format
  • Online courses available
  • Specializations
  • Student-to-faculty ratio
  • Tuition and financial aid
  • Residency, internship, or practical requirements
  • Transfer credits
Male psychologist listening to a female psychologist

Median Salaries of Similar Careers in the U.S.

The following graph depicts the average salaries of similar occupations to Clinical and Counseling Psychologists in the U.S.


Annual Salary
82770School Psychologists
98010Psychologists, All Other
99640Clinical and Counseling Psychologists
113320Industrial-Organizational Psychologists
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The Fastest Accelerated Online Psychology Doctorate Degrees

  1. Tuition + fees






    Student body


    What is Alliant International University known for?

    Alliant International University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

    Alliant International University offers various undergraduate and graduate degree programs that help students obtain the skills and knowledge necessary for their fields. Alliant is mainly known for its graduate and online degree programs. Additionally, Alliant emphasizes hands-on learning through internships, practicals, consulting, and community service initiatives to help students receive the professional practice they need.

    One of Alliant’s vastly known online doctoral programs is the accelerated Doctor of Psychology in Educational Psychology. Having only two years of average completion time, this PsyD is one, if not the shortest doctoral program online. This program has an 8-week calendar with 11 terms and 4 phases. The second year offers the PsyD project’s Final Phase, and students are expected to complete it by the end of their second year.

    Only those with a master’s degree in psychology or a closely related field will be eligible for this fast and accelerated online PsyD program. Additionally, applicants with a license or certification in school psychology can obtain the School Psychology Track.

    • Required Credits: 50
    • Completion time: 2 years
    • Format: Online

    What we love about Alliant International University

    Alliant’s recognition as one of the country’s most military-friendly universities and being a top provider of graduate degrees for minorities for the past six years.

    Alliant International University is great for students who:

    Want diversity but still be able to attend small-sized classes.

    Alliant International University might not be the best fit for students who:

    Wish to have plenty of time for Greek life.

  2. Tuition + fees




    Student body


    What is University of Arizona Global Campus known for?

    University of Arizona Global Campus’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    The University of Arizona’s Global Campus is among the biggest and most progressive online campuses in the United States. UAGC has expanded into a national online organization dedicated to assisting adult learners in achieving their personal and professional goals from a small, traditional college. UAGC is mainly known for its accelerated 5- to 6-week courses, which fit students who want to earn their degrees faster but with the same curriculum and rigor.

    UAGC’s Doctor of Psychology is among the fastest online doctoral programs. Students are expected to follow a 4-year term, complete all coursework by the end of their third year, and focus on the Applied Doctoral Project during their fourth year. This accelerated online program is designed for students who can fully commit to their studies and aspire to become practitioners who desire to serve the community by enhancing their clients’ emotional and mental health.

    This program offers three specializations: Criminology and Justice Studies, Health and Wellness Psychology, and Sport and Performance Psychology. Applicants, however, must note that this is not a licensure program. Prospective online students outside Arizona should confirm with their state if this online program’s curriculum meets their state licensure examination requirements.

    • Required Credits: 62
    • Completion time: 4 years
    • Format: Online

    What we love about the University of Arizona - Global Campus

    The opportunities to attend on-campus networking and other social events.

    The University of Arizona - Global Campus is great for students who:

    Are focused and committed to their studies.

    The University of Arizona - Global Campus might not be the best fit for students who:

    Do not have the determination and capacities to keep up with fast-paced courses.

  3. #3

    Walden University

    Minneapolis , MN
    Other Rankings

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    Student body


    What is Walden University known for?

    Walden University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

    Walden University is a top-ranked institution for offering comprehensive online degree programs and allowing students to choose between Course-Based Learning and Tempo Learning formats. Students looking for more flexible ways to earn a degree often choose the Tempo Learning format, while those who prefer a fast-paced and more engaging curriculum prefer Course-Based Learning.

    Walden offers a hybrid PhD in Psychology with a fast-track option. Unlike the traditional 2 courses per term plan, online doctoral students who enroll in the fast-track option should follow a strict 3 courses per term plan. This accelerated degree program aims to cut the average completion time to half; traditional students complete the PhD program in eight years, while those in the fast-track doctoral program can complete all coursework in four years.

    Eligible online students can choose from six tracks/concentrations: Educational Psychology, Health Psychology, Research in Psychology, Self-Designed, Social Psychology, or Teaching in Psychology.

    • Required Credits: 65
    • Completion time: 4 years
    • Format: Hybrid

    What we love about Walden University

    Walden is greatly known for offering opportunities for busy working adult students to earn a flexible and affordable degree.

    Walden University is great for students who:

    Are busy with their personal or professional lives and have no time for traditional classes.

    Walden University might not be the best fit for students who:

    Want a traditional college experience, such as Greek life, living in a dorm, and on-campus classes.

  4. #5

    Liberty University

    Lynchburg , VA
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    Median SAT/ACT


    Liberty University is one of the most prominent Christian liberal arts colleges that emphasizes faith and competitive learning and is a pioneer in online education. Non-Christian students, on the other hand, can also apply for Liberty’s degree programs. The institution offers over 700 academic majors and degree programs with cutting-edge technology and esteemed faculty.

