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Inside Top Accelerated BSN Programs Online

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing isn’t reserved just for those already in nursing. See how online accelerated BSN programs are making it easier for non-nurses to enter the profession.

Last Updated: 08/25/2020
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You have a bachelor’s degree already, maybe even a master’s, but it’s not in nursing. And that’s what you want to do. So how do you make that move as fast as possible? Online accelerated BSN programs are designed for degree holders outside of nursing who want to enter the profession quickly. Many of the academic courses take place online, with labs and clinicals on campus or a third-party site. Let’s see how this increasingly popular nursing degree option works.

Types of Accelerated Online BSN Programs

Because the terms “accelerated” and “fast-track” are rather general, it’s common to see several different types of accelerated online BSN programs available. Some of these programs are intended for those who are already practicing as registered nurses. Others are designed for those who want to become registered nurses, and still others are tailored for those who want to take the next step in their registered nursing career. Let’s take a look at the three most common types of online BSN programs offered in an accelerated format.

  • BSN second degree:
    This is by far the most popular type of accelerated online BSN program. Typical students are those with a bachelor’s degree who would like to change career tracks and move into nursing. The bulk of this guide will focus on this type of online BSN fast-track program.
  • BSN-MSN direct:
    The field of registered nursing doesn’t stop at the bachelor’s degree level. A master’s of science in nursing (MSN) degree can greatly expand what a registered nurse can do and lead to teaching, leadership, and advanced practice options. For those who are already registered nurses and want to earn their MSN as quickly as possible, the BSN to MSN direct pathway is a good choice.
  • RN-to-BSN bridge:
    Earning a bachelor’s degree can open up many more opportunities for practicing registered nurses looking for professional advancement. As a result, these bridge programs are specifically for students who already have their registered nursing license, but only have an associate degree or diploma and would like to earn a bachelor’s degree. To learn more about RN-to-BSN bridge programs, check out our RN-to-BSN page.

Should You Earn an Accelerated BSN Online?

Earning a degree in less time seems like a no-brainer, but there is a trade-off. Accelerated programs save time because they have much more demanding and rigorous curricula and learning schedules. While this can allow graduates to start working as a registered nurse sooner, it means there will be less time available during the program for students to take care of other personal or professional obligations. Before applying to an accelerated program, make sure it’s right for you.

  • An accelerated online BSN might be a great fit if…
    1. …you have a successful academic record: Because accelerated programs pose greater academic challenges than traditional programs, admissions committees look for applicants who can demonstrate past academic success. Students with an excellent GPA in their prior bachelor’s degree will usually feel at home in an accelerated program.
    2. …you want to work as a registered nurse as quickly as possible: For anyone looking for a new career as a registered nurse, there is no faster way to that professional goal than the BSN as a second degree accelerated option. In fact, graduates could be working as registered nurses as little as 18 months after beginning the program.
    3. …you have excellent time management and organizational skills: The biggest challenge of an accelerated program is being able to complete the coursework at a faster pace. This requires a special level of organizational skills that not every student will have. But for those who have strong focus, are goal-driven, and can multi-task effectively, the accelerated BSN online degree option is a great opportunity to learn as efficiently as possible.
  • An accelerated online BSN might be a poor fit if…
    1. …you have significant non-academic responsibilities: Enrolling in an accelerated program means your education becomes your number one priority. For those with substantial personal or professional responsibilities such as families, young children, or full-time jobs, completing an accelerated online BSN program may not be feasible.
    2. …you have financial difficulties: An accelerated program may save money in the long-run, but in the short-term, students can expect to pay more in tuition than they would if they enrolled in a traditional program. This higher expense comes into play because students are usually taking classes year-round and taking more credits at a time.
    3. …you really care about your GPA: For perfectionist students who want a perfect GPA, taking courses at an accelerated level will not make that task any easier. And for those who aren’t as particular about their grades, a high GPA may still be important if they hope to apply to graduate school in the future. So students who want the best BSN GPA possible might want to consider a more traditional track for their nursing degree.

Key Details of the Fast-Track Online BSN

A BSN program for those who already have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing area of study is essentially a bachelor’s degree program with the first two years cut out. With general education credits out of the way, the remaining curriculum focuses on major-related courses.

What makes an online BSN program accelerated is the fact that these two years are condensed into 12 to 18-month time period. The program will begin with foundational courses about nursing practice and medicine, and clinicals will begin quickly, sometimes as early as the first semester. For an idea of what accelerated BSN nursing students can expect, check out the following timeline.

