Accelerated Nursing Degree Programs

Accelerated programs let you complete all of the courses, clinical work and research of undergraduate and graduate degrees in a shorter period of time. These programs are often taken by students or RNs who want to advance their careers and get to work in the field as quickly as possible.

Additionally, there are also accelerated options for students who have a bachelors degree in an unrelated field but who want a fast track into a new career. Accelerated degrees are available at the bachelors, masters, RN to BSN, RN to MSN and PhD levels, and graduates of these programs have the same credentials as students who finish a traditional program.

The amount of time that you need to complete an accelerated program will vary significantly. However, an accelerated program will take you about half as long to complete as the standard version of the same degree.

Accelerated bachelors-level programs

This accelerated nursing program is a convenient educational track for students who already have a bachelors degree in another field but want to earn the credentials that they need to become an RN. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that accelerated BSN programs take an average of 11 to 18 months to complete depending on the type of bachelors that a student already holds.

At the bachelors level, the best accelerated schools are very competitive and often require you to have a minimum 3.0 to 3.5 GPA in a completed bachelors in another field. Additionally, you will have to complete any prerequisite BSN coursework in fields like statistics, microbiology and human anatomy if you did not already take these classes.

Once completed, accelerated bachelor programs can also provide you with a fast track into masters programs. However, it is important to note that many programs recommend that accelerated bachelors students not hold an outside job during their studies since the programs are very rigorous and time intensive.

Accelerated RN to BSN programs

These accelerated programs allow professionals who already hold an RN license to continue their education at the bachelors level. Most students are able to complete accelerated RN to BSN programs in 2 years or less, although it can also require longer depending on how many prerequisite courses you have already taken.

You typically must have an accredited associates or nursing diploma as well as a current RN license to enroll in an RN to BSN program. Just like the standard-length RN to BSN degree, you will have to take any prerequisite courses that you are missing before you can move on to upper-division courses. These usually include general science and liberal arts courses like English composition, government and biology.

The fast-paced nature of the program ensures that RNs do not spend too much time away from their jobs, and a few students even continue to work as an RN during their studies part-time on evenings or weekends. Like traditional bachelors programs, these accelerated BSN degrees provide you with a broader, more theoretical foundation in and prepare you to play a clinical leadership role or even continue your education at the graduate-level.

Accelerated RN to MSN programs

These 3 to 6 semester programs are available to registered nurses who already have an associates or a bachelors degree in an unrelated field. Like most other accelerated programs, the length of time that you need to complete the program will depend on how much coursework and clinical experience you already have when you enroll.

These programs require you to first satisfy extensive science and liberal arts prerequisites that correspond to the BSN phase before you can choose your specialization and move on to masters-level coursework. Many programs will also let you take challenge tests like the Collegiate Level Examination Program (CLEP) for certain courses. If you pass these exams, you can earn credits for prerequisite courses without actually taking them.

Once you begin the masters level of the program’s curriculum, you will usually be able to choose from the same variety of advanced specialty fields that are available to traditional MSN students. This includes the 4 types of advanced practice specializations as well as administrative or managerial MSN tracks.

Accelerated masters-level programs

Top accelerated degrees at the masters level typically take 1 year to 18 months to complete and prepare students for national licensure examinations in 1 of the 4 advanced specialties. Like traditional masters degrees, these programs only admit students who already have a BSN as well as a valid RN license.

Top accelerated nursing programs are highly competitive, and in order to gain admission, applicants usually need a minimum 3.0 to 3.5 GPA, above-average scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and a strong interview performance with the school’s faculty members.

Accelerated masters programs open the door for well-paid, independent and challenging careers in advanced practice nursing. However, these programs are very time intensive and challenging. And they may make it difficult for you to hold an outside job or keep up with family responsibilities.

In some regions where the demand for APNs is very high, you may be eligible to receive federal or state grants that pay for your accelerated MSN program. Unlike student loans, you do not have to pay grants back and they do not accumulate interest. However, these grants may only be available for certain APN specializations like nurse practitioner. Be sure to check with every school about the availability and details of these grants.

Accelerated doctorate-level nursing programs

Trying to find the best accelerated degree at the doctorate level can be very confusing because many of the schools that offer BSN to PhD tracks refer to them as accelerated BSN to PhD programs. In this case, these schools use the word “accelerated” in order to emphasize that their programs take you directly from a bachelors to a PhD with 1 single curriculum. However, this does not mean that these doctorate accelerated programs are actually faster than other BSN to PhD programs.

If you find a program that claims to be an accelerated PhD, be sure to have a look at its curriculum. This is usually posted on the school’s website or available directly through the nursing department. You will usually find that these programs require about the same amount of time as a normal doctorate.

Earning your accelerated nursing degree online

Most of the accelerated programs that you find at the BSN, RN to BSN and RN to MSN levels will also be offered as online degrees in a hybrid format. An accredited accelerated degree online for any of these levels will usually take you about the same amount of time to complete as brick-and-mortar accelerated programs.

The best accelerated online  programs tend to be offered by established universities and are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the National League of Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC).

Although all online degrees give you the flexibility to work when and where you want, it is important to keep in mind that even an online accelerated program will still cover a lot of coursework and clinical hours in a short amount of time. For most students, holding a job during an accelerated program is not an option, even if the program is online.

For this reason, if you decide to enroll in an accelerated program so that you can get your advanced degree and get to work quickly, you may want to consider applying for financial aid or looking for another temporary source of income.