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(White Paper) How Long Does it Take to Earn an Online Bachelor’s Degree?

  • Posted on: June 20, 2019

A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete, but some schools, such as CTU, offer a series of exams to earn college credit for what you already know and “test out” of classes. This can cut the time it takes to get a bachelor’s degree by up to 30%.*

Traditional bachelor’s degree programs take students four years to complete, and sometimes longer. However, if you are pursuing a degree as a means to transition into a new field or to move your education forward, waiting four years to earn a diploma may feel far off.

With advances in online education technology today, you have options—many of which let you earn your degree in less time and on your terms. This guide contains general information about how long it takes to earn an undergraduate degree and the length of time it might take you to complete an online bachelor’s program at Colorado Technical University.

Determine Which Path May Best Serve Your Needs

Your educational background, time constraints and personal priorities are unique, which means that the timeline to complete your degree will be different than your peers. Before choosing a bachelor’s degree program, it’s important to consider many variables that can affect your degree completion time. For example, do you have prior college credit that you might apply toward your bachelor’s degree credit requirements? Do you plan to work while attending school? If so, how much time will you commit to work and to your studies?

Here a few pacing options for attending a bachelor’s degree program:

  1. Traditional, Full-Time Programs

    Attending a full-time bachelor’s degree program at a traditional campus offers the ability to meet classroom peers and faculty face-to-face. This path usually comes with trade-offs since most classes are offered during the day, leaving less time for a full-time job or childcare, if that’s necessary. The length of a traditional, full-time bachelor’s program is four years.

    If you’re undecided about your major or are debating between two or more undergraduate concentrations, pursuing an associate’s degree first can help you build momentum toward your bachelor’s degree without yet committing the time and money to a full bachelor’s degree.

    You can complete a two-year degree and potentially carry some of those credits to a university like CTU, but it may be helpful to explore associate degree options at the university where you plan to complete the bachelor’s program, as not all credits may transfer or there may be a transfer limit. At the very least, discuss your plans with an advisor to determine which courses may transfer when you’re ready to enroll. This staggered option will likely still mean a four-year time investment overall, but could possibly be longer depending on your chosen path.

  2. Online or Distance Programs

    If you need the flexibility to attend school without disrupting your work, travel, military or family commitments, an online degree program may be a good fit for you. Unlike a traditional classroom, studying online with an internet-connected device allows you to control what, where, when and how you learn.

    In terms of rigor and content, interactive online programs at CTU offer curricula that meet the standards set by its regional accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission ( This option has the added benefit of the mobility of a virtual classroom that doesn’t require you to conform to a rigid schedule at a set location. This can make pursuing your education fit more easily into a busy life. For instance, you might spend your work lunch hour responding to online discussions or participate in a live chat lecture with your instructor while you wait for your son to finish soccer practice.

  3. Accelerated Programs

    CTU also offers accelerated degree programs that may let you speed up your pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. To move more quickly through your program, this involves taking an additional course in each 5.5-week session, attending school year-round with no breaks in enrollment, and a commitment to complete your degree in a set time-frame. While this approach isn’t ideal for every student, those who can make a concentrated commitment to school may find it to be an effective way to earn a quality degree within an accelerated time-frame.

What Impacts The Time It Takes To Earn A Degree?

There are several key factors that can shorten or extend the time it takes to complete your bachelor’s degree, including:

  • Transfer Credit: Previously earned college credit and professional experience can typically be applied toward a bachelor’s degree program. You may also be eligible to receive credit for military experience and/or standardized tests. CTU has dedicated teams to assist students in determining the credits that may transfer, so it’s best to speak with a university representative about your eligibility early in your enrollment process.**
  • CTU Fast Track™: You may also be eligible for CTU Fast Track™, challenge exams that allow you to earn credit by demonstrating what you already know.
  • Course Load: You may be able to shorten the time it takes to complete your degree by completing more than the minimum number of required courses in an academic term. At CTU, for example, this is considered studying at an accelerated pace and involves taking an additional course in each 5.5-week session to move more quickly through your program.
  • Academic Progress: Students who must continually repeat courses or who withdraw from one or more classes may experience a delay in graduation as well as implications to their financial aid award, including incurring additional out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Periods of Non-Enrollment: Like repeating a course, taking a break from your degree program can affect the length of time it takes to complete. Before enrolling in a degree program, decide if you are able to commit the next four or more years to your education. Life happens, so if an unexpected event occurs that demands you take a break from school, work with your university and develop a plan to re-enter as soon as practical.

Accelerate Your Education With a CTU Bachelor's Degree

If you are a seeking a college degree taught by instructors with real-world knowledge, explore more than 100 of CTU degree programs. Accessible online or as a hybrid of online and on-campus classes in Aurora or Colorado Springs, CO, you can earn your bachelor’s degree and be on your way to achieving your educational goals.

If you have questions along the way, we’re here to help. Call or visit us online to learn more.

Call: 855.230.0555

*The ability to reduce time in school and/or reduce tuition depends on the number of CTU Fast Track exams successfully passed. Fast Track program credits are unlikely to transfer. Not all programs are eligible for possible 30% reduction in time and money. Courses eligible are subject to change.
**Transfer credit is evaluated on an individual basis. Not all credits are eligible to transfer. See the University Catalog for transfer credit policies.

For important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates or students who attended these programs, go to Not all programs are available to residents of all states. CTU cannot guarantee employment or salary.
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