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Discover Online Fast Track RN to BSN Programs: Best of 2024

Fast-track RN-BSN programs are designed for RNs like you who are ready to take the next step in their careers by capitalizing on the knowledge and experience you already possess. Keep reading to learn more.

A smiling healthcare professional in blue scrubs stands by a window, looking at a document she is holding.

Regardless of how long you’ve been working in healthcare, you’re likely aware that a major shift has occurred in nursing, namely the education required to enter and stay competitive in the field. As of April 2023, over 70% of nurses in the US, including over half the nurses entering the profession, hold a BSN or higher degree. This increase in education has been shown to improve the quality of care patients receive and the competency of the nurses who provide it. In fact, nurses who completed RN to BSN programs reported greater critical thinking and assessment skills than their ADN-prepared peers. And as motivating as that is, the thought of going back to school, especially for an extended period of time, while juggling a full-time job can be daunting.

That’s where fast-track RN to BSN online programs come in. Whether you are looking to move into a leadership position or simply earn a higher salary in your current role, getting your BSN can help you achieve your goals on your time. We’ve created this guide to help you explore examples of high quality fast-track RN to BSN online programs, identify common pitfalls and their solutions, and get answers to frequently asked questions about accelerated BSN programs.

To help jumpstart your search for the right fast-track program for you, we’ve profiled three high-quality online, accelerated RN to BSN programs. From accreditation status to cost to unique program features, these will be a useful tool in determining what makes a fast-track RN to BSN program worth considering.

Franklin University

Franklin University’s online bridge program is one of the fastest RN to BSN programs available online, offering a streamlined path for AND-prepared nurses to level up their education and careers. Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), this fast-track program allows students to transfer up to 90 credit hours (75% of the 120 required for graduation) and can complete their degree in as few as 12 months. Students can expect to pay $298 per credit hour, a rate the university guarantees for as long as a student is actively enrolled. To further offset the price of the program, Franklin University automatically awards new RN to BSN students a $3,000 Smart Start scholarship upon acceptance.

The program’s unique, dynamic curriculum is delivered through e-books, videos, and outside research, all of which is provided at no additional cost to the student, and includes courses in nursing leadership and management; community and population health; health informatics; healthcare law and ethics; healthcare quality; and evidence-based practice. The degree also requires students to complete a capstone course and project. There is no clinical component to Franklin University’s fast-track RN to BSN program.

Purdue Global

Purdue Global, Purdue’s Online University, provides a unique approach among the fastest RN to BSN programs available online. Purdue’s ExcelTrack RN-to-BSN program emphasizes moving nurses past content they have already mastered by allowing enrolled students tp take assessments to demonstrate prior knowledge. Alternatively, students can work quickly through familiar content in one-credit modules, maximizing the time they spend on new content. Students can enroll in as many courses as they want each term for a flat tuition rate of $4,062. Didactic instruction is delivered entirely online, but students in this fast-track BSN program must complete a clinical rotation in person in the health facility of their choice within their community.

This CCNE-accredited program requires between 90 and 130 credits to complete (with prior degree credits). Students can transfer up to 90 credits from their ADN and earn their BSN in as few as 12 months on the ExcelTrack. Enrollment windows open every couple months, so students can dive into their studies when they are ready.

SUNY Brockport

The online Fast-Track RN to BSN program at SUNY Brockport is CCNE-accredited and designed for adult learners and working nurses. One unique feature of this accelerated program is the opportunity it provides students to complete clinical experiences abroad in either Costa Rica or Peru.

Brockport allows students to transfer up to 75 of the 120 credits they need to graduate from their ADN program. Students can expect to pay $353 per credit hour—or $4,240 per semester of full-time study. The university automatically considers students for transfer scholarships ranging from $1,000-1,500 upon application. Students must hold an unencumbered New York Registered Nurse license to be considered for admission to the program. Full-time students can graduate in as few as 12 months while part-time students graduate in an average of 18-24 months.

The university provides an Online Concierge service for remote students to request assistance in their degree programs and receive referrals to campus service offices. The program boasts that an impressive 50% of Fast-Track students move into nursing leadership positions within one year of graduation, making Brockport a quality choice for nurses eager to gain career mobility.

Solutions to Common Mistakes of Accelerated Online RN-BSN Students

You know that nursing school is hard work, you’ve done it once already, but that doesn’t mean you know what to expect from a fast-track RN to BSN program. That’s why we’ve outlined some of the most common mistakes students in these programs make, their causes and consequences, and solutions to help you avoid or recover from them.

