If you are wanting to get started with your nursing career as quickly as possible, attending classes through an accelerated campus program may be the right choice for you. These programs certainly take up a great deal of time while you are in the midst of them, but they get you into the workforce quickly, letting you change your career path, earn your nursing degree and put your newfound knowledge and skills to work.
Is an Accelerated Program Right for You?
Although an accelerated campus may not be right for everyone, it does provide numerous benefits. For example, you can take this route even if you have no prior health care experience as long as you have a bachelor’s degree or at least a certain number of prior college credits. For example, LPNs can use accelerated LPN to RN programs to quickly get BSN degrees. Many campuses even provide online options for most classroom courses and help students set up clinical hours with their own local health care facilities.
Most accelerated degree programs, including certain online options, take between 11 to 18 months to complete. Even though the learning experience is significantly shortened, it can cost just as much if not more than a traditional nursing school would with many students paying $50,000 or more for a year and a half of classes. However, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that RNs with bachelor’s degrees can expect to make an average of over $71,000 per year as of 2018, this tuition fee is quite reasonable.
Some accelerated campuses do require a bachelor’s degree for entry into these programs, and some even require certain college classes, such as human anatomy and physiology, to have already been completed. Others stipulate a minimum GPA of 3.0 for past course work. These requirements are usually in place to ensure that you will be able to keep up with the fast pace of this course.
Accelerated Program Coursework
Because you will take the NCLEX-RN licensure examination at the completion of your accelerated course, you will need to take all of the same courses that nursing students in traditional programs would take. Some of the classes you will complete include the following:
- Maternity nursing
- Pediatric nursing
- Medical/surgical nursing
- Nursing research
Post-Graduation Employment Opportunities
Post-graduation employment for those in accelerated nursing programs is often quite good because these individuals typically are older than many new RN graduates are and already have previous work experience. Hiring managers may see you as more of a leader and as being more sensitive to certain populations. However, your first job after graduation will probably be an entry-level RN position, or you may start off in a new graduate RN program on a hospital campus. You can also find work at clinics, skilled nursing facilities, home health care agencies and even schools. With further experience, you can get into leadership and managerial positions.
Traditional 4-Year Campus
The traditional 4-year campus typically confers a bachelor’s of science in nursing degree to students wishing to become RNs. This degree is often chosen by individuals coming directly out of high school who wish to join the workforce with a bachelor’s degree under their belts. Because there are so many colleges and universities offering this type of program, you will have plenty of choices when it comes to deciding which school is right for you.
Is a Traditional Nursing Program Right for You?
Traditional on-campus nursing programs are certainly popular for good reason. They are the perfect solution if you want a college degree and also want to get into the health care field. Not only will you get all of your necessary nursing courses, but also you will get a good foundation in English, history and more. Most of these four-year programs provide at least 120 credit hours of class work along with hundreds of hours of hands-on clinical work. Therefore, while no BSN program could ever be completely done online because of the skills portion of clinicals, many traditional campuses do offer at least some of their classes online to provide flexibility for their students.
This traditional route is also a good option for you if you think you may want to advance your degree in the future. A BSN program is an excellent stepping stone to advanced degrees, such as the MSN or DNP degrees. In addition, keep in mind that while you can legally sit for the NCLEX-RN examination and become licensed as an RN in your state with a nursing diploma or associate’s degree, increasing numbers of health care institutions now require incoming nurses to hold bachelor’s degrees.
Remember that a four-year BSN degree could be more costly than other accelerated nursing degrees are. Attending a four-year campus is also a significant time commitment. However, you should have more time to work while taking classes when going this route than you would with an accelerated route.
Traditional Campus Coursework and Clinicals
In addition to foundational liberal arts subjects required in any bachelor’s degree program, you will take a significant number of credit hours of nursing-focused classes, including the following:
- Medical/surgical nursing
- Maternity nursing
- Pediatric nursing
- Psychiatric nursing
- Nursing ethics
- Nursing research
- Human anatomy and physiology
- Clinical preceptorship
Post-Graduate Employment Opportunities
If you are employed in an institution that hires both nurses with bachelor’s degrees as well as those with associate’s degrees, you may not notice a difference in your salary with median annual pay for RNs at well over $70,000. However, a BSN degree from a traditional four-year program can provide you with plenty of flexibility and upward mobility. You can more easily get into managerial roles as well as into specialized nursing jobs on high-acuity units, such as in critical care. You will also find it easier to get into such roles as case manager, care coordinator, patient educator and quality control coordinator.
