Online Accelerated Programs: BSN and MSN

An In-Depth Look at Online Fast-Track Degrees for Nurses

One way that nursing schools are working to address staffing shortages is to offer online accelerated nursing degree programs that provide students with the quality training they need in a shorter period of time than they would in traditional degree programs. Students can find accelerated nursing programs on-campus or online, with the latter allowing students to create a more flexible schedule that suits their needs. This guide covers online accelerated nursing degree programs, including types of degrees are available, entrance requirements, example course work, and the nuts and bolts of how these distance learning programs work.

About Online Accelerated Nursing Programs

Online accelerated degree programs are for those who want a fast track to a nursing career. These programs, which can be finished within about one to four years, depending on which type of degree students pursue, allow students to apply their existing skills and knowledge to nursing concepts so they can focus solely on the nursing curriculum. Online accelerated nursing programs provide a quality education with the added benefit of flexibility that prepares students for the rigors of a nursing career. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Who Pursues an Online Accelerated Nursing Degree?

Online accelerated degree programs can help all kinds of students meet their educational and professional goals. For example, these degree programs are popular among those who have always been interested in a nursing career as well as those who are looking for a professional change. In addition, those who are already in the health care industry may earn an accelerated nursing degree online to move up the career ladder and open themselves up to new career opportunities.

Dream chasers
Some people have had dreams of becoming a nurse from the time they were children. In some cases, students may decide to earn a degree in a different career field, or as a way to gain a variety of skills before enrolling in a nursing program. Either way, an accelerated nursing degree program gives students who have earned degrees in other disciplines an avenue in which to follow their nursing dreams.
Career Changers
Many students who enter online accelerated nursing programs come from another field entirely and are looking for a career change. In fact, these students tend to be successful in nursing programs because they bring their work ethic and discipline, along with their prior knowledge, to the program.
Advancement seekers
Existing nurses often decide to contribute to the nursing community by increasing the knowledge base of the field or training the next generation of nurses. To that end, these professionals can enroll in an accelerated doctoral program to meet their goals of becoming nursing instructors or researchers.

How Do Accelerated Online Programs Work?

Online accelerated programs allow students to complete their course work at a pace that suits their schedules, as well as listen to lectures on their own time. This can be particularly helpful for those who are juggling the responsibilities of a full-time job, families and other personal obligations.

Students who enter accredited online accelerated nursing degree programs still receive the same quality education as their counterparts on campus. In addition to having access to the same classes as traditional students, online learners participate in the same hands-on clinical training, which ensures that they are able to apply their theoretical knowledge to actual clinical situations.

Online Accelerated Nursing Program Highlights

  • Flexible programs that can be completed in as few as 11 months
  • Students can watch lectures and complete course work according to their own schedule
  • Some work is completed online, while some work is completed on campus
  • Opportunities to connect with peers and professors on a face-to-face basis
  • Full-time and part-time enrollment options
  • Online support that is available 24 hours a day
  • Access to experienced faculty members
  • Hands-on clinical instruction

Tech Tools

Although students enrolled in online accelerated nursing programs do not have to be technological experts, they do have to have some working knowledge of certain computer systems, and they must have access to the technology requirements that allow them to participate in courses. The following are examples of some of the technology tools that students in these programs need.

  • PC or Mac computer
  • DSL or cable Internet connection
  • DVD-ROM or CD-ROM drive
  • Microsoft Windows Operating System
  • Antivirus software
  • Java
  • Up-to-date Internet browser
  • Adobe Reader and Flash Player

Choosing the Best Fit for You: Online or On-Campus?

ScheduleStudents in synchronous programs are required to attend lectures during the scheduled class time like other students. Students in asynchronous programs can watch lectures when it is convenient for them.Students are required to attend lectures at the scheduled class time.
Face-to-face interactionStudents may be able to connect with their peers and professors via the Internet, as well as when completing on-campus clinical components of their program.Students can have in-person interactions with one another and with their professors on a regular basis.
Classroom participationStudents can participate in classroom discussions via email, message boards and instant messaging.Students can participate in the class discussions in person.
AccessibilityStudents can attend schools that are geographically close or those in another location. They do not have to worry about commuting, which is especially helpful for those who live in rural areas.Students attend a school that is close to their location and must commute back and forth to class.
Clinical experienceStudents who are close to the school may participate in clinical labs on campus. Those who are not close to the school may have access to health care facilities that have partnered with the college to provide clinical experience.Students gain their clinical experience on campus or at local health care facilities.

