Guide to Accelerated BSN (ABSN) Programs 2021
By: Nurse.org Staff
For those who are considering a career change into nursing and already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject — finance, restaurant management, even music — an accelerated BSN as a second degree may be an excellent option for you.
However, if the thought of embarking on a four-year degree journey — especially if you already have a Bachelor’s under your belt — isn’t appealing to you, you might want to consider an accelerated BSN program. This guide will highlight the information you need to know about going back to school for an accelerated BSN degree, from how much the program can cost to what advantages your advanced degree could hold.
What is an Accelerated BSN Program?
An accelerated BSN is specifically designed for those who have already earned a Bachelor’s degree in another field and now want to become RNs.
Depending on the program structure and intensity, accelerated programs range from 12 months to 19 months, though some can be as long as 2 years. During these months, you will be taking nursing-specific courses, many of which may be condensed in order to accommodate the faster pace towards graduation.
It is important to know that the advertised length of the program does not include the time it may take to complete the prerequisite courses that are required in order to apply.
With the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that the field of nursing has a 12% job growth outlook, a higher-than-average outlook for the next several years. Many individuals are turning to nursing as a second career choice, which makes accelerated programs even more popular.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, there were approximately 282 accelerated BSN programs in the nation as of 2018, with at least 30 more in the development process.
Requirements and Prerequisites for Accelerated BSN Programs
- Prerequisite Courses: Besides having a bachelor’s degree, many accelerated programs require a number of core prerequisite courses. Common subjects include microbiology, statistics, and sometimes anatomy and physiology. If it has been a few years since you completed these courses, be sure to check if the school requires the classes to be taken within a certain amount of years.
- Entrance Exam: Most programs have an entrance exam as a requisite for entering the nursing program, and the same holds true for accelerated applicants. The entry exam covers the subjects that are needed for entry to nursing school: math, reading, science, and English. Whether it’s the HESI, ATI, or TEASE, there are many resources to help you review and score well on the entrance exam.
- GPA: GPA is an important consideration for accelerated BSN programs, as many programs will require a minimum GPA for application. Usually, the minimum GPA for consideration into the program ranges from 3.0 to 3.5.
3 Tips For Getting Accepted Into an Accelerated BSN Program
Accelerated programs can be highly competitive due to limited seating as well as a high number of applicants. These 3 tips will help you stand out.
- In order to make you a more competitive applicant, be sure your GPA meets at least the minimum standard.
- If there are any recommended personal statements, take the time to craft a compelling statement detailing why you want to obtain nursing as a second degree.
- Depending on the demand and the region, these programs could have an average of hundreds of applicants with as little as 50 seats per cohort.
Many nurses who have completed their BSN as a second degree feel that this was a good investment. The life experience that you bring to the program and to the profession of nursing is especially needed when treating a wide range of patients!
Accelerated BSN Program Coursework
The concept of the accelerated BSN is that students take intensive nursing coursework, without repeating the required coursework in a regularly-paced bachelor’s program that they already completed.
Typically, an accelerated BSN program won’t include a lot of liberal art classes, but will focus on science-based courses, including:
Additionally, the program includes hands-on clinical instruction in labs and real-life healthcare settings like hospitals, nursing homes or other medical facilities.
Between the classroom instruction and practical skills, graduates should be adequately prepared to pass the NCLEX-RN and to enter the field as RNs.
Because of the immersive nature of an accelerated BSN, some students treat the program like a full-time job, and choose not to work while pursuing the degree. By moving through the program year-round, including spring and summer semesters, you can complete the program as fast as possible to minimize disruption in your employment.
As a sample of what you can expect from an accelerated BSN program, your course work could include:
- Semester 1: Foundations of Clinical Nursing, Pathophysiology, Nursing Research, Nursing Lab
- Semester 2: Pharmacology, Med/Surg Nursing, Mental Health, Geriatric Health, Clinicals
- Semester 3: Family Health, Community Health, Clinicals
- Semester 4: Nursing Leadership, Ethics, Advanced Clinicals
Will I take the same classes as traditional first-degree BSN students?
It depends on the program. Some programs have crafted courses for accelerated students, covering content in a shorter time frame. Other programs integrate accelerated nursing students into the traditional semesters, yet with a heavier course load or a different semester-to-semester structure.
