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What is an Accelerated Nursing Program?

If you have already completed a bachelor’s degree in another field and decide you would like to become a nurse, an accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or online ABSN program, allows you to earn your bachelor’s in approximately one to 1.5 years. Unlike most programs, an ABSN program does not have summer or winter breaks and online accelerated courses are focused on getting you through your coursework as quickly as possible. A combination of an accelerated baccalaureate and master’s nursing education, which includes additional online programs or courses, should take about three years to complete before you begin your clinical placement. Nursing clinicals are focused on gaining you hands-on clinical experience to help you move beyond your online learning by allowing you to conduct patient assessments and physical examinations. Currently, there are accelerated BSN programs available in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Some nursing schools refer to the program as “Second Degree BSNs”.


Reasons to Enter an Accelerated Program

Accelerated Bachelor of Science (BSN) program nursing students are typically older than the average student and are making a career change. Sometimes that career change is a personal decision, and sometimes it results from layoffs, company relocation, or other factors. Many students find that an accelerated baccalaureate program, such as an ABSN program, is the next logical step for their chosen career path. Because of the intensity of the schedule of these accelerated programs, most students cannot work while attending school. Some students may choose an accelerated program because they have the opportunity to concentrate fully on their curriculum and learning for a certain time, whether they study in an online classroom or on campus.

Online Options
Those nursing students pursuing an accelerated undergraduate or baccalaureate degree may find courses available online, whether they are pursuing an accelerated RN, ABSN program, or accelerated MSN degree. Online accelerated programs are one of the least expensive options for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Since these programs require students to undergo a certain amount of clinical hours, even those that offer online programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education allow students to perform these clinical hours and clinical rotations at local hospital facilities through clinical placement programs. However, those who are worried about their finances will be happy to hear that financial aid is also usually available to those looking to complete accelerated BSN programs and those at other levels, and accreditation from a reputable source, such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, will give you quality assurance for your online courses, nursing clinicals, and clinical placement after the program.

The cost of an ABSN program will depend on the school. On the low end, accelerated programs in nursing education may cost around $17,000 in tuition, fees, and books and as much as $90,000 at a top-tier university or for degrees that are higher than bachelor-level. Students in accelerated nursing programs are eligible for financial aid, but such aid is less available than it is for those seeking their initial bachelor’s degrees.

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Available Online Degrees for Accelerated Nursing Majors

Online Accelerated RN:

An RN helps patients with their medical needs, follows the doctor’s instructions for care, and maintains medical records. They may develop and oversee implementation of nursing care plans and provide advice to patients regarding healthcare and health and wellness optimization. And all nurses must have critical thinking skills and knowledge of the nursing clinicals checklist, health assessment, and clinical practice guidelines and more built up over time in clinical rotations in professional nursing.

Tuition Cost: $17,000 to $90,000, depending on the school or online programs

How Long to Graduate: 1 year to 18 months

Requirements: Other than holding a nursing or non-nursing bachelor’s degree, candidates must possess a minimum 3.0 GPA and should expect a detailed pre-screening process for acceptance into an accelerated RN program or an online accelerated BSN program. They must complete nursing pre-requisite courses including chemistry, anatomy, statistics, and physiology, although the actual pre-requisites depend on the school or online ABSN program. If they lack experience, they may have to work on a clinical placement team after completing an online ABSN program. This is to ensure that they can use nursing concepts in a hands-on environment after completing coursework developing core competencies. Multiple universities and both traditional and online nursing programs use the clinical placement process for successful completion of a nursing care program.

Typical Courses:

  • Community Health Nursing
  • Maternity Nursing
  • Pediatric Nursing
  • Adult and Elder Nursing
  • Leadership and Management in Nursing
  • Nursing Pharmacotherapeutic
  • Acute Care Psychiatric Nursing
  • Contemporary Healthcare Issues

Exam & Licensing: Each state has its own requirements for nurse licensing, but roughly half of states are enrolled in nurse licensure compacts, allowing nursing to achieve licensure relatively simply if they work in multiple states or move to another state. All states use the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) licensing exam, which is a pass/fail test. Candidates must submit to criminal background checks in most states, as well as disclose any professional, medical, or legal issues that may affect their ability to perform their job. The initial RN license is referred to as license by examination. Seasoned RNs can receive licensure if they relocate to another state by providing license verification and specific information required by the state.

Typical Salary for RN’s:

Salaries for an RN range from $48,000 at the entry level to $90,000 for experienced nurses. The average pay is $29.40 per hour. These specialists may focus on patient care and health promotion within their community, department, or clinical sites while following the nursing process they were taught in their traditional or online coursework. Nurses may also receive substantial overtime pay, however that is often due to the fact that overtime in mandatory in many situations.

