Accelerated Nursing Programs Guide

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The Best Accelerated Nursing Programs

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The Best Accelerated Nursing Programs


Students with a previously completed bachelor’s degree in any discipline have the opportunity to pursue an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing degree. The idea behind these program is to satisfy all necessary general education learning outcomes with knowledge obtained in the student’s first bachelor’s program, and going on to focus entirely on their nursing courses in their accelerated nursing program. We found the top accelerated nursing programs in the country, based on a school’s cost, acceptance rates, and graduation rates. Look below to explore top-ranking accelerated nursing programs.

  1. Linfield College

    McMinnville, OR

    Chartered in 1858, Linfield operates a main campus in McMinnville, Oregon, and a nationally renowned nursing school in Portland. Linfield established its Good Samaritan School of Nursing in 1982 as a component of the Good Samaritan Hospital — an institution in Oregon since 1873. Today, in conjunction with Legacy Health System, Linfield offers programs accredited through the Oregon State Board of Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The School of Nursing offers its online RN-to-BSN program through a partnership with Linfield's Online and Continuing Education Department. Students begin their studies at Linfield with a transition to professional nursing course. The college uses a generous transfer policy for students with prior experience, with no expiration of course credits. Students enrolled in the online RN-to-BSN program at Linfield must complete an integrated experiential learning course during the fourth (and final) semester of the program. Candidates must arrange their clinical placement with a service learning coordinator during their third (penultimate) semester. Online students may complete the service learning requirement locally or through Linfield's international service learning program. Applicants currently enrolled in a community college in Oregon may benefit from Linfield's co-admission partnership agreements with local institutions. Linfield charges a per-credit rate for online tuition. The college also offers discounts to Legacy Health members and specific scholarships for students enrolled in its RN-to-BSN program online. Linfield is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

  2. Northeastern University

    Boston, MA

    One of three professional divisions comprising Bouvé College of Health Sciences at Northeastern, the nursing school offers bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and continuing education programs. The school maintains partnerships with healthcare institutions in the communities surrounding its campus in Burlington, Massachusetts, to provide immersive clinical options for nursing students. Northeastern's online RN-to-BSN degree requires students to complete a combination of advanced nursing core coursework and residency credits, emphasizing professional skills in communication, ethics, and pathophysiology. All nursing students at Northeastern must also complete a community or public health practicum under the supervision of a nurse leader. This online nursing degree requires students to complete 45 credits at Northeastern, as well as a 72-hour clinical experience. The program runs on a hybrid model. Students may enroll full or part time, completing their degree in one or two years. Applicants must hold an active RN license, a regionally accredited associate degree, and a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0. Additionally, the program requires applicants to complete prerequisites and bring in at least 83 transfer credits. Northeastern also offers an accelerated BSN degree option online. The university charges tuition per credit, depending on which of these programs a student pursues. Northeastern is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Its School of Nursing delivers programs approved by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing and it is also accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  3. University of Rochester

    Rochester, NY

    In 1925, the University of Rochester became one of the first schools in the nation to offer a nursing diploma. The school still incorporates its original model into its nursing programs, emphasizing the correlation between nursing research, practice, and education. Rochester's community healthcare partnerships and generous financial aid packages contribute to its ranking among the best nursing schools in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. Rochester offers an online RN-to-BSN that is in full compliance with New York's "B.S. in 10" law, which requires nurses to obtain a bachelor's degree within 10 years of receiving initial licensure in the field. This online nursing degree comprises major-related coursework, as well as arts and sciences classes. Students complete one modular course at a time, with full-time students graduating in four years. Upon admission into the online RN-to-BSN program, students can automatically apply 32 transfer credits based on prior nursing major coursework. Applicants may transfer in a maximum of 96 credits based on prior learning, enabling some online students to graduate in 16 months. Distance learners must complete a capstone course to conclude the program. Students receive an iPad once they begin taking core nursing courses online. The university offers multiple financial aid options, including scholarships, employee discounts, and regional merit awards. The program provides an average tuition assistance rate of 50-55%. The university accepts applications on a rolling basis, with program start dates in September, January, and May. Nursing programs at the University of Rochester hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  4. Sacred Heart University

