What Is an Accelerated Degree Program?
An accelerated degree program has the same learning outcomes as a traditional degree, but courses are condensed so you can earn your degree more quickly. Each class generally takes five to ten weeks to complete — unlike 16 weeks for semester courses — which enables you to take classes year-round. Accelerated degrees are available at the associate, bachelor's, and master's degree levels, with some degrees allowing you to combine your coursework and earn your master's while earning your bachelor's or your master's with a doctorate. Some are entirely self-paced, while others have a definitive start and stop time. Accelerated programs are ideal for students working full time because they are fast and allow scheduling flexibility.
Accelerated programs are ideal for students working full time because they are fast and allow scheduling flexibility.
Online Accelerated Degree Programs
There are online options for accelerated degree programs. Courses are typically offered asynchronously via a learning management system such as Canvas or Blackboard, so you can participate when your schedule permits. However, some programs may require some on-campus work, such as a course intensive at the beginning and end of a program that could last a week.
Enrollment and Admission Requirements
Applying to college and enrolling in accelerated degree programs may include:
A completed application and fee of approximately $50
A high school diploma, GED, or equivalent
High school, college, and military transcripts as applicable
Minimum 2.0 - 3.0 GPA depending on the program and school
Standardized test scores such as the SAT and ACT, though schools may waive this requirement
Entrance exams depending on the school and program
A letter or essay of intent
Letters of recommendation, usually for graduate programs
Dual degree programs may require two separate enrollments and the completion of two entrance exams because you'll be earning two degrees that may fall under different colleges or departments in a university.
Accelerated Degree Program Accreditation
Accelerated degree programs should have the same accreditation as traditional degrees, which includes institutional and programmatic accreditation. Always confirm accreditation status because this is crucial for transferring credits and applying for various licenses and credentials.
How Do Accelerated Degree Programs Work?
Accelerated degree programs work differently than traditional degree programs. For instance, there may be multiple times of year that you can enroll as opposed to just a few. In addition, you may be part of a cohort of students who all register for the same program simultaneously — this can be great for building camaraderie and support. As a result, classes tend to be smaller, too, and instruction more individualized.
You generally take a class and start the next one as soon as it's complete. Programs may be self-paced, enabling you to finish as quickly as you want, or you can take your time until the deadline for completion. Some programs have courses that need to be completed in a specific order, while others may allow for more scheduling freedom.
Programs may be self-paced, enabling you to finish as quickly as you want, or you can take your time until the deadline for completion.
Schools often require that you transfer credits into an accelerated degree program to be eligible to enroll. Students transfer 30-60 credits on average, though some schools allow you to transfer as many as 90. For example, you may be able to transfer any general education courses you completed at community college, which can save time and money. You may also be able to enroll in a prior learning assessment program (PLA), allowing you to receive credit hours for relevant work experience saving time and money. Earning credits may require testing your knowledge or writing an essay proving your competency.
Types of Accelerated Degrees
There are several types of accelerated degree programs available depending on the degree level and area of study. Programs enable you to earn one degree quickly, two degrees at the same time, or bridge one degree to another.
Accelerated Associate Degree
Accelerated associate degree programs may be available through two-year postsecondary schools, including community colleges. Business and nursing are two standard accelerated associate degree programs. An accelerated associate degree takes approximately ten months to a year to complete, while a traditional associate degree program may take full-time students two years.
Accelerated Bachelor's Degree
An accelerated degree completion program may be ideal if you're transferring 50-60 credits of previously completed coursework or can get credit hours for work experience. It takes approximately two to three years to complete an accelerated bachelor's degree, while it may take four years to complete a traditional program.
Accelerated Bachelors to Master's Degree
These programs are sometimes called "combined" accelerated degree programs. They allow you to earn a bachelor's degree and a master's in the same field simultaneously. You start earning a bachelor's degree and then take master's degree classes in your third year. You can save at least a year of study — or possibly more — and complete this program in approximately five years. It usually takes a minimum of six to complete a traditional bachelor's and then a master's degree.
A dual degree is an interdisciplinary approach to learning that enables you to earn two distinct degrees simultaneously at the undergraduate and graduate level or even an undergraduate degree with a graduate degree. The two degrees often complement each other to allow a student to focus on one specialty within a field of study. For example, you may earn your master's in criminal justice while earning one in public administration. A dual degree may take four to six years, but remember that you're completing two degrees which could take up to eight years if done separately.
Bridge degree programs are common for students who hold a two-year degree and are interested in a bachelor's or master's degree. For example, a registered nurse (RN) who has an ADN may want to earn an MSN without earning their BSN. A bridge program can help them "bridge the gap" between their associate and a master's degree and bypass earning their bachelor's degree.
How Long Does It Take to Complete an Accelerated Degree Program?
It can take one to two years less to complete an accelerated degree than a traditional one, depending on the program and if you're transferring credits. For example, this may cut the time to graduation in half for some programs, such as an accelerated associate or bachelor's degree program. Additionally, if you take an accelerated bachelor's to master's program, you may be able to complete the program in the same time it could take for a bachelor's degree alone.
Cost of an Accelerated Degree Program
Accelerated degree programs may be more affordable than traditional programs. For example, many charge flat-rate tuition, so you pay one set amount per term, and some schools discount tuition for accelerated program students. You may also save money by transferring credits and not commuting to campus. An accelerated bachelor's degree program typically costs between $300 and $600 per credit hour.
Funding an Accelerated Degree Program
You can apply for financial aid and scholarships to help pay for an accelerated program. The first step is to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine if you are eligible for federal grants, scholarships, work-study programs, or low-interest student loans that offer flexible repayment options. Some students also opt for private loans, but be careful if you do — they often come with steep interest rates and few repayment options.
You can apply for financial aid and scholarships to help pay for an accelerated program.
You can also apply for private scholarships to help pay for college. A visit to your school's financial aid office may unearth several sources, and they may be able to help you find others. Scholarships are great because they are like getting free money and don't require repayment.
You may also be eligible for funding through any associations to which you or a close family member may belong. For example, many trade and professional organizations help members and their families pay for college by offering scholarships. If you, your spouse, or your parents are military veterans, you may also be able to use GI Bill benefits to help pay for school.
Common Accelerated Degree Programs
There are several accelerated degree programs standard across schools. Additionally, schools may offer more options. It's best to check with the registrar's office or a program advisor before enrollment to identify what they offer.
FAQs About Accelerated Degree Programs
What Is the Fastest Degree You Can Get?
An accelerated degree program is often the fastest path to a degree. Courses may be completed in as little as five weeks compared to up to 16 weeks for traditional courses. Therefore, you may be able to finish some accelerated degree programs in less than two years.
Is an Accelerated Degree Program Good?
Yes, an accelerated degree program is good because it can enable you to finish your degree quickly and potentially increase your job growth opportunities and earnings. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that employees with a bachelor's degree earn over $500 more per week than those without college experience. An accelerated degree may also provide schedule flexibility if you work as you may be able to complete coursework online, on weekends, or in the evenings.
How Much Do Accelerated Programs Cost?
An accelerated program may cost less than its traditional counterpart. For example, schools may charge flat-rate tuition or offer student discounts for accelerated courses. Because you're completing a degree faster, this can also save you money in the long run. In general, accelerated bachelor's degree courses cost between $300-$600 per credit hour.
Do Employers Value Accelerated Degrees?
Accelerated degree programs are generally set to the same rigor and standards as traditional degree programs and are therefore valued by employers as long as it's accredited. So, while you do not need to disclose that you graduated from an accelerated program, there's no reason to hide the fact.