15 Best Accelerated Online Degree Programs for Working Adults [2024 Ultimate Guide]

By Joy Cromwelle
Edited by Briana Sukert
Updated on July 5, 2024
Edited by Briana Sukert
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Explore Accelerated Degrees for Working Students Online - Accredited schools award credit for life & work experience. Finish in less time!

Where do you find the best accelerated online degrees for working adults?

Whether you are returning to school or have no college education under your belt, you may get your degree online as a working adult.

man thinking while looking at his computer

We’ll show you can earn your college degree quickly through flexible programs that may improve your marketability in the workplace.

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Accelerated Degree Programs for Working Adults

Click on the degree that matches your goals and interests:

You can earn a degree in any of these subjects online. There are also plenty of other areas of study to choose from.


female accountant talking to a client

Accounting can be perfect for students who love numbers, analysis, statistics, and those who want to help others make strong financial decisions. It incorporates the study of financial activities, particularly in making business decisions, and involves planning and analysis.

It also involves learning how to measure, process, analyze, and communicate financial information about an organization to different stakeholders to facilitate improvements.

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An accounting degree could help land you a job as a data analyst, business administrator, manager, management consultant, banker, financial adviser, or economist.

Business Administration

team of employees working on a project

A Business Administration Degree may equip you with critical skills in decision-making and help you gain a systematic understanding of management-related problems and conceptual tools for analyzing and evaluating different management issues.

This course of study is excellent preparation for careers in business and management.

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Possible career paths for Business Administration graduates include business consultant, market research analyst, human resource specialist, event planner, training and development specialist, loan officer, and marketing executive.

Computer Science

team of video game developers brainstorming

Hardware or software? You can take your pick of which you’d like to work in through online degree programs in computer science. You will, however, learn the basics of both so that you will be well-educated on the other side of the industry. This well-rounded education may allow you to work cohesively with other businesses and departments in your field.

You may become a hardware engineer, a professional app programmer, a web developer, video game designer, or electronic music composer. You may work for a large company designing computer systems, networks, or business software. Or, you may work for an app or game company creating the next popular title.

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Of course, you might also go freelance with your talent building mobile apps or creating websites. You may even work as a consultant for small companies looking to upgrade the computer systems, servers, and networks. With technology being so much of a necessity in today’s work world, there really is no shortage of opportunities for CS graduates.

Criminal Justice

policeman helping a child wear a Kevlar vest at an event

A degree in Criminal Justice helps prepare you for jobs in the police force, criminal courts, prison services, community safety, fiscal service, special agents, and restorative justice.

The scope of this degree continues to expand as threats to public safety (such as terrorism, cybercrime, and more complex criminal issues) continue to evolve over the years. More than ever, this field needs more trained professionals.

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In this degree program, you may learn about key issues in criminal justice, such as the sentencing of offenders and the reputation and responsibilities of police forces. You may also develop your understanding of the agencies involved in law enforcement, government, and the court system.


female teacher teaching a child

If you have the passion to teach and create an impact in the lives of the youth, then an Education degree may be the perfect stepping stone for you to achieve your teaching goals.

Most education courses are designed for students to gain ideas about education, research, psychology, sociology, philosophy, and history. To successfully pursue this course, you must have a genuine interest and commitment to teaching and have the necessary communication, organization, and interpersonal skills required of a teacher.

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The top graduate destinations for this degree include education, social work, public administration, administrative services, support services, and skilled trades trainers. All of these fields need skilled educators.


business team analyzing financial documents

When you study Finance, you’re opening yourself up for the opportunity to manage and create wealth. You’ll study accounting and investments as well as risk management.

You might advise companies or individuals on the best course of action to take with their money, including where to invest it for the best returns. It may be your job to study the world of finance to ensure that there are no unforeseen risks and that people and companies are prepared for any market changes.

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As you’ve probably imagined, this is a very important role that you could fulfill as a financial analyst, financial advisor, investment banker, or fund manager. If you enjoy managing money, keeping up with the financial markets, and have a mind for business math, this may be the degree for you.

General Studies

multi-ethnic team discussing ideas during a meeting

A lot of students who enter college don’t have a clear idea of what they really want to major in or which career path to choose. In this case, a General Studies course is the perfect choice. This gives students the opportunity to explore their interests, preparing them for a wide variety of careers.

