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Fastest College Programs of 2015 (for Busy People)

Line of college graduates

Workers with a Bachelor's or Master's degree not only earn more money than those without a degree, but this group also enjoys lower unemployment rates. According to 2013 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workers with a high school diploma had an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent and median weekly earnings of $651. Those holding a Bachelor's degree had an unemployment rate of 4 percent and median weekly earnings of $1,108, while workers with a Master's degree fared even better: an unemployment rate of 3.4 percent and median weekly earnings of $1,329.

In the future, the employment outlook for those with a Bachelor's or Master's degree is likely to improve. The BLS predicts that jobs requiring a Master's degree for entry will grow the fastest (18.4 percent compared to an average of 10.8 percent across all occupations) between 2012 and 2022. Jobs that require a Bachelor's degree are projected to grow 12.1 percent during that same time period.

Of course, with the rising cost of tuition, completing your degree in the least amount of time could be one of your best bets for minimizing costs, and also allow you to start earning a better salary faster. Here's a look at accelerated programs that allow you to do just that.

Rather than just focusing on speed and cost, it's also a good idea to consider graduate rates. (See: How to Choose an Online College). The logic is simple: if you go to a school with better than average graduation rates, you have a better than average chance of finishing on time -- which is the first step to fast-tracking your degree.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average graduation rate of schools nationwide in 2012 was 59 percent. If we use this as a metric to determine which schools are "better than average" at making sure all students, including accelerated students, graduate on time, then the schools outlined below meet that better than average standard. Note: Some of the graduation rates included below are sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics, and are not specific to the accelerated program, but reflect the overall graduation rate of the school.


Accelerated Associate Degrees

College of DuPage

  • Location: Glen Ellyn, IL
  • Program Timeline: 3 eight-week segments
  • Graduation rate: 69%

The College of DuPage's Adult Fast Track program (AFT) offers an Associate in Arts (AA) degree, an Associate in Applied Sciences (AAS) degree in Management, and a Certificate in Supervision, Entrepreneurship or Organizational Leadership to students aged 21 or older. Classes meet in person in the evenings or Saturday mornings. Two eight-week segments are offered in the fall and spring semesters and one is offered in the summer. Students can take individual courses through the AFT program or complete their degree in this format.


Accelerated Bachelor's Degrees

Northeastern University

  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Program Timeline: 18 months
  • Graduation rate: 96%

Through Northeastern's Fast-Track Program, students with transfer credits can earn a Bachelor's of Science in Finance and Accounting Management; Health Management; Information Technology; Leadership (with or without a business minor); Management or Organizational Communication in 18 months. Programs are available completely online or on-campus with an online component. Over a 12-week term, campus programs meet one night per week and six Saturdays (usually every other).


Lynn University

  • Location: Boca Raton, FL
  • Program Timeline: 3 years
  • Graduation rate: 87%

Lynn University's 3.0 program allows motivated students to earn a Bachelor's degree in three years instead of four (all majors are available except for music and education), saving an estimated $45,600 on tuition, room and board for the fourth year. Students take extra courses on Lynn's campus or online at no extra cost and receive priority course registration to ensure that they get into the classes they need to graduate.

Spotlight Interview with Gregg Cox, Lynn University Vice President for Academic Affairs

Gregg Cox

"We were looking at ways we could help students to save time and money by accelerating through the degree program. We launched in spring 2010, and we basically pay for their extra credits that they need to graduate. We're still running at about 87 percent retention/graduation rate in that program. It's meant to be a program for highly motivated students. All you have to do is stay on track to earn your degree in three years and keep your grades high enough to graduate. It's a win for the university, a win for students and a win for their parents paying the bills."


Arcadia University

  • Location: Glenside, PA
  • Program Timeline: 3 years
  • Graduation rate: 85%

Arcadia awards 3-year Bachelor's degrees in Business Administration; Communications; International Business and Culture; International Studies; or Psychology. The program includes one optional summer of service learning abroad and an optional summer internship abroad or away. Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA.


