How Fast Can I Earn a Master’s Degree?

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By Oshitha Narangoda
Last updated on August 10, 2023

Earning a university degree can take a lot of time, but with an accelerated program, you can complete your master’s degree much faster. Read on to learn how!

How Fast Can I Earn a Master’s Degree?

A female international student from Asia wearing a cap and gown stands among fellow graduates on her graduation day at a US university

For most students at US universities, it usually takes four to six years to complete their bachelor’s and master’s degrees. But with flexible programs geared toward current undergraduate students or employed bachelor’s degree holders hoping to advance their careers, faster options are also available. By adapting online teaching techniques and advanced digital classroom technology, universities and colleges have created new convenient ways for students to pursue a degree at an accelerated pace.

Let’s take a closer look at what accelerated degree programs are, the different types available, and programs you can consider.

What Are Accelerated Degree Programs?

Accelerated degree programs are a fast-track option available for students to earn the same qualification through the same coursework and tests, but over a shorter period than a typical degree program.

Typically, traditional degree programs have breaks, longer study periods, and time to take on internships, whereas classes for accelerated programs — as the name suggests — are accelerated! They cover more topics over a given time. Depending on the chosen degree, weekend classes or night classes are scheduled. (This is especially true if the program caters to working professionals.) Additional homework is often required as a way to revisit what was discussed and make sure students stay on track. 

In many cases, accelerated degree programs are offered both in person and online. Online programs may be especially attractive to international students, who can avoid delays and expenses by studying remotely in their home country. 

Like typical degree programs, student support is always available for those who need extra help. You can reach out to an advisor for guidance with time management, academic support, and more to stay on track toward completing your accelerated degree.

What Are the Different Types of Accelerated Degree Programs?

US universities and colleges typically offer two types of accelerated programs:

  • Single degree programs — This option generally shortens the time it takes to complete each course so students can earn more credits each year. Single degree programs are ideal for students who want to earn a degree in a specific field. Completing your bachelor’s degree in three years is an example of an accelerated single degree program.

  • Simultaneous bachelor’s and master’s degree programs — The exact structure of this program is different for each institution, but usually involves starting your master’s degree in the last year or two of your bachelor’s degree. This allows you to complete both degrees within five years.

Accelerated programs, especially for master’s degrees, are an excellent opportunity for those who want to take the next step in their careers without taking time away from the workforce. 

Accelerated Programs at Shorelight Universities

Accelerated degree programs at Shorelight universities are designed specifically for international students, offering exclusive services such as academic assistance and English language support while you pursue your degrees. 

American University

American University is ranked #79 among the top national universities in the US* and offers a combined BA/MA in International Studies. The campus is located in Washington, DC, a hotspot for politics, activism, and international culture — an ideal place to get your bachelor’s or master’s in International Studies.

The BA/MA Accelerated Program

This is an opportunity for advanced AU undergraduate students to begin a master’s degree program before completing their bachelor’s degree.

Combinations include: 

  • Comparative and Regional Studies + International Economics

  • Global Environmental Policy + Intercultural and International Communication

  • Global Governance, Politics, and Security + International Peace and Conflict Resolution, and many more

Details of the accelerated program include:

  • Undergraduate students may apply up to 15 credit hours of approved, graduate-level coursework to satisfy both degree requirements.

  • A minimum of 18 credit hours in graduate studies must be completed after the undergraduate degree has been awarded.

Find out more about BA/MA combination courses available at American University >>

Gonzaga University 

Also ranked #79 among top national universities in the US,* Gonzaga University enables students to complete their Master of Accountancy (M.Acc) while studying for their bachelor’s degree.

Master of Accountancy (M.Acc) Accelerated Program

The Master of Accountancy curriculum prepares international students from all around the world to develop technical skills in accounting along with the soft skills that are essential to succeed in the industry. This approach has a successful job placement rate of 95%! 

  • You can complete your M.Acc degree in two semesters at Gonzaga.

  • Applications must be submitted during your junior year, and the program begins in your senior year.

  • You are required to have a major in accounting with a minimum 3.25 GPA.

Learn more about Gonzaga’s M.Acc program >>

University of Dayton

As one of the most prestigious research universities in the US, the University of Dayton delivers world-class education in an innovative research environment to international students.

Master of Business Analytics (MBAN)  

Students who want to move into a high-demand career area can consider the MBAN program offered by the University of Dayton. Curriculum combines data science and business administration to help students learn effective problem-solving and analytical skills required to launch successful careers. 

For current or prospective undergraduate students, the MBAN program offers an accelerated master’s degree option:

Bachelor’s Plus Masters (BPM) Program

The University of Dayton Bachelor’s Plus Master’s (BPM) program encourages high-performing undergraduate students to continue their studies and complete a master’s degree.

  • You may take up to six credit hours of graduate coursework to simultaneously satisfy both undergraduate and graduate program requirements.

  • You are required to have a minimum GPA of 3.0.

  • You can take a semester off for a pre-approved internship without penalty.

Learn more about the accelerated MBAN program available at the University of Dayton >>

University of Massachusetts Amherst 

The University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst) is one the largest and most highly recognized public research universities, ranked #68 among the top national universities in the US.* Accelerated programs offered in collaboration with Shorelight focus on engineering. 

Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering (MS ECE)

The MS ECE program allows you to learn and grow your skills in creating technologically innovative engineering solutions with support from expert professors and researchers. Accelerated programs offer fully virtual or hybrid options, with an award-nominated digital classroom experience known for engaging and interactive learning. Both 24- and 16-month degree programs are available.  

Accelerated options at UMass Amherst include: 

MS Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Full Live Program

  • Pursue an MS qualification at a Global Study Center in your home country or directly through your device from anywhere you call home

  • After the final semester, travel to the US to present your final project and attend graduation

MS ECE One Semester + Campus Option

  • Complete one semester virtually in your home country

  • Complete the rest of your degree in the US

  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is available after the first semester on campus in Amherst, Massachusetts!

MS ECE Two Semesters + Campus Option 

  • Start in your home country and end in the US

  • Take your first two semesters in a Live environment in your home country

  • Complete your master’s degree at the UMass Amherst campus

Learn more about UMass Amherst’s MS ECE program  >>

Why Choose an Accelerated Program? 

According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), a graduate with a bachelor’s degree would have a starting salary of $57,133 – while a graduate with an MBA can expect a starting salary of $84,580! A master’s degree can quickly boost your employability and earning potential, so if job security and high earnings are important to you, an accelerated master’s program may be advantageous, even if you are still studying for your undergraduate degree.

With an accelerated degree program, you can:

  • Access unique work opportunities

  • Complete your graduate degree faster

  • Gain work experience while studying

  • “Upskill” with new certifications

Many Shorelight universities provide students with guidance to achieve their academic and career goals. Our advisors are available to discuss whether an accelerated degree program is right for you.

Discovermaster’s degree programs for international students with Shorelight > 

*U.S. News and World Report, 2022