Degree Completion Programs: Are They Right For You?

Degree completion programs can save students time and money on college. Learn more about degree completion programs and how these programs work.

portrait of Whitney Sandoval
by Whitney Sandoval

Published on March 5, 2022

Edited by Taylor Gadsden
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Degree Completion Programs: Are They Right For You?


When most people begin a college program, they have every intention of graduating with a degree. But sometimes life happens and students have to pause their pursuits. Whether for financial reasons or personal circumstances, many students leave degree programs every year.

As time passes, you may be wondering whether or not you should go back to college and finish your degree. For example, finishing your degree could help you pursue a career change.

What Is a Degree Completion Program?

Degree completion programs are academic programs created for students who had previously started a bachelor's program but did not finish their degree. Some degree completion programs are also designed for people who have graduated with an associate degree but want to earn a bachelor's degree.

These programs often accept most or all of your previously earned college credit — if you attended an accredited school or program — allowing you to graduate quicker than starting your degree from scratch. This can also save you money. Depending on the college, you may complete a degree online, on campus, or through a hybrid program.

How Does a Degree Completion Program Work?

Once you've decided to finish your college education, find a degree completion program that is the right fit for you. When selecting schools, consider what type of degree you want to obtain. Colleges may offer many degree completion programs, like a bachelor's degree in nursing or business.

Each school has its own application requirements. When choosing a program, consider whether the degree completion program is online or in person, how many of your previous credits the college will accept, and the college's accreditation status.

Many colleges offer fully online degree completion programs. These programs are often flexible, and they may target working adults. Depending on how many credits you take and your academic history, you may also qualify for financial aid by filling out the FAFSA.

How Do I Choose a Degree Completion Program?

To choose the best degree completion program, you need to consider your professional career goals and personal circumstances. Not all colleges offer the same degree programs. Reaching out to the school's admissions department can help you get answers.

Another important consideration is program style. A fully online option may be a flexible fit if you're working full time or have other personal obligations. Check to see if online programs are synchronous or asynchronous when making your choice. Many online programs also offer online student services.

Arguably the most important factor in choosing a degree completion program is finding an option that will give you as much credit as possible for your previously completed college courses. The number of credits a school accepts will determine the length and cost of your degree completion pathway. Each college can tell you how many earned credits you would enter its degree completion program with.

Is a Degree Completion Program Right for Me?

There are several types of students who could benefit from enrolling in a degree completion program. Students who had to put their education on hold due to personal or financial reasons may find a degree completion program a faster and more affordable option than a traditional degree program.

Students who earned an associate degree who would like to complete a bachelor's degree may also find convenience and flexibility in a degree completion program, especially if the degree is in a related field. Many schools offer RN-to-BSN degree completion pathways. However, if you cannot use the majority of your earned college credit, a degree completion program may not be as advantageous.

Because these pathways often make balancing work, school, and family easier, many people who want to progress in their career by earning additional credentials can benefit from a completion program. Likewise, individuals who have already earned some college credit and want to pivot careers may explore this option.

Frequently Asked Questions About Degree Completion Programs

Why is it important to keep a degree completion plan? true

A degree completion plan is a visual map of the courses and requirements you need to graduate. A degree completion plan gives you a tangible reminder of what credits you have fulfilled and which courses you still need to complete.

When coming into a program with earned credits, the path to graduation may seem more confusing. You may also be more overwhelmed and have more responsibilities to keep track of, like full-time work or a family. Maintaining a degree completion plan can help keep you motivated and on track.

What is online degree completion? true

Online degree completion is an avenue available to people who have already completed some coursework at the college level but have yet to earn their bachelor's degree. These programs may be offered fully online or through a hybrid system.

Degree completion programs may be designed for students who started, but did not graduate from, a four-year program or for students who graduated with an associate degree and are interested in earning a bachelor's.

Can I finish my degree in one year? true

The length of time it takes to finish your degree depends on several factors, including the number of college credits your school will accept, the number of credits you need to complete to graduate, and the maximum number of credits you can take each term.

If you enter a degree completion program with many earned college credits (e.g., 80-90 credits), you could potentially finish your degree in one year — especially if you can take a full course load each semester and enroll in summer courses.

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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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