Online Accelerated BSN Programs
Online accelerated BSN programs are a popular choice for many busy professionals looking to transition into the nursing field because they offer the opportunity to complete your coursework online.
Although you will be able to complete the majority of your coursework online, you will still need to attend in-person clinicals at an approved site local to you, as well as some meetings on campus, as required.
Who is an Accelerated BSN Program Right For?
Students who will do best with an online accelerated BSN program are students who may want to attend a school that is not local to them or for students who need more flexibility for attending classes, due to family or other time obligations.
How Long are Online Accelerated BSN Programs?
Online accelerated BSN programs are similar in length to in-person programs, taking anywhere between 11-18 months to complete.
What are the Requirements for Online Accelerated BSN Programs?
Just like in-person accelerated BSN programs, the program can be competitive and the admission requirements are as strenuous, if not more.
The good news is that many programs do offer online accelerated BSN programs, as they are increasingly becoming the preferred route for those pursuing their BSN degrees.
What Colleges Offer Accelerated BSN Programs Online?
As an example of some of the online offerings for accelerated BSN programs, the following schools offer online accelerated BSN programs:
- University of Wisconsin Oshkosh - 12-month online program (only available in some states)
- University of Texas Arlington - 15+ month online program
- Colorado Technical University - you can complete in as little as 9 months
- Herzing University - available in certain states
- Madonna University - clinicals are completed on-site or through partner sites
MSN vs Accelerated BSN
If you already have a Bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing related field, it is possible to enroll in a direct-entry MSN program instead of a BSN program, meaning you would graduate with your RN/MSN instead of your RN/BSN.
Choosing between an accelerated BSN and MSN program largely depends on your long-term goals. An MSN might be right for you if you’re interested in moving directly to more administrative, managerial or research-based opportunities.
Additionally, an MSN can be a stepping stone for even more advanced education, such as a doctorate or advanced nursing specialty degree.
Here are some considerations to choosing an accelerated MSN vs. BSN:
- An MSN will take longer, and thus, also cost more. For instance, one MSN program lists its full MSN program with close to 80 credit requirements, so it could take upwards of two years to complete.
- An MSN could be almost twice as expensive as a BSN degree.
- On the flip side, if you plan to pursue your MSN or an advanced nursing degree after your BSN, choosing your MSN from the beginning could save you money in the long run.
- You may be able to move directly from an accelerated MSN program into a doctorate or advanced nursing specialty degree.
- With a BSN degree, you are more limited to working in direct patient care, such as in bedside hospital nursing or a clinic-based setting, while MSN-prepared nurses have more flexibility in choosing more broad-based employment, such as managerial or leadership, or advancing even higher in their education.
Overall, a direct-entry MSN program may be right for you if you have more time to complete your degree and are looking to move quickly into an advanced nursing position.
Paying for an Accelerated BSN Program
Even though it’s a shorter duration than an associate degree program, you can expect to pay more for an accelerated BSN program.
Most students, however, qualify for some type of financial aid, scholarships or low-interest student loans. In some cases, for those already working in the healthcare industry, employers might sponsor your education or offer tuition reimbursement.
The good news is that upon graduation, you will command a strong starting salary to help you begin making payments on your educational debt. As of May 2020, the annual median salary for Registered Nurses was $75,330, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Even more encouraging is the strong job outlook, with the employment of registered nurses projected to grow 7 percent from 2019 to 2029.
Best Accelerated BSN Programs
Many institutions now offer this program, so there’s a good chance it will be easy to find a high-quality school in your area to get your nursing education going.
From local state colleges to prestigious private institutions, chances are wherever you’d find a traditional nursing BSN, you may find an accelerated program.
The AACN offers a searchable list of programs to help you get started on your research. There are even some opportunities to pursue some of the coursework online, with the exception of clinical hours.
As a starting point, some of the top-ranked nursing programs in the country compiled by USA Today, include the 13-month Summer-Entry Accelerated Program at Johns Hopkins University, the one-year program at Quinnipiac University, and the 15-month program at New York University that can be completed in four consecutive semesters (fall, spring, summer, fall or spring, summer, fall, spring).
Is an Accelerated BSN in Nursing Right for You?
