30 Fastest Online Degree Programs [Ultimate Guide]
Searching for the fastest online degree programs?
Whether you want to earn your associate’s degree or the fastest online bachelor degree possible, accelerated online classes can help you meet your goals.
What is the fastest bachelor degree?
Would you believe 3 years? Or less? Yes, I said or less. You could get an online bachelor’s degree in less than three years.
That is unbelievably fast. But doable. If you are wanting to earn your associate’s degree or your bachelor’s in the fastest time possible then accelerated courses are your answer.
Fast online degree programs are ones that are fully accelerated. Or, at the very least, offer accelerated classes. If you can’t find a fully accelerated program to pursue your bachelor’s degree, there are still a variety of ways to earn your degree fast.
The benefits of earning a bachelor’s degree are many. More exciting job opportunities! A more stable job! More money! Best of all an overall sense of accomplishment.
Earning a bachelor’s degree fast can mean that while your peers are still slogging through school you are already enjoying the benefits of better job opportunities and a higher pay scale.
Fastest Online Degrees and Classes
No matter how you look at it, the fastest online degree programs are accelerated programs.
These programs are specifically designed to bring you from start to finish through a bachelor’s degree in less time than if you had chosen a traditional bachelor’s degree program.
For example, the average time it takes students to complete a bachelor’s degree is 4 to 5 years, but you can easily complete your degree in an accelerated program in 3 years or less.
Accelerated programs are intended for adult learners and working adults. The accelerated online programs understand how to structure classes and degree requirements to suit an adult learner with responsibilities other than simply going to school full time.
This is a huge time saver for you if you need to earn your degree fast. All the work of acceleration has already been done for you. It’s like somebody else has set the cruise control on your car. The speed has already been set, you just need to pay attention and steer. As you zoom along at cruising speed!
If a fully accelerated program isn’t going to work for you, you might want to still look at accelerated classes. This is really the next best alternative for earning a quick degree. Make sure that your program not only offers these classes, but that it also offers these classes within your major.
If a program only offers accelerated classes in the core curriculum and you’ve already received credit for those core classes, then you won’t be able to take advantage of the accelerated classes. Taking accelerated classes within your major (which is usually the majority of the credits you are required to complete) is a great way to quicken the pace of your degree.
Fastest Associates Degree
An associate’s degree is typically a two year program (60 credit hours), but there are some fields that can be completed much quicker. Like picking the right line at the supermarket. Picking the right degree can get you home more quickly.
Popular Associate’s Degrees:
- Business Administration
- Criminal Justice
- Paralegal Studies
- Computer Information Systems
- Information Technology
- Health Sciences
- Health Information Technology
Fastest Bachelors Degree
The fastest online bachelor degree programs can be in almost any field you can imagine.
The most popular and common bachelor degrees that people currently pursue online are in the fields of:
- Criminal Justice
- Information Technology or Computer Science
- Graphic Design
In any of these fields, you can find programs that offer accelerated degrees.
Degrees that require more hands on training won’t be offered fully online, but you may be able to find hybrid programs that offer these degrees.
What will make the fastest online degree programs fast is not the specific degree, but rather what the degree program offers in terms of acceleration.
In other words, you probably won’t finish a bachelor’s degree in Accounting any faster than you’ll finish a bachelor’s degree in Education. Even if both are offered through the same institution and are accelerated online programs.
Since most bachelor degree programs require around 120 hours for degree completion, choose an accelerated online program in the field you love and want to establish a long lasting career in.
When you put in that much work to get a bachelor’s degree, you’ll want to make sure you’ll actually like the job you get. It is really depressing to get a degree in Education only to find you hate teaching!
Fastest Master’s Degree
When you sit down to prepare for starting a Master’s degree you are usually looking at 2 years of study (60 credit hours). Again some degrees are better suited to going fast.
