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What’s an ABSN Program?

Maura Deering, J.D.
Updated August 29, 2022
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    Want to learn more about ABSN programs? Read on to learn what an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing can offer, the difference between an ABSN and a BSN, and how to fast-track your nursing licensure and career.
    Medical student studying

    Accelerated bachelor of science in nursing (ABSN) programs have gained traction across the country to meet the increasing demand for nurses, especially those trained at the bachelor’s degree level. Serving a different demographic than nursing bridge programs geared toward licensed registered nurses (RN), an ABSN offers an expedited path to RN licensure for candidates with non-nursing undergraduate or graduate degrees.

    Most ABSN programs require candidates to already hold a bachelor’s degree. This bachelor’s degree can be in a non-nursing field, but programs may require that it be healthcare related, in topics like nutrition, psychology, or social work.

    Students attend classes full time without taking breaks between sessions. Programs usually feature traditional in-person instruction and blended, partially online learning. Students can concentrate on mental health nursing, nursing administration, nursing education, nursing informatics, and telemedicine and eHealth. Common course topics include community health nursing, family and childrens’ care, multicultural nursing, nursing research, and professional ethics. The curriculum covered in accelerated programs are the same as traditional programs.

    Admission standards for ABSN programs can be rigorous. Programs often want candidates with GPAs higher than 3.5, a related bachelor’s degree, volunteer experience, and 1 to 2 years of work experience. Schools look for students who demonstrate prior academic success at the college level. Admitted students tend to be more motivated than traditional incoming nursing students.

    How Long Does it Take to Complete an ABSN program?

    Students can finish their ABSN programs in 11-18 months of intensive, full-time study, including completion of prerequisite coursework. Indiana State University, for example, offers an 82-credit, on-campus ABSN program that can be completed in 15 months.

    The 67-credit hybrid program at Gwynedd Mercy University, in Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania, can be finished in 16 months, including clinical rotations at local healthcare facilities. Duke University’s campus-based program can also be completed in 16 months. The 58-credit curriculum includes almost 800 hours of clinical experience at sites in North Carolina’s Raleigh-Durham area.

    Students can earn their BSNs at Atlanta-based Emory University in just 12 months. The 48-credit accelerated curriculum follows a distance learning model, with clinical hours completed at sites in students’ communities.

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    What are the Benefits and Challenges of an ABSN Program?

    ABSN programs target a particular type of student, and many schools make that clear on their websites. For example, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh notes on its ABSN page that the program is successful, rigorous, and accredited, but that it is not self-paced, self-directed, or easy.

    The benefits of an ABSN include a quick path to RN licensure and employment, flexibility of blended programs, and the ability to show employers completion of rigorous preparation. Like many ABSN programs, UW Oshkosh’s curriculum holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The program also cites an attrition rate of less than 1%, and boasts an NCLEX-RN pass rate above the national average for first-time test takers.

    ABSN programs also come with challenges, such as rigorous course loads. UW Oshkosh students complete one credit per week. ABSNs also require 100% commitment, which means devoting 8-12 hours a day to the program.

    Students should not expect an easy time balancing family and work obligations, and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing advises against working for the duration of an ABSN program. The lack of breaks between sessions means no family vacations and very little personal time off. However, the short timeframe of 11-18 months to an ABSN makes the hardships worthwhile for motivated students.

    What Skills are Required to Successfully Complete an Accelerated Program?

    Successful ABSN program participants share traits and skills that keep them on track and help them avoid burnout. Students at Loyola University Chicago offer their advice on effective strategies to help other students excel, including:

    What are the Differences Between an ABSN and a Traditional BSN

    Time to Complete :Four years11 to 18 months
    Admission Requirements :Varies based on schoolCompleted bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field
    Number of Accredited Programs :Approximately 996Approximately 282
    Time Off :Summer and winter semester breaksYear-round

    Learn More About BSN and ABSN Programs

    Reviewed by:

    Portrait of Theresa Granger

    Theresa Granger


    Theresa Granger, Ph.D., MN, NP-C
    With over two decades of teaching and clinical practice as a family nurse practitioner, Dr. Granger is an expert in nursing education and clinical practice at all levels of education (associate, baccalaureate, and graduate). She has published and lectured extensively on nursing education and clinical practice-related content. Her expertise ranges from student advising and mentoring to curricular and content design (both on ground and online) to teaching and formal course delivery. Dr. Granger is one of the founding faculty members of the University of Southern California’s first ever fully online graduate family nurse practitioner program.

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