Top Second Degree Nursing Programs 2024

9 Min Read Published December 15, 2022
The Best Second Degree Nursing Programs |

While most nurses enter a traditional four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program, there are options for students who decide to become nurses after completing a non-nursing undergraduate degree. These programs are also referred to as second-degree nursing programs or accelerated nursing programs. 

What is a Second-Degree Nursing Program?

A second-degree nursing program is a condensed, or “accelerated,” BSN program for college graduates who later decide to pursue a career as an RN. Candidates for this type of program must already hold a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing. 

Accelerated nursing programs are one of the fastest-growing university programs in the country. According to the American Association of Colleges in Nursing (ACCN), as of 2021, 318 accelerated baccalaureate programs were available nationwide. Also, 27 new accelerated baccalaureate programs are being planned. 

How Long Are Second-Degree Nursing Programs?

Second-degree BSNs are completable faster because students have already finished many of the undergraduate non-major requirements for a BSN. Before starting a second-degree BSN, students must complete between 7-10 prerequisite science classes. The prerequisites help establish a science background for the student before beginning the “accelerated” learning portion of the BSN. Students typically spend six to twelve months completing nursing school prerequisite courses before being accepted into their BSN program.

Second-degree BSN programs vary in length, depending on the program. But generally, this type of program is between 12 to 18 months. Upon graduation, second-degree BSN students can sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and earn licensure to practice in their state.

>> Show Me Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Who is a Second-Degree Nursing Program Right For?

Second-degree nursing programs are suitable for students who want to be an RN and have already earned a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing. Many second-degree nursing students have worked in a totally different career for some time before deciding that their passion lies in the nursing field. 

The age of second-degree nursing students varies widely. Some are recent college graduates who realized that they chose the wrong major. Some second-degree nurses already have decades of full-time work experience in other fields. 

Second-degree nurses come from a variety of professions, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Lawyers
  • Teachers
  • Artists
  • Business and marketing managers
  • Financial planners
  • Hospitality or tourism professionals
  • Stay-at-home-parents

No matter what type of non-nursing bachelor's degree you achieved, if you have the desire and motivation to advance your education and become a registered nurse, a second-degree BSN may provide the right pathway to get there!

Best Second-Degree Nursing Programs

Choosing a second-degree nursing program is a huge decision that requires much consideration. Fortunately, we already did a lot of the work for you with this list of some of the best second-degree programs!

Our ranking system considers many factors, such as: 

  • Accreditation
  • Graduation rates
  • Student-faculty ratio
  • Job placements
  • Student satisfaction
  • Clinical assignments, and 
  • Program length

Top Second Degree Nursing Programs

1. New York University, New York, NY

New York University’s 15-month ABSN program takes four consecutive semesters of full-time study. The university offers start dates in the fall (September) or spring (January) semester.

  • Tuition: $27,692
  • Program Length: 15 months
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Application Deadline: April 1st (for fall), October 15th (for spring)
  • Contact Email:
  • Phone Number: (212) 998-5300
  • Online Options Available? No

2. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

The University of Pennsylvania’s accelerated BSN offers students a rich learning experience through their state-of-the-art simulation center, student research opportunities, and mentorship. The program also provides a wide range of community engagement and clinical experiences with prestigious local hospitals, including the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

  • Tuition: $56,212
  • Program Length:18 months
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: December 1st
  • Contact
  • Phone Number: (215) 898-8281
  • Online Options Available? No

3. University of Nevada, Reno NV

The University of Reno’s ABSN program offers nurses with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree a fast way to start working as an RN. To apply to any nursing program, students must gain admission to the University of Nevada. After acceptance, students can then apply to the ASBSN program.

  • Tuition: $256 per credit
  • Program Length: 12 months
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: July 1st
  • Contact 
  • Phone Number: (775) 784-6841
  • Online Options Available? No

4. Villanova University, Villanova, PA

Villanova University offers students two ABSN tracks depending on how quickly they want to complete their studies: a 14-month track and a 23-month track. Situated right outside of Philadelphia, clinicals rotations are held at both local suburban hospitals as well as major healthcare systems in the city. This allows students to get a wide range of clinical experience. 

