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What is an accelerated computer science degree?

An accelerated computer science degree can help you reach your educational goals faster — and it means entering the workforce in less time.
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Written by Genevieve Carlton, Contributing Writer on
Reviewed by Lonnie Woods III

What is an accelerated computer science degree? In an accelerated program, computer science majors meet the same graduation requirements as traditional programs. However, they progress through the program faster. 

That can mean finishing your degree months or even years faster than in a traditional program.

Accelerated programs require focus and dedication. But for students who thrive in that environment, that commitment pays off. Majors complete their degree in less time. They also see the payoff of their degree sooner. An accelerated CS degree can jumpstart your tech career or help you advance in your current role.

How does an accelerated computer science degree work?

You'll meet your graduation requirements in less time in an accelerated computer science program. How does that work? 

Some programs offer up to six terms a year. This format lets you make progress toward your degree faster. In other programs, you might take one class at a time on an accelerated schedule. 

Because each college formats its accelerated programs differently, research your potential schools' formats.

You can earn an accelerated computer science degree online or in person. An online format appeals to busy students who require a more flexible schedule. Others prefer in-person interaction during an on-campus program. Students can also enroll in hybrid programs, which include online and on-campus classes.

What kinds of accelerated computer science degrees are there?

Programs offer accelerated degrees in several formats. Depending on the school, you might take courses on an accelerated schedule, complete more credits each year, or earn two degrees simultaneously. 

Accelerated degree 

Single-degree accelerated programs come in several formats at the undergraduate and graduate levels. 

If you're earning an accelerated computer science degree online, you might take one or two classes at a time on an accelerated timeline. That means focusing on a subject intensively for around eight weeks before moving on to the next class. 

Accelerated programs may also require summer classes or winter-term classes so that majors complete more than the typical 30 credits per year. For example, in an accelerated master's program, you can earn a degree in 12-18 months. 

Finally, degree-completion programs also offer an accelerated pathway to a degree. Transfer students with prior credits or an associate degree can earn a bachelor's degree in one to two years with a degree-completion program.

Dual-degree programs

Dual-degree programs let students earn their bachelor's and master's degree on an accelerated timeline. 

Many computer science dual degrees operate as a "4+1 program." That means students complete a bachelor's degree in four years while adding one extra year to earn a master's degree. Earning a bachelor's and a computer science master's in a non-4+1 program typically takes six years.

These programs appeal to students who know they want a master's degree. As part of the bachelor's coursework, you'll take graduate courses that meet degree requirements for both degrees. That saves you time and money on earning your undergraduate and graduate degrees in computer science.

How hard is an accelerated computer science degree?

An accelerated computer science degree challenges majors. During an accelerated program, learners move through material quickly. You may complete courses in five to eight weeks instead of 15.

Computer science programs challenge majors to apply programming knowledge and complete rigorous projects. In particular, students without a background in computer science may struggle with an accelerated format. 

However, certain soft skills will help you succeed in accelerated programs. Strong problem-solving skills, organization, and self-motivation all make a difference. So do creative thinking and a dedication to the field.

Is an accelerated computer science degree right for me?

Accelerated programs offer many pros and cons. Is an accelerated CS degree a good fit for you? 

Consider the following factors and decide whether an accelerated program makes sense for your unique circumstances.

Pros 

  • Accelerated programs help you earn a degree faster, potentially limiting the amount of time and money spent in school.

  • You'll enter the computer science job market sooner than students in a traditional program, which can mean increasing your earning potential sooner.

  • If you have prior experience in computer science, an accelerated program helps you put your skills to the test in an engaging format. 

  • Accelerated programs maximize your time, so you'll make progress toward your degree throughout the year rather than taking long breaks from school.

Cons

  • If you struggle to master a concept, you can quickly fall behind during an accelerated program.

  • Accelerated programs often use shorter breaks between terms, which means less time reviewing concepts or preparing for the next term.

  • Working students may not be able to manage professional responsibilities while enrolled in an accelerated program.

  • Fewer schools offer accelerated computer science degrees, which means fewer options, particularly for those seeking a certain specialization.

This article was reviewed by Lonnie Woods III

A head-and-shoulders photo of a Black man wearing large glasses, a black turtleneck, and a gray vest.

Lonnie Woods III is a student affairs administrator, professor, and professional development consultant whose work and research examine the career competencies of students interested in pursuing artistic careers or those studying arts-related majors in college. 

He has 10-plus years of experience working in education with professional experience spanning various institutions, including Pratt Institute, Maryland Institute College of Art, Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York University, The George Washington University, and The Whitney Museum of American Art. Woods holds a bachelor of science in fine art photography from Towson University and a master of arts in higher education and student affairs from New York University. Woods currently serves as a professor within the arts administration master's program at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Lonnie Woods III is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network. 

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