Accelerated Online Degree Programs for Working Adults

Learn about the wide variety of accelerated degree programs for working adults and the benefits of heading back to school.
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Earning a bachelor's degree takes time, money, and commitment. But what if you could earn a degree at a quicker pace while you continue to work?

Half of undergraduates age 23 or younger earn their bachelor's in 45 months or less, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The time spent earning a degree jumps to about 162 months if you're 30 or older.

Many schools design accelerated online programs to accommodate the needs of working adults. You can earn a bachelor's online in less than four years through features such as shorter terms and generous transfer credit policies. Explore some of these programs to see what works for you.

Popular Online Bachelor's Degrees

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

10 Accelerated Online Degree Programs for Working Adults

You can qualify for in-demand jobs with competitive salaries by completing an accelerated online degree program. Check out the top accelerated online degrees for working adults below.

  • Accounting
  • Biology
  • Business administration
  • Computer science
  • Criminal justice
  • Education
  • Healthcare administration
  • Legal studies
  • Psychology
  • Supply chain management

1. Accounting

Accountants perform vital roles for individuals, organizations, and governments by managing finances. A bachelor's degree in accounting covers foundational topics such as managerial accounting, accounting information systems, and auditing. Accountants and auditors earned a median salary of $78,000 in 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Florida International University offers two-year bachelor's degrees for transfer students with enough credits or an AA. Most states require 150 credits to qualify to sit for Certified Public Accountant licensure.

2. Biology

Earning a bachelor's in biology can open doors to entry-level careers as well as continuing education opportunities, making it a popular major. Common coursework includes statistical biology, chemical biology, biophysics, and microbiology. If you decide to become a microbiologist, you can expect to earn a median salary of just under $81,990 per year (BLS, May 2022).

You generally complete a traditional bachelor's in biology in four years. Washington State University, for example, offers fully online or hybrid degree completion programs. This allows you to transfer an associate degree or block of credits to finish the degree faster.

3. Business Administration

A bachelor's in business administration offers many options if you want a degree that leads to a wide variety of careers. With a curriculum focused on topics like business communications, human resource management, economic principles, and business statistics, you can take your career in countless directions. After working in the field for a few years, you can also pursue an MBA.

You can graduate with a bachelor's in business in 12-20 months. Institutions such as Franklin University and City University of Seattle award credit for previous college coursework and expertise in the field.

4. Computer Science

Computer and information tech jobs are projected to grow by 10% between 2022 and 2032, creating a variety of opportunities for graduates (BLS, May 2022). Plus, a bachelor's in computer science program easily translates to online learning and includes courses such as computer programming, artificial intelligence engineering, computer hardware, and software engineering.

Schools such as Regis University, Auburn University, and Lewis University offer accelerated online BS in computer science degrees. They may also offer 4+1 programs that allow you to earn a bachelor's and master's degree in just five years.

5. Criminal Justice

Earning a bachelor's degree in criminal justice opens up career paths in areas of law enforcement, cybersecurity, forensics, and criminology. Programs commonly cover topics such as corrections in the United States, criminal law and evidence, criminal behavior, and criminal procedure.

A crime-fighting career doesn't have to take forever or break the bank. Institutions such as Ball State University award you credit for work experience like military or police training in addition to your prior education credits.

Featured Online Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Programs

6. Education

Whether you plan to work in primary, secondary, or adult education, a bachelor's in education can put you on the path to teaching others. You'll select a concentration based on your educational interests, but core coursework typically includes instructional technologies, curriculum and instruction research, and classroom management. Aside from student teaching, you can complete this degree fully online.

Pfeiffer University, Purdue Global, and other schools offer accelerated teacher preparation programs. An associate degree could fulfill lower division requirements and cut the degree completion time in half. Schools such as ASU and Purdue let you earn both a bachelor's and master's in five years.

7. Healthcare Administration

With healthcare occupations projected to grow much faster than average between 2022 and 2032, working adults who earn a bachelor's in healthcare administration can find many different jobs after graduating (BLS, May 2022). Some of the coursework you can expect to complete includes principles of healthcare administration, healthcare communications and marketing, and leadership skills for healthcare professionals.

Purdue Global and ODU Global offer online healthcare administration programs that reward your knowledge. Work experience such as military service or other healthcare training can count as credit toward a bachelor's degree. Even if you don't have experience, capstone projects and internship opportunities allow you to gain real-world experience.

