The Best Online Second-Degree BSN Programs


Updated February 14, 2023

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Accelerated online second degree nursing programs make it easy to complete a BSN program in under two years. Explore your options here.
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Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Nurse student studying on laptop Credit: NIKCOA / Doctor & medical health care / shuttershock

If you already hold a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field, online second degree BSN programs, short for bachelor of science in nursing programs, offer a fast track to a nursing career.

Because you have already completed general education requirements for a bachelor's degree, you can finish a second degree BSN online in about half the time it takes to earn a traditional BSN.

Also known as an accelerated BSN, these programs focus mainly on nursing coursework.

Just like a traditional four-year nursing degree, the second degree BSN prepares students for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses(NCLEX-RN) and employment in a variety of settings and specialties.

Our rankings of the best online accelerated second degree BSN programs highlight what to look for in a nursing program, how to apply, and how to pay for your education.

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best online second-degree BSN programs, making it easier for you to find a program that works for you.

Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including: Academic quality, affordability, reputation, and program offerings.

Featured Online BSN Programs

Why Is Accreditation Important for a Second Degree BSN Program?

Earning a second degree BSN online requires time, money, and effort. Unaccredited programs waste all three.

  • Accreditation means that independent organizations have assessed a program's academic quality. Accreditation ensures that a curriculum prepares students to become nurses.
  • State nursing boards and specialty certification boards require candidates to hold a degree from an accredited program.
  • Accredited programs rarely accept transfer credits earned from unaccredited programs.
  • Most employers prefer to hire candidates who complete accredited programs.

Learn More About the Best Online Second-Degree BSN Programs & Schools

See our methodology to learn more about how we create our rankings.

#1 The Best Online Second-Degree BSN Programs

Immaculata University

  • Immaculata, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Immaculata University offers a 55-credit accelerated second-degree BSN. This program enrolls college graduates who want to become registered nurses. Students complete clinical study at a nursing simulation lab. 

Course topics include pharmacology, nursing research, and holistic health. Students arrange their own transportation to clinical experiences. New enrollees can access discounted prerequisite courses.

Average Tuition
Retention Rate
Admission Rate
Students Enrolled
Institution Type
Percent Online Enrollment
44% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#2 The Best Online Second-Degree BSN Programs

Notre Dame of Maryland University

  • Baltimore, MD
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Notre Dame of Maryland University offers a hybrid or on-campus second-degree BSN. The program emphasizes inclusion, responsibility, and professional excellence. 

Enrollees complete both online coursework and in-person lab simulations and clinical rotations. Like many online second degree nursing programs, this program helps students gain clinical placements near its campus.

Average Tuition
Retention Rate
Admission Rate
Students Enrolled
Institution Type
Percent Online Enrollment
39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#3 The Best Online Second-Degree BSN Programs

University of Providence

  • Great Falls, MT
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of Providence offers one of the shortest online accelerated second-degree BSN programs. Students begin in January and conclude in December of the same year.

The program requires three courses every eight weeks. Enrollees must live near one of the university's clinical sites. Students can choose either Lewistown, Montana or Anchorage, Alaska.

Average Tuition
Retention Rate
Admission Rate
Students Enrolled
Institution Type
Percent Online Enrollment
55% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Using Our Rankings: What to Look For in an Online Second-Degree BSN Program

An online accelerated second degree BSN program should fit your personal needs while helping you achieve your professional goals. As you compare schools, pay attention to these key metrics, which form the basis for our rankings of the top programs.

1. Admission Requirements

Admission criteria tell you what kind of academic preparation you need to succeed in the program. Make sure you have the necessary GPA, prerequisite courses, and other requirements to gain admission to an online second degree BSN program.

2. Clinical Experience

All BSN programs include clinical requirements. Depending on the school, distance learners may have to travel to approved sites. Some online programs permit you to complete clinicals in your own community. Before enrolling, figure out how to fit clinical placements into your schedule.

3. Accreditation

Nursing licensure, certifications, and many jobs are available only to those who graduate from accredited programs.

4. Program Length

Online accelerated second degree BSN programs take 12 - 24 months to complete, much shorter than other BSN degrees. You should prepare for the challenges of a fast-paced schedule and a heavy course load.

5. NCLEX Pass Rate

A program's National Council Licensure Examination-RN (NCLEX-RN) pass rate tells you how well the curriculum prepares students to become nurses. A high pass rate plus a high graduation rate is a good sign, while low rates may indicate that a program is ineffective or admits unprepared students.

6. School Graduation Rate

The graduation rate tells you how many students finished their nursing degree within the expected time frame. Higher graduation rates indicate a supportive learning environment that successfully prepares nurses for practice.

7. Online Learning Format and Requirements

Does the program's format fit your schedule and learning style? Some online second degree nursing programs offer structured formats with set class meeting times and strong faculty support, while others feature self-paced coursework.

