Students interested in joining the workforce rapidly often seek out accelerated online programs for their brisk pace and convenience. This page includes detailed information about what type of candidates accelerated online programs look for, course formats, in-person requirements, and pacing. This page also provides information on how you can accelerate traditional programs.

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What You Need to Know About Online Accelerated Programs

While traditional, semester-based college courses last for 16 weeks, course lengths in accelerated programs vary. Some may feature courses that last eight weeks, with others offering courses that are only four weeks in length. Similarly, some schools may offer summer courses, allowing students to continue earning their degree over the break.

What Is the Difference Between Accelerated and Traditional Online Programs?

Colleges and universities offer fast online degrees at every level and in many fields. Before enrolling in an accelerated program, students should note the primary differences between traditional and fast online courses. Accelerated online programs often utilize asynchronous learning, which allows students to learn material independently within deadline dates.

Due to shortened sessions, professors often assign larger reading assignments each week. Essays and exams may also cover more material than traditional online courses. Accelerated programs may also utilize hybrid formats where students occasionally attend class on campus to reinforce learning and receive in-person contact. Fields of study that require applied experiences may also utilize a hybrid format.

However, distance learners enrolled in traditional, 16-week sessions can choose from a wider variety of programs. Traditional courses typically require less reading each week and students may complete a larger number of smaller assignments. Similar to accelerated programs, traditional online programs often follow an asynchronous format. However, these courses may also utilize live sessions through webcams. Additionally, some programs may follow a hybrid format to satisfy hands-on assignments.

Students may also want to consider the weekly time commitment accelerated programs require. As accelerated assignments cover more material than traditional online assignments, students may need to spend more time on coursework each week.

Is the Pacing Structure the Same for All Accelerated Programs?

Pacing differs between accelerated online programs, with some colleges or universities offering self-paced programs that allow students to graduate as quickly as they can learn the material. These programs do not usually include collaborative assignments, such as group projects or discussion board posts. Self-paced learners also do not need to meet as many deadlines.

However, programs with set structures feature a clear path for students to follow. While accelerated programs that use 10-week sessions exist, schools typically operate eight-week sessions, allowing students to complete two sessions in a 16-week semester. However, completely online schools may also offer highly accelerated, four-week sessions.

Who Are Accelerated Programs Designed For?

Many postsecondary institutions value academic excellence and student success, which means that applicants need to meet certain standards to minimize their risk of failure. Schools often look for professional students who already possess an associate degree or at least some completed college credits.

Are Accelerated Programs Online Only?

While schools typically offer accelerated programs online, students who prefer classroom environments can enroll in on-campus programs. These programs often offer multiple formats, including evening and weekend courses to accommodate students' schedules. Students may also select hybrid programs, which utilize both online and in-person learning.

Are Accelerated Programs Only Offered at the Bachelor's Level?

Schools typically offer accelerated programs for bachelor's degrees, allowing students to earn their degrees in as few as 18 months (instead of four years). Transfer students from accredited institutions can sometimes earn their degree even faster. A smaller number of schools offer accelerated programs at the master's and Ph.D. levels. Students should note that mandatory applied experiences may require in-person attendance, depending on the field of study.

Are Accelerated Programs More Difficult?

The overall difficulty of an accelerated program depends on the individual learner. Faculty cover the same amount of content in a fast program that is covered in a traditional program, but the time allotted to complete the coursework is much shorter. Therefore, students who cannot read quickly or retain large quantities of information may want to consider a traditional program.

What Are the Requirements for Taking an Accelerated Program?

Colleges and universities want to ensure students can successfully complete the programs they apply for, which leads to specific admission requirements. Some programs may have GPA requirements in place, and students applying to graduate-level accelerated programs may need to score higher on the GRE or GMAT than traditional students. Additionally, fast online degrees may require relevant work experience to ensure students possess basic knowledge related to the field.

Popular Accelerated Online Programs

Colleges and universities understand that working students require flexible access to coursework, and many require an additional degree to progress in their field. Specific areas of study offer more accelerated online degree opportunities than others. For instance, nursing professionals can often earn their BSN online with limited in-person requirements.

Similarly, working business professionals can earn an accelerated MBA online, which creates opportunities for advancement. Alternatively, students who already possess a bachelor's degree can enroll in an accelerated teaching certificate program for secondary education. Graduates can teach courses that correlate with their bachelor's degree.

How to Accelerate Traditional Programs

Creative options also exist for students enrolling in traditional programs who wish to graduate sooner. For instance, schools usually consider 12 credits per semester as the minimum cutoff for full-time enrollment. However, at many schools, students pay the same tuition for 12-16 (or more) credits, which can allow students to take an extra course or two each semester at no extra cost. Students who wish to take more credits per semester may need to get approval from an academic counselor. Similarly, students can take classes during the summer term. These courses are typically delivered over a shorter session.

Many colleges and universities also award credits for prior learning. For example, high schools offer Advanced Placement courses that teach students information typically included in first-year general education requirements. Additionally, active-duty and veteran service personnel can often complete the College Level Examination Program, which allows students to gain college credit for education by the military. Working professionals may also receive credit for extensive or relevant work experience.