    Fairfield, CT

    As New England's second-largest Catholic-affiliated university, Sacred Heart provides liberal arts programs that embrace education and spirituality. All academic programs incorporate The Human Journey — Sacred Heart's signature core curriculum. The RN-to-BSN track at Sacred Heart prepares graduates to meet education requirements for entry-level nursing jobs. The curriculum for this online nursing degree includes a combination of nursing major, liberal arts, natural science, and elective requirements. Students must also complete a Catholic intellectual tradition seminar. Applicants must meet prerequisites and have an RN license, an associate degree or nursing diploma, and a minimum GPA of 2.5. Additionally, students must submit a resume, a professional statement, and two letters of recommendation. They must also complete a background check. Applicants may transfer in up to 90 credits, including 30 credits of lower-division undergraduate nursing coursework. Students who graduated before 1986 may also have the opportunity to apply 30 credits from an associate degree toward their online RN-to-BSN degree. Students complete all coursework asynchronously. The program offers six start dates throughout the year. The university maintains small class sizes for personalized instruction in its online courses. The nursing program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  5. Quinnipiac University

    Hamden, CT

    Quinnipiac's nursing school offers the only program in New England — and one of only 12 in the U.S. — that holds an endorsement from the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation. The nursing school promotes a collaborative approach to clinical practice, incorporating interdisciplinary healthcare coursework through the Center for Medicine, Nursing, and Health Sciences. Students must complete nursing core and elective courses to earn their online RN-to-BSN. The online nursing degree curriculum emphasizes contemporary issues, research, evidence-based practice, and diversity. The program delivers all of its coursework asynchronously through the Blackboard learning management system. Students applying to Quinnipiac may transfer in up to 88 credits from a regionally accredited institution. Applicants must hold an RN license in good standing and an associate degree or nursing diploma from a regionally accredited school. Additionally, applicants need a minimum 2.7 GPA. Quinnipiac accepts applications on a rolling basis and enrolls students in the fall and spring semesters. Quinnipiac offers an online orientation to introduce distance learners to resources such as its library, financial aid services, and technology support. The university charges the same per-credit tuition rate for online coursework, regardless of a student's state of residence. Quinnipiac's nursing programs hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  6. Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

    Boston, MA

    Choosing from Massachusetts campuses in Boston and Worcester, as well as an additional location in Manchester, New Hampshire, MCPHS students can gain access to some of the best healthcare facilities in New England. The college operates five clinics for nursing and medical students, enabling learners to gain hands-on experience in their field of expertise. During an average year, nursing students enrolled on campus and online treat more than 22,000 patients in Manchester and Worcester. Students must complete a total of 122 credits, including professional nursing and general education coursework, to earn their online RN-to-BSN degree. The online nursing degree curriculum also requires 135 clinical hours. Students conclude the program with a capstone project exploring leadership in the nursing profession. The program awards qualified first-year students up to 42 credits for prerequisite coursework and 25 credits for a completed associate-level nursing degree. MCPHS charges per-credit tuition rates based on a typical course load of 12-18 credits during the fall and spring semesters; students enrolling in less than 12 or more than 18 credits during these terms may pay more per credit. Students enroll in this online RN-to-BSN program in the summer term, and the program requires an initial orientation on campus. After that, courses are delivered entirely online. The college maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of 13-to-1, with 90% of full-time faculty holding terminal degrees. MCPHS students can talk to college mentors, coaches, and advisors.

  7. Labouré College

    Milton, MA

    Established in 1892 in Milton, Massachusetts, Labouré focuses on providing nursing and healthcare programs in the Catholic tradition. Labouré is the longest-running education institution for nurses in the Boston area. It also qualifies as one of the most affordable nursing schools in Massachusetts. The online RN-to-BSN program at Labouré uses an accelerated format, with each semester split into two seven-week sessions. The curriculum combines nursing-specific classes with general education coursework, culminating in an integrative seminar and a senior capstone. Topics explore professional nursing, evidence-based practice, and leadership and management in healthcare. Students pay the same flat rate for all RN-to-BSN courses. Applicants must submit all official college transcripts with their application and hold a current RN license. Non-licensed applicants may qualify for conditional admission if they receive specific permission from the program chairperson. Students can enroll at one of six entry points. Learners who bring in ample transfer credits may graduate within four semesters. The program accepts a maximum of 90 transfer credits. Labouré's online nursing program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Students complete coursework online by participating in discussion boards and live virtual meetings with peers and instructors. The college maintains multiple support resources, including academic tutoring and coaching, career services, and technology tools. The Student Success Center also assists students with disabilities.

