Accelerated BSN vs. Traditional BSN

an aspiring nurse student considering which nursing degree is right for her
an aspiring nurse student considering which nursing degree is right for her

Nursing is among the most respected and trusted professions in the world. Hospitals and clinics face nursing shortages despite the public’s favorable view of registered nurses. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates 203,000 nursing job openings per year through 2031 due to retirements and growing demand for health care services.

We’ll need career-changing professionals to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and become registered nurses for more timely staffing of hospitals and clinics. An Accelerated BSN (ABSN) program offers an expedited but rigorous course of study for the next generation of nurses. There are important distinctions between an ABSN and a traditional BSN program to understand before selecting a degree.


Different Types of Students for ABSN and BSN Degrees

The primary goal of ABSN and BSN programs is to educate the next generation of nursing professionals and provide entry points into nursing careers for different stages of student careers.

Traditional BSN programs focus on students pursuing their first college degrees after high school. Recent high school graduates, students who took time off before college and associate degree holders complete these programs. This focus means that most traditional BSN students range in age from late teens to mid-20s.

ABSN programs are designed for students with bachelor’s degrees in non-nursing disciplines. Career-changing professionals bring years of experience in other fields to courses in online and hybrid learning formats. The age range of an ABSN class is wider than a traditional BSN because career changes happen throughout life.


ABSN vs. BSN Curriculum Differences

The distinction between ABSN and BSN programs extends to required coursework. Students in traditional BSN programs first complete general education requirements and prerequisites for nursing courses. General education courses cover topics such as history, economics and psychology. Prerequisites expected ahead of major coursework may include:

  • Anatomy
  • Chemistry
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Microbiology
  • Physiology

ABSN programs also require these prerequisites but because general education courses would have been part of a student’s previous bachelor’s degree, the ABSN curriculum is strictly focused on nursing. This streamlined approach to nursing education quickly moves ABSN students into coursework relevant to their careers.

Common ground between ABSN and BSN programs can be found in required clinical rotations. Accredited programs in both formats require hundreds of hours of clinical experience per student before graduation. This requirement builds competency before graduation and prepares aspiring nurses for the NCLEX-RN exam necessary for state licensure.


Length and Cost of Program

ABSN degrees require less time to complete than traditional BSNs. Graduates of ABSN programs can typically complete their courses and clinical rotations in under two years of full-time study. Traditional BSN students need four or more years to complete their degree requirements.

Career-changing professionals get into nursing careers faster with ABSNs and spend less on their education. ABSN students have shorter enrollment periods than their BSN counterparts, thus reducing the overall cost of education.


Job Readiness

Aspiring nurses may wonder if there is a difference in job readiness between ABSN and BSN graduates. Students in both programs complete similar coursework and clinical experiences in preparation for state licensure. A good way to identify the best nursing programs regardless of format is their accreditation status.

Undergraduate and graduate nursing programs seek accreditation from The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). This voluntary process ensures that nurse education meets the needs of patients, employers and professionals. High-quality programs meet four standards during the CCNE process:

  • Alignment of nursing program goals with parent institution goals
  • Demonstrated support for nursing education by the parent institution
  • A curriculum meeting professional nursing standards and community needs
  • Data-driven assessment of student and faculty outcomes

Prospective students can look through program websites to evaluate faculty experience in the nursing profession. They can also review annual rankings of nursing programs in assessing a degree’s value to students and graduates. Ultimately, the best ABSN programs match traditional BSNs in terms of career preparation.


Degree Reputation with Employers

Another question when considering an ABSN or BSN degree is whether health care employers prefer one degree over another. Traditional BSN programs may have been around longer than accelerated options but aren’t necessarily preferred across the board. 

The AACN found that second-career nurses are highly valued by employers. Health care organizations reported that ABSN graduates were “more mature, possess strong clinical skills and are quick studies on the job.” Previous professional experiences and strong interest in their new careers translate into success in the workplace.

Nursing students benefit from a university’s connections to the health care community regardless of format. The ideal nursing program provides clear career pathways through effective clinical placements and hands-on experiences. Marymount University checks all of these boxes with its innovative Online ABSN.


Learning Nursing Skills at Marymount University

The Online ABSN program builds on 50 years of nursing education excellence at the Malek School of Nursing. Second-career nurses are prepared for the NCLEX-RN exam and state licensure after 16 months of full-time study. The program’s online courses, in-person clinical rotations and on-campus residency make career changes possible.

Online ABSN students learn how to become well-rounded nurses from experienced practitioners. Entirely virtual coursework provides strong foundations in topics like:

  • Health Assessment
  • Mental Health Promotion and Illness Management
  • Research and Evidence-Based Practice

The university’s Placement Coordinators identify clinical experiences in Virginia for Online ABSN students. An on-campus residency creates hands-on experiences with nursing skills under faculty supervision. During the residency, students collaborate and work with patient simulators in a realistic clinical environment.

The Online ABSN degree stands out on a resume thanks to Marymount University’s excellent reputation. The university’s nursing degrees are accredited by the CCNE. Marymount University is among the top nursing schools in the United States according to U.S. News & World Report rankings.

Learn more about Marymount University’s ABSN program and how its proximity to D.C.-area health care organizations and its innovative approach to nursing education can help your career.

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