Students who have a degree in General Studies may have a number of career options to choose from. This includes careers in management, human resources, media, marketing, entertainment, and sports.

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Because its focus is broad, students are able to choose the subjects they like, so they remain engaged in their coursework. This broad focus often sparks inspiration, which might lead students to continuing in the bachelor’s degree for adults that they want to pursue.

Healthcare Administration

female doctor checking seniors at a nursing home

The Healthcare Administration Degree is continuing to grow as the number of retirees continues to rise. This degree will focus on building your knowledge of anatomy and physiology, medical ethics, and administrative topics, such as business management, strategic planning, computer skills, and organizational leadership.

With the great demand in the healthcare sector, you may land a job in a variety of areas with this degree. Some career choices include hospitals, doctor’s offices, nursing homes, home care services, and government or non-profit agencies.

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Health care administrators carry out a diverse range of tasks and may make a meaningful contribution both to their workplace and to the community.

Information Technology

male programmer working in the office

The Information Technology course of study is often for those who love computing and technology.

This course is primarily focused on learning about software, databases, networking, and the theoretical and mathematical foundations of computing. It may give you an opportunity to learn and handle a variety of technology-related tasks and work in a variety of settings.

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Information Technology graduates may pursue a career as a software developer, programmer, web developer, research scientist, computer systems analyst, network administrator, or IT consultant. The list of opportunities continues to grow.

court clerks walking near a courthouse

Do you enjoy studying the laws of the nation and your state? Does criminal justice and the courts system intrigue you? If so, you might want to make Legal Studies your major.

In this degree program, you’ll gain a wide overview of the legislative system for how laws are created and the judiciary system for how they are enforced. Your role after you graduate may be political as you try to enact change or legal as you support lawyers or the courts.

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You may use this degree to go on to law school or begin working as a lobbyist, paralegal, or court clerk. In most cases, you may choose which area of law most interests you. Whichever profession or specialization you choose, those who are educated in legal matters will always be in demand.

Liberal Arts

female librarian scanning books in a library

The rich and challenging degree in Liberal Arts allows you to explore the arts and humanities as well as build crucial skills in analysis and communication. Some of the subjects in this course of study are language, literature, philosophy, music, fine arts, history, geography, sociology, religion, and political science.

You may enjoy a wide variety of topics and gain perspective on personal ethics, cross-culture context, historical context, and environmentalism.

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Career options for this degree include editor, journalist, writer, legislative assistant, librarian, and many others. With the variety of subjects you’ll study for this degree, you may have a wide range of job opportunities to choose from.


female manager presenting documents during a meeting

Management is a broad field that can help prepare you to take a wide view. The role of management is to best utilize company resources to meet specific goals. Those resources that you use could be people, finances, or tools and technology.

To be a good manager, you may need to think creatively and responsibly to make sure that people working under you are in the best roles possible and have what they need to perform. You may be an enabler to your employees and a steward of what the company entrusts to you.

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To prepare you for this role, your course of study will most likely include accounting and finance classes, organizational leadership, team building, communications, and marketing. All of these areas of business may come into play no matter which specific job title you gain after graduation.


marketing team discussing during a meeting

If you have strong communication skills, persuasive ability, and are interested in advertising and making innovations, then pursuing a degree in Marketing could be an excellent stepping stone for you to build a fantastic career in marketing.

Common skills you may learn include general numerical skills, the ability to analyze mathematical and statistical data, strategic planning, and advertising.

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You may also learn how to examine every aspect of business and to analyze the customers’ experience. These skills are very essential for every successful marketer to help their organization attract new customers to their products or services.


marketing team having a meeting

Why do people think the way that they do? What makes them behave in certain ways? How can they change their thought processes and behavior? If these questions pique your interest, you might be well-suited for a career in Psychology.

Psychology majors study human development, cognitive and behavioral disorders, research methods, and counseling practices. You may use this degree to go on to a master’s program and become a licensed psychologist or you may take what you learn into the business world.

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Many trained psychologists work as consultants or full-time employees of company marketing departments. As a Psychology major, you may gain insight into why people make certain decisions, how to influence them ethically, and how to help companies communicate with their audience effectively. Studying the human mind is applicable in nearly every industry.

Supply Chain Management

female manager checking goods at a warehouse

This degree may help you advance your career skills by providing you with a wider perspective on global supply chains as you develop the strategic and analytical tools to manage them.

