A Complete Guide to Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) Programs

accelerated nursing programs degree guide

If you are interested in making the change to a nursing career, then you might be exploring Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) programs. The ABSN degree path can help you gain the skills and knowledge you need to enter the nursing profession and become a registered nurse (RN), and it can do so in a short time frame.

This guide offers an overview of accelerated nursing programs, including who they are designed for, the benefits of taking an ABSN program, and what to expect in an ABSN course.

What Are Accelerated Nursing Programs?

Accelerated nursing programs (sometimes also called “second degree nursing programs”) are specifically created for students who already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field. Students entering an accelerated nursing degree program receive transfer credit for their general education and prerequisite science coursework from their previous bachelor’s degree.

ABSN programs can be completed in a shorter amount of time than a traditional undergraduate bachelor’s degree — generally one to two years. The coursework taken in the ABSN is focused on nursing topics and on clinical experience, and the program also prepares students for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), which all nurses must earn in order to become a registered nurse (RN).

Who Are ABSN Programs Designed for?

ABSN programs are designed for adult learners who already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field. There are numerous scenarios in which someone may be interested in pursuing an ABSN degree.

These include individuals who:

  • Are looking for a fulfilling career which helps others
  • Want to make a quick career change
  • Want to enter a field with a growing job market
  • Are ambitious and extremely motivated
  • Would like to be employed as a nurse as soon as possible


Admissions Requirements for Accelerated BSN Programs

To apply to an accelerated nursing program, you need to meet certain requirements.

Academic requirements include:

  • A baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university, or foreign equivalent
  • A cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • Laboratory and health science prerequisite courses (see “Prerequisites for Accelerated Nursing Programs” below)

Personal and health requirements include:

  • Language tests to demonstrate proficiency in English if it is not your first language and your original bachelor’s degree was not taught in English
  • Completing a criminal background check
  • Passing a drug screening and child abuse clearance
  • Obtaining or providing proof of up-to-date immunizations, including a current flu shot and tuberculosis test

You will also need to purchase and maintain a student nurse liability insurance policy throughout your program.

BSN vs RN/ASN: What's the Difference?

You may be wondering why you shouldn’t just enroll in an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) degree program. ASN programs take about two years and prepare students for the NCLEX-RN licensure exam, just like an accelerated BSN program does. However, a BSN confers several advantages over the ASN.

The chief advantage of earning a BSN instead of an ASN is that you have more education, are better trained, and will have more job opportunities. Earning your BSN will increase your competitive advantage in the workplace. It also expands your potential salary range.

Salary Advantage: BSN vs. ASN

Salaries for nurses vary greatly across the country, but generally speaking, a new nurse with a BSN looking for his or her first job can expect to earn more than a new ASN-qualified nurse. Recent surveys from various states show an advantage for BSNs that can range from $2,000-$6,000 more per year at entry level.  


The chief advantage comes with the potential for advancement. Many roles in management, case management, research, and training require applicants to hold BSN degrees. Graduate nursing degrees also require BSNs as a prerequisite.

Benefits of an Accelerated Nursing Program

Accelerated nursing programs offer many advantages over traditional degree programs. These advantages include:

  • No prior healthcare experience required
  • Accelerated degree completion time
  • Opportunity to enter an in-demand career field
  • Graduates hold the nursing qualification employers prefer


Prerequisites for Accelerated Nursing Programs

Accelerated nursing programs often require applicants to have completed prerequisites in science, mathematics, and health topics. Some students will have taken these courses during their first undergraduate degree. Others may need to re-take or complete prerequisites before enrolling in an ABSN program.

Students most often have to take nursing prerequisites when they:

  • Graduated from their first bachelor’s degree program more than five years ago
  • Did not take a nutrition course taught by a registered dietitian
  • Did not take laboratory science courses as part of their original major

An enrollment advisor will be able to help you determine which prerequisites, if any, you need to take before beginning nursing classes as part of an accelerated nursing degree.

