The world of education is rapidly evolving, both on the side of students and on the side of the schools. Students seek the best career outcomes as they try to avoid taking on enormous student debt, while schools attempt to adapt to the fluctuating market this creates. Confounding the issue are recent claims from economists stating that the value of higher education has dropped dramatically overall, despite the rising costs of tuition. They compare the bachelor’s degree of today with the high school education of past generations. This creates strain and pressure both for students and schools as students seek to elevate themselves amid growing competition and shrinking opportunities, and schools attempt to meet a new generation of students’ needs.
Many schools are now designing their programs around the concepts of speed and convenience. Part of the reason why traditional education model is losing value, at least perceptually, is because it takes a large amount of time to complete the programs, during which time students are not usually amounting income or building the real-world experience so many positions require. It is no surprise that now many students are seeking online education amidst busy work schedules, so that they do not have to put their career on hold while they earn their master’s degree. In this article we explore 50 of the fastest online master’s degree programs available.
Though this ranking was created primarily using data on the speed of the program, we drew information from the U.S. Department of Education, school websites, and U.S. News & World Report in order to create a baseline and organize the ranking according to the following criteria:
- Speed of the Program (1/3): (i) The fastest time in which a program can be completed. (ii) Whether or not the program offers accelerated learning options and/or previous learning or experience credits.
- Reliability (1/3): Whether the program offered accredited degrees and/or was affiliated with national education foundations.
- Academic Reputation (1/3): The rank of the school’s parent institution according to other prominent rankings such as US News
We should also note that there are pros and cons to fast-paced and accelerated programs as the ones listed below.
- Pros: The program can be completed in a much smaller amount of time, and thus is convenient both in terms of financial requirements and scheduling requirements
- Fast-paced programs are often highly-focused on the most relevant material, which eliminates the potential for “busy-work.”
- Cons: In order to finish the coursework more quickly students are usually required to take on more of a burden, both in dedication and effort.
- Extreme learning in short periods of time might lead to less retention of what was learned, but this is largely reliant on the methods of education and personal characteristics.
Time for Program Completion: 6-18 months
Capella University is a well-known name in online education and promotes its dedication to distance learning strategies and technology. Capella offers an MBA in accounting that can be completed entirely online, and for students willing to tackle the accelerated track and take three courses at a time it can be completed incredibly fast. Through Capella’s Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) program students can also earn credit for previous academic or professional experience. Taking the maximum course-load and earning the maximum credit for previous experience can mean completing this degree in as little as six months! The program will take the typical student around 18 months to complete, but for those looking to cash-in on previous experience, this program is one of the fastest options available.
Capella University also offers an MBA in project management. Through earning maximum credit through the PLA program and through taking three courses per period one can also complete this program in as little as six months, though like the accounting track the standard completion time is about 18 months. While being extremely efficient, the program adheres to high standards and is accredited by The Project Management Institute (PMI®) Global Accreditation Center for Project Management (GAC) and was designed around A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide).
Capella University’s MBA in human resources follows the same design of the other MBA programs. By taking three courses at a time and receiving maximum credit for previous academic or professional experience through the PLA program, students can earn their MBA in human resources in just six months! Those looking to study at a more comfortable pace and those without as much previous experience will likely finish the program in about 18 months. Capella’s human resources program applies a multidisciplinary approach to integrating human resource management and business best practices into the study of human capital acquisition, development and retention.
Capella University’s Harold Abel School of Social and Behavioral houses a master of science in psychology program. With twelve different accredited degree options available, multiple start dates, and personalizable course-work schedules students get to choose when and how they earn their degree. For those wishing to complete their degree as soon as possible, taking three courses per period will warrant graduation in as little as nine months. This is less than half of the time requirement of many similar programs and translates into over $10,000 in tuition savings.
Time for Program Completion: 10 months
The University of Miami is a nationally ranked institution that offers an accelerated track option in the master of science in finance degree. While many of the programs on this list require special effort or experience to “take the fast track,” this program is designed to be completed by all students in just 10 months. The program is able to achieve this level of accelerated learning by narrowing its focus to centralized coursework that is both practical and applicable to the real-world demands of the finance industry. Though it lasts less than a year, the program is designed to turn students into successful professionals of corporate finance, international finance and investments, and other financial sectors. To accomplish this goal, the same faculty who teach the on-campus version of the class teach the online version, so that the faculty can master the strategies of the accelerated learning program.