This program covers the latest technologies and innovations within the supply chain and global logistics industry.

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You may learn about blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and automation. You may also gain perspective on issues such as risk mitigation, sustainability, and ethics.

Accelerated Online Degree Program for Working Adults

male employee working on his laptop

You’re an adult. You work full-time, you have a family, you have a life… but you still want to get your degree.

This guide will walk you through the 6 ways you can get college credit for your life experience and even test out of a year of college.

Using these methods and taking advantage of fast-track online degree programs for working may help you finish in as little as two years.

How to Earn an Accelerated Degree Online

female employee with a checklist

Did you know your work experience, your skills, and your knowledge might make you the perfect candidate for an online degree?

You have the drive, and you know how to get a job done. You have focus and determination.

Many universities have programs designed just for you. There are even policies written in academic handbooks to give you the break you need as a working adult to get ahead.

Most colleges recognize that there are multiple ways to learn and they are willing to award college credit for what you already know.

Option 1: Accelerated Online Classes

If you want to finish your bachelor’s degree in less than 4 years, then accelerated online classes may be your answer.

Instead of sitting in class for 16 weeks (traditional semester), you can enroll in 8-week online classes. Some colleges even offer 5-week online courses.

One example of an accredited college offering accelerated online classes is Liberty University (8 weeks). By choosing accelerated courses, you may get to finish your degree faster and complete your classes online at home in your pajamas after work.

Accelerated online classes operate just like traditional online classes. You register the same way and submit assignments the same way. The only difference is that you may finish each class in half the time.

Accelerated classes typically run for 8 weeks, and you may take 2-3 classes at a time (depending on the university).

Sample Schedule

Semester Credit Hours
Fall 1 3 classes x 3 credit hours = 9 credit hours
Fall 2 3 classes x 3 credit hours = 9 credit hours
Spring 1 3 classes x 3 credit hours = 9 credit hours
Spring 2 3 classes x 3 credit hours = 9 credit hours
Summer 6 classes x 3 credit hours = 18 credit hours
Total 54 Credit Hours Per Year

Did you see that? You can earn 54 credit hours in one year! That is fast!

If you really want to go full throttle, Liberty University also allows you to apply for an academic overload (up to 12 credit hours per 8 weeks) if you keep your GPA up! Wow.

If you were to acquire 30 credit by exam credits (we’ll explain these in a bit), you may complete up to 84 credit hours in one year. That’s 70% of your degree!

Considering you only need 120 credit hours for your bachelor’s degree program, you may go from zero to done in less than 2 years using a similar schedule!

Option 2: Self-Paced Degree Programs

Are you a go-getter? If so, self-paced degree programs may be a good fit for you. These are also known as competency-based degrees.

Here’s how competency-based degrees work: You pay a flat fee for a specific time period. During that time, you submit assessments or portfolios for courses that you have mastered. If you learn fast, you finish fast. It’s that simple.

You are the one who controls the pace, be it fast or slow.

Capella University offers 2 different paths for a self-paced program: a Guided Path and a FlexPath.

Capella Guided Path:

The Guided Path is set up with your academic advisor. You choose the courses and follow an assigned schedule with deadlines.

You pay for each individual course and have regular check-ins with your advisor.

self-paced degree for working adults

Capella FlexPath:

When you register for Capella University’s FlexPath, you are the one who sets the pace. You pay a flat rate for a 12-week cycle. During that time, you can complete as many courses as you are able to. Run, run as fast as you can!

You receive individual help with a tutor and get coaching support in putting together your personalized plan.

Self-Paced Degree Programs:

Capella University GuidedPath vs. FlexPath

Capella GuidedPath Capella FlexPath
Time to completion Just over 2 years Up to you!
Who determines speed School’s class schedule You!

Self-based programs are becoming more popular as students like you who are already working are also attending college to get a bachelor’s degree.

Option 3: Credit for Life Experience

Do you ever wish that your years of work experience could count toward a degree?

They can!

Credit for life experience is your secret to earning credits for what you have already done (or learned).

Common achievements that are awarded college credit are listed below.

