Earning an Associate Degree Online Fast

By Reese Lopez

Published on July 28, 2021

Earning an Associate Degree Online Fast

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An accelerated associate degree lets students take an increased course load and graduate faster. Accelerated programs appeal to professionals looking to quickly increase their job options and salary potential. Military students and those seeking employment in healthcare or business may find particular value in accelerated degrees online.

Earning a fast track associate degree online offers many benefits. Entering the workforce sooner means greater potential for earnings and career advancement. Accelerated programs let students save on educational expenses by spending less total time in school. These programs may not suit students with significant personal or professional obligations, such as children or a full-time career.

This guide offers an overview of accelerated degrees online. We highlight steps to enroll, typical course structuring, and options after graduation.

Earning a 12-Month Accelerated Associate Degree: A Timeline



Before Enrollment: Research

Choose a School
Try to choose a school meeting all your needs. Consider academic offerings, accelerated enrollment format, and tuition costs. Always make sure a school holds proper accreditation.
Identify Admission Requirements
Colleges should maintain a clear list of admission requirements on their websites. Most accelerated associate degrees require a high school diploma and sometimes test scores.
Calculate Tuition Cost
Schools should provide a breakdown of their tuition costs. You can talk to admissions or financial aid counselors to determine the total cost of an accelerated associate degree.
Review Financial Aid Options
Always make sure to complete the FAFSA to determine all your available financial aid options. Financial aid counselors also help identify your funding options.
Determine In-Person/On-Campus Requirements
Some online programs may include in-person or on-campus requirements. Program websites should list any in-person obligations, but you can also email program coordinators to ask.
Look into Technology Requirements
Online programs require consistent internet access and a working computer. Consult schools' online education pages for specific technology requirements.

Enrollment: Apply

Complete the Application
All college programs require you to complete a standard application online. Four-year colleges and private schools may include an application fee, so remember this when planning applications.
Provide Required Documentation
For applications, you may need to provide information including social security number and proof of income. Check each school's admissions page for specific documentation requirements.
Apply for Financial Aid
At most schools, you apply for financial aid by completing the FAFSA. The online application requires information about your income or your parents' income if you're under 25.
Pay Tuition and Fees
After gaining acceptance to a school, you'll need to pay tuition and other administrative fees. Schools typically require you to pay tuition each semester, rather than all at once.

Attendance Year 1

An accelerated associate degree online features a more rigorous curriculum than a traditional associate program. You typically complete a heavier course load each semester to graduate faster. Courses prepare you for many different fields of study. Most programs include general education courses in composition, humanities, and history. Depending on your major, you may complete specialized courses in areas such as nursing, English, or business.

Graduation: End of Year 1

At most colleges, an associate degree requires 60 credits. Graduates may enter the workforce or continue to a bachelor's. Professionally focused programs such as information technology or business may prepare you for entry-level careers. More academically focused programs, such as liberal arts or sciences, commonly prepare you for a bachelor's program.

Accelerated Online Associate vs. Online Associate Timeline

Some accelerated degrees online may take as little as one year. When not earning a fast track associate degree online, degree-seekers may take over two years. Accelerated programs require more courses each semester and may require summer classes.

An accelerated associate degree online can help you finish your studies and enter the workforce sooner. Unfortunately, not all schools offer accelerated associate degrees, and not all fields of study feature accelerated options. If you're interested in accelerated learning, contact your desired school to determine what accelerated programs they offer.

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What is the Fastest Online Associate Degree to Get?



Accelerated associate degrees appeal to various students, including military service members and those entering healthcare or business. These degrees serve students seeking to fast track their career and earning potential. This list highlights several popular accelerated degrees online. We cover average completion times, typical courses, and additional academic requirements.

Accelerated Online Associate Programs for Military Members

Accelerated Online Associate in Criminal Justice
  • Completion Time
    Ideal for military members with some criminal justice experience, these programs confer associate degrees in just 16 months. The curriculum splits into 7.5-week sessions, letting degree-seekers earn the 68 required credits quickly.
  • Example Courses
    • Introduction to Criminal Justice: The course explores U.S. criminal justice system basics.
    • Criminology: The class shows students patterns of illegal behavior and the ways criminals think.
    • Introduction to Psychology: The course considers the human mind and why people do what they do.
  • Program Requirements
    Students may need to complete a research project, but the school does not require internship or field experience. Requirements include the ability to perform college-level writing and math.
Accelerated Online Associate in Counterterrorism
  • Completion Time
    The degree explores terrorism's origins and history. Students learn strategies to combat terrorist threats. Programs like this coordinate well with a military background. The program takes less than two years to complete, and students can receive credit for prior military experience. Service members often benefit from discounted tuition.
  • Example Courses
    • Mind of a Terrorist: The course surveys modern terrorists' behavior and motivation.
    • Homeland Security and Intelligence: Students look at ways national security uses data and intelligence sources to fight terrorist threats.
    • Homegrown Terrorism: The course addresses how Americans become radicalized.
  • Program Requirements
    Applicants typically need a high school degree or equivalent. Some programs require neither prior military service nor outside practicums or fieldwork. Degree-seekers can often quickly earn credits by transferring military experience.
Accelerated Online Associate in Military Studies
  • Completion Time
    Programs like these allow service members to advance in their military career with a related degree. The degree also serves as the ideal diploma to pivot into civilian life. Students take one five-week course at a time, earning their degree in under two years.
  • Example Courses
    • Introduction to Military Studies: Covering the military's role in American culture, the class prepares students for future coursework.
    • Introduction to Cultural Anthropology: A look at human development across the centuries, the course fulfills general education requirements.
    • American Military History I: Participants study the U.S. military from its pre-Revolutionary roots to WWI.
  • Program Requirements
    Applicants must meet schools' basic requirements. These often include a minimum number of credits and active class participation.

