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Best 20 Accelerated Nursing Programs in 2021 [Updated]

February 12, 2021 | Staff Writers

best online nursing programs
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You have hung your college diploma proudly on your wall. Now you want to become a registered nurse — but you don’t want to spend another two to four years in school.

You’re not alone. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) says that in 2020 nearly 25,000 students across the United States were enrolled in accelerated nursing programs. These nursing programs lead to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in just 11 to 22 months. Designed for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field, accelerated nursing programs are also known as second-degree nursing programs and direct-entry nursing degree programs.

Top 5 Accelerated Nursing Programs

Rank School Location
1California State University—StanislausTurlock, California
2Truman State UniversityKirksville, Missouri
3Augustana UniversitySioux Falls, South Dakota
4West Virginia UniversityMorgantown, West Virginia
5Clemson UniversityClemson, South Carolina

Accelerated nursing programs aren’t like starting college all over again. They are more like doing your junior and senior years all over again. Some of the shorter, more intensive accelerated nursing programs can’t accept working students. They may even prohibit their students from working. But there are some part-time and online  nursing programs that can accommodate students who need to work. These programs may schedule courses for evenings and weekends, taking 18 to 22 months to complete.

It’s important to understand what an accelerated nursing program isn’t. It isn’t an RN-to-BSN program. RN-to-BSN programs are for registered nurses who are currently practiced or at least licensed to practice who need to earn a bachelor’s degree to meet increasing requirements from their employers or from state licensing boards or who just want to advance their careers. RN-to-BSN programs take about two years to complete.

Accelerated nursing programs do not require any prior experience or education in nursing. They are for students who are new to the field seeking a fresh start.

Who are the ideal students for accelerated nursing programs?

Accelerated nursing programs are academically rigorous. Successful students in accelerated nursing programs need to be organized, motivated, and academically inclined.

Accelerated nursing programs require students to spend a lot of time together. Students who are comfortable around different kinds of people and who can tolerate healthy interpersonal tensions are best suited for these programs (and for the profession later on).

The upside of accelerated nursing programs is that the sole focus is on learning to become a nurse. There’s no adjustment to having a roommate or learning to do laundry for the first time. There’s no pledging a sorority or a fraternity (other than a nursing student organization, in some cases) and there’s no worry about what to wear every day, because you will be wearing your nursing uniform.

People come to accelerated nursing programs because they are inspired by the competence, courage, and kindness of a nurse in their lives. Or they are seeking opportunities that their first choice of career did not afford. But everyone who succeeds in an accelerated nursing program is smart, dedicated, and concentrated on becoming a nurse.

What are the important differences between accelerated nursing programs?

The objective of every accelerated nursing program is giving students the coursework and training they need to practice nursing in the shortest time possible. Every accelerated nursing program offers a fast-track degree. But there are nuances between accelerated nursing programs that make a difference for choosing the right program.

  • BA or BS? Some programs don’t care about their students’ undergraduate majors. A BA in any field may be fine. Other programs expect their students already to hold a BS in a science field.
  • Start date. Most US academic programs start sometime between the middle of August and the first week of October, depending on the part of the country where the courses are held. Accelerated nursing programs tend to start in January or October, although summer start dates are also popular.
  • Online or on-campus? Some highly motivated students don’t have any trouble learning essential nursing concepts from online classes. They will still need to go to campus or a teaching hospital for their clinical work, but they don’t need to go to a physical classroom for their didactic work. Some students learn better in person-to-person interaction. These students should opt for brick-and-mortar classes with professors they see in person and students with whom they can more easily form relationships.

Any nursing program, whether it’s accelerated or not, will require 700 to 850 hours of clinical work. You’ll begin your clinical work a lot sooner in an accelerated nursing program, because you won’t be spending a lot of time, or any time, studying non-nursing subjects.

A word of caution about online nursing programs is in order. When you sign up for online coursework, you are free to play and replay your lectures as many times as you like and get your assignments done any time of day that you like. But you will face rigid dates for completing your coursework so that you will be ready for clinical rotations with the rest of your class.