TermCourses# Credits
Semester 1Introduction to Profession Nursing, Nursing Practice I (including clinical), Diversity in Healthcare, Nursing Practice II (including clinical)15
Semester 2Pathophysiology I, Pathophysiology II, Adult Nursing Care I (including clinical), Pharmacology I, Pharmacology II, Nursing and Mental Health I (including clinical), Nursing and Mental Health II (including clinical)16
Semester 3Adult Nursing Care II (including clinical), Adult Nursing Care III (including clinical), Women’s Heath (including clinical), Pediatric Nursing (including clinical) Healthcare Research16
Semester 4Complex Adult Nursing Care I (including clinical), Complex Adult Nursing Care II (including clinical), Community Health I (including clinical), Community Health II (including clinical), Professional Nurse Leadership and Management16

How Does Earning a Fast-Track BSN Work Online?

The typical accelerated online BSN program for pre-licensure students (i.e. those without a nursing license or other healthcare experience) consists of both classroom and in-person elements. The in-person element primarily includes clinicals, also known as “practicums.” There may also be laboratory requirements in which students may need to complete certain classroom requirements on campus.

The classroom elements are almost always available 100% online. Students can complete these at their own pace to some extent, given the expediency in which classwork must be completed. But most programs were designed around the idea that students learn best as a group. To facilitate that group learning, many programs teach students as a cohort.

To allow for effective collaborative learning online, program administrators ensure students will have multiple opportunities to interact with each other and their professors. How this is done depends on the program, but begins with the use of learning management software. This software sets up the course materials for the students, such as lectures, electronic handouts, and assessments. Students can also expect the use of video conferencing software like Facetime or Skype, online chatrooms, and message boards.

The In-Person Clinicals

Because incoming students will have little to no nursing experience, they can expect to take the full gamut of clinicals. While it would be nice to earn a BSN 100% online, given the hands-on nature of the nursing field, extensive in-person training is necessary.

In most online programs, the coursework will be mostly or entirely online. Then there are in-person clinicals that students must complete before graduation. Some programs require completion of the clinicals at predetermined sites near the physical location of the school. Others will allow students to choose their own clinical locations close to them; in this case, students will have to obtain prior approval from program officials first.

For especially driven nursing students who make a great impression, it’s possible to turn clinical experiences into post-graduate employment opportunities. Nurse managers in charge of hiring tend to gravitate toward applicants they already know, such as those they meet through interactions during a clinical rotation.

In the vast majority of situations, students will learn a tremendous amount of information through their clinicals. However, this learning can sometimes be inhibited when nursing students are assigned bad preceptors. A bad preceptor can lead to missed learning opportunities through hands-on experience. In extreme cases, this can lead to the unauthorized practice of medicine or injured patients due to lack of appropriate supervision. If a nursing student believes he or she has a bad preceptor, they should follow the policy in place to deal with such a situation. Usually this consists of getting in touch with the professor of the course attached to the clinical or the preceptor’s instructor.

2020’s Best Online Accelerated BSN Programs

It can be hard to choose a nursing program, and when you add in the online portion, it’s even tougher. So how do you find the right program for you with so many options and decisions to make? You start with a fully researched list of the top-tier programs that stand out above their peers. Using data from the U.S. Department of Education, EduMed.org has researched and analyzed more than 7,700 accredited colleges and universities across the country. Review and compare our top online accelerated BSN programs below.

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About the ranking

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Methodology for EduMed’s 2020 Rankings

To be considered for this ranking, each school must have the following:

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Program(s) offered at least partially online.

School Metrics Explained

EduMed.org data scientists analyzed government higher education data and created a proprietary algorithm to rank each U.S. postsecondary institution and its online programs using 5 primary factors:

  • Cost: Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Online Program Availability: Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to Department of Education.
  • Academic Counseling: Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement: Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid: Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

About Our Data

EduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

Most recent data pull: February 2020

#School NameTypeCostOnline ProgramsMore DetailsSchool InformationOnline StudentsAcademic CounselingCareer PlacementStudents w/Institutional AidMedian Earnings 10yrs After EntryAccreditation
1University of Massachusetts-DartmouthNorth Dartmouth, MAPublic$$$1

The University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth offers an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing to qualified students who already hold an accredited undergraduate degree. The full-time program prepares students for professional work in healthcare facilities and boasts an 89% pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Instruction at UMass Dartmouth involves a combination of online classes and in-person clinical placements. Most students finish the program in just over a year, completing coursework in pathophysiology, family health, and elder care. Qualified applicants need a bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 GPA or higher, TEAS test scores, a resume, and three letters of recommendation.

