How Do I Choose - Accelerated or Traditional BSN?
June 2023

ABSN vs BSN: How to Choose an Accelerated or Traditional BSN

How Do I Choose - Accelerated or Traditional BSN?


Many students struggle with how to choose Accelerated BSN vs Traditional BSN programs, but the process is not as difficult as most think. In the rapidly growing field of nursing, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the employment of Registered Nurses will increase by nearly 6% by the year 2031. As the number of RNs increase, the number of opportunities for bachelor’s-level nurses and advanced practice registered nurses can only increase as well.

Given the opportunity for those holding a BSN to specialize in their specific area of practice, the incredible job security, the many job advancement opportunities, as well as the bump in pay, there has never been a better time to go for your BSN. With all of these great reasons to do it, all you have to decide now is which route is right for you. Evaluate your individual situation and choose wisely! If you need help choosing- check out our updated Best Online Accelerated BSN.

Why Choose a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Program?

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree can provide a number of advantages to individuals looking to pursue a career in nursing. BSN programs offer a more comprehensive curriculum than an associate degree, which can provide you with more knowledge and skills to better serve patients. BSN courses also provide insight into the theory and research behind healthcare topics, so you can pursue a career in leadership or research and academia.

Additionally, many employers prefer to hire nurses with at least a BSN degree, which can give you an advantage over associate’s degree holders when seeking employment. BSN prepared nurses are better trained and have better patient outcomes overall. An American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) survey of health care employers in 2021 found that over 40.6 percent of hospitals and health care facilities require RN applicants to hold a BSN.

Some states may also require nurses to hold a BSN degree to practice in specific fields, so you may need the credential to start a nursing career. A BSN typically has two pathways to become a registered nurse: traditional BSN programs and accelerated BSNs.

Reasons to Earn a BSN Degree Rather than an Associate Degree:

  • Higher salary and greater job stability
  • More competitive specialty options
  • Job opportunities at more facilities, such as with the US military and at Magnet hospitals
  • More training and better patient outcomes
  • Career growth in clinical and non-clinical leadership roles
  • Easier ability to return to school to pursue higher education and earn a master’s degree or doctorate

What is a Traditional BSN Nursing Program?

What is a traditional BSN program? Some dedicated aspiring nurses know they want a nursing career when they start a bachelor’s program. For these individuals, the traditional BSN is the most common way to achieve this goal. In 4 or 5 years, students in a traditional BSN program engage on-campus in a dynamic clinical and didactic experience. They learn how to care for patients and explore their potential contribution to a variety of medical fields.

Nearly 700 colleges and universities offer residential BSN programs in the United States. And with the number of diverse, comprehensive, hands-on, and theoretical learning opportunities available to students, there is no doubt you will find a school that is a perfect fit for you.

At the end of a traditional BSN degree, student nurses are able to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. It is the same exam that associate degree RN students take at the end of their program. The extra 2 to 3 years of hands-on training, theoretical and evidence-based instruction, and clinical research that the BSN offers to make the NCLEX-RN exam that much more accessible than what the 2-year ASN/ADN programs can provide.

Traditional BSN Programs:

  • take four years to complete, or eight semesters
  • students take three semesters of general education courses
  • five semesters of nursing skills, clinical classes, and clinical rotations

What is an Accelerated BSN?

Accelerated BSN (ABSN) programs are tailored to those who hold a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing. An accelerated BSN program is also called a second-degree program. Because students complete most of the general education courses with their first non nursing bachelor’s degree, they need less credits to earn the second degree. These accelerated nursing programs range anywhere from 12 to 18 months long.

An accelerated BSN (ABSN) has the same overall requirements as a traditional BSN. Let’s be clear. The degree is accelerated because students have prior education or work experience that counts for credit. You can’t come out of high school and say – hey, I want to take the shorter degree. Students in accelerated programs have already fulfilled some of the education requirements for the BSN. Therefore, it takes them less time to complete the nursing degree than students starting from the beginning. And many also have a condensed time frame with seven to nine week terms so it has a faster pace.

Accelerated BSN:

  • takes one to two years to complete an accelerated program
  • four semesters of nursing skills, nursing fundamentals, clinical rotations, and clinical classes
  • uses credit from a prior non nursing bachelor’s degree to fulfill general education requirements

Traditionally, BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) programs are designed for those who are high school graduates and can take anywhere 2-4 years, depending on the degree requirements. ABSN programs may offer the same course and clinical content as a traditional BSN program, but in a shorter timeline.

To gain admission to an ABSN program, applicants must have a prior Bachelor’s degree, acceptable prerequisites, and must pass the same entrance exams as a traditional BSN program. ABSN programs tend to be more expensive than traditional BSN programs, and students may find difficulty in finding clinical placements due to the shortened timeline. Upon graduation, both ABSN and Traditional BSN students will earn the same degree and same rights and credentials.