Online RN to BSN
As many health care organizations are turning toward only hiring nurses with BSNs rather than RNs with diplomas or associate’s degrees, you may want to consider an RN-to-BSN bridge program that allows you to earn your bachelor’s degree quickly while you continue to work. This program can open up numerous job opportunities to you, give you upward mobility in your career path and provide you with flexibility for where you want to work.
Is an Online RN to BSN Program Right for You?
RN-to-BSN programs have become increasingly popular in recent years as numerous health care organizations encourage their RNs to earn their bachelor’s degrees. This change is based on research that shows that patient mortality decreases in units with a majority of BSN-educated nurses. Therefore, if you want to continue advancing in your career over the upcoming years, you will definitely want to consider this type of nursing school.
Another advantage to this type of schooling is that it allows you to complete your BSN quickly because it builds on what you have already learned in past nursing classes. You can typically spread your classes around your work schedule and may even be able to take advantage of reimbursement plans for your BSN program through your workplace.
Online programs are incredibly beneficial for busy adults. They allow you to take classes at times that work for you, letting you continue to have a fulfilling work and social life. They also let you take your classes wherever you want, such as at home, in a coffee shop or at your local library. You will still be able to interact with professors online, getting answers to your questions, and the program will help you find the right clinical experiences in your locale.
Because you already have taken the foundational nursing classes in your previous educational path, the shortened RN-to-BSN bridge program will focus more on advanced classes as well as on classes that prepare you for critical thinking that you will need for managerial roles. You will focus on professional development to help you advance your career and become a leader in your health care institution, advanced nursing skills for patient safety and critical illnesses and cultural awareness that will allow you to provide the best care to anyone coming to your facility. Your classes will probably include the following:
- Emergency care
- Advanced health assessments
- Community health care
- Nursing ethics and research
- Global health
- Trends in nursing
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses with BSN degrees have far better job prospects than do their counterparts who hold only diplomas or associate’s degrees. Growth in this field is assured for the next several years, with the BLS estimating that over 438,000 jobs for RNs will be added by 2026. In addition, specializing in a particular field, such as gerontology or cardiac care, can also help you qualify for more jobs.
Attending graduate school lets you specialize your health care career, giving you the opportunity to get into a variety of fields, such as nursing education, family practice or research. Because there are so many career tracks for nurses with master’s or doctoral degrees, you should know what you want to accomplish in your career before deciding on the right graduate school for you.
A master’s degree in nursing, also called an MSN, takes your career to the next level. Although some programs let you proceed to a doctoral degree directly from your BSN, most schools require a master’s degree. Graduate schools offer a variety of tracks for those pursuing an MSN, and you will need to consider exactly how you want to use your degree. The four most popular MSN tracks in graduate school include the following:
- Nurse practitioner
- Nurse midwife
- Nurse anesthetist
- Clinical nurse specialist
Most MSN programs take at least two years to complete, but you will have to commit to a heavy course load to finish in this time.
While graduate nursing students can earn a PhD, which is a research-focused degree, the majority of nurses seeking their doctorate opt for the doctor of nursing practice, or DNP. The DNP is a clinical degree that will help you advance in your hands-on practice. Most DNP programs require at least 70 credit hours along with hundreds of hours of clinical work. Statistics, theory and research are focused on heavily and a final project, which is usually a paper or presentation, completes the course.
Is Graduate School Right for You?
Graduate nursing school is right for you if you want to advance your career or specialize in a particular health care field. You will be seen as a leader in your field and will be able to take on higher managerial roles. In many cases, you will also earn a far higher salary than you did with your BSN alone. Because nurses with DNP degrees are in increasingly heightened demand, you should definitely opt for this route if you can afford it. The DNP degree is excellent for nursing education, clinical practice and research focuses.
Be sure to consider the flexibility of the graduate program you select. Many programs are offered online these days, giving you the flexibility to continue with your typical work hours and to find time for your family and social events while fitting in your classes. Online school is also affordable and still lets you interact with your professors, ask questions and receive feedback on your assignments.
Employment and Salary Following Graduate School
The career outlook for nurses who have completed graduate school is quite good with nurses holding MSN degrees making between $103,000 and $167,000 annually on average. There is also an increased push across the United States for more DNP programs as individuals with this degree are in higher demand due to improvements in medical technology and advancements in nursing research.