Fast online degrees can offer considerable value to today’s student. Not everyone has the luxury of attending school for four years in one stretch – much less to immediately jump into a graduate program for an additional multi-year commitment! From working professionals to busy parents to older adults finally fulfilling their academic goals, there are plenty of nontraditional students out there who have limits on their study time. Thankfully, online colleges cater to this restriction by helping their students learn efficiently, quickly, and conveniently. We’ve listed some of the very best (and most affordable) below.
In this ranking, we examine the best value colleges for fast online degrees in 2016.
10. Allied American University
At AAU you can earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in business administration, criminal justice, general studies, or medical office management. There are additional certificate options for students seeking jobs in the rapidly growing healthcare field: medical administrative assisting, medical billing, medical coding, and pharmacy technician among them. AAU has a special commitment to serving the military, including benefits such as a no-fee transcript evaluation to see how many of your credits will transfer; military members may also be eligible for textbook grants! AAU sometimes accepts transfer credits from advanced high school programs (AP and CLEP) and other industry and military certifications. Between this and the optional 8-week class schedule (with multiple start dates) AAU is one of the best fast online degrees for motivated students.
Net Price: $14,898/yr
9. Trident University International
Trident was the first fully online university to be accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Catering to military veterans and adult learners, its accelerated “Fastrac” program lets you complete courses in just eight weeks, with new sessions starting every month. The Trident Learning Model uses case-based learning instead of traditional tests, with the goal of developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills. You can get a bachelor’s, master’s, or even doctoral degree online in a career-focused field like business, technology, or health sciences. Already have your associate’s degree from a community college? Trident will evaluate your credits and apply them toward your bachelor’s. With tuition breaks for military spouses and dependents, Trident offers affordable fast online degrees to a range of students.
Net Price: $11,572/yr
8. New England College of Business and Finance
Offering accredited fast online degrees for working professionals, this Boston-based school incorporates group projects into its industry-relevant curriculum. This helps students network with potential colleagues and develop the technology-enabled collaboration skills they’ll need in today’s increasingly distributed workplaces. NECB’s Prior Learning Assessment program considers your work experience and job skills, open source courseware study, volunteer work, job skills and other background (including military experience) in granting you academic credit toward your degree. Looking for professional development or a new skill set in business or finance? You can easily enroll in a course or two without pursuing a degree.
Net Price: $9,563/yr
7. Grantham University
Grantham’s accelerated programs allow you to complete your associate’s degree in under two years or your bachelor’s degree in under four years. Bachelor’s degrees focus on in-demand fields like accounting, financial planning, and computer science. For nurses there’s even a RN-to-BSN completion program, making this one of the best fast online degree options in nursing. Grantham recognizes that flexibility is particularly important to first responders – established firefighters, police officers, and EMS professionals – and offers degrees and some scholarship assistance tailored to these groups. There are also scholarships and textbook/software grants for military members and a special partnership with the Community College of the Air Force to help Air Force members complete their bachelor’s degrees through an accelerated program.
Net Price: $12,808/yr
6. Western Governors University
This nonprofit university grants bachelor’s and master’s degrees in teaching, IT, business, and nursing. The Teacher’s College in particular has many subject–specific licensure programs, helping students prepare efficiently for their careers. Because tuition is charged according to the length of time you are enrolled, not the number of courses you take, you are rewarded financially for progressing quickly – a dream scenario for fast-paced students! You can also get personalized Degree Plans that take into account your prior skills and knowledge, performance on pre-enrollment assessments, and remaining requirements, so you only take exactly the courses you need. And because WGU requires “On Time Progress,” you’ll have plenty of support to make sure you don’t languish in your academic efforts. Plus, students who have completed either an associate’s degree or coursework at a community college can transfer credits, expediting their progress and making WGU a standout in this ranking of fast online degrees.
