The 15 Fastest Online Master’s Degrees in 2022

fastest online master's degrees

A master’s degree is the minimum educational achievement required in many jobs that pay an annual salary of $100,000 and above, and many of these are leadership positions, too. These jobs include statisticians, electrical and software engineers, business and finance executives, and nursing practitioners, to name a few. Indeed, a master’s degree is now considered a bachelor’s degree from a few decades ago!

For these reasons, online accelerated master’s degree programs are popular among:

  • working adults with bachelor’s degree and a few years of relevant work experience,
  • rank-and-file employees who want to become supervisors and managers,
  • blue-collar workers who want to transition into white-collar work,
  • technical workers whose skill sets may be valuable in the workplace but aren’t qualified for leadership positions.
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These online accelerated master’s degree programs provide students with the opportunity to save time and money due to their shorter time to completion. The shorter the program, the lower the total cost of attendance!

Many of these programs also have reduced application and tuition fees, allow transfer of credits from academic, work, and life experiences, and offer scholarship support programs. They also don’t differentiate between on-campus and online curricula, meaning the diploma and official transcripts for both formats are the same.

FASTEST ONLINE MASTER’S DEGREES

Master of Arts in Educational Psychology 

Educational psychologists develop instructional curriculum and their related learning materials intended to improve students’ academic performance. Their expertise is in studying how people learn, from their influences and motivations to their challenges. Their MA in Educational Psychology is the foundation for their expertise, work experience, and passion for their profession. 

Graduate programs in educational psychology enable students to gain the technical knowledge and skills necessary to develop, implement, and evaluate instruction processes. But students must also develop soft skills, including communication and critical thinking skills, empathy, and proficiency for research. These technical and transferable skills are developed through a combination of coursework in:  

  • The process of planning, organizing and implementing educational programs designed to maximize student’s capacity to achieve academic success; 
  • The psychology of human development that tackles the stages of development in humans, including the biological, social and cognitive aspects, as well as their influencing factors; 
  • The measurement and evaluation methods used in educational processes include data analysis, psychometrics and statistics, as well as qualitative methods used in the identification of student’s interests, traits and aptitudes; and 
  • The theories and practices related to motivation in learning

Students also study the principles, theories, and practices in advanced psychology, including the effective approaches to instruction and learning. Neuroscience is a big part of advanced psychology and, thus, students must be prepared to tackle such a highly scientific subject. 

Accelerated programs can be completed in 16 months of full-time study. Most have a capstone project, while others require a dissertation and internship. 

Median Pay: $89,290 per year 

Job Outlook: 8% 

Job Opportunities: School psychologists, guidance counselors, and social workers 

Best Schools: Ball State University, University of Arizona, and University of Missouri St. Louis 

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Master of Science in Computer Science

Experts in computer science will always have a place in the fast-changing digital age, thanks to their ability to push industry-changing innovations! Their expertise includes preventing cyberattacks, promoting cybersecurity systems, and even predicting catastrophic events across sectors. Most of them have an MS in Computer Science degree, enabling them to compete for plum management positions and research opportunities. 

MS in Computer Science programs provide students with advanced learning in computer science and technology theories, principles, and applications. Programming languages, artificial intelligence, software engineering, algorithm design, and computer architecture become second nature to their students. Problem-solving, reasoning, and analytical thinking skills are a must due to the scientific approach used in computer science.  

While the typical master’s degree program has a 24-month time-to-completion, accelerated MS in Computer Science programs can be completed in 12-18 months. Prior college credits are accepted, but the accelerated coursework means more credit load per term and, thus, more academic demands. Some programs require an internship and a capstone requirement, a thesis, or a final project, while most programs have electives that customize the degree. 

Many programs also offer concentrations that allow students to specialize in a specific field and, thus, boost their competitive edge in a particular niche within computer science. Robotics, data science, cybersecurity, machine learning, and game and computational media are among the most popular concentrations. Each concentration has its specific academic demands and job opportunities, too, so make your choice wisely! 

Median Pay: $126,830 per year

Job Outlook: 22% 

Job Opportunities: Computer information and research scientists, computer support specialists, and information security analysts 

Best Schools: Concordia University Wisconsin, Boston University, and New Jersey Institute of Technology 

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Master of Healthcare Administration

Students in the best and fastest MHA programs prepare for high-level leadership positions in many healthcare settings. Their broad education in advanced finance, management, and information technology courses serve as their foundation toward becoming experts in their fields. When combined with extensive work experience and a strong work ethic, their graduate degree will also put them at an advantage for management positions. 