No matter what your undergraduate degree, you will need to have completed some accelerated nursing program prerequisites.

There are certain courses that every student needs to have completed, usually with a grade of B or better (pass-fail may not be accepted), within the last five years before enrolling in an accelerated nursing program. These courses include:

Here’s a sample list of accelerated BSN prerequisites.

  • Biology I
  • Microbiology
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Anatomy and Physiology I & II
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Nutrition
  • Sociology
  • Statistics

If you haven’t taken these courses, you will need to have completed them before you start your program.

To get into an accelerated nursing program, you will probably need to have completed your undergraduate degree with a GPA of at least 3.0. You may need to interview with the Admissions Department so they can assess your aptitude for practicing nursing.

But don’t worry a lot about your age. Life experience is considered a good thing in nursing. Mature students are welcome in most accelerated nursing programs.

Now let’s look at some of your options for accelerated nursing study. There are 264 member schools in the AACN that offer accelerated nursing programs. There are another 135 accelerated nursing programs that are not listed with the AACN.

We sorted these programs first by looking for schools that have national recognition for some outstanding aspect of their programs. We found 93 schools in this category. We made sure that every school we list is accredited. Then we looked at five more criteria:

  • Average Net Price to Students
  • Graduation Rate, the percentage of students finishing the program.
  • Financial Aid, the percentage of students receiving financial aid, and
  • NCLEX pass rate, which is a good measure of the percentage of students that get their nursing licenses. The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN® exam) ensures that it is safe for you to begin work as a nurse.

We used a statistical tool called normalization to make sure that an unusually high or low net price did not skew the results for other outcomes of the school. Then we ranked schools by giving each factor 25 percent value to the school’s final score.

There are just a few exceptions to our ranking protocol. We also included the cheapest accelerated online nursing programs in the order that they would otherwise appear in our rankings, even if they did not make the top 20. These are great schools. They just were in the top 93, not necessarily the top 20.

The Best 20 Accelerated Nursing Programs

1

California State University—Stanislaus

  • Turlock, California
  • Graduation Rate: 80%

If you have a bachelor’s degree in any other field and you have taken the prerequisites for nursing courses we listed above, Cal State Stanislaus offers a 59-semester hour program that you can complete in 17 months. Cal State Stanislaus requires its students to study full-time and doesn’t allow them to hold jobs while they are in the program.

School Overview

Average Net Price to Students: $6,768
Financial Aid: 92%
NCLEX Pass Rate: 98.5%
Visit School Website
2

Truman State University

  • Kirksville, Missouri
  • Graduation Rate: 72%

Truman State University admits students who already have another bachelor’s into its accelerated nursing program even if they have not completed all of their prerequisite courses, although remedial work may add to the 18 months usually required to complete the program. You have to be admitted both to the university and to the nursing program to work on your degree.

School Overview

Average Net Price to Students: $12,512
Financial Aid: 99%
NCLEX Pass Rate: 98%
Visit School Website
3

Augustana University

  • Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  • Graduation Rate: 70%

The accelerated nursing program at Augustana University has some very appealing characteristics for serious nursing students: 100% of students get financial aid and 100% of students who graduate from the program pass the NCLEX. The university’s website says that students in the accelerated nursing program get the same curriculum as regular nursing students but at a faster pace. All graduates have career opportunities immediately after graduation.

School Overview

Average Net Price to Students: $18,937
Financial Aid: 100%
NCLEX Pass Rate: 100%
Visit School Website
4

West Virginia University

  • Morgantown, West Virginia
  • Graduation Rate: 56%

Hospitals and clinics trust West Virginia University accelerating nursing credentials because 100 percent of graduates pass the NCLEX. You can also work on an MSN (master’s degree in nursing) at the same time if you choose. Social and recreational opportunities at West Virginia University are limited, but for some students this will be a plus.

