Accelerated nursing programs

What is an accelerated nursing program?

Accelerated nursing programs are designed to provide students with the opportunity to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) quicker than traditional on-campus college programs. Many of these programs are designed for people who already have undergraduate degrees in other disciplines but wish to transition into a nursing career. 

Accelerated programs can be held on campus, but can also be delivered through online courses. Unlike traditional programs, accelerated programs group classes together in quarters or sections rather than in traditional semesters. These programs run continuously, while traditional programs feature extended breaks between semesters. Students who are enrolled in online programs can complete their clinical rotations at nearby medical facilities.

Is an accelerated nursing program the best choice for me?

Individuals who are considering a career shift to nursing might wonder if an accelerated nursing program is the right choice for them. There are several important factors to consider when deciding whether this type of program is best for you. 

Accelerated programs condense a large amount of education into a short time frame. A fast-track nursing program generally takes fewer than 18 months for a bachelor’s degree and about three years for a master’s degree, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. For someone who is interested in this type of program, it is important to consider whether or not you can handle the time constraints and academic demands of accelerated courses.

Students with strong time management skills who thrive in a fast-paced learning environment may find an accelerated program better suits their needs. Additionally, accelerated programs can be a good option for students who are looking to advance their education or shift into a nursing career, but want to do so at a faster pace.

It is important to weigh the pros and cons of an accelerated program and carefully consider if this type of program will fit your needs.

Types of accelerated nursing degree programs

Each program will have different coursework and prerequisites for students who wish to apply. It’s important to understand what each program entails and what its prerequisites are for prospective students.

Accelerated associate degree in nursing (ADN)

An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) allows students to gain core knowledge and clinical skills in the field of nursing. Most associate programs are two-year degrees and are not always offered in an accelerated structure. However, there are some universities that offer this pathway. The term “accelerated” is used to indicate time to complete. Some accelerated ADN programs offer a path to completion between a year and 16 months, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

An accelerated ADN program may be an option for post-secondary school educated LPNs, post-bachelor’s non-nursing candidates or as an option to obtain your LPN or RN license in an accelerated format. These ADN programs may enable students to build foundational nursing skills, enter a nursing career or continue to pursue an advanced education, like an RN-to-BSN program.

Graduating from an ADN program may give students the eligibility to sit for the NCLEX-RN. Passing this exam is required to become licensed as a registered nurse.

Possible careers with an ADN

Earning an Associate Degree in Nursing can lead to a wide range of career paths. Some nursing careers you can pursue with an associate degree include:

  • Registered nurse
  • Physician’s office nurse
  • Nursing care facility nurse
  • Labor and delivery nurse
  • Rehabilitation nurse

Earning your ADN allows you the freedom and flexibility to choose from many registered nurse career paths and find one that aligns with your interests. 

Admission requirements

The admission requirements for ADN programs vary by college. Some admissions processes may require interviews, essays or related work in healthcare. ADN program admission requirements may include:

  • High school diploma or GED
  • Transcripts from previous colleges or universities
  • Developmental courses
  • Algebra or other math courses
  • Minimum GPA
  • CPR certification
  • High school chemistry and biology
  • SAT scores
  • A personal essay


Most traditional ADN programs are two years in length, while accelerated ADN programs may be about a year or more. Finding the best ADN program for you may appear to be challenging given the numerous options you have. Coursework could include topics such as human anatomy, foundations for nursing practice, clinical experiences, nursing pathophysiology and other foundational content.

Keep in mind what your career goals are and consider where your degree will allow you to practice. It is important to note that only a few universities offer this pathway. Check with your preferred program for accreditation and more information.

Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is an undergraduate degree for students seeking to become an RN or for those who already have an ADN or RN degree but want to continue their education.

Generally, BSN programs are offered for any prospective students who can meet admission requirements. However, accelerated BSN programs are designed for and generally only open to individuals who have already earned a bachelor’s degree, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing1If you do have an RN license, you may consider an accelerated RN-to-BSN program.

Completion of a BSN program allows graduates to pursue an advanced degree, such as an MSN, or enter into nursing leadership positions.

Possible Careers with a BSN

People who have earned a BSN and RN certification often work in leadership roles that require them to supervise other nurses. Those who have earned their BSN have a variety of career options, including:

These are only some possible roles for BSN graduates. Additionally, earning a BSN opens up opportunities for further education, such as MSN programs.

Admission requirements

Admissions requirements for a BSN program will vary from school to school. Accelerated BSN programs typically accept students who have already completed a bachelor’s or graduate degree in a non-nursing discipline.

Other admissions requirements for accelerated BSN programs may include:

  • Minimum GPA
  • Completion of science prerequisite courses with an average of “C” or better
  • Personal interview
  • Active CNA certification or LPN licensure
  • CPR certification
  • Statement of purpose
  • Resume
  • Recommendations


BSN program structure and curriculum vary by school. However, every program will involve classroom coursework and hands-on clinical practice. Some common coursework may include nursing research and evidence-based practice, health assessments, nursing systems and ethics, nursing leadership and clinical experience.

