There are accelerated degree programs available for college students. These courses of study, which are found in a broad range of subjects, can save you money and lead to a quicker entry into the workforce. An accelerated program is also a good option for adult learners and career-changers who want to add a degree to their resume.

What Is an Accelerated Degree Program?

Accelerated degree programs, also known as fast-track degree programs, take less time than traditional academic programs. For example, if you attend college or university full-time, you might earn a master’s degree in two years. However, an accelerated program in the same subject could take as little as a single year to complete.

Accelerated programs allow students to transfer in a maximum number of credits they previously earned at different institutions. Additionally, some programs allow students to earn credits in ways other than classes. Challenge exams and credits for life and professional experience are two popular ways for students to earn credits outside of the typical classroom.

Even though they take less time, an accelerated program will still cover all the material you would encounter in a more traditional program. How do they do it? Each school is different, but in general, accelerated programs feature courses that meet for longer hours over a shorter number of weeks. A traditionally-paced semester, for example, could take 15-16 weeks. An accelerated course term might be as little as five or six weeks, but you’ll have an intense course load during that time. You may also meet during the summer months.

Accelerated degree programs can be completed online, in person, or a hybrid format featuring both online and in-person classes. You can earn a single degree, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree, or you might take a program leading to a dual degree, such as a combined bachelor’s in business management linked with an MBA.

Pros and Cons of Accelerated Degree Programs

Accelerated degree programs aren’t for everyone, but in many cases, they have real benefits. They are an excellent choice if you know what you want to study, wish to earn your degree and get out into the job market. You may save money in an accelerated program since you will be attending courses for a shorter period of time. If you take your program online, you’ll save on housing fees and transportation costs. Accelerated programs appeal to adult learners, especially those with some college credit or an associate’s degree, as well as those with military experience.

Some students may feel they are missing out on the essential college experiences that happen in and out of the classroom in an accelerated program. They will have less time to make friends and build relationships and may also have less personal contact with their professors and classmates. These programs are generally a great fit for students looking to get into the workforce quickly, or students who already have a degree and are looking to pivot academic fields.

It’s important to note that accelerated programs don’t mean you’ll be doing less work toward your degree than those in traditional programs. The work is just compressed into a shorter period. This may cause increased stress for students, especially those who are not motivated to complete the program.


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    May save money on tuition, fees, and even transportation costs

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    Earn your degree in less time, sometimes in as little as a year or less

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    Able to enter the workforce more quickly


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    Less time for contact with professors and other students

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    Increased pressure to complete courses in a short period of time

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    Workload may be heavy while classes are in session

Who Should Consider Accelerated Degree Programs?

While anyone can excel in an accelerated degree program, there are some groups of individuals who are more likely to find it advantageous to tackle these intense programs. It’s worth considering, for example, if you fit into one of these categories:

  • You already have an associate degree: check with the admissions office of your chosen college to be sure that your credits will transfer and count toward your accelerated program. This will give you a head-start on the coursework needed to complete the program.
  • You have enough time: accelerated programs are time-intensive when they are in session, and they may go year-round with no summer break. If you already have a full-time job or family commitments, you might not have the time needed to focus on your classes.
  • You are interested in a career change: when you are ready to switch to a new career, you don’t want to spend more time than is necessary sitting in a classroom. An accelerated program can get you a diploma in less time, so you can make a move quickly.
  • You want a dual degree: some accelerated degree programs offer you the chance to earn two degrees in less time — such as a bachelor-to-masters combination. You may also save money by paying the undergraduate rate for some or all of your graduate-level courses.
  • You prefer online learning: many accelerated programs are offered online, allowing you to learn wherever you have an internet connection. Asynchronous classes let you study when you have time and provide increased flexibility. This is a great option if the program you want isn’t offered by any local colleges in your area.
  • You already have a foundational knowledge of the degree progra:. For example, if you were a pre-nursing major in college, an accelerated BSN program may be less stressful, as you already have a grasp of anatomy and physiology.

Adult learners are particularly well-suited for accelerated degree programs. They may not be interested in a “classic” college experience. They are more likely to want to earn their degree quickly and efficiently, so they can get on with life. Adult learners are also more likely to know what they wish to study, as opposed to traditional-age students who may need time to narrow down their subject choices.

Majors That Often Offer Accelerated Degree Programs

Accelerated degree programs can be found in a wide range of subject areas. Master’s programs are common in education as well as business. A one-year MBA program is one typical option. Health care also is known for accelerated programs. The most common RN-to-BSN program allows registered nurses to earn their bachelor’s degree, increasing their employment prospects and salary.

Computer science and IT are attractive accelerated options, as are communications, management, and interdisciplinary programs in areas such as liberal studies and sociology. Dual degree programs may help you earn both your bachelor’s degree along with a master’s degree in a related subject, such as a combined undergrad degree in criminal justice combined with a master’s degree in law.

Education is another subject area that is commonly seen in accelerated programs. If you have an undergraduate degree in an education-related field, you may be able to earn your master’s degree in a year. Since some states require teachers to have a master’s degree, this can be an attractive option to anyone wishing to enter the teaching profession.

How to Succeed in An Accelerated Degree Program

It’s not hard to succeed in an accelerated degree program if you are a motivated and committed student. You will need to schedule your time wisely, especially if you have other work or family commitments, since accelerated programs require a significant investment of time. While studying, you may need to cut back on optional activities to devote your attention fully to your classes.

It helps to realize that although you will be in school for a shorter total period of time, you still will be required to learn and study all the concepts of your field just as students in a regular course of study would. Keep your eyes on your end goal to help you through difficult periods. Enlist the support of family and friends to help you remain focused on your target.

If you are taking your program online, having a dedicated space in your home, or even at the local coffee shop where you can attend classes and study without interruption is helpful. This can be especially challenging if you have small children. In that case, studying later in the evening or early morning hours can help.

Managing stress is another important component in ensuring your success. Remind yourself to take frequent breaks from your studies and to pace yourself. One good way to do this is to set a timer and get up from your desk once an hour, to rest your eyes and collect yourself. Practice deep breathing exercises or do a few calisthenics while you’re up to refresh both your mind and body. Since you’ll be taking these courses with other students, it may be helpful to connect for support on dividing readings or studying to proactively prevent some of the inevitable stress.

The best way to succeed in an accelerated degree program is to stay focused on your end goals, a more fulfilling career, a better salary, or whatever your reasons are for undertaking this challenge. If you can do that, you may find the months of your program fly by, leaving you with a more well-rounded education and a bright future.

Interested in a degree instead?

Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.