Accelerated online degrees for working adults allow enrollees to attend college without cutting their work hours. They save time and money on commuting and parking costs – and can spend even less on tuition.
This guide walks you through 10 examples of accelerated degrees you can earn online. Graduating can expand your career options, transition into another field, or earn higher salaries.
What to expect in an accelerated online training
Renowned, accredited accelerated bachelor’s degree programs mirror their on-campus counterparts. They offer the same quality of curriculum, instructors, and career outcomes after graduation.
The main differences are the ability to learn and study at your own pace and finish much earlier than in a personal classroom setting.
Lessons will most likely be asynchronous. You use discussion boards to communicate with professors and other students.
Some programs may require synchronous meetings, in-person internships, or on-campus residencies. These usually take place on weekends or evenings to adjust work schedules.
Program duration averages two years for most degrees. It is sometimes possible to graduate earlier with self-discipline, time management and motivation.
10 Best Accelerated Online Degrees for Working Adults
To compile this list of accelerated online degrees for working adults, we considered the career interests of ZDNet readers and then scoured the Internet to find programs in those fields that typically offer:
- Self-study or compressed learning
- Accommodations for working adults
- Preparation for career opportunities or new directions
Our curated list of accelerated online bachelor’s degrees for working adults includes programs in business, engineering, computer science, information technology, and public service. They are all focused on helping graduates remain relevant and sought after for decades to come.
The degrees are arranged alphabetically.
1. Business Administration
Accelerated Business Administration degrees can be completed in 16-36 months. They include areas of focus such as business analytics, entrepreneurship, human resources, and marketing management.
Skills-based learning includes topics in accounting, business technology, and project management, along with collaboration, communication, and strategic thinking.
Many programs offer competency-based instruction, which credits students for previous educational, professional, and life experiences. Some include internship opportunities and immersive projects.
Potential Careers for Bachelor of Business Administration degree holders include accountant or auditor, general or operations manager, human resources manager, and management analyst.
Students can make a accelerated computer science degree online in one to two years, depending on transferable credits or previous coding experience.
Computer science curricula include courses in algorithms, computer systems and architecture, data structures and analysis, and programming.
Students develop skills in analytical thinking, concentration and problem solving. Programs can provide innovative learning tools, such as access to virtual machines for hands-on practice, along with: technical internships and capstone projects.
Admission sometimes requires a specific GPA to measure success in processing an accelerated course load.
Career Opportunities for Computer Science Graduates include computer network architect, data scientist, computer programmer, and software engineer.
3. Criminal law
Adult students interested in law enforcement, private investigation, or homeland security can earn an accelerated criminal justice degree online in 12-30 months.
Programs often offer monthly start dates and learn on students’ schedules. Credit may be given for passing tests, prior learning and military experience.
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Courses include criminal conduct, criminal justice, interviews and interrogation, forensics, and terrorism. Enrollees learn to be critical thinkers, leaders, and effective communicators.
Programs may include practical internships with local agencies or police forces.
Potential careers include computer forensics, FBI agent, fish and game warden, and homicide detective.
Students interested in accelerated online technical degrees can choose from majors such as:
Courses cover mathematics and science, plus areas of specialization such as chemistry for chemical engineering or robotics for technology-oriented engineering.
The turnaround times for earning an engineering bachelor’s degree vary by area of focus, but most accelerated program enrollees can be ready in about two years. Because many areas of technology require hands-on training, online students may need to attend in-person labs or on-campus residencies.
Career opportunities range from mining and mechanical engineering to network architects and computer hardware engineers.
5. Environmental Science
As climate change is driving a shift to clean energy sources, environmental policy professionals should be in high demand.
You can enter the field with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science or environmental studies. These degrees emphasize how culture and politics contribute to environmental degradation and inform policy making.
Transfer credits allow students to graduate in 18-24 months.
Courses teach advocacy, analysis, communication and risk assessment skills. You study economics, history, legislation and regulations and social dynamics. The interdisciplinary curriculum also includes science-based courses, which may require in-person labs.
Career choices include climate change analyst, environmental lobbyist, and sustainability specialist†
Financial degrees in accelerated online formats can be completed in 12-24 months.
Bachelor’s degrees in finance teach skills in accounting, analysis, financial planning, and strategic thinking.
They also prepare students for certification exams, such as Certified Financial Analyst or Certified Financial Planner, through courses and internships. Areas of concentration include general finance, investment, real estate, and wealth management.
Most programs offer generous credit transfer policies, abbreviated courses from five to eight weeks, and continuous admissions so you can start online college today†
Some may award points through an exam or for previous work experience to further speed up the process. Finance degree holders pursue careers as financial advisors, analysts and managers.
7. Forensics/Crime Scene Investigation
Law enforcement officers can pursue a career with a forensic/crime scene investigation degree. Many students already have a degree such as psychology, sociology or criminal law.
Accelerated programs typically follow a hybrid form of online and in-person instruction. Field instruction is essential to master these skills. The turnaround time is 24 months on average, but some students finish in a year.
Traces of concentration include underwater crime scene investigations, law enforcement intelligence, and pre-law. You will learn evidential reasoning, forensic science, problem solving, and crime scene professionalism and ethics.
Bachelor’s degree holders work as crime scene detectives, death detectives, evidence technicians, and forensic scientists.
8. Information Technology
An accelerated degree in online information technology can take as little as one to two years.
This degree can lead to: in demand IT careers like:
- computer technician
- Cyber Security Specialist
- Database Administrator
- Information Security Analyst
- System administrator
IT students learn skills in ethical hacking, network configuration, programming languages, security infrastructure, and troubleshooting. The program includes hands-on components through online labs or in-person internships. You also complete asynchronous courses at your own pace.
Concentrations may include data management, security and assurance, IT management, network management, and scripting and programming.
An IT bachelor’s degree can be attractive if you are first-time graduate or already working in entry-level IT positions interested in career advancement.
9. Legal Studies
An accelerated online bachelor’s degree in legal studies can prepare students for law school or train for legal support positions in as little as 18 months.
Courses cover contracts, fundamentals of the American legal system, legal ethics, and legal theory and practice. They learn skills in analysis, communication, critical thinking, professionalism and research. Concentrations can focus on corporate law, family law or litigation.
Enrollees can apply previous coursework, professional experience, or military service to their degree. Potential careers with a bachelor’s degree in legal studies include Law Office Manager, Legal Assistant, and Paralegal.
10. Public Administration
Accelerated online bachelor’s degree programs in public administration typically attract students already working in the field who want to apply for more advanced opportunities. They last on average 18 months.
Concentrations include public policy and leadership, public service, Native American studies, sustainability, and social services.
Courses cover administrative law, conflict resolution, government budgeting, urban planning and policy development. Students acquire skills in oral and written communication, research, and effective interpersonal relationships.
Programs usually end with a capstone project. Students can also do an internship. Graduates can find employment in urban planning, law, operations management, politics and federal government.