You may wish to pursue a doctorate for the academic challenge, or for the increase in job opportunities and chance for higher salary. However, you may not want to spend the full two to four years or more in graduate school in order to do so. Whether aiming for a doctor of nursing practice or a doctorate in history, there are ways to minimize the amount of time it takes to earn your advanced degree so you can reap the benefits of your graduate degree as soon as possible.
While not always possible, if you’re serious about getting your doctorate in as little time as possible, you should do whatever it takes to become a full-time student. That means quitting your job and living like a student for a while or relying on your spouse or parents to help support you.
You may also be able to live off of savings and keep a part-time job as well, which is ideal especially if you’re working in a field related to your doctorate degree that can provide you with relevant experience. However, if you drastically cut back on your work hours, you’ll have more room for classes in your schedule, and you may be able to take even more classes per semester than the average student. Remember, while it’s important to take as many classes as you can in order to get your degree quickly, it won’t be worth sacrificing the quality of your work. You’ll need to determine just how much you can really handle in order to make the most of your education.
Earn Credits Over the Summer
If you want to earn your degree as soon as possible, you’ll need to forget about vacations until you’ve finished. If possible, continue to take classes full-time even during the summer, particularly early on in your schooling. Toward the end of your schooling, you may be able to earn college credits through internships, independent studies and part-time jobs relevant to the field. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you’re earning college credits.
Stick With One Specialization
Some doctorate programs allow you to enroll, even if you earned your master’s, in a completely unrelated field. However, in order to do so, you have to prove you’re as knowledgeable as someone who earned their master’s, and you may have to spend time taking introductory level classes, writing independent studies or taking exams.
It’s faster to stick with one field and simply move on to the next level of study. If you want to spend less time earning your PhD, decide on the field you want to study as soon as possible so you can earn your master’s in that field, too and then move directly into the doctorate program. If you’re starting to have doubts about the field in which you’re earning your master’s, speak with a career counselor. You may find that your degree will open up more types of careers than you initially thought and that it’s worth seeing through to completion.
Take Classes Relevant to Your Dissertation
The dissertation is a keystone of your graduate experience. It’s how you prove you’ve learned from all of the classes you’ve taken and can turn around and use that knowledge to contribute something new to the field. However, it takes a lot of time, and you may be spending countless hours outside of your classes to get it done.
Instead, plan your classes so that they’re directly related to the topic of your dissertation. You’ll be able to use the books and papers you read in your dissertation research, and you may even get the professor’s permission to ask your classmates their opinions on your dissertation so you can record it in your paper. You may also be able to use parts of the papers you turn in for these classes in your dissertation, eliminating the need to write entirely from scratch.
Going to school full-time if possible, continuing to earn credits over the summer, pursuing a PhD related to your master’s program, and taking classes related to your dissertation are all ways to shorten the amount of time it takes you to earn your doctorate. If you find you can’t handle the pace and your grades are slipping, look into private tutoring or consider slowing down some. You may be anxious to earn your degree, but it’s important that you work at the pace most suited to you and get the most out of your educational experience.
About the Author: Walter Kogan is a contributing blogger and Catholic University online graduate student. He’s pursuing a doctorate in psychology.