How long will it take you to earn a bachelor’s degree? Many people assume the answer is four years. However, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that only 44.1% of students earn their bachelor’s in 48 months. Some students take longer. Others prefer to shoot for a fast undergraduate degree in a much shorter time-frame. A selection of colleges around the nation are offering accelerated online and hybrid programs to meet this need.
Why Choose an Accelerated Degree?
Students have a variety of reasons to want a bachelor’s degree in under four years. These include:
- Upgrading their associate degree or certificate
- Completing a degree that they started years ago
- Jump-starting their career
- Balancing their education with a job
- Getting a degree before a major, disruptive milestone such as moving cross-country
- Speeding their way to a master’s or PhD by getting the bachelor’s out of the way quickly
|1||Charter Oak State College||New Britain, Connecticut|
|2||University of Alabama||Tuscaloosa, Alabama|
|3||University of Louisiana||Monroe, Louisiana|
|4||Arkansas Tech University||Russellville, Arkansas|
|5||Columbia College||Columbia, Missouri|
What is Involved in the Fastest Degrees?
Some accelerated degrees simply take a semester or two off of the final time investment. Others streamline the educational experience into just one intensive year. The time varies greatly depending on the degree you’re seeking, the university’s policies, and what credits or life experiences you can bring to the institution.
An online bachelor’s typically involves 120 credits. The number you’ll need to earn may be reduced by:
- Transferring credits from another institution
- Applying credits from your associate degree to the bachelor’s
- Crediting you for on-the-job learning and military training (you may need to submit a portfolio or pass an exam to prove your competence)
Fast tracked programs also tend to have year-round shorter semesters, sometimes as brief as five weeks. These involve streamlined curriculum and heavier workloads. You may also find universities with rolling admissions, letting you join mid-year and not just in the fall. Finally, many of these programs offer greater flexibility through online or hybrid classes.
The Top 19 Fastest Degrees
These colleges offer accelerated bachelor’s degrees in a variety of subjects. We’ve included the lowest in-state tuition and fastest time to completion. However, some degrees within the accelerated programs may cost more or take longer to finish.
Charter Oak State College
Charter Oak State College has a varied student population. Here, traditional students gain an education alongside military personnel, state and federal employees, and other adults pursuing an associate, bachelor’s, or (as of 2015) master’s level degree.
Charter Oak State College offers accelerated bachelor’s programs and degree completion in several subjects and concentrations. These include Business Administration, Health Administration Management, and Cybersecurity. The institution offers flexible semesters of five, eight, and fifteen weeks long and may credit students’ military training and on-the-job experience.
University of Alabama
The University of Alabama, established in 1820, is the oldest in the state. This public research university is home to multiple museums of natural history and archaeology and historic landmarks are scattered around the campus. It has very high research activity and offers a comprehensive doctoral program.
This university’s College of Continuing Studies has an accelerated RN to BSN/MSN program. The program allows people with an associate in Nursing and in-field experience to upgrade to either a bachelor’s or a master’s degree.
University of Louisiana
This institution opened in 1931. The University of Louisiana at Monroe grew rapidly in the 60s and 70s. It offers a number of degrees that are hard to find in the state including Meteorology and Marriage and Family Therapy.
The University of Louisiana at Monroe maintains an extensive accelerated program. This institution issues bachelor’s degrees in over a dozen subjects ranging from History to Marketing to Radiologic Technology.
Arkansas Tech University
As a public university, Arkansas Tech University offers a number of traditional and accelerated bachelor’s and graduate level degrees. Multiple buildings on campus are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is also home to a number of Greek fraternities, sororities, and service or band organizations.
Arkansas Tech University offers a BPS (Bachelor of Professional Studies) in Interdisciplinary Studies and a BA in Organizational Leadership. You can also earn a BAS with various concentrations such as Criminal Justice, Public Relations, Interdisciplinary Studies, and Child Development.
