It's important that you know what you're getting into once you decide to take the leap and enroll in an accelerated college degree online program. The benefits to online degree programs have been well-documented—you'll earn your degree on your own schedule and you'll save commuter costs while you work at your own pace. An accelerated college degree online program will significantly quicken that pace, because your workload will be more demanding and require that you follow a much more rigorous schedule to complete assignments.
You'll also learn differently. Instead of taking several classes simultaneously, you'll take one or two courses at a time at an accelerated rate, so you aren't distracted by assignments from several different classes. This lends itself toward better retention of the information you've learned and also provides a valuable future job skill because it replicates workplace tasks, which are often project-based.
How Quickly Can I Earn My Degree?
An accelerated college degree program online can be earned in the following amount of time:
- Associate's degree – A traditional associate's degree takes two years; the accelerated path takes one year to 20 months.
- Bachelor's degree – Instead of four years, an accelerated bachelor's degree can be earned in two years or more.
- Dual Bachelor's/Master's degree – A 4+1 program allows an undergraduate to complete a bachelor and master's degree program in five years instead of six or more.
- Master's degree or MBA – One year to 18 months is the average length of time in order to earn an accelerated master's degree or MBA.
- Doctoral degree – A doctoral degree program can be completed in three years or more instead of the traditional five to six years.
What Should I Think About in Advance?
Earning a 4-year degree in as little as two years takes a lot of effort. You can count on your coursework loads and due dates to accelerate. Depending upon your class schedule and the time frame in which you're planning on getting your degree, a course in an accelerated online degree program could presumably double your workload compared to a course at a non-accelerated online or traditional degree program.
Planning is probably the most critical element when you pursue an accelerated college degree online. It's also important to know your limitations. You may not want to overload your life with unrealistic expectations and try to earn a 4-year degree in two years if you have other full-time commitments. Even skimming just six months off the time it takes to earn your degree will save money and help you reach your goal faster.
What Should I Be Aware Of?
There are some variables that can affect how quickly and affordably you can earn your accelerated college degree online, so before choosing a school you'll need to learn about the following factors:
- Transfer credits – These might transfer to your new program and shorten your education time further, but be sure to confirm this before you make that assumption.
- Life experience credits – If you started a program at another point in life but circumstances altered your direction, life experience credits may be invaluable in helping you finish your degree faster. Life experience credits take into consideration prior transcripts and your accumulated expertise in your field, or if you've mastered a subject through self-study. The types of life experience that may apply include college, military experience, professional development, certificate programs and volunteer service.
- Financial aid – You'll need to see if financial aid is available for the accelerated online college degree program and school you've chosen. Don't assume that the accelerated program you choose will offer all the same financial aid that is available for traditional brick-and-mortar or online learning programs.
- Accreditation – Make sure you choose an accredited school. There are many accelerated online degree programs that just want to sell you a degree without monitoring your academic progress. Remember, not every accredited online school offers an accelerated degree program.
- Scheduling – While most online classes or degree programs allow you to complete course work at your own pace, many brick-and-mortar universities that offer online classes require students to maintain the same quarter or semester schedule as their traditional on-campus students. So although some classes and degrees may be completed at an accelerated pace, most classes at these institutions are usually structured in such a way that they require a minimum of six to eight weeks to complete. Before you choose your school, make sure that the offered accelerated college degree online programs really are accelerated.