Time for Program Completion:12 months
The University of North Texas’ College of Education offers a fully accredited and fully online accelerated master of education degree option. The degree can be earned in less than a year, and surprisingly the program still maintains a good deal of the flexibility and self-paced coursework associated with online education. The program is able to maintain the seemingly opposing attributes of speed and flexibility, by narrowing the coursework of the program to focus on educational leadership. This specialization is for students pursuing careers in administrational positions of schools, school districts, or other educational institutions.
Benedectine University is a nationally ranked school: U.S. News & World Report found it to be one of the nation’s best master’s universities and GraduatePrograms.com found the MBA program specifically to be one of the best in the US. While delivering nationally recognized results, the MBA program also maintains a high-level of convenience in its fully online format, flexible coursework schedules, and can be completed in just twelve months. The program also boasts highly impressive student survey results with over 94% of students reporting that the program had adequately prepared them for their careers.
California Baptist University is a nationally ranked school and major proponent of online education. As such the master of science in accounting adheres to strong values of student-oriented flexibility and guidance. Students have 24/7 access to coursework so that they can progress when and how they want, and they also are assigned personal advisers to help assists and guide during the program. Through taking advantage of the online format, the degree can be earned in as little as one year. The University’s all christian faculty is highly committed to helping its students make the most of their time during such accelerated programs.
Often it is the case that programs are able to offer accelerated track options by narrowing the program’s focus and thus decreasing the required coursework. Trine University is a repeatedly nationally ranked school and is one of the exceptions to this trend. The University’s master of science in criminal justice can be completed in just one year, but beyond that the program still offers its students three specialization options in forensic psychology, law, and public administration. The program is likely able to achieve this by asking for a higher level of dedication and performance from its students, as its admission requirements are stricter than others on this list.
Trine University’s Ketner School of Business houses an accelerated online master of science in engineering program. Curricularly assisted by the Allen School of Engineering & Technology, the program draws from the resources of several departments to deliver a focused and efficient curriculum with a high-level of instructor advisement and guidance. Through taking advantage of open-ended online coursework and instructor-student interaction the program is able to cover ground quickly, so that students can earn their degree in just twelve months. With two departments assisting, students receive advisement from two perspectives–one from business and one from engineering–so that they may develop a well-rounded foundation on which to build their careers.
The University of North Texas offers an accelerated track for its master of education degree. The program emphasizes instructor leadership, so while the program is conducted completely online students should still expect one-on-one with their instructors. Following this theme, the program also assigns a personal adviser to each student to help them navigate their time in the program, which comes to about a year. During this year, students are taught concepts through a broad curriculum, designed to prepare students for professional careers in the education industry.
California Baptist University Online also offers an accelerated program in early childhood studies, where the average completion time of the program is only twelve months. Through narrowing the programs focus to this specialization, students can finish their master’s in half the time of similar degree programs. This translates into thousands of dollars of saved tuition and more time to gain career experience. The program is designed to fully prepare its students to take on administrational, advisory, and consultative positions in the professional world where they will specialize in knowledge of children’s learning and health issues.
Unlike the other accelerated learning options at Capella, the MBA program is designed to be completed in one year by all students. This implies a level of consistency and organization that might appear to be lacking in other accelerated learning programs. The program also brandishes impressive career outcome statistics with its MBA graduates earning an average of $28,000 more per year than those who only hold a bachelor’s in business administration. Capella’s attractive online learning technologies coupled with its student outcome statistics and “fast track” option make it an excellent option for those pursuing an MBA.
Concordia University’s 1 year master of education program is designed for working teachers, who are looking to earn a higher degree amidst demanding work-life. Thus the program adheres to strong principles of academic while also maintaining high-levels of flexibility. As mentioned before, many programs are able to achieve accelerated learning options through narrowing the focus of the program. Concordia manages 20 master’s degree concentration options, all of which are accredited and can be completed in just one year, making it an excellent option for both students and working professionals alike.
