A degree completion program is designed for students who left or dropped out of college before completing their four-year degree. These unique academic programs allow students to finish the required classes to earn a degree, but most schools require a set number of credits before students can apply.

Accreditation

Almost all degree completion programs only accept credits from accredited programs, such as those that are recognized by regional agencies, such as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, or national agencies, such as the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DETC). There are also independent accrediting bodies that maintain national standards for specific areas of study. For example, education accrediting agencies include the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council and Committee (TEACC).

Health Care accrediting agencies include the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) and the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation. When it comes to the arts and humanities, there are the National Associations of Schools of Art, Design, Dance and Music. When selecting a degree completion program, pay attention to how the target school accepts credits. Some unscrupulous degree programs will promise credits based on any previous work or life experiences.

What are the Advantages?

Degree completion programs come with both pros and cons. For example, they often use shorter class periods of terms or quarters that take anywhere from five to 10 weeks to complete. Traditional degree programs use semesters, so each course takes longer time to complete. Full-time students in traditional bachelor’s degree programs usually take 10 to 12 credits per semesters, so these programs are completed in approximately four years.

In contrast, degree completion programs require that students complete the same amount of coursework in one to three years. To accomplish this, courses are continually offered throughout the year and take an average of eight weeks to complete. Students who are organized and productive will be able to maintain a good grade average and quickly earn their degree.

What are the Disadvantages?

At first glance, being able to accomplish more in less time is a good thing, but there are disadvantages to this as well. This means that students with families and full-time work positions will be hard pressed to maintain intense academic schedules. Many accelerated degree programs offer blended course curricula, so about half of the student’s time is spent in classrooms and the other half is for various online activities, such as readings, assignments and discussion forums.

Not all students prefer the online education format and some depend on hands-on classroom instruction in order to learn the materials. Most degree completion programs cost less than traditional programs and come with flexible scheduling options that accommodate non-traditional students. However, these programs rarely offer substantive financial aid. In combat this, prospective students should seek to transfer as many previous credits as possible into the new program.

Overall, a degree completion program is an excellent option for students to complete their bachelor’s degree while continuing to work and meet personal commitments.