    Liberty is also known to offer fast-paced online doctorate programs, one being the online PhD in Psychology designed for graduate students who want a better grasp of psychology and human behavior. Students can transfer up to 50% of their previous credit hours to the PhD program to help them finish their online doctorate faster than the program’s 3-year average completion time.

    This online accelerated online PhD doctoral degree program specializations in Behavioral Health Leadership, Developmental Psychology, General Psychology, Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Social Psychology, and Theology. Online graduate students have optional on-campus intensives to meet with peers and faculty for better engagement.

    • Required Credits: 60
    • Completion time: 3 years
    • Format: Online

    What we love about Liberty University

    The doctoral programs that help students simultaneously strengthen their faith and obtain the knowledge and skills necessary for their chosen field

    Liberty University is great for students who:

    Want to put Christ in the middle of their learning.

    Liberty University might not be the best fit for students who:

    Prefer not to get involved in religion.

  5. Male psychologist speaking to a child
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    George Mason University is Virginia’s most diverse public research institution, offering over 200 majors that lead to bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees. GMU is known to prepare students to pursue fulfilling lives and prosperous careers through a well-rounded curriculum and engaging campus community. Its on-campus degrees are also famous for offering fast and accelerated courses for students doctoral programs that can be completed quickly.

    GMU offers one of the shortest on-campus doctoral programs in psychology. The PhD in Psychology allows students to transfer up to 30 credit hours from their master’s degree in psychology, which will help them approach their final projects faster and graduate earlier. Doctoral students obtain expertise in the fundamental areas of psychology and receive hands-on experience to help address issues in relationships, the workplace, and education.

    The program’s concentrations include Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Human Factors/Applied Cognition, Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience, Clinical Psychology, and Applied Developmental Psychology.

    • Required Credits: 72-79
    • Completion time: 4 years
    • Format: On-campus

    What we love about George Mason University

    Diversity and inclusivity.

    George Mason University is great for students who:

    Want to live in a busy city and campus.

    George Mason University might not be the best fit for students who:

    Thrive with individualized attention and one-on-one interactions with advisors.

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    Pepperdine University, a Christian university, is dedicated to offering the highest academic performance standards and Christian principles. Because Pepperdine is also a liberal arts university, its 45 majors and 47 minors include liberal arts foundational courses and courses related to Christianity. Pepperdine, however, is one of the most expensive institutions. Nevertheless, many students still choose to enroll at the university because of the supportive faculty and rigorous academic programs.

    The on-campus PsyD in Clinical Psychology at Pepperdine University has an average graduation time of 4 years—half the average completion time of most doctoral programs. This psychology online doctorate degree program uses a practitioner-scholar paradigm, combining academic study, clinical practice, and research. Doctoral students must follow the program’s strict timetable and complete coursework within three years and internship and clinical dissertation within a year.

    This fast PysD is best suited for students who can fully commit all their time and effort to the program. Students have four university-based clinics that serve as practical training locations and three external training rotations all around southern California. The extensive hands-on training will prepare students to become licensed psychologists.

    • Required Credits: 82
    • Completion time: 4 years
    • Format: On-campus

    What we love about Pepperdine University

    The beautiful campus and supportive faculty. Faculty members offer individualized attention to each student and guide them toward success.

    Pepperdine University is great for students who:

    Thrive in a small, tight-knit campus community.

    Pepperdine University might not be the best fit for students who:

    Want to explore diverse curricular offerings and thrive in large-sized campuses with many school parties.

  8. Bearded patient speaking to a male psychologist
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    Because of its campus location, academic rigor, and distinguished faculty, George Washington University confidently offers students a global-impacting education. GWU gives students learning opportunities inside and outside the classrooms, thanks to its partnership with the community and access to start-up and Fortune 500 firms. Additionally, GWU provides various funding options to support unpaid internships to help students have the best GW experience without worrying much about their educational costs.

    GWU’s PsyD in Clinical Psychology is an on-campus degree designed to help students earn a doctorate faster. Students will complete four years of clinical psychology education and training, which includes three years of focusing on coursework and a year of internship. Students without a master’s degree in psychology can earn one while earning a doctorate.

    The school’s accelerated programs, like the PsyD doctoral program focuses on equipping students with the necessary skills and information to assess and manage psychopathology and seek employment in various professional settings. During their second year, students will choose one of the program’s three tracks as a major area of study: Adult, Assessment, or Child and Adolescent.

    • Required Credits: 83
    • Completion time: 4 years
    • Format: On-campus

    What we love about George Washington University

    The location is the best thing about GWU. Students have access to thousands of internship opportunities, which can help them obtain employment immediately after graduation.

    George Washington University is great for students who:

    Want to live in a fast-paced environment and become active in school and social activities.

    George Washington University might not be the best fit for students who:

    Prefer a quiet campus and one that offers more affordable degree programs.