School Overview

Average Net Price to Students: $11,486
Financial Aid: 93%
NCLEX Pass Rate: 100%
Visit School Website
5

Clemson University

  • Clemson, South Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 81%

Clemson University’s accelerated nursing program takes students who have earned at least a bachelor’s degree no matter what their major. The accelerated nursing program does not offer remedial work, and students who are not sufficiently prepared in science and statistics basics may struggle. But the opportunities to practice at local and regional hospitals are outstanding and give students a major boost in their job search after they get their licenses.

School Overview

Average Net Price to Students: $18,757
Financial Aid: 96%
NCLEX Pass Rate: 93%
Visit School Website

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6

University of Washington

  • Seattle, Washington
  • Graduation Rate: 84%

The University of Washington’s accelerated nursing program offers students exposure to cutting-edge technology that simply doesn’t exist at many other institutions. The faculty is nationally renowned and courses are taught in a clinical atmosphere, not in a traditional college classroom. The university is connected to nearly 800 community partnership sites including the Seattle Children’s Hospital, where you will have at least 1000 patient contact hours during your program. The University of Washington offers outstanding value for well-prepared and highly motivated students.

School Overview

Average Net Price to Students: $9,443
Financial Aid: 57%
NCLEX Pass Rate: 91%
Visit School Website
7

Samford University

  • Birmingham, Alabama
  • Graduation Rate: 72%

The Moffett & Sanders School of Nursing at Samford University offers a Five Semester Second Degree BSN Option. The program is designed for students that have already completed a degree in something other than nursing. The program starts every fall, running a total of five semesters. There are no summer sessions. Graduates of the program consistently earn NCLEX-RN pass rates higher than the state and national averages. Graduate employment rate also exceeds the average rate. If you need to balance school, work, and personal life, this program is for you.

School Overview

Average Net Price to Students: $30,017
Financial Aid: 98%
NCLEX Pass Rate: 98%
Visit School Website
8

Florida International University

  • Miami, Florida
  • Graduation Rate: 72%

Getting an MD outside the United States doesn’t necessarily guarantee an opportunity to sit for medical licensing exams once someone gets to the United States. It is not unusual for students who graduated from “bachelor of medicine” programs in their home countries that would have allowed them to practice medicine in their home countries to opt for practicing nursing in the United States, and Florida International University’s accelerated nursing program is a prime location for getting solid training to practice nursing in the United States. Doctors from other countries can enroll in the program even if their MD degree is recognized in the United States, but a green card or US citizenship is required.

School Overview

Average Net Price to Students: $12,219
Financial Aid: 86%
NCLEX Pass Rate: 100%
Visit School Website
9

University of Delaware

  • Newark, Delaware
  • Graduation Rate: 81%

If you want to dive into your accelerated nursing program even though you still need to take a non-science prerequisite like developmental psychology, the University of Delaware is a great place to do it. The 17-month program allows you to take some remedial work without slowing down your progress toward your nursing degree, but it does not allow you to take the program part-time or to work at another job while you are a student. You need a 3.0 GPA for all your undergraduate work and at least a 2.0 for courses you transfer into the program.

School Overview

Average Net Price to Students: $16,286
Financial Aid: 81%
NCLEX Pass Rate: 98%
Visit School Website
10

Duke University

  • Durham, North Carolina
  • Graduation Rate: 95%

Duke’s academic programs in medicine and nursing are internationally renowned, and the Duke University accelerated nursing program is no exception. The reason it ranks a little lower on this list than some other options for accelerating nursing study is the specialized nature of its offerings. Duke is a wonderful place to study if you want to focus on a wellness practice or if you have an interest in the special needs of minority populations. It’s a great place for nursing generalists, too, but students who come to Duke should choose Duke because they want specialized training they cannot get anywhere else.

