Accelerated Online Nursing Programs 2021

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Registered nurses (RNs) improve patient outcomes by maintaining records, administering medication, operating medical equipment, and answering patients’ questions. Some professionals with advanced training specialize in a medical subfield, such as pediatrics or oncology. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that U.S. RNs earn a median $75,330 annual salary.

The BLS projects the need for RNs to grow 7% from 2019-2029. Prospective degree-seekers interested in entering an online nursing program can begin with an accelerated nursing programs online. Accelerated degrees allow motivated students to graduate as soon as possible. Many top colleges and universities offer this degree entirely online, opening higher education to busy professionals unable to attend on-campus courses.

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Top 10 Accelerated Online Nursing Programs 2021

Questions About an Accelerated Degree

  • What is an accelerated degree?

    The best accelerated nursing programs require or allow students to take a heavier course load each semester. Although more rigorous than a full-time program, they allow learners to graduate faster.

  • Can you get a nursing degree online?

    Accelerated online nursing programs include an RN-to-BSN. Students earning this degree already possess RN licensure but need additional college credits to earn a bachelor’s.

  • How long does an accelerated nursing program take?

    The answer depends on how many college credits an incoming student possesses. Learners with a bachelor’s degree in another field may need only 18 months to earn an accelerated nursing degree.

  • Which nursing specialty is the most in demand?

    In-demand specialties include pediatric, oncology, emergency room, and operating room nursing. Specializations involve taking upper-division coursework and completing multiple clinical rotations.

Why Get a Degree in Nursing?

A nursing degree confers many potential benefits, such as improving patients’ lives and attaining a fulfilling career. RNs with a bachelor’s degree can specialize in a nursing subfield and earn more than their coworkers with only an associate degree. A bachelor’s degree’s other advantages include an emphasis on nursing leadership and management.

Accelerated nursing programs online provide learners with the academic flexibility to continue working while in school. This feature benefits RN-to-BSN students significantly, as they apply new knowledge and skills on the job. Working may also reduce degree-seekers’ reliance on government and private student loans.

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How Much Does a Nursing Degree Cost?

Typical public colleges and universities with accelerated nursing programs charge in-state students the most affordable tuition rate. Out-of-state degree-seekers may pay as much for a degree as if they enrolled in a private school. Private colleges and universities charge more per credit but may help accelerated learners save money if they offer a per-semester tuition rate.

Many public and private schools provide tuition discounts to specific groups, such as active-duty military personnel, alumni, and learners working for a partner company or organization. Colleges and universities with this policy may offset this discount by charging international students more for a degree.

In addition to researching schools with an affordable tuition rate, prospective degree-seekers should determine their institutional and departmental financial aid eligibility. Students who transfer to an accelerated nursing RN-to-BSN program may qualify for a transfer or academic merit scholarship, depending on their undergraduate GPA. Other financial assistance may include need-based grants.

Calculating the Cost of a College Degree

Accelerated nursing programs may charge tuition that exceeds students’ ability to pay. Degree-seekers determine their need for financial assistance using a free calculation tool. The tool compares tuition with users’ salaries, expected financial aid, and cost-of-living expenses. Results indicating a low out-of-pocket contribution indicate users should apply for additional scholarships and grants.

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How Much Do Nursing Majors Make?

Employer and Location

Multiple factors influence salary, such as employer and geographic location. RNs working for a government agency or hospital earn considerably more than the profession’s median salary. Professionals employed by a school district or residential care facility may earn less. RNs living in California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts make more than their peers in other states.


RNs with a bachelor’s degree can return to school to earn an MSN. This advanced degree qualifies graduates to become a nurse practitioner. These professionals earn a median $117,670 annual salary. The BLS projects the need for these highly trained nurses to grow 45% from 2019-2029, 11 times the average projected growth rate for all U.S. careers.


Other methods to increase salary include earning a certification from a professional organization. These organizations allow practicing RNs to hone and demonstrate their skills without committing to an academic program. Employers may require job applicants to possess a certification in pediatrics, gerontology, or ambulatory care.

Courses in Nursing

The best accelerated nursing programs online train students in the latest safety techniques and evidence-based practices. Coursework involves examining the challenges facing the nursing profession, healthcare equity, and affordability. A final-semester capstone asks learners to develop a professional portfolio and perform original research.

The following sample curriculum describes three courses typical to RN-to-BSN accelerated nursing programs. As course names and requirements vary among colleges and universities, prospective students should consult a school’s online curriculum guide to review detailed course descriptions. Admissions counselors also provide applicants with in-depth information regarding the academic experience.

  • Ethical and Legal Considerations of Healthcare

    The course prepares practicing nurses for a leadership position, emphasizing different regulatory environments, relevant laws, and political developments. Other topics include how healthcare policies affect people from different cultural backgrounds and socioeconomic groups. Graduates use the skills they learned in this course to make ethical decisions on the job.

  • Community and Population Health

    Community and population health refers to the health challenges and opportunities different communities face. Students analyze local and regional factors affecting low-income groups. They use this information to propose solutions, such as a community education program. Some courses require a 45-hour practicum wherein learners work under an experienced community health professional.

  • Healthcare Management and Finance

    RNs in a supervisory role must understand how hospitals and other healthcare institutions remain financially healthy. They promote their employer’s long-term success, planning budgets and increasing less-experienced workers’ productivity. Students explore these topics, along with cost/benefit analysis, capital and operating expenses, and bookkeeping fundamentals.

Certifications and Licensure for Nursing

All RNs need a state-issued license to practice. Professionals not interested in an MSN degree advance their career through one or more professional certifications. Typical requirements include passing an exam and joining an organization. As with their license, RNs renew a certification by taking professional development courses.

HIV/AIDS Certified Registered Nurse

The HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board recognizes RNs with at least two years of experience treating patients with HIV/AIDS. The board awards an advanced certification to RNs with a master’s and additional on-the-job training. Recertification requirements involve earning at least 70 continuing education points every four years. Organization members receive a significant discount.

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Nursing License

RNs in all states must possess a nursing license. Universal requirements include graduating from an approved nursing program and passing the NCLEX-RN exam. Other licensure steps may involve submitting to a criminal background check. Thirty-four states participate in a national licensure reciprocity program, allowing RNs to practice across state lines without meeting additional requirements.

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Oncology Certified Nurse

RNs with at least two years of experience treating patients with cancer pursue the OCN. Other requirements include earning at least 10 continuing education credits within the prior 36 months. Candidates take a three-hour, 165-question exam covering six subjects. Interested nurses join the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation to qualify for a certification discount.

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Scholarships for Nursing

Like institutional financial aid, private scholarships help accelerated nursing degree-seekers graduate debt free. Numerous awards accept applications in 2021, and nearly all consider online, accelerated learners. Some renew as long as recipients remain in good academic standing.

  • American Indian Science and Engineering Society A.T. Anderson Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: AISES awards funding to Native American students pursuing a degree in a STEM-related field, including nursing. Interested degree-seekers must join AISES before applying. Candidates need a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA.

    Amount: $1,000-$2,000

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  • $1,000 Honors in Nursing Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Undergraduate and graduate nursing students with a minimum 3.5 GPA may qualify for this competitive award. Application materials include official transcripts and an essay addressing how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the applicant’s career aspirations.

    Amount: $1,000

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  • Career Mobility Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: The Dermatology Nurses’ Association (DNA) awards this scholarship to member nurses returning to school to earn a bachelor’s or graduate degree. Applicants must hold at least two year’s of work experience in dermatology.

    Amount: $1,000

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