Accelerated BSN vs. Traditional BSN (Know the Difference and Choose Wisely)

Written by Brandon L.
September 14, 202314 min read

Nursing is a noble career that is in high demand. The US News Job Rankings recently ranked it as among the best careers in the world. If you consider making it your career of choice, you should know it requires a solid educational foundation.

Information is abundant online about the different nursing programs. While sometimes this can be helpful, other times it is confusing and makes the process more challenging.

Before writing your admission essay for nursing as your dream program, you should know there are two pathways to achieving that: traditional and accelerated. Both will lead to a rewarding nursing career but differ in learning approach, intensity and how long it takes to finish.

This article will define what accelerates and traditional nursing programs are, compare the two, provide ways to determine which is best for you, and list all the top colleges offering ABSN.

What is Accelerated and Traditional Nursing Programs?

Accelerated nursing programs are designed for individuals with a bachelor's degree to transition into a nursing program quickly. Individuals can use the credits from their degree programs to earn either a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) quickly. Accelerated nursing programs allow students to get a bachelor's in nursing as their second degree without studying for another four years. The program makes it more attractive for those wishing to change careers.

Traditional nursing programs are designed for those seeking to earn their first-degree program. It is the most popular way for students to start their journey for a nursing career. Students who enroll in this program have a high school diploma and no college experience. It takes four years to complete this degree program.

Accelerated VS Traditional Nursing Programs

There are differences between a BSN and ABSN that you need to be aware of before you make your choice.

The Length of the Program

One of the primary differences between a traditional BSN and an Accelerated nursing program is the duration it takes to complete.

Since BSN is taken as a first-time degree, students will take four years or eight semesters with 120–128 credits.

Conversely, an ABSN program can take fewer years, typically less than two years.

Even though this shorter length benefits students looking to complete their degree programs faster, it usually means they don't enjoy any breaks. A year of educational programs means you will have fall, summer, and spring classes.

Educational Requirements

The educational requirements vary depending on the school you choose to study.

However, there are general requirements for both BSN and ABSN, no matter your school. For traditional programs, you must have a high school diploma with a minimum GPA and no professional experience.

This is because the course includes general education and nursing education.

Conversely, an ABSN requires a bachelor's degree and not necessarily an in nursing from an accredited institution with a minimum GPA.

For instance, some requirements for joining Saint Peters University are a 3.0 GPA, 78% or higher on the TEAS Exam, and C+ or greater on all the prerequisite courses. So, checking with your university before drafting an application is essential.

Intensity for Traditional BSN vs. Accelerated Nursing Program

Since it takes a shorter time to complete ABSN, you will be taken through a rigorous and intensive learning experience.

If you choose this program, you will have a more demanding work experience and workload.

This is because accelerated learning requires students to absorb significant information quickly, demanding excellent time management, willingness, and dedication to learn.

Learning Approach BSN VS Accelerated Nursing Program

Traditional learning approaches for BSN and ABSN are not the same. Traditional nursing programs have a more traditional way of teaching; that is, you will be taken through a classroom-based learning approach. You must attend all classes, participate in clinical rotations, and acquire hands-on experience steadily throughout your program.

On the other hand, accelerated programs every so often utilize the immersive learning model, which allows students to interact with real-world experiences virtually.

This means combining classroom instruction with intensive clinical experiences, allowing students to apply their theoretical knowledge in a practical healthcare setting quickly.

Online Learning

Another notable difference between traditional BSN and accelerated nursing programs is the presence of online learning.

The traditional nursing program allows one to learn on-site. This means all the classes will be conducted one-on-one in a classroom at certain times during the day.

Conversely, because of the nature of the ABSN, online learning is incorporated into this approach.

Which means there is both an online and in-person approach.

You will be expected to complete essential coursework nursing labs and do clinical rotations.

The nursing labs and clinical rotations are conducted in person to provide students with the learning experience needed for registered nurses.

Career Opportunities and Advancement for BSN and ABSN

Both accelerated and traditional nursing programs will prepare you for entry-level nursing positions. However, graduates of ABSN are more marketable and attractive to potential employers once they pass NCLEX and get a license.

Thus, those with this degree certificate get a faster route to becoming a registered nurse (RN).

This is because possessing this degree means you are more mature and dedicated. By dedicating more time to earning another degree, you essentially tell the employer that you are devoted to RNs.

Moreover, many majors are an excellent complement for those interested in a nursing role.

This is important for those seeking to enter the workforce immediately after school or transitioning into nursing as a second career. On the other hand, Traditional programs provide a more comprehensive foundation that could potentially open doors for you in specialized nursing roles.

Factors to Use to Determine Which One is Best for a Person

You must consider a few things before deciding which pathway to take.

