August 22, 2019

The Pros To Second Degree Nursing Programs

The Growing Industry

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the nursing profession is projected to grow at least 15% between 2016 and 2026. This is much faster than the national average of other professions. At last count in 2016, there were 2,955,200 RNs in the United States. By 2026, there is an expected growth of 438,100 nurses.  

Growth in the nursing profession will occur for a variety of reasons including,

  • an emphasis on preventative care,
  • rapid growth of chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity, and 
  • the need for healthcare services for the Baby Boomer population. 

While most nurses enter a traditional four year BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) program, there are options for students who decide to become nurses after they have already completed their undergraduate degree. These programs are referred to as second-degree nursing programs or accelerated nursing programs. 

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Second Degree Nursing Program FAQs

  • How long does it take to become a nurse if you already have a bachelor’s degree?

    • Fast-track baccalaureate nursing programs take between 11 and 18 months to complete.
  • What is a second-degree nursing program (aka accelerated nursing program)?

    • A second degree nursing program is a condensed nursing program that focuses solely on nursing classes and clinicals. It is for students that have already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field. 
  • What prerequisites are required to apply to a fast-track BSN program?

    • Bachelor’s degree, a GPA of 3.0 or higher, Prerequisite classes including Nutrition, Psychology, Anatomy and Physiology, and Pathophysiology as well as Recommendations, a Personal Interview and a Personal Essay.
  • Can you become an RN in 2 years?

    • Yes! Second degree nursing programs can be accomplished quickly if the individual meets all of the prerequisite requirements including having a bachelor’s degree, a minimum GPA, and specific classes. 
  • How much do second-degree nursing programs cost?

    • The cost for second degree nursing programs is between $30,000 and $120,000. Factors include length of program, private vs. public institution, instate vs. out of state, and number of credit hours.

>>Related: Top 5 Affordable and Fast Online RN to BSN Programs

Accelerated fast-track BSN programs are popping up all over the country; they offer the quickest route to licensure for students who have already completed a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline and meet the educational requirements.

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About Accelerated Nurse Programs

Accelerated nursing programs are one of the fastest growing university programs in the country. In 1990, there were only 31 accelerated baccalaureate programs; as of Fall 2015, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) noted 282 active programs in 49 states, including the District of Columbia, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

According to AACN’s database on enrollment and graduations, there are at least 30 new accelerated BSN programs now in the planning stages. Fast-track programs typically take 11-18 months to complete and depends on the institution. 

AACN’s 2014 survey found that 16,935 students were enrolled in accelerated baccalaureate programs, which represents only a slight increase from 2013 when 16,921 students were enrolled. The number of program graduates has increased from 10,584 in 2013 to 11,080 in 2014 (up 4.7%). Unfortunately, this is the most current information available from the AACN. 

The growth of these programs is astounding. In fall 2015, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) noted 246 active programs in 46 states, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. There is an ongoing need for second degree nursing programs and Universities are recognizing this and adapting their curriculums. 

How Long Does it Take To Complete an Accelerated Nursing Program? 

For example, Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania is a 14-month program, while Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania takes 11-months to complete. Villanova allows for holidays, spring break, and a summer recess, while Drexel continues straight through without breaks. 

Thomas Edison State University in New Jersey is a 12-month program while Indiana State University’s program is 15-months. Some programs will offer more than one length of time option. For example, Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania offers a 12-month and 16-month format. 

The length of time greatly differs amongst universities and some find that a longer program allows for better understanding of material and less student stress.

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Benefits of Second Degree Nursing Programs

Becoming a nurse can be a daunting task for individuals that already have a bachelor’s degree in another field. These programs allow for this to become a reality. It also prevents students from having to take the same courses over again and wasting time and money. 

Benefits of a second degree nursing program include:

  • Flexibility
  • Accelerated time frame
  • Focus on essential courses
  • Accessibility 
  • Decreased tuition
  • Teaches leadership
  • Makes an individual more marketable
  • Stronger clinical skills
  • Increased maturity
  • Plethora of programs

How Second Degree Programs Differ

Second degree BSN programs are typically geared toward older, ambitious, and extremely motivated students; expectations for these students is generally higher than the traditional undergraduate programs. Students take classes focused only on nursing while building on the fundamentals of biology and science from their undergraduate studies.