Northcentral University is a reputable school, well-known for its unique strategies of incorporating interconnectedness and social-learning into online education. The University capitalizes on these strategies in order to offer an accelerated MBA program option that can be completed in as little as twelve months. The program is taught by all doctoral faculty and each student is assigned one faculty member per course, so that students receive proper advisement and guidance during the intensive coursework that is required to complete an MBA in just one year.
Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies offers multiple accelerated and fully online master’s degree options. Among these is the master of science in applied nutrition program, which can be completed in just twelve months if students are able to take on the maximum course-load. The program focuses on preparing students for the evolving industry of nutrition and offers the following concentration options: obesity and nutritional health, nutrition education, nutrition and fitness, and business and entrepreneurship in nutrition. The program emphasizes experiential projects and also involves successful nutritionists, fitness experts, as well as other health professionals, so that students may have a first-hand look at the industry’s professionals.
Northeastern University also offers a master of science in commerce and economic development program. The program can be completed in as little as twelve months if students are willing to take on the maximum course-load. The program also meets international visa requirements for any prospective international students looking to pursue this degree. The program’s curriculum is designed to prepare students for positions in international trade, e-commerce development, and economic consulting positions, all of which are sectors of above average growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Northeastern University offers an accelerated learning option in the corporate and organization communication program. Like other programs of the University, it can be completed in just twelve months if students take the maximum course-load. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, communication skills rank first among job candidate’s skills and qualities. Thus expert communicators are highly sought-after across countless industries and business-types. Moreover, as more companies and organization expand into national or international parameters, communication during and after such growth is crucial, so students can expect a wide variety of career options after completing their degree.
Northeastern University also offers an e-learning and instructional design program, which like the others can be completed in just one year if students are able to take on the maximum course-load. As was described in the opening paragraph, the industry of education is transitioning towards e-learning and convenient options. Students in this program will be at the forefront of this transition and can expect to learn the most cutting-edge technology and strategies of modern e-learning and instructional design. This prepares students to shape the future of any learning-driven organization such as corporations, non-profits, higher education institutions, K-12 schools, and government agencies.
Northeastern University also offers a global studies and international relations program that like the others can be completed in just one year if undertaking the maximum course-load. The program employs a multidisciplinary approach and offers students multiple concentration options such as Conflict Resolution, Development and Global Health, Diplomacy, International Economics and Consulting, or Global Student Mobility. The program boasts highly experienced faculty, many of whom have served as political ambassadors, international consultants, or diplomats.
Northeastern University offers an informatics program that like the others can be completed in just one year if studies undertake a full course-load. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry of informatics is one the fastest growing sectors of the US economy. The program focuses on delivering a curriculum that is most relevant to the growing and evolving field, so that students will be well-prepared to meet the demands of the careers they choose.
Northeastern University also offers a project management program that like the others can be completed in just twelve months if the student is willing to undertake a full course-load. The program is accredited by the Project Management Institute’s Global Accreditation Center (GAC), the world’s leading association for project management professionals. Though the program is fast-paced it does manage to offer students a great deal of choice in coursework, and allows students to construct their own personalized concentrations through self-selected projects and coursework.
The University of North Texas offers an accelerated learning track in which students can earn their M.S. in educational psychology in just twelve months if they are willing to take on a full course-load. Comparable programs can last up to four times as long. This means that students who graduate from this program in one year will have saved years and thousands of dollars. The program is able to manage this by narrowing the focus of the program to that of educating gifted and talented students, and upon completion students will receive an accredited certificate validating this specialization.
The University of North Texas also offers a master’s level special education program that can be completed in just twelve months if students are willing to take on the accelerated learning schedule. The program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and focuses on autism intervention.
Time for Program Completion: 12-14 months
Walden University offers a fully online graduate program in education with an accelerated learning option where students can earn their degree in just 12 months with as little as $10,000 in expenses. The program is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), and while it is compacted into a short and affordable program the career-outcome and student satisfaction surveys display highly impressive results where over 96% of surveyed employers said they would employ another graduate from the M.S. in education program.
Time for Program Completion: 14 months
The University of North Texas offers a fully online learning technology program that can be completed in as little at fourteen months. While the program is fast-paced and affordable, it does not sacrifice quality for speed, which is evidenced by the fact that it is one of few learning technology programs aligned with the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) National Educational Technology Standards (NETS). Despit the speed of the program students still have options for convenience and flexibility; courses have personalizable lengths to accommodate the demands of any schedule.