Your Academic Qualifications

What kind of requirements do you have? If you only have a high school diploma, you can only join a BSN program; however, if you already possess a bachelor’s degree, choose ABSN.

You must have completed some specific college-level courses to join an accelerated nursing program.


How dedicated are you to earning that degree? Both BSN and ABSN require commitment and dedication to succeed.

However, for ABSN, you have to sacrifice a lot, including personal relationships, because of the rigorous nature of the study.

It may be more challenging for most students to keep up with the nature of study or complete the excess workload reasonably, leading to stress and anxiety.

Even though BSN also requires dedication, there is some flexibility in terms of coursework. So, if you can’t handle the pressure, it is best to go the traditional route.

When to Join School

Traditional nursing programs only admit students once or twice a year. And with the rise in nurse demand, there could be a backlog of applications.

Meanwhile, If you wish to start nursing school at a certain point of the year, ABSN allows you to do so.

Colleges and universities admit students throughout the year for ABSN programs if they meet the qualification requirements.

Some offer three start dates yearly: January, May, and August. Because of this, there is no waitlist. So, as long as you are qualified, you can start school whenever you want.

Personal and Professional Goals

Review the curriculum offered by the school to determine whether it aligns with your interests and professional goals.

ABSN has a very rigorous and practical sequence of both online and on-site learning. With an intense form of learning, you will likely receive personalized attention from your professors and clinical instructors.

Most colleges offering BSN do not provide personalized attention like that offered in ABSN. However, they offer similar coursework and clinical experience to prepare you for the NCLEX exams.

Tuition Fees

If college fees are your biggest worry, consider taking ABSN. Since it takes far less time to complete the program than BSN, and you can transfer some of your credits from the previous degree, your school expenses will be less.

College Experience

To join an ABSN program, you must have prior college experience.

You are expected to have a bachelor's degree from an accredited university.

So, if you already have college experience and don't need to go through it again, consider choosing ABSN. What's more, you already have real-world experiences, which is a plus in nursing.

Rigorous Learning

Consider whether you are ready to spend most of your time in school.

Since ABSN takes a shorter time to finish than BSN, most of your time will be spent in school. Many schools will require at least 8–12 hours per day.

So, if you are employed or managing a business, it will be hard to work and study simultaneously.

However, this also means you will earn your degree and enter the workforce more quickly than those taking a BSN.

Thus, if you are willing to go through this intense learning, consider ABSN.

Organization Skills

Good organization skills go hand in hand with ABSN. Because of the rigorous learning, you will be expected to stay on top of your game.

This doesn’t mean that those who take BSN are disorganized; the difference is that ABSN is demanding.

So, having a day planner or phone reminders will go a long way in ensuring you are current.

Financial Aid Services

As you know, education is expensive, and having a little support will go a long way in ensuring you fulfill your dream of becoming a nurse.

Whether you are a first-time student or pursuing a different degree for career advancement, you should go for a program that offers financial assistance.

Since accelerated programs take a shorter time to complete and cost less than traditional programs, there are fewer financial aid services.

This means you will likely end up paying more than you can afford for your education, thus making enrollment more challenging for those not financially stable.

Top Colleges or Universities Offering ABSN

The following are some of the top colleges and Universities offering ABSN nationwide (USA).

  1. University of Pennsylvania- Has both BSN and ABSN.
  2. University of California Berkeley (UCB) offers accelerated and traditional nursing programs.
  3. John Hopkins University- Offer both BSN and ABSN. The ABSN has entries: Summer-Entry, which takes 13 months, and the Fall-Entry, which is 17 months long.
  4. Elmhurst University- Offers both ABSN and BSN
  5. Duke University- offers an accelerated BSN, which takes only 16 months to complete.
  6. Georgetown University- offers direct entry for students interested in BSN. It takes four years to complete, including 850 hours of clinical experience. There is no option for an accelerated BSN.
  7. New York University offered at Rory Meyers College of Nursing Offers both accelerated and traditional BSNs. The accelerated program takes 15 months of four consecutive semesters to complete.
  8. Ohio State University- Offers a four-year program for BSN.
  9. University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing- Offers both accelerated and traditional.
  10. University of Michigan- offers both BSN and ABSN. It takes 16 months to complete the accelerated program, and depending on the type of degree you have, you may have to take two semesters of pre-nursing courses.

A Final Word!

Trying to choose between an accelerated and traditional nursing program depends on your circumstances, goals, or learning preferences.

While accelerated programs offer a shorter path to becoming an RN, they require intense dedication and commitment due to the shortened curriculum.

Traditional programs provide a more gradual and comprehensive approach to nursing education, allowing you to build a strong foundation throughout the four years spent in nursing school.

Ultimately, you must consider your circumstances, needs, and career ambitions when deciding which pathway best aligns with your long-term goals.

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