Ask a Nurse: Should I Get an ABSN or MEPN? icon

Ask a Nurse: Should I Get an ABSN or MEPN?

| Joelle Y. Jean, RN, FNP-BC

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In our Ask a Nurse series, experienced nurses provide an insider look at the nursing profession by answering your questions about nursing careers, degrees, and resources.


Question: I am graduating next year with a BS in health communications and want to go on to be a nurse. I am thinking about neonatal or pediatrics and was wondering what the best education path would be best — an ABSN or MEPN?


Congratulations on almost completing your bachelor's! That is a huge accomplishment. Becoming a nurse is a great career choice, and I'm glad you are thinking about it. Let's figure out which educational path will be a good choice for you.

An accelerated bachelor of science in nursing (ABSN) is a fast-track nursing program designed for students with a bachelor's degree in another field. A master's entry program in nursing (MEPN) is a registered nurse (RN) or nurse practitioner (NP) fast-track program that allows students to earn a nursing undergraduate degree and a master's in nursing.

There are some similarities between the two paths:

  • They both are full-time, accelerated programs and have similar admission requirements.
  • Both programs prepare students to sit for the nursing licensure exam called the NCLEX-RN. An MEPN prepares students to sit for the national NP exam.

You mentioned you were thinking about becoming a neonatal or pediatric nurse. There is one main difference between an ABSN and MEPN:

  • After completing an ABSN and passing the NCLEX-RN, you will be able to work as an RN. This will allow you to gain experience as a neonatal or pediatric nurse. After a few years, you can go back for your master's.
  • After completing an MEPN program and passing the NCLEX-RN and national NP exam, you will be able to care for patients as an NP. NPs have a different scope of practice than an RN. NPs can assess, diagnose, and treat patients.

Comparing an ABSN and MEPN

See details in the following table to compare and contrast an ABSN and MEPN:

Accelerated Bachelor of Nursing Science (ABSN)

  • A second-degree accelerated undergraduate program
  • 11-18 months to completion
  • Prerequisites are required
  • Full time and intensive
  • Prepares you to be an RN and sit for the NCLEX-RN
  • Allows for practice at the bedside after completion

Master of Science for Entry to the Profession of Nursing (MEPN)

  • A second-degree nursing graduate program
  • 2-3 years to completion
  • Prerequisites are required
  • Full time and intensive
  • Prepares you to be an RN and NP
  • Prepares you to sit for the NCLEX-RN and national NP exam
  • Prepares you to take the clinical nurse leader (CNL) certification exam

Do All Accredited MEPN Programs Give You the Same MSN Degree?

MEPN programs are different from master of science in nursing (MSN) programs. MEPN programs are for second-degree graduate students who don't have a degree in nursing. MSN programs are designed for nurses who already have their BSN.

MEPN programs prepare students to become nurse leaders. They provide classes such as leadership, quality improvement, and safety. Some programs prepare students to take the CNL certification exam.

Do MEPN and MSN Programs Prepare You for an NP License?

Both MEPN and MSN programs can prepare students to sit for the national NP exam. There are two governing boards master-prepared nurses can sit for:

  • American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)
  • American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

How Much Harder or Faster Are MEPN Programs?

MEPN programs are very competitive. You must be in great academic standing with a 3.0 or higher GPA. Some programs require prerequisites to be completed before admission. Prerequisites generally include:

  • General chemistry
  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Statistics
  • Nutrition

The program is fast-paced and intense. Think about it: You will be completing a BSN and an MSN in 2-3 years! But it can be done. However, MEPN programs are full time and you'll probably have to forgo a full-time job until you graduate.

Both ABSN and MEPN Routes Fill the Nursing Need

There is a huge need for nurses and NPs. There is a nursing and primary care physician shortage, baby boomers are retiring, and more people are suffering from chronic illnesses.

If you want work experience in a neonatal nurse career or pediatric nurse career before getting your MSN, then go the ABSN route.

If you want to practice as an NP right out of school, then go the MEPN route. Whatever you decide, both paths are great. Good luck!

In Summary

  • ABSN and MEPN programs are fast-track accelerated programs.
  • ABSN and MEPN have similar admission requirements.
  • An ABSN and MEPN prepares you to sit for the NCLEX-RN.
  • An MEPN prepares you to sit for the NP boards.
  • ABSN is a faster track and allows you to work as an RN after completing and passing the NCLEX-RN.

Written by:

Portrait of Joelle Y. Jean, RN, FNP-BC

Joelle Y. Jean, RN, FNP-BC

Joelle Jean has been a nurse for over 10 years and family nurse practitioner for over three years. She has a background in pediatric emergency room, labor and delivery, and primary care medicine. Today, she is a senior nurse writer for NurseJournal. She lives in New York with her husband, two boys, and cat, Zuzu.

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