The best option for you will depend on your previous education, career goals and personal preferences. For prospective students who have completed a non-nursing undergraduate degree program but wish to begin a nursing career, an accelerated BSN program may be a good option.

Accelerated Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is a graduate degree for people who want to pursue advanced practice registered nurse careers. There are different types of MSN programs, including accelerated or direct-entry MSN programs.

Titles of accelerated MSN programs vary, but most programs offer the following:

  • A pathway to nursing for non-nursing bachelor’s or master’s degree holders
  • Coursework that may lead to licensure as an RN in the first year of your program

An accelerated MSN degree may help nurses change careers and take on nursing roles as educators, clinical nurse leaders (CLN), health policy experts (HPE) and nurse administrators.

Possible careers with an MSN

Earning an MSN can lead to many new career opportunities. Some nurses who earn their MSN will provide advanced patient care in a number of settings. Other nurses with master’s degrees work in education, administration or health policy. Examples of careers that might be available to graduates include:

Admission requirements

Accelerated or direct-entry MSN programs typically have requirements such as:

  • Bachelor’s or master’s degree in a non-nursing field
  • Minimum GPA requirement
  • GRE scores
  • Recommendations
  • Science course prerequisites
  • Goal statement

Each university has different requirements depending on the state it is located in for licensure reasons or for accreditation purposes. Be sure to check with your preferred university for more information.

Is an accelerated nursing program worth it?

If you are a prospective student interested in earning a nursing degree, you may be considering an accelerated program and wondering if it is worth it. This is a challenging question to answer, and one that you should give plenty of thought. 

Before making a decision, carefully consider the program’s curriculum, and what benefits and opportunities an accelerated program will provide you upon completion. It is important to understand your goals and how the program will align with them.


Accelerated nursing programs, just like traditional programs, include general education classes, nursing theory and hands-on clinical experience. For online programs, clinicals are conducted at nearby healthcare locations. 

As part of their education, nursing students take a variety of courses, which often include:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Statistics or related mathematics
  • Pharmacology
  • Health assessment
  • Nursing theory
  • Nursing research
  • Nursing ethics

While exact course requirements will vary by school, accelerated nursing programs may often include demanding levels of coursework throughout their duration.


Students who graduate from an accelerated program can qualify for a variety of nursing roles. Depending on the level of education they receive, students may pursue a career as a registered nurse, work in leadership positions or advanced practice registered nurse roles.

Alongside career advancement opportunities, earning an accelerated degree can open paths for continued nursing education. For students who graduate with their BSN, this could include providing the foundation for an advanced degree, such as an MSN.

Benefits of an accelerated program

Accelerated nursing programs offer a number of benefits to students, which might include:

  • Helping shifting career goals toward nursing.
  • Completing your education in a shorter time frame.
  • Meeting a growing job demand for nurses.
  • Creating programs that do not require previous health care experience.

Additionally, for some students, the benefit of a nursing career is the ability to grow in a rewarding field they are passionate about.


How much do accelerated nursing programs cost?

Tuition costs for accelerated nursing programs can vary considerably depending on the type of degree and the university. Visit our page on financial assistance to see resources that may help pay for your nursing degree.

How long are accelerated nursing programs?

Accelerated BSN programs can typically take 11 to 18 months to complete, including prerequisites1. Accelerated master’s degree programs generally take about three years. 

Who is eligible for accelerated programs?

Accelerated BSN programs are designed for people who have already completed a bachelor’s degree in another field but wish to transition to a nursing career. Many programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0 and include a thorough application process for prospective students. Similar to accelerated BSN admissions, accelerated or direct-entry MSN programs typically require multiple science coursework as a prerequisite.

Can you work while completing an accelerated program?

While many accelerated programs do not prohibit students from working, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports that students enrolled in accelerated programs are encouraged not to work given the demands and time constraints of required workloads.

Are there accelerated RN Programs?

Most accelerated programs will qualify students to sit for the required examination to become a registered nurse (RN). To become an RN, individuals must pass a national licensing exam. In the United States this exam is the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN). To register for the NCLEX-RN, individuals must graduate from a nursing program with a BSN or an ADN.

Is the application process the same for an accelerated nursing program?

The application processes for traditional and accelerated nursing programs share similarities, although accelerated programs can have different requirements or tasks. Many accelerated programs require prospective students to submit previous academic transcripts, include a goal statement and complete prerequisite coursework.

How hard is an accelerated nursing program?

Due to their structure and faster pace, accelerated programs may be challenging for students. To succeed in an accelerated program,  it is important for students to devote the appropriate time and resources to their studies. However, every student’s needs and experience will depend on their own knowledge, skills and goals.

Last updated October 2023