Most associate degree programs are designed to be completed in 24 months, or within two academic years. However, if you chose to graduate in 18 months, you can accelerate these programs. Generally, you can obtain an associate degree once you have completed 60 credits in a specific major program. If you have prior specialized training, work experience and licenses or certifications, you may be able to obtain college credit through taking an exam or by preparing a portfolio that details and documents your experience.

Accelerate your degree program by attending summer school.
Accelerate your degree program by attending summer school.

Register each semester to take classes full-time. A full-time schedule is typically considered 12 to credits per semester, which includes fall and spring. If you register for 15 credits over four semesters, you earn 60 credits in two years. However, to accelerate your program, enroll in summer school at least half time, and you can receive your associate degree after 18 months. If you must work during the summer, you have a few other options that will still help you graduate early.

Earn credit in courses you already have knowledge of by passing an exam instead of taking the course. Find out whether your college offers the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), which allows you to earn credit for knowledge acquired through independent study, prior coursework and related on-the-job training. CLEP offers 33 examinations, which are detailed on the CLEP website.

Talk with an adviser to see if the college offers offer credits for life experience; many schools do, for a fee that is usually lower than the cost of tuition.

Read course descriptions in the school catalog, and try to parallel your experience. Contact the professor who teaches the course in which you want to earn credit for experience, and request a copy of the syllabus.

Notify the professor that you will be submitting a portfolio to obtain credit for life experience. Ask for tips regarding the kind of proof of prior knowledge he requires in determining whether he can award credit.

Assemble materials and supporting documentation for your portfolio, and prepare it in accordance with the professor and college's specifications.