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A Bachelor’s Degree in the United States has always consisted of approximately one-hundred and twenty credit hours of coursework, or about forty college classes. Commonly taken as fifteen hours a semester, or five courses per semester that are each three hours of credit, the traditional college plan stretches the bachelor’s degree out over four years. While it takes the same amount of credit hours to earn a bachelor’s degree at all schools, the flexibility offered by online college programs has created new opportunities for completing the credits faster than in traditional programs, which can save students money and time.

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Earning a degree online can provide a faster path to graduation than traditional college programs because students are not constrained to attending class when they can physically be on campus. Additionally, online programs are often less expensive than traditional programs, and some colleges have created accelerated online programs which can offer an express route to graduation. Accelerated online degrees are shortened degree schedules that compress the same courses into a shorter time. Whereas a traditional college semester is usually 15 weeks long, an accelerated semester is often 8 to 10 weeks. The classes teach the same material as regular classes but are more intense because students learn in a shorter time and have to spend more time every day on coursework. For students who have four or more hours a day to devote to school, accelerated classes may offer considerable value.

Do You Have a Bachelor’s Degree Plan?

One of the main reasons finishing a bachelor’s degree, traditional or online, can take longer than four years is a lack of planning. Students begin school with an idea of what they want to study but then fail to consult with an advisor and make a plan for graduating. Most college programs have a specific order in which classes have to be taken, and once a class is missed or not taken when it should be, students get off track and limit the classes they can take the following semester. Some students change majors and then lose credit hours when they begin pursuing a different degree. When students lose credit hours, they are throwing money away. Whether earning a degree online or at a traditional “brick and mortar” institution, seeking advisement and having a graduation plan are crucial to staying on track and earning a degree in four years or less. Making a plan and sticking to it helps students complete their degree faster.

What are the Benefits of Online Study for Traditional Students?

One of the unintended consequences of the creation of online education is the impact on traditional college students. Students who live on campus and take on-campus classes can also benefit from taking online classes. Taking one online class a semester can significantly speed up the path to graduation. When in-person classes are full, students can take them online instead. Online courses are usually less expensive than traditional college saving students a little money.

What Are Some Other Ways I Can Earn a Bachelor’s Degree Faster?

Many traditional college students have figured out ways to accelerate the bachelor’s degree timeline by taking summer classes, taking classes at community colleges, and using high school advanced placement courses for credit. The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) offers exams for credit on various college subjects for both traditional and online students. Some colleges will grant class credit for passing a CLEP exam in that subject area. Check with each school to see if CLEP exams are accepted and if there is a limit to the number of exams they will take. Another possible way to earn credit hours is through participating in an internship related to one’s major or for military service. For students who are working in a professional field, earning credit for professional work experience offers tremendous savings. Students should check with each school to determine if they accept paid internships or military service for credit.