Accelerated Online Nursing Programs 2021

Accelerated degrees allow motivated students to graduate as soon as possible. Many top colleges and universities offer this degree entirely online.

September 29, 2021

Reviewed by ACO Rankings Team
Accelerated Online Nursing Programs 2021

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Nursing Degree Fast Track

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.

Questions About an Accelerated Degree

true Q. 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.

true Q. 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.

true Q. 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.

true Q. 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.

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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.

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.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse - Nursing Timeline

A typical nursing degree can take 2-4 years to complete. Each level of nursing has its own timeline, and that timeline can vary depending upon factors like part-time vs. full-time enrollment, certification, and the type of program. 

Below is an overview of the typical amount of time it takes to complete a nursing degree, keep in mind that the length provided is for the amount of time it takes to complete that segment of the degree, not the entire academic path overall:

Nursing Degree LevelTime of Completion
Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) 2-3 years
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)1-2 years
Registered Nurse (RN) 4 years
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) 4-5 years
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)1.5-3 years
Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) 1-3 years
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How Much Do Nursing Majors Make?

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.

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.

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. 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. 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.

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.

Scholarships for Nursing
Scholarship Amount Who Can Apply

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

$1,000-$2,000 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.

BestNursingDegree.com $1,000 Honors in Nursing Scholarship

$1,000 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.

Career Mobility Scholarship

$1,000 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.

Accelerated Online Nursing Programs 2021

  1. Texas A & M University-College Station
    Location

    College Station, TX

    Tuition

    $19118

    Texas A&M's College Station campus offers various nursing programs online. The MSN family nurse practitioner track follows a hybrid format and requires only 45 clinical hours. The coursework includes 48 credits.

    The accelerated online nursing program requires a BSN and a current registered nurse license. The curriculum teaches learners pharmacology basics and how to do health assessments. Students learn about leadership and management topics. Graduates should know about evidence-based practices.

    Although students do most of the degree online, they must complete clinical hours at the Bryan-College Station campus.

    The college suggests people apply with at least a 3.0 GPA. Applicants must submit their GPA for their most recent 60 credits completed. Texas A&M holds accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  2. The University of West Florida
    Location

    Pensacola, FL

    Tuition

    $9091

    Located in Pensacola, UWF offers an online MSN. The program prepares people to become family nurse practitioners. After graduating, students use the knowledge they gained to pass the national certification exam.

    Classes teach students how to evaluate and manage a patient's health. Learners see how health issues vary in different populations. The curriculum talks about cultural and political influences on nursing. Graduates know how to use evidence-based theories on the job.

    The program includes 45 credits and requires 600 practicum hours. Most students finish the degree in 27-30 months.

    Applicants need a BSN for admittance. UWF earns accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  3. The University of Texas at El Paso
    Location

    El Paso, TX

    Tuition

    $7720

    UTEP offers an online accelerated nursing degree. The nurse practitioner program includes 46-49 credits and takes about two years. After the program, students do 675-775 clinical hours.

    While classes take place online, learners may need to travel up to 200 miles for clinical requirements. Program administrators expect students to visit campus up to three times per semester. Each class lasts about seven weeks.

    Students can personalize their degrees by choosing from one of five concentrations. Most of these concentrations focus on caring for a specific age group. People who want to work with children can select the pediatrician track. The school also offers a psychiatric mental health concentration.

    UTEP holds regional accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  4. Georgia College & State University
    Location

    Milledgeville, GA

    Tuition

    $20478

    Georgia College offers an online MSN with a family nurse practitioner concentration. The degree does require a few mandatory on-campus visits. The program starts with a four-day in-person campus experience where students meet their professors and classmates. In addition, learners must complete all 630 clinical rotation hours in Georgia.

    Class formats vary. Interactive sessions follow a synchronous lecture and discussion format. The asynchronous classes include pre-recorded lectures and online discussion boards students can access at their convenience.