Columbia College is a sizable institution that maintains 34 extended campuses across 13 states. It has a long history if supporting military learners, with a third of its student body working in one of the branches of the United States military.
Columbia College offers BS and BA degrees in fields like Accounting, Teaching, Literature, and Sociology. You can transfer up to 90 credits, further fast-tracking your education. This university also offers reduced tuition (just $250 per credit hour) for students who have served in the military.
Saint Louis University
Saint Louis University has a main location in St. Louis, but it maintains another campus in Madrid, Spain. This private Jesuit research university is the oldest university west of the Mississippi River. Its athletic teams regularly compete in the Atlantic 10 Conference and in NCAA Division I. Saint Louis University holds four libraries and three museums on its 282 acre grounds.
The university offers an accelerated RN to BSN program. This allows nurses with real-world experience to earn a bachelor’s degree in under a year.
University of North Dakota
This university has deep historic ties in the area. In fact, the University of North Dakota was established six years before its home state was created. This well regarded public research university provides a number of specialized degrees in areas like Aerospace Sciences, Astrophysics, and Geological Engineering.
The University of North Dakota offers an accelerated bachelor’s degree in Education with concentrations in Special Education, Early Childhood Education, and Elementary Education. It also has accelerated programs in Kinesiology and Public Health.
Liberty University is one of the largest private evangelical Christian universities in the world. It has a vast and varied campus including a 17 story tower with a replica of the Liberty Bell, an observatory, and a synthetic ski slope. The university’s athletic teams are regular features in Division I competitions.
Many of Liberty University’s 100,000 students (almost half of them undergraduates) learn via online classes. The online branch of this university offers a number of fast-track bachelor’s degrees in Social Work, Criminal Justice, History, and more.
Regis University was founded in 1877 and has been attracting high profile artists, religious figures, politicians, and public speakers since then. These have included Jimi Hendrix, the Dalai Lama, and President Bill Clinton. The university itself has five colleges covering a broad array of subjects.
Regis University offers accelerated bachelor’s of science and bachelor’s of arts degrees in several subjects. These include a BS in Accounting, Business Administration, or Computer Science and a BA in Communication or Elementary Education. The university has generous credit transfer policies and offers accelerated 5 to 8 week terms.
Bay Path University
Longmeadow’s Bay Path University was founded in 1897 as a co-educational institute. After almost going bankrupt during WWII, it became a women’s only college. The university now offers all-women bachelor’s degree programs in a number of subjects. Their graduate level programs are co-ed.
Bay Path University has well developed accelerated BS programs. There are over a dozen areas of study to choose from. These include Accounting, Interior Design, Small Business Development, and Biochemistry. Military personnel may qualify for a tuition discount and pay $350 per credit hour.
Mercy College is a private, non-profit university with a main campus in Dobbs Ferry and other locations in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Yorktown Heights. This college sponsors an intercollegiate competition in 10 varsity teams including baseball, basketball, field hockey, and softball.
You can earn a fast track BS in Organizational Management or an accelerated second degree in Nursing. That program is designed for people with a bachelor’s in a non-nursing field who want to pivot to a Nursing degree.
Central Michigan University
Central Michigan University has a large student body, over 200 academic programs, and as a doctoral university produces high research activity every year. The campus has a one million book library and a large observatory. It’s active in Greek life, with over 36 recognized fraternities, sororities, and honor societies.
Their accelerated program offers bachelor’s degrees in a number of subjects like Public and Nonprofit Administration, Political Science, and Community Development. This university also offers reduced tuition for State of Michigan employees, federal employees, and military personnel. Some students may pay as little as $299 per credit hour.
Gwynedd Mercy University
Gwynedd Mercy University is a Catholic university with a 314 acre campus. Its large campus houses a number of buildings including and in-the-round theater and the Lincoln Library. The library holds a large collection of Abraham Lincoln’s books. This university is also active in the Colonial States Athletic Conference (CSAC). Its basketball, lacrosse, baseball, and tennis teams have won multiple CSAC championships in the last decade.