Program Overview

Second Degree Accelerated BS in Nursing (Hybrid):

  • Credits: 59
  • Length: 17 months
  • Cost: $631/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: NECHE (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
73%
AccreditationNew England Commission of Higher Education
2Utica CollegeUtica, NYPrivate, Not-for-Profit$$$$$1

Utica College administers an online accelerated nursing coursework program that gives qualified students a path to degree completion in just 16 months. The program uses a blended learning model that combines online coursework with hands-on nursing simulations and clinical rotations. Prospective students need a non-nursing bachelor’s degree with a 2.8 cumulative GPA in order to apply. Theory classes at Utica College cover foundational topics like health assessment, pharmacology, nursing management, and clinical research. Classes with required lab or clinical components take place within students’ own locales for optimal flexibility and convenience.

Program Overview

Online Accelerated Nursing Coursework:

  • Credits: 62
  • Length: 16 months
  • Cost: $867/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: MSCHE (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
83%
AccreditationMiddle States Commission on Higher Education
3Madonna UniversityLivonia, MIPrivate, Not-for-Profit$$$$$1

Madonna University offers an online, accelerated BSN program available to students with a previous degree or at least 60 transferable college credits. Most students complete the 53-credit program in less than a year, going on to pass the NCLEX-RN exam and obtain fulfilling employment as practicing nurses. All program coursework happens online through innovative digital learning platforms. Self-directed students engage with their peers as they study health assessment, pharmacology, evidence-based care, and holistic mental health. The program also offers skills and simulation labs for interactive, hands-on learning. Clinical rotations take place at one of Madonna’s partner facilities in the greater-Detroit area.

Program Overview

Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program:

  • Credits: 53
  • Length: 16 months
  • Cost: $979/credit
  • Mode: Fully online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
96%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
4Olivet Nazarene UniversityBourbonnais, ILPrivate, Not-for-Profit$$$$$1

Students with a bachelor’s degree or some college credit can earn an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing at Olivet Nazarene University. Designed for those interested in transitioning to a new field, this full-time program integrates healthcare theory with nursing practice by developing knowledge and skill in care-giving and assessment. Students receive instruction from seasoned professionals through innovative online courses and complete clinical requirements at convenient locations in their own area. Graduates of the program typically finish all requirements in a year and stand fully prepared for licensure exams. Olivet Nazarene also offers merit-based financial aid opportunities to qualified students.

Program Overview

Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN):

  • Credits: 69
  • Length: 16 months
  • Cost: $785/credit
  • Mode: Fully online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
100%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
5Marian UniversityIndianapolis, INPrivate, Not-for-Profit$$$$$2

Marian University offers an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing program that most students complete in 16 months or less. The curriculum consists of online coursework and clinical rotations that take place at one of Marian’s partner facilities in the region. Students with an unrelated bachelor’s degree can choose from three different start dates throughout the year. Classes come in 16-week sessions and cover subjects like health assessment and communication, pathophysiology, and mental health nursing. Marian delivers all course content in these and other areas through flexible, accommodating distance learning tools that combine self-paced study with group collaboration.

Program Overview

Accelerated BSN Program:

  • Credits: 64
  • Length: 16 months
  • Cost: $850/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
99%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
6Anderson UniversityAnderson, INPrivate, Not-for-Profit$$$$$1

Designed for those with at least 60 accredited, transferable credits, Anderson University’s accelerated BSN program prepares students for practice as registered nurses. Graduates of the program are eligible to take the national licensure exam and often find work in surgical or pediatric settings in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. The full-time program lasts approximately 15 months and develops core skills and knowledge in microbiology, human development, and critical care. Anderson University’s innovative digital learning tools make it easy for busy students and working professionals to access material and complete class assignments at a time that works for them.

Program Overview

Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN):

  • Credits: 122
  • Length: 15 months
  • Cost: $780/credit
  • Mode: Fully online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
100%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
7Baylor UniversityWaco, TXPrivate, Not-for-Profit$$$$$1

Baylor University extends an accelerated BSN to qualified students interested in jumpstarting their career within a single year. The intensive program involves 62 credits of online coursework, clinical placements in the field, and a 2-week, hands-on learning experience at Baylor’s main campus in Waco, Texas. The school expects all students to enter the program with recent HESI exam results and a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing. Possible course topics include nutrition, statistical research methods, nursing foundations, and human physiology. The program concludes with an integrative practicum component where students log at least 720 supervised hours in the field.