Once in leadership positions, MHA degree holders plan, organize and lead healthcare-related services in hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes, among other settings. Many also pursue careers in the medical device, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries to become sought-after consultants for the healthcare industry. Their professional understanding of healthcare-related institutions, from hospitals to financing institutions, and their core competencies in innovation, strategic thinking, and problem-solving make them effective leaders. 

The number of credits that must be completed to earn the degree varies from 36 to 40 credits, but it can be higher or lower. Many programs are in an accelerated mode so that the time-to-completion can be as little as 12-18 months. The accelerated programs typically require students to enroll in two courses, equivalent to six credits, every term, including the summer terms. 

Concentrations may be available in health education, informatics, health operations, and gerontology. The coursework will change with the concentration, but there are common courses in MHA programs. Examples are strategic management, organizational behavior, healthcare financial management, health economics, accounting, human behavior, and communication. Students also study law and ethics as these apply to healthcare settings, especially as MHA degree holders must practice their profession in a highly regulated industry. 

Median Pay: $104,280 per year

Job Outlook: 32%

Job Opportunities: Nursing home administrators, hospital administrators, and health services managers 

Best Schools: Saint Joseph’s University, Saint Louis University, and Emory University 

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Master of Arts/Science in Management 

MA and MS in Management programs are designed for recent college graduates with little to no management experience but who want to launch their management careers. Even non-business undergraduate degree holders are eligible to apply to these graduate programs! Many students have majored in the social sciences and humanities but thrive in these programs due to their transferable skills, such as communication and critical thinking skills. 

These management programs are also shorter in duration than the traditional full-time, two-year MBA programs. Students on a full-time enrollment can earn either the MA or MS in Management degree within 12 months. The intensive focus is on management skills and, thus, students must fully commit themselves to their programs if and when they want their employability factor to increase. Even without extensive work experience, graduates have a better chance at getting leadership positions, thanks in part to the program’s prestige! 

The coursework is designed to establish a sound theoretical and practical grounding in business to ensure that students’ management knowledge and skills are up to standards. Their desirable traits include an enquiring mind, an analytical approach to problems, and strategic reasoning. Their skills include effective human resource management, finance and accounting, and management planning. 

The typical curriculum covers topics on management theory and its real-world applications, marketing and information systems, among others. Several programs take under 24 months on full-time enrolment, including summer terms. Assessment methods used for online programs include assignments, video lectures and examinations, and a capstone requirement like a thesis. Internships are common, too. 

Median Pay: $107,680 per year

Job Outlook: 8%

Job Opportunities: Executive directors, business executives, and entrepreneurs 

Best Schools: Stafford University and University of Alabama 

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Master of Science in Nursing

Students in MSN programs pursue an advanced nursing degree in preparation for multiple career paths in nursing. Graduates can become nursing practitioners in healthcare settings and educators in undergraduate programs, and community nurses. Regardless of the career path chosen, MSN degree holders are sought-after healthcare professionals due to their technical expertise. 

Accelerated MSN programs typically take 12 months of continuous, full-time study to complete. The typical credit requirement ranges from 35 to 50 credits, and transfer of credits from certifications and the like is possible. 

While there’s a strong focus on advanced nursing knowledge and skills, these are complemented by coursework and hands-on experience in management. MSN students develop their highly technical and managerial skills and strong compassion and critical thinking skills, competence and compassion in patient care, and grace under pressure. 

There are several types of MSN programs, too, many of which have short time-to-completion periods, usually 12-18 months but have conditions. The most notable condition is the number of years of nursing work experience in healthcare settings, meaning eligible applicants must have at least 2-3 years of relevant work experience. The RN-to-MSN/ADN-to-MSN programs are the best examples. 

Accelerated MSN programs also offer concentrations that allow students to gain specialist skills. The popular concentrations include nurse practitioner, nurse executive, nurse educator, and certified nurse-midwife. Within these concentrations may also exist sub-specializations, such as family, gerontology, and psychiatric mental health for the nurse practitioner concentration. 

While the curriculum varies between programs and concentrations, the typical coursework covers advanced roles and research in nursing, differential diagnostics, alternative therapies, and primary care management. 