  • Tuition: $49,800
  • Program Length: 14 months
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: December 1st
  • Contact Email:
  • Phone Number: (610) 519-4900
  • Online Options Available? No

5. University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA

U Mass offers students three potential start dates. This makes the accelerated program a great option with many openings. Students also have access to some of the top hospitals in the country in downtown Boston. Graduates have gone on to enroll in U Mass’s many graduate programs. 

  • Tuition: $577 per credit (52 credits total)
  • Program Length: 12 months
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: February 1st (for summer), May 1st (for fall), September 1st (for Spring)
  • Contact Email: Contact Form
  • Phone Number: (617) 287-5000
  • Online Options Available? Yes

6. Duke University, Durham, NC

Accelerated BSN students at Duke University can not only finish their BSNs quickly, but they may also earn up to nine credits toward an MSN! Students in this program complete 58 credit hours of study and receive about 800 hours of clinical experience.

  • Tuition: $24,124
  • Program Length: 16 months
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: December 1st (priority deadline) 
  • Contact Email:
  • Phone Number: (919) 684-3786
  • Online Options Available? No

7. Northeastern University, Burlington, MA & Charlotte, NC

At Northeastern University, second-degree nursing students can earn a BSN in as little as 16 months. The program has online and hands-on components. They also offer three start dates per year: January, May, and September.

  • Tuition: $1,222 per credit hour (67 credits total)
  • Program Length: 16 months
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: Rolling Admissions
  • Contact Email: Contact Form
  • Phone Number: (866) 892-3819
  • Online Options Available? Yes

8. George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

George Washington University’s nursing school offers clinical and coursework education with state-of-the-art facilities and technologies, which include high-fidelity simulators and interactive online modules. Students may also have an opportunity to travel internationally through one of the school's international clinical opportunities in countries such as Costa Rica, Ecuador, Haiti, and Uganda.

  • Tuition: $79,200 (total with fees)
  • Program Length: 15 months
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: September 1st (for spring), January 18th (for summer), and March 1st (for Fall)
  • Contact Email:
  • Phone Number: 202-994-7901
  • Online Options Available? No

9. Loyola University, Chicago, IL

Loyola has two campus options in the Chicago area: in Maywood or Downers Grove. New second-degree BSN programs start every January and August. Contact an advisor to find updated application deadline dates. 

  • Tuition: $58,780 (full tuition)
  • Program Length: 16 months
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: Contact an advisor for deadline info
  • Contact Email: Contact Form
  • Phone Number: (866) 891-0218
  • Online Options Available?: No (hybrid and onsite options available)

10. University of Washington, Seattle, WA

ABSN students at the University of Washington gain over a thousand hours of hands-on patient care experience at one of over 700 respected community partnership sites. Students may earn clinical experience at sites such as Seattle Children’s Hospital and the top-ranked University of Washington Medical Center.

  • Tuition: 11,928 per Quarter
  • Program Length: 12 months
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Application Deadline: October 15th
  • Contact Email:
  • Phone Number: 206.543.8736
  • Online Options Available? No

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

What to Expect in a Second-Degree Nursing Program?

Second-degree BSN programs are typically geared toward older, ambitious students with a college degree and at least one prior career in another field. The expectations for these students are generally higher than those in traditional BSN  programs because coursework is accelerated.

Students take classes focused only on nursing while building on the fundamentals of biology and science from their pre-requisite courses.

Students are encouraged not to work during the program. However, this does vary based on the program and the student’s circumstances. Second-degree nursing programs are incredibly fast-paced, and students can not afford to fall behind. 

Second-degree nursing students may consider temporary alternative living situations while in their programs, such as living with a family member or friend. This may minimize their need to work as much as possible and allow them to focus more energy on their studies. 


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 five 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 if they do. 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.


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

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 12 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 the length of the program, private vs. public institution, in state vs. out-of-state, and the number of credit hours.


Kathleen Gaines
Kathleen Gaines
News and Education Editor

Kathleen Gaines (nee Colduvell) is a nationally published writer turned Pediatric ICU nurse from Philadelphia with over 13 years of ICU experience. She has an extensive ICU background having formerly worked in the CICU and NICU at several major hospitals in the Philadelphia region. After earning her MSN in Education from Loyola University of New Orleans, she currently also teaches for several prominent Universities making sure the next generation is ready for the bedside. As a certified breastfeeding counselor and trauma certified nurse, she is always ready for the next nursing challenge.

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