Accelerated graduate degree programs allow one to complete a master's or higher in a condensed time span. Some programs take students all the way from day one undergraduate to completing their M.S. or M.A. Other programs take newly graduated B.A.s or B.S.s or those in their final undergraduate years and condense the amount of time it would take to get a master's from that point. Reading through each university's guidelines on their accelerated program offerings is essential.
Accelerated Graduate Programs
Combination Bachelor's and Master's Programs
Many schools offer the option for undergraduate students to take graduate level coursework while still classified as an undergraduate. The courses they take will count toward both degrees, the bachelor's and the master's. Usually schools will allow student to start graduate level work at their junior or senior years, and students must display the aptitude to be able to complete the increased workload and difficulty of graduate level coursework. Some schools advertise five years as the target range to graduate with both degrees while some offer this program in as little as four, depending on the major selected.
Bachelor's or Master's to PhD or Doctoral Programs
Some schools offer the chance to combine a master's with a PhD or applied doctorate. A few even offer the chance to go from the bachelor's level to the doctorate level in as little as seven years. Keep in mind though, that it's not always a good idea to complete a bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degree program at the same institution. Also, condensed time at the doctorate level leaves less time for students to publish scholarly, peer reviewed work--a necessity for a healthy career in many post-doc positions. Some academic institutions will count against post-grad applicants who have completed their degrees on this track, whereas the bachelor's to master's or combined master's and doctorate programs are considered standard.
Shortened Master's Programs
Some schools offer a shortened master's track for students who have completed their bachelor's. Schools offer master's degrees in as little as one year for this option. Students have options in various majors including education, business, leadership, and nursing.
Program Admittance Requirements
Accelerated programs will vary on their admittance requirements depending on the level at which the student enters the program. If one is entering at the undergraduate level, high school GPA, honors and advanced placement coursework, extracurricular activities, SAT/ACT test scores, and letters of recommendation are all factors. To gain direct admittance into an accelerated program, the school will want to be assured the student can handle the pace and difficulty of the curriculum. For undergraduates going into graduate programs, GPA, GRE scores, and faculty recommendations all play a factor.
Choosing to complete an accelerated graduate program online allows students to hold a full or part time job with the flexibility of online learning. It also may decrease a student's debt load as he or she will be graduating in less time. Before selecting an accelerated program, however, students need to consider their future goals and how combined or accelerated degrees are viewed by potential employers.