Can You Do A PhD In One Year? How Do You Complete A PhD in Two Years?

While sitting in the library, pouring over niche academic journals, we’ve all certainly thought to ourselves: How quickly can I get this done? One year? What about two? Think how awesome it would be to get your whole PhD done in as little as one to two years. Especially if you have a Master’s degree prior to or in conjunction with your PhD program, it certainly feels possible.

It is possible to earn your PhD in a year or two. But it is rare and difficult. A road that is certainly less traveled. Just ask these child prodigies. If you are not one of them,  adults who possess the mind to complete a PhD in one or two years are more likely to earn an honorary doctorate (read this post to learn more about honorary doctorates)  than enter a PhD program with the intention to complete it in only a year or two. 

To determine if you can complete a PhD in one year, recall some basic economics and apply some decision theory. First analyze the desired outcome, then figure what the probability is to achieve that outcome. Here is a likely statistical breakdown of how long it takes to obtain a PhD in Business Administration. To look at the low numerical percentage and then pursue the low probability of obtaining a PhD in one year or so, you must be a risk-taker. Second, and perhaps more importantly, you must firmly believe in both the possibility and your potential to complete a PhD in one, maybe two years. 

This post was written by a recent PhD student, but it is anonymous to keep the discussion frank on behalf of Dave Maslach. This is part of the R3ciprocity project (Check out the YouTube Channel: or the writing feedback software You can watch his video here on the topic:

How do you complete a PhD in one year?

Requisite Education

To maximize your chances and possibly secure and complete a PhD in one year it will require either having a Master’s degree or entering into a joint Master’s and Doctorate program (here are some examples). Within the first two-thirds of the year, all necessary coursework must be completed. The last third must be left to complete your dissertation research and publication. A faculty-board reviewed and approved thesis or culminating project is required in order for you to earn the awesome ticket that guarantees you walking onto the commencement or graduation stage.  

The Right Advisor

Before you can even think of that, you will need to foster a strong relationship with a faculty advisor. The advisor you choose will be a rarity in the academic world: Someone who will sacrifice quality for expedience. A notion that is an absolute no-no for most scholars. But, if you can produce quality work in very little time, and you either have evidence of or can convince a faculty advisor to sign onto research that can be completed with very little time and yet still produce quality results, then there is a real possibility you can earn a PhD in a year or so. 

The Right Skills

You must come into the PhD program with a strong grip and understanding of the intellectual landscape of your given academic subject. Not only must there be mastery and understanding of known debates, issues and other conceptual-related knowledge but also meta-understanding of those understandings. In other words, the earner of a PhD in a year needs to firmly understand both the methodology itself and the meta issues surrounding both the use and significance.

This is what doctoral students usually spend the bulk of their time learning and mastering throughout their years in said program (to learn more about standard PhD programs, checkout this post), hence why it takes so long to complete.   

Quick, strong and rigorous writing must be done each and every day (to learn more on how to improve your writing, check out this post). You must also learn to edit, revise and edit, revise and repeat that process as many times as possible for as long as possible throughout the entire year.

Go find a ruthless editor, a faithful friend or relative who will be willing to give up as much time as you need to get your thesis ready to be defended, evaluated and hopefully published. If your thesis is not ready to be defended and evaluated by a month or two before the year ends, the PhD will surely be out of reach until future notice. 


Get ready to dedicate your entire social and non-academic life to only studying, writing, learning, and producing academic glory. Prepare for long quiet nights where the midnight oil will burn until it runs out only to be refilled the following morning. The intenders of a one year PhD should not be of the faint of heart. They must be persons who are willing to sacrifice everything for the entire year to earn one of the most distinguished awards our society has to offer: A Doctor of Philosophy.   

What is needed to get a PhD in one year? 

A strong mind, determination and a willingness to sacrifice long-term rewards for short-term gain. The person who is able to produce a publishable paper after only a third of a year to research and write it knows their work will not be quality. You must accept that. The chances of you publishing are slim. Which will make it very hard to land a job in the Academy, whose criteria heavily weighs on their faculty’s ability to publish quality work in quality academic journals. 

You will also need an advisor that is willing to take a big risk for very little future gain. Which is very hard because the faculty member almost always co-publishes with you, which means their name will be tied to your project. Very few, if any, faculty members will assign their name to a project that is sub-par. And if you intend to complete a PhD in a year or two, you must accept that your final thesis will not be as polished as it could be with more time. 

So really the chances of you finding a faculty advisor that is willing to endorse a PhD student to complete their degree in a year or so is probably as hard as actually doing it. 

A schedule that allows you to work from 6am-11pm. Every day. Every night. For a year straight. The only time you should not be thinking about your thesis is for classwork and sustenance. Mainly personal hygiene and eating will be the only excuses you have to not work. Be ready to cancel any personal events that distract you from thinking about or working on your PhD–a near impossible task for any sane person. 

Ultimately, what is needed to get a PhD in one year is an insane amount of time, energy and commitment for an end that will be good for a short while but drastically worse in the future.

Do the ends justify the means? If you want to do a PhD, do it right. Don’t rush the beautiful process of thinking that leads to both self-actualization and deep worldly understandings–an experience that cannot be expedited for the sake of vain professional glory (to learn about some other myths that surround the PhD, check out this post).         

