Online Accelerated Degrees

Online degrees are quick, flexible, and affordable. We'll help outline what you need to know about accelerated degree programs for working adults.

Updated September 22, 2023 · 4 Min Read

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If you're interested in pursuing higher education but want to fast-track your academic journey, you've come to the right place. Accelerated online degrees can help working adults and first-year students reach their goals faster.

Accelerated programs have an intense pace that not every student will thrive in. But the flexibility and affordability of online college can benefit anyone.

Whether you're an adult student with a full-time job or fresh out of high school, there's an accelerated online degree that meets your needs. 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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Accelerated Degree Programs for Working Adults

How Do Accelerated Online Degrees Work?

Accelerated programs help learners complete degrees sooner than traditional programs. Students can earn some accelerated degrees in just 12 months.

Combining an accelerated program with an online learning format allows learners to benefit from flexibility and speed. For example, in an online accelerated degree-completion program, students transfer their prior college credits toward a bachelor's degree. Accelerated master's programs help working adults advance their careers in less time.

The online format makes it easier for working adults to balance school with their careers. Many online programs design their coursework for working students.

Benefits of an Online Accelerated Degree

Is an Accelerated Degree Cheaper?

The cost of your accelerated online degree can vary depending on the college you attend and the program you choose — but graduating sooner can help you save on per-semester fees and any student living expenses. Because tuition is often charged per credit, the most inexpensive options are traditionally public institutions that offer in-state rates. Still, many online programs are cheaper than campus-based options when it comes to fees and additional costs like transportation.

Accelerated Online Bachelor's Degree vs. Traditional Bachelor's Degree

Pursuing a bachelor's degree with an accelerated online program will be a vastly different experience than a traditional on-campus program. When comparing your options, consider your strengths as a student and what kind of academic environment you prefer.

Accelerated Online Bachelor's Degree

  • Graduate in 2-3 years
  • Flexible coursework
  • Allows for full-time work
  • More affordable
  • Requires strong independent study skills

Traditional Bachelor's Degree

  • Graduate in 4-6 years
  • A more social environment
  • Allows for part-time work
  • In-person campus resources
  • Easy access to instructors and peers

Is an Accelerated Degree Right for Me?

First-time college students, those seeking degree-completion options, career-minded students, and adult learners can benefit from accelerated programs. It's best to consider the pros and cons of an accelerated format before applying.

1. First-Time College Students

The flexible, convenient format of an online accelerated degree can make it easier to earn a degree. First-time college students may enjoy the rigorous pace and shorter timeline.

However, accelerated programs often require a bigger time investment than traditional programs and won't offer the same student services— like tutoring, academic advising, and career planning.

2. Degree-Completion Students

Degree-completion programs help adults with some college experience earn a degree. Finishing college can mean new job opportunities and higher salaries.

Before enrolling, degree-completion students should research transfer credit policies to maximize their previous coursework. Keep in mind the pace of accelerated programs can be difficult after taking a break from school.

3. Career-Minded Students

A degree can help career-minded students advance in their current job or change careers. For example, a bachelor's in nursing allows registered nurses (RNs) to specialize and increase their earning potential.

Accelerated programs help working adults earn a degree faster. However, professionals with demanding careers may struggle to find time for an online program.

4. Adult Learners

For adult learners, the inherent flexibility of online programs is often ideal. Working professionals often juggle work and home responsibilities while completing academic requirements.

However, because accelerated online programs typically require a heavier course load, adult learners might find this schedule challenging. Consider whether you can manage academic requirements alongside professional and personal obligations.

Learn More About Accelerated Online Programs by Degree Level

Evaluating Online Accelerated Programs

Working adults should consider several factors before enrolling in an online accelerated program. Program structure, in-person requirements, and graduation requirements all shape the learning experience.

1. Program Structure

Distance learning programs use synchronous and asynchronous courses. A synchronous format means that live classes follow set meeting times. An asynchronous format lets learners complete coursework on their schedule with no set class times.

2. Personal Learning Style

Online learners need strong self-motivation and organizational skills. You should consider your personal learning style and whether an accelerated online degree fits your strengths.

3. How the Program is Accelerated

Some programs use an accelerated course format where learners complete more classes per term. Others combine undergraduate and graduate coursework. You may also accelerate a program by taking classes during more terms each year.

4. In-Person Requirements

Some online programs include in-person requirements, and you may need to complete in-person classes, internships, or clinical hours. Be sure to consider any in-person components and whether you can fulfill those requirements.

5. Timing

An accelerated online program requires a significant time commitment. Working adults considering college should carefully evaluate the time needed to earn a degree. Taking on school while balancing work and personal obligations can overburden some students.

Expert Advice on Attending Online College While Working

Portrait of Erin Looney

Erin Looney

A professor and public relations professional, Looney splits her time between teaching in Florida and managing communications and marketing for a law school in Washington, D.C. She brings experience in radio and television broadcasting, social media, public relations, media relations, and communication strategy to the classroom. She works to empower students by incorporating their real-life experiences into course concepts, helping them connect everything they learn to something they care about.

Q: Explain your experience with online students. What are some common challenges facing your accelerated students?

Success can depend on the class, timeline, and professor's dedication.

With accelerated courses and programs, these issues are amplified. A condensed timeline means students have far less downtime between assignments and readings. They can fall behind quickly. They may feel like the course is moving on without them, even if they're keeping up with all the course dates. Students understand what they've signed up for. However, expectations and reality don't align perfectly.

Q: In what ways can online degrees appeal to working adults?

Time and location flexibility make online degrees attractive for working adults. The allure of cooking dinner while listening to audio lectures or completing quizzes over lunch breaks makes it sound like a dream for working adults. These students may have always wanted to further their education but saw rigid schedules as barriers. However, even with flexibility, most online programs are not work-at-your-own-pace programs. Students must make time to complete the work on schedule.

Q: Who are good candidates for accelerated online programs?

I've observed some differences between online programs that follow a traditional 16-week semester and those that are condensed or accelerated. Students need at least some background in the material. I've taught an accelerated athletic training course, and the students who kept up were those with some knowledge of the subject matter.

People who want to advance in their existing careers without leaving the workforce make strong candidates for accelerated online programs.

It's also important for students to want to show up. They should be willing to put in a sufficient amount of time to grasp concepts. People with a specific motivation to succeed make good candidates for accelerated online programs.

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