EDUCATION
May 4, 2019

Update: Guide to Accelerated BSN Programs

Update: Guide to Accelerated BSN Programs

There are many career pathways as a nurse, but earning your accelerated Bachelor’s of Science in nursing (ABSN) degree can be a smart way to position yourself for advancement and increased knowledge in your field.

>>Advance Your Nursing Career by Finding the Right Accelerated BSN Program 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.  

At a glance

  • Accelerated BSN programs can range widely in cost, anywhere from $40,000 to over $80,000.
  • The length of a typical accelerated BSN program is between 11-18 months. 
  • Accelerated BSN programs are intended for those with a non-nursing Bachelor’s degree.
  • Your original Bachelor’s degree does not need to be science-based. 
  • Basic requirements for an accelerated BSN program include a Bachelor’s degree, a 3.0 GPA, and certain prerequisite courses. 
  • You can work while in an accelerated program, although it may be difficult. 

What is an accelerated Nursing 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. In many cases, an accelerated BSN program may even get you into scrubs more quickly than a two-year associate degree program (ADN), as some programs can be completed in as little as 11-18 months.

With the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that the field of nursing has a 15% 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. 

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 anatomy and physiology, microbiology and chemistry. 

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 a disruption in your employment. 

Requirements and prerequisites of an accelerated BSN program

In order to qualify for an accelerated BSN program, you will need to have a Bachelor’s degree in another field and a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher may be required. If your original Bachelor’s degree was not in a science-related field, you may have to take some prerequisite courses before becoming eligible to start the BSN program, such as chemistry, anatomy and microbiology. 

Other admissions requirements might include an essay, letters of recommendation, transcripts from your former college and, for some schools, a qualifying exam. Some programs may also have a specific start date and admissions deadline, so you’ll want to check program requirements to ensure you don’t miss any important deadlines. 

What courses will I take?

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

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. 

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. Online accelerated BSN programs are similar in length to in-person programs, taking anywhere between 11-18 months to complete. Just like in-person accelerated BSN programs, the program can be competitive and the admission requirements are as, if not more, strenuous. 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: 

Should I just get my MSN instead?

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. Comparing costs, 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. 
  • Both degree programs will prepare you to take the NCLEX exam. 
  • 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. 

Search Accelerated BSN Programs

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 2018, the annual median salary for Registered Nurses was $75,510, 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 15 percent from 2016 to 2026.

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. 

Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based freelance writer who specializes in personal finance, parenting, and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in Family Circle, WomansDay.com, Parents, CreditCards.com, and more.

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