    The program only accepts students once a year. People must submit their applications by March. The priority deadline falls on the second Tuesday in January each year. Georgia College earns accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  5. Northern Arizona University
    Location

    Flagstaff, AZ

    Tuition

    $14882

    Located in Flagstaff, NAU teaches the next generation of nurses. The school offers an online MSN with a family nurse practitioner concentration. The 48-credit program prepares students for Arizona Endorsement in the nursing profession.

    All students start the program with a theoretical foundations class. Participants identify patterns between advanced theories and ways to apply this knowledge to the profession. Other classes cover leadership principles and how to manage acute and chronic health issues in patients. Learners complete an evidence-based capstone and clinical experience.

    Applicants need a 3.0 GPA. They must submit three recommendation letters and official transcripts. Besides tuition, students pay a fee of $60 per credit hour. NAU earns accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission.

  6. California State University-Dominguez Hills
    Location

    Carson, CA

    Tuition

    $4533

    CSUDH offers an MSN-nurse practitioner concentration. The 48-credit program takes most students 3-4 years to complete. Participants must finish 576 hours of clinical practice as well. While learners take classes online, the program requires 1-3 campus visits each semester.

    Like most accelerated online nursing programs, CSUDH's MSN covers advanced pathophysiology and pharmacology basics. Students learn about ethics and advanced nursing roles. Some classes focus on disease prevention or giving care to specific types of people. Graduates leave with knowledge on how to care for anyone, no matter their age or gender.

    Applicants need two years of experience offering direct clinical care to patients. CSUDH maintains accreditation through the WASC Senior Colleges and University Commission.

  7. The University of Texas at Arlington
    Location

    Arlington, TX

    Tuition

    $12277

    Aspiring nurse practitioners can earn an online MSN from UTA. The 46-credit program takes students 31-36 months to complete. As of August 2021, the degree costs $30,084. Once students enroll, they lock in that rate if they complete their degree uninterrupted.

    Learners develop knowledge on diagnostics and health assessments. Students learn how to conduct advanced research and clinical management. Class lectures focus on caring for humans at every life stage. Learners do labs in topics like adult-gerontology or pediatrics.

    To qualify for admission, applicants need an active registered nurse license. Prospective students must submit official transcripts. UTA maintains regional accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  8. The University of Texas at Tyler
    Location

    Tyler, TX

    Tuition

    $12437

    UT Tyler offers an MSN-psychiatric mental health nursing track. Students do most of the degree online, but need to go to a few on-campus meetings. The program requires 500 clinical hours, and most learners complete it in 2-3 years.

    Classes follow a flexible format with small cohorts. Each class offers information to prepare for the national certification exam. Since this program focuses on mental health nursing, classes cover prescribing medications and therapies. Graduates leave the program knowing how the brain's structure affects mental health.

    UT Tyler maintains regional accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The degree also holds programmatic accreditation through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  9. George Washington University
    Location

    Washington, DC

    Located in our nation's capital, GW offers an online MSN. The degree requires an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner concentration. Before graduation, students must do 650 clinical hours.

    Students learn how to offer care to critically ill patients and support their families. Class discussions encourage students to use diagnostic reasoning and critical thinking to assess case studies in emergency environments. The degree best suits current nurses who want to work in urgent care centers and specialty units.

    Applicants must submit two recommendation letters and all official transcripts. The school accepts students with a minimum 3.0 GPA. The program requires one year of nursing experience in an acute care setting. GW earns accreditation through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  10. University of Indianapolis
    Location

    Indianapolis, IN

    Learners can become a family nurse practitioner with an MS in nursing from UIndy. The degree best suits people with a passion for public health. The program requires 15 classes totaling 48 credits. Students must complete 720 clinical hours. People complete this program in as few as three years.

    Classes cover caring for humans of all ages and governmental health policies. The degree requires classes common to accelerated online nursing programs. Students take anatomy and applied statistics courses. Upon graduation, learners understand pharmacology basics and how to care for different populations.

    While students do most of the degree online, they must go to in-person class at least once a week. As of August 2021, the program costs $488 per credit. UIndy earns accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission.

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