Fast degrees offer students an accelerated pathway toward finishing a degree and jump-starting a career. While a typical bachelor’s degree may take four years of full-time study to complete, fast degrees often require as little as one year (certificates) or two years (associate degrees) of focused study to graduate. An accelerated program can even condense the same content as a bachelor’s degree into around two years. This guide explores several fast degree options available that lead to high-paying careers, as well as what students can expect from these programs.
What Are the Types of Fast Degrees That Pay Well?
Four of the most popular high-paying degrees for 2021 include fast degrees in communications, business administration, information technology, and marketing. Each offers multiple career paths into positions that pay well over the median earnings of $41,53510 and can be completed quickly via online programs from accredited schools. Let’s look at each of these programs in more detail.
Associate Degree in Communications
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 14% growth in media and communications jobs over the next 10 years and lists a median annual salary of $61,310 per year for positions such as announcer, interpreter, translator, or technical writer.
An associate degree in communications typically takes two years and trains students to communicate effectively in different media and within broad contexts, offering the ideal entry into these types of positions. Students learn how to:
- Communicate through words, images, and other media
- Create everything from training documents and marketing videos to social media messages and business reports
Accelerated Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration
The BLS forecasts growth in business and finance occupations of 8% by 2030 and reports a median annual wage of up to $72,250 per year1.
A bachelor’s degree in business administration equips students to work in these fields by:
- Preparing students to manage the nuts and bolts of an organization, from human resources and accounting to supply chain management and leadership
- Typically allowing students to focus on a specific aspect of business, such as marketing, accounting, or operations management
- Providing the practical skills organizations look for when hiring new talent
Students can pursue accelerated programs in business administration from several accredited institutions, which can be completed in as little as two years.
Associate Degree in Information Technology
With a degree to prove IT skills, a career in computer and information technology can prove lucrative, thanks in part to the shift to remote work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. From computer network architects to information security analysts, software developers, and computer and information research scientists, graduates with an IT degree can expect careers paying upward of $100,000 per year, with some careers paying as much as $126,830 per year2.
An associate degree in information technology (IT) typically takes two years and supports a career path in these fields by:
- Providing an overview of the many different aspects of information technology
- Teaching the technical skills and applied knowledge needed to move quickly into a professional role
Students typically choose to focus on specific areas of expertise, such as general IT support, software development, or networking.
Accelerated Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing
According to the BLS, a degree in advertising, promotions, and marketing can lead to a median annual salary of $141,4903.
A degree in marketing trains students in the skills needed to effectively develop brands and promote products and services. Students can choose to specialize in a number of different areas of expertise with concentrations including:
- Online marketing
- Consumer behavior
- Decision science
- Market analytics
Accelerated programs are available from several accredited schools and can be completed in as little as two years.
How Can I Use a Fast Degree?
What makes a fast degree so valuable is the fact that each offers multiple options for moving directly from your degree to high-paying work. If you want to get hired quickly in a skilled position, you need valuable skills that employers are willing to pay a premium for.
While a professional career in something like medicine or law requires years of advanced study, students wanting to move into skills-based careers in industries like IT, healthcare, human resources, or digital marketing can get started on a high-paying career path much faster. A certificate, associate degree, or accelerated degree is usually enough to show employers that you have the specialized skills to get started in a skilled career.
Graduates with the job-specific and industry-specific skills these degrees specialize in can also enjoy increasing opportunities for freelance work. In fact, Statista data suggests that 57.3 million4 professionals in the U.S. workforce opt to freelance, and in 2020, 65% of them5 earned more as freelancers than when working for an employer.
Fast Degree Program Courses
Typically, a traditional undergraduate degree program takes four years to complete. Job applicants with a bachelor’s degree often command a higher salary than applicants with no degree, as employers associate this type of qualification with a well-rounded general education and well-developed soft skills.
However, employers today also recognize there are alternative ways for students to demonstrate such expertise and skill, and this includes fast degrees that allow students to develop specialized technical skills and areas of expertise. These fast degree pathways include certificates, associate degrees, and accelerated degrees.
Certificate programs are short, postsecondary academic qualifications that focus on fast, basic career training. They can take anything from a few months to three years to complete. Students can earn certificates at the undergraduate or graduate level.
An associate degree is an undergraduate-level program that aims to provide students with the basic technical and transferable skills as well as theoretical knowledge needed for employment (or additional degrees) in a specific field. Students can transition easily from an associate degree to a bachelor’s degree or move directly into a high-paying career.
An accelerated degree program compresses a typical four-year bachelor’s degree into a shorter space of time by offering shorter classes with greater flexibility to suit students’ needs and schedules. For example, students can cover the same material that would take 16 weeks in a traditional bachelor’s program in as little as five weeks.
Fast Degree Concentrations
Fast degrees offer multiple concentrations, each of which is geared towards helping students quickly develop the expertise needed for fast entry into a high-paying position.
