How to Earn Your Associate's Degree in Less than Two Years

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How to Earn Your Associate's Degree in Less than Two Years
It no longer takes two years to earn your associate’s degree. Learn about programs at community colleges that grant degrees after one year, as well as strategies you can utilize to graduate earlier.

The associate's degree has become a popular way to begin or advance a career today, as it can be earned in less time than it takes to obtain a bachelor's degree. Students can cut time even more through various strategies that get them out of community college and into the workforce in less than two years. Consider these tips to help you get the training and education you need to advance your career – in much less time than a traditional degree program.

Choosing a Community College

The first step in shortening your stay at a community college is to choose a school that offers an accelerated degree program. According to a recent report in USA Today, some community colleges are getting rather creative in their programming structure to help students earn complete associate's degrees in less time. Some colleges have even been able to cut their program time in half, allowing students to get their associate’s degrees and move into the workforce in a single year.

Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College will begin offering a fall-trimester format to students interested in graduating early. Course schedules will switch from 16 weeks to 14 weeks, allowing students to complete the trimester in a shorter period of time. To compensate for lost time during the term, courses will be extended by 10 minutes daily, allowing professors to condense the material into a shorter trimester. Courses will be available during the fall, spring, and summer semesters, so students can move through their programs more quickly.

Rashaa Rahh discusses university and community college differences in this brief video.

"By offering a flexible schedule, and online classes, we hope to attract more students," Southern West Virginia President Joanne Jaeger Tomblin said on the school website. Tomblin also told USA Today, "Our students will graduate earlier in the year than those at other colleges. Southern's graduates will also be ready to enter the workforce sooner, giving them an edge when applying for jobs."

Another college test-driving an accelerated program this fall is Lower Columbia College in Washington. USA Today also reports on a new program called "Transfer Express" that allows students to earn an associate's degree in a year. Because the college works on the quarter system, students can take six quarters’ worth of classes in just four quarters’ time.

The program will do more than earn degrees faster; it will also save as much as $500 in tuition costs, according to Laura Brener, the college's vice president for instruction. However, Brener adds that students will still have a choice between a standard school program and the accelerated option.

"Nobody's trying to replace the typical path with accelerated programs," Brener said. "Not everyone's going to come in college-ready. Not only do many students come in without the proper background and skills, but they also don't come in with the same motivations to complete. There have to be a variety of pathways to meet their needs."

This video explains how to fast-track your community college degree program at Tidewater Community College.

Beginning in High School

The Daily Times in Farmington, New Mexico, reports that Las Cruces high schools are now selecting students to earn college credits during their high school years through their Early College High School program. In addition to giving students a head start in their career training, the school district hopes to reduce their dropout rate by providing additional incentives to stay in high school. Jennifer Amis, principal of the Early College High School program, said, "This model, the early college high school, emerged as the best practice for graduating over 90 percent of their cohort, which is incredible."

Use Your Military Training

If you have performed service for any military branch, The American Council on Education can help you use your training to earn college credits. While the credits may only be applied to elective courses, they can certainly help you speed up the time it takes to earn a degree, according to the Air Force Times. Some experts predict that depending on your rank and military occupation specialty, you may be able to cut down your time in college by as much as 25-50 percent.

A combat veteran describes his experiences attending college in this short video.

Ransel Salgado, Kaplan University's director of military admissions, told the Air Force Times, "Right now, associate degree plans in information technology and criminal justice tend to offer the best opportunities for testing out of classes or receiving credits."

Getting through community college quickly has gotten a little easier, thanks to numerous programs designed to get students out of school and into the workforce in record time. Check with the community colleges in your area to find out if an accelerated program is available to you.

Questions? Contact us on Facebook. @communitycollegereview

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