Guide to 5-Week Online College Courses and Colleges with Accelerated Courses

Guide to 5-Week Online College Courses and Colleges with Accelerated Courses
Imed Bouchrika, Phd by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

Most Americans continue to believe that it is important to pursue higher education after high school. In fact, research from the think tank New America shows that 30% of survey participants believe family members need to complete at least a Bachelor’s degree to ensure financial security (New America, 2022). However, finishing a baccalaureate degree is a costly investment, particularly in the United States.

This is why more students are opting to pursue higher education through online degrees. Recent college enrollment statistics indicate that the number of college students who enroll in online courses continues to increase each year. Online courses can be a faster and more affordable route to completing a college degree, especially if you opt for 5-week online college courses. These allow you to fast-track your degree completion by compressing a full term’s coursework into just five weeks, so, you can finish the program in approximately half of the time.

Five-week online courses have many advantages but also require strong focus, determination, and discipline. This guide provides an overview of 5-week college courses and important insights into how you can apply for them and how you can benefit from them.

5-Week Online College Courses Table of Contents

  1. What are 5-week online college courses?
  2. Universities that Offer 5-Week Online College Courses
  3. Pros and Cons of Accelerated Online Degrees
  4. Will employers accept my accelerated online degree?
  5. What are the requirements of a 5-week online college course?

What are 5-week online college courses?

Today, many higher education institutions offer accelerated degree programs that include 5-week online college courses. Accelerated courses allow students to earn their diplomas faster than the traditional timeline. This is because accelerated programs, also known as fast-track programs, cover the same amount of coursework as traditional degree programs but in a much more condensed and rigorous format.

A fast-track program is not available in all colleges and universities, and the schools that do offer these programs do not always have accelerated degrees for all majors or concentrations. It is best to first check which institutions and what accelerated programs and courses are offered online. In recent years, some of the most popular online accelerated bachelor’s degrees include business administration, communications, marketing, nursing, and psychology.

Learning methods are typically asynchronous and classes are offered throughout the whole school year. Students are expected to learn and absorb information quickly and submit course requirements with fast turnaround times.

Many students choose five-week courses because they want to save time and money. The faster you complete your degree, the quicker you can transition to a new career or a higher-level and better-paying position in your current profession. Others also have plans to pursue further studies and want to accomplish a master’s degree or doctorate in a shorter amount of time. Some students changed majors or transferred schools and do not want to add another year or so to their schooling to catch up with their new curriculum, finish their degree, and join the workforce.

A report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2022) points out that education reduces unemployment and that higher educational attainment boosts earnings. Data from a 2021 Current Population Survey shows that full-time workers over the age of 25 with graduate degrees earned the most and had the lowest unemployment rates. On the other hand, workers who attained less than a high school diploma earned the lowest wages and had the highest unemployment rate (U.S. BLS, 2022). It comes as no surprise that many Americans are still willing to invest in postsecondary education as they hold on to its promise of a brighter future.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022

How fast can I get my degree with 5-week online college courses?

A five-week online college course lets you finish your degree in three or two years, and in some cases, even less. However, the speed at which you finish an accelerated program depends on several factors.

Aside from the availability of fast-track programs for your degree, you can ask the school if it has certain Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) criteria to further speed up your degree completion. For example, some institutions accept transferable credits from a previous school and coursework. Your results on certain standardized tests can also be considered as credit for prior learning. They may also assess significant life or work experiences, including your employment history, military service, and volunteer work, and add that to your credits as well. You might also have advanced placement courses from your high school education that can also be credited.

Through a PLA, schools can help you calculate how many prior learning credits qualify to count toward your degree and deduct those from your current coursework. This will allow you to determine how many more credits you need to finish your accelerated online degree. Whatever the results are, it will certainly be less time compared to what you would spend if you enrolled in classes for a traditional degree during a regular college semester.

Is an accelerated degree program more difficult than a traditional one?

Generally, you are required to take the same courses for your major whether you enroll in an online fast-track degree program or a traditional one, so one is not necessarily easier than the other when referring to coursework and class requirements. The difficulty, perhaps, is in having to complete the classes in a shorter timeframe. This can be challenging for some people, but fast-paced learners and determined students can take on the heavier workload.

Some schools also limit the coursework of a five-week program, allowing students to take only two to three classes at a time. This can help online learners to focus their attention on these courses and manage their time better. A traditional degree program (whether online or in-person), on the other hand, typically requires students to take five classes during one term.

Regarding learning methods, a traditional on-campus degree program typically uses cohort-based models. Students have to move through the course program at the same pace. Meanwhile, accelerated online programs encourage self-paced, asynchronous learning where students have more independence and flexibility in finishing their coursework.

Many researchers have conducted studies to determine which method and mode of learning promotes better student retention. New data indicates that learning retention is not based solely on the method or mode of learning but also on a student’s intelligence and characteristics. For example, a paper published in Emerald Insight titled “Student retention in higher education: the role of creativity, emotional intelligence and learner autonomy,” found that “creativity, emotional intelligence and learner autonomy positively affect students’ retention. The findings also indicate that there is a strong relationship between emotional intelligence and learner autonomy.” The authors added that their findings assume “that the study indicators might lead to students’ retention and that autonomous learners persevere toward academic goals” (Alsharari N.M. and Alshurideh M.T., 2020).

