Fast Online Degrees

Perhaps you live in an area where roadside billboards advertise ways to gain a bachelor’s degree in a scant 2.5 years. How is it that some individuals manage to condense the standard four-year college education into such a short period of time? Their secret lies in pursuing the fastest route to earning a degree, which is usually the result of fast online degrees. Here’s a closer look at five ways of getting fast online degrees or certificates.

1. Online Certificate Programs

A certificate program does not lead to a “degree” in the typical sense of the word. Degrees are generally of four types: associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and doctoral degrees. Of these, an associate degree is probably the leader of fast online degrees, but some would also consider the “lowest tier” of college degrees. A doctoral degree is the highest level of college degree and takes the most time to achieve.

A certificate, on the other hand, verifies that the certificate holder possesses a particular skill or is qualified to perform a certain job. An auto mechanic, for example, could take a short course to gain a certificate proving that he or she is qualified to work on brakes. Likewise, people who already have a degree in information technology could pursue certain network certifications that show they are familiar with the ins-and-outs of certain network technology. The two reasons people earn a certificate are to advance within an existing field and to change job fields altogether.

Earning a certificate is a practical way to “beef up” a resume and prove to an existing or future employer that you have the required skills to qualify you for a particular job. The fastest and easiest way to earn a certificate is to take an online certificate course. Unlike most online bachelor’s and master’s programs, an online certificate program usually costs less than $5,000 in total and can be completed in less than two years. Some online certificate programs take only months to complete – so certificate programs are typically at the top of the pecking order of fast online degrees.

2. Use Existing College Credits

It is not uncommon to start college only to have life get in the way. Family emergencies, unplanned pregnancies, major illnesses and financial concerns can all divert attention from any degree, let alone fast online degrees. However, that does not mean that the year or two you attended college a decade ago was all for naught. In many cases, you can transfer those college credits you earned to a new institution.

Before assuming you’ll have to start college from scratch, look around for an online university that will accept the college credits you have already earned. Using existing college credits is one way that you can greatly reduce the amount of time you spend earning your degree.

3. Look for Accelerated Programs

When universities use the term “accelerated degree program,” they do not always mean the same thing. In some cases, an accelerated degree program refers to a bachelor’s degree that can be earned in less time than the typical four years. In other cases, an accelerated degree program means that the student earns both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree at one time. These programs almost always take longer than four years to complete, but they take less time to complete than earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree separately.

Some online accelerated degree programs are designed specifically with working adults in mind. In these programs, admissions requirements typically include professional work experience and some prior college experience.

Other fast online degrees are designed for individuals who already hold an associate degree and want to earn their bachelor’s degree. This type of accelerated degree program is especially common in nursing. Some Registered Nurses have an associate degree but wish to earn a bachelor’s of science in nursing. These “RN to BSN” accelerated programs condense coursework based on the nurse’s real-world experience.

4. CLEP Out

To “CLEP out” is to bypass certain classes by passing a test that proves you already know the information those classes would cover. “CLEP” stands for “College Level Examination Program.” Offered by the College Board, which is the same organization that regulates standardized tests such as the SAT, CLEP tests allow students to save a significant amount of time and money. Best of all, CLEP credits are accepted by nearly 3,000 universities around the country.

For example, perhaps you do not have any degrees but have long been a fan of American history. You can take CLEP exams covering the history of the United States from colonization to 1877 and another exam from 1877 to the present day. At many universities, a passing score on these exams will earn humanities credits that you would otherwise have to spend time and money acquiring. Besides history, it’s possible to take CLEP tests for economics, chemistry, biology, calculus, accounting and many other fields.

Before visiting the College Board’s website and registering for a CLEP test, first check with the online university you plan on attending to find out if CLEP credits are accepted.

5. Skip the Annual Family Beach Vacation

Once you’ve gotten as much credit as you can from previous college classes and CLEP exams and you’ve found an accelerated program that’s right for you, earn your online degree as fast as possible by taking classes all year round. You may have to tell your family that you won’t be going to the beach with them this summer; alternatively, you might have to accept that you’ll be toting your textbooks with you to that beach luau. The fastest way to earn a degree, whether online or offline, is to take classes even during everyone else’s summer vacation.


By following the five tips above, it’s possible to earn a certificate or a degree in just a couple of years. Online universities make it possible to earn degrees faster than usual because they allow students to control their pace of study. Utilizing the tips above will speed up the process even more.