The Complete Guide to Second-Degree Nursing Programs

For those who are considering a career change into nursing and already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject — finance, restaurant management, or even music — a second-degree nursing program, AKA an accelerated BSN program, may be an excellent option for you.

Accelerated BSN programs are specifically geared for those who want to become a nurse with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. Read on to learn everything you need to know about becoming a nurse with a bachelor’s degree in another field via a second-degree nursing program. 

A second-degree nursing program, also known as an accelerated nursing program or a direct-entry nursing program, is designed for individuals who already hold a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing but want to pursue a career in nursing. These programs are structured to provide an accelerated pathway into the nursing profession by building upon the student’s previous educational background.

Second-degree nursing programs typically offer a condensed curriculum that focuses specifically on nursing coursework and clinical experiences. This allows students to complete their nursing education in a shorter timeframe compared to traditional programs. The exact length of these programs can vary, but it is often around 12 to 24 months.

These programs are intensive and require a significant commitment of time and effort, as students must quickly acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to become competent nurses. Upon completion of a second-degree nursing program and passing the required licensure exams, graduates are eligible to become registered nurses (RNs) and pursue employment in various healthcare settings.

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Depending on the program structure and intensity, accelerated programs range from 12 months to 18 months, though some can be as long as 2 years. During these months, you will be taking nursing-specific courses, many of which may be condensed in order to accommodate the faster pace toward graduation.

One thing you need to consider is that the advertised length of the program does not include the time it may take to complete the prerequisite courses that are required in order to apply.

No, any completed bachelor’s degree will be sufficient to apply for an accelerated program. You will, however, have to complete the prerequisite coursework prior to application. 

Besides having a bachelor’s degree, many accelerated programs require a number of core prerequisite courses. Common subjects include microbiology, statistics, and sometimes anatomy and physiology. If it has been a few years since you completed these courses, be sure to check if the school requires the classes to be taken within a certain amount of years. 

Most programs have an entrance exam as a requisite for entering the nursing program, and the same holds true for accelerated applicants. The entry exam covers the subjects that are needed for entry to nursing school: math, reading, science, and English. Whether it’s the HESI, ATI, or TEASE, there are many resources to help you review and score well on the entrance exam. 

GPA is an important consideration for accelerated BSN programs, as many programs will require a minimum GPA for application. Usually, the minimum GPA for consideration into the program ranges from 3.0 to 3.5. 

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While most BSN accelerated programs are brick-and-mortar, more online options have become available. By completing the track online, students are typically responsible for setting up their clinical experience in order to meet the required hours at the bedside. This may include the responsibility of approaching the facilities affiliated with your program and finding a preceptor to shadow when completing your hours. 

It is a good idea to begin your search of online BSN accelerated programs by speaking to those who work at the facilities near you. This will help assure that you are applying to a program that will accommodate your locale. 

Many accelerated programs can be seen as full-time positions in terms of time commitment. The scheduling may vary, but many programs hold classes daily, sometimes even Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Programs typically discourage working during the length of the accelerated program; however, many accelerated BSN students will find the time to work once a week, depending on their needs and availability. 

It depends on the program. Some programs have crafted courses for accelerated students, covering content in a shorter time frame. Other programs integrate accelerated nursing students into the traditional semesters, yet with a heavier course load or a different semester-to-semester structure. 

Depending on the program and the school, the cost of completing an accelerated program can range from $12,000 up to $75,000 for private institutions. Online programs will typically be on the more expensive end.

  • Accelerated programs can be highly competitive due to limited seating as well as a high number of applicants.
  • In order to make you a more competitive applicant, be sure your GPA meets at least the minimum standard.
  • If there are any recommended personal statements, take the time to craft a compelling statement detailing why you want to obtain nursing as a second degree.
  • Depending on the demand and the region, these programs could have an average of hundreds of applicants with as little as 50 seats per cohort. 
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Many nurses who have completed their BSN as a second degree feel that this was a good investment. The life experience that you bring to the program and to the profession of nursing is especially needed when treating a wide range of patients!

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