Prerequisites that may be required include:

  • Anatomy and Physiology I
  • Anatomy and Physiology II
  • Chemistry for Allied Health Professions
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Microbiology
  • Nutrition
  • Statistics

At GMercyU, we offer nursing prerequisite courses online. Our admissions counselors can help you determine which class or classes you would need.


Acclerated Nursing Program Career Outcomes

Earning a BSN as your first nursing qualification sets you up for positive outcomes in your nursing career. In 2010, the Institute of Medicine issued a recommendation that 80% of the nursing workforce have a BSN by 2020. This is because multiple studies have shown that patients treated by BSN nurses have better health outcomes, including fewer post-operative blood clots, fewer pressure sores, and lower mortality. Better patient care often leads to lower health care costs, which is a key concern for hospitals and clinics of all sizes.


Next, hospitals and other employers increasingly prefer to hire nurses with BSN degrees, and some, like the Veterans’ Administration and the U.S. Armed Forces, require new hires to have one. A recent Payscale.com analysis of 187,000 nursing job openings found that nurses who hold a BSN would qualify for 88% of the positions, while nurses with only an associate degree would qualify for 51%.


ABSN Job Titles and Salary Potential

With experience and professional development, a BSN degree can take you to some of the highest-paid nursing occupations in the health care industry.

Job Title



Operating Room Nurse


9% by 2030

Pharmaceutical Nurse


9% by 2030

Informatics Nurse


9% by 2030

Travel Nurse


9% by 2030


RN Specializations with a BSN

RNs who hold BSN degrees can enter nursing practice specialization areas, which offer the opportunity for interesting and fulfilling work as well as the chance to develop specialized, in-demand skills.

These specializations can include:

  • Specialized populations, such as pediatrics, gerontology or neonatal nursing
  • Specialized conditions or areas, such as psychiatry, oncology or cardiovascular nursing
  • Specialized functions, such as genetic counseling or public health nursing

Nurses who hold a BSN may also qualify to work as school nurses, travel nurses, case managers, nursing managers or clinical supervisors who monitor nursing students during clinical placements.

Long-Term Career Advancement with a BSN Degree

In addition to giving you a competitive edge with employers and a skill set that can lead to better patient care, earning a BSN degree sets you up for graduate nursing education in the future.

After you have gained nursing career experience and explored the specializations which interest you, your BSN can qualify you to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN-NP) and possibly even a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.

With an MSN degree, you can qualify for licensure as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) in specialties including:

  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care
  • Family Nurse Primary Care
  • Pediatric Primary Care

An MSN-NP degree can also equip you for management and administration roles in hospitals and healthcare systems. Having the option to earn an MSN or other graduate degrees down the line is yet another advantage of earning your BSN in an accelerated program.

What You Can Learn in an Accelerated BSN Program

An accelerated BSN teaches the essential skills and knowledge you will need to start your nursing career ready to provide superior patient care. The curriculum in these programs combines classroom instruction, laboratory and simulation experience, and clinical rotations in local health care facilities.

You will learn a combination of health science and nursing practice theory, research skills and hands-on practical clinical skills. Courses will also address professional ethics, technology, and health policy.

What You Will Be Able to Do

At GMercyU, we aim to produce BSN graduates who are ready to take on leadership roles as they gain experience as well as prepared to provide superior clinical care. When you complete our accelerated nursing degree program, you will be ready to:

  • Synthesize knowledge from the humanities, natural and behavioral/social sciences with current nursing knowledge as a basis for nursing practice
  • Formulate nursing decisions which reflect consistency with moral, ethical and legal principles
  • Use current professional standards to evaluate nursing practice of self and other members of the nursing team
  • Collaborate with other health care providers and consumers in promoting the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities
  • Demonstrate responsibility and accountability for direct and/or indirect nursing interventions and their outcomes
  • Refer individuals, families, and groups to appropriate community resources
  • Use evidence-based nursing practice to improve the health of individuals, families, and communities
  • Communicate effectively with diverse groups and disciplines
  • Function as a leader within nursing and interdisciplinary health teams in a variety of settings
  • Use the role of advocate to facilitate access to health care
  • Create a healing environment through the therapeutic use of self when caring for individuals, families, and communities
  • Analyze the nursing care environment using technical knowledge and skills