The fastest online Master’s degrees are in:
- Criminal Justice
- Engineering Management
- Special Education
- Learning Technology
- Healthcare Administration
- Business Administration
These degrees work for going fast because the courses are easy to find in online classes, there is no thesis involved and they are not overly specialized. You could be done your master’s degree in Healthcare Administration in 15 months through South New Hampshire University.
What Makes a Degree Fast?
Most bachelor degrees require around the same amount of total credit hours (120), so they all take about the same time to complete. What will slow you down is usually your own personal life situation (family, job, video games, bodybuilding competitions), your relationship with an institution and its faculty, and how focused you are in working on your degree.
Check out our latest article, How to Finish College Faster.
The degree you choose doesn’t dictate how long it will take you to complete the degree.
The degrees on this list are the fastest online bachelor degrees because they have the potential for fast entry into the work force once you’re done.
Some degrees will require additional hours and even graduate work before you can comfortably begin a rewarding and high-paying career in that field rather than becoming an assistant or lower paid staff member.
Aim high with these degrees!
If you’re looking for the fastest online bachelor degrees out there, this list will give you a solid sense of which degrees are:
- The quickest and will get you out into the work force ASAP
- Going to prepare you for that professional career you’ve been craving
Is there something in you that tells you it is time to make a commitment to a brighter and more vibrant future?
Not just for you. But for your family.
Think about it.
Then jump into one of these online degrees. Getting started is often the hardest step.
These top 10 fastest online degree programs will give you an idea of where you want to start.
Top 10 Fastest Degrees
Earning a bachelor’s degree can mean more exciting and stable job opportunities, increased pay, and an overall sense of accomplishment. Earning a bachelor’s degree fast can mean reaping these benefits earlier than your peers.
1. Business Administration
As the No. 1 fastest online bachelor degree once you have a degree in Business Administration at the bachelor level you can get to work immediately. Start earning money. That’s a good perk.
Why you should choose a degree in Business Administration:
Hands down Business Administration is the most popular online degree. Business Administration degrees are so popular.
There is no licensure or graduate school work required to join the work force at a high paying salary. Also, as the most popular online degree right now (according to U.S. News), Business Administration is a clear winner for the fastest online bachelor degree out there.
With a degree in Business Administration, countless career opportunities are available to recent grads. If you’re social and excel at managing others, consider a career in management. Managers are needed at small companies, non-profit organizations, and government entities.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), managers within companies make, on average, over $145,000 per year. While it may take you a few years of experience to get to that level of salary, you can confidently apply for a lower level management position right out of school and work your way up.
If keeping to yourself is more your style, a degree in Business Administration can prepare you for an analyst job. Many companies hire people who understand the business world to do research and analyze data so that they can improve their products and services.
BLS reports that market research analysts (people who analyze the economic market) make about $60,000 per year. Plus, this sector is expected to grow 32 percent over the next decade, which is at a much faster rate than average.
A degree in finance will set you apart from other business degree holders. A finance degree, while similar to a business degree, adds an extra bit of pizzazz to your resume highlighting your skills with people and in money management.
Why you should choose a degree in Finance:
A subset of a business degree or school is a degree in finance. A degree in finance offers you a myriad of job opportunities. The financial job market is continuing to see growth even during times of economic downturns.
Financial analysts work for companies or individuals and counsel them about the best investments with their money. BLS found that the average financial analyst makes just shy of $77,000 per year. Only a bachelor’s degree is required for some of these high paying positions in the field.
3. Information Technology
A degree in Information Technology is also one of fastest online bachelor degrees because of the ability for you to go on quickly to satisfying career positions. Also making you popular with people when their computers crash.
Jobs in the Information Technology field are numerous. Make a list of all the businesses that you know that use computers. That’s about how many jobs there are in IT.
The types of jobs range from consultants who work with people and companies on teams to web and software developers who work more on their own.
Why you should choose a degree in Information Technology:
You know how we all have that one friend that is GOOD with computers? You always call them when your computer crashes. Computer knowledge and skills are worth a lot in today’s world.
