Accelerated Undergraduate Degree Programs [2023 Guide]

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Want to finish your associate's or bachelor's in less time? Accelerated undergraduate degree programs can help you shave up to 1 year off your degree.

Accelerated undergraduate degree programs provide focused and determined students with the opportunity to finish their degrees at a faster pace than those in traditional programs.

Accelerated Undergraduate Degree

Almost every degree (from associate to bachelor’s to master’s) is offered in an accelerated format online. Here are the primary differences between what online acceleration means at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

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What Are Accelerated Degree Programs?

If you’re thinking about getting an accelerated bachelor’s degree online, it’s essential to understand that there is no single definition of accelerated or acceleration. Each institution and program has a different understanding of what those terms mean.

There are some common attributes, though, that we will discuss here.

What Is an Accelerated Bachelor’s Degree?

For undergraduate programs, acceleration comes in the form of the acceptance of transfer credits and accelerated courses and semesters. Instead of 16 weeks per semester, classes are on average 8 weeks long.

What Is an Accelerated Master’s Degree?

For graduate programs, acceleration generally only comes in the form of accelerated courses and semesters. Again, these classes typically run 6-8 weeks, allowing you to potentially complete your degree twice as fast as a traditional on-campus program.

Requirements to Apply

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Because accelerated study programs best suit dedicated and ambitious students, the requirements may actually be more stringent than regular programs. Accelerated undergraduate programs, for example, often require a certain GPA to apply.

Some even require that you are older because they cater to adult learners. Others may require that you have already completed a certain number of hours at another institution.

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Many accelerated graduate programs also require a minimum GPA at the undergraduate level to apply.

A major difference you’ll find at the graduate level is that accelerated graduate programs often require specific majors, degrees, or course work to be completed before application.

For example, if you apply to an accelerated MBA program, you’ll probably be required to hold a business-related degree and maybe even one specific to your desired MBA concentration (like Finance or Marketing).

Accelerated Undergraduate Degree Programs – Time to Completion

Accelerated Undergraduate Degree Programs - Time to Completion

The basic difference is that it usually takes longer to obtain an undergraduate degree than a graduate degree.

A very advanced degree, like a doctorate (which is available online in an accelerated format in some fields), may take longer, but most online learners in accelerated graduate programs are seeking a master’s degree.

Some of the most popular online and accelerated graduate degrees take a mere one year to complete! An accelerated bachelor’s degree earned through an accelerated undergraduate program usually takes between 1.5 to 3 years to complete, depending on how many transfer credits you’re able to receive.

What Is the Quickest Way to Get a Bachelor’s Degree?

The quickest way to get a bachelor’s degree is to take the maximum number of credits allowed by your institution per semester (usually 18 credits) through accelerated classes, in the fall, spring, and summer. By doing so, you could potentially earn 54 credits in just one year.

You may also be able to earn up to another 30 credits by testing out of classes.

You could potentially earn up to 15 credits by submitting a portfolio of prior learning. A portfolio of prior learning is meant to demonstrate that your previous work experience, military service, or other training meets the learning goals of certain classes.

With these strategies, you could potentially earn your bachelor’s degree in just 18-24 months.

Can I Get My Bachelors in 2 Years?

Yes, you can potentially get your bachelors in 2 years.

The most effective strategies for meeting this goal are to take accelerated classes year-round and test out of classes.

If you sit for College Level Exam Program (CLEP) tests, you could potentially earn up to 30 credits. That’s one year of classes! You only need to get 50% of the questions right to earn the credits (usually 3) for each test.

Curriculum in an Undergraduate Degree Program

Undergraduate Degree student studying online on his tablet

Many accelerated graduate programs (like MBA programs, for example) have fairly rigid curriculums designed for their students.

In other words, there isn’t much wiggle room in terms of the choices you get as a student. There may be options within a concentration or specialization, but the primary requirements are often the exact same for each graduate student.

Because these programs are offering graduate degrees to students at a much quicker pace, this aspect of accelerated graduate programs is often essential to maintain that promise.

With more flexibility and choice comes the danger of a student not finishing at that faster pace. Because of this, a lot of accelerated graduate programs place their students in a cohort of other incoming students. Cohorts complete the same courses at the same time in lock-step with one another.

The curriculum options for accelerated undergraduate programs are quite different. Like in traditional programs, there are general education and major requirements to fulfill, but there is usually more flexibility within those requirements.

You will probably encounter similar students in your online courses, but you likely won’t follow courses in lock-step with a cohort like you might at the graduate level.

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Joy Cromwelle
Joy Cromwelle
Joy is pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Policy & Foreign Policy and holds a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management, as well as a Bachelor's in Business Administration. Joy's focus is helping non-traditional students find accelerated degree options and credit for prior learning opportunities.