A doctoral degree is the highest level academic degree you can pursue. With this education, you can become an instructor and researcher at a prestigious university or attain a lucrative senior-level role in research and development. Earning such a degree, including the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in engineering, takes a great deal of discipline, hard work, financial investment and, of course, time. With the average Ph.D. student taking more than eight years to graduate, according to CBS News, it’s no surprise that today’s students are looking for ways to get their doctoral degrees in less time.

Accelerated Doctoral Degrees in Engineering

What makes Ph.D. degree programs take so long? The Ph.D. is a research-focused degree. Students have to conduct their own original research and present their research in the form of a written dissertation. It’s not unusual for a Ph.D. program in engineering to require more than 60 credits of advanced college study once you factor in this research and dissertation work. For some many doctoral students, research takes longer than initially planned. As their Ph.D. program nears its end, students may be enrolled in the minimum number of course or credits needed to remain in the program but still be devoting full-time work to their research.

There are accelerated programs that allow students to attain their Ph.D. degrees faster. Often, these accelerated doctoral degree programs admit students who have met certain educational requirements into the Ph.D. program with advanced standing. These students have a head start on their doctoral education because they aren’t starting from scratch. Instead, some of the coursework they have already taken counts toward their Ph.D. degree as well.

  • Southern Illinois University: The Department of Mechanical Engineering and Energy Processes at Southern Illinois University offers an accelerated Ph.D. degree. This program is ideal for students in a master’s degree program who have decided to pursue a doctoral degree. To qualify, students must have studied for at least two semesters at the school’s residential master’s in mechanical engineering program, completed at least 18 hours of approved studies and meet minimum GPA requirements. Students who take advantage of this opportunity may be able to skip writing a master’s thesis and count up to six credits of advanced graduate studies toward both their master’s and Ph.D. degrees.
  • South Dakota State University: Undergraduates studying coatings and polymeric materials at South Dakota State University can be part of an accelerated program that awards an advanced degree. Both Master of Science (M.S.) and Ph.D. degree programs in coatings and polymeric materials are options for these students.
  • The University of Texas at Arlington: The College of Engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington offers a BS to Ph.D. accelerated degree program in Computer Science and Engineering.

Students should know that just because accelerated Ph.D. programs are faster doesn’t mean that they are easy. Students will still have to complete rigorous coursework, research and a dissertation.

Students should know that an accelerated doctoral degree program might not be an option if they are already taking an accelerated master’s degree program. Credits that have already been applied to both degrees typically can’t be applied to a third degree.

Doctor of Engineering Programs

If your goal isn’t a research or academic role, it may be faster to attain a professional doctoral degree, like the Doctor of Engineering, instead of a Ph.D. Doctor of Engineering degrees, often referred to as Eng.D. or D.Eng. degrees, are intended to allow engineers to develop advanced and specialized skills. While they may still engage in research activities under the guidance of a mentor, students in Doctor of Engineering programs typically don’t write a dissertation. Instead, they may build a portfolio that contains samples of their best work in formats such as computer simulations, prototypes and design plans.

How much time you save by earning a Doctor of Engineering degree rather than a Ph.D. can vary from student to student. For example, students in Johns Hopkins University’s D.Eng. program typically take three years to graduate compared to five years for the school’s Ph.D. program. However, they need a master’s degree whereas Ph.D. program applicants enter with a bachelor’s degree. The time savings can be significant for students whose lengthy research and dissertation phase of their education is closer to that eight-year average time to completion.

Doctor of Engineering programs are more likely to be offered in non-residential and online formats compared to Ph.D. programs, which tend to take place on campus.

Additional Resources

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What Is the Fastest School for a Master’s Degree in Engineering?

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