School Overview

Average Net Price to Students: $22,011
Financial Aid: 68%
NCLEX Pass Rate: 98%
Visit School Website
11

Drexel University

  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Graduation Rate: 70%

If you are looking to get your BSN in record time, the Drexel University accelerated BSN program is the place for you. Their 11-month program gets you into nursing in less than a year, but it’s a 24/7 commitment. Drexel’s innovative curriculum is second to none, and there are years that 100% of students pass the NCLEX. Can’t commit to an intense, full-time program? Drexel University also has evening classes for students who need to take longer to get their degree.

School Overview

Average Net Price to Students: $40,977
Financial Aid: 99%
NCLEX Pass Rate: 94%
Visit School Website
12

Stony Brook University

  • Stony Brook, New York
  • Graduation Rate: 72%

The accelerated nursing program at Stony Brook University leads to an opportunity to sit for the NCLEX exam and get a nursing license in just 12 months. Students are allowed to make up some prerequisite coursework while they are studying nursing, and it’s also possible to study for a BSN and an MSN at the same time. Stony Brook University requires a 2.8 GPA to graduate.

School Overview

Average Net Price to Students: $14,330
Financial Aid: 77%
NCLEX Pass Rate: 97%
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13

Florida Atlantic University

  • Boca Raton, Florida
  • Graduation Rate: 54%

Every fall, Florida Atlantic University’s accelerated nursing program admits a new class of students for an intensive, one-year program to earn a BSN. Only about half of students get through the program, but once they do, they always pass the NCLEX. You will need to have completed your prerequisites before your start and you’ll need an interview once you have been accepted to the program.

School Overview

Average Net Price to Students: $10,100
Financial Aid: 82%
NCLEX Pass Rate: 100%
Visit School Website
14

Georgia State University

  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Graduation Rate: 52%

The accelerated nursing degree program at Georgia State University warns students that they will be spending about 80 hours a week (or a little more) on coursework and clinical rotations during the four semesters it takes them to earn 60 semester hours for their BSN. A full-time job with this kind of course load is impossible. But the program prepares nurses for practice immediately after graduation.

School Overview

Average Net Price to Students: $20,055
Financial Aid: 95%
NCLEX Pass Rate: 96%
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15

University of Houston

  • Houston, Texas
  • Graduation Rate: 59%

Located at the university’s Sugar Land campus near Houston, the University of Houston’s accelerated nursing program offers an academically challenging 12-month pathway to an RN and a BSN in nursing. Students with any undergraduate major may be accepted to the program, but the university cautions that students who pay close attention to what they are told in their information session are more likely to be offered admission. The University of Houston has an outstandingly diverse student body and a good reputation for the quality of its coursework.

School Overview

Average Net Price to Students: $15,664
Financial Aid: 85%
NCLEX Pass Rate: 100%
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16

Texas Christian University

  • Fort Worth, Texas
  • Graduation Rate: 77%

The accelerated nursing program at Texas Christian University is 16 months long. You need to maintain a 3.5 GPA., and you need to adhere to an intense ethics code. If you are interested in learning nursing in an academically rigorous Christian environment, the program at Texas Christian may be for you.

School Overview

Average Net Price to Students: $33,563
Financial Aid: 83%
NCLEX Pass Rate: 97%
Visit School Website
17

Wayne State University

  • Detroit, Michigan
  • Graduation Rate: 38%

Wayne State University’s accelerated nursing track is one of the longer “accelerated” nursing programs. It is five semesters long. There is time to make up prerequisites and plenty of time for scheduling clinical rotations to build your nursing skills.

School Overview

Average Net Price to Students: $13,287
Financial Aid: 943%
NCLEX Pass Rate: 96%
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18

Michigan State University

  • East Lansing, Michigan
  • Graduation Rate: 78%

Michigan State’s accelerated nursing program admits students every May for the NCLEX and graduation in August of the following year. This academically rigorous program is famous for producing nurses who are well-grounded in all the basics. Students can also pursue an MSN in their second fall and spring semesters.

