How Fast Can I Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

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If you’re eager to give your career a boost, you might wonder how quickly you can possibly get your degree. Despite being called a “four-year” degree, many bachelor’s degree programs can be completed much faster. By choosing the right school and beginning your studies when you already have a great deal of life, work or academic experience, you can cut the time it takes to earn a degree in half. In fact, some of the fastest online bachelor’s degree programs allow students to earn their bachelor’s degree in as little as nine months to a year.

Ways to Earn a Bachelor’s Degree Quickly

How exactly do some schools reduce the time it takes to graduate? They often offer alternative options to gain college credits that you can apply toward your degree.

One way a college can shorten the time it takes to get your degree is by awarding prior learning credit. This means simply that you receive college credits for the knowledge and skills you already have.

For example, many schools allow you to earn your degree quickly by transferring a large number of credits completed at other colleges. Often called degree completion programs, these programs may expect or even require that students have completed a minimum number of credits at another college. It’s not unusual for degree completion programs to allow students to transfer as many as 90 college credits toward their 120-credit bachelor’s degree. That’s noteworthy because, according to USA TODAY, 42 percent of transfer students lose at least 10 percent of the credits they have already completed.

Prior learning credit opportunities aren’t limited to transfer credits. Even if you’ve never taken a college class, you may still have gained valuable knowledge and skills on the job. Many schools offer prior learning credit for job training you have completed in the past. Some programs may reward you for any professional certifications you have attained during your work. By compiling a portfolio of the work you have already done in your field, you can get college credits even for projects you completed outside the classroom. You can also take standardized CLEP or DANTES examinations, AP tests or school-specific exams to test out of courses if you’re already competent in the skills those classes teach.

At other schools that allow you to get your degree quickly, the term schedule and academic calendar may play a role in offering accelerated education options. For example, your terms may last just seven or eight weeks, rather than the traditional 15 weeks. By squeezing more terms and class start dates into the year, schools can allow you to complete more credits faster. Some schools also have an academic calendar that includes full-time course loads in the fall, spring and summer. Rather than taking a break or switching to part-time studies in the summer, keeping your full-time momentum going allows you to complete your degree requirements sooner.

Things to Consider When Comparing Accelerated Degree Programs

Not every degree program shortens the time it takes to graduate in the same way. Before picking a program, look beyond the shortest time it could take to earn a degree and instead find out how that program accelerates your education. If you don’t have a lot of credits to transfer, you may fare better with a program that has a less generous transfer credit policy but more alternative prior learning credit options, for example. Also, keep in mind that your education isn’t a race, and that quality is even more important than the speed with which you can earn your degree.