Mistake: Assuming They’re Easier than Traditional Programs

Many RNs pursuing fast-track online RN to BSN programs make the mistake of believing their BSN-level schoolwork will be easier than that of their ADN. Depending on the type of student you are and your time management skills, online fast-track programs may actually be more challenging for you than a traditional program. Not taking your program seriously can have significant negative effects on the quality of your education and your success in the program.


Solution:

Connect with others who have completed online programs, particularly fast-track RN to BSN programs. Prepare thoroughly and treat your classes with the same level of conscientiousness you would if you were taking them in-person. A study published in BMC Nursing indicates that some students found online school more challenging because of the level of written work required compared to face-to-face programs. Research your program thoroughly and talk to professors and current students to mentally prepare for the workload.

Mistake: Failing to Create an Adequate Study Environment

One major challenge of enrolling in an accelerated online RN to BSN program is the lack of designated study spaces that are readily available in an on-campus setting. Work, school, and home life can easily blend together and distract from one another if you don’t set up an environment conducive to learning. This can impact your ability to focus on tasks and to take breaks from school, making you more prone to exhaustion or even burnout.


Solution:

A Frontiers study found that online students need to carefully consider the physical, social, and behavioral aspects of their study environment. Before beginning your program, set up a space that is conducive to learning. This requires a comfortable physical environment with relative quiet or reduced distractions and proper associations. Practically this means you should invest in furniture that promotes healthy posture, remove unnecessary distractions, and choose a space that is not likely to tempt you to neglect schoolwork, like near the TV or in your bed.

Mistake: Neglecting Self-Care

Nurses are especially prone to neglecting their own self-care, as the pandemic showed us, and are overall less healthy than the average American according to the American Nurses Association. This problem becomes even more troublesome when you are trying to balance your professional, personal, and academic obligations. You may be working long shifts, squeezing in school between family responsibilities and personal errands. Not taking care of yourself leads to exhaustion and poor performance in both work and school.


Solution:

Before you even begin your fast-track RN to BSN online program, reflect on what helps you feel your best. Prioritizing sleep and a healthy diet will not only help you avoid burnout, but also help you perform better in your classes. Intentionally structuring your time to include rest and leisure will help protect your mental health throughout the duration of your program, which also improves academic performance.

Mistake: Not Making a Financial Plan and Budget

Tuition is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the cost of a degree, even a fast-track RN to BSN online. Failing to account for other costs such as textbooks and special course fees can create financial stress. If you plan to work less to give yourself time to focus on school, you’ll also need to account for a drop in income. If you do not plan out your finances in advance, you may have to put your studies on hold when you look up one day and realize you can’t pay for them.


Solution:

Investigate the costs of each program carefully and make a detailed plan of all the costs involved. Utilize a budget to help you prepare for your income versus expenses during your program. Carefully consider hidden expenses such as more convenience food or the need for an upgraded personal computer. Saving in advance of beginning your degree can help mitigate unforeseen costs that didn’t make it into your budget plan.

Mistake: Not Seeking Help and Support

Online courses can get lonely. One specific way you may fail to care for yourself is by not seeking proper help and support, especially if you’re struggling. Even the fastest RN to BSN program takes up a considerable amount of time, so you will likely need additional help with one thing or another over the course of your program. Not asking for the support you need can negatively impact your ability to learn, your overall success in your BSN program, and your personal relationships.


Solution:

Fostering relationships with your professors and peers can greatly increase your chances of success within an individual course and in your program overall. Outside of school, anticipate what areas you are likely to need help with (meals, housekeeping, childcare, mental health) and reach out to friends, family, and professionals in advance. Asking for help ahead of time will not only help you be more successful in your program, but it can also help you receive better quality support as people have time to prepare.

Mistake: Overloading on Courses

Accelerated programs are designed to move quickly, and you likely want to progress through the program as fast as possible to reap the benefits of your new degree. However, going too quickly and trying to cram information can degrade the quality of your learning, impact your overall performance, and take a toll on your mental health.


Solution:

Utilize the resources provided by your program to decide on an appropriate course load. Your academic advisor can help you understand the unique features of your program and assist you in deciding how many courses to complete at a time. Planning your schedule will allow you to accurately predict how much time you will have per week to work on your classes.