IT consultants are hired to consult companies about the efficiency of their information systems and suggest alternative methods or means of improvement. BLS indicates that IT consultants make about $78,000 per year and that the field is growing faster than average. IT consultants for the top companies in the country, though, can make much more per year (closer to $150,000 and beyond).
Computer network or cloud architecture is one of the highest paying niches in the field right now. Cloud architects organize and manage cloud networks for companies so that their data and information is safe, secure, and easily accessible. Cloud architects make upwards of $90,000-plus per year depending on knowledge and skills. Like most niches within the information sector, cloud architecture and management is also growing faster than average.
4. Criminal Justice
Intelligence analysts are probably the highest paid professionals with this degree. They make over $78,000 per year, on average, and work for exciting entities like the FBI, ensuring the safety and security of their employers. This career path usually involves working in an office and requires advanced analysis and critical thinking skills.
Why you should choose a degree in Criminal Justice:
If you want to become a police officer, security officer, or intelligence analyst, consider a degree in Criminal Justice. Most of these professions only require a bachelor’s degree and are exciting career paths for the bold and daring. A degree in Criminal Justice can also prepare you for law school or other like graduate opportunities.
If action suits you and you’ve always wanted to become a police officer, a degree in Criminal Justice could help you move from a small, local police force to a higher profile police station or even a career with the FBI. Police officers and detectives make about $57,000 per year, but there’s room for promotion and salary increase with experience.
5. Healthcare Administration
As long as there are people there will be a need for healthcare. This gives you a pretty good indicator of job security. Working as a Healthcare Administrator allows you to do good for your fellow human. That’s a pretty good reason to pursue a degree. You know, helping people.
Why you should choose a degree in Healthcare Administration:
Managing a healthcare facility like a hospital or nursing home requires in depth knowledge of the medical field. A degree in Healthcare Administration will prepare you to work on the logistics of a medical facility behind the scenes.
BLS reports that medical managers make over $88,000 per year and that the field is growing much faster than average. There is room within this field for promotion, mobility, and career satisfaction.
Without a bachelor’s degree in Education, you’ll most likely only find assistant jobs that pay a fraction of what you could be making as a lead teacher. Particularly if you want to go into early childhood education, special education, or teach in a public school, a bachelor degree in Education will prove highly valuable to you.
Choose a program that enables you to become licensed by the end; some of these may be five year programs and take a bit longer than the average four year program.
Why you should choose a degree in Education:
Many people feel called to teach and a degree in Education can help make your dreams a reality.
Teachers are steadily in demand across the nation. Elementary school teachers are more in demand than high school teachers, though they make less per year. Elementary school teachers can expect to make about $53,000 per year, while high school teachers can expect to make about $55,000 per year. Of course, education is a field in which the region and city heavily influence the pay rate. Working in an affluent county or large city usually means a higher pay than working in a rural area.
Possessing these skills along with a Communications degree you can be hired in a variety of positions. You could work for a politician writing speeches, produce promotional material or even join the quickly growing field of internet marketing.
Why you should choose a degree in Communications:
If you pursue a degree in Communications you will have the skills to understand the dynamics of relationships within a company and community. You will be integral in forging lasting relationships and can even help with conflict resolution.
Communications degree holders can find jobs within the fields of Education, Human Resources, Government administration, journalism, public relations, advertising, higher education, and Business. There is no single career track for a student who studies Communications, which makes it an exciting degree choice.
The money isn’t shabby either, Payscale.com reports that common jobs you could have with a Communications degree will have you bringing in over $100,000 a year in positions such as Vice President of Communications, Marketing and Public Relations.
With a degree in Psychology you can apply for entry level positions in many different areas including marketing, sales, advertising, rehabilitation, psychiatric services, real estate, social work, child care, health care, parole and career counseling.
