Master’s degrees are the fastest-growing segment of higher education today, particularly online master’s degrees. While about a third of Americans have bachelor’s degrees, fewer than 10% have master’s degrees. However, that number is more than 40% higher than it was less than a decade ago – when it was just 5%. American workers and professionals are feeling the pressure to compete, and earning a master’s degree is still key to making a mark on the job market, and advancing in a professional career. To do it, they’re looking for a fast master’s degree online.

Who’s Looking for the Quickest Master’s Degree Online?

Today, the primary audience for the fastest master’s degree online is working adults – professionals who already have a bachelor’s and years of experience, technical workers who have the skill but not the degree, wage workers who want to move into management, and blue-collar workers who have the drive to switch their collar to white. There are no shortage of good reasons to get a master’s degree – more opportunity for advancement, higher pay, change of career – but there’s also a pressure to get it done quickly. Traditional master’s degree programs typically take 2-3 years. Time is money, as they say, and the longer it takes to get the degree, the longer you’re not getting those benefits.

Many returning adult students will choose an on-campus master’s degree for the support and community they provide, and if you learn better in that setting, that’s what’s important. But it’s becoming much more common for adult students to choose an online master’s degree program. Working adults, especially those who are already in the field they’re studying (say, a low-level manager who wants a master’s in project management) already know the basics of the profession, and have their support network at work – they just need the credential, not the hand-holding. For them, the quickest master’s degree online is the ticket – the faster, the better.

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Online Programs: Built for Speed (and Convenience)

Getting a fast master’s degree online sounds great, but just how fast can you get a master’s degree? That all depends. The fastest master’s degree online may be as little as a few months – you can find, in fact, a 9 month master’s degree online, or even 6 month master’s degree online. But there are some important qualifications there; the shortest master’s degree programs are able to cut off a lot of credits by transferring previous classes, and giving credit for work experience, so that 6 month master’s degree online will only work for a select few.

Twelve month degrees are much more common than 6 or 9 month master’s degree programs, and much more attainable. It’s still a fast master’s degree, too. In a lot of cases, 1 year master’s degree programs also require a good amount of experience and possibly some transfer credits, but they make for some of the shortest master’s degree programs by using accelerated courses. Typically, accelerated courses will be somewhere between 4 and 8 weeks long; 6 week accelerated courses are common. For 1 year master’s degree programs online, short, self-paced courses help working professionals knock out their degree on their own time. That’s how the fastest master’s degree online does it.

Whether you go for the 6 month master’s degree, the 9 month master’s degree, or the 1 year master’s degree online, preparation is everything. Know what you’re getting into when you choose a master’s degree program. The shortest master’s degree programs will not be so short if you need prerequisites, or if your schedule will not accommodate accelerated courses. Without careful planning, you could find the quickest master’s degree online takes way longer than you expected. But when you find the right program to suit your need for speed, you may see a bounce in your career before your next birthday.