Earn an Online Bachelor's Degree - How Long Does it Take?

  • Posted on: May 19, 2015

A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete. Certain schools, such as CTU, offer a series of tests to earn college credit for what you already know. This can cut the time it takes to get a bachelor’s degree by up to 30%.

Most common bachelor’s degree programs take students four years or more to complete. But if you’re a student pursuing a degree as a means to transition into a new field or drive your career forward, waiting four years to earn a diploma can feel too 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 a bachelor’s program at Colorado Technical University.

View our Online Bachelor's Degrees.

How long does it take to earn an online bachelor's degree?

Which Path Will Best Serve Your Needs?

Your educational background, time limitations and personal priorities are unique; which means that the time to complete your degree will be different than your peers. Before choosing a bachelor’s degree program, it’s important to consider the 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?

Do you plan to work while attending school? If so, how much time will you commit to work and to your studies? Here are common scenarios to help you choose the bachelor degree program that best fits into your life:

  1. Traditional, Full-Time Programs
    Attending a full-time bachelor’s degree program at a traditional campus offers access to residential living and the ability to meet classroom peers and faculty face-to-face. This may be particularly important if you are pursuing a degree that requires hands-on laboratory time, like nursing or forensics. This path usually comes with trade-offs since most classes are offered during the day, leaving less time for a full-time career. The length of traditional, full-time program is four to five years.
    If you’re undecided about your major or are debating between two or more undergraduate concentrations, pursuing an associate degree or a certificate can help you build momentum toward your bachelor’s degree. Additionally, having some college experience can help you make interim gains in your career while working toward a four-year degree.
    If you intend to complete a two-year degree and carry those credits to a university like CTU, it may be helpful to explore associate degree options at the university where you plan to complete the bachelor’s program; or discuss your plans with an advisor to ensure your courses will transfer when you’re ready to enroll. This staggered option will likely still mean a four- to five-year time investment overall.
  2. Online or Distance Programs
    If you need the flexibility to attend school without disrupting your work, travel, or family commitments, an online degree program may be the best fit for you. Unlike a traditional classroom where an instructor gives lessons at the same pace for all students, learning online with an Internet connected computer allows you to control what, where, when and how you learn.
    In terms of rigor and content, interactive online programs offer curriculum that meets or exceeds the standards of what you’ll receive in an on-campus program. Plus, the mobility of a virtual classroom won’t require you to conform to a rigid schedule at a set location – so education can more easily fit into your busy life. For instance, you might spend your lunch hour responding to online discussions or participate in a live video lecture with your professor while you wait for your son to finish soccer practice.
  3. Accelerated Programs
    Universities like CTU also offer an accelerated degree program that lets you complete your bachelor’s degree in three years or less. This involves taking an additional course in each 5.5 week session to move more quickly through your program, attending year-round school 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 learner, those who can make a concentrated commitment to school may find it to be an effective way to earn a quality degree within a preferred time-frame.

What Impacts The Time It Takes To Earn Your Degree?

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

  • Transfer Credit1: In most cases, previously earned college credit and professional experience can be applied toward your bachelor’s degree program. You may also be eligible to receive CTU credit from your military experience, standardized tests. Universities like CTU have dedicated teams to assist students in determining their available transfer credits, so it’s best to speak with a university representative about your eligibility early in your enrollment process.
  • Fast Track™2: You may also be elgiable for CTU’s Fast Track (www.coloradotech.edu/fasttrack), challenge exams that allow you to earn credit for what you already know. For example, a student who transfers credit earned from an associate degree can reduce the time to earn a bachelor’s degree by a year or more.
  • Course Load: You may be able to shorten the time it takes to complete your degree by as much as 6 months 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 achieve satisfactory academic progress – or meet a university’s minimum grade point average (GPA) – are better able to stay on pace to graduate within the fastest time frame allowed. Those who must repeat courses after receiving a non-passing grade or who withdraw from one or more classes may experience a delay in graduation and implications in their financial aid – including out of pocket expense near the end of their program.
  • Periods of Non-Enrollment: Like repeating a course, taking a break from your degree program can affect the length of time it takes to earn your bachelor’s. Before enrolling in a degree program, decide if you are able to commit the next two 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 to protect the credits you’ve earned and develop a plan to re-enter as soon as you can.

Accelerate Your Career With A Ctu Bachelor's Degree

If you are a professional seeking a graduate degree taught by real-world instructors with practical knowledge driven by the demands of today’s employers, explore more than 45 CTU Bachelor’s 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 in as little as 18 months and be on your way to the rewarding career you’ve been striving for.

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

Call: 855.230.0555
Visit: coloradotech.edu/degrees/bachelors


1. Not all credits eligible to transfer. See the university’s catalog regarding CTU’s transfer credit policies.

2. The ability to reduce time in school and/or reduce tuition depends on the number of Fast Track™ tests successfully passed. Fast Track™ program credits are unlikely to transfer. Not all programs are eligible for possible 30% reduction in time and money.

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