Elmhurst College

  • Location: Elmhurst, IL
  • Program Timeline: 14 months
  • Graduation rate: 78%

Elmhurst College offers accelerated Bachelor's degrees in Applied Psychology, Business Administration, Communication and Information Technology. The accelerated program is designed for working adults, so classes are scheduled online or in the evenings. Most of the courses in the student's chosen accelerated major can be completed in 14 months, but to earn a Bachelor's degree they must also complete Elmhurst's Integrated Curriculum, which can take longer.


Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

  • Location: Saint Mary of the Woods, IN
  • Program Timeline: 20-24 months
  • Graduation rate: 62%

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College offers an RN to BSN program online where licensed registered nurses who hold an Associate of Science degree with at least a 2.5 GPA from an accredited institution can work towards a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. The program is offered in an 8-week online format and can be completed in four semesters spanning 20-24 months (or sooner with applicable transfer credits).


Accelerated Bachelor's to Master's Degrees

Lynn University

  • Location: Boca Raton, FL
  • Program Timeline: 4 years
  • Graduation rate: 87%

Lynn University's 3+1 program allows motivated students to earn a Bachelor's degree in three years instead of four (all majors are available except for music and education), followed by a Master's degree in select areas during their fourth year.


Drexel University

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Program Timeline: 5 years
  • Graduation rate: 86%

Drexel University's incoming freshman applicants can apply for combined 5-year programs in subjects including Accounting; Biomedical Engineering; Communication; and Entertainment and Arts Management, but current students have a more limited list of options.


Arcadia University

  • Location: Glenside, PA
  • Program Timeline: 5 years
  • Graduation rate: 85%

Arcadia University's 3+2 program lets motivated students earn a Bachelor's and Master's degree in five years. Academic areas include Forensic Science, International Peace and Conflict Resolution; International Relations and Diplomacy; and Special Education. Arcadia also offers a combined 5-year 3+2 engineering program with Columbia University.


LeTourneau University

  • Location: Longview, TX
  • Program Timeline: 5 years
  • Graduation rate: 77%

LeTourneau University offers an accelerated program where students earn a Bachelor's of Arts in Counseling Psychology and a Master of Arts in Marriage Family Therapy in five years. The program is offered at the Longview campus and can lead to career paths in family life education, human services, counseling and more.


Southern New Hampshire University

  • Location: Hooksett, NH
  • Program Timeline: 150 credit hours
  • Graduation rate: 69%

Southern New Hampshire University offers a combined, accelerated Bachelor and Master in Accounting, which is available online or a combination of online and face-to-face learning. Students earn a Bachelor of Science in Accounting after completing 120 credit hours, then continue on to earn a Master's after completing an additional 30 credit hours.


Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

  • Location: Saint Mary of the Woods, IN
  • Program Timeline: 4 years
  • Graduation rate: 62%

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College's on-campus program is all female, though its online program is co-educational. Through SMWC's 3+1 program, on-campus students at this small Catholic college can earn a Bachelor's degree within three years, followed by a Master of Leadership Development (MLD) in one year. Students in the 3+1 program can earn accelerated Business degrees with honors in accounting, business administration, human resource management or marketing and do not need to take the GRE to transition into the MLD program.

Spotlight Interview with Karen Dyer, Vice President of Advancement and Enrollment at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

Karen Dyer

"3+1 basically overlaps with the MLD, because you get a business degree and graduate in the fourth year with a Master's. It's a higher-level student, someone who knows what they want and appreciates that getting a Master's degree in the fourth year is important. It's for that driven student who knows what she wants when she comes in. We have a big emphasis on leadership and the 3+1 program is a perfect example of how an undergraduate can come in and be focused on making a difference in the community. We find business to be a very popular major for a lot of our incoming students."


Accelerated Master's Degrees

Liberty University

  • Location: Lynchburg, VA
  • Program Timeline: 75 credit hours
  • Graduation rate: 69%

Liberty University offers an Accelerated, 75-hour M.Div. with a thesis and a non-thesis track. The accelerated program requires 36 hours of requisites including Church History; Christian Ministries; and Biblical Hermeneutics. Students must have an undergraduate degree in Biblical or Related Religious Studies. The program prepares graduates for careers such as worship leader, apologist, youth pastor or missionary.


