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The traditional bachelor’s degree takes at least four years to complete. But some accelerated college programs allow you to complete a full bachelor’s degree in much less time, sometimes
An online degree is generally more convenient than an on-campus degree, but an accelerated program can significantly reduce the cost of your degree, both in tuition and time. There are several key ways schools can reduce the time it takes to complete your degree. They can:
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If you’re looking for accelerated degree programs, you’ll also hear about “degree programs” or schools that accept more transfer credits. We can tell you about this too, but we won’t lie to you: graduate programs aren’t faster. It just means you’ve done all your work elsewhere. It’s like some colleges say, “You have to start this marathon halfway, so you’ll finish faster.” But they only let you because you already ran the first half somewhere else.
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We’re going to assume you don’t have any transfer credit, so we’re only looking at programs that are actually faster. But we will let you know if a school accepts credit from other schools and what part of your degree can transfer.
The schools on this list offer truly accelerated study programs, due to the factors we’ve listed above. Of course, many variables can affect the speed of completion, but the schools you’ll see here offer the opportunity to start and finish a bachelor’s degree in less time.
Most graduates earn their bachelor’s degree from WGU in less than four years, and some finish in 12 months or less.
How do they manage? Skill-based education. Instead of completing classes at the end of the semester or quarter, you complete them when you can demonstrate that you have mastered the material. So if you’ve already learned a lot of the material from previous courses or from real-life experience, you can save months or even years on your curriculum.
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From start to finish, Capella University has one of the fastest pathways to a bachelor’s degree. If you’re ambitious and sharp enough (and have some free time), you can take four years of classes in about two years.
Capella University’s unique FlexPath format allows you to enroll in two courses at once—and once you complete one, you can enroll in another. You receive all your homework at the start of the 12-week period (including tests and projects) and can complete your courses as quickly as you like.
The top 10% of FlexPath students graduate in less than a year. But there’s a catch: You must have 45 prerequisite credits before you can enroll in a FlexPath program. This is approximately one year of coursework, which you can complete online through the GuidedPath format at Capella University.
Each licensing program has its own FlexPath pricing, but you can take as many courses as you want in a term, as long as you complete one before starting another.
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There are seventeen online bachelor’s degrees with the FlexPath option at Capella University, and each has a wide choice of concentrations, so you’ll have plenty of options.
Many schools offer lesson demos to show you how their online classes work, but Capella University offers a free one-week trial lesson that includes homework, so you can get an idea of what it’s like. is to be a fast online student. . (However, this will not give you any credit.)
In addition to the FlexPath program, Capella University offers all other time-saving options to shorten your degree. You can earn credit for relevant work experience and certifications, as well as for some nationally recognized tests. You can also transfer credits from another school. The amount you can transfer depends on the program you choose, but 75% of all undergraduate students at Capella University have at least some transfer credits.
In addition to a large selection of online degrees, Colorado Tech University takes a unique approach to prior learning assessment. They offer a Fast Track program that allows you to test courses and get credit for them. These exams can save you 30% or more over your total degree time.
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CTU programs are approximately 180 credits and through Fast Track exams, you can earn up to 73 credits. That’s more than a year and a half into your total degree! You can see how many exams there are in each study program before you register, and you can even see which classes the exams are for.
American InterContinental University’s online campus offers a good selection of bachelor’s degrees, and their generous credit system for prior learning can significantly reduce the time it takes to complete a program.
You can earn credit for work experience and training directly related to your degree. For example, if you trained at a law enforcement academy—a training experience that typically lasts six months or less—that’s worth 36 credits toward a criminal justice degree.
The College Level Examination Programs (CLEP) cost $85 per person, but if you can afford them, IAU replaces them with corresponding lower-level courses in their degree programs. Similarly, DSST exams may substitute for lower or higher level courses. They also accept Advanced Placement (AP) tests.
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You can submit exam results from aptitude tests such as CLEP, DSST, Excelsior, and AP. If you have relevant education or experience in business, health care, information technology, or the liberal arts, you may request a prior learning assessment for extra credit.
To see what the online learning experience at Northeastern is like, you can try a learning demo. NU also offers tips for succeeding as an online learner.
Colorado State University Global Campus offers students a good variety of online degrees, but an even better selection of concentrations and specializations. You add them to your study program à la carte. (Doing so will increase the time it takes to graduate.)
To shorten the time it takes to earn your degree, CSU-Global offers several ways for you to receive alternative credits. Like other schools, you can take college-level exams or submit relevant portfolio experiences for them to review.
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“Non-college credits, other than examination or military service credits, such as non-college courses, corporate training, certificates, professional licenses, etc., may be considered for transfer to a bachelor’s degree if they are evaluated in accordance with ACE guidelines, reviewed by the National College Credit Recommendation Service (CCRS) and do not duplicate credits already accepted in transfer.
You can also earn credits through Sophia Pathways. And of course, you can always transfer credits. CSU-Global allows you to transfer up to 90 credits, or 75% of your degree.
Liberty University has one of the widest selections of online bachelor’s degrees, and they have many options for fast-tracking your degree.
Some career training can automatically earn you credits (including but not limited to aviation, law enforcement, insurance, real estate, and EMT licenses) and you can also submit an Experience Plus portfolio for credit.
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Liberty University also allows you to transfer up to 75% of your degree from another school, and they also have online degree completion programs.
In addition to regular degree programs and transfer credits, AMC allows you to earn up to 45 prior learning credits. This includes CLEP, ACT-PEP, and challenge exams, as well as a portfolio.
If you’re interested in IWU’s bachelor’s degree programs, you can narrow them down with a prior learning assessment portfolio. You can also earn up to 40 credits of relevant prior learning and transfer up to 90 credits.
Their accelerated study programs can be completed in 16 months and courses last just five weeks. However, you must have two years of full-time work experience to qualify for these programs.
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Graduate programs exist because thousands of students change schools each year. According to the Independent Student Housing National Research Center, more than one-third of all college students change schools before graduating. To transfer your credits from one school to another, both schools generally must be accredited by the same bodies.
Make sure you fully understand how accreditation works before committing to a school. A wrong choice can drastically reduce the options you have later.
The schools on this list offer great ways to save time on your degree, but ultimately how quickly you finish depends on how hard you’re willing to work. If you are determined to finish quickly and have the time, you can take more credits per term or semester. Choosing the right school can make it easier for you to cut months or even years off your program, but to really cut your study time, you’ll have to work.
Only you can decide what is most important to you. No one wants to waste time in classes they don’t need or listen to lectures about things they already know. But choosing a degree program based on how quickly you can finish won’t guarantee that you’ll avoid these things. If you choose a program based on its quality, you are much less likely to find yourself in this situation.
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Maybe you just want a degree because you know people with a college degree earn more.
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