Top Fastest Online Degrees and Accredited Programs

An accelerated format can help you earn a degree and enter the job market faster than a traditional program.
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A college degree can lead you to higher earnings and better career prospects — but earning one takes time.

If you can't afford to spend four years in school, there are still plenty of faster ways for you to pursue a college degree. Many fully accredited programs offer accelerated online degrees that you can finish in half the time.

You can complete an accelerated online bachelor's degree in just 2-3 years — and other accelerated degree types in even less time. We'll walk you through everything you need to know about accelerated degree programs.

Featured Online Bachelor's Degree Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

How Do Accelerated Degree Programs Work?

An accelerated degree program is a condensed version of the program that lets you complete degree requirements in less time.

Many programs include more terms per year, which means you may have to study during the summer as well as during the spring and fall semesters. Some programs also have a higher course load, meaning you'll be enrolled in more classes than a typical student and have more work at any given time.

It's important to choose an accredited program when looking for an accelerated degree. Shady diploma mill scams may promise a degree that only takes weeks, but even accelerated programs still take time and effort to earn a degree.

Some schools also offer dual degree programs, allowing you to earn two degrees in a shortened amount of time. A number of schools offer 4+1 programs, allowing students to take graduate-level coursework and earn a master's degree in just one year following their bachelor's program.

Online Accelerated Programs by Degree Level

Colleges offer accelerated degree programs at every level. Whether you're looking to quickly earn an associate degree and head into the job market or get a master's degree to boost your current career, there are accelerated degrees available.

Accelerated Associate Degrees

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Associate degrees usually take two years to complete, but an accelerated format can help you finish a degree in just 12-18 months.

An associate degree is a useful tool for job seekers, and many bachelor's programs allow you to transfer associate degree credits toward a four-year degree in a related field.

Read More: Best Accelerated Online Associate Degree Programs

Accelerated Bachelor's Degrees

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An accelerated bachelor's degree usually requires a heavier course load than a traditional four-year bachelor's degree. You'll complete the same education at a much faster pace, with few breaks between terms.

Accelerated bachelor's degrees usually take about 2-3 years. These degrees can be finished even faster with transferable credits from previous studies, such as an associate degree.

Read More: Best Online Accelerated Bachelor's Degrees

Accelerated Master's Degrees

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An accelerated master's degree includes intensive study to finish a graduate-level education in as little as one year. One-year master's degree programs, such as a one-year master of business administration (MBA) degree, are increasingly popular as students look for a fast return on their investment.

Read More: Best Online Accelerated Master's Degrees 2024

Accelerated Doctoral Degrees

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A number of doctoral degrees come in accelerated, intensive formats. A typical Ph.D. program takes at least five years, and a professional doctoral program takes 3-4 years, but accelerated programs can take roughly a year off that timeline.

Read More: 20 Fastest Online Ph.D. and Doctoral Programs

Pros and Cons of Accelerated Programs


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    Less time in college can mean lower total educational costs, fees, and study materials.
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    You can get into the workforce and start using your degree faster.
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    Many online accelerated programs allow you to stay in the workforce while studying.


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    Accelerated formats come with a high workload and an intensive pace.
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    Less time in college also means less social interaction and networking opportunities.
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    An accelerated format may mean fewer options for concentrations and elective classes.

5 Ways To Finish Your Degree Faster

Earning college credits outside of traditional education can help you earn your degree faster. Here are some fast ways to get additional credits toward your degree.

1. National Testing Programs

Several national testing programs offer affordable options to skip introductory college-level courses at some colleges. The College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) and DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST) both allow you to test out of intro courses and head right to advanced courses in your degree.

Each test is subject to institution-level policies, so make sure your school will accept the results and apply them to your degree.

2. Work or Life Experience

Many schools take work or other previous experience into consideration to adjust your course load.

Military experience, in particular, can lead to accelerated options to finish your degree. If you're a veteran or active-duty service member, the American Council on Education looks at your military record and applies relevant experience toward credits on your Joint Services Transcript (JST).

3. AP Exams

High school advanced placement courses prepare you for AP exams. A passing score on an AP exam can give you credits to apply toward lower-level college courses. A passing score for an AP exam ranges between 3-5, depending on the college.

4. Professional Credentials

Professional certifications and licenses can also count toward your degree, depending on the school you go to. State agencies, colleges and universities, vocational schools, and professional organizations offer certificates in a number of fields.

5. Portfolio of Experience

Some colleges also offer credit for working professionals who submit a professional portfolio. For schools that offer this kind of credit, job training and expertise are evaluated and applied to a degree program.

Frequently Asked Questions About Accelerated Degree Programs

How long does it take to get a bachelor's degree?

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A traditional bachelor's degree requires 120 credit hours, which usually takes at least four years to complete. Many schools offer accelerated formats, allowing students to take on higher course loads and complete the degree in as little as three years.

Is an accelerated degree worth it?

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Whether an accelerated degree is worth the time and effort will vary by student. An accelerated degree comes with a high workload but can also get you into the workforce and lead to a faster return on investment.

How much do accelerated programs cost?

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The cost of an accelerated program varies depending on the school. Public universities and online degree programs tend to cost less than private or in-person programs. Typically tuition costs for accelerated programs are the same as traditional formats.

Can you earn an online degree faster than one year?

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If you have a significant number of transferable credits, it's possible to earn an accelerated degree in less than a year. It's important to seek out an accredited degree program to avoid online scams.

Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by BestColleges. Page last reviewed May 3, 2024. 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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