Credit for Life Experience

This list is just a small sampling of experiences that count for college credit

  • Pilot’s License
  • Real Estate Agent
  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
  • Police Officer
  • Licensed Insurance Agent
  • Certified Financial Planner
  • Child Development Associate
  • Military Service
  • Certified Administrative Professional
  • Flight Attendant
  • Certificate in Food Service Management
  • Training at McDonald’s
  • Certificate as a Human Resources Professional
  • Practicing as a LPN/LVN or RN
  • Pharmacy Technician
  • Certification from the American TESOL institute
  • Paralegal Certificate of Completion
  • Basic Corrections Training

As you can see, you can earn credit for a variety of certifications and training…

and this list is only a sampling!

Almost all schools follow the guidelines specified by the American Council on Education (ACE) when awarding credit for life experience. Check them out to see a comprehensive list of college credit for workplace training guidelines.

Or, if you already have a university in mind, visit the school’s website and type in “credit for prior learning” in the search box to learn more about your prospective school’s credit-granting policies.

American Council on Education Guide

Option 4: Credit for Prior Learning Portfolio

If you have significant life or work experience and want to receive college credit for it, most schools will ask you to submit a credit for prior learning portfolio.

Each college has a different but quite similar process.

The most common limit on credits for prior learning is 30 credit hours (the equivalent of 1 year of college), though there are schools that allow more.

Accelerated Online Degrees for Working Adults

First, you pay a portfolio evaluation fee and take an online credit for work experience course. At the end of your course, your portfolio is assessed, and you may be granted the credit for your life experience.

Up to 75% of your degree could be met using credit for prior learning!

Option 5: Testing Out of College Classes

male adults taking an exam

This option feels like it’s a secret. It’s something college advisors never talk about, yet nearly 3,000 colleges allow you to test out of college classes!!

There are quite a few nationally accredited credit by exam choices:

Using this list, you can register to take a 90-minute multiple-choice exam and may earn 3 credit hours. That would usually take weeks of sitting in classes!

You don’t need to be an expert. You’re smart! You’re an adult, and you can learn quickly because you already have a lot of information stored up.

One of our staff members bought the study guide for the CLEP Natural Sciences exam worth 6 credit hours. They studied like mad for about a week, sat down, and took 90 minutes to complete the multiple-choice exam.

They walked out with 6 credits. Just like that.

You don’t even have to ace the exam. Most colleges will give you credit if you pass with 50%. Perfection isn’t necessary, just passing.

Working adults college degree online

It takes a lot of work to finish quickly, but once you’re through, we think you’ll agree that it was worth it.

Financial Aid for Working Adult Learners

As a working adult, you know how expensive life is. Earning a degree will be another expense in your budget.

Good news! There may be financial aid available for you when you take classes online. Even if you are over 18 and working.

Financial aid for adults going back to school

1. Grants

A grant is money that is given to you based on some qualifications you may have. It’s usually for people earning lower incomes, but not always.

A grant is a gift and will not need to be repaid.

Some grants may be given only if you intend to work in a certain location. An example is the Federal Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant, which provides grants for students who intend to teach in elementary or secondary schools with students from low-income families.

To see if you qualify for any federal grants, fill out your Federal Application for Student Aid. Don’t skip this step, even if you don’t think you’re eligible. You MAY get some free cash for your college degree.

2. Student Loans

Student loans are an option for anyone who is enrolled in college courses at least part-time. Loans are borrowed money and must be paid back with interest.

A loan from the federal government will typically provide you with a lower interest rate and have more flexibility in repayment options. But private student loans from a bank are an option, too.

You usually don’t have to start paying on your student loans until a certain period after you graduate.

3. Interest-Free Tuition Payment Plans

Like buying a mattress or a car, some colleges will offer an interest-free payment plan. Here’s how it works at Liberty University.

Instead of paying a large lump sum at the beginning of the term, you have the option to select monthly payments. You set up a payment plan for your payments to be automatically charged to your bank account or credit/debit card.

Interest free tuition payment plan information

This option helps by spreading the tuition amount over the course of months instead of a large payment all at once. And no interest! So, you pay the same in the end.

4. Scholarships

Scholarships are given based on some merit that you have. And you have merit!

There are 1,000’s of scholarships available from all kinds of organizations. Scholarships are as varied as the groups that offer them. They can be given for academic grades, playing basketball, attending a certain church, you or a partner working for a certain company, your hometown, what field you are pursuing, or being a member of a bird-watching club.