Net Price: $8,624/yr
5. National Paralegal College
Through this school’s accelerated programs, you can earn your bachelor’s in legal studies in under 3 years or an associate’s degree in just 15 months. Lots of interesting classes run simultaneously, some of which you’d expect in a legal curriculum (American Government; Torts and Personal Injury; Constitutional Law and Criminal Procedure) but others will broaden your education, including The Science of Nutrition, Environmental Science, and Laws of Cyberspace. Depending on your schedule, you can join live online lectures or watch recordings whenever you have time. Unsure if this school is right for you? Simply by filling out an application, you’ll get two free weeks of enrollment, including lectures and discussions with your potential instructors and classmates. This free trial period could be just what you need to decide to complete an affordable, fast online degree at NPC.
Net Price: $13,709/yr
4. American Public University System
APUS has been serving non-traditional students since 1991, well before online education became mainstream. Originally founded as American Military University to cater to mobile military learners, it reorganized into APUS in 2002 in order to serve a wider range of learners – and today 42% of its students are civilians. Even so, American Public University continues to enroll more members of the armed forces than any other school. Although it offers nearly 200 degrees and certificates, the school’s most popular programs include business administration, criminal justice, general studies, sports and health sciences, psychology, and homeland security. With courses starting on the first Monday of every month and lasting either 8 or 16 weeks, there’s no need to wait for a new semester to begin, earning APUS a top spot in our fast online degree rankings.
Net Price: $9,572/yr
3. American InterContinental University-Online
In addition to the career-focused fields found at other online schools – business, criminal justice, IT, education, and healthcare – AIU also has several degrees in design fields, making it a great choice for students who want to blend vocational skills and artistic vision. You can earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design, web design, illustration, or even fashion. For students who live in the greater Atlanta or Houston areas and want face-to-face learning and physical classrooms, there are campuses waiting to welcome you. A generous credit-transfer program allows you to save time and money, making this a truly affordable fast online degree. AIU also has a special admissions department just for the military and offers a 45% tuition discount to active service members, as well as a 10% discount for Reserves, National Guard, and their spouses.
Net Price: $15,495/yr
2. Sessions College for Professional Design
Speaking of artistic degrees for vocational trades, Sessions is a great choice for students who want an accredited fast online degree in the arts, such as graphic design, web design, digital photography, and much more. Experienced designers can also take quick professional development courses in Photoshop and other specific skills without pursuing an entire degree. This makes Sessions a standout among the many online colleges that offer more traditional programs in professional fields like business, teaching, or information technology. While Sessions offers numerous certificates and associates degrees, students can also earn credits that transfer to bachelor’s degrees at Excelsior College. All courses have three different start dates a year – January, May and September – giving you plenty of flexibility when planning your schedule.
Net Price: $12,352/yr
1. American Broadcasting School
Granting an inexpensive, fast online degree in radio broadcasting, this school offers a fast track to careers in news, sports, talk, or music radio, as well as other creative voice opportunities. The entire program takes just over eight months to complete (71% of students graduate), uses exclusively one-on-one instruction, and allows you to work at your own pace. You’ll get all the software and equipment you need (as long as you provide your own computer) and personalized vocal coaching. Starting in your very first week, you’ll have the opportunity to record your own radio shows and receive live critiques from professional instructors. Because success in broadcasting requires more than just talent, you’ll also learn digital production, marketing, and other tools of the broadcasting trade. Looking to enroll quickly? You can begin on any Monday of the year!
Net Price: $9,459/yr
See our methodology page for more information about how we calculated this ranking.*
*For this ranking, we added an extra feature to the standard methodology. Because we wanted to focus specifically on “speed” rather than general measures of quality, we custom-designed a scale to rank schools based on this highly desirable “fast factor.” Specifically, we researched each online college and asked ourselves the following questions:
- Does the school offer bachelor’s degrees that one could complete in less than four years? What about associate’s degrees in less than two years?
- Are there many short certificate options for students who want to quickly augment their skills in an established field?
- Are there “accelerated” degree paths and options for students who want to earn a combined bachelor’s/master’s degree?
- Does the school offer credit for life/work experience and past academic coursework in order to help students move ahead on their degree path?
- Does the school offer multiple course formats so that students have the option to start several times a year and/or to choose between classes of varying lengths?
But don’t worry – we still considered graduation rate and tuition costs as well!
This concludes our ranking of the best values in fast online degrees.
By CVO Staff
Published March 2016