If you want to earn a reputable bachelor’s degree from a university, you may think you know your options: traditional on-campus or online education.
But there’s a third choice: self-paced, competency-based education (CBE) where students progress based on learning—independent of traditional semester schedules. This format is ideal for those who want to earn a fast, online degree.
In traditional semester-based programs, a bachelor’s degree completion program generally takes two or more years to finish even if you go back to school full time. Compare that to a self-paced, CBE program, such as the UW Flexible Option offered by University of Wisconsin System campuses, where your pace is truly up to you. In this format, it is possible to complete a degree in 12 months.
But could you do it? Here are four signs that you are a good candidate to earn a degree in just one year.
1. You’re ready to put in the work.
Completing a degree in 12 months is possible, and we can point to UW Flexible Option graduates who have done it. However, word to the wise: it’s challenging.
You will likely need to dedicate 30 to 40 hours to your studies each week. In fact, if your goal is to finish in one year, you might want to think about your studies like you would a full-time job.
Keep in mind that some students who complete their degrees this fast work part-time or are deployed overseas. Others have been in their fields for a long time and can apply a wealth of existing knowledge to their studies. If you are in a situation like this or can otherwise find the time to commit to school, then this accelerated pace might be a good fit for you.
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Download an introductory guide (PDF) to the self-paced, competency-based UW Flexible Option programs, including details about costs, admission requirements, and more.
2. You have a lot of college credit already—around 60 to 80 credits.
If you have no college credit and need to complete a full bachelor’s degree (i.e. typically around 120 credits), that’s going to be nearly impossible in 12 months. However, if you have previous college credit you can apply to the degree—as much as 60 to 80 credits—you could be well-positioned to graduate in one year.
Once you have an official transfer credit evaluation completed through the campus that offers the degree, you’ll know for sure how many credits you will need to graduate with your chosen bachelor’s degree.
3. You are considering a self-paced, competency-based program.
CBE is a higher education model where students progress based on learning, not time spent in a classroom. One example of a CBE education model is UW Flexible Option, offered by the University of Wisconsin System institutions, which offers online degree and certificate programs that give busy adults the flexibility they need to complete a credential. The pace that you go is up to you, not an instructor. As soon as you master learning material on a particular subject, you complete an assessment to prove your knowledge, then move on to the next “competency” or assessment.
Here are more ways CBE makes a 12-month degree more attainable:
- You can start any month. No waiting for the next semester.
- You don’t waste time studying things you already know. You can apply existing knowledge to your studies and potentially leverage it to progress faster.
- With the three-month “All You Can Learn” subscription period option, you can complete two or more competency sets (similar to courses) each term. And if you progress faster than anticipated, you can decide to master additional competency sets throughout the three months.
4. You have the capacity to complete one or two courses per month.
The average number of competency sets (or, courses) you would need to complete each month to earn your degree in 12 months depends heavily on how much eligible transfer credit you have. But, here’s how the math works out if you need to complete 40, 50, or 60 credit equivalents in 12 months for a typical bachelor’s degree requiring 120 credits for completion.
You transfer in 80 credits. You need 40.
You would need to complete
3 credits = 1 competency set
You transfer in 70 credits. You need 50.
You would need to complete
4 credits = 1-2 competency sets
You transfer in 60 credits. You need 60.
You would need to complete
5 credits = 1-2 competency sets
Note: Sometimes the math isn’t easy. For example, some of your credit may transfer in, but it might not satisfy a particular discipline requirement. So, there’s a possibility you would need additional coursework. It’s important that you talk about your transfer credit in-depth with your Academic Success Coach.
Go for a 12-Month Degree, But Know You Can Slow Down
You want a degree fast. That’s fantastic. But if you do have the luxury of slowing down, know that at any point, you can choose to do so in a UW Flexible Option degree program. It was designed to be flexible for those who need to go lightening fast as well as those who are extremely busy and need to take their studies at a steadier pace.
Your ideal study pace is something you should discuss with your Academic Success Coach, who will guide and help you throughout the UW Flexible Option program.
Your next step?
Explore the degree and certificate programs offered through University of Wisconsin Flexible Option.