Mistake: Overlooking the Importance of Networking

Ideally, your new BSN degree will open additional professional opportunities for you in the field of nursing. However, this is not a given. It is especially easy for online students to overlook the importance of networking with professors and peers in their courses, especially if they’re overwhelmed by the pace or learning format. This can rob you of unique and promising professional opportunities, and contribute to feelings of isolation during your program.


Solution:

Feeling connected to online peers and professors is correlated with academic success and satisfaction with e-learning. In terms of professional opportunities, a strong sense of community will only benefit your career. Utilize resources like the career center; join professional nursing organizations at your university; use social media and networking platforms to make virtual connections. Making a concerted effort to be connected will improve your experience during your degree and beyond.

Mistake: Procrastinating

Online or in-person, procrastination is an ever-present enemy for students. Whether it’s because you don’t have to answer to your professor in person or because your learning is largely self-directed, it can be exceedingly easy to put off your schoolwork in favor of tasks that feel more pressing, time with your friends, or a relaxing afternoon spent doing absolutely nothing . BMC Nursing reports that poor time management is a significant challenge in online RN to BSN programs, especially in many fast-track programs whose shorter timeframes require additional discipline.


Solution:

Having a set schedule that allots time for work, school, and leisure is the best way to stop procrastination before it starts. Some of the other pitfalls we’ve discussed, like not having a proper study environment, can make procrastination worse. Breaking down large assignments into smaller chunks can help turn a daunting workload into manageable, bite-sized tasks. Your retention also increases when you take in smaller amounts of information at a time and review often.

FAQs About Fast-Track Online RN to BSN Programs

We’ve walked you through some of the best and fastest RN to BSN programs available online, and our best advice on how to succeed in them, but you likely still have lingering questions, and you’re not alone. Keep reading to see our answers to some of the most common questions prospective students have and get the information you need to determine if an accelerated online program is for you.

Are online accelerated RN to BSN programs as reputable as traditional on-campus ones?

They can be. Like a traditional program, you’ll want to look at an online program’s accreditation status, outcomes (including NCLEX pass rate), and curriculum offerings. The CCNE is the gold standard when it comes to accreditation—you’ll recognize it from the profiles of the schools we featured earlier. NCLEX success rates provide a general picture of how successfully a school is preparing its students. According to Rasmussen University, other quality indicators include the support services offered by the university and the school’s reputation with your state’s board of nursing. You can also utilize our rankings of the top RN to BSN programs online to find high quality, pre-vetted programs.

Can I continue working while enrolled in an accelerated RN to BSN program?

Many fast-track RN to BSN programs are specifically designed for working individuals. A variety of features, including self-paced, asynchronous courses, make it possible for RNs to continue working while advancing their education. Your employer will likely be supportive of you earning your BSN—after all, it will benefit them as well—but be sure to be open about your needs and availability while enrolled in your program. Honest communication will help your employer understand if you need to change your schedule or take time off work to focus on school.

How are clinicals arranged in fast-track RN to BSN programs?

Many online programs allow you to complete requisite clinical rotations in your own community under the supervision of an approved preceptor on site. It will likely be your responsibility to find both an appropriate site and preceptor. Some fast-track RN to BSN degree programs do not require clinical rotations, but instead require students to complete a capstone course or project.

Is a fast-track RN to BSN program for everyone?

Any student can apply for a student loan from a wide array of different sources. A student loan will grant you money to pay for tuition, housing, and any textbooks or equipment you need right away without having to save up for it. Government and private loans are the two different kinds of loans. However, because loans need to be repaid once your education is complete, and the interest rates can be high, it’s best to consider them as a last resort.

Is financial aid available for students in accelerated online RN to BSN programs?

Yes. You can receive financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants, and student loans regardless of the pace of your program. The first step in qualifying for many of these is to fill out the FAFSA. You can also reach out to your university’s financial aid office for information about available nursing-specific scholarships and grants. Believe it or not, there are also scholarships specifically for RNs looking to earn their BSN. For more help finding a program that fits your budget, check out our guide to the most affordable online RN to BSN programs.

What is the average length of fast-track RN to BSN programs?

You can generally expect an accelerated RN to BSN program to take anywhere from 12-24 months. Factors that affect this length include the number of credits you transfer, t he course load you can manage successfully, and your financial situation. Many programs can be completed within a calendar year of full-time enrollment. The fastest RN to BSN program available online is offered at the University of Texas at Arlington and can be completed in just 9 months.