Median Pay: $117,670 per year

Job Outlook: 45% 

Job Opportunities: Nurse practitioners, nurse educators, and clinical research nurse

Best Schools: Purdue University, Elmhurst University, and Saint Louis University 

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Master of Science in Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity professionals are experts at preventing cybersecurity breaches, identifying online threats, and mitigating cybersecurity attacks. Due to the increasing reliance on high-tech computer infrastructure among industries, particularly in day-to-day operations, they are sought-after professionals. The MS in Cybersecurity degree is an excellent stepping stone toward management positions in cybersecurity. 

Accelerated MS in Cybersecurity programs takes between 12 and 18 months to complete with 30-36 credits. Students build their computer science and engineering-related skills and advanced math skills. Cryptology courses are common due to the increasing popularity of cryptocurrency, and these cover topics on protocols, public cryptosystems, and symmetric block ciphers. Digital forensics coursework focuses on cybercrime identification, prevention and mitigation, while computer networking courses explore data transfers, routing protocols, and web applications. 

Many programs prefer applicants with bachelor’s degrees in cybersecurity, computer science and software engineering, among other related fields. But applicants with strong STEM backgrounds in their undergraduate studies are welcome to apply. Regardless of undergraduate background, students in MS in Cybersecurity programs must have strong critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills. These soft skills complement the development of technical skills vital for effective cybersecurity. 

Most programs have a capstone experience, such as a thesis or final project, embedded in the curriculum aside from possible internship opportunities. The capstone experience may be 1-2 semesters in duration. 

Concentrations are designed to boost students’ employability factor in the uber-competitive world of cybersecurity. Common concentrations are in cyber-operations, networking, and infrastructure, risk management, governance, and compliance. 

Median Pay: $84,810 per year

Job Outlook: 5%

Job Opportunities: Cybersecurity administrator/manager, cybersecurity engineer, and information security analyst

Best Schools: Bellevue University, University of Arizona, and University of Houston 

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Master of Science in Finance

MS in Finance degree programs provide their students with specialized training in investment banking, corporate finance, and private wealth management. Most programs also meet the 150 semester hours of post-secondary training for licensure as a certified public accountant (CPA). Accelerated programs allow students to earn the graduate degree in 12-18 months, sometimes in 16 months with intensive coursework. 

The typical coursework can be business and finance math-heavy with courses like statistical analysis, investment analysis, and data analysis. Business taxation; financial econometrics, reporting and analysis; corporate finance, modeling and valuation; and accounting are also integral courses in these programs. Business communication is also emphasized as finance executives must be effective communicators, both written and oral. 

With a myriad of issues related to finance, from private wealth management scams to global recession, students in MS in Finance programs must be updated about current events. Their academic coursework will make more sense when the courses can be connected to real-life situations and applied to real-world issues. These connections are vital in understanding the critical roles that finance experts assume in society! 

The best programs provide students with the opportunity to personalize their education through concentrations and preparation for certification exams. Finance and economics, computation and programming, asset management, derivatives, and computational finance and trading systems are examples of concentrations. 

The beauty of an MS in Finance degree is its versatility in the job marketplace! Business companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies seek qualified finance experts to manage their finances, from budgeting to spending. Finance professionals are also able to connect with investors and promote the organization. 

Median Pay: $96,630 per year 

Job Outlook: 6% 

Job Opportunities: Budget analyst, finance analyst, wealth management executive 

Best Schools: University of Arizona, University of Oklahoma, and Florida Atlantic University

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Master of Public Health

Public health professionals are influential individuals due to their ability to identify and address healthcare challenges in communities. Their interdisciplinary expertise spans community medicine, epidemiology and environmental health, and nutrition and dietetics. Their expert abilities also extend to the conduct of extensive research studies about public health, from community malnutrition to pandemics. 

Among their credentials is a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree that enables them to be effective professionals in their communities and organizations. Government agencies, non-profit organizations, and community-centric entities are among their employers, and their duties include the design, implementation and assessment of public health programs. These programs include community mobilization, direct services, and policy development, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the Healthy Communities programs.  

Accelerated MPH programs demand full-time commitment due to their fast pacing, resulting in time-to-completion in 12-18 months only. Students must successfully tackle the rigorous academic coursework, as well as the considerable research and hands-on experience components. The coursework covers topics on environmental health, social and behavioral sciences, biostatistics, policy management and management sciences, and ethics and leadership. 

