Where do you find the best accelerated online degree programs for working adults? I’ll discuss 6 options you can put into motion TODAY that will have you breezing through your degree fast.
- Yes, you can get your degree 100% online.
- Yes, you can finish your bachelor’s in 2.5 years or less (from zero credits to done)
- Yes, you can get college credit without sitting in classes.
- Yes, your work experience DOES count.
- Yes, every college we discuss is regionally accredited (the gold-seal of accreditation).
- Yes, financial aid & interest-free payment plans are available.
Whether you are returning to school or have no college education under your belt, you can get your degree online as a working adult.
Purdue University now has 6 week classes online, making them a perfect choice if you want to complete your degree online without sacrificing your job or family life.
Are you interested? Here’s how it works.
Accelerated Online Degree Programs for Working Adults
You’re an adult, you work full-time, you have a family, you have a LIFE — but you still want to get your degree. That’s where accelerated online degree programs for working adults come into play.
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.
- How to earn an online degree fast
- Accelerated online classes
- Self-paced degree programs
- Credit for life experience
- Credit for prior learning portfolio
- Testing out of college classes
- Accelerated degree completion programs
- Financial aid for working adults
How to Earn an Online Degree Fast
Did you know your work experience, your skills, and your knowledge make you the perfect candidate for an online degree?
You have 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.
Here’s an example from Colorado Tech:
Option 1: Accelerated Online Classes
If you want to finish your bachelor’s degree in less than 4 years, then accelerated online classes are 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 classes.
Accredited colleges offering accelerated online classes:
By choosing accelerated classes, you can get 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 finish each class in half the time.
Accelerated classes typically run for 8 weeks and you can take 2-3 classes at a time (depending on the university).
Liberty University Sample Schedule
|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 (I’ll explain these in a bit), you can 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, you can go from zero to done in less than 2 years using a similar schedule!
Liberty has one of the best semester load policies I’ve seen from an accredited university. If you think accelerated online classes are a good match for you, take a moment to get more info directly from Liberty University here.
Option 2: Self-Paced Programs
Are you a go-getter? If so, self-paced 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.
Two well known universities offering Self-Paced Degrees are Western Governor’s University and Capella University.
Western Governor’s University
At Western Governor’s University you:
- Pay a flat fee for a 6 month term
- Enroll in the courses you need
- Cover the competencies outlined for each course you want to have credit for
- Complete an online assessment such as a paper, presentation, case study or exam
- Keep on going! Knocking course after course off your list.
If you stay focused, you can complete quite a few courses in only one 6 month term. The pace is determined by you!
At Capella, they offer 2 different paths for a self paced program. A Guided Path and a FlexPath.
Capella University 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.
Capella University FlexPath:
When you register for Capella’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. Run, run as fast as you can!
You receive individual help with a tutor and get coaching support in putting together your personalized plan.
Western Governor’s University vs. Capella University
|Western Governor’s University||Capella University GuidedPath||Capella University FlexPath|
|Time to completion||Up to you! You can complete as many assessments as you can in each 6 month term.||Just over 2 years||Up to you! You can complete as many assessments as you can in each 12 week term.|
|Who determines speed||You!||School’s class schedule||You!|
Option 3: Credit for Life Experience
Do you ever wish that your years of work experience would count towards a degree?
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.
| College Credit for Life Experience |
This list is just a small sampling of experiences that count for college credit
| || |
and this list is only a sampling!
|University||Credit for Prior Learning Policy|
|American Intercontinental University||Up to 36 credit hours may be awarded.|
|Ashford University||Up to 30 credit hours. Accepts up to 90 credits in transfer hours.|
|Colorado State University||Up to 30 credit hours. Accepts up to 90 credits in transfer hours.|
|Colorado Technical University||Up to 75% of credits required for degree. Remaining 25% must be earned at Colorado Tech.|
|Purdue University – Global||Up to 75% of credits required for degree. Remaining 25% must be earned at Purdue.|
|Liberty University||Up to 30 credit hours may be awarded.|
|Ohio Christian University||Up to 24 credit hours may be awarded.|
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.