Some scholarships will be offered by your college. Other’s you can find by Googling “scholarship” + “your state/hometown/clubs/church/employer”

scholarship for working adult students

Reputable Colleges Are Accredited

When a college is legit, they aren’t afraid to list their credentials. Regional accreditation is the gold standard for colleges. Always check that your school is recognized by the Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Regional accrediting bodies include:

When you go to all the work of getting a degree, you need to know it will count. Accreditation keeps you covered!

Top 5 Benefits of Online Accelerated Degrees for Working Adults

Not everyone can afford to quit their job to pursue their degree, so that’s why we want to introduce you to a few accelerated online degree programs that are specifically made for working adults.

These accelerated programs make it possible and convenient to pursue the degree you’ve always wanted, whether it be an undergraduate or graduate degree.

For working adults, the best advantage of accelerated online degree programs is that you may get to keep your job, but there are other amazing benefits to these programs as well. Because of these benefits, there’s no reason to say “no” to your dream college degree one more time.

1. Keep Your Job

people working in a construction

These accelerated online degree programs cater to students who already have a job and plan to keep that job while pursuing their college degree. It’s not just a matter of making it work with whatever degree program you choose and sacrificing a lot while pursuing your education.

Since accelerated online degree programs understand your specific situation and the demands on you at work, they make it easier for you to maintain a full-time job while going after your degree. That’s not to say that it will be easy or stress-free to complete your degree, but your experience probably won’t be as stressful as if you had chosen a degree program that’s not geared toward working students.

2. Accelerate Your Degree

sports car peeling out leaving dust behind

Finishing your degree faster means a potential promotion or job change. With that promotion or job change usually comes an increased salary and responsibilities. You may even qualify for a leadership position with your new degree.

Getting ahead of your peers who chose a non-accelerated route could mean the difference between a new and exciting position and simply staying within your current job. Accelerating your degree could also save you money in the short-term as well because you won’t have to pay for your degree as long as you would in a traditional degree program.

With financial benefits both short and long-term, it’s easy to see why choosing accelerated online degree programs pay off big.

3. Study from Home

female adult comfortably studying at home with computer and books

When you’re working full or even part-time, it’s difficult to have to drive or take public transportation to class multiple times per week. And once you’ve established your routine with your job, it’s disruptive to change that routine.

Online programs enable you to study for your degree at home when you’re not at work. You may complete your coursework in the evenings, on the weekends, or for a few minutes here and there in between obligations rather than having to devote a certain number of hours per week getting to and from campus.

Plus, since you aren’t tied to any city through online programs, you may choose among a much wider selection of programs and really get the most out of your online experience.

4. Earn an Accredited Degree

someone walking at a college graduation ceremony

No matter what level of degree you’re after (associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s), you may find many accelerated programs online that are accredited. Having a degree from an accredited institution means having a more valuable degree.

Earning a college degree from a non-accredited institution could affect your ability to obtain state licensure (to become a teacher, counselor, or accountant, for example), apply for a job, or apply to graduate programs in your field. When you earn your degree from an accredited institution, you can be assured you’re getting the best training possible.

Because so many accredited and top-ranked programs now offer online and accelerated formats, you could potentially earn your degree from a very well-known and respected school. The best part is that you don’t have to indicate on your resume that your college degree was accelerated or online; your degree will have the same value as someone who took longer to complete their degree on campus from the same school.

5. Network with other Working Adults Attending College Online

a group of adult students gathered around a table working on a project in a university library

One advantage of accelerated online degree programs that may be less obvious is the fact that you’ll get to network with other working adults from across the nation.

This may increase your chances of hearing about a new job position since many job opportunities come about via word of mouth. You may also feel more at ease knowing that your classmates are in the same position you’re in, which could make it easier to collaborate, communicate, and organize group work with them. You won’t feel like you’re alone in your program, because you won’t be the only working adult.

Ready to Get Started?

someone holding a stopwatch

These 5 options to complete an accelerated online degree program for working adults might be your golden ticket. You don’t need to put your life and career on hold while you go back to school. The options that are available may allow you to continue to work while still speeding through your degree.

You get to set your pace. You can take classes around your schedule. Your life experience and prior learning may even earn you credit. Plus, you’ll likely end up paying less than if you earned your college degree the traditional way.

Accelerated bachelors degree programs for adults can help you realize your academic dreams without totally disrupting your life!

Ready to start your journey?