Coursework for an Accelerated BSN Degree

Accelerated BSN programs present nursing courses over a shorter timeframe than four-year programs. At GMercyU, our ABSN program takes place over four semesters for a total of 16 months. The 67-credit curriculum for 2023-2024 includes: 

  • Bioethics
  • Contemporary Issues in Professional Nursing
  • Fundamentals of Nursing Practice
  • Genomics in Nursing
  • Global Health and Health Policy
  • Health Assessment in Nursing
  • Health and Illness in the Community
  • Introduction to Professional Nursing
  • Leadership and Management in Professional Nursing
  • Nursing Care of Adults
  • Nursing Care of Adults with Complex Healthcare Problems
  • Nursing Care of Clients with Alternations in Behavioral Health
  • Nursing Care of Women, Children, and Families
  • Nursing Elective
  • Nursing Medication Mathematics
  • Nursing Research and Evidence-based Practice
  • Pathophysiology and Pharmacological Integrated Concepts
  • Synthesis of Learning for Nursing Practice
  • The Older Adult

After completing your degree, you will need to take and pass the NCLEX-RN examination and register with your state in order to be licensed to practice. State licensing laws vary, so check with your state’s nursing board so you understand what is required.

You can also ask your nursing instructors, program directors, or clinical education coordinators for more information about how to obtain your license in your state.

Accelerated Nursing Programs

Accelerated Nursing Programs are becoming more and more popular for adults interested in the healthcare field, who want to expand their knowledge past their bachelor’s degree but need the flexibility and convenience of an education.

With that in mind, many institutions have implemented ABSN programs to help adult learners earn their second degree while still being able to manage their everyday obligations, such as family and work. However, students still need to attend laboratory classes, simulation sessions and clinical experiences in person.

GMercyU offers best-in-class nursing programs, whether you're seeking bachelors, masters, or certificate options. 


Accelerated Nursing Program FAQs

How long do accelerated nursing programs take?

Accelerated nursing programs can typically take anywhere from 12-18 months to complete. An individual’s time frame will depend on whether he or she needs to take prerequisite courses before beginning the nursing curriculum.

Can I get a BSN without being an RN first?

Yes, you can obtain your BSN without holding an RN license first. The entire rationale behind ABSN programs is to allow people new to the healthcare field to enter nursing practice. Therefore, you can apply to enroll in an accelerated BSN after earning your bachelor’s degree in another field.

Will a BSN be required in 2020?

No, but it will confer a significant career advantage for nurses who have one. The Institute of Medicine’s recommendation to have 80% of RNs qualified with BSNs by 2020 is not binding or a legal requirement. There is as of yet no legislation in effect in any state to require nurses to hold a BSN as a minimum requirement for practice. The ASN is not being phased out, although employers increasingly prefer BSNs.

Some states have considered so-called “BSN in 10” laws, which would require ASN-qualified nurses to earn a BSN within 10 years of initial licensure in order to maintain the right to practice as an RN. So far, New York is the only state to pass a BSN in 10 law, which became effective January 1, 2018. Some employers may have internal policies which require new hires to hold a BSN or which require current nurses who only hold an ASN to upgrade to a BSN within a certain time period in order to keep their jobs.


Glossary of Accelerated Nursing Terms

  • ABSN - Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • ASN - Associate of Science in Nursing
  • BSN - Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • Clinical rotation - Required hands-on experience shadowing and performing nursing duties under the supervision of a qualified nurse educator or clinical supervisor.
  • Fast track - A course or program that is completed more quickly than traditional courses/programs
  • NCLEX-RN - The National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses; the national examination all nursing students must take in order to be licensed to practice in the US.
  • RN - Registered nurse; a nurse who holds a national certification to practice
  • Second degree - A program that allows students to transfer general education and prerequisite courses from a previous degree in order to earn a second degree