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.
Purdue University Global has a generous credit for prior learning policy which is perfect for working adults. At Purdue, you can earn up to 75% of your degree through credit for prior learning, transfer credits, and credit by exam.
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 are granted the credit for your life experience.
Like I said, up to 75% of your degree could be met using credit for prior learning!
If you have a lot of life or work experience, get more info from Purdue University.
Although you can receive credit for up to 75% of your degree, Purdue Global notes that most students are awarded around 36% of their degree through credit for prior learning.
Option 5: Testing out of college classes
This option feels like it is 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:
- College Level Examination Program (CLEP)
- Dantes Standardized Subject Testing (DSST)
- Thomas Edison State Credit (TECEP)
- New York University Language Exams
- Excelsior College Exams (ECE)
Using this list, you can register to take a 90 minute multiple choice exam and 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, you can learn quickly because you already have a lot of information stored up.
I bought the study guide for the CLEP Natural Sciences exam worth 6 credit hours. I studied like mad for about a week, sat down, and took 90 minutes to complete the multiple choice exam.
I 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.
Option 6: Accelerated Degree Completion Programs
If you already have some credit hours from previous university or college experience you may qualify for an accelerated degree completion program like College.
If you already have some college credits and want to enroll in an online degree completion program, get more info.
College will accept the credit you have already earned and pair that with online classes and competency based courses. This allows you to complete your degree much quicker than if you started from square one with zero credit.
Financial Aid for Working Adults
As a working adult, you know how expensive life is. Earning a degree will be another expense in your budget.
Good news? There is financial aid available for you when you take classes online. Even if you are over 18 and working.
A grant is money that is given to you based on some qualifications you may have. Usually for lower incomes, but not always.
A grant is a gift and will not need to be repaid. Although some grants may be given only if you intend to work in a certain location.
Like 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 college.
2. Student Loans
Student loans, on the other hand, are an option for anyone who is enrolled in classes at least part-time. Loans are borrowed money and must be paid back with interest.
3. Interest-Free Tuition Payment Plans
Like buying a mattress or a car, some colleges will offer an interest-free payment plan. I’ll show you 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.
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.
Scholarships are given based on some merit that you have. And you have merit!
There are 1000’s of scholarships available from all kinds of organizations. Scholarships 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”
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 you school is recognized by the Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
- Higher Learning Commission
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
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 Accelerated Online Degree Programs for Working Adults
Not everyone can afford to quit their job in order to pursue their degree, that’s why we want to introduce you to a few accelerated online degree programs for working adults.
Accelerated online degree programs for working adults 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 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 degree one more time.
1. Keep Your Job
Accelerated online degree programs for working adults cater to students who already have a job and plan to keep that job while pursuing their degree. It’s not just a matter of making it work with whatever degree program you choose and sacrificing a lot while pursuing your degree.
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
Finishing your degree faster means a potential promotion or job change. With that promotion or job change usually means an increased salary and responsibility. 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 potentially 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 program.
With financial benefits both short and long term, it’s easy to see why choosing accelerated online degree programs for working adults pays off big.
3. Study from Home
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. 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 could complete your course work 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 can choose among a much wider selection of programs and really get the most out of your online experience.
4. Earn an Accredited Degree
No matter what level degree you’re after (associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s), you can find many accelerated programs online that are accredited. Having a degree from an accredited institution means having a more valuable degree.
Earning a 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 really well-known and respected school. The best part is that you don’t have to indicate on your resume that your 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
One advantage of accelerated online degree programs for working adults that may be less obvious is the fact that you’ll get to network with other working adults from across the nation.
This could increase your chances of hearing about a new job position since many job opportunities come about via word of mouth. You’ll 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.
List of Online Colleges for Working Adults
Below we’ve included a comprehensive list of universities offering degrees online for working adults like you!
These 6 options to complete an accelerated online degree program as a working adult are 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 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 WILL earn you credit.
What life experience have you had that is the most valuable? Not just for credit but for shaping your life.