Note that there are also variations of the MPH degree, particularly a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Science (MS) in Public Health. MPH degree programs have a more practical and comprehensive approach, thus, their suitability for field practitioners. The MAPH programs emphasize interdisciplinary training, while the MSPH programs focus on technical knowledge and skills. 

Epidemiology, health services management, health education, and environmental health are a few examples of popular concentrations. Students gain more specialized knowledge and skills when choosing a concentration that, in turn, mean improved employment opportunities. 

Median Pay: $104,280 per year

Job Outlook: 32%

Job Opportunities: Medical and health services managers, health informatics professionals, and healthcare administrators 

Best Schools: George Washington University, University of Florida, and University of Southern California 

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Master of Science in Information Technology

Students in the best accelerated online MS in Information Technology (MSIT) programs adopt an interdisciplinary mindset that combines information technology, business management, and communication. As IT professionals in management positions, graduates create, implement, and evaluate technology-based solutions to improve their performance and profits. The tools at their disposal include software programs, computer systems, and networks designed to store, distribute and secure relevant information. 

The typical MSIT coursework includes information systems management, network technologies, information security, and database systems. Business communication, business intelligence, and project management are also integrated since IT professionals work in corporate settings. The IT professionals’ expertise is in high demand for this reason, aside from the increasing reliance on cybersecurity, data analytics, and cloud computing among organizations. 

The courses can be categorized into two, namely, network-oriented and object-oriented design courses. Network-oriented courses include virtualization, cloud services, and hosting, which are concerned with telecommunications applications in business. Object-oriented design courses are concerned with design concepts and algorithms used to develop and evaluate the software. 

MSIT programs usually have 30-36 credits for completion that, in standard programs, means a two-year time-to-completion. But accelerated programs cut the time to 18 months, at most. Full-time enrollment, including during the summer term, is recommended to meet the desired time-to-completion. 

Concentrations are also offered in some programs to enable students to pursue specialist careers within information technology. IT management, information security, and web design and application are popular specializations. 

IT professionals may want to look into MSIT programs designed to allow students to pursue specific certifications. These certifications include certified information security manager, certified information systems auditor, and certified information systems security professional. 

Median Pay: $116,780 per year

Job Outlook: 5% 

Job Opportunities: Computer network architects, computer and information research scientists, and software developers 

Best Schools: University of Massachusetts Lowell, Montclair State University, and the University of New Hampshire at Manchester 

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Master of Science in Accountancy

Professionals with the MS in Accountancy degree don’t just deal with contemporary accounting principles and practices but must also be aware of digital trends affecting their profession. Blockchain technology, big data, and artificial intelligence are among the biggest digital trends impacting the accounting industry. Indeed, the graduate degree is valuable for career advancement purposes, but it’s just a stepping stone – accountancy is a profession that demands lifelong learning! 

Accelerated MS in Accountancy programs can be completed in as little as 12 months, but 18-month programs are more common, if not less, like being in a pressure boiler environment. Full-time students may take three courses, or nine credits, per semester, including summer terms, to meet the desired time-to-completion.

Applicants without a baccalaureate degree in accounting are welcome to apply in MS in Accountancy programs but are well-advised to gain the foundational knowledge. These programs focus on the more advanced – and current – theories, principles, and practices of accounting as applicable in diverse fields. Accounting in government, non-profit and corporate organizations are discussed in-depth, including their current issues, concerns and directions. 

MS in Accountancy programs are not just concerned with the quantitative aspects of accounting! First, students are encouraged to adapt to the fast-changing industry influenced by changes in technology, laws, and society. Their critical thinking, analytical thinking, and problem-solving skills must level up! 

Second, students must develop their leadership skills since a master’s degree will open leadership positions. They must possess effective communication, trustworthiness, adaptability, and delegation skills.  

Note that an MS in Accountancy degree is an educational requirement for a CPA license. Be sure to ask the program administrator if the state board accepts the credential. 

Median Pay: $134,180 per year

Job Outlook: 17% 

Job Opportunities: Accountants and auditors, financial managers, and financial analysts 

Best Schools: University of Oklahoma, California State Polytechnic University Pomona, and Boise State University 

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Master of Education/Master of Science in Special Education

Holders of an MEd or MSc in Special Education have diverse employment opportunities in K-12 schools and public and private institutions providing services to individuals with special needs. Their clients include students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), individuals with behavioral disorders, and learners with Down syndrome. Their professional expertise enables them to assist their clients in improving their quality of life in general and learning performance in particular. 