Typical Jobs:

  • Registered Nurse
  • Telehealth Nurse
  • Forensic Nurse Consultant
  • Nurse Navigator
  • Case Manager Nurse
  • Nurse Care Advisor


  • Hospitals
  • Healthcare clinics
  • Private physician practices
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Nursing homes

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Online Accelerated BSN

Tuition Cost: $17,000 to $90,000 depending on the school

How Long to Graduate: 1 year to 18 months

Requirements for Accelerated BSN: The candidate must hold a bachelor’s degree in another field, but must also fulfill certain prerequisites for admission into an accelerated BSN program. These include a grade of B or better in biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, nutrition, statistics, and anatomy and physiology. Most schools require candidates to have a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Typical Courses:

  • Pathophysiology and Pharmacology for Nursing
  • Fundamentals of Nursing Practice
  • Transitional Care of Families and Population
  • Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice
  • Biophysical Processes
  • Healthcare Ethics
  • Leadership in Healthcare Delivery and Policy
  • Nursing Intensive for Second Degree: Managing Transitions Across Care Environments

Exam & Licensing: A BSN must pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam. BSN candidates must also submit to criminal background checks in most states, as well as disclose any professional, medical, or legal issues that may affect their ability to perform their job. Each state has its own licensing requirements for nurses.

Typical Salary for BSN’s:

The average salary for a BSN is $80,000 per year. Entry level salaries start at about $43,000, with upper level salaries usually ranging from $88,000 to $94,000.

Typical Jobs:

  • Registered Nurse
  • Clinical Nurse Manager
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Case Manager
  • Director of Nursing


  • Hospitals
  • Private physician practices
  • Nursing homes
  • Medical clinics
  • Rehabilitation facilities

Online Accelerated MSN

Also known as direct entry MSN (Master of Science in Nursing), an accelerated MSN combines a BSN and a Master’s degree. The candidate must earn a previous bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. Students can earn a master’s degree in an accelerated MSN program in less time than it takes to complete a typical bachelor’s degree.

Tuition Cost: $35,000 to $60,000 depending on the school

How Long to Graduate: 2 to 3 years

Requirements for Accelerated MSN: MSN candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. Prerequisites will depend on the school, but most candidates must have completed coursework in biology, anatomy, chemistry, and statistics. Candidates must also take the Graduate Record Exam and submit their scores. Letters of recommendation and a statement of professional goals are typical requirements for an accelerated MSN.

Typical Courses:

  • Integrated Clinical Management
  • Pathophysiology
  • Psychiatric Mental Health
  • Public Health
  • Child Health
  • Population Health Leadership
  • Leadership for Professional Nursing
  • Philosophical, Theoretical, and Ethical Perspectives of Advanced Nursing Practice

Exam & Licensing: National organizations governing the candidate’s area of specialization certify MSNs. For example, a nurse practitioner may receive certification from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. All MSNs must hold a valid RN license for their state. Every state has its own licensing requirements for MSNs.

Typical Salary for MSN’s:

The average salary for an MSN is $92,000. Entry-level MSNs start at about $75,000. Certain jobs requiring an MSN pay considerably more, with psychiatric nurse practitioners earning between $84,000 to $135,000, and acute care nurse practitioners earning between $84,000 and $121,000.

Typical Jobs:

  • Nurse practitioner
  • Clinical nurse leader
  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Advanced practice RN
  • Nurse educator
  • Certified nurse midwife
  • Certified RN Anesthetist


  • Hospitals
  • Skilled nursing facilities
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Physician’s office
  • Outpatient clinics

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Some Accelerated Nursing Schools

Schools Offering Accelerated BSN Degrees:

  • Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, Maryland
  • Illinois State University
  • Indiana State University
  • Michigan State University
  • Rutgers School of Nursing, New Jersey
  • Texas A&M College of Nursing
  • University of Central Florida
  • University of New England, Maine
  • University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
  • University of Washington School of Nursing

Schools Offering Accelerated MSN Degrees:

  • Boston College Connell School of Nursing
  • Duke University School of Nursing, North Carolina
  • Marquette University College of Nursing, Wisconsin
  • New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing
  • Rush University, Illinois
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing
  • University of Arizona College of Nursing
  • University of Rochester School of Nursing, New York
  • University of Virginia School of Nursing
  • Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, Tennessee

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I still be able to work while I complete an accelerated nursing degree?

Nursing programs are usually built for working professionals, but you might still be wondering if you can continue working while completing what would undoubtedly be a more intense program that allows you to finish school more quickly. While the usual programs may take two to two and a half years, an accelerated program often takes no more than 16 months to complete. While those who already have responsibilities outside of work may find their time strained if they attempt an accelerated program, even these programs are meant for those who are working full-time. However, it’s important to ensure that you will be able to complete the program before you start, so make sure you have a conversation with someone within the program before you sign up if you are at all worried about being able to finish on time.

What is the fastest nursing degree I can earn?

While bridge programs, which allow you to move from LPN to RN status or gain a bachelor’s built on an associate degree, are fast, they aren’t necessarily the fastest degree you can earn. Most would say that the fastest degree to earn would be a nursing associate degree, or ADN. These degrees can take as little as 18 months to complete. However, if you are willing to dedicate a bit more time to earning a degree that can take you farther in your career, not over the course of years but during a more intense program of study, then you could opt for an accelerated nursing program, which can let you finish in the same amount of time while earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree instead of an associate degree.

How competitive are nursing programs?

It really depends on the program you are interested in. There are programs all over the country that are highly competitive and difficult to get into and there are programs all over the country that are less competitive. For the most part, as long as the program has the appropriate accreditation, such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), it doesn’t matter how competitive it is.

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