Ultimately, today’s students know there is more than one way to complete their degrees faster if they remain focused and determined. Online learning just happens to be an increasingly popular option right now. So much so that 8.6 million college students were exclusively enrolled in distance education courses through tertiary education institutions in the United States in the fall of 2020 (Statista, 2022).

distance education enrollees

Universities that Offer 5-Week Online College Courses

1. East Coast Polytechnic Institute (ECPI) University

East Coast Polytechnic Institute (ECPI) University is a regionally accredited university in Virginia, North Carolina. It is known for offering accelerated degree programs in technology and healthcare. The school claims that the average time of graduation for its accelerated program students is 2.5 years for a traditional four-year degree. Tuition ranges from about $6,480 to $10,912.50. You can receive up to 75% transfer credits for prior education and experience. Online learners can access live virtual instruction, the ECPI mobile app, and a virtual lab.

Popular accelerated courses:

  • Computer and Information Science
  • Systems Engineering
  • Nursing

2. Gwynedd Mercy University

Gwynedd Mercy University, also known as GMercyU for short, is a private university in Gwynedd Township, Pennsylvania. It offers online and on-campus accelerated five-week undergraduate programs in business and nursing. Tuition varies depending on your major, but it can range from $300 to $500 per credit unit for online undergraduate accelerated degrees. GMercyU has several financial aid programs and allows up to 75 qualifying transfer credits from a student’s prior college or university.

Popular accelerated courses:

  • Organizational Management
  • Nursing
  • Health Administration

3. Western Governors University

Western Governors University (WGU) is a private fully online university that has earned recognition for its distance learning programs. WGU offers a flat rate for their and allows its students to complete a course as soon as they master it. In this way, students can learn and save more. It accepts transfer credits that will first undergo screening and they have an accelerated Information Technology program that lets you earn your bachelor’s and master’s degree at the same time.

Popular accelerated courses:

  • IT
  • Business
  • Healthcare

4. American Intercontinental University

American Intercontinental University, called AIU for short, is a private for-profit university that claims its accelerated programs can help you earn a bachelor’s in only nine months. You can transfer up to 75% of qualified credits, including work or military experience. A full-time bachelor’s degree student can expect to pay $345 per credit unit. You can choose from one of 40 flexible online degree programs and specializations with coursework that offers adaptive learning methods.

Popular accelerated courses:

  • Management
  • Accounting
  • One Year MBA

5. Indiana Weslayan University

Indiana Weslayan University (IWU) is a private Christian university that offers more than 160 online programs with the more famous ones being Elementary Education and Teaching and Nursing. You can check out IWU’s Free Course Trial to try its online learning platform and style of online education. The university allows up to 75% of transfer credits for undergraduate degrees and certificates and up to 35% for graduate degrees and certificates. A semester’s total tuition and fees can add up to about $14,842.

Popular accelerated courses:

  • General Studies
  • Nursing
  • Biblical Studies

Pros and Cons of Accelerated Online Degrees

As previously discussed, there are pros and cons to fast-tracked online degree programs. With careful and early planning, those who are considering accelerated college courses that are as compact and rigorous as five-week courses can successfully complete their higher education in a shorter time. Consider these advantages and disadvantages when assessing if an accelerated course program is for you.


  • More enrollment schedules. Many five-week online courses and accelerated degree programs accept enrollees year-round. You do not have to wait for the start of a traditional semester, and you can immediately enroll in another course as soon as you master one fast-track class.
  • Reduced costs. Most online courses are cheaper compared to in-person classes with accelerated bachelor’s programs, ranging from $300 to $600 per credit unit (ZDNET, 2022). Since you can complete your degree faster and with fewer required credits if you qualify for prior learning credits, you can expect to spend less on tuition. According to New America (2022), 54% of Americans agree that it is still possible to get an affordable high-quality education after high school, while 47% disagree.
  • Faster education and career advancement. Completing your degree faster allows you to join the workforce earlier. You are also bringing a more competitive resume with a higher education degree under your belt, so, you can apply for better-paying jobs. Fast-tracking your undergraduate degree allows you to also start and finish your graduate studies in a shorter timeframe. Online education statistics indicate that more students are studying online for their master’s or doctorate so you will not have much difficulty adjusting if you follow that path.
  • Better flexibility. Most five-week courses are self-paced and asynchronous, making it easier for students who have families or work to accomplish their class assignments and projects at their preferred speed and schedule.


  • Heavier workloads. Five-week online courses are compacted so the workload tends to be heavier. This can be overwhelming for some students who have to juggle their classes with work and family life.
  • Requires fast-paced learning. Fast-paced learning is not for everyone. Students who are more comfortable with taking breaks between semesters and with becoming more familiar with class material may find five-week courses quite challenging.
  • Needs high levels of self-discipline and self-motivation. Due to the nature of the program, there could be more limited interaction between you and your instructors in a five-week online course. Staying on top of your classwork lies mostly in your discipline and self-motivation.
  • Less face-to-face interaction. There will be very limited opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities in your school and to interact with your peers and professors even online.

