If you want to become a nurse but prefer to earn your nursing degree faster than through a traditional nursing degree route, consider enrolling in an accelerated nursing program.
An accelerated nursing program is an intensive, condensed version of a traditional nursing degree. Students complete the same courses as those at a traditional nursing school but move through the curriculum at a faster pace.
Many nursing schools, such as at Duke University’s School of Nursing and New York University’s College of Nursing, offer an accelerated nursing program as a second degree for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another major other than nursing.
However, other nursing schools, such as at the University of Utah, Concordia University, and Roseman University, do not require a bachelor’s degree before applying but do require a specific amount of completed college coursework before you can be considered.
Through accelerated nursing programs, you can earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and/or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), depending on the school. For example, at Emory University in Atlanta, students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field can earn their BSN in 15 months and then immediately begin their MSN coursework.
Accelerated nursing programs have been around for some time. However, in recent years, online accelerated nursing programs have grown in popularity among students and universities, due to its more flexible scheduling. In fact, there are 230 accelerated BSN programs and 65 MSN accelerated nursing programs in the nation, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
Accelerated nursing programs help aspiring nurses enter the workforce faster to reduce the gap in the shortage of nurses, which are in high demand nationwide.
Accelerated Nursing Programs vs. Traditional Nursing Programs
Whether you decide to enroll in a traditional or accelerated nursing program, you will be prepared for a career in nursing. On both paths, you will take similar required courses and complete clinical training on campus and in a healthcare setting. However, there are some differences.
One of the biggest differences is the amount of time that it takes to earn a nursing degree. Students who apply to a nursing school that offers an accelerated nursing program as a second degree (meaning the student already has a bachelor’s in another major) programs can typically finish their BSN in one to two years, or their combined BSN/MSN in about 18 months or less. This is due to other required college coursework—for example, English and Literature courses—already having been completed.
Nursing schools, such as at Walsh University, New York University, and Truman State University, offer 15-month accelerated BSN nursing programs for those who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field. Students at Loyola University can earn their BSN in 16 months.
Thus, rather than starting a nursing program from square-one, other coursework and college education is taken into account and applied toward the completion of your degree.
These alternate programs also seem to draw from a more diverse and mature student body, with applicants and students already having years of college—and perhaps previous careers—behind them.
Applying for an Accelerated Nursing Program
Who Can Apply?
Most accelerated nursing programs are for those who have already completed a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. All accelerated programs require some minimum amount of completed college coursework.
Each accelerated program is different, but many have similar requirements for admission. Some common prerequisites for top accelerated programs are:
- A bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited institution in any discipline
- Minimum of a 3.0 cumulative GPA or higher
- Specific prerequisite coursework completed from an accredited school (see below for examples of common required courses)
- Fluency in the English language
Fast-track nursing programs are not limited to those with only science backgrounds., However, there are generally some science prerequisites that will need to be met before your coursework in the program can begin. Prerequisites may include:
- Human Anatomy
- Human Physiology
Some programs allow for these courses to be in-process at the time of your application and just require that you meet a certain passing grade (usually a C or higher) before you can begin the accelerated program.
However, many programs require that their prerequisite courses are completed before your application is submitted. Nutrition coursework is not generally required, but is often highly recommended. Of the necessary pre-requisite coursework, science courses typically need to have been completed within a certain number of years past. For example, Long Island University Brooklyn requires that all biology prerequisites must have been completed within the past 5 years. DeSales University in Pennsylvania requires that all their prerequisite science classes be taken within the past 5 years.
Advantages of Accelerated Nursing Programs
Nursing is a strong career choice with good job security, as the need for nurses is not set to diminish. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected registered nurses as among the occupations with the most job growth from 2014 to 2024. (See occupations with the top expected job growth from 2014 to 2024.) The average median salary for an RN in the United States is $68,450, excluding positions requiring higher education and licensure such as Nurse Anesthetists.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing notes a growing industry standard and call for RNs with training at the baccalaureate or higher levels, which preference graduates from an accelerated nursing program would meet.
Accelerated nursing programs allow you to become a nurse while leveraging your previous educational experience. The time commitment and ability to more easily transition to a nursing career is appealing to many.
Types of Accelerated Nursing Programs
There are different types of accelerated nursing programs, such as:
- Online: All classes are web-based, except for your clinical hours, which will be performed at a health care facility near your home or workplace
- Campus-based accelerated programs: All classes take place in a traditional campus setting
- Hybrid: Classes are a combination of in-person and online classes
Any of these routes might better suit your needs, personality, and/or current circumstances. Here are some things to consider with each of the program types:
- Proximity to your location
- Flexibility with family requirements
- Time required on-site
- Your previous background experience
Nursing requires both book learning and hands-on clinical training. Hybrid and online programs allow you to complete your theory courses online and then provide supervised clinical lab work and training on campus or at a nearby hospital facility. This type of program allows you some flexibility. Fully campus-based programs tend to follow a more set timeline to completion.
So, Are You Interested in an Accelerated Nursing Program?
If you want to be a nurse in a quicker amount of time, an accelerated nursing program is the way to go. Though it’s even more intense than a traditional BSN or MSN program, you’ll be able to enter the workforce much earlier.
As previously stated, be familiar with the different pre-requisites for your school of choice. Do you have the required courses and GPA? Where will you take missing required courses and how long will they take? Can you take those prerequisite courses online? Most of the required classes can be taken online through an accredited school. This is one option for saving time and money if you are missing some of the required courses and are hoping to more quickly apply for your accelerated program. Look into both local community colleges and universities for course options.
Also, be aware of work-restrictions placed on students in many fast-track programs. Due to the high-intensity nature of the program, many schools will discourage or not allow students to work while they are in the accelerated program. Because many students are coming from previous careers, it is important to understand this ahead of time and to research which programs have this set stipulation, should it be a factor in your decision. It would be wise to contact the nursing school you are interested in before applying to discuss working regulations.