Summary of Accelerated BSN vs Traditional BSN

Program FeatureAccelerated BSN (ABSN)Traditional BSN
Nursing Degree EarnedBachelor of Science in NursingBachelor of Science in Nursing
National Licensure Exam NCLEX-RN NCLEX-RN 
CredentialsRN licenseRN license
Prerequisitesnon nursing bachelor’s degreehigh school diploma
CurriculumNursing SpecificNursing + General Education
Start Datesmultiple start datesone in the fall
Program Length1 to 2 years4 years
Term Lengthshort terms (7-9 weeks)traditional semesters
Online LearningYessome
College Credits120 total / 60 completed prior120 total
Summary of Accelerated BSN vs Traditional BSN

Is an ABSN Harder than a BSN?

ABSN programs typically take much less time than traditional BSN programs, so it is possible to argue that they are more difficult courses of study. ABSN programs typically require more intense academic commitment than BSN programs due to the accelerated format, extensive coursework, and clinical requirements.

Is it Easier to Get into An Accelerated Nursing Program?

No, it is not easier to get into an accelerated BSN nursing program. They tend to have higher acceptance standards than a traditional nursing program because they require an advanced degree, usually a Bachelor’s degree, in order to be admitted. Additionally, an accelerated BSN is often more competitive due to limited spots and shorter program lengths.

In the past 25 years, the number of accelerated BSN programs has multiplied eight times. Part of this extraordinary growth is due to the nursing shortage throughout the country. Another part is a result of non-traditional students who have already completed many of the classes. The general courses required for any bachelor’s degree are already out of the way for many of these students. They finished them when they received their first undergrad degree.

With so many older and second-degree students pursuing the online accelerated BSN, these programs can be very competitive. In addition, they require a tremendous amount of focus to get through and master the skills needed to complete the degree. However, graduates are amazing nurses because of the intense preparation. Rewarding experiences and an excellent salary! Now that you know the difference between the two check out some of the online accelerated BSN program prerequisites.

Traditional vs. Blended Learning Models

Traditional learning models are those that adhere to the educational system as it has historically been structured, primarily delivering instruction through lectures and in-class activities. This type of learning often takes place in a physical classroom, with a teacher present to provide guidance and feedback to the students. This type of learning is most commonly used in K-12 schools, and relies on students’ physical attendance, textbooks, and other physical resources.

A blended learning model incorporates both online and traditional elements in order to create a richer, more engaging learning experience. Blended learning models typically use a combination of traditional face-to-face classrooms, technology-based activities, and online resources. This approach often allows students to customize their learning path, and provides them with more flexibility and autonomy. Blended learning models are increasingly common in higher education institutions, as well as in certain professional training programs.

Why Should You Consider an Accelerated BSN Program?

An accelerated BSN program is an ideal choice for individuals looking to pursue a career in nursing in a short period of time. These programs are designed for those who already hold a bachelor’s degree in a different field, allowing them to complete their BSN in as little as 12 to 18 months. Accelerated BSN programs offer the same content as traditional BSN programs, yet with a condensed timeline. Depending on the individual’s prior academic experience, some courses allow prior learning to be applied as credits towards their degree.

The major benefits of enrolling in an accelerated BSN program are the reduced timeline, greater flexibility, and increased affordability. With accelerated programs, individuals can save time and money, as the cost of the programs are generally lower than traditional programs. Furthermore, many accelerated BSN programs offer flexible online learning options for those who have prior commitments or need to continue working while they pursue their degree.

Wat are Direct-Entry MSN Programs?

Another option for indivuals who already hold a bachelor’s degree is a direct entry MSN. Direct-entry MSN programs are programs that allow students to enter an MSN program with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, without first obtaining an entry-level BSN. This enables those with a bachelor’s degree in another field to become an advanced practice registered nurse.

Most direct-entry MSN programs require or strongly recommend that applicants have some prior nursing-related or healthcare experience, such as health education, community health, medical technology, or long-term care.

Which Pathway to a BSN is Right for You?

Overall, accelerated BSN programs are an excellent option for those looking to quickly gain the knowledge and skills needed to pursue a rewarding career in the nursing profession. However, ABSN programs can be quite rigorous, especially given the condensed curriculum. In some programs, the typical academic load is comparable to that of a full-time student, with a mix of theoretical concepts and practical patient care experience.

Many programs require students to take a clinical rotation component which include early mornings, long days, and weekend shifts. For students who are ready to start their nursing careers fast, an accelerated BSN program is a great choice.


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