  8. The Catholic University of America

    Washington, DC

    Beginning operations in 1932, the Conway School of Nursing at the Catholic University of America offered the nation's first professional coursework in nursing education. Today, the university offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in nursing online and on campus in Washington, D.C. The school's RN-to-BSN program follows a traditional format, enabling students to complete primary elements of the degree online. The curriculum includes classes in the arts and sciences, nursing, and electives. Courses explore evidence-based care, transition to professional practice, and management of healthcare delivery. Students may complete an optional practicum in complex nursing. Aspiring BSN students accepted to the Conway School of Nursing must complete 60 credits through the Nursing Exploratory Program, after which they can apply for admission into the upper-division BSN track. Students must earn a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0, meet chemistry and biology prerequisites, and earn a minimum composite score of at least 75% on the HESI entrance exam during the fall semester of their sophomore year. Students who choose to enroll part time may extend their degree completion timeline beyond four years. The program accepts a maximum of 12 completed college transfer credits. The Catholic University of America's nursing programs hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  9. New England Institute of Technology

    Warwick, RI

    One of the most prestigious technical universities in Rhode Island and southeastern New England, NEIT enrolls more than 3,000 students in more than 50 programs on campus and online. NEIT's online RN-to-BSN track includes 67 quarter credits and caters primarily to students with prior experience, allowing learners to transfer in both general education and nursing credits. This online nursing degree culminates in a leadership and management course and a capstone practicum experience. In coordination with a faculty advisor, students may select a practicum site and preceptor of their choice. Depending on their number of transferable credits, some distance learners can complete the program within three years. Applicants must hold an associate-level nursing degree or diploma with a cumulative GPA of at least 2.77. They must also earn a minimum grade of "C+" in certain biology, psychology, sociology, and English prerequisite courses. Applicants must also maintain current, unencumbered nursing licensure and demonstrate academic eligibility for the NCLEX-RN exam. Students complete the majority of program coursework entirely online. Distance learners can access 24/7 technology support; career services; and the Academic Skills Center, which provides tutoring, coaching, and enrichment courses. NEIT charges all students the same per-credit tuition rate for RN-to-BSN courses, no matter where they live.

  10. Loyola University of Chicago

    Chicago, IL

    When it opened its doors in 1935, the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing at Loyola became the first collegiate nursing facility in Illinois. The school now offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs in nursing. Loyola also features specialized programs for aspiring dieticians, as well as degrees in exercise science and health systems management. Loyola's online RN-to-BSN degree completion program provides a fast track to a professional nursing career. This online nursing degree includes a combination of nursing, universal core, and professional nursing e-portfolio coursework. Applicants can bring in up to 66 transfer credits with them when they enroll, though they must complete at least 30 credits through Loyola's nursing school. Students may enroll in part-time or full-time study. Full-time students with significant transfer credit can graduate in one year. Each online course lasts 6-8 weeks, and many students graduate in three years. Applicants must have an active nursing license and a GPA of at least 2.5. Students complete courses asynchronously through the Sakai learning management system. Loyola encourages distance learners to attend one of its monthly online orientation sessions through the Zoom platform. Distance learners pay the same per-credit tuition rate, regardless of their state of residence. Loyola accepts applications on a rolling basis and offers fall, spring, and summer start dates.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 19 percent increase in the number of nursing jobs from 2012 to 2022. As a solution, schools are encouraging students to enroll in accelerated nursing degree programs that get them on the fast track to getting a license and a job. Whether students have had long-time goals of becoming a nurse or are looking for a career change, accelerated nursing programs are the fastest way to get the training needed to obtain a license and start working in the field. This page outlines the different kinds of accelerated nursing degree, including what students can expect to study and how the programs prepare them for the rigors of nursing.

Accelerated BSN
Accelerated MSN
Accelerated BSN to Ph.D.
Online Accelerated BSN and MSN Programs

The Accelerated BSN

Accelerated nursing bachelor’s degrees are for those who have completed at least a bachelor’s degree in a discipline other than nursing. Building on what students learned in their previous degree programs, students who enroll in accelerated BSN programs take only the nursing-specific courses that those who major in nursing are required to complete. Through classroom instruction and hands-on clinical experience, students who pursue these programs learn what they need to pass the nursing licensing examination in a short period of time.

Accelerated BSN: In-Depth

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), there are more than 250 accelerated nursing bachelor’s degree programs around the country, and several more are in the process of being developed in order to train enough new nurses to meet the growing demand. These programs have been gaining popularity in recent years, according to a survey administered by the AACN. The agency reports that in 2012, there were 15,002 students enrolled in accelerated BSN programs, up from 13,605 just two years prior. And as schools work to attract more students into these programs, the enrollment numbers will continue to grow.

Students who enroll in an accelerated BSN program can generally expect to complete their degrees within about 11 to 18 months, depending on the specific nursing school they attend. These programs attract students from diverse educational backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common — they are motivated to draw from their previous knowledge of social, natural and behavioral sciences, as well as the humanities, and apply it to nursing theory. Armed with the critical thinking skills they gained in their previous degree programs, accelerated BSN students learn principles specific to the nursing field and how those theories actually apply to the delivery of quality patient care in the real world.