Online learners who are serious about completing their degrees must carefully consider these challenges when weighing the pros and cons of accelerated higher education programs. A research article titled “Persistence and time challenges in an open online university: a case study of the experiences of first-year learners,” published in the International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education mentions that “Student persistence in the first year of studies is a crucial concern in online higher education.” The authors add that there are high dropout rates in online higher education (OHE), thus “it is paramount to understand the time challenges that affect student persistence in their foundational year to foster retention.” Some of the crucial challenges mentioned in the research article were “time management skills or procrastination, life circumstances, unrealistic expectations, and lack of prior OHE experience. Time pressure and conflicts were commonplace, and the struggle to juggle study time with multiple priorities was seen as the main difficulty” (Meneses J. & Xavier M., 2022).

Source: New America, 2022

Will employers accept my accelerated online degree?

In the past, accelerated learning programs were considered controversial due to the belief that they lacked the breadth and depth to produce consistent educational value. Today’s accelerated college programs are more advanced and are taught by respected and recognized faculty. Moreover, many prestigious universities offer accelerated degrees.

Generally, graduates of fast-track degree programs should not have to worry about employers being concerned that they finished their degrees faster. Hiring trends indicate that employers tend to focus more on your major, your highest level of education, and the skills that you bring to the company.

If you can successfully finish an accelerated online degree, you can also hone skills that are valuable to employers. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (2022) reports that the top attributes employers seek in a candidate’s resume include a strong work ethic (52.4%), problem-solving skills (61.4%), and technical skills (50%)—abilities you should already have and further develop when working on a fast-tracked online degree program.

Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2022

What are the requirements of a 5-week online college course?

The admission requirements for 5-week online college courses are generally the same as traditional ones. There are some schools, though, that require enrollees in their accelerated programs to have certain pre-learning credits or relevant work experience, particularly if applicants plan to finish their bachelor’s degree in two years or less. Some of the basic requirements include:

Admissions Requirements

  • Official transcripts. Schools usually require your official transcripts from high school and any postsecondary institution you attended so they can check if you have any transferable credits and if you meet the minimum number of completed credits to proceed with the coursework. Some higher education institutions are quite particular and only accept credits from accredited schools, so make sure you check before applying for an accelerated program.
  • Educational or work accomplishments. There are schools that only accept accelerated degree applicants who have completed an associate’s program or who have work experience in a relevant field. Some may consider volunteer work and military service as experiences worth adding to your credits
  • Application forms and letters. In your application form, try to be as comprehensive as possible in detailing any valuable life experiences (work, education, personal) that can provide a good background on why you would make a good candidate for a fast-track degree program with five-week courses. You should also be prepared to submit letters of recommendation, preferably from academic advisors, employers, and teachers who know you well.

Skills Requirements

  • Self-starter. As previously mentioned, you will be working mostly independently when getting an online accelerated degree. Students who thrive in these settings are those who can think independently and are self-motivated. There are times when you won’t be able to communicate immediately with your instructor, so you need to rely on your creativity and resourcefulness to overcome hurdles you might encounter in your coursework.
  • Time management. You will be working on a tight class schedule so organization and discipline are a must. Some students might even be working full-time jobs or taking care of a partner or family members while studying for their accelerated degree. You need to constantly be aware of deadlines and work out a schedule that allows you to focus and finish your classwork on time.
  • Computer literacy. Some schools require you to have hardware and software that meet their specifications, especially if they are using a particular learning management system that has certain features. Aside from that, online students are expected to be skilled in operating computers and using the internet to accomplish the coursework. Digital literacy is a highly sought-after skill among employers. You might be surprised to know that 80% of middle-skill jobs require digital skills yet one-third of US workers have limited or no digital skills (Digital US Coalition, 2020). There is a need to quickly improve the digital literacy of the US workforce to meet the demand for digital skills.

US digital resiliency

Are 5-week online college courses for you?

With enough research and preparation, you can find five-week online courses for accelerated degrees with bright job outlooks, especially since more good colleges and universities are offering these fast-track programs to first-time and continuing students. Ultimately, the biggest decision you will make is if you are ready to take on five-week college classes.

If price and speed are top considerations when you are deciding how to proceed with your education goals, you might also look into alternatives such as short specialized courses, certifications, and professional licenses or certificates. However, if you feel you are prepared to take on the challenge and reap the rewards of a five-week college course to complete your degree, make sure to find a reputable school and a credible program.


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Find The Best Degree Match

Get personalized degree recommendations that will help you find a program that will match your goals and dreams.

The website is funded by advertising. All school search, finder, and match results, as well as featured or trusted partner programs, are for schools who pay us. Our school rankings, resource guides, or any other editorially impartial content on our website are unaffected by the compensation we receive.