The 10 Fastest Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs

fast-online-degree-programs

Four years is a long time to be in school.

The traditional bachelor’s degree takes at least four years to complete. But some accelerated college programs let you complete an entire bachelor’s degree in far less time—sometimes under a year—depending on what you study and how aggressively you complete courses.

An online degree is usually more convenient than an on-campus degree, but an accelerated program can drastically reduce the cost of your degree—both in tuition and time. There are several main ways schools can cut down on the time it takes to finish your degree. They can:

  • Offer credits for life experiences, such as your employment history or volunteer work
  • Allow you to “test out” of certain classes
  • Let you complete courses at your own pace

If you’re looking into fast degree programs, you’re also bound to hear about “degree completion programs” or schools that accept the most transfer credits. We can tell you about those, too, but we’re not going to lie to you: degree completion programs aren’t faster. It just means you did all your work somewhere else. It’s like some colleges are saying, “You get to start this marathon at the halfway point, so you’ll finish faster.” But they’re only letting you do that because you already ran the first half somewhere else.

We’re going to assume you have zero transfer credits so that we’re only looking at programs that are actually faster. But we’ll still let you know if a school accepts credits from other schools, and how much of your degree can be transferred.

10 schools with accelerated online programs

The schools on this list provide genuinely faster degree programs—because of the factors we listed above. Obviously, there are a lot of variables that can affect how fast you finish, but the schools you’ll see here offer an opportunity to start and finish a bachelor’s degree in less time.

We’ll show you each school’s:

Check out these 10 schools with accelerated online bachelor’s degrees!

1. Capella University

Capella-University-fast-online-bachelors-degrees
Image source: Capella Education

Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Tuition: $2,300–$2,700 every 12 weeks

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Online bachelor’s degrees: 7

Start to finish, Capella University has the fastest path to a bachelor’s degree. If you’re ambitious and sharp enough (and you’ve got the spare time), you can complete four years’ worth of courses in less than a year. I hesitate to put an exact number on it—because you set the pace.

Capella University’s unique FlexPath system lets you sign up for two courses at a time—and as soon as you finish one, you can sign up for another. You get all your assignments at the beginning of the 12-week period (including tests and projects), and you can finish your courses as fast as you want.

Each bachelor’s program has its own price for Flex Path, but you can take as many courses as you want per quarter—just so long as you finish one before you start another.

There are only seven online bachelor’s degrees at Capella University, but there are 22 concentrations within those degree programs, so you’ll still have plenty of options.

Here’s what graduates had to say about the FlexPath system:

A lot of schools offer course demos to show you how their online classes work, but Capella University has a free one-week trial course that’s complete with assignments, so you can get a feel for what it’s like to be a self-paced online student. (It won’t give you any credit, though.)

In addition to the FlexPath program, Capella University has all the other time-saving options to shorten your degree. You can earn credit for relevant work experience and certifications, as well as some nationally-recognized tests. You can also transfer credits from another school. The amount you can transfer depends on the program you choose, but 75% of all bachelor’s degree students at Capella University have at least some transfer credits.

Note: This is one of the best online schools in the U.S.

2. Colorado Technical University

Colorado-Technical-University-fast-track-online-degrees
Image source: Colorado Technical University

Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Tuition: about $11,00 per year

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Online bachelor’s degrees: 41

In addition to a great selection of online degrees, Colorado Technical University takes a unique approach to prior learning assessments. They offer a Fast Track program that lets you test out of courses and receive credit for it. These exams can save 30% or more on your total degree time.

CTU’s programs are about 180 credits, and through Fast Track exams, you can earn as many as 73 credits. You can see how many exams are available in each degree program before you enroll, and you can even see which classes the exams are for.

Here’s what Fast Track programs can do for you:

Fun fact: CTU is one of those rare colleges where tuition has actually gone down in recent years.