School Overview

Average Net Price to Students: $16,684
Financial Aid: 67%
NCLEX Pass Rate: 93%
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19

University of Massachusetts — Amherst

  • Amherst, Massachusetts
  • Graduation Rate: 76%

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst has an accelerated nursing program with the necessary science courses, such as microbiology, anatomy, and physiology, built into the curriculum. Because accelerated nursing students in the program take their sciences after they are admitted rather than before, a few more students fall by the wayside because of academics than at many other top-20 programs. But it’s a great place for learning how to serve diverse patient populations.

School Overview

Average Net Price to Students: $21,281
Financial Aid: 89%
NCLEX Pass Rate: 87%
Visit School Website
20

Villanova University

  • Villanova, Pennsylvania
  • Graduation Rate: 90%

Villanova University’s “BSN Express” is its standalone 14-month program that contains all of the same didactic instruction and clinical experiences in its standard nursing programs. The university advertises that the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing fully approves the program and it has also received accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing. No matter what field you studied for your first undergraduate degree, you can find a sequence of courses in the BSN Express.

Now we will take a look at some accelerated nursing programs that didn’t make our top 20 on the basis of statistics, but that offer outstanding features of interest to many accelerated nursing students, starting with the cheapest accelerated nursing program.

School Overview

Average Net Price to Students: $35,491
Financial Aid: 64%
NCLEX Pass Rate: 94%
Visit School Website

Cheapest Accelerated Nursing Program: Northeast Alabama Community College

If you already have a bachelor’s degree in any field from any other university, Northeast Alabama Community College can help you add an RN to your professional credentials. The accelerated nursing program is academically demanding, but Northeast Alabama Community College has a passing rate of 100% on the NCLEX.

  • Average Net Price to Students: $3,144
  • Graduation Rate: 32%
  • Financial Aid: 90%
  • NCLEX Pass Rate: 100%

Second-Cheapest Accelerated Nursing Program: CUNY Hunter College

You wouldn’t necessarily expect an unusually inexpensive accelerated nursing program in New York City, but that is what you will find at CUNY Hunter College. Located next to the VA Hospital on First Avenue in Manhattan, CUNY Hunter College offers rotations at some of the busiest hospitals in the nation with some of the most diverse patient care experiences possible for student nurses. Many students find the CUNY program too demanding and drop out, but a substantial number go on to earn MSN degrees and doctorates in nursing.

  • Average Net Price to Students: $5,215
  • Graduation Rate: 52%
  • Financial Aid: 81%
  • NCLEX Pass Rate: 87%

Unusually Flexible Scheduling: Duquesne University

It’s hard to find a more flexibly scheduled accelerated nursing program than the program at Duquesne University. Classroom instruction is entirely online, and sessions start three times a year. This Catholic university finds opportunities for its students to earn money while they are still in school, and offers generous discounts on tuition.

  • Average Net Price to Students: $30,540
  • Graduation Rate: 80%
  • Financial Aid: 100%
  • NCLEX Pass Rate: 90%

100% Acceptance Rate: Santa Barbara Business College – Santa Maria

If you want to be absolutely sure you get into an accelerated nursing program, apply at Santa Barbara Business College in Santa Maria, California. They have a 100 percent acceptance rate. This small program only admits 10 to 20 students per year, and faculty invest considerable time in making sure each student succeeds. Just be very sure you understand which nursing degree you are working on.

  • Average Net Price to Students: $15,789
  • Graduation Rate: 67%
  • Financial Aid: 100%
  • NCLEX Pass Rate: 94%

100% Placement Rate for Graduates: Montana Tech

Montana Tech has a rigorous accelerated nursing program. Less than half of students graduate. But if you do, it is highly likely that you will pass the NCLEX on your first try and you are essentially guaranteed a job.

  • Average Net Price to Students: $12,104
  • Graduation Rate: 41%
  • Financial Aid: 87%
  • NCLEX Pass Rate: 100%

Have you attended one of these accelerated nursing programs? Please keep in mind that tuition, graduation rates, financial aid percentages and NCLEX pass rates are subject to change. We always welcome updated information.

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