The University of North Texas also offers an accelerated learning options for its fully online MBA program. The program’s curriculum is designed to meet the standards of the American Society for Quality, APICS, Association of University Programs in Health Administration, HR Certification Institute, Institute for Supply Management and the Society for Human Resource Management. The program’s physical location is in one of the Texas’ most dynamic and economically growing areas. Thus the program also emphasizes drawing upon real world connections to enrich coursework and project assignments.
Time for Program Completion: 15 months
Southern New Hampshire University offers an accelerated learning option for earning an MBA in accounting. Despite the fast-paced curriculum, the program meets the 150-credit-hour requirement to sit for the CPA exam adopted by most states, and still allows the flexible learning schedule of undertaking just two courses per ten-week term. Many comparable accelerated programs require a third per learning period, so this program seems to strike a balance between student comfort and high-efficiency learning.
Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit institution, and as such maintains high-standards of education and student-care. The University’s MBA in economics embodies these standards through providing a fast-paced, convenient, and fully-accredited option. The program is also one of the most affordable on this list and offers tuition rates well-below that of comparable programs.
Southern New Hampshire University offers another 15-month, fully online, and fully accredited master’s degree option, an M.S. in healthcare administration (MSHA). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there has never been a better time to earn this degree with job growth in the industry projected at 23% through 2020. SNHU’s MSHA program is also a highly affordable option that manages to maintain a flexible schedule amidst the demanding coursework of the accelerated track.
SNHU also offers a fully online, affordable, and accelerated graduate human resources program. The program’s curriculum is designed to reflect the standards, guidelines, and principles set forth by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The program often supplements faculty with instructors from successful companies and organizations in the industry, so that students can learn from real-world success stories and begin networking early in their careers.
SNHU also offers an accelerated MBA in project management program that can be completed in just fifteen months and maintains some of the lowest tuition rates for this degree in the nation. SNHU is a Registered Education Provider (REP) of the Project Management Institute (PMI®), and as such the program’s curriculum is based on the models and strategies of businesses from the mid-sized to Fortune 500 companies. SNHU has been offering the MBA in project management for over 40 years, so students can expect a well-developed curriculum and highly experienced faculty to deliver it.
SNHU also offers a fully online and highly affordable graduate psychology program that can be completed in 15 months with a variety of concentration options including: child and adolescent development, forensic psychology, and industrial organizational psychology. Despite offering concentration options amidst a demanding curriculum and schedule, the program adheres to high standards of student choice and allows 24/7 access to coursework, which can be completed according self-decided course schedules.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of healthcare informatics is one of the most rapidly growing job sectors in the US, and as such new and exciting career developments occur regularly. Stevens-Henager’s healthcare informatics program can be completed in just fifteen months, and incorporates successful professionals from the field their instruction strategies to familiarize students with the industry’s real-world demands. Many of the graduates of this program have gone on to become Healthcare Chief Information Officers (CIO) or an IT/IN Directors.
Stevens-Henager’s unique focus on information technology and systems has allowed them to narrow the focus of the school’s curriculums and faculty specialties. Thus they are able to offer a fifteen month and fully online graduate program in information systems. Our world is dominated by the use and dissemination of information, and thus those with an information systems degree can find themselves working in a wide array of industries. As such this program employs a multidisciplinary approach to the study of information systems, so students can shape their personal interests while gaining experience that mirrors real-world demands.
SNHU as mentioned before is a private, nonprofit institution emphasizing efficient, affordable, and accredited programs. Among these program options is the justice studies MBA, which can be completed in just 15 months. Though the accelerated learning likely puts a strain on students’ schedules the program seeks to counterbalance this strain with increased flexibility in learning options. For instance, students have 24/7 access to online coursework and they can customize the length and course-loads of classes in order to accommodate personal schedules.
SNHU boasts 40 years experience in MBA education and offers its graduates a close-knit network of highly proactive alumni, who often serve as mentors or advisers to current students. The University’s sports management program is also one of the most affordable degree options on this list and can be completed in just 15 months. Through waving GRE and GMAT requirements, offering multiple start dates, and assigning academic and career advisers to each student SNHU is able to offer an attractive student-oriented program.