Accelerated Online Healthcare and Medical Associate Programs

Accelerated Online Associate in Pre-Medicine
  • Completion Time
    These programs count as "very accelerated" since students earn their degree in just over a year with transfer credits.
  • Example Courses
    • Biology: The course explores the human body's major systems and functions.
    • General Chemistry: The introductory college chemistry course includes both lecture and lab components.
    • Calculus I: All science majors must take mathematics courses, including calculus.
  • Program Requirements
    Students must meet general admission criteria. Requirements include a high school degree or equivalent. Learners often need to attend a new student orientation. Students may or may not need practicum or internship experience.
Accelerated Online Associate in Healthcare Administration
  • Completion Time
    Offered entirely online, the program explores the intersection of business and medicine. The degree makes an ideal foundation for future study or entry into the workplace.
  • Example Courses
    • Human Resource Management: The three-credit course explores intrapersonal communication and management styles.
    • Computer Literacy: Students learn to maximize healthcare IT in the first-semester course.
    • Medical Terminology: Distance learners become well versed in healthcare language in this introductory class.
  • Program Requirements
    Applicants must hold a high school degree or equivalent, and they may need to pass an entrance exam. While some classes feature labs, students should check whether the school requires internships.
Accelerated Online Associate in Healthcare Management
  • Completion Time
    Distance learners gain the skills needed to move into advanced healthcare positions. With summer classes, students can complete some programs in under 18 months.
  • Example Courses
    • Healthcare Organizations: The course grounds students in the structure and governance of U.S. healthcare.
    • Management Principles: Administration basics form the basis of this class. Students learn decision-making, problem-solving, budgeting, and intrapersonal relations.
    • Ethics of Medicine: The course considers moral questions that arise in healthcare delivery.
  • Program Requirements
    Students must meet the usual college admission requirements to enter these programs. Criteria include a high school diploma or GED certificate. Programs often do not require practicum or field experience.

Accelerated Online Associate Programs for High Salary Careers

Accelerated Online Associate in Business Administration
  • Completion Time
    These online programs lead to an associate degree in just over a year. Designated advisors provide assistance throughout the program.
  • Example Courses
    • Principles of Financial Accounting: Students learn the fiscal side of administration in the three-credit course.
    • Composition: Distance learners explore the components of solid writing skills.
    • Business Software Applications: The three-credit class looks at the use of technology in modern business.
  • Program Requirements
    Learners earn admission with a high school degree or equivalent. The program typically requires no internships, but many students choose to do one for credit.
Accelerated Online Associate in Software Development
  • Completion Time
    Software engineering represents the single best-paying job possible with a two-year degree. These programs usually consist of 60 credits. Students earn the degree in 20 months or less. Classes often run year round.
  • Example Courses
    • Computer Networks: Networking and IT form the basis of this three-credit course. It explores operating systems and network fundamentals.
    • Database Design: The three-credit course examines database construction, security, and management.
    • Computer Architecture: The class investigates how software runs on a hardware platform.
  • Program Requirements
    Applicants must submit high school transcripts and meet with an admissions counselor. Some may need to take entrance placement exams. The curriculum typically excludes internships and field practicums.
Accelerated Online Associate in Supervision and Management Technology
  • Completion Time
    The entirely online associate degree suits individuals seeking management positions. Some universities offer classes on a rotating basis, so distance learners earn credits quickly. Graduates leave with skills needed to step into high-paying administrative careers.
  • Example Courses
    • Principles of Accounting: The three-credit course introduces professional bookkeeping basics.
    • Public Speaking: The class provides strategies for public discourse.
    • Personnel Management: The class imparts skills needed to oversee staff, set schedules, communicate effectively, and solve problems.
  • Program Requirements
    Candidates must submit previous college or high school transcripts. Most colleges do not require internship experience.

Other Popular Accelerated Degree Subjects

Explore More Accelerated Degree Levels

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