As with any educational commitment, deciding to pursue an accelerated BSN is not a decision to be taken lightly. To start, it’s a big financial investment and there’s also the fact that for the next 11-18 months, your life will revolve around the program on a full-time basis. That being said, here are some of the pros of choosing this type of program:
- Although it’s possible to work as an RN without a BSN, many employers will indicate that a BSN is preferred. In other words, gaining access to more exclusive opportunities will likely require a Bachelor’s degree. The same goes for promotions and advancement opportunities.
- You’ll be ready to move forward should you decide to pursue Advanced Practice Nurse specializations, such as a Nurse Practitioner (NP), Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), or Nurse Midwife (CNM).
- By completing an intensive, accelerated program, students are thoroughly prepared for the NCLEX-RN licensing exam.
- While your starting salary as an RN will likely be the same whether or not you have a BSN, there is more potential for higher earnings for those with strong educational credentials.
On the flipside, an associate degree in nursing (ADN) is usually a less expensive option that can still get you into the profession in two years. This option may be more realistic for those who can’t commit to the stringent, full-time student schedule that being an accelerated BSN student demands. And many ADN RN-to-BSN programs are designed for working nurses and can be completed completely online.
If your career aspiration is to become a Registered Nurse, pursuing an accelerated BSN degree could help speed the process along. If you have already completed a bachelor’s degree in another field of study, have a strong academic record, and you can commit to an accelerated program, your RN career could very well be right around the corner.
5 Tips for Getting Through an Accelerated BSN Program
Once you’re admitted into an accelerated BSN program, the real work begins. The next year or so of your life will feel like a whirlwind. With these tips, you can focus on doing everything you can succeed:
- Build a support network. If you have children, a support network will be crucial. Even if you don’t, it is helpful to have people “on call” who can help you in a pinch. From letting the dog out to swinging by the store to pick up your groceries, knowing you have some back-up to help when your schedule gets out of control can be invaluable.
- Remember the long-term goal. The pace at which you will be working during your accelerated BSN program is not forever and that’s important to keep in mind. No one can — or should — maintain that pace forever. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that your workload is accelerated right now for a reason: to get you to the finish line faster.
- Don’t skimp on self-care. Even if as simple as taking a bubble bath or taking a night off to go see a new movie, don’t fall into the trap of thinking more time equals more effective work. Slogging through four hours of studying without a break is actually less efficient than taking a break when you need one.
- Connect with others going through the program with you. Especially if you’re doing an online program and are feeling isolated at home work towards your next paper deadline, make an effort to stay connected with others who know what you’re going through. Nurses need nurses and that starts in nursing school.
- Prep your family and/or partner before the program begins. You may know what you’re in for when signing on for an accelerated BSN program, but your family may need a little help understanding how the program will affect them. Carve out some time before the program begins for a sit-down discussion with your family and/or partner and be open and honest about what changes they should expect. You can even draw up a list of added responsibilities they will be required to take on (more applicable for kids, of course, than a partner!). Stress that the program is really a family effort and that the benefits for everyone will make all the hard work worthwhile.
How much do accelerated BSN programs cost?
- Accelerated BSN programs can range widely in cost, anywhere from $40,000 to over $80,000.
How long are accelerated Bachelor's programs?
- Depending on the program structure and intensity, accelerated programs range from 12 months to 19 months, though some can be as long as 2 years.
Who is eligible for accelerated BSN programs?
- Accelerated BSN programs are intended for those with a non-nursing Bachelor’s degree.
Does it matter what your first degree is in?
- No, any completed bachelor’s degree will be sufficient to apply for an accelerated program. You will, however, have to complete the prerequisite coursework prior to application.
What are the requirements for an accelerated BSN program?
- Basic requirements for an accelerated BSN program include a Bachelor’s degree, a 3.0 GPA, and certain prerequisite courses.
Can you work while completing an accelerated BSN program?
- You can work while in an accelerated program, although it may be difficult. Many accelerated programs can be seen as a full-time position in terms of time commitment. The scheduling may vary, but many programs hold classes daily, sometimes even Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm. Programs typically discourage working during the length of the accelerated program; however, many accelerated BSN students will find the time to work once a week, depending on their needs and availability.
Are there online accelerated nursing programs?
- While most BSN accelerated programs are brick and mortar, more online options have become available.
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