Admission Requirements

Each school has its own specific qualifications that it looks at when evaluating applicants to its accelerated BSN program. However, the following are some common requirements that are expected of prospective students, as well as an overview of the application process.


  • Bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline.
  • A minimum GPA of 3.0.
  • Completed prerequisite science courses, such as biology, statistics, anatomy and chemistry.

How to Apply

  • Submit application and fee.
  • Send official transcripts.
  • Write personal statement.
  • Include current resume.
  • Complete background check (after admission).

Sample Coursework

Human ResponsesCovers the body’s physiological responses to illness and how nurses assess them. Also includes information on how the body regulates internal systems.
Health AssessmentFocuses on how patient assessments are performed and the skills nurses should possess to determine patient needs. Specific topics may include assessment strategies and what to do with the information obtained through the assessment process.
History of the Nursing ProfessionDiscusses the evolution of the nursing profession. Includes information on changes in nursing practice over the years, as well as the legal and ethical standards that these professionals are expected to adhere to.
Care of ChildrenProvides an understanding of the unique needs of children and the techniques nurses use when treating this patient population. Also covers how nurses can work with the families of the children to whom they provide care.
Nursing ResearchStudents in this course can expect to learn different nursing theories and how nursing research is conducted. They also learn how to read and critique a research study, and how to craft a study from beginning to end.

The Accelerated MSN

Students who are interested in delivering advanced nursing care to patients can earn an accelerated master’s degree. Like their accelerated BSN counterparts, those who enroll in an accelerated MSN program are expected to have at least a bachelor’s degree in another academic discipline. In addition, schools that offer these programs require students to complete science and math course work that will provide a foundation to help them understand the complex concepts they will encounter in the program.

Accelerated MSN: In-Depth

Accelerated MSN programs allow students to get the theoretical knowledge and hands-on training they need to pursue advanced clinical care nursing jobs when they graduate. As a result, the goals of the program are twofold: These master’s degree programs are designed to give students the basic training they need to pass the nursing licensing examination — which is required after completing the first half of the program; and after students are licensed by their state, the accelerated MSN program picks up where the first half of the curriculum left off, giving students an advanced education in nursing that will allow them to obtain a higher-level job than they would have qualified for after completing a bachelor’s degree.

According to the AACN, there are about 71 accelerated BSN programs at nursing schools around the country. These programs, which take about three years to complete, are also seeing an increase in enrollment. In 2012, there were over 6,100 students enrolled in accelerated MSN programs, up from about 5,900 the year before.

Admission Requirements

Students interested in enrolling in an accelerated MSN degree program should meet the following criteria:


  • Completion of at least a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing.
  • A minimum grade point average of 3.0.
  • Completion of prerequisite science and math courses — such as anatomy, biochemistry, psychology, statistics and physiology — with at least a C grade.
  • Completion of the GRE or GMAT (depending on the school).

When applying for these programs, hopeful nurses should:

How to Apply

  • Submit their application with the school’s required fee.
  • Send official transcripts from bachelor’s degree program.
  • Write a personal statement.
  • Submit recommendations.
  • Include a resume.
  • Submit to a background check (after admission into a program).

Sample Coursework

Writing WorkshopGives students the tools they need to communicate with their peers in writing. Includes information on techniques for effective written communication in the workplace, as well as in a scholarly context.
Ethics and Public Policy in Health CareProvides information on how laws influence the delivery of care, and the common legal concerns that nurses must consider when working with patients. In addition, students in this course also learn about ethical decision-making in order to stay within the guidelines of the nursing profession.
Advanced PharmacologyThis course is designed to build on the knowledge that nursing students already have of pharmacology. Topics may include pharmacokinetics, pharmacotherapeutics, and the state and federal laws that govern how medications are dispensed.
Gerontology Acute CareFor students who are interested in working with older patients, this course provides information on the acute care needs of this population. This course covers the complexity of working with geriatric patients, the problem-solving abilities that nurses need when treating complex illnesses of older patients, and how changes in the health care system affects the way nurses work with the older population.
Mental Health NursingExplores the theories associated with providing mental health care to patients. Provides an understanding of mental health nursing theory, chronic psychiatric disorders and the challenges that nurses face when working with those who have mental health disorders.

In addition to course work, students in accelerated MSN programs may be required to declare a concentration area and take complete the required coursework in that specialization.

The Accelerated BSN to Ph.D.

