Accelerated Degrees Vs. Traditional Degree Programs

Aug 06, 2018

Accelerated degrees and traditional degree programs each have unique characteristics, including different admissions requirements, course formats and completion times. View article »

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Traditional vs. Accelerated Programs

Some of the main differences between accelerated and traditional degree programs are the admissions requirements, course format, and completion time. We'll examine these differences and take a closer look at some accelerated programs that incorporate multiple degrees.

A traditional degree program is taken on campus at an accredited college. A student not only gets timely advice from faculty but also from peers, and these programs give students the opportunity socialize and take advantage of campus life.

Some accredited schools also offer accelerated degree programs, which allow students to earn an undergraduate and/or graduate program in a shorter time frame than what is typical of traditional programs. For example, an accelerated bachelor's degree program may be completed in as little as 12 months. People entering an accelerated degree program are often older and have a career, and the classes they take may be offered in a compressed format.

Admissions Requirements

Traditional bachelor's programs often don't require previous college coursework to enroll. Master's programs generally require a bachelor's degree, but work experience is not always demanded. Some programs, however, require specific undergraduate coursework before a student can matriculate in a master's program.

Accelerated programs often require more for admissions requirements than traditional programs. For example, accelerated bachelor's degree programs often require that a student possesses an associate's degree or at least 60 college credits to enroll. Accelerated bachelor's programs in nursing, for example, sometimes require a bachelor's degree in another field and the completion of various prerequisite nursing courses. An accelerated MBA program may require at least two years of full-time work experience for enrollment.

Course Format

In a traditional college degree program, students take a set number of classes per semester. These class sessions run as long as 1 1/2 hours each, and multiple class sessions fill up a student's day. Two semesters are completed per year, although many schools offer a shorter summer session in which students can complete courses.

Students do not need to wait for the traditional fall start to enter an accelerated degree program. In some accelerated master's degree programs, particularly accelerated MBA programs, students move through a set sequence of classes as a cohort with few, if any, electives. Many colleges offer classes that last four hours one night per week. Students in an accelerated degree program take classes all year, and some classes can often be taken online.

Completion Time

Earning a bachelor's degree in a traditional degree program can take four to five years. Most colleges have two semesters a year, but students can take classes in summer if they wish to finish sooner. A traditional degree also requires general education coursework that helps students receive a well-rounded education.

Accelerated degree classes continue throughout the calendar year, with no breaks between semesters or academic years. A bachelor's degree can be earned in 12-18 months. A master's degree can be completed in one to three years, depending on the field of study, and may be combined with a bachelor's degree in order to earn two degrees in a shorter time frame compared to traditional degree programs.

Traditional coursework is typically offered based on 16-week semesters, but some accelerated degree programs are offered in eight-week terms. This results in a faster-paced program. In some cases, schools may suggest that a student not work while in an accelerated program.

Combined Degree Program

Another type of accelerated degree program is a combined bachelor's/master's degree program. In one of these programs, students can complete both degrees in five years, whereas completing each degree separately usually takes a total of six to seven years. These programs are available in many different fields, including the following:

  • Art
  • Engineering
  • Communication
  • Finance
  • Computer science

Students begin their studies in regular bachelor's degree program. However, as upperclassmen, they can apply for admission to the accelerated program. That way, during their final years, they can enroll in a graduate-level coursework program and conduct independent research. It is important to note that schools usually only accept top undergraduates to accelerated programs, so applicants need to meet standards such as minimum GPA requirements. In addition, applicants may need to identify a faculty mentor prior to admission.

When choosing between traditional and accelerated degree programs, it can be helpful to understand the differences between course formats and requirements at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

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