Earning a Fast Master's Degree Online

A How-To Guide on Accelerated Master's Degree Programs

To find your field's highest-paying positions, you may need to earn a master's degree. But master's degrees take time, and learners often require four years to finish their bachelor's degree and then another 2-3 years to earn their master's. An accelerated online master's degree has become a popular alternative.

Accelerated online master's programs let you finish your bachelor's and master's degree more quickly and affordably than traditional options. These accredited programs often last five years, with your master's degree taking only one year to complete.

Earning a 12-Month Accelerated Master's Degree: A Timeline

Before Enrollment: Research

  • Figure out which school offers the area of study and degree of your choice in an accelerated format.
  • Ensure that you have completed the total number of credits or degree requirements necessary to enter the program.
  • Calculate the total cost of attendance and financial aid options available.
  • Identify admissions requirements and whether you can meet them.
  • Determine the technology requirements for remote learning, such as software and hardware requirements.
  • Inquire if the program requires on-campus attendance. If it does, ensure you can meet those requirements.
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    Consider the different types of master's degrees available. Most master's degrees comprise a master of science (MS) or a master of arts (MA), although other types of master's degrees exist, such as a master of business administration (MBA). You could potentially earn each degree in the same field (for example, an MS or MA in human resources). While these degreees may seem similar, the coursework and potential career outcomes vary.

    An MS requires more technical and mathematics courses, while an MA is less technical. Also, an MS usually requires a research project, and an MA may require a thesis.

    The time it takes to complete your master's degree could also vary depending on which option you pick. For example, an MS might require an internship or externship, which could significantly extend your studies.

    Enrollment: Apply

  • Complete the application.
  • Include all requirements: transcripts, personal statements, recommendation letters, and proof of English proficiency.
  • Prove that you have completed the required credit hours or degree to enter the accelerated program.
  • Pay all fees in advance and well before the deadline.
  • Apply for and arrange financial aid, private student loans, and scholarships.
  • Attendance: Year 1

    Depending on your chosen school, you may take courses in a semester, trimester, or quarter format. These programs often take 12 months to finish. You can study year-round, including the winter and summer months.

    Graduate students begin with introductory courses and then study advanced topics. They also work on their thesis or research project. Programs that require technical experience may require research time instead of additional courses. Any required internship or externship counts toward course credits.

    Graduation: End of Year 1

    Degrees usually require 30-42 credits to complete, so students can complete their accelerated master's degree after a full year of study. Since most master's students have a specific career goal in mind, the next step requires applying for a job. Some students choose to continue studying and complete a doctoral program, as some fields demand that level of experience.

     

    Example Curriculum: Accelerated Master's in Public Leadership

    To give you an idea of what an accelerated master's degree looks like, see below for some common courses a public leadership student might take. Keep in mind that all master's degrees, or even all data analytics degrees, may not require all these courses.

    Quarters 1-2 or Semester 1

    Public Budgeting
    Personnel Administration
    Leadership and Ethics

    Quarters 3-4 or Semester 2

    School Public Relations
    Organizational Behavior
    Leadership and Public Policy

    Accelerated Online Master's vs. Online Master's Timeline

    Students can choose between an accelerated online master's degree and a more traditional online master's degree. Both offer advantages, so you should learn about both to determine which suits you best.

    What's the Fastest Online Master's Degree to Get?

    Students want to quickly earn a master's degree for different reasons. Many accelerated degree students are military members, healthcare workers looking to advance their career, and individuals seeking for a higher-paying job. To assist these three distinct groups, we have explored some of the top programs that students in these groups may want to pursue.

    If you're currently working and want to earn a master's degree, check out our guide to online programs for working adults.

    Accelerated Online Master's Programs For Military Members

    Accelerated Online Master's in Cybersecurity
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      Completion Time

      Some colleges offer an accelerated online master's in cybersecurity only in a cohort format. This means students must study full-time for a full year while keeping pace with other students in the cohort. In a non-cohort format, students can complete the program in just 12 months.

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      Example Courses
      • Computer Forensics: An overview of analyzing computers for evidence that relates to a crime.
      • Human Aspects of Cybersecurity: A look into how the human element affects cybersecurity, digital safety, and hacking.
      • Ethical Hacking and Response: Learn to defend against hackers and to conduct ethical hacks to protect information.
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      Program Requirements

      A minimum of a bachelor's degree from an accredited university is required with a 2.5 GPA or higher. Students should demonstrate work experience in an IT-related field, with military experience also counting. Work requirements range from 3-5 years depending on the role.

    Accelerated Online Master's in Information Technology
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      Completion Time

      This degree builds off your existing IT knowledge and experience while also letting you specialize your education. Your previous experience and your specialty determine how long this program takes. In general, you can complete an accelerated online master's in IT in 12-15 months.

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      Example Courses
      • Security Analysis: Students learn to analyze computer systems for any threats or potential threats to security.
      • Software Development for IT: Students learn to create their own software for IT systems and networks, and to integrate existing software.
      • Information Modeling: This course teaches learners how to collect, analyze, and model information to find ways to improve the current system.
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      Program Requirements

      Any applicants should hold a bachelor's or master's degree in computer science, computer engineering, or IT from an accredited university. Prospective students need a minimum 3.0 GPA and GMAT or GRE test scores. Some schools wave test scores for work experience.

    Accelerated Online Master's in Management
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      Completion Time

      The length of an accelerated online master's in management depends on your chosen school and focus. If the degree requires only 30 credits, and if the school offers courses in accelerated eight-week formats, then you could finish the program in as little as 10 months. However, 12 months is still the standard.