Capella University offers a fully online MPA program that can be completed in 16 months. While many programs on this list require students to take more of a burden in order to complete the accelerated courses, Capella’s MPA program is designed to be completed in this short amount without this increased burden through offering flexible learning strategies and emphasizing instructor-student guidance. Also, students will have choice of developing a degree-concentration of their choosing based on their career goals and personal interests.
Capella University also offers a fully online nonprofit management and leadership specialization degree program that can be completed in 16 months or less. Through crediting students for previous professional experience or certificates, students can save thousands of dollars and earn up to 12 credits to put toward their degree. The program offers this flexibility while it maintains high standards of education set forth by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA).
Capella University also offers a public policy and governance program accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA). Capella employs special virtual classroom technology where students will be able to work on real-world problems collaboratively, so that they may gain experience with the demands of the field while simultaneously building skills of teamwork and communication, which are hallmarks of the industry.
Ball State University offers a master of arts in educational psychology that can be completed completely online in just 18 months if students undertake the full course-load. Despite its fast completion time the program covers a research-based curriculum, which allows students to develop specializations according to self-selected project assignments and coursework options. The same faculty who teach the on-campus versions of the classes teach the online versions, so that students can expect the same quality as that of face-to-face learning.
Boston University boasts a long history of higher education and massive alumni population of over 250,000. BU has recently created fast-paced learning options for degrees that otherwise had little to no online learning options. Among these is their health communication program, which if students take on the full course-load can be completed in just 18 months, about half of the time of comparable programs. While the program can be completed quickly it still adheres to high standards of quality, such as those set forth by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
Boston University is a school with arguably the longest history of music education in our country as it offered the nation’s first music degree in 1872. The University has modernized its rich music program through offer fast-paced online learning options, specifically, the master of music education that can be completed in just 18 months. In this program, the University employs its over 100 year history of music leadership to train professionals how to excel in the music education of the 21st century.
Boston University specializes in bring the study of art and music education to the arena of fast-paced online education. BU offers an a fully online graduate art education program, which employs all of the university’s resources create a quality distance learning option. Through virtual studios, students can interact with art instructors just as they would in the physical classroom with real-time feedback and discussion formats.
Capella University offers an MBA in business intelligence that can be completed in just 18 months. The program’s curriculum is designed to teach students statistical methods, modeling tools, and data collection and reporting techniques required to excel in the field of business intelligence. The program offers a unique partnership with the Wall Street Journal where students will be given curated and analyzed reports and articles on the evolving industries of business.
Capella University also offers a fully online healthcare administration program that can be completed in just 18 months. The program’s curriculum is designed to meet the standards of the National Center for Healthcare Leadership (NCHL), and focuses on educating students about health care operations, health care leadership, or health policy and advocacy. Capella also reports that over 96% of student alumni reported that they were satisfied with their education.
Healthcare will generate more than four million new jobs between 2010 and 2020, making it one of the fastest growing industries in the country. Capella’s healthcare leadership program offers students a chance to earn their degree in just 18 months, while simultaneously earning a certificate in their chosen concentration where they may delve deeper into select projects or topics in order to develop personal interests and career goals.
Capella University also offers a fast-paced and fully online graduate MPH in public leadership program that can be completed in as little as 18 months. The program is very similar to the design of the one listed above, though the focus is shifted to the public health sector. One-on-one coaching is built into the program, so students can develop a leadership style early in their career. The program also employs “The Riverbend City” tool where students can simulate real-world situations in a risk-free environment.
Time for Program Completion: 21 months
SNHU’s MBA programs compile 40 years of educational experience into a convenient and fast-paced online learning format. The program is also accredited by multiple governing bodies such as The New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs. Student support is also a major hallmark of the program, so students can expect ongoing academic and career guidance from professionals with relevant experience throughout their time in the program.
Boston University is a school with an impressive reputation and nationally recognition. BU’s computer information systems online program is ranked third by U.S. News & World Report as one the nation’s “Best Online Graduate Computer Information Technology Programs.” While not the fastest on this list the program manages to achieve nationally recognition while still managing a level of efficiency that makes it 30% faster than most similar online degree programs. In this program, students can expect strenuous coursework, but they are assured a highly attractive value-to-time ratio.