3. Rasmussen College

Rasmussen-College-fast-online-degrees
Image source: Rasmussen College

Location: 22 campuses nationwide

Tuition: about $9,000 per year

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Online bachelor’s degrees: 34

Rasmussen College offers a suite of online bachelor’s degrees focused on competency-based education. Each course is designed to develop particular skills, and you can demonstrate those skills whenever you’re ready.

Like Capella University, Rasmussen’s Flex Choice program lets you see all of your assignments as soon as class begins, and then you can choose what order to complete them in. Interestingly, you can turn in every assignment twice.

When you think you know a subject well enough, you can take self-directed tests to complete sections of each course and move on. You can take these tests multiple times for $99 per attempt.

Additionally, you can transfer up to two-thirds of your degree from another school.

4. American InterContinental University-Online

American-InterContinental-University-online
Image source: American InterContinental University

Location: Schaumburg, Illinois

Tuition: about $54,000 total

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Online bachelor’s degrees: 25

American InterContinental University’s online campus offers a good selection of bachelor’s degrees, and their generous prior learning credit system can significantly cut down on the time it takes to finish a program.

You can earn credits for work experience and training that directly pertains to your degree. For example, if you’ve trained at a law enforcement academy—a training experience that typically takes six months or less—it’s worth 36 credits towards a criminal justice degree.

College Level Exam Programs (CLEP) cost $85 a pop, but if you can pass them, AIU substitutes these for relevant lower-level courses in their degree programs. Similarly, DSST exams can be substituted for lower or higher-level courses. They accept Advanced Placement (AP) tests as well.

If you have previous college credits, AIU lets you transfer up to 75% of your degree.

5. Northeastern University

Northeastern-University-fast-online-bachelors-degree
Image source: Northeastern University

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Tuition: about $61,000 total

Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education

Online bachelor’s degrees: 10

Northeastern University offers a decent selection of online bachelor’s degrees, and several options to complete them faster.

You can submit exam scores from proficiency tests like CLEP, DSST, Excelsior, and AP. If you have relevant business, health, information technology, or liberal arts education or experience, you can apply for an assessment of prior learning to shave off some additional credit.

Northeastern University also has three online degree completion programs. Up to 50% of your degree can come from previous college credit.

To check out what the online learning experience is like at Northeastern, you can try a course demo. NU also has tips for being a successful online learner.

Note: This is one of the best online schools in the U.S.

6. Colorado State University-Global Campus

Colorado-State-University-Global-Campus-fastest-bachelors-degree
Image source: Colorado State University

Location: Greenwood Village, Colorado

Tuition: about $42,000 total

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Online bachelor’s degrees: 13

Colorado State University’s Global campus gives students a decent variety of online degrees, but an even better selection of concentrations and specializations. You add these to your degree program a-la-carte. (If you do this though, it will increase the time it takes to graduate.)

To shorten the time it takes to graduate, CSU-Global has several ways for you to receive alternative credits. Like other schools, you can take college-level exams or submit relevant portfolio experiences which they will review.

Here’s how they describe the process:

“Non-Collegiate credit other than exam or military service credit, such as non-collegiate courses, corporate trainings, certifications, professional licenses, etc., may be considered for transfer toward a bachelor’s degree if it has been evaluated according to the ACE Guidelines, reviewed by the National College Credit Recommendation Service (CCRS), and does not duplicate credit already accepted in transfer.”

You can also earn credit through Sophia Pathways. And of course, you can always transfer credit. CSU-Global lets you transfer up to 90 credits—that’s 75% of your degree.

Note: This is one of the best online schools in the U.S.

7. Liberty University

Liberty-University-fast-online-bachelor-degree
Image source: Liberty University

Location: Lynchburg, Virginia

Tuition: about $47,000 total

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

Online bachelor’s degrees: 121

Liberty University has one of the widest selections of online bachelor’s degrees, and they’ve got plenty of options to speed up your degree.

Certain job training can automatically earn you credit (including but not limited to licenses in aviation, law enforcement, insurance, real estate, and EMTs), and you can submit an Experience Plus Portfolio for credit as well.