Why you should choose a degree in Psychology:
A degree in Psychology is similar to Communications in terms of career opportunities. Of course, those wishing to become psychologists or licensed counselors can continue on at the graduate level.
There are plenty of career opportunities if you have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. You could become a career counselor, a case manager, a rehabilitation counselor and advocate, or a probation/parole officer, among other career opportunities.
Because most of these careers involve working with a vulnerable population, they unfortunately don’t pay as well as some other career options with degrees on the list. These jobs are, however, highly rewarding and satisfying for most people within them. For example, a career counselor makes about $53,000 per year, which is about on par with the national average.
If you pursue a degree in Psychology, it probably means you want to help people. That’s a career goal worth pursuing!
Why you should choose a degree in Religion:
A degree in religion is a good fit if you feel called to help others in a variety of capacities. Most people who desire to pursue careers in religious education, clergy, or missionary work only hold a bachelor’s degree.
A member of the clergy only makes about $33,000 per year, but is usually integral to the well-being and livelihood of a community. Often times a clergy member receives other benefits, like room and board. Someone with a degree in Religion is also prepared to work for a non-profit organization in a variety of capacities and the salary opportunities there are higher.
While it’s not the fastest online bachelor degree if you have no prior school or work experience in the field, it’s a very quick degree if you’re already an RN.
RN to BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) programs are extremely popular among RN’s in the country, because they enable you to expand your career and pay opportunities by earning your degree. These online programs are designed for working nurses and can usually be completed in less than two years.
Why you should choose a degree in Nursing:
While Nursing is in the top five most popular online degrees, it appears as #10 on this list because it requires prior licensure as a registered nurse (RN). In other words, you can’t just earn a bachelor degree in Nursing from start to finish if you’ve never had experience studying nursing before.
Nurses are in high demand and the field is growing faster than average. RN’s make about $65,000 per year, but career and salary opportunities can increase with a BSN degree.
Accelerated Classes and Programs
The fastest online bachelor degree programs have a few things in common. Other than being fast and online. That’s a given.
They also make use of accelerated courses and programs.
Some degree programs are labeled and advertised as accelerated programs. This means that the acceleration has already been figured out for you. All you have to do is enroll in the program and you will earn your degree at a faster pace than average.
Most accelerated programs cater to adult learners, many of whom hold part or full time jobs.
If you can’t find a suitable program that offers a fully accelerated degree, another option is to find a program that at least offers accelerated courses. Accelerated courses meet for less time than a traditional semester. That means you can take more courses each calendar year than you could at a program that didn’t offer them. Typical classes run for a 16 week term, accelerated classes run around 8 weeks. You can almost double the number of classes you complete in a year.
You’ll have less time to master the material, but shaving off a year from your degree completion time can not only save you time, but a lot of money.
The primary way in which the fastest online bachelor degree programs offer acceleration to students is by accepting transfer credits. This can happen in a variety of ways, from accepting credits earned at a past institution, granting credit hours for sufficient scores on national exams, or for offering credit hours for life and work experience.
Most accredited and respected institutions will require that you complete at least half of your credit hours through their degree programs, but if you start out at a program having earned a majority of your core course requirements, you will earn your degree much faster than at a more traditional program.
Another primary way to identify the fastest online degree programs available is to identify programs that allow a large number of transfer credits. Even if you have no prior college experience, you can easily earn credit toward your degree. For example, if you complete the CLEP or DSST exams, you might be able to earn more than 30 credit hours toward your degree.
Some programs offer computer proficiency and foreign language proficiency exams. NYU foreign language proficiency exam can earn you up to 12 credits. You can apply to be tested in listening, reading and writing skills in 50 different languages.
At Thomas University students can apply to take a Computer Proficiency Exam for 3 credit hours. You would pay $350 and take the proctored exam. The exam tests you on your skills in using Microsoft Excel, Powerpoint, Word, the Windows operating system and the Internet. Considering you are reading this on the internet, it would be a good idea to look at this as an additional opportunity to complete credit hours.
