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Often the thought of pursuing higher education seems expensive and slow, especially for busy working professionals wishing to pursue a degree.

Thankfully, getting a degree doesn't have to be a long, drawn-out process. With the right tools and tips, seeking a higher education can be affordable and surprisingly timely. The following three secrets to education success can help any student get a degree faster and in a way that is more convenient to their personal schedules.

1. You don't have to start from zero

Already know the information? There's no reason for you to re-learn things you already know. Competency assessments can help students move quickly through subjects they already know and help them get a head start in their education.

Skipping coursework means that students can finish their degree in less time. It also saves students the stress and frustration of work that isn't teaching them anything new. Finishing a degree with less money and in less time? Sounds great.

Take a good look around the internet, do your due diligence and see how competency-based education can help you achieve your goals faster.

2. Find a degree program that fits your schedule

No matter what kind of schedule you keep, chances are there's a degree program that will work for you and the timing that you need. Whether you want daytime or nighttime courses on a physical campus or need the flexibility of an online program, the opportunities are endless.

Especially for those busy individuals, the online option allows them to take on as little or as much coursework as they want at a time, as well as the ability to choose when and where they do their work. Taking online courses can support students in getting their degrees faster while still excelling at their job.

According to a Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies conducted by the United States Department of Education, "Students in online conditions performed modestly better, on average, than those learning the same material through traditional face-to-face instruction."

An online education is not only a more than comparable option, but it might be the flexibility that your schedule needs as well.

3. Choose your courses wisely

If you are looking to finish your studies quickly, refrain from taking unnecessary courses. Learning how to weave baskets or how to listen to Gregorian Chant may be interesting, but if it doesn't help in finishing your major then you may want to reconsider adding it to your schedule.

Students who fill their schedule with unnecessary courses take longer to finish than those who focus only on the courses they need for their majors.

Also, if you don't need to pursue a minor, then maybe you shouldn't. Skip the minor and focus on your major.

Decide what kind of schedule and tuition options would work best for you and then research what programs and schools would match your needs and flexibility. Consider traditional colleges as well as reputable online universities that can help you finish your degree in less time and for less money. The key is finding the program that works best for you and puts your needs at the center of your education.