How Online Second-Degree BSN Programs Work

Designed specifically for students who have already earned a degree in another field, online accelerated second degree BSN programs offer the quickest route to a nursing career and an expedited path to RN licensure.

Because students often complete all general education requirements and science prerequisites in their first bachelor's degree, the second degree program primarily covers nursing classes, labs, and clinical experiences in a rapid-paced and rigorous online format. Before applying, students should review program information to ensure their credits may still be transferrable.

The online curriculum covers the same material as a four-year campus-based BSN, including courses in evidence-based practice, community health, population-focused health, and nursing ethics.

Although distance learners should expect to fulfill in-person clinical requirements, most programs will help you find placements close to your home or within a reasonable travel distance.

Applying to an Online Second-Degree BSN Program

Admission requirements vary by nursing program. Most schools admit candidates with a bachelor's degree in any subject, as long as they have the minimum GPA and prerequisites.

As you collect the necessary documents to apply, give yourself enough time to request official transcripts, contact your references, and prepare your personal statement.

1. Admission Requirements

  • BA or BS from an accredited institution
  • Official transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Minimum composite score on the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS)
  • ACT or SAT scores

2. Admission Materials

  • Completion of prerequisite courses in natural science, psychology, and statistics
  • Criminal background check
  • Immunization records
  • Physical health examination

3. GPA Requirement

  • A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (Some programs consider academic progress and strong letters of reference to offset a lower GPA.)

Paying for Online Second Degree BSN Programs

Many learners worry about paying for another degree. The total cost of an online accelerated second degree BSN program includes tuition, any travel expenses for on-campus requirements or clinicals, books and equipment, and how many hours you expect to work while studying.

While some charge the same rate for all online students, others maintain higher tuition rates for out-of-state students.

Fortunately, there are many financial aid opportunities for nursing students. Many associations, companies, nonprofit groups, and government and private organizations offer grants and scholarships. Some federal funding opportunities provide free or discounted tuition, or loan forgiveness, for candidates who agree to work in underserved areas after graduation.

What Can You Do With a Degree from an Online Second-Degree BSN?

If you want to move into a career as an RN, earning a second degree BSN online provides the necessary credentials in an accelerated format. The degree prepares you for the NCLEX-RN exam, which you need for state licensure. A BSN also provides the academic background for graduate work leading to advanced practice nursing roles.

Although you can qualify for the NCLEX-RN exam with a two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN), the BSN curriculum covers more advanced nursing concepts and includes training in leadership and management. RNs with BSNs can expect more employment opportunities with greater responsibilities and higher salaries.

The U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the employment of RNs to grow by 6% between 2021 and 2031, adding over 203,000 openings each year.

An increasing number of healthcare providers view the BSN as the minimal educational requirement for nursing practice.

An online second degree BSN program prepares you for a variety of nursing positions and specialties, working in hospitals, outpatient clinics, physician offices, and home healthcare, among other settings.

  • Critical Care Nurse: Critical care nurses treat patients with life-threatening illness or serious injuries. They monitor vital signs, provide wound care, and administer tests and medications, under a doctor's supervision. According to October 2022 Payscale data, critical care nurses earned an average annual salary of $75,370.
  • Operating Room Nurse: Operating room nurses assist patients before, during, and after surgery. They help to maintain safe and sterile operating rooms and equipment, monitor patients through the postoperative stage, and provide education and support. They make an average yearly salary of $76,960, per November 2022 Payscale data.
  • Pediatric Nurse: Pediatric nurses care for children from infancy through age 18, providing routine, emergency, and acute pediatric care. These nurses find employment in hospitals, pediatric care centers, and doctor's offices. Per October 2022 Payscale data, these nurses made average salaries of $60,070 a year.

Earning a second degree BSN online gets you ready for general RN roles providing direct patient care, as well as an array of specialties. Check out this list of popular nursing specialties and careers to help you understand the options available to you.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Second-Degree BSN

How long does it take to complete a second degree BSN?

If you have already earned a bachelor’s in a non-nursing field and have completed all the necessary prerequisites, you should be able to earn your second degree BSN in two years or less if attending full-time.

Can I complete an online second degree BSN while working?

The answer depends on your ability to manage your work commitments with your program's schedule and requirements. The accelerated pace and rigorous curriculum of online second degree BSN programs may make it difficult to maintain outside employment while taking classes.

Are there any in-person requirements for an online second degree BSN?

Some second degree BSN online programs do include on-campus requirements, such as orientation sessions or labs. You must complete your clinicals in person, although many programs can help you find placements in your community.

What is the difference between an ADN and a BSN?

Both degrees prepare you for the NCLEX-RN exams and careers as RNs; While the ADN requires less credits, a BSN provides higher-level training leading to nursing roles beyond the entry-level and greater earning potential. A BSN also provides the academic background for nursing graduate programs.

Page Last Reviewed: November 7, 2022

Note: The ranking list and school descriptions on this page were created and reviewed independently by our Rankings Team.

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