These programs put students on the fast track to providing the highest level of nursing care, or to become leaders in the field such as educators, researchers and health care managers. By training students at this level, nursing schools are making strides toward alleviating the burden of the nursing shortage, which is in part the result of the many nurse educators and other senior-level nursing professionals who plan to retire in the next few years. Accelerated BSN to Ph.D. programs take four years to complete and allow students to choose a specialization based on their career goals and interests.

Accelerated BSN to Ph.D.: In-Depth

For those who want to influence the nursing field by conducting research, teaching the nurses of the future and affecting public policy, accelerated BSN to Ph.D. programs provide a fast track toward meeting these goals. In addition, students who are interested in gaining the knowledge and skills they need to enter advanced clinical nursing practice also enroll in these programs. As a result, some programs allow students to choose between a clinical track and a leadership track, which provides them with the specialized knowledge needed to meet their specific career objectives.

Admission Requirements

The following requirements are generally what nursing programs expect from those who apply to accelerated BSN to Ph.D. programs:


  • A bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited nursing program with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 (may be higher depending on the specific program).
  • Completion of the GRE, depending on the program (a minimum score may be required).
  • Clinical experience.
  • A current nursing license.

When applying to an accelerated BSN to Ph.D. program, students may be expected to complete the following steps:

How to Apply

  • Complete application.
  • Pay application fee.
  • Submit transcripts from nursing degree program.
  • Submit GRE score.
  • Submit proof of a valid nursing license.
  • Obtain and submit letters of recommendation.
  • Complete a personal essay or nursing position paper.
  • Submit current resume or CV.
  • Participate in an interview with members of the admissions committee.

Sample Coursework

Health Care DisparitiesThis course provides students with a look at the social components of health care delivery and the societal issues that may contribute to some people having access to better care than others. In addition, students get a more in-depth look at the legal and ethical concerns that influence health care delivery.
Health Care Management and EntrepreneurshipThis course includes theories related to health care management and provides information on how nursing professionals can use their expertise to become health care entrepreneurs. In order to get a look at how these concepts work in real life, students may be required to read case studies.
Theory Development in NursingFocuses on the anatomy of a nursing theory, and how researchers develop theories and test them using evidence-based research methods.
EpidemiologyProvides a look at epidemiological studies and how nurses contribute to tracking infectious diseases that threaten the public’s health. In addition, students may learn about how to educate a community about disease prevention, treatment and control.
Information System for Health careStudents in this course gain an understanding of how information technology is used for the delivery of health care. The course provides an overview of different types of nursing and health care systems and how they are used.

Surviving an Accelerated Nursing Program: Pitfalls & Escapes

Although students who enroll in accelerated nursing degree programs on all levels reap a number of benefits, particularly being able to jump-start their careers in a relatively short amount of time, these programs are not for everyone. Just like any other degree program, students who enroll in accelerated nursing degrees face a number of challenges because of the rigors associated with these degrees. The following are some common pitfalls that students experience when they enroll in accelerated nursing degree programs. It’s important to not only look at the benefits of an accelerated nursing degree, but also consider the challenges in order to make an informed decision.

  • Pitfall #1: Time
    Although all degree programs take time and effort to complete, accelerated nursing programs can be especially demanding because they condense so much material into such a short schedule. Unlike their counterparts in regular nursing degree programs, students in accelerated programs must be prepared to complete all of their course work without any breaks between sessions. Many students often burn out as a result of this demanding schedule.
  • Pitfall #2: Other obligations
    Students who are juggling their degree programs with family responsibilities may have a hard time in an accelerated environment. Many adult learners are tasked with the need to maintain some kind of work-life balance as they earn their degrees; however, accelerated programs make this concern much more difficult to address. Although the work that students do in these programs can ultimately benefit their families, students may have difficulty spending quality time with their loved ones throughout the duration of the program.
  • Pitfall #3: Academic demands
    In order to train nurses for the demands of their jobs, degree programs are designed to be challenging. However, because students have to learn such complex material in a shorter period of time, accelerated programs increase academic demands exponentially. Students must consider whether they are able to handle the amount of pressure they’re likely to face in such an academically demanding environment.
  • Pitfall #4: Cost
    Students enrolled in accelerated nursing degree programs are generally unable to hold a job as they pursue their degrees, which can make this option cost prohibitive for many people. In addition, the AACN reports that although schools are working to increase financial aid opportunities for these students, there are currently not many scholarships available for those in accelerated programs. This can put a financial strain on many potential nurses.
  • Pitfall #5: Personality
    Students who are considering accelerated nursing degree programs should take an honest look at their personality to ensure that they’re making the right choice. Students who are prone to procrastination or cannot handle stress very well are likely to become too frustrated to perform well in these programs. The intensity of accelerated learning is not for everyone, so some students may find that they’re better suited for the more traditional degree option.

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