Students are encouraged not to work during the program; however, this does vary based on the individual. Universities recommend that if a student does need to work, it is best to work in a hospital or medical setting order to gain invaluable experience and build connections with other medical professionals. Second degree nursing programs are extremely fast-paced and students can not afford to fall behind. 

Second degree nursing programs can be a great option for some individuals. 

Prerequisites Required

One important piece of information to note when researching second degree programs is the list of prerequisites that each program requires. Typically, students with a prior degree are not required to take the liberals arts content included in a traditional four-year BSN program. The majority of programs have the same requirements in order to move forward in the program.

Usual prerequisite requirements:

  • Biology with lab component
  • Microbiology
  • Genetics
  • Nutrition
  • Pathophysiology
  • Anatomy and physiology with lab component
  • Developmental psychology
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Chemistry (including organic)
  • Statistics

These classes have to be taken within 5 years of application and a grade of B or higher is usually required. Universities do not require students to take the prerequisites at their University but some will offer a reduction in tuition. It is recommended, if possible, to take any needed classes online or at a community college as tuition is generally lower. 

For classes requiring a lab component, these must be done in the classroom. Only a handful of programs will allow students to take online virtual labs but these are rare. Johns Hopkins University allows students to take the lab component online but it has to be through their University. Furthermore, if a student decides to attend another University this class will not transfer. 

Prerequisites do depend on the university so it is important to consider the classes that were taken during undergraduate studies in order to find the best fit. Many students that need to take prerequisites or retake science classes will enroll in these classes at a local community college due to convenience and affordability.

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Common Program Classes

Students will focus on nursing classes during the second degree program. With a science heavy focus, students should be well versed in the basics of biology and chemistry. Students will take the following courses throughout the program:

  • Health Assessment
  • Nursing Care of Adults and Older Adults and Practicum
  • Concepts in Pharmacology
  • Nursing and Health Policy
  • Community Health and Practicum
  • Care Coordination
  • Epidemiology for the Health Professions
  • NCLEX Prep Course
  • Population Health
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing and Practicum
  • Pediatric Nursing and Practicum
  • Obstetrics Nursing and Practicum
  • Leadership and Management
  • Nursing Ethics
  • Research and Scientific Evidence

Post Application Process

After applying, applicants that pass the initial screening process will undergo a personalized interview with professors and university officials. The selection process is rigorous and there is often a waitlist at highly desired universities. Competition to gain acceptance to a program can be tough, and applying to multiple programs is generally suggested. You do not have to sit for the NCLEX in the state you complete a program. Applying to programs in neighboring states can be helpful.

Similar to traditional BSN programs, second degree nursing programs also have waitlists. This will vary state to state but California, New York, and New Jersey currently have the longest wait times. Every year, countless students are turned away because second degree programs have much smaller classes than traditional programs. Most programs accept between 20 and 50 students each year.

As the need for more BSN-educated nurses increases throughout the country, the popularity of these accelerated programs will only increase. Second degree nursing students bring a wealth of life experience, knowledge, and excitement to the nursing profession. 

There is a need for nursing schools to graduate more nurses more quickly due to the current nationwide nursing shortage. While most major colleges and universities already have second degree nursing programs, new programs are constantly in the works and are passing accreditation. 

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Top 5 Second Degree Programs

There are hundreds of second degree nursing programs but here are the top five programs based on NCLEX graduation rates, job placements, clinical assignments, and student satisfaction. 

New York University

New York, NY

Length of Time: 15 months

Start Dates: September or January

Cost: $24,531 per year 

University of Pennsylvania 

Philadelphia, PA 

Length of Time: 18 months

Start Dates: June

Cost: $122,450  

University of Nevada

Length of Time: 12 months

Start Dates: January

Cost: $15,653/per year

Villanova University 

Villanova, PA

Length of Time: 14 months

Start Dates: May

Cost: $46,400

University of Massachusetts

Boston, MA

Length of Time: 15 months

Start Dates: September

Cost: $695/credit

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