Park University

  • Location: Parkville, MO
  • Program Timeline: Accelerated, 8-week terms
  • Graduation rate: 69%

Park University's Graduate School offers Master's degrees in Business Administration; Communication and Leadership; Educating and Teaching; Healthcare Administration; Music; Public Affairs and Social Work. These courses can be completed online, in person or a combination of the two. Online classes are given in accelerated, eight-week terms that start in January, March, June, August and October.


Accelerated Degrees in Healthcare

Healthcare professions are in high demand, according to the BLS, which reports that the mean annual wage for medical and health services managers was $101,340 as of May 2013.

Regis University

  • Location: Denver, CO
  • Degree Type: Bachelor's of Science in Nursing
  • Program Timeline: 1 year
  • Graduation rate: 82%

Regis University's Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is an accelerated one-year program geared towards students who hold a Bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing and are looking for a career change. Students earn a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing with eligibility to take the national licensing exam. Classes are held on campus and clinicals are primarily on weekdays, although some require evenings or weekends.


Pace University

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Degree Type: Bachelor's of Science in Nursing, with optional MS in Nursing
  • Program Timeline: 1 year
  • Graduation rate: 76%

Pace University's Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is for students who hold a Bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing and want to enter the nursing field. In addition to earning a BSN in one year, students have the option to complete a second year of study and earn an MS. The full-time program requires students to dedicate as many as 36 hours of weekly class and clinical hours not including study hours.


Walsh University

  • Location: North Canton, OH
  • Degree Type: Accelerated Nursing Degree
  • Program Timeline: 15 months
  • Graduation rate: 73%

Walsh University's accelerated Nursing degrees meet in flexible five and eight-week sessions. Walsh's Accelerated BSN option allows those with a non-nursing undergraduate degree to earn a BSN in 15 months. An Accelerated Nursing Program RN-BSN allows registered nurses who hold an Associate degree or another type of diploma to earn a BSN through part-time or full-time coursework. The RN to MSN program allows diploma and Associate degree nurses to have advanced placement in their chosen specialty area even if they don't have a BSN.


New York Institute of Technology

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Degree Type: D.O./Family Medicine completed
  • Program Timeline: 3 years
  • Graduation rate: 72%

By completing additional coursework over three years, students in the Accelerated D.O./Family Medicine Residency Continuum complete medical school in three years and continue on to a family medicine residency. This allows students to do a one-year fellowship in a chosen specialty without adding on additional training years, and also helps meet the growing demand for family physicians.


Park University

  • Location: Parkville, MO
  • Degree Type: Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA)
  • Program Timeline: Accelerated, 8-week terms
  • Graduation rate: 69%

Park University's MHA program helps students grasp the organizational, legal, financial and other aspects of health systems managements. Students can meet all course requirements for the MHA online through eight-week accelerated terms, though face-to-face courses are also available at the campus center in Kansas City.


Accelerated Degrees in Business

A Master's of Business Administration could help prepare you for a wide range of business-related careers. The BLS reports that median 2012 pay for sales managers was $105,260, while the median for financial managers was $109,740.

Champlain College

  • Location: Champlain, VT
  • Degree Type: Business Management
  • Program Timeline: Accelerated, 7-week terms
  • Graduation rate: 79%

Champlain offers online degrees and certificates in Business Management. Students can transfer up to 90 credits (earned through prior coursework, credit-by-exam or a learning assessment workshop) towards their Bachelor's degree, potentially leaving 10 upper-level courses to complete the degree. Courses can be completed in seven-week accelerated sessions.


Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

  • Location: Saint Mary of the Woods, IN
  • Degree Type: Master of Leadership Development
  • Program Timeline: 1-2 years
  • Graduation rate: 77%

With SMWC's hybrid online program, Master of Leadership Development (MLD) students take two classes each eight-week term and finish the program in one or two years. Classes meet one weekend every other month (one class concludes on Saturday, then a new class starts on Sunday) for a total of seven weekends per year. Students who are part of SMWC's 3+1 program earn their MLD in the fourth year of the program, but the MLD is also open to working professionals (in fact, a majority of MLD students work full time).