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      Example Courses
      • Financial Reporting and Analysis: Topics in this course include financial report valuations and evaluations, strategic analysis, and credit analysis.
      • Global Economics: Learn modern economic theories, economic tools for international trade, and global economic policies.
      • Project Management: This course covers team leadership, negotiating, scheduling, budgeting, and risk analysis of projects.
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      Program Requirements

      Learners should hold a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA or higher before applying to a master's degree in management. Most online schools do not require work experience, although previous experience helps with future job placement. Students typically must complete a capstone project to graduate.


     

    Accelerated Online Healthcare and Medical Master's Programs

    Accelerated Online Master's in Science Nursing (RN-MSN)
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      Completion Time

      Current RNs already hold the credentials to work as a nurse, so earning an MSN takes less time. An accelerated RN-to-MSN program typically requires 12-15 months. Nurses with a BSN can further reduce completion time.

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      Example Courses
      • Nursing Leadership: MSN grads often take leadership roles in hospitals and healthcare centers.
      • Health Systems Innovation: Students learn about current and upcoming health systems and how to integrate them with current systems.
      • Nursing Scholarship: This course teaches nurses to analyze nursing theories, research, and professional papers.
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      Program Requirements

      Applicants must be registered nurses with at least an associate degree. Most programs also maintain course prerequisites that students can satisfy with an associate or bachelor's degree. For most MSN programs, students must complete prerequisite courses with a 3.0 or higher.

    Accelerated Online Master's in Public Health
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      Completion Time

      Most accelerated online master's in public health programs use the fast-track model, meaning students study at or beyond a full load of courses. Designed to astl just one year, this program usually starts in the summer, so recent bachelor's degree grads can jump in immediately.

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      Example Courses
      • Budgeting and Financial Management: Public health graduates become leaders in their field, so they must learn to create and maintain budgets.
      • Food Systems and Public Health: This course covers food safety and security in different global environments.
      • Health Communication Programs: This course explores the creation and implementation of a communication program. Students learn to evaluate these programs.
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      Program Requirements

      Students need a bachelor's degree from an accredited university with at least a 3.0 GPA. Most schools prefer students with a professional background in public health. The master's in public health usually offers different concentrations. Prerequisites vary depending on the specific program of study.

    Accelerated Online Master's in Healthcare Administration
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      Completion Time

      Most accelerated online master's in healthcare administration programs only require 30 credits, which can even speed up traditional programs. Some universities offer accelerated courses that last eight weeks. By stacking courses, students can complete this degree in less than 12 months.

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      Example Courses
      • U.S. Healthcare System: This course covers the ins and outs of the domestic healthcare system, including analysis of the Affordable Care Act.
      • Health Law and Ethics: Students learn how to remain compliant and ensure their facility is up-to-date with changes in the law.
      • Healthcare Finance: You may likely manage an entire department, which includes creating budgets and meeting goals.
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      Program Requirements

      Most schools require a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 GPA or higher. You need to submit GRE or GMAT scores, recommendation letters, and a professional resume. Expect to take a practicum to finish your accelerated degree.


     

    Accelerated Online Master's Programs for High-Salary Careers

    Accelerated Online Master's in Finance
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      Completion Time

      Because most master of science in finance programs only require 30-36 credits, students can complete this degree in under 15 months at most online schools. Students must study continuously to do so, but may continue working part-time while earning their degree.

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      Example Courses
      • Corporate Finance: This course takes an analytical approach to the complex finances of the corporate world, including cash flow, asset pricing, and efficiency.
      • Investments Management: Students learn about securities, asset valuation, and other investment tools required to manage assets professionally.
      • Risk Management: This course covers risk analysis and how to mitigate risk while maximizing potential returns.
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      Program Requirements

      Students need a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. Most schools prefer a business degree and require GMAT or GRE scores, a professional resume, and recommendation letters. An interview (in-person or over the phone) is also a common program requirement.

    Accelerated Online Master's in Computer Science
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      Completion Time

      While most accelerated online master's in computer science programs are only available through a five-year bachelor's to master's degree, some standalone master's programs also exist. A standalone accelerated degree takes 12-15 months to complete if learners study full-time all year.

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      Example Courses
      • Programming Language Concepts: Students learn programming terms for broad and general computer science topics.
      • Data Structures and Algorithms: This course covers data structures, the different types of algorithms for structures, and how to design new algorithms.
      • Computer Architecture: This course explores the complex architecture of systems, including arrays, vectors, data caches, and interconnections.
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      Program Requirements

      Many online programs maintain strict bachelor's degree GPA requirements of 3.3-3.5. Students only earning a master's degree should have already earned their bachelor's in computer science or a similar field. Specific core classes are required prior to entry, as are GRE/GMAT test scores.

    Accelerated Online Master's in Biomedical Engineering
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      Completion Time

      An online master's in biomedical engineering program typically requires 30 credits, so an accelerated program may take only 12 months to complete. Students usually take two courses per term, putting them on pace to complete the master's degree in 15 months. This timeline assumes students study full-time and year-round.

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      Example Courses
      • Artificial Implants: Students learn about implants used to replace tissues like skin, bone, and tendons.
      • Biocontrol, Modeling, and Computation: This course blends biomechanical engineering with computer science, teaching you to use computer code.
      • Engineering Ethics: Students engage in discussion with other online students regarding the ethics of biomedical engineering and medicine.
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      Program Requirements

      Applicants must have completed a bachelor's degree in a science field. Most universities require a 3.3 GPA or higher along with multiple recommendation letters, a personal essay, and a professional resume. Students must take prerequisite courses if their undergraduate degree does not satisfy these requirements.

    Other Popular Accelerated Degree Subjects