What Types of Online Accelerated Programs Are Available?

Online Accelerated BSN

Those who have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher in another academic area are eligible to enroll in an online accelerated nursing bachelor’s degree program. These degrees are designed to allow students to use the knowledge they gained in their previous course work in natural and behavioral sciences, as well as math, to understand nursing concepts that are taught. Consequently, despite students’ previous major, they come armed with the tools they need to understand the theoretical and clinical components of the online accelerated BSN degree.

For more general information about accelerated MSN programs, visit our accelerated nursing programs on-campus page.

Admission Requirements

Online accelerated BSN programs are extremely rigorous and not suitable for every prospective student who applies. Schools that offer these programs expect their students to meet high standards in order to handle the challenges they will face and, as a result, they are very selective about whom they will admit. While each school has its own specific requirements, those who want to enroll in an online accelerated BSN program must do the following in order to be successful:

  • Complete a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing discipline with a grade point average of at least 3.0.
  • Successfully complete prerequisite science and math courses with an average grade of at least a C+. These courses include subjects such as biology, anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and statistics.
  • Submit an application with the required fee.
  • Submit official transcripts from completed bachelor's degree program and a current resume.
  • Write a personal mission statement outlining why they want to enroll in an online accelerated BSN program and their nursing career goals.

Sample Coursework

Psychiatric-Mental Health NursingProvides information on the techniques used when treating patients with mental and behavioral challenges, as well as those who have substance abuse issues.
PharmacotherapeuticsCovers how drugs are used to treat different illnesses. Specific course topics may include how to choose the correct drug for a patient, choose dosages, and monitor a patient’s response to medications.
Gerontological NursingDiscusses the strategies that nurses use when treating older patients. Includes information on the common illnesses that can be found in this patient population.
Legal and Ethical Issues in NursingWhen delivering care, it is imperative that nurses understand the laws and ethics that guide the profession. This course discusses how nurses can work within these legal and ethical principles on a daily basis.
Community Health NursingProvides an understanding of how to promote healthy practices within a community. Also covers the factors that influence the delivery of care in a community, including political and financial considerations.

Online Accelerated MSN

Similar to online accelerated BSN programs, accelerated MSN degrees are designed for those who have earned at least an undergraduate degree in another field. This degree prepares students to deliver advanced nursing care after they graduate, which can increase their marketability when they compete for jobs. These are also intensive programs that require dedication and the ability to use previous educational experience in order to grasp advanced concepts.

For more general information about accelerated BSN programs, visit our accelerated nursing programs on-campus page.

Admission Requirements

When applying to an online accelerated MSN degree program, prospective students should follow these steps:

  • Complete at least a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA.
  • Complete prerequisite courses based on the specific school’s requirements.
  • Complete application.
  • Pay application fee.
  • Submit official transcripts for previously earned degree.
  • Write a personal statement per the school’s requirements.
  • Submit an up-to-date resume.
  • Obtain and send letters of recommendation.
  • Complete the GMAT or GRE, depending on the school.
  • Get a background check (may be required after admission into a program).

Sample Coursework

Women's Health CareDiscusses the specific health care needs of women, including reproductive care. Provides information on how treatments change as people age, research on women’s health and the challenges nurses face when providing patients with obstetric and gynecologic services.
Advanced Physiology and PathophysiologyThis course builds on students’ previous knowledge of physiology in order to introduce them to strategies for advanced nursing care. Topics may include neurophysiology, immunology, endocrinology and respiratory physiology.
GeneticsIntroduces students to how genetics can influence illness. Specific coursework may include types of genetic testing, genetic science concepts and genetic history taking.
PathophysiologyFocuses on human pathophysiology. Introduces students to subjects such as cellular tissue oxygenation, the factors that change cellular activity, and electrolyte and fluid balance.
Scientific WritingTeaches students how to develop and organize a scientific argument and present it in writing. Includes information on how to create a thesis statement, find support for that thesis and organize convincing supporting materials.

Popular Resources

Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.

See All Posts is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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