Spotlight Interview with Karen Dyer, Vice President of Advancement and Enrollment at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

Karen Dyer
"It's a program you can do in a year, so it appeals to a working professional who is looking for Masters-level leadership. It's very applicable to just about any profession or job. There are four tracks -- for-profit, nonprofit, financial or individualized path -- that they can tailor to their professional lives. Many times someone might choose this program over an MBA because it's more broad. With the accelerated cohort model, they meet one weekend every other month. The rest of the work they do online or they can connect with any of their classmates during that period."


Walsh University

  • Location: North Canton, OH
  • Degree Type: Accelerated Business Degree
  • Program Timeline: 5- or 8-week terms
  • Graduation rate: 73%

Walsh University's accelerated Business degrees meet in flexible five and eight-week sessions. Classes typically meet one evening a week or on Saturdays. Students can earn an accelerated Business degree in Management, Marketing, Accounting or Global Business.


Sources

  1. Arcadia University, http://www.arcadia.edu/3-year-degree-programs.htm
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections, http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Education and Training Outlook, http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_edtrain_outlook.pdf
  4. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages Medical and Health Service Managers, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes119111.htm
  5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook Financial Managers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/financial-managers.htm
  6. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook Sales Managers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/sales-managers.htm
  7. Champlain College, http://www.champlain.edu/business/online-business-management-programs
  8. College of DuPage, http://www.cod.edu/academics/fasttrack/
  9. Drexel University, http://www.drexel.edu/undergrad/academics/accelerated-degrees/
  10. Elmhurst College, http://public.elmhurst.edu/adult
  11. Gregg Cox, Lynn University Vice President for Academic Affairs, interviewed via telephone by the author, 11/21/2014
  12. Karen Dyer, Vice President of Advancement at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, interviewed via telephone by the author, 11/21/2014
  13. LeTourneau University, http://www.letu.edu/opencms/opencms/_Academics/Education/psychology/degrees/MAMFT.html
  14. Liberty University, http://www.liberty.edu/seminary/index.cfm?PID=27383
  15. Lynn University, http://www.lynn.edu/academics/other-academic-programs/accelerated-degree-programs/lynn-3.0
  16. Lynn University, 3+1, http://www.lynn.edu/academics/other-academic-programs/accelerated-degree-programs/lynn-3-1
  17. The National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=40
  18. New York Institute of Technology, http://www.nyit.edu/medicine/academics/accelerated_do/accelerated_do_home/
  19. New York Institute of Technology Accelerated Family Medicine Program, http://www.nyit.edu/index.php/videos/viewer/accelerated_d.o._family_medicine_residency_continuum/
  20. Northeastern College, http://www.cps.neu.edu/degree-programs/undergraduate/accelerated-degrees/
  21. Pace University, http://www.pace.edu/lienhard/accelerated-BSN
  22. Park University, http://www.park.edu/academics/academic-programs/graduate-programs/index.html
  23. Park University Master of Healthcare Administration, http://www.park.edu/academics/academic-programs/graduate-programs/master-of-healthcare-administration/index.html
  24. Regis University, http://regis.edu/RHCHP/Academics/Degrees-and-Programs/Undergraduate-Programs/Accelerated-Nursing.aspx
  25. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, http://www.smwc.edu/online-degree/woods-online-program/
  26. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College RN to BSN, http://www.smwc.edu/academic/nursing/rn-bsn
  27. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Hybrid-Online Program, ttp://www.smwc.edu/graduate/mld/how-program-works/
  28. Southern New Hampshire University, http://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/undergraduate-degrees/accounting-BS-online/accelerated.asp
  29. Walsh University, http://www.walsh.edu/accelerated-degrees
  30. Walsh University Accelerated Nursing Program, http://www.walsh.edu/accelerated-nursing-program
  31. Walsh University RN to MSN, thtp://www.walsh.edu/rn-msn