What Is an Accelerated Degree Program?

An accelerated program helps degree-seekers graduate in less time. Learn more about the requirements and benefits of accelerated programs.

portrait of Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
by Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

Published on April 20, 2022

Edited by Amelia Buckley
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What Is an Accelerated Degree Program?
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Most undergraduate students spend more than four years earning their bachelor's degrees. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average student spends 52 months on their bachelor's degree. For students looking to graduate more quickly, accelerated degree programs offer a faster path to a college degree.

What is an accelerated program? During an accelerated degree program, students complete their graduation requirements in less time. This means degree-seekers can enter the workforce more quickly. For example, an accelerated bachelor's program can take as little as one year to complete. Many colleges offer accelerated undergraduate and graduate programs.

Before applying to accelerated programs, consider the pros and cons of an accelerated degree. While the format helps students complete their degree in less time, the faster pace and more demanding course loads can prove difficult for some learners.

How Do Accelerated Degree Programs Work?

The structure of an accelerated program varies. Some programs offer classes on an accelerated term, while others offer more terms per year or higher course loads. Accelerated bachelor's programs may require students to possess transfer credits, but typically accelerated programs set the same admission requirements as traditional programs.

Students can also save money with an accelerated program. Many schools charge by credit, so the cost depends on the program. Before enrolling in an accelerated program, research the total cost of the degree and compare it with traditional programs.

Diploma mills often promise an accelerated degree that only takes weeks. Avoid scams by always choosing an accredited college or university.

How Long Are Accelerated Degree Programs?

An accelerated program can save students months or even years. In a traditional bachelor's program, for example, undergraduates typically spend four years earning their degrees. An accelerated bachelor's degree can take as little as one year.

The length of an accelerated program depends on the degree and your prior college credits. Many bachelor's degree completion programs take 1-2 years for transfer students with an associate degree or equivalent credits.

In most accelerated programs, students take classes year-round to graduate sooner. Accelerated programs typically require a higher weekly time commitment than traditional programs.

Lengths of Accelerated Degree Programs
Program Typical Program Length
Associate 1-1.5 years
Bachelor's 1-3 years
Master's 1 year
Doctorate 2-3 years

Types of Accelerated Degree Programs

Accelerated programs help students complete their degrees faster — or earn two degrees in less time. Online accelerated programs also offer a flexible enrollment option. With several types of accelerated degree programs, students can choose the option that best fits their schedule and study preferences.

Single Degree Programs

Degree-seekers can earn a single undergraduate or graduate degree in an accelerated format. Many schools offer accelerated programs in multiple subjects. For example, accelerated nursing programs rank as one of the most popular single-degree options.

Common accelerated degree programs include:

Students interested in single degree programs can reach out to schools to learn more about their options and delivery formats.

Dual Degree Programs

In a dual degree program, learners complete two degrees in an accelerated format. A dual degree differs from a double major in key ways. During a double major, students earn a single degree in two subjects. A dual degree awards two degrees.

Some dual degree programs offer a combined bachelor's and master's degree. In 4+1 programs, for example, learners complete graduate-level coursework and add a one-year master's to their bachelor's degree.

A dual degree program may appeal to students interested in diverse fields. At the graduate level, many universities offer dual master's programs. For example, graduate students can earn an MBA and a master's in computer science or an MSW plus a master's in public policy. This option can save students a year or more on their degrees.

Online vs. In-Person Programs

Colleges offer online and in-person accelerated degree programs. Accelerated online programs appeal to working professionals and busy students. An in-person program typically uses the traditional classroom format with a higher number of classes per year.

Some students prefer the flexibility of an online learning format, particularly for accelerated programs. Rather than commuting to campus, degree-seekers spend their time focused on their classes. Accredited online programs offer accelerated degrees in multiple subjects.

Frequently Asked Questions About Accelerated Programs

Is an accelerated degree right for me? true

An accelerated program lets students complete degree requirements in less time, but the format does not work for every student. Before enrolling in an accelerated program, consider your availability and the program format.

Some accelerated programs offer courses year-round so students make progress faster. Others use accelerated classes on a shorter term. Taking a higher course load or enrolling in accelerated classes requires a higher weekly time commitment. Students considering an accelerated degree should learn more about the format and the program's support services. It's a good idea to ask whether students can switch to a traditional format if they struggle during the accelerated program.

Is an accelerated degree as valuable as a traditional degree? true

An accelerated degree offers the same academic quality in a compressed schedule. Accelerated programs at accredited institutions meet the same high standards as traditional programs. These programs undergo curriculum evaluations, an assessment of faculty qualifications, and reviews of student learning outcomes.

Prospective students can ask programs for more information about their average time to degree completion, graduate placement record, and student satisfaction. After earning an accelerated degree, students receive the same diploma as graduates from non-accelerated programs. An accelerated degree from an accredited institution meets the same licensure and certification requirements as a traditional degree.

How much do accelerated programs cost?

The cost of an accelerated program varies widely depending on the degree and school. In general, public, in-state schools charge the lowest tuition rates. Private schools typically charge higher tuition rates. Undergraduate tuition also generally costs less than graduate tuition.

Students in an accelerated program may pay a per-credit fee or a per-term fee. Before applying to accelerated programs, research the true cost of the degree. Students with transfer credits can save money by applying their prior credits toward the degree. Students in accelerated programs at accredited institutions qualify for the same financial aid packages as those in traditional programs.

Do scholarships cover accelerated programs?

Yes, scholarships generally cover accelerated programs. For example, many accelerated nursing programs qualify for the same nursing scholarships as traditional programs. Students can also use grants, loans, and other forms of financial aid to pay for an accelerated degree at an accredited institution.

Federal aid programs like the Pell Grant apply to degree-seekers in accelerated programs. Prospective students can reach out to financial aid advisors at potential schools to learn more about paying for an accelerated degree. Financial aid advisors can also recommend scholarship and grant opportunities.

If you're longing for a career change, going back to college can be a smart choice, especially if you're interested in one of these four in-demand careers. Ready to enroll but not sure how to choose a college? Keep reading to learn how many colleges you should apply to and things to look for in a college. What is a nontraditional student? Discover the various nontraditional student definitions as well as the biggest challenges these learners face.

BestColleges.com 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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