What are the Pros and Cons of an Accelerated Degree Program?

accelerated course

The goal of an accelerated program is to get students out of school and into the workforce as quickly as possible. As prospective students begin choosing a program that is the right fit for them, the accelerated degree program option is often a consideration. This often means weighing the pros and cons of an accelerated degree program to make a decision.

Semesters vs. Terms

Accelerated programs often utilize shorter periods for classes to be completed, with quarters or terms taking anywhere from between 5 and 12 weeks to complete. In contrast, traditional programs are completed in semesters, meaning a longer amount of time spent taking each course. Longer semesters give students more time to study and learn each subject.

Typically, a full-time student in a traditional bachelor’s degree program will take 12 credits per semester. These programs are designed to be completed in about four years. Master’s degree programs are typically designed to be completed in two years. Often, classes in traditional program for both degrees are offered in 16 week semesters.

In an accelerated degree program, students complete the same amount of courses and coursework in one to three years or sometimes less for a bachelor’s degree, and courses in a master’s degree can be completed in one to two years for a master’s degree. Courses are continuous throughout the year, and many accelerated program courses are offered in 8 week terms rather than the longer semester.


The amount of time spent on an accelerated degree program can be both a benefit and a disadvantage. An accelerated program means more to do in less time. The programs include the same number of courses with same number of readings and same amount of coursework as a traditional four-year program. On the surface, that looks like a definite benefit, but there are disadvantages to this as well.

The amount of time required to complete the courses more quickly can be a disadvantage. With families and full-time work positions, students in an accelerated degree program will find themselves with a full schedule and much less free time than students in a four-year program.

Traditional Classroom vs. Blended Formats

Not including online programs, more accelerated degree programs are incorporating blended course curriculums in order to complete the number of hours in less time. In these programs, half of the student’s time is spent in a classroom, and the other half is designed to be completed online with various activities, taped lectures, readings, discussion forums, and other types of activities.

Financing and Scheduling

When considering the financing and scheduling of classes, most believe accelerated programs offer several benefits. Some accelerated programs actually cost less than traditional programs, and many of these programs are designed with convenient and flexible scheduling options to accommodate for non-traditional students, typically adult learners with full-time jobs and families. One disadvantage is that there can be less available financial aid for accelerated programs.

Accelerated degree programs offer students the same education as a traditional degree program but are able to be completed in much less time. Weighing the pros and cons can help prospective students determine if these are the best programs for them.


“Accelerated Baccalaureate and Master’s Degrees in Nursing.” (2013). American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Kasworm, C.E. (2003). “From the adult student’s perspective: Accelerated degree programs.” New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 2003(17), pp. 17-28.

Middleton, D. (2009, Sept. 16). “The Top M.B.A. Programs if You Are in a Hurry.” The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204251404574344594232539808.html.

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