Liberty University also lets you transfer up to 75% of your degree from another school, and they have online degree completion programs as well.

Note: This is one of the best online schools in the U.S.

8. Albertus Magnus College

Albertus-Magnus-College-fast-online-degree
Image source: Common App

Location: New Haven, Connecticut

Tuition: about $31,000 per year

Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education

Online bachelor’s degrees: 8

Albertus Magnus College isn’t a big university, but they have an online education program that surpasses many larger schools.

In addition to the usual degree completion programs and transfer credits, AMC lets you earn up to 45 credits from prior learning. This includes CLEP, ACT-PEP, and challenge exams, as well as a portfolio.

You can transfer up to 90 credits—including up to 64 credits from a community or junior college.

9. Indiana Wesleyan University

Indiana-Wesleyan-University-fast-online-degrees
Image source: Indiana Wesleyan University

Location: Marion, Indiana

Tuition: about $10,000 per year

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Online bachelor’s degrees: 8

Indiana Wesleyan University’s online bachelor’s degrees are all business, management, or administration related.

If you’re interested in IWU’s baccalaureate programs, you can shorten them with a prior learning assessment portfolio. You can also earn up to 40 credits from relevant prior learning, and transfer up to 90 credits.

10. Concordia University-Chicago

Concordia-University-fast-online-degree
Image source: Higher Ed Jobs

Location: River Forest, Illinois

Tuition: about $61,000 total

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Online bachelor’s degrees: 7

Concordia University-Chicago offers accelerated online degree programs that are faster regardless of whether or not you have any transfer credits.

Their accelerated degree programs can be completed in 16 months, and courses are only five weeks long. However, you need to have two years of full-time work experience to be eligible for these programs.

Here’s what graduates had to say about Concordia’s accelerated degree program:

Concordia’s online BS in human resources appears to be the only degree program where you can receive credit for prior learning.

You can transfer credits in most of these programs, but the amount you can transfer varies.

A quick note on transferring schools

Degree completion programs exist because thousands of students transfer schools every year. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, more than one-third of all college students transfer schools before graduating. To transfer your credits from one school to another, the two schools usually have to be accredited by the same organizations.

Make sure you understand how accreditation works before you commit to a school. The wrong choice can significantly reduce the options you have later.

How fast you finish a degree is kind of up to you

The schools on this list provide some great ways to save time on your degree—but ultimately, how fast you finish depends on how hard you’re willing to work. If you’re determined to finish quickly and you have the time, you can take more credits per quarter or semester. Choosing the right school can make it easier to shave off months or even years of your program, but to really reduce your degree time, you’ll have to put in work.

Should speed be the biggest factor in choosing a degree?

Only you can decide what’s most important to you. Nobody wants to waste time in classes they don’t need, or to listen to lectures about things they already know. But choosing a degree program based on how fast you can finish isn’t going to guarantee you’ll avoid those things. If you choose a program based on its quality, you’re a lot less likely to run into that situation.

Maybe you only want a degree because you know people with college degrees earn more on average. Or maybe there’s a job you want that just requires some kind of degree. But the degree you choose can significantly affect your earning potential and completely change the expertise you develop.

I’d encourage you to start by exploring types of degree programs and use a list of quality programs within a particular field to narrow your results. From there, you can find the fastest program in a single field—instead of crossing your fingers that you’ll find one you like at a school on this list. Just for example, did you know Capella University is also on our list of best online bachelor’s degrees in human resource management and online BBM degrees?

Picking a school is a huge investment—both in terms of what it immediately costs you and how it affects your life. So take your time deciding.

We hope this list has helped make the decision a little easier for you. Good luck in your future studies!

Ryan Nelson
Ryan has a B.A. in English Literature from Western Washington University. If he could rewind and go to college all over again, he'd do it a little differently. For now, he's living vicariously through people like you by helping you find the best online schools for your field.

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