8. Legal Studies

A bachelor's in legal studies is a good degree for those who want to work as paralegals, law office managers, probation officers, or court reporters. Four-year legal studies programs cover topics such as legal research and writing, fact identification, and American civil and criminal law. They also provide a great foundation for earning a law degree.

Colleges like Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Maryland Global design legal studies programs for working adults. You complete the online degree faster by transferring up to 90 credits. Accelerated terms and multiple start dates add to the appeal of these programs.

Featured Online Bachelor's in Legal Studies Programs

9. Psychology

A bachelor's in psychology won't qualify you to work as a psychologist, but it does open many professional doors. Graduates can find work as market researchers, psychiatric technicians, health educators, and community service managers. Common coursework includes cognitive processes, lifespan developmental psychology, and research methods for psychology.

You can complete a psychology bachelor's in 12-36 months by transferring up to 90 credits. Or you can take as long as you like with no time limits. That's the promise at schools like UMass Lowell and Drexel University.

10. Supply Chain Management

If you enjoy logistics and organization, a bachelor's in supply chain management can help you break into this growing field. Common roles you can pursue after graduation include logistician, purchasing manager, or distribution manager. You can expect to take classes in managerial accounting, service and manufacturing operations, and advanced logistics.

Institutions such as Colorado Technical University and Southern New Hampshire University offer fast-track supply chain management degrees, where students can receive credits for what they know or transfer up to 90 credits.

How to Earn an Accelerated Degree Online as a Working Adult

As a working adult, you've likely got a pretty full schedule. Thankfully, you can choose from several different options when it comes to earning your degree.

Online Courses

You can earn your accelerated degree 100% online, making it easy to complete classes at a time and place that works with your schedule. Many universities provide asynchronous classes, meaning you can watch pre-recorded lectures. Others use a synchronous model, meaning you'll need to log in at specific times.

Self-Paced Degree Programs

If you want to graduate as quickly as possible, a self-paced program may be for you. These allow you to complete as much coursework as you're able during a set amount of time. Many of these programs use a set tuition rate, meaning you can also graduate for less if you keep to an accelerated schedule.

Credit for Prior Learning

Credit for prior learning (CPL) makes it possible for you to gain college credits based on what you've learned as a working adult. Approved CPL will depend on where you attend college and whether previous learning experiences relate to your chosen degree. Common examples include independent study, volunteering and community service, and employer training programs.

Testing Out of College Classes

A great option for bypassing some general education requirements is taking and passing College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams, which can cut your degree timeline significantly. The College Board currently oversees CLEP exams and offers testing in 34 different areas. Nearly 3,000 colleges accept passing CLEP scores and award college credits.

Frequently Asked Questions About Accelerated Degrees for Working Adults

What is the quickest degree to get online?

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You can earn a degree in 12-36 months, depending on factors like transfer credits, credit awards for work experience, and shorter courses. Typically, a certificate or associate's degree can be completed the quickest. Visit your prospective school's academic catalog to explore offerings.

Is it possible to finish a bachelor's degree in 1 year?

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Yes, if you have credits from another institution. A bachelor's degree typically takes 120 credits to complete, and a number of schools allow you to transfer up to 90 prior credits, making a one-year degree perfectly doable. However, completing 120 credits in one year or less is very unlikely.

WIs it worth earning a degree as a working adult?

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For most people, earning a degree as a working adult is worth it. The College Board's most recent data shows that workers with a bachelor's degree earn more money and enjoy higher employment rates.

Can you get a degree while working full-time?

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Absolutely. Countless working students earn their degrees each year while balancing personal and professional responsibilities. With so many colleges and universities now offering degrees completely online, it's never been easier to advance your education — and your career.

In some cases, your employer may even allow you to work adjusted hours to fit your schooling requirements more easily into your schedule.

What financial aid can you get as a working adult?

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As with other undergraduates, working adults can apply for financial aid via the Free Application for Financial Aid (FAFSA). This can help you qualify for scholarships, grants, and government-secured student loans.

If you want to earn a degree related to your current job and plan to stay with your company after graduating, you may also qualify for employer funding. Some companies may provide this outright, while others may provide it as a tax-free educational credit.

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 January 11, 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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