Accelerated Degrees: Helping Adults Meet Economic and Workplace Challenges

With the current state of the economy and the increasing demand for a more educated workforce, a record number of adults are heading back to the classroom to further their education. Now, more adults are able to do it faster and more economically through accelerated degrees.

Accelerated degrees allow students to fast track their educations, earning their degree in sometimes as little as 12 months. It is a concept that is especially appealing — and specifically tailored — to adult learners who often have a family and a job with very little extra time on their hands.

The curriculum in accelerated degree programs is compressed. Instead of a traditional four-year degree where a student may take a 1.5-hour class four days a week, students in accelerated degrees programs often take a four-hour class once a week. Classes are more likely to be offered at more convenient times, like evenings or weekends, and often times can be done online from the comfort of their own homes. Students in these programs often end up taking fewer classes because previous college credits are more easily transferred. Accelerated degree programs are offered year-round to help expedite learning and get students into the workforce faster.

Another huge advantage of an accelerated degree, particularly in this economy, is the cost savings, which can easily add up to thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars.

A Growth in Popularity
Accelerated degrees are not a new concept, but their popularity and availability have been increasing in recent years. Rasmussen College, which has multiple campuses in Minnesota, Illinois, North Dakota, Florida, and Wisconsin, as well as an online division, launched its first two AcceleratED Bachelor’s Degree Completion programs in October 2011, leading with specializations in Marketing and Human Resources/Organizational Leadership. Earlier this year Rasmussen College expanded AcceleratED, launching two new programs in its online Bachelor’s Degree Completion Program portfolio — International Business and Business Systems Analysis. These programs are designed specifically to help adult students quickly and affordably complete their Bachelor’s degree.

The popularity has also increase thanks in large part to the economy and President Obama’s American Graduation Initiative. As part of that initiative, announced in July 2009, President Obama challenged colleges to come up with innovative ideas to help an additional 5M Americans earn degrees and certificates in the next decade. His goal is to have the world’s largest share of college graduates by 2020, a distinction currently held by Canada.

Partnering to Create Programs
To make that happen, President Obama suggested businesses and colleges partner together to create programs that the match curricula in the classroom to real-life needs and available positions in the workplace. For example, Rasmussen College recently partnered with Knowledge Universe to provide a specialized, nine-month, online, early childhood development training program developed for Kindercare and Knowledge Beginnings employees preparing to earn their Child Development Associates credential (CDA).

The President also encouraged virtual learning as a solution to the limited brick-and-mortar classroom space and as a way to accommodate the busy lives of the growing number of adult learners.

He says the need for more college graduates is imperative in order to keep pace with the global economy. It has also become crucial for Americans who want to increase their income and remain employable in an increasingly competitive market.

Higher Education Is Increasingly Required

By 2018, it’s estimated that nearly two-thirds of the nation’s jobs will require some post-secondary education or training. Not only that, but recent studies have shown the demand for college-educated workers will grow by as much as 16 percent over the next seven years. The industries with the most expected growth during that time period require a post-secondary education.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, industries with the fastest growth rate between now and 2020 are nursing, which is expected to grow by 26 percent; and computer science and mathematics, which are close behind with a 22 percent growth rate; and accounting and auditing, at 15 percent.

While slowly improving, unemployment numbers are still high and the labor market remains weak. Many adults who once felt secure and confident in their jobs have found themselves a casualty of the recession. According to the latest Labor Department statistics, of the 5.3M unemployed Americans, 42.5 percent have been jobless for at least 27 weeks, and many much longer.

More and more adults have become proactive about their situation, turning to accelerated degrees to either advance or enhance their current career or to gain a degree in an entirely new and more promising field, such as nursing. By 2020, it is expected that more than 700,000 new nursing jobs will be filled. Research by Rasmussen College found between 2004 and 2010, enrollment in accelerated nursing degree programs has more than doubled, and the number of those graduating from these programs has more than tripled.

According to a survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 2 percent of people claim to be working in the occupation they had planned when they were 18 years old. In fact, it found the average American makes three to five career changes by the time they are 38. As qualification requirements for jobs become more rigid, accelerated degree programs help make those career changes possible, and often times, more fruitful. In our fast-paced, technology-driven society, accelerated degrees have proven a successful way for both colleges and adults learners to keep pace and meet the increasing demands put upon them.

Michelle Knoll is a freelance writer based out of the Twin Cities with more than 15 years experience writing for local media outlets and other various organizations. She can be reached at [email protected]