Note that programs prepare non-teaching professionals to earn their initial teaching license. There are also programs aimed at licensed teachers who specialize in special education. Be sure to ask about the licensure requirements so you will enroll in the appropriate program for your current status and future career aspirations. 

The typical programs have a 30-credit curriculum, but the number of credits can be higher or lower, not to mention that transfer of credits may be possible. Accelerated programs have a 12- to 18-month time-to-completion and, thus, graduates can grab job opportunities faster than usual. 

The coursework covers differentiated instruction, inclusive classroom design, and learning and language disabilities interventions. Special education policy, autism spectrum disorders, behavioral analysis, dyslexia, and reading disabilities are common courses. 

Most programs have a practicum component that enables students to teach in special education settings. Endorsements, which can boost employability and provide specialist knowledge, are also common. 

Concentrations in applied behavioral analysis, mild/moderate disabilities, severe developmental disabilities, and trauma-informed education and intervention are offered, too. Professionals interested in leadership positions or research opportunities may want to pursue a Ph.D. degree after completing a master’s degree program. 

Median Pay: $93,830

Job Outlook: 8% 

Job Opportunities: K-12 special education administrators, behavior intervention specialists, and special education instructional coordinators

Best Schools: Georgia Southern University, Florida International University, and Xavier University 

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Master Of Science in International Business

Professionals with an MS in International Business are adept at dealing with management, including the issues and strategies of multinational enterprises. With globalization not just a buzzword but a reality, their expertise is highly sought-after by corporations, government agencies, and even non-profit organizations. Students in MS in International Business programs develop their keen understanding of business with an international perspective but apply its principles and practices in other settings. 

At the master’s level, students learn more advanced concepts about the ins and outs of international markets – how they work, what their dynamics are, and how their actions affect countries and their economies. The level of detail that students learn makes them more proficient in dealing with the current issues and emerging trends of international business. Their useful insights on international business theories, principles, and practices make them valuable in diverse workplaces, too. 

MS in International Business programs also uses an interdisciplinary approach in their curriculum. Students study business economics, marketing, finance and accounting, business management, and international relations. These subjects also have a strong international focus, meaning students must expand their understanding beyond the local and national levels. 

A range of transferable skills is a must since international business isn’t just about the numbers but, more importantly, about the people, too! Leadership skills, including effective communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving skill, teamwork, delegation, and adaptability, are necessary. 

Median Pay: $87,660 per year

Job Outlook: 14% 

Job Opportunities: Management analysts and consultants, marketing and sales managers, and budget analysts 

Best Schools: Florida International University, University of South Carolina, and University of Texas Rio Grande Valley 

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Master of Science in Nonprofit Management

Do good and do well. This may well be the motto and motivation for students pursuing a degree in MS in Nonprofit Management, and it means helping people while earning a good salary. Beyond the financial benefits, however, professionals in non-profit management report high job satisfaction due to the personal fulfillment they enjoy. 

Holders of MS in Nonprofit Management degrees find lucrative jobs in diverse settings, too, in non-profit organizations and government agencies. The best positions include program coordinators, executive directors, and development directors, but note that these plum positions come with extensive work experience. 

Graduate programs have a curriculum that emphasizes advocacy and leadership in non-profit settings, particularly human resources and financial management. The finance management aspect in non-profits is creating budgets, finding funding, and proper spending. Other courses are fundraising, writing grants, and marketing, which are crucial in keeping non-profits afloat. 

Capstone experiences are typical culminating requirements in the graduate degree. Every program has specific capstone requirements, but it can be a combination of an internship, a field experience, or a research project. Capstone projects are intended to showcase the competency gained by the student. 

Specializations are also offered to impart specialist skillsets and boost employability. Examples include organizational communication, social media, and global studies. 

Median Pay: $118,430 per year

Job Outlook: 13% 

Job Opportunities: Fundraising managers, social and community services managers, and public relations managers 

Best Schools: Walden University, Drexel University, and Our Lady of the Lake University

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Master of Arts in Public Relations

Public relations professionals are experts in creating and managing the reputations, images, and brands of individuals, groups, and organizations. Their clients include public and private organizations, government agencies, corporate businesses, and non-profit organizations. While a bachelor’s degree and work experience may be sufficient, an MA in Public Relations degree will boost your opportunities for leadership positions. 