Program Overview

Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing:

  • Credits: 62
  • Length: 12 months
  • Cost: $66,834 (total)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACS (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
97%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

Can You Get into an Accelerated Online BSN?

Though there are many nursing programs out there happy to provide aspiring students with a chance to prove what they can do, the accelerated online BSN programs are a bit different. Given the program’s challenging nature, along with the fact that incoming students will have little to no background in nursing, admissions committees are extra careful in who they select. The highly competitive applications process requires that students find some way to stand out from the pack.

Keep in mind that admissions committees often look for students who will be the best bet to uphold the school and program’s reputations. When a student has to drop out, it’s a losing proposition for not just the student, but the school as well. For example, it can potentially affect accreditation, ranking, and standing in the professional community. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get into without a 4.0 GPA, but it does mean applicants need to be serious about the application process and do everything they can to present themselves in the best light possible. Here are some points that can help.

Undergraduate GPA

The best way for admissions officers to predict an applicant’s future success is to examine their prior academic history. The better this history is, the more confident a program will be in tendering an offer of acceptance. The single most important measure of academic success is the GPA. While there’s more to a good education than grades, it’s the simplest and most objective measure available during the application process.

How to stand out:
Unfortunately, by the time a nursing applicant is applying to nursing school, the prior GPA is already determined. However, applicants who are worried about their GPA can use their personal statement or interview as an opportunity to explain how the former GPA doesn’t accurately reflect their current academic ability. After all, the student has probably learned more and matured a bit since those courses were taken.

Prerequisite Courses

The field of nursing is based primarily on science and math. So before beginning their BSN nursing education, applicants must show they have a sound educational background in basic scientific and mathematical principles. This is why all accredited BSN nursing programs require the completion of similar prerequisites.

How to stand out:
Getting the best grades possible in these courses can really help students stand out, especially if their overall GPA in their first bachelor’s degree isn’t the best.

Applicant enthusiasm

Everyone likes to feel important, including admissions officials. So it’s no surprise that all else being equal, the more an applicant wants to attend a particular school or program, the more likely they will get accepted. While making it clear that a particular school is the applicant’s first choice won’t automatically get them in, it can be a deciding factor between two similar applications.

How to stand out:
Applicants can set up a school visit to or participate in an online webinar. Programs love showing off what they have to offer. It provides an opportunity for applicants to further express their enthusiasm for a particular school and adds a personal touch by attaching a face and personality to the application.

Letters of recommendation

Recommendations are not always required, but help the applicant by providing a slightly less biased account of the student’s abilities.

How to stand out:
Finding someone who can write a strong letter is important, but that’s just the start. To make sure the recommender’s letter is as good as it can be, ask them as early in the application cycle as possible. This provides ample time for them to think about how to best write the letter and avoids making the applicant look unprepared.

Personal statement

In many applications, this essay is the primary avenue for the applicant to stand out on a personal level. It also provides a potential opportunity to explain any potential issues, such as a low GPA.

How to stand out:
Applicants can use the personal statement as their chance to express things that go beyond filling out the typical application, such as why they want to enter the nursing field, why they chose to apply to a particular program, or what they learned from a past mistake that shows up on their admissions application. Individuals should make the most of this opportunity by taking their time writing the essay, including starting early and having other people read it and provide feedback.

How Much Does an Online Accelerated BSN Cost?

Earning an accelerated BSN degree online is a substantial financial investment. Compared to traditional accelerated BSN programs offered on campus, the cost of obtaining an online BSN degree at an accelerated rate is about the same. However, compared to traditional BSN programs that aren’t accelerated, online accelerated BSN degrees tend to be more expensive, at least in the short term. To give prospective nursing students an idea of what to expect in tuition, we’ve compiled the following short list of programs and their tuition rates.

It’s important to keep in mind that the bottom line can be affected by a wide variety of factors, such as financial aid, scholarships, or fees.

11. Xavier University, Accelerated BSN$41,580/year or $880/credit.
22. Emory University, Distance Accelerated BSN$69,900/year or $1,487/credit.
33. University of Rochester, Accelerated Bachelor’s Program for Non-Nurses$69,600/year or $1,420/credit.
44. UMass Dartmouth, Second Degree Accelerated BS in Nursing$31,633/year or $679/credit.

For information on how to pay for your fast-track BSN, check out the following pages: