An associate's degree is a two-year degree, typically offered at community colleges. Through tests and dual-credit courses taken when you are in high school, you can earn credit for courses without having to take them. Summer and winter break courses can also speed up the time it takes for you to get your associate's degree.
Take dual-credit or Advanced Placement courses if you are still in high school. High schools often partner with local community colleges and universities to offer basic college-level courses to juniors and seniors in high school. You will receive both college and high school credit for each course you pass. If you pass the Advanced Placement exam in each AP class you take, you can earn credit for basic college courses as well. Each college sets its own minimum score it will accept on AP exams.
Take "minimester" courses during the winter breaks while you are in college. These are usually intense three-week long classes in a variety of subjects that offer the full credit a semester-long course would. These classes usually meet five days a week for a few hours each day, so allocate enough time in your schedule over the holiday to study for the class. Take classes over summer breaks as well to finish your degree faster.
Take CLEP tests. These tests are offered by individual colleges in a variety of subjects. You can study for a particular exam or take it without studying if you are familiar with the subject matter. The College-Level Exam Program offers over 30 tests for college credit. Each college allows you to get a certain amount of credit by exam. As of 2010, the fee for each exam is $77, not inclusive of administrative fees charged by individual colleges. Each test can provide from three to 12 hours of college credit.
Contact your college's admissions department about getting credit for classes based on your life and work experience. If you have a significant amount of experience in a particular field, your college may grant you credit based on it. You will need to prepare a portfolio of proof of your experience such as certificates of training.
Attend classes online. Online courses are usually shorter, and their scheduling is generally more flexible than traditional courses.
Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.