Contemporary MA in Public Relations programs focus more on non-traditional branding methods, a development partly caused by the age of social media. Students learn broad skill sets that enable them to be on top of the trends while being consummate professionals, and these skills include organization, communication, and critical thinking skills. Over time, they also become adept at public speaking with proficient writing skills, to boot. 

These programs have 30-40 credits that can be completed in 18 months on an accelerated model. Full-time enrollment is recommended, usually three courses or nine credits every term. The time-to-completion includes the academic coursework and capstone requirements, including an internship, thesis, and special project. The latter may be a strategic public relations plan with real-world applications. 

The coursework differs between programs, but the common ones are in public relations writing and content creation, audience, and consumer analytics, and ethics in public relations. The theory and applications of mass communications, media communications, and technology round out the curriculum. 

Specializations include strategic communications, advertising, media relations, organizational communications, and digital media.  

Median Pay: $118,430 per year

Job Outlook: 13% 

Job Opportunities: Public relations specialists, fundraising and public relations managers, and advertising, promotions, and marketing managers 

Best Schools: University of Florida, Saint Peter’s University, and University of Indianapolis 

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Master of Science in Public Safety  

Effective and efficient administrators are necessary for many public safety organizations, including government agencies, emergency management agencies, and disaster relief organizations. The field of public safety is also one of the “do good, do well” professions that combine lucrative job opportunities with a strong sense of social responsibility. Jobs in law enforcement, environmental protection, and occupational health are life-saving occupations. 

MS in Public Safety programs provide students with intensive training in public safety administration theories, principles, and practices. The student body in this program is as diverse as the occupations that graduates are qualified for—from public safety professionals who want career advancement; professionals without work experience who want a career change; and even new graduates with little work experience. Interested individuals should choose the program according to their credentials and career aspirations – some may require work experience while others don’t. 

Courses include human resource management, public safety law, civil liability, and public safety and incident response. Criminal behavior and criminal justice, juvenile delinquency, and human trafficking are also tackled in some programs. Most programs also emphasize the role of ethics and the law in real-world public safety scenarios. 

On average, programs have a 36-credit curriculum designed for completion in 18 months, with an accelerated program. Cohort learning is typical of online programs, although there’s a high level of self-paced learning. Collaboration is encouraged, but the independent study is also emphasized. 

Median Pay: $ 78,110 per year 

Job Outlook: 6% 

Job Opportunities: Emergency management coordinators, occupational health and safety specialists, and environmental scientists and specialists 

Best Schools: Liberty University, University of San Diego, and Corban University 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What are the main characteristics of a fast-track master’s degree program? 

These graduate programs are characterized by their flexibility and convenience, making them attractive to traditional and non-traditional candidates. With personal and professional responsibilities to juggle, the opportunity to pursue graduate studies at your own pace, as well as anytime and anywhere with an Internet connection, is irresistible! 

Many of these programs also have an easier admission process, particularly the minimum academic requirements. Individuals who may not be accepted into on-campus programs for various reasons have a possibly higher chance of getting into an online accelerated program. GRE and GMAT scores are optional in some programs, too, which means one less hurdle to overcome. 

Of course, their best characteristic is the shorter time-to-completion which can be as little as six months! For working professionals, the shorter the time spent on graduate studies, the faster they can apply their degree toward career advancement or change. But remember that it’s important to learn the ins and outs of online learning in as little time as possible, if you’re new to it, to maximize your time in it. 

Another characteristic is the excellent documentation in online programs – nearly everything can be recorded, digitized, and stored for future reference! There’s no need for manual note-taking, a convenient feature for busy working professionals. There are even entire lectures with transcripts!  

Online learning is also beneficial for individuals whose learning styles lean more toward visual and spatial methods, less toward auditory and aural styles. The beauty of online programs lies in using a wide range of media, from audio-video presentations and animations to virtual classrooms, chat rooms, and other tech-driven learning tools. 

How many months can these programs be completed? 

Many programs can be completed in 6-9 months, but these are among the most demanding programs for obvious reasons. Students must meet admission requirements intended to decrease the number of credits in the program. The transfer credit feature applies to credits earned from a related master’s degree, work and life experiences, and military service. 

