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Ask a Nurse: Will My Non-Nursing Associate Degree Transfer Toward a BSN?

Nicole Galan, RN, MSN
Updated March 22, 2023
    Transferring your degree to a bachelor's in nursing will depend on the degree you have already earned and the coursework you've taken. Find out more about how it works.
    A pair of female nursing students are cheerfully chatting while walking to class together. The student pictured on the left is a young mixed-race woman with straight dark brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. She is wearing bright blue scrubs, a gray backpack, and a stethoscope around her neck, and is carrying a gray laptop in her left arm. Her classmate pictured on the right in the photo is a young Caucasian woman. She is wearing teal green scrubs and a brown backpack. She is carrying a notepad and a textbook in her left arm and a pen in her left hand. Together they are walking in a hallway lined with floor-to-ceiling glass windows with a view overlooking the school campus.Credit: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images

    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: Can a non-nursing associate degree-holder enroll in a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program? Will any of my credits transfer over?

    Answer: Absolutely — though how long it will take and the exact pathway you will follow will depend a lot on the degree you’ve already earned and the coursework you’ve taken.

    In addition to the nursing coursework, traditional four-year BSN programs will also require general education courses such as English, history, and math. Depending on the classes that you took for your associate degree, some or all of these credits may transfer to your BSN degree. This could significantly reduce the number of credits you will need to take, possibly even a year or two off the total time needed.

    It is important to note that most BSN programs have a lengthy list of prerequisites that need to be completed before you can be eligible to take nursing courses. Some prerequisites are listed below:

    • Human anatomy and physiology I and II
    • Human nutrition
    • Psychology
    • Statistics
    • Microbiology
    • Human growth and development
    • General chemistry

    If your degree did not include any of this coursework, it may be easier (and more cost effective) to take your prerequisites at your convenience prior to applying to a nursing program. You can take your courses at your own pace — whether that’s one at a time or in two jam-packed semesters.

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    While most programs are at brick-and-mortar schools, there are a few online options popping up. However, when going the online route, be aware that you will need to find clinical sites in a variety of specialties in order to support your education. Most programs require clinicals in general medical/surgical, pediatrics, obstetrics, and psychiatric care at a minimum. You may also need to spend time at a skilled nursing facility to learn the basics of providing nursing care. Some people find it difficult to locate acceptable clinical sites; truthfully, you might also lose the camaraderie and learning experiences that come with conquering a clinical rotation with other students and an instructor.

    The best and first thing you should do is to contact the admissions department or nursing programs that you are interested in applying to and ask to speak with an advisor. They should be able to point you in the right direction.

    In Summary

    Depending on the coursework you took for your associate degree, some of the credits may transfer toward your BSN general education requirements. In some situations, you may want to consider taking the prerequisite science courses prior to applying to nursing school. Contact the nursing program or admissions department of the school(s) you’d like to attend to get more information about their requirements.

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    Portrait of Nicole Galan, RN, MSN

    Nicole Galan, RN, MSN

    Nicole Galan, RN, MSN is a registered nurse who started on a general medical/surgical care unit and then moved to infertility care where she worked for almost 10 years. She has also worked for over 13 years as a freelance writer specializing in consumer health sites and educational materials for nursing students. Galan currently works as a full-time freelancer and recently earned her master’s degree in nursing education from Capella University.