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How to earn a degree in 15 months

How quickly can you finish a degree at Athabasca University (AU)? If you have enough passion and drive, like Tyler Harbaruk, as little as 15 months. 

Tyler Harbaruk
AU alumnus Tyler Harbaruk completed a Bachelor of Commerce – Finance degree in just 15 months.

The 25-year-old earned a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance, completing three years’ worth of university courses at a rate of about three per month. He has words of advice for others thinking of trying the same thing: take it one step at a time.

“If you have aggressive goals, they can be daunting and scary, and prevent you from accomplishing them in the long run,” he said. “I encourage people to take the little steps, and plan short-term goals, too.”

And that’s exactly what he did.

Harbaruk registered for his first class in January 2020, with a plan to earn a degree one course at a time while he continued to work in his job in the oil and gas sector.

How he did it

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Harbaruk was temporarily laid off from his job and found himself with a lot of extra time on his hands. Unable to sit still, he decided to do as much of his schoolwork as possible during his four-month layoff. 

“I was used to working 14 hours a day, so I just said from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. I’ll do a normal business day, and just focus on school,” he said.

Related: AU learner using her education to advocate for financial literacy in Indigenous communities

With 30 transfer credits from a previous diploma, equivalent to about 10 courses, Harbaruk got to work on his accelerated timeline. He would read through all the materials twice before getting to work on his assignments, and during that process he would also review the course materials a third time. He would do all the course work and assignments for one class each week, then spend the last week of the month writing his exams for those courses. 

Dr. Fathi Elloumi, the undergraduate program director in AU’s Faculty of Business, described Harbaruk’s accomplishment as impressive and extremely rare. It takes the average learner about three years to complete the 90 credits Harbaruk earned in less than half that time. 

“He must be very dedicated and focused to be able to achieve this,” Elloumi said. 

“The initial plan was to do this really long term. It was going to be a backup plan to do what I enjoyed and be able to spend more time with my family. ”

– Tyler Harbaruk, BComm alumnus

Planning for the future

When Harbaruk’s employer asked him to return to work, he declined. Instead, he decided to press on with his schoolwork, finish his degree, and focus on a career change. 

“The initial plan was to do this really long term,” he said. “It was going to be a backup plan to do what I enjoyed and be able to spend more time with my family.” 

By June 2021, he had completed all the requirements for his degree. He is now looking for work, hoping to get some on-the-job experience before pursuing a designation as a certified financial analyst or certified financial planner. 

Harbaruk said he couldn’t have completed his degree in the time he did it without the flexibility AU offers. In fact, he said he could have finished even sooner if not for AU’s enrolment limit of six classes at a time. He added he relied heavily on the support of his family and his fiancée. 

Learn more about the online Bachelor of Commerce program at AU. 

  • August 25, 2021