Top Accelerated Online Degree Programs for Working Adults

Top 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 can get your degree online as a working adult.

Accelerated Online Degrees for Working Adults

Accelerated Online Degree Program 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.

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.

That’s where fast track online degree programs for working adults come into play.

How to Earn an Accelerated Degree Online

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.

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 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 courses.

Accredited colleges offering accelerated online classes:

By choosing accelerated courses, you can 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 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

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.

Liberty University academic coursework

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 program, 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 courses are a good match for you, take a moment to get more info directly from Liberty University here.

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.

At Capella University, they offer 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. 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 university to get a bachelor’s degree.

Option 3: Credit for Life Experience

Do you ever wish that your years of work experience would count towards 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 Department
  • Licensed Insurance agents
  • Certified Financial Planner
  • Child Development Associate
  • Military service
  • Certified Administrative Professional
  • Flight attendant
  • Certificate in Food Service Management
  • Training at McDonald’s
  • Certificate as 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 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!

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:

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.

Working adults college degree online

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 program much quicker than if you started from square one with zero credit.

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 is 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. 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 your college degree.

2. Student Loans

Student loans, on the other hand, 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.

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.

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 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”

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.

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 in order to pursue their degree, that’s why we want to introduce you to a few accelerated online degree programs that is 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 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

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 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 degree program.

With financial benefits both short and long term, it’s easy to see why choosing accelerated online degree programs 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 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 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 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 really 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

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 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 schools offering accelerated online degrees for working adults like you!

University Location
American Public University West Virginia
Arizona State University Arizona
Athens State University Alabama
Auburn University Alabama
Austin Peay State University Tennessee
Baker College Michigan
Ball State University Indiana
Belhaven University Missouri
Bellevue University Nebraska
Bemidji State University Minnesota
Benedictine University Illinois
Brandman University California
Brenau University Georgia
California Baptist University California
California State University – Fullerton California
Campbellsville University Kentucky
Central Methodist University Michigan
Champlain College Vermont
Charleston Southern University South Carolina
City University of Seattle Washington
Clayton State University Georgia
Cleary University Pennsylvania
Colorado Christian University Colorado
Colorado State University Colorado
Columbia College Missouri
Columbus State University Georgia
Concordia University Texas
Dakota State University South Dakota
Davenport University Michigan
Daytona State College Florida
Depaul University Illinois
Drexel University Pennsylvania
Eastern New Mexico University New Mexico
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Florida
Everglades University Florida
Excelsior College New York
Ferris State University Michigan
Fitchburg State University Massachusetts
Florida Atlantic University Florida
Florida Institute of Technology Florida
Florida International University Florida
Florida State University Florida
Fort Hays State University Kansas
Franklin University Ohio
Golden Gate University California
Granite State College New Hampshire
Grantham University Kansas
Herzing University Maryland
Husson University Maine
Indiana State University Indiana
Indiana Wesleyan University Indiana
Keiser University Florida
Lamar University Texas
Lewis University Illinois
Liberty University Virginia
Limestone College South Carolina
Louisiana State University – Alexandria Louisiana
Maryville University Missouri
Mckendree University Illinois
Mercy College New York
Missouri State University Missouri
Morehead State University Kentucky
Mount Mercy University Iowa
National University California
New England College of Business Massachusetts
Nicholls State University Louisiana
Northeastern University Massachusetts
Northwest Missouri State University Missouri
Northwestern State University of Louisiana Louisiana
Ohio Christian University Ohio
Old Dominion University Virginia
Oregon State University Oregon
Ottawa University Kansas
Pace University New York
Park University Missouri
Penn State World Campus Pennsylvania
Post University Connecticut
Quinnipiac University Connecticut
Regent University Virginia
Regis University Colorado
Rowan University New Jersey
Saint Leo University Florida
Salem University West Virginia
Sam Houston State University Texas
Shorter University Georgia
Siena Heights University Michigan
Southeast Missouri State University Missouri
Southeastern University Florida
Southern New Hampshire University New Hampshire
Strayer University Virginia
SUNY College at Plattsburgh New York
Temple University Pennsylvania
Texas State University Texas
Thomas Edison State University New Jersey
Touro University California
Trident University California
Troy University Alabama
University of Alabama Alabama
University of Arizona Arizona
University of Arkansas Arkansas
University of Denver Colorado
University of Florida Florida
University of Georgia Georgia
University of Illinois – Springfield Illinois
University of Maine Maine
University of Mary North Dakota
University of Maryland University College Maryland
University of Massachusetts – Amherst Massachusetts
University of Massachusetts – Lowell Massachusetts
University of Michigan Michigan
University of Minnesota – Crookston Minnesota
University of Minnesota – Twin Cities Minnesota
University of Missouri Missouri
University of Nebraska Nebraska
University of Nebraska – Kearney Nebraska
University of Nebraska – Omaha Nebraska
University of Phoenix Arizona
University of South Carolina South Carolina
University of Texas – Permian Basin Texas
University of the Cumberlands Kentucky
University of Toledo Ohio
University of West Georgia Georgia
University of Wisconsin – Platteville Wisconsin
University of Wyoming Wyoming
Walden University Minnesota
Washington State University Washington
West Texas A&M University Texas
Western Carolina University North Carolina
Western Governors University Utah
Western Kentucky University Kentucky
William Woods University Missouri
Wilmington University Delaware


These 6 options to complete an accelerated online degree program for working adults 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.

Accelerated Degree logo
My Degree Finder
Sponsored Schools
My Degree Finder
Sponsored Schools
This article is brought to you by
Joy Miller
Joy Miller
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *