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What is an Accelerated Associate's Degree?

Laura M. Sands
Laura M. Sands

An accelerated associate’s degree is a specialized college program that allows students to earn an associate’s degree in less time than such a degree is traditionally earned in. Typically, this particular degree takes approximately two years for full-time students to complete. Working students who attend school part time may take even longer to complete this degree through traditional programs, however. An accelerated associate’s degree program offers students an opportunity to earn a degree in as little as 15 months and, in some cases, completion times can even be less.

The availability of an accelerated associate’s degree program may be limited in some places. In the United States, several junior, city or community colleges offer this opportunity to eligible students, however. Most are also designed with working students in mind and, thus, classes are offered during weekday evenings and on weekends.

A mortarboard and diploma for an accelerated associate's degree.
A mortarboard and diploma for an accelerated associate's degree.

Earning an accelerated associate’s degree usually entails a more difficult classroom schedule than traditional associate degree plans. While classroom meeting times are purposely designed for adult students who are likely employed during daytime hours, evening classroom meetings are usually several hours long in order to move the program along at a more accelerated pace. Some schools also require students to meet at least once per week for peer study groups and projects.

On top of non-traditional classroom and study group hours, an accelerated associate’s degree program also offers other options for students working to earn a degree in less time. In the American college system, one such method involves earning credits through CLEP testing. CLEP stands for the College Level Examination Program, which enables students to prove their abilities in key subjects by testing. Students who pass such tests with a satisfactory score are automatically granted college credit for that subject without having to spend time in a classroom setting.

An accelerated associate’s degree program may also allow a student to transfer previous credits earned from another college or university. In so doing, students are not forced to repeat classes that may have been taken at another school or in another program. Other ways of earning an accelerated associate’s degree in such programs include online class sessions, which further enable students to fit college study into a busy schedule.

Most accelerated associate’s degree programs are intended for older college students. Degree majors may vary, but most majors are offered in these programs. Although they are intended to be accelerated, some programs are even designed for students to be able to pause the program and rejoin it at a later date if life events prevent a student from finishing according to her or his original plan.

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    • A mortarboard and diploma for an accelerated associate's degree.
      By: Matthew Benoit
      A mortarboard and diploma for an accelerated associate's degree.