These accelerated programs then only work for a select few individuals and, thus, these are selective in their admissions. Applicants, for example, may have to present valid proof of years of work experience in related fields and have their proof evaluated for transfer of credits. 

The more common – and more realistic and attainable, for that matter – accelerated programs have between 12 and 18 months time-to-completion. Note that standard graduate degree programs have a minimum of 24 months of completion – and that’s with the assumption of full-time enrollment and the student hitting the milestones as scheduled! It isn’t unusual for graduate students to earn their degree in three to five years, on average.

The courses in accelerated programs last between four and eight weeks long, but six-week accelerated courses are more typical due to their condensed format. Students in eight-week courses take six credit hours per term, meaning two courses each term, for six terms (fall, spring, and summer). But students in six-week courses progress through the program even faster! 

Many one-year graduate degree programs have a non-thesis format and, thus, allow students to earn the degree within the allotted time. The thesis, or dissertation, can take up a significant chunk of time since it requires several revisions of your research, from the proposal to the approval phase. Without it, students have the opportunity to earn their degree within 12 months or less. 

But instead of a thesis, students will be required to complete a capstone project and an internship period. These requirements still demand time, energy, and effort, so don’t be too complacent either! 

And then there are the accelerated 4+1 degree programs that allow students to earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in five calendar years. The typical time to completion when earning both degrees in separate programs is six years, minimum, meaning a one-year saving. The accelerated format is possible because credits, usually six credits or more, are shared between the bachelor’s and master’s degrees. 

What are the major benefits of these programs? 

Whether you choose the 4+1 degree programs or the standalone master’s degree programs, you will enjoy these benefits. 

  • Your tuition costs will be lower because of the shorter time spent on your studies. 
  • You will have a more competitive edge in the workplace in less time, too. You can start earning more and, as a result, have a headstart on your financial goals. You may even be able to pay off your student loans at an earlier date! 
  • You can keep your focus on both your current job and studies, meaning keeping your edge is possible. There’s little time spent outside of your work, so it’s much easier to transition into a leadership position after earning your graduate degree. 
What are the major challenges that interested individuals must take into consideration? 

Accelerated graduate degree programs are among the toughest programs! You must be driven and determined, with effective study habits and exceptional time management skills if you want to earn your graduate degree within schedule. You will face these challenges and deal with them in an adult manner: 

  • Your workload will be heavier than usual because accelerated classes demand more investment in time and energy since you’re condensing a two-year program into a single year. You must be prepared to double down. 
  • If you’re a working professional, you may have difficulty juggling your work responsibilities and studies. If you can’t cut back on work, you should consider a traditional two-year program instead. 

Unfortunately, online degree programs are sometimes without accreditation – beware of them and verify their accreditation status before signing on. Recent research has also found that online programs have a higher dropout rate than their on-campus counterparts. The main reason seems to be the lack of awareness about the rigorous academic standards of online programs! 

How can you start an accelerated online program? 

First, you must research the admission requirements, learning outcomes, and curriculum of the programs you’re interested in. You will be able to set realistic expectations about the demands on your time, energy, and money that these programs have in your future. You should check the official website, ask the admission officer, and seek current students and alumni information. 

Second, you should talk to your family and friends about your plans. The stronger your support network, the higher your chances of maintaining your sanity during your studies! Their assistance, which can be financial and non-financial, will be valuable in your ability to maintain a good work-life-studies balance. 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Before you look at master’s degree programs, you must be aware of the risks and rewards that come with it and, in doing so, appreciate the entire picture.

A master’s degree costs $66,340 on average, but it can be lower for a master’s in education ($55,200) and higher for a master’s in arts ($72,800). On the other hand, the average debt incurred by holders of master’s degrees is $71,287 upon graduation, of which 14.3% was from their undergraduate study. These numbers point to the rising student debt loans that impact students’ financial, physical and mental health.

When you factor in the possible career advancement opportunities, including the financial and non-financial benefits of a master’s degree, it seems worth every penny! Holders of master’s degrees earn $1,545 in median weekly earnings, or $240 more than their counterparts with bachelor’s degrees, and enjoy a lower unemployment rate at 4.1%.

There’s also another piece of good news: You will find plenty of fields of study where earning a master’s degree is possible in less than two years, the typical time-to-completion in traditional programs.

Dr. Jared Goff
Chief Editor