Accelerated Nursing Programs

Changes in U.S. healthcare policy have upended the nursing industry in recent years. Amidst a cultural shift that prioritizes long-term maintenance over acute care, the demand for well-educated nurses has grown.

In 2010, the Institute of Medicine addressed these changes by issuing an official recommendation that all registered nurses should receive baccalaureate-level training.

In response, nurses around the country began augmenting their two-year degrees with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), and aspiring nurses enrolled in four-year BSN programs. Since then, school have developed targeted academic programs that help working nurses earn a bachelor’s degree. Many of these professionals have chosen to pursue their degree in an accelerated format, where they can bunch classes in order to graduate quickly.

Delivered primarily online, an accelerated nursing program offers students the opportunity to earn their BSN or MSN much faster than in a traditional campus program. Degree candidates quickly move through an advanced curriculum, completing clinical rotations at facilities near their homes or workplace. These programs are competitive and time-intensive, and students are expected to dedicate their full energy to their studies.

Frequently Asked Questions about Accelerated Nursing Programs

What are other names for accelerated nursing programs?

These programs are nearly always identified as accelerated or fast-track in nature, and sometimes indicate the first degree that an applicant must hold. Typical accelerated nursing programs include these options:

  • Accelerated BSN, ABSN
  • BSN for non-nursing graduates
  • Second-degree BSN
  • RN-to-BSN
  • Direct Entry MSN
  • Accelerated BSN/MSN

Who enrolls in an accelerated nursing program?

Enrollees in an accelerated nursing program have already earned a nursing diploma, an associate degree in nursing, or a bachelor’s degree in nursing or another field. While a bachelor’s degree in a related field is helpful for non-nursing graduates, it is not strictly required. All programs, however, expect you to have taken certain natural science prerequisites.

Having already completed some formal education, students in accelerated nursing programs are generally older and have some work experience. These students return to school with a specific goal in mind. Consequently, they approach an academically rigorous curriculum with the focus and drive necessary to succeed in these fast-paced, intense programs. Because enrollment in these programs is competitive, admission space is limited.

What are the biggest differences between an accelerated nursing program and a traditional nursing program?

Traditionally, BSN programs require a 4-year commitment, and MSNs can be completed in two. Classes are taught on campus, and clinicals are offered on-site at an affiliated medical facility. The curriculum is well-rounded, delivering a liberal arts education alongside your science courses. BSN students are generally recent high school graduates with little to no work experience, and graduate students have already earned the BSN.

Accelerated nursing programs differ significantly, mostly in the level of personal responsibility demanded of students. All courses are taught online, requiring students to be organized and disciplined. Classes are delivered successively, often without breaks, for the duration of the program. You must also arrange any practicums at an approved facility near your location. Because these students already hold another degree, the curriculum dispenses with general education requirements and focuses exclusively on nursing practice. The quick pace demands that students take an active role in their studies, and professors expect a high level of engagement from their students.

What are the pros and cons of an accelerated nursing program?

  • These programs can be completed in about half the time as a traditional campus program.
  • Tuition is frequently reimbursed by employers.
  • Program curricula immediately delves into nursing instruction.
  • A plentiful job market offers immediate return on investment.
  • There are no breaks between class sessions throughout the program.
  • Clinical rotations occur at facilities unaffiliated with the school.
  • The cost per credit hour can be significantly higher than for a traditional program.
  • Full-time employment combined with full-time study is too challenging for many students.

On average, how much faster are accelerated programs than traditional ones?

Program Program Length
Traditional BSN Program 4 years minimum
Accelerated BSN Program 1 to 2 years
Traditional MSN Program 2 years minimum
Accelerated MSN Program 18 months or less

What financial aid options are available if I enroll in an accelerated nursing program?

Paying for school can seem daunting, especially given that accelerated programs have a relatively high price tag. Students at all accredited U.S. colleges are eligible for federal financial aid, however, and nursing students can draw from several sources to pay for their education. Aside from federal aid, many schools offer institutional scholarships based on academic performance; given that academic prowess is a requirement for these programs, many accelerated nursing students may be eligible for merit-based awards. Graduate students are unfortunately not eligible for as much federal aid as undergraduates, but many students who are returning to school find that their employers offer tuition-reimbursement benefits. Others may benefit from federal grant programs recently established by the Health Resources and Services Administration.

What are general pre-reqs for being admitted into an accelerated nursing program?

Every program has different requirements. Some programs accept only students with a formal education in nursing, while others are designed to help non-nursing students get into the profession. As a general rule, you should already have some educational experience at an accredited school. College transcripts must demonstrate your academic performance; a 3.0 cumulative GPA is a typical requirement, with the additional caveat that students have at least a B in all prerequisite classes.

Non-nursing graduates are expected to complete fundamental studies in a number of subjects before they enroll. Typical prerequisites usually include courses in:

  • Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Basic Statistics
  • Human Growth and Development/Developmental Psychology
  • Nutrition
  • General Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry

Are there online accelerated nursing programs?

Accelerated nursing programs are nearly always offered online, because the flexibility afforded by distance education facilitates the accelerated pace that makes these programs so attractive. Some schools do offer hybrid options, though these are relatively rare. Most programs can be completed entirely online, with the exception of your in-person clinicals. Students who plan to return to full-time work as quickly as possible may find online study to be the fastest route to a degree.

What do I need to know about accelerated nursing programs online?

All online students should be aware of reciprocity agreements between their home states and the school’s state because not all online degree programs are available everywhere. Students should also verify that their target school is properly accredited. Online students in accelerated nursing programs must arrange for practica at a medical facility near their home; all clinicals must be approved by your department.

What equipment do I need to be able to take an online accelerated nursing class?

  • Internet: Reliable internet access is mandatory. All reading and class assignments are presented online, and students are expected to engage with instructors and classmates regularly.
  • Laptop or desktop computer: A desktop computer is more affordable than a laptop, and is a great option for students who plan to study in a quiet space at home. For students willing to pay for portability, the market is filled with laptop options. Whichever you choose, ensure that you have the best processing speed, RAM, and disk space that you can afford. Wider screens and optimized visual performance can also make studying more pleasant.