By DeVry University
December 1, 2021
7 min read
Earning a degree can prepare you for your career by instilling the skills needed to perform well in your chosen field. For many students, earning an online degree is a more convenient option for attending school. But, does this convenience add to your time investment? You may be wondering, “How long does it take to earn an online degree?”.
Ultimately, the length of your online degree program depends on your chosen major, personal timeline and life commitments. Here are some factors to consider when estimating the length of your online degree:
1. Evaluate Your Commitments
The amount of time you can commit to your studies and online courses can factor in how long it may take to earn your degree. Prioritizing your commitments can help you identify how much time you are willing and able to make for school. The following are three areas students should evaluate:
Your school commitments may overlap with work. Choose the number of courses to take based on your work hours or personal preferences regarding your work/life balance. If you work, planning how you will arrange your work and school schedules is key to supporting success in both areas.
For many, family is an important commitment. If you’re taking online courses while taking care of your family or raising kids, you may feel like you have less time to spend on your studies. An online course of study can offer flexibility when it comes to studying and reviewing course material during timeframe that you choose.
Pursuing your educational goals may mean less leisure time. Consider how you and your family can reorganize daily tasks and find time to be together. You may be able to take one course at a time or work on assignments while your kids are in school during the day. Taking breaks may also help you find balance, such as taking the summer off to be with family so you can return to class refreshed.
Another factor to consider is commitments to social outings or activities, including volunteering or playing sports. If your evening schedule is frequently full, you may find it harder to find adequate time to study and prepare for class. As you determine your pace for your online degree program, consider how much time you are willing to set aside for studying versus other pursuits.
2. Consider Your Preferred Study Style
The time it takes to earn your degree will also be affected by your preferences regarding studying and school. Your degree can be completed faster or slower based on the pace you choose.
Full-Time or Part-Time?
The number of classes you plan to take per session will impact the timeline of your program. Some students prefer to take classes as full-time students, setting school as a priority for a shorter period of time in order to finish more quickly. However, other students prefer to take school part-time, enrolling in only one or two courses at a time. This option can support greater flexibility if you’re balancing other commitments but can delay your graduation date.
If you’re planning to take breaks throughout the school year, it may also result in a delayed graduation date, but can also be helpful in balancing your priorities and commitments. Either way, the pacing of your courses will play a role in how long it will take to earn your online degree.
3. Check Your University's Scheduling Options
Your university’s scheduling options for online courses can also be a factor. Depending on the school, some classes may not be offered in all semesters or may be offered at different durations. Consider the following when working out scheduling possibilities:
Are your online classes eight weeks in length or 12? Longer class duration can delay your graduate date. Be sure to take the duration of each class into account.
Rolling Enrollment Schedule
Rolling enrollment means applications are reviewed as they are received. Often, schools that offer rolling enrollment also allow you to take online courses that start during any school semester, instead of waiting to start classes in the fall when the school year begins. With this schedule, you may be able to take classes in the spring or summer semester, allowing you to determine I start date that works for you instead of waiting to start your online degree. Some universities even offer enrollment dates starting every few weeks, making it easy to jump into your program.
Available Class Sessions Per Year
Many traditional schools offer class enrollment for the fall, spring and summer semesters. However, others offer courses each quarter, or every eight weeks. How long each session is can help you determine how many courses you are able to take within a school year. The more courses you can take in the year, the faster you may be able to graduate from your online degree program.
4. Your Degree Choice
Each level of higher education comes with different expectations regarding credits for completion. Depending on your degree choice, your online program may take shorter or longer to earn. Consider the credit requirements for the different degree levels:
Depending on which of the different factors discussed above applies to you, in general earning an undergraduate certificate can be one of the faster options for earning college-level credits. Typically ranging from 30–36 credits, undergraduate certificates can be completed fairly quickly, sometimes in as little as one year, depending on the pacing of the courses. This option may help expedite your online degree but will typically focus on one particular part of a discipline instead of a holistic view that you’d typically find in a higher-level degree program.
Averaging around 60 credits, associate degrees are typically two-year programs when taken full-time. However, some schools offer programs that can be completed in less time.
It is common for bachelor’s degrees to require about 120 credits, but the specific credit requirements will vary based on your chosen degree. The more credits, the more courses may be required. While many bachelor’s degrees are intended to be completed in four years with a full course load, this may differ based on your preferred course load or other factors mentioned above.
Master’s degrees typically require between 30 and 60 credits. However, some may require less while other degrees require more depending on the school and the program. As a master’s degree often requires fewer credits than a bachelor’s degree, it may take less time to complete — as long as the student takes courses at a consistent pace. To enroll in a master's degree, you will typically need to earn a bachelor's degree first.
Another factor that can affect the length of your online program is transfer credits. Qualifying transfer credits may reduce the length of time it will take you to finish your degree. Dual enrollment credits as well as accepted AP test scores can contribute to a greater amount of transfer credits toward an undergraduate degree. Similarly, if you are transferring schools to an online program, previous credits may be accepted, depending on the institution, and may help minimize the length of your degree.
Should I Earn an Online Degree?
Deciding what type of degree to pursue should come after careful consideration and career goal analysis. The same is true for deciding what format to choose for your courses. While online and traditional campus options each offer their own distinct benefits, an online degree may be a good option for you if you’re looking for the following:
- A flexible schedule
- A way to balance work and school
- A more independent study format
- To save money on housing, or gas to commute to school
- A tech-savvy approach to learning
Earn Your Online Degree at DeVry
At DeVry University, classes start every 8 weeks, making it easy for you to jump in and start earning your degree right away. With a variety of online programs to choose from, you can find an online degree that fits your goals and helps get you on the path toward pursuing the career you want.