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Can I get an associate degree in less than two years?

    An associate degree is often labeled a “two-year degree” as it usually requires 60 credits. While this degree takes most college students two years, completing it in less than two years is possible – it might just require some additional legwork and planning. If this is something you’re considering, keep in mind that while it’s possible to complete the degree in less than two years, this choice isn’t for everyone.

    Continue reading to learn more about an associate degree and how you can complete the degree in less than two years if you ultimately decide to pursue this.

    What’s an associate degree?

    An associate degree is a two-year college degree that you can receive from a community college, junior college, online university, and some four-year institutions in the U.S.

    Regarding what education level to expect from the degree, think of it as falling between a high school diploma and a bachelor's degree. Students can pursue different paths after receiving an associate degree, such as transferring into a bachelor’s degree program at a four-year college or university or going directly into the workforce.

    The classes you must take to receive an associate degree usually include general education classes and introductory courses in a particular field of study or academic discipline. Some associate degrees, of note, are more specialized and geared towards professional aspirations, while others are more geared towards general knowledge. Some associate level courses may overlap with the lower-level courses in a bachelor’s degree program.

    How many credits do I need to complete to receive an associate degree?

    You’ll generally need 60 credits to receive an associate's degree, although that can vary by school and program. Keep in mind that most college courses are worth three credits, although they can sometimes be worth four or five credits if there’s a lab component to them. Check with your school for the exact requirements of the degree.

    Is it possible to receive an associate degree in less than two years?

    The short answer is yes, although it will likely require some preparation and additional work on your part. Here are some tips to consider if you want to obtain an associate degree in less than two years.

    Take Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high school (if possible)

    Did you know you might be able to take classes in high school that can later translate into college credits? High school juniors and seniors are sometimes able to take AP classes.

    Following the courses, there will be exams to complete and pass. Students who pass AP classes and exams will not only satisfy high school requirements but, in some cases, will graduate high school with college credits in hand. Not all colleges and universities accept AP credits, so check with the schools you’re considering to see if this will be possible. If it’s a possibility, you can use these credits as an avenue to potentially graduate early.

    Overload your semester and take the maximum number of courses you can

    The average college student takes around 15 college credits a semester (at most colleges, that’s roughly five classes a semester). If you can increase the number of credits you’re taking a semester from 15 to 18 (that would usually involve enrolling in an extra class), you might be able to accumulate credits quicker to complete your associate degree ahead of schedule.

    Enroll in winter or summer courses (or both)

    Most schools, including community colleges, offer summer and winter classes. Since these classes are offered during a shorter session, they’re condensed. This means instead of having a full four months to learn the material, you’re going to have to do so in a matter of weeks.

    Most colleges allow students to take between six to 12 credits in the summer session and three to four credits during the winter session. This is yet another avenue to pursue to graduate ahead of schedule potentially.

    Final thoughts

    While most students take two years to complete their associate degree program, it’s possible to complete the degree on a condensed schedule. It’s not going to be easy — in fact, it will take a lot of hard work — but getting an associate degree in less than two years is possible.