The time and money needed to earn a bachelor’s degree can keep many people from even starting. Yet bachelor’s degrees, and sometimes even master’s degrees, are essential for career advancement in many fields. People who have four-year or graduate degrees in their fields also have more income potential and report greater job satisfaction than those with just an associate degree.
So, what is a learner to do when a bachelor’s degree feels out of reach? Accelerated degree programs can help students earn a bachelor’s degree more quickly and with less money spent. If you’re in need of additional training in your field, but want to get it in the most cost-effective, efficient way, an accelerated degree program may be the answer.
How Do Accelerated Degree Programs Work?
What is an accelerated degree program? And how do accelerated degree programs work?
In a typical bachelor’s degree program, students attend 16 weeks of classes each term with often two terms or semesters offered per year. This can mean a bachelor’s degree takes four to five years to complete, or longer if the student is working and can’t take a full-time course schedule each semester.
Accelerated degree programs offer shorter classes with more flexibility. Rather than only offering classes twice a year, students can take them whenever they fit into their schedule. They are also often compressed into sessions that are five to 10 weeks in length, instead of 16 weeks. This allows a studious student to finish in as little as one year for some graduate degree programs.
If you are new to the idea of an accelerated degree program, you may be wondering if this is going to hurt your education. Is it possible to cover all of the material in such a short time period? The obvious answer is yes. Yes, it is. Universities are streamlining their coursework so that the same amount is covered in an accelerated degree program, just more quickly. You can embrace this streamlined education without fear of sacrificing the quality of your learning experience.
Each school implements accelerated degree programs differently, but many put the power of choice in the hands of the students. Rolling start dates offered by some schools empower students to start the next program as soon as they’re ready. This means students can start their classes, work through and complete them, and then jump in and start the next one without waiting. The faster a student is able to work, the faster they are able to finish.
Length of Time for an Accelerated Degree Program
The amount of time it takes to complete an accelerated bachelor’s degree varies from one school to the next. If you already have general education classes under your belt and you’re transferring into a program, you may be able to complete all of the coursework in 12 to 18 months. But this may be longer if you have to complete all of the general education classes.
There are several ways to get out of some general ed classes in an accelerated program. Many programs are set up so that previous coursework easily transfers in. If you started a degree program at one point, but never finished, or if you have an associate degree, that coursework could be applied to your bachelor’s credit requirements.
These programs also allow you to test out of basic courses. If you took advanced courses in high school or have some basic knowledge you can show through CLEP exams or similar tests, you can get credit for coursework without taking it. The number of general ed requirements you test out of impacts how quickly you can finish your accelerated degree program.
If your degree program requires hands-on training, such as clinical time for medical and nursing programs or observation hours and teaching experience for education programs, then this may add some additional weeks or months to your degree. This is one area that can’t be shortened because it is usually governed by state license requirements.
Benefits of Accelerated Degree Programs
Accelerated degree programs carry many benefits that make them worth considering.
1. Faster, More Affordable Education
First, with an accelerated degree, you can earn your degree faster. This means you can more quickly end up in your desired career field or the advanced role you’re hoping for in your current place of employment. It also gives your resume a boost if you’re looking for a new position in a crowded marketplace.
By finishing your degree more quickly, you will save money. The National Center for Education Statistics estimates the cost for a year of school is $13,700 for public schools and $22,100 for private schools. Thus, finishing one year in six months could save you between $7,000 and $11,000.
2. Earlier Start Times
Accelerated degree programs may let you start your education earlier. You won’t have to wait for a semester to begin. While each school has its own schedule, many have multiple start dates throughout the year and will process applications regularly, so you don’t have to wait.
3. Approval for What You’ve Done
With the right program, you have the chance to earn college credit for work you’ve already done or skills you’ve already learned. By testing out of some of your coursework, you can move past the review and on to the things you’re excited to learn.
4. Flexible Scheduling
In addition to flexible start times, accelerated degree programs are often online, giving you the added flexibility to work learning around your schedule. If you’re working full-time, you can do your schoolwork on your lunch break or over the weekend. This allows you to be present for your family and take care of your work responsibilities while pursuing your education.
5. No Need to Move
Because accelerated degree programs are often online, you can apply with a school that meets your goals, even if it’s far from your home. This means you can pursue the education that fits your needs, rather than choosing the school that’s in your geographic area.
6. Increase Earning Potential More Quickly
Getting an accelerated degree means you can increase your earning potential more quickly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with a bachelor’s degree earn, on average, $300 more per week than those with an associate degree. People with a master’s degree earn $600 more than those with an associate degree. The faster you complete your degree, the more quickly you can increase your income.
Potential Drawbacks of Accelerated Programs
Like most options out there for people, there are some challenges to consider as you decide if accelerated programs are the right way for you to get your education.
1. Accelerated Programs Require Self-Motivated Learners
To succeed when taking coursework online, you need self-motivation. Instead of meeting with your class on a regular schedule, you will set your pace. If you are not self-motivated, you may not remember to sign on and get your coursework done, and you will miss the benefits of online, accelerated learning.
2. Workloads Can Be Heavier
It can feel a little more challenging when you take an accelerated program because you’re completing the same amount of work but in a shorter period of time. This means the day-to-day work may be more intense than in a traditional bachelor’s degree. This makes sense because the degree program will cover the same items in a shorter period of time. If you need to, you can cut back on the number of courses you take at a time, but this can add time to finishing your degree.
3. No Face-to-Face Meetings
Some students thrive with face-to-face interaction with teachers and fellow students. Accelerated degree programs do not allow for this. It is still possible to build connections and network through online coursework, but it’s not going to mirror the interaction found in the classroom.
What Type of Students Best Benefits from Accelerated Learning?
Accelerated learning can work for any type of student who wants to finish their degree more quickly and spend less money in the process, but certain demographics seem to benefit the most from accelerated learning models.
Adults who are already past the traditional “college age” often find it difficult to step away from work and family responsibilities to go back to the classroom. Online education through an accelerated degree program lets these students earn their bachelor’s or master’s degrees with more flexibility.
Those who are looking for a career change can also benefit from quickly earning a degree in their new career.
How to Get Started with an Accelerated Degree Program
If an accelerated degree program is right for you, then it’s time to find one. Many colleges now offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees on an accelerated basis. Find the one that has the degree you need and apply as you would to any of their more traditional degree programs. Remember to ask about transferring any credits you already have or testing out of core competency classes. Once you are accepted, jump in, and start taking your courses to get your degree underway.
If you are interested in learning more about accelerated degree programs and other career-friendly online degrees, reach out to an admissions counselor at Post University for more information.
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