A career in nursing is guaranteed to be challenging, rewarding and dynamic. The same can be said of the schooling and experience required to become a nurse. Depending on education level and flexibility, aspiring nurses can take several routes to achieve licensure as a registered nurse (RN). One of those routes is to earn an accelerated bachelor's degree in nursing (ABSN).
There are two ways to achieve a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN):
- A traditional four-year Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) program. These programs typically take four years of full-time enrollment to complete.
- An accelerated Bachelors in nursing program. These fast-paced programs usually range from 11-18 months.
An ABSN provides a quick, condensed path to licensure as an RN. It's often ideal for a student or adult who has already received a previous degree in a non-nursing discipline. If you already have a Bachelor of Science degree, an ABSN may be a particularly convenient route, as the coursework you completed usually includes many ABSN prerequisite classes.
An ABSN program could be right for you if you are:
- Skilled in time management
- Able to devote yourself fully to the program
The requirements for each ABSN program vary, so always refer to the institution's website for specifics. Here's a list of common requirements you can expect to see.
- A bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university in a discipline other than nursing
- Completed prerequisite courses:
- Anatomy & physiology I & II
- Developmental psychology
- Organic and inorganic chemistry
- Occasionally: introduction-level psychology and sociology courses
- Minimum GPA of 3.0 in prerequisite courses and a two-attempt limit on each class
- Professional cover letter, and potentially a resume
- Face-to-face interview
In addition to their academic rigor, accelerated programs tend to be very competitive. According to Nurse.org, nursing schools across the country rejected 56,000 qualified applicants from undergraduate programs. There are simply many more applicants than there are slots for students. When I applied to the ABSN program at Montana State University (MSU), there were more than 100 applicants for the 16 available positions in the program.
With competition like this, you need to do everything you can to prove that you're a valuable candidate. Start by creating a unique and compelling cover letter that states your goals and details your transferable experience. You'll want to tell the story of how you've come to apply for the program.
Think about why you want to be a nurse in the first place and highlight why you've chosen the particular program and how accepting you will be a win-win for you and them. I believe that my in-person interview at MSU is how I earned a spot in the cohort. I was able to highlight my life experiences, personal skills and what set me apart from the other applicants.
Depending on the program you're applying to, you may also want to put together a smartly-crafted resume. In many cases, your application materials won't require it. But if your application package should include a resume, make sure you choose the right format to fit your skills and experiences.
Do not underestimate the significance of your application materials or interview. Use the opportunities that they provide to share unique experiences and showcase your skills to make a lasting impression and improve your chances of acceptance.
Paying for your ABSN
For me, another factor in choosing an ABSN was cost. The Nurse Journal reports that tuition, fees, books and supplies for a traditional four year BSN program can run between $40,000-$200,000, while accelerated bachelors in nursing programs can cost between $17,000-$90,000.
By choosing the ABSN path, you may be able to save over $100,000. If you can find an ABSN program in your home state, you may qualify for in-state tuition rates.
And don't forget about financial aid. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a great place to start. The FAFSA can determine what government assistance you may qualify for and is used by many schools' financial aid packages.
You can also look at the All Nursing Schools website for a list of nursing-specific scholarships.
Is an ABSN program right for you?
Accelerated programs move at a quick pace, combining online and classroom courses, as well as clinical experiences. You'll need to complete two years of work in around one calendar year, and most schools discourage students from working during the program, due to the fast pace and heavy workload.
For me, the main deciding factors were cost and time:
- I had a BS in Kinesiology, so I'd already fulfilled all but two of the prerequisite courses. I completed the two missing courses the semester before applying to the ABSN program.
- I was living in Montana, so I qualified for in-state tuition at MSU.
An intense 15 months later, I graduated with a BS in Nursing, passed the NCLEX and was officially a practicing RN. Although the accelerated program was the right choice for me, I cannot overstate the heavy workload.
Standing out in a competitive market
We're currently experiencing a national shortage of nurses, and that shortage is predicted to get more significant soon. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' employment projections report that nursing will have a 15% increase in available jobs by 2026. Yes, this means job opportunities. However, we already have a shortage of nursing schools and nursing professors. Combine all this and you have a very competitive environment.
To earn a spot in a high-quality ABSN program, you need to catch the admissions director's eye. You can do that by building a professional resume and cover letter that show off your skills, credentials and potential.
Live Career's Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder can help you write a resume and cover letter rather quickly, and demonstrate you are qualified for one of these limited positions. You can also check out our Registered Nurse Resume Example, which includes advice and tips on how to write an RN resume.