The Best Second-Degree BSN Programs

Janice Monti, Ph.D.NurseJournal Rankings Team
Updated November 30, 2023
Reviewed by
Our Integrity Network is committed to delivering content that is objective and actionable. To that end, we have built a network of industry professionals across higher education to review our content and ensure we are providing the most helpful information to our readers.

Drawing on their firsthand industry expertise, our Integrity Network members serve as an additional step in our editing process, helping us confirm our content is accurate and up to date. These contributors:

  • Suggest changes to inaccurate or misleading information.
  • Provide specific, corrective feedback.
  • Identify critical information that writers may have missed.

Integrity Network members typically work full time in their industry profession and review content for as a side project. All Integrity Network members are paid members of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.

Explore our full list of Integrity Network members.

Accelerated second degree nursing programs make it easy to complete a BSN program in under two years. Explore your options here.
mini logo

Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

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

If you already hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, 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 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 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 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.

Popular Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Loading...Learn More
Visit Site
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site

Why Is Accreditation Important for a Second Degree BSN Program?

Earning a second degree BSN 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 Second-Degree BSN Programs & Schools

See our methodology to learn more about how we create our rankings.
#1 The Best Second-Degree BSN Programs

University of Wisconsin-Madison

  • Location-markerMadison, WI
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$9,273
  • Out-of-state$37,161
  • Retention Rate95%
  • Acceptance Rate57%
  • Students Enrolled44,640
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment93%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 The Best Second-Degree BSN Programs

University of Rochester

  • Location-markerRochester, NY
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$57,188
  • Out-of-state$57,188
  • Retention Rate92%
  • Acceptance Rate35%
  • Students Enrolled11,741
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment82%
  • AccreditationYes
#3 The Best Second-Degree BSN Programs

Texas A & M University-College Station

  • Location-markerCollege Station, TX
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$8,395
  • Out-of-state$36,849
  • Retention Rate94%
  • Acceptance Rate63%
  • Students Enrolled70,418
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment33%
  • AccreditationYes
#4 The Best Second-Degree BSN Programs

Clemson University

  • Location-markerClemson, SC
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$14,118
  • Out-of-state$37,110
  • Retention Rate94%
  • Acceptance Rate62%
  • Students Enrolled26,406
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment85%
  • AccreditationYes
#5 The Best Second-Degree BSN Programs

California State University-San Marcos

  • Location-markerSan Marcos, CA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$5,742
  • Out-of-state$17,622
  • Retention Rate84%
  • Acceptance Rate79%
  • Students Enrolled16,367
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment100%
  • AccreditationYes
#6 The Best Second-Degree BSN Programs

University of Massachusetts-Amherst

  • Location-markerAmherst, MA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$15,791
  • Out-of-state$35,779
  • Retention Rate89%
  • Acceptance Rate65%
  • Students Enrolled31,642
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment96%
  • AccreditationYes
#7 The Best Second-Degree BSN Programs

Florida Atlantic University

  • Location-markerBoca Raton, FL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$2,522
  • Out-of-state$14,374
  • Retention Rate82%
  • Acceptance Rate75%
  • Students Enrolled30,805
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment97%
  • AccreditationYes
#8 The Best Second-Degree BSN Programs

University at Buffalo

  • Location-markerBuffalo, NY
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$7,070
  • Out-of-state$24,740
  • Retention Rate87%
  • Acceptance Rate67%
  • Students Enrolled32,347
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment92%
  • AccreditationYes
#9 The Best Second-Degree BSN Programs

Blessing Rieman College of Nursing and Health Sciences

  • Location-markerQuincy, IL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$26,400
  • Out-of-state$26,400
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled177
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment59%
  • AccreditationYes

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

An 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.

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 a second degree BSN program.

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.


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

Program Length

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.

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.

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.

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 Second-Degree BSN Programs Work

Designed specifically for students who have already earned a degree in another field, 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 more rapid-paced and rigorous format. Before applying, students should review program information to ensure their credits may still be transferrable.

The accelerated 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.

Applying to a 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.

  • chevron-right

    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
  • chevron-right

    Admission Materials

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

    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 Second-Degree BSN Programs

Many learners worry about paying for another degree. The total cost of an 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.

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 a Second-Degree BSN?

If you want to move into a career as an RN, earning a second degree BSN 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.

A 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 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 Second-Degree BSN Programs

question-mark-circleHow 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.

question-mark-circleCan I complete a 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 second degree BSN programs may make it difficult to maintain outside employment while taking classes.

question-mark-circleAre 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.

question-mark-circleWhat 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.

Related Second Degree BSN Resources