If exams don’t seem like the way you’d prefer to earn your transfer credits, there are other ways. If you have any military experience or civil service training, you may be able to receive credit hours. Likewise, if you have worked in a job and have become an expert in a subject area or field, many online programs will give you credit for that expertise.
This is known as Credit for Prior Life Experiences. To achieve credit this way, some programs require you to compile an electronic or print portfolio that presents the work you’ve done in the past as well as an explanation or justification for why that work is worthy of college credit.
If you have completed course credit at another institution, even if it was only one class, you can probably apply that credit toward your degree. Each program has its own requirements for what credit they accept and from which institutions. A lot of the limitations come from state laws.
If you can’t figure out if your credit would be accepted through the program’s website, contact someone at the program and inquire. Never plan out your degree completion schedule until you know for sure all the hard work you put in before you enter the program will be recognized and converted into credit.
It’s important to note that no program will automatically give you transfer credits. In order to receive these credits, you have to do a lot of the work. This means completing any paperwork required through your program, petitioning for credit for work or other life experiences, and submitting necessary documents on time in order to receive credit.
Earning the fastest online degree possible usually means taking the initiative and advocating for yourself. Nobody will do it for you.
Be sure that you double check the accreditation of your program. Although most colleges offering accelerated courses are accredited, it’s best to check!
How can I tell which programs are the fastest bachelor degrees?
Besides these primary factors of determining how long a bachelor degree program will take to complete, there are other factors to consider as well.
One of these other factors is the amount of credit hours required to complete a degree. Most bachelor degree programs require around 120 hours for graduation. There are some programs like a Bachelor of Science in Engineering or a Bachelor of Arts in music that require upwards of 136 credit hours. If you’re looking to quicken the pace of your degree, avoid these programs.
Another factor to consider when choosing a program is whether or not you are required to complete a senior capstone or thesis project or an internship component. These requirements usually only take up 3 to 6 credit hours of credit but can take a lot of time to organize and implement.
Choose a program that only requires coursework to graduate. Don’t make this harder for yourself. If the field you really want to enter has a requirement like this (like Education, for example) and it’s vital to future job prospects, plan ahead for it.
How It’s Done – Life Experience, Credit by Exam, and Accelerated Courses
Meet Jim. Jim is trying to earn his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in order to move up in his field. He already works in the corporate sector, he works in an office (but not The Office, this is a different Jim).
In order to secure a job position that pays better and gives him more responsibility and interesting duties, he has to complete his bachelor’s degree.
Jim first chooses an accelerated bachelors degree program.
His program requires him to complete 120 hours of coursework to finish his degree. Because he doesn’t have any prior college credits, he has to find other ways to accelerate his degree.
He studies for a handful of CLEP exams and receives 15 hours worth of credit from his program. One semester done! Way to be smart, Jim!
Credit for Life Experience
Because of his work experience and a training program he completed last year, his college grants him an additional 15 hours of life experience credit before he gets started toward his degree. He has already completed 30 hours toward his degree without really doing much — that’s an entire year of college.
Accelerated Online Classes
Since Jim has chosen a fully accelerated program online, he can enroll in all accelerated courses. His program happens to offer 8 week courses with a 1 week break time in between. Jim enrolls in 8 credit hours per 8 week semester. At this pace, he will complete 30 credit hours per year, allowing him to go from zero credits to graduation in 3 years. Although Jim knew he could finish faster by selecting a college that offers 5 week online classes, he knew that the 8 week classes were a better fit for his schedule.
Since Jim is working full time while completing his degree, he will take advantage of the online program he’s chosen. This online program will allow him to complete his course work on his own time when he’s not working. This will mean, of course, that he will need to dedicate his evenings and weekends to studying, but in 3 years or less, he will have his degree in hand and will be ready for a job change or promotion. Maybe something in sports marketing?
What are you willing to change in your day to day life to get that online degree faster?