In a job market where bachelor’s degrees seem to be a dime a dozen, a master’s degree can be more important than ever. But it can be tough to find time to get one if you already have a job and other responsibilities — unless you can find a good accelerated masters degree program.
Schools that encourage students to take online master’s degrees in an accelerated format (Sponsored Schools): (click for free info)
Purdue University Global
A very large online school with an interesting program called ExcelTrack™ that helps students use knowledge and previous credits toward their degrees. ExcelTrack™ applies to Nursing and Business master’s, as well as several bachelor programs.
Get free information on Purdue University Global’s programs
Grand Canyon University
A large private school offering online degrees at a relatively moderate price for a school with strong name recognition across the country. The school offers efficient pacing and lifelong learning assessment options that can make it possible to complete degrees in Nursing or Education at a rapid pace.
Get free information on Grand Canyon
A High Speed Solution
Fortunately, colleges — particularly the online schools that focus on adult learners — are very aware of this obstacle. To help solve it, they’ve created more and more 1 year masters degree programs, “bridge” degrees and other accelerated online masters programs to make it easier to finish school and get back to work in more of a hurry. But “accelerated” means different things at different schools. Sometimes there’s a standardized approach offered to a fast degree. But at other schools, the student is simply given the option of designing the fastest and easiest degree. Here’s a look at how these programs can work, and what they involve in terms of a higher-intensity study schedule.
How Fast Can You Get It Done?
Schools generally apply the term “accelerated” to two different kinds of master’s programs. The first and most popular option is an accelerated masters-only program, which usually involves a series of short, intense 6- to 8-week classes, taken up to 6 times each year. If every time you finish one class you enroll right away in the next one without any breaks, you may be able to complete this type of master’s degree in 12 to 18 months. If you take breaks during the at least one breather during the process, however, the average completion time is about 2 years. This type of program, by the way, is clearly for students who already have a completed bachelor’s degree.
To estimate your timeline on an accelerated master’s program, you’ll want to think about how many credits and classes you can handle at one time, and whether or not you can study continuously from the day you start to the day you finish your degree. Make sure to find out if any “extra” coursework or work outside the classroom will be required. Master’s degrees often include a set amount of hands-on fieldwork or a thesis of some type that the student must complete outside of school.
Tweet: Accelerated master’s programs are great — but when you sign up for one make sure you understand if there is any field work or a thesis required. Both can make your online degree program take longer.
A second possible option is a “bridge” type degree, that combines bachelor’s and master’s degrees into a single program. These usually last 3 to 5 years, compared with the 6 to 8 years the two degrees would require if earned separately.
If you’ve already completed part of your bachelor’s degree and can transfer credits into an accelerated program like this, you can potentially cut down your study time a good deal. Some competency-based accelerated programs will also offer credit for professional and life experience, which will also help you start out with even more credits in hand.
Combo or bridge degrees like this are not offered in all specialties. They’re widely used in nursing, where the RN to MSN is a very popular accelerated option. A number of business schools also have bridge degrees in accounting, leadership, project management and other specialties, and there is a fairly wide choice of accelerated masters’ in the teaching and education category. If you don’t have a completed bachelor’s degree and a bridge option is available in your desired specialty, it’s an approach that can help you leapfrog to an advanced credential more quickly. You’ll need to be prepared, however, to study at an intense pace for several years to achieve the goal.
Leaving Semesters Behind
A big reason most online schools can offer degrees faster than brick-and-mortar colleges is that they’re not bound by the traditional school calendar of “semesters.” As a result, they can offer intense classes, often less than two months in length, that allow students to squeeze far more classes and credits into a calendar year. As a student, you also have the flexibility to do your class work on a computer at home, rather than having to commute to classes that meet at set times – another advantage that helps many students take more classes at once.
What Are The Benefits?
If you’re willing to put in the effort, an accelerated online masters degree can offer an improved level level of speed and flexibility. If you’re a teacher who has summers off and are looking to get an education masters, you can study at a gradual pace through most of the year and then load up on coursework during your long summer vacation. Work in retail and want to get a masters in business? You might want to scale back your classes at busy times like the holidays, and then bulk up your school workload during the slow times. Of course, if you simply want to pour it on and finish your postgrad degree as quickly as possible, you can commit to taking a steady stream of classes to get finished in the minimum possible time allowed by your school.
John O’Brien has been a writer, editor and consultant in higher education for over 14 years. His background includes writing for insidehighered.com and The Chronicle of Higher Education. As editor of College Degree Complete, he has advised hundreds of adult students on how to transfer colleges without wasting the credits they’ve already accumulated, to finish their degree programs in the fastest and most affordable way.