Associate Degree in Communications: Concentrations and Careers
Typical concentrations for an associate degree in communications include digital media, public relations, political communication, and radio/TV/broadcasting. Each offers high-paying options even for entry-level positions, such as:
- Broadcast technician: $40,570 per year6
- Sound engineering technician: $54,740 per year6
- Social media specialist: $56,770 per year6
Students studying for an associate degree in communications typically need to complete a final capstone project or dissertation.
Accelerated Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration: Concentrations and Careers
For an accelerated bachelor’s degree in business administration, degree concentrations can include human resources, healthcare management, accounting, data science, and organizational leadership. Some typical entry-level salaries careers using these concentrations include:
- Budget Analyst: $78,970 per year1
- Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialist: $67,190 per year1
- Human Resources Specialist: $63,490 per year1
For degree completion, students can expect to complete internships, work placements, or industry projects.
Associate Degree in Information Technology: Concentrations and Careers
An associate degree in IT offers many degree concentration options, with some of the most exciting, including game development, information security, and web and applications development. Some of the entry-level options possible for graduates in these concentrations include:
- Computer Support Specialist: $55,550 per year7
- Computer Network Support Specialist: $62,340 per year 7
- Web Developer: $67,990 per year 7
No previous technical experience is needed to enroll in most programs, although strong science and math performance in high school is essential, and additional experience will help your chances of acceptance in more competitive schools. Most programs require students to complete a skills-based capstone project to pass.
Accelerated Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing: Concentrations and Careers
For a bachelor’s degree in marketing, students can choose from concentrations including online marketing, consumer behavior, decision science, and market analytics. Entry-level positions for this degree include:
- Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers: $141,490 per year3
- Market Research Analysts: $65,810 per year8
- Marketing Manager: $154,470 per year9
Many of these programs involve work experience and industry placement opportunities, and these are great for giving you a head start on your career path. Some also enable students to gain professional accreditations from organizations like the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and the Communication Advertising and Marketing Foundation (CAM). Most marketing degrees require either a capstone project or paper as a pass requirement.
How Long Does It Take to Earn Different Types of Fast Degrees?
Students can complete most certificate programs and accelerated degrees in less than a year, and associate degrees is two years on a full-time schedule. For part-time students, all three fast degree types will take longer to complete.
After completing a fast degree, students can increase their salary expectations even higher by completing further degrees. Students can typically complete a master’s degree in an additional two years and a doctoral degree in an additional 2-5 years. Fast degrees offer a quicker route into these advanced qualifications than the typical four-year bachelor’s program.
Discover More About Fast Degree Programs
Q. What is the typical fast degree application process?
For most fast degree programs, expect to complete an online application that includes SAT or ACT test results, GPA, high-school transcripts, your resume, a personal essay or essays, and letters of recommendation.
Q. Are scholarships available for fast degree programs?
Scholarships are typically available for fast degree programs, but competition can be fierce. Ask your high school guidance or career counselor for help, or ask the institution’s admissions office about local and national scholarship options.
Q. Is online learning an option for fast degree programs?
Online and hybrid learning is the norm for many fast degree programs. Online fast degrees offer the same academic and financial benefits as in-person fast degrees but with much more flexibility. The flexibility they offer can help some students to complete these degrees faster than if studying in a traditional campus setting.
Q. How long does a fast degree program take to complete?
Fast degrees can often be completed at a faster pace than traditional degrees. For example, certificate programs can require as little as one year of full-time study, and associate degree programs can take around two years of study. Accelerated programs are also an option, with an accelerated bachelor’s degree program typically taking two years instead of four years to complete.
Can often be completed in as little as one year
Can be completed in two years
Can condense a bachelor’s degree into around two years
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Business and Financial Occupations. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/home.htm
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Computer and Information Technology Occupations. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/advertising-promotions-and-marketing-managers.htm
 Statista Research Department. (2021, January 21). Gig economy in the U.S. – Statistics & Facts. Statista. https://www.statista.com/topics/4891/gig-economy-in-the-us/
 Statista Research Department. (2021, May 11). Wage comparison of freelancing to employer jobs in the U.S. 2020. Statista. https://www.statista.com/topics/4891/gig-economy-in-the-us/ https://www.statista.com/statistics/1128174/wage-comparison-freelancing-employer-jobs-us/
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. (n.d.). Media, Arts and Communications Occupations. https://www.bls.gov/k12/teachers/posters/pdf/media-arts-communications.pdf
 Torpey, E. (2018, November). Employment outlook for occupations requiring an associate’s degree, certificate, or some college. Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2018/article/postsecondary-outlook.htm
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Market Research Analysts. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/market-research-analysts.htm
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2020: Marketing Managers. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes112021.htm
 Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021). Income and Poverty in the United States: 2020. https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2021/demo/p60-273.html