This university offers certain bachelor’s degrees in an accelerated program. You may earn a BS in Business Administration with concentrations in Organizational Management and Health Administration, an accelerated BS in Nursing, or a BS in Applied Psychology.
Becker College has two campuses, one in Worcester and another in Leicester. Students should be able to commute easily as these campuses are just six miles apart. The college itself is one of the oldest in the area, founded in 1784 by a charter signed by John Hancock and Samuel Adams. Both campuses are in historic districts with numerous buildings in the National Register of Historic Places. However, Becker College is also a modern institution with gymnasiums, computer labs, auditoriums, sports centers, and even an Equestrian Center.
You can earn a number of accelerated degrees at Becker College. These include a BA in Early Childhood and Youth Education, a BS in Forensic Science and Legal Studies, and an RN to BSN program.
Saint Xavier University
This private Roman Catholic institution was founded in 1846 and rebuilt after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Saint Xavier University has a highly diverse student body and a history of community outreach and eco-friendly efforts. These include recycling, rooftop gardens, and using alternative energy sources when possible.
Students may be able to get a BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) in under two years here. Saint Xavier University’s fast tracked program is specially designed for students who already have an associate’s degree. These accelerated 8 week courses build on that educational base.
Northeastern University is a private nonprofit research university that places a heavy emphasis on hands-on experience before students earn a degree in any field. This experiential learning, a program cornerstone, is often achieved through cooperative education with partnered businesses. The university also manages a wide-ranging study abroad program for students who want to learn about other cultures.
Northeastern University offers fast tracked programs for upgrading an associate degree or transferring your credits at another institution. You can earn BS degrees in a wide variety of subjects such as Analytics, Finance and Accounting Management, Healthcare Administration, and Psychology.
Concordia University Chicago
Concordia University Chicago was founded in 1864 as a Lutheran seminary. The River Forest campus was dedicated in 1913, and it expanded to a full liberal arts institution in 1979. The university has grown to six colleges offering degrees in a variety of arts and sciences.
Concordia University has created accelerated bachelor’s programs in subjects like Organizational Management, Healthcare Management, Management Information Systems, Sports and Recreation Management, and Kinesiology. You may also be able to transfer up to 67 credits from another accredited institution.
As a private Roman Catholic liberal arts college, Neumann University is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. It has been a coeducational institution since 1980. This college supports a number of athletic teams including baseball, basketball, a dance team, and ice hockey. Their roller hockey team won championships in 2015 and 2016.
Neumann University offers an accelerated BS in Public Safety Administration, a BA or BS in Liberal Studies, and a BS in Business and Organizational Studies. You can apply up to 90 credits earned at another institution, significantly reducing the time to complete a degree. This institution also credits professional experience and military training.
Indiana Wesleyan University
Indiana Wesleyan University is a 320 acre private Christian university associated with the Wesleyan Church. Their main campus is in Marion, but they also have education centers in multiple towns in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. It’s the largest private university in the state and regularly attracts major events to the town including rock bands and gospel groups.
The university offers dozens of BS and BA degrees from Accounting to Cybersecurity to Social Work and beyond. You can also fast-track your nursing degree through their R.N. to B.S.N. program.
Our Ranking Methodology
We searched for public and non-profit private schools online and in various .gov databases such as the NCES. Our search was limited to bachelor’s level programs including completion and RN to BN programs. We excluded universities with no physical presence, 4+1 bachelor’s and master’s combination programs, and schools whose per-credit tuition was over $1000.
The resulting 19 colleges were ranked according to the minimum months needed to complete a bachelor’s degree (faster is better) and their in-state tuition per credit hour (cheaper is better). The resulting score was weighed, with tuition making up 66.7 percent of the final score.
Although we make every effort to offer accurate information on these colleges, accuracy is not guaranteed. If you work at one of these universities and notice an error, let us know. We’ll correct the information here and update the listing if necessary.