What's the Fastest Way to Earn a Bachelor's Degree?

What's the Fastest Way to Earn a Bachelor's Degree?

7 minute read

It’s a fact that people with bachelor’s degrees tend to earn more money over their lifetime than those with only a high school diploma. That’s why so many choose to earn this 4-year degree. For some, it happens right out of high school. For others, it occurs later in life. It’s never too late to earn a bachelor’s degree as long as you have the drive and persistence to keep going.

Since college degrees require an investment of time and money, fast-tracking one can be an appealing option. For those who are ready to earn a degree quicker than the traditional four years, read on.

Why Earn a Bachelor’s Degree?

Earning a bachelor's degree can provide you with numerous opportunities for personal and professional growth. In addition to acquiring specialized knowledge in your field, pursuing a degree helps you develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as practical communication abilities. These can help broaden your career prospects by making you more competitive in a challenging job market.

Why Does It Matter How Fast You Earn Your Degree?

For those who are eager to begin their career journey or are looking to minimize their educational expenses, completing a degree program in a shorter time frame can be incredibly advantageous. Accelerating your studies lets you enter the workforce — and start making money — sooner. Reducing the amount of time spent in college can help individuals save on tuition costs and minimize the financial burden of higher education.

How to Earn a Bachelor’s Degree Fast: 7 Methods to Try

While there’s no shortcut for hard work and careful planning, there are certain ways you can speed up the process of earning your degree. Here are seven that may help you accelerate your education.

1. Choose a Major With an Accelerated Degree

Choosing the appropriate major can help you complete your bachelor's degree faster. Some accelerated online programs enable you to graduate in 2-3 years instead of the traditional four. By concentrating on majors that have accelerated options, you can complete your coursework more efficiently.

The majors that often provide accelerated degree programs include:

2. Test Out of Courses

Testing out of courses is a strategic way to accelerate your academic journey. Many schools provide the option to test out of specific requirements, allowing individuals who are already proficient in a subject to skip certain classes. For example, fluency in Spanish might enable a student to take a test that fulfills their school’s foreign language requirement. However, you should note that each institution sets its own policies and tests, making it impractical to test out of every course.

Aside from the options provided by individual schools, there are alternative pathways for earning credits, such as Credit By Exam (CBE) programs and standardized tests like CLEP. CBE programs let you take exams that earn credits in standard course requirements without having to go through traditional coursework. On the other hand, CLEP exams, which are administered by the College Board, provide an opportunity to demonstrate proficiency in various subjects. Passing CLEP exams then allows you to fulfill certain requirements for graduation.

3. Earn Professional Certifications

Earning professional certifications, like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or CompTIA, can prove helpful on your academic journey. Depending on your school and major, certifications like these may count toward your graduation requirements. 

Many universities these days recognize the practical skills gained through these types of certifications and may award academic credit that aligns with relevant coursework. For instance, a computer science major might find that a CompTIA certification aligns with specific programming or networking courses. If a student is pursuing an IT-focused major, they may find that obtaining AWS certifications can complement their coursework related to cloud computing.

Before you take this route with the expectation of receiving academic credit, be sure to consult with your academic advisor or the relevant department. They can guide you regarding professional certifications and how earning one may contribute to your academic progress.

4. Earn Credits While in High School

Enrolling in Advanced Placement (AP)® classes during high school is a smart choice for students who want to earn college credits and speed up their college journey. AP courses offer a more challenging curriculum, usually equivalent to introductory college classes. Students who pass AP exams often earn college credits, which then helps them progress faster and enter college with a head start on coursework.

Another option to consider is dual enrollment. This means high school students take for-credit courses at a college and earn both high school and college credits simultaneously. This helps students transition smoothly into higher education and gives them a taste of the academic rigor they can expect in college.

5. Take Summer Courses

Enrolling in summer courses at your college can be a smart way to speed up your academic journey and graduate faster. The shorter duration of summer sessions allows you to focus intensively on specific courses, which could help you fulfill prerequisites or core requirements more efficiently. This concentrated learning approach enables you to accumulate credits rapidly and gets you closer to your degree.

Summer courses also provide a chance to tackle challenging subjects with fewer distractions. Smaller class sizes often mean more personalized attention from instructors, creating a better learning atmosphere. Moreover, having a lighter academic load during regular semesters allows you to balance your schedule more effectively.

Taking advantage of summer courses can be especially helpful for students who need to catch up on credits, retake classes, or explore additional areas of interest. By planning your summer enrollment thoughtfully, you can optimize your academic calendar and ensure a smoother, quicker path to graduation.

6. Earn Credits While Working

If you’re already working, you can earn college credits more efficiently by selecting courses that align with your current (or higher-level) job's requirements. Focusing on business or communication courses not only enhances your professional skills but also earns you college credits. General education courses such as English Composition or College Algebra form a foundational part of most degree programs, no matter what you study. By completing these prerequisites before formal enrollment, you give yourself a head start on your academic journey.

To optimize your time, plan how these courses integrate into your future degree program. Proactively map out your educational path to ensure a seamless transition from skill-building to degree advancement. This lets you work on job-relevant skills while you accumulate transferable credits for future academic pursuits.

Community colleges offer cost-effective and flexible learning options, so consider them when deciding on your educational path. Additionally, explore employer tuition assistance programs to leverage financial support from your workplace. Online courses can also be an affordable and effective way to earn credits on your schedule while you’re working.

7. Take Self-Paced Online College Courses

Many students today are trying to balance earning a bachelor’s degree with an already busy schedule. Other students find that they need to take certain prerequisite classes before they can focus on their major. Where do online courses come in?

Enrolling in a self-paced online course may be an ideal solution to your degree needs. Self-paced courses allow you to personalize your learning experience, letting you go at your own pace and making them an excellent option for expediting your bachelor's degree completion. Furthermore, self-paced courses offer the flexibility to take exams according to your schedule and from the comfort of your home.

StraighterLine currently offers dozens of affordable, self-paced, for-credit college courses online in subjects such as:

Earn Your Degree Faster With Credits From StraighterLine

Earn your degree faster with StraighterLine’s affordable, flexible online courses. We offer courses that can help you earn credit toward many common general education requirements found at traditional colleges and universities. When you choose StraighterLine, you’re not only saving money on tuition, but you’re also accelerating your academic progress. 

See why StraighterLine is the best choice for earning a bachelor’s degree fast!

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