Examples of Online Degree Completion Programs

A degree completion program resembles a traditional program while advancing your skills and widening your career opportunities.

Updated September 19, 2023 · 5 Min Read

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Online degree completion programs can help busy professionals finish college without hitting pause on their careers. They feature the same classes traditional undergraduates take and award identical degrees.

Degree completion options may offer many advantages, such as affordable tuition, highly trained advisors, and self-paced classes. The bonus flexibility of these programs can be especially helpful if you have an unpredictable schedule.

This guide explores examples of online degree completion programs and explains how they work. It also covers what steps students need to take to complete their degrees.

What Is an Online Degree Completion Program?

Degree completion programs let students who left a bachelor's program without graduating or graduated with an associate degree further their education and obtain a four-year degree.

If you want to earn your degree as fast as possible, an accelerated degree can be a great option — especially if you don't work or have other responsibilities. Plus, you can choose between full- and part-time options.

Transfer policies vary among schools, meaning you should contact an advisor or admissions counselor before applying. You may be able to graduate in less than two years if you transfer 60 or more undergraduate credits.

Available Online Bachelor's Degree Completion Programs

There are a variety of programs available for completing a bachelor's degree online. While this guide offers many program examples and descriptions, students should request program-specific information from schools directly.

Best Online Programs

Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

Who Should Enroll in a Degree Completion Program?

While a degree completion program isn't right for everyone, it can be beneficial for those who need a bachelor's to earn a promotion, search for a new job, or receive a raise. Plus, a bachelor's degree can help boost your competitiveness in an unpredictable job market.

Nowadays, advances in online learning make turning an associate degree or some college credit into a bachelor's easier than ever.

Pro Tip: Think twice before enrolling in one of the fastest online degree completion programs if you can't study full time. Balancing work and other responsibilities with full-time coursework can be quite challenging.

Top Online Programs

Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

What to Expect from An Online Degree Completion Program

Expect to work with a transfer advisor to determine how many credits you can put toward your bachelor's. You should also meet with an academic advisor to create a unique degree completion plan that aligns with your previous experience and educational goals.

Program Formats

Formats for online degree completion programs vary. Most schools design these programs to accelerate your progress to graduation.

Online programs that follow a traditional structure often involve taking two or three classes per eight-week session. You may attend weekly live lectures online and complete weekly assignments.

Alternative programs may offer more flexibility by offering credit-by-exam policies. These policies allow you to test out of certain classes to receive college credit for subjects you've already mastered.

Transferring Credits

Each school features its own policy and procedure for transferring credits. You should research each of your prospective school's transfer credit policies to see how many credits you can bring with you.

Some programs may pair you up with an academic advisor to review which of your credits can be applied toward your degree. Other programs may provide you with an articulation agreement or transfer credit guide.

Many schools award transfer credit for demonstrated proficiency through assessments such as AP or CLEP exams. Some programs also provide opportunities to obtain credit through work experience and professional certifications.


The cost of an online degree completion program depends on each school's fee structure. Costs often range from around $300-$600 per credit, although some institutions are more expensive. Additionally, some schools can add significant fees to base tuition costs, while others maintain flat rates.

Other ways schools may charge you for an online degree completion program include:

Financial Aid for Degree Completion Programs

The process of obtaining financial aid for online degree completion programs is similar to that of traditionally paced online programs.

To be eligible for federal student loan assistance, you must be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen enrolled in an accredited institution. Many federal loan programs are available to help you cover tuition or related costs.

You start the financial aid process by submitting the FAFSA. Based on FAFSA results, your prospective schools will send you a financial aid award letter. This letter lists federal student loans that you are eligible to receive.

A school's financial aid office can tell you how to accept all or a part of these loans. Before you receive your loan funds, make sure you understand the loan process and your repayment obligations.

How to Choose a Degree Completion Program

Make your purpose and priorities clear. Returning to school can be daunting for many reasons. Below, we list some tips to help you choose the right program.

Transfer Credits Are Key

A school's transfer credit policy can significantly impact degree completion times and costs. You should consider schools that will offer you the most credit for prior work and academic experience.

Do Your Research

Schools and programs vary significantly. Collect as much information as possible on each of your prospective programs. Take note of the different fee structures, transfer credit policies, class formats, and faculty expertise.

Determine How Much Financial Aid You Need

You should calculate how much financial aid you'll need to complete your degree. Precise calculations can help you reduce or avoid debt.

Map Out Your Course of Study

Work with an advisor to determine what courses you will be taking, when you will be taking them, and when you expect to graduate. A roadmap to graduation helps provide you with the structure needed to stay on track.

Best Online Programs

Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

Accelerated Degree Completion Programs

Accelerated programs rely on transfer credits to expedite the graduation timeline. Schools often require students to have completed at least 60 credits of coursework to enroll in a degree completion program. Other schools require applicants to hold an associate degree.

Unlike many traditional programs that follow a semester-based calendar, online accelerated programs often offer classes throughout the year. This format allows you to move through coursework faster than your peers.

Instead of a typical 16-week term, accelerated programs often use six-, eight-, or 10-week terms, during which you take two or three courses at a time.

These programs are best suited for students who already have some college credits and are comfortable working quickly. If you're considering an accelerated program, you should be organized, self-driven, and able to balance school with other commitments.

Benefits of Accelerated Degree Completion Programs

In addition to allowing you to transfer credits, accelerated degree completion programs offer several advantages:

  • Completion time: In an accelerated program, you have the potential (based on your transfer credit) to complete a bachelor's degree in 1-3 years.
  • Combined degrees: Some programs combine a bachelor's and a master's degree in one continuous course of study. This format allows you to earn both degrees in less time.
  • Flexibility: Accelerated programs tend to offer courses more frequently throughout the year.

Drawbacks of Accelerated Degree Completion Programs

While they feature many benefits, accelerated degree completion programs are not for everyone. These programs have a few potential drawbacks:

  • Fast-paced: You are expected to cover the same amount of coursework as a traditional program but in a much shorter period of time.
  • Eligibility requirements: These programs often require a number of core prerequisite courses, and you may not meet the eligibility requirements to enroll.
  • Time commitment: If you have little free time or other obligations, you may find it difficult to meet deadlines and keep up with a rigorous learning pace.
  • Necessary skills: If you struggle with organization, time management, or self-directed learning, an accelerated degree completion program may be challenging.

Frequently Asked Questions About Degree Completion Programs

Is a degree completion program worth it?

An online degree completion program provides a flexible pathway to finish a bachelor's degree. These programs benefit learners who began college but did not graduate with their degree.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, as of 2021, people with a bachelor's degree made an average of $1,334 per week. In contrast, people with some college experience but no degree earned $899 per week.

How does a degree completion program work?

Degree completion works by filling in the academic gaps you need to complete your degree. Advisors help you create a personalized curriculum containing the general education, major, and elective classes you need to graduate.

Degree completion programs' academic experiences typically resemble those of traditional college, blending lectures, readings, tests, and projects. And your professors will hold you to the same high standards as on-campus students in traditional programs.

How fast are degree completion programs?

Completion times for these programs vary, but some of the best online degree completion programs take as little as a year if you hold ample college experience. Alternatively, you may need 2-3 years if you have fewer credits or opt to learn on a part-time basis.

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AffordableCollegesOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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