Who has done a PhD in one year? 

Other than the child prodigies mentioned at the top of this post, very few people have completed a PhD in a year. The odds are stacked very much against you doing so (here is another post that further explains why the odds are the way they are). But those who have passed these insurmountable odds usually possess certain qualities of character. 

Ruthlessly determined people can complete their PhD in one year. Again, you must first accept the very real downfalls of doing so, but once that is accepted, determined people can do it. You should have some experience in being able to shutout social interaction. If you are comfortable socially isolating and holding yourself accountable at each minute of each and every day for the entire year the chances of you securing a PhD in a year are better than most. 

A superior communicator with an awesome support cast can complete a PhD in a year. The need for intellectual engagement must be accepted by more people than just yourself. It really does take a village to get a PhD, schools are places where masses of people congregate for a reason: other people are needed for intellectual activity. 

The thesis or culminating project must be seen, revised, edited by as many people as possible. And it must be done in a quick yet effective and rigorous way. It will be hard to find a village that is willing to sacrifice so much time for only one member of the group. 

Experts in the field can complete a PhD in a year. If you intend to complete a PhD in a year, you must come into the program with an excellent understanding of the academic discipline. One that far exceeds any novice understanding of the current issues. Because you have a higher chance of completing a PhD faster if the thesis you propose is needed. It may be a new understanding, methodology, actual practice or something that others have not thought about before–an almost impossible find in academia.     

These are only some of the qualities needed. Many more will be called for. But the ones stated will be necessary for one to even an attempt to secure a PhD in a year or two. It makes much more sense to take your time, trust in the process and enjoy the rewarding years it takes to think originally and produce quality work.  

What type of PhDs are more likely to be completed in one year?

PhDs that are awarded in applied fields of academic subjects have a faster rate of completion compared to the purely or partially conceptual areas of study. Applied / executive doctorates like a doctorate of business, doctorate of education, etc. have a greater chance of being completed quicker because applied PhDs can be completed with a heavier emphasis on action than thought. (Check out this post on different executive / applied doctorates). This will usually be shown if the program offers an alternative to a written thesis completion, namely a culminating action oriented project. 

A project-based PhD has the potential to be done quicker. Especially if you come into the program with expertise. If you have a solid understanding of what your project is, how to complete it and a known immediate need in the field. Then the chances of you securing a PhD in a year or so can go up dramatically. 

But if you are looking for only a year of study, maybe a PhD isn’t for you. There are other options out there.  Master’s degrees, professional certificates, summer study, professional development courses, all of these options and more should be looked into if you’d only like to dedicate a year or so to the academy. You should also read this post to help further decide if graduate study is right for you.

The PhD is rightly reserved for those who are willing and motivated to give years of their life to genuine intellectual activity and guidance on not only how to think but how to live. That is, the scholarly way. It necessitates time. It can not be rushed. If you intend to go for your PhD, intend to spend time with it. If you only want to dedicate a year, consider alternative routes that universities and colleges have to offer.  

How do you complete a PhD in two years? 

You have a better shot completing a PhD in two years than you do one. Why? Time. For someone who has a sharp enough mind, with an equal amount of insane dedication, you could complete all of your coursework in a year of academic study and then write and publish your thesis by the end of the second year. Pretty much the same steps would need to be taken for a one year completion, but you have a higher probability of the desired outcome (i.e. earning a PhD). 

You will still need to find an amazing, angel-like advisor. One that, again, would be willing to sacrifice short-term gain for a lackluster future reward. The chances are the thesis you intend to publish will only be good enough for a second-rate journal. You and your advisor will also have to get lucky with timing. Meaning, you will need to finish your thesis by the first-half of your second-year of study so that it can go through the proper edit and revision process that must be completed for publication in an academic journal. 

A schedule that allows you to work from morning to late evening. If you are able to complete all of the coursework in the given academic year, then in six-months you must have the final draft of your thesis. This will require a daily grind that will not allow for anything else except for researching, writing, editing and revising. This process will have to be maximized because of  the tight deadline due to the requirements of thesis publication. This differs amongst different programs, but generally speaking the publication process will require time–lots of it. 

Find, become or marry a fantastic and ruthless editor. One that can dedicate as many hours as possible throughout the time that you research and write your thesis. This will be a tall task. Be sure to find something to reward the person kindly for the amount of work they will be putting in for you. After that, do your best to get as much feedback as heavenly possible to ensure that you can write the best possible thesis in only six months. And remember, someone’s thesis is usually 100-200 white pages spellbound with almost perfect, heavily researched written content.  

Much like the advice stated for those that are interested in completing a PhD in a year,  it doesn’t make much sense to try and complete a PhD in only a year. Granted, compared to the one year, you certainly have more time to live a quasi-normal existence; nevertheless, you are sacrificing too much. You still rush scholarly thinking, have little to no time for activities that you enjoy outside of academic study and you are almost guaranteed not to write the thesis that you hope to complete. Trust the process, take your time and enjoy. 

If you like this helpful post, and want to read more posts, you really need to read the following posts:”

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