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.

For those looking to become a registered nurse as a second career, an accelerated online bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree can be a great option. These types of online degrees are specially designed for individuals who already have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. By enrolling in an accelerated online BSN program, you can skip over the vast majority of the general education requirements. But how exactly do these online BSN programs work? How long do they last? Can any of the coursework be completed online? Let’s answer these questions and dive deeper into some of today’s best fast-track bachelor’s degree opportunities.

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.

Inside the Accelerated 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.

Term Courses # Credits
Semester 1 Introduction to Profession Nursing, Nursing Practice I (including clinical), Diversity in Healthcare, Nursing Practice II (including clinical) 15
Semester 2 Pathophysiology 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 3 Adult Nursing Care II (including clinical), Adult Nursing Care III (including clinical), Women’s Heath (including clinical), Pediatric Nursing (including clinical) Healthcare Research 16
Semester 4 Complex 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 Management 16

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.

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.

1 1. Xavier University, Accelerated BSN $41,580/year or $880/credit.
2 2. Emory University, Distance Accelerated BSN $69,900/year or $1,487/credit.
3 3. University of Rochester, Accelerated Bachelor’s Program for Non-Nurses $69,600/year or $1,420/credit.
4 4. 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: