A Guide to Accelerated Bachelor's Degrees

Written by Coursera • Updated on

An accelerated bachelor’s degree can help you make a career change or start a new career quickly. Learn what an accelerated degree is, how to obtain one, why it’s offered, and the steps you can take to get started in accelerated programs. 

[Featured Image] A graduate of an accelerated bachelor's degree program wears a cap and gown and stands with friends outside.

In recent years, the amount of time it takes to finish a bachelor’s degree has increased. While many full-time students used to finish their degree in four or five years, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that 63 percent of undergraduate students took six years to earn their bachelor’s in 2019 [1]. 

An accelerated bachelor’s degree is an undergraduate program designed to be more fast-paced than a traditional bachelor’s program, giving you the opportunity to earn your bachelor’s in three years or less. That option may be useful for young professionals ready to enter the workforce more quickly, or for professionals who wish to return to school in order to advance their careers. There are also accelerated bachelor’s degrees for students who began a degree program and were unable to finish it.  

In this article, we’ll cover important facts about accelerated bachelor’s degrees and the benefits of pursuing this type of program. 

What is an accelerated degree?

A bachelor’s degree typically requires students to complete a minimum of 120 credits in order to graduate. When students attend college or university full-time, they’re usually able to finish their degree coursework in four to five years. However, a variety of factors can impact that timeline, such as changing majors or taking fewer classes each semester. 

An accelerated degree gives you the ability to earn your bachelor’s degree faster than the traditional timeline. When you enroll in an accelerated bachelor’s degree program, you can usually complete your degree in three years. However, each accelerated program differs, and it may be possible to earn your degree in two years. 

Typically, accelerated programs are either offered entirely online or as a hybrid model, with some classes requiring in-person attendance. They are not available in every major, and they tend to be rigorous. Accelerated programs can be especially challenging because they often cover the same amount of coursework required to graduate but in a fraction of the time. 

Popular accelerated bachelor’s degrees

Not every major is available as an accelerated bachelor’s degree. Common accelerated bachelor's degree programs include:

  • Accounting

  • Business administration

  • Communications

  • Health care administration

  • Marketing

  • Nursing 

Degree completion programs

Some students enroll in college only to have their studies interrupted for personal or professional reasons. Degree completion programs are intended to help students who are interested in going back to school finish their degree in a shorter amount of time. These programs usually apply previously earned college credits or offer compact classes designed to be completed in less time.

With the Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences from the University of North Texas, you may be able to transfer 30 to 90 credits toward the degree. Courses are flexible and asynchronous so that you can schedule your learning around your other responsibilities.

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5 benefits of an accelerated bachelor’s degree

The benefits of choosing an accelerated degree program include completing your education at a faster pace in order to advance your career or transition to a new career more quickly than you might otherwise be able to. You may also benefit from lower costs and more scheduling flexibility often associated with online education.  

1. Faster pace 

Accelerated programs often feature five-to-eight-week courses. In some cases, you may take one class at a time, which intensely focuses on a specific topic. In others, you’ll be expected to be a full-time student taking a full course load (about 15 hours). Many programs operate year-round without traditional semester breaks, like winter or summer.

2. Staggered start dates

In a traditional bachelor’s program, you’ll likely have to apply months before learning whether you’re accepted. Once you do get into a school, colleges and universities tend to expect you to begin during the fall semester—or the start of a new academic year. With an accelerated program, you may find there are multiple start dates, so you can begin learning much sooner. 

3. Reduced costs

Accelerated degree programs often cost less because you’re in school for a shorter amount of time. Additionally, many students select an online program, which eliminates certain costs or fees associated with in-person learning. As long as a school is accredited, you can also apply for federal financial aid, which can offset costs.

4. Class schedule flexibility

Accelerated programs can be appealing to nontraditional students, many of whom have full-time jobs or families. Since accelerated programs are often online, they’re typically easier for professional students to attend while also managing their other responsibilities. 

5. Faster career advancement

A significant benefit of an accelerated degree is the reduced time commitment, which means you can enter the job force sooner. Whether you’re looking to begin your career or change it, you won’t wait as long to finish your degree and embark on your professional goals. 

How do employers view accelerated degree programs?

While every company is different, many recruiters seek evidence of your degree on your resume. They want to know what you majored in, where you attended college, and your GPA if you're a recent graduate. You do not have to disclose how you earned your degree, though online degrees have become more widely accepted as more renowned institutions offer online options. In fact, enrollment in online colleges grew by 2.2 percent in 2021 [2]. 

Given that it often takes undergraduates more time to graduate with their bachelor’s, you may want to share that you completed your degree program at a faster pace, which can suggest commitment, drive, and other valuable traits. 

Learn more: A Guide to Online Bachelor’s Degrees

Alternatives to accelerated degrees

Accelerated degrees are a great option for self-motivated learners who are willing to commit extra time to their degree and move at a faster pace. However, there are alternatives that can help you advance your career, including certifications, professional certificates, and individual courses.

Certifications: By completing intensive classes on a highly-specific topic, you can earn a certification to potentially help advance your career. A certification shows that you have successfully passed an exam and acquired industry-vetted skills. 

Professional certificates: Certificates are usually awarded after taking an in-depth series of classes. While you may have quizzes and tests throughout your certificate program, you likely won’t have an industry-approved exam at the end, as you would with a certification. 

Certificates show companies the initiative you’ve taken to learn a new skill. Certificates usually provide education in a tailored field. For instance, you can pursue several Professional Certificates on Coursera, such as Meta Social Media Marketing, Intuit Bookkeeping, and Google IT Support Professional Certificate.

Courses: You can also take individual courses in certain subjects to bolster your subject knowledge and workplace skills. A specialization like Excel Skills for Business can help you improve your software skills or a course like Inclusive Leadership: The Power of Workplace Diversity, offered by the University of Colorado, can help you promote diversity on your team.  

Next steps

As you consider if an accelerated bachelor's degree is right for you, weigh the potential benefits against the requirements it will take to earn one. As part of your research, take a look at the online bachelor's degree programs offered by established colleges and universities on Coursera, many of which offer accelerated bachelor's degrees.

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Article sources

1. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). “The NCES Fast Facts Tool Provides Quick Answers to Many Education Questions (National Center for Education Statistics),. https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=40.” Accessed May 27, 2022

2. Coursera. “Online Colleges: A 2022 Guide, https://www.coursera.org/articles/online-colleges.”  Accessed May 27, 2022. 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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