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While many registered nurses (RNs) start their careers by earning an associate degree or diploma in nursing, completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) can lead to new job opportunities, higher earning potential, and more options for further education. Choosing an accelerated RN-to-BSN degree program helps students level up faster, saving them time and money.

There are several benefits to enrolling in an accelerated RN-to-BSN degree program. Demand for nurses is expected to be high as the U.S. population ages, with an estimated 193,100 new job openings, on average, through 2032. The average salary for an RN with a BSN is $77,080, compared to $61,671 for an RN with an associate degree in nursing (ADN). Online accelerated programs mean students have more flexibility in when and where they complete their coursework.

This article will explain what students need to know about online accelerated RN-to-BSN programs, what kind of jobs they can qualify for with a BSN, and how they can choose the online accelerated RN-to-BSN degree program that’s right for them.

What You Can Expect from an Online Accelerated RN-to-BSN Program

Accelerated RN-to-BSN programs are designed to help students with a nursing background complete the credits they need for a bachelor’s degree as quickly as possible. For most students, this means completing 30-60 credits or about one to two years of study.

To be eligible for an accelerated RN-to-BSN program, students must have their registered nurse license, which can be obtained with an ADN or nursing diploma. Some RN-to-BSN programs may also require students to have a minimum amount of professional nursing experience.

The curriculum for an accelerated RN-to-BSN program further develops the skills and knowledge students gain through their prior education and experience. Coursework covers health informatics, leadership, case management, advanced clinical skills, and healthcare policy. These courses prepare graduates to take on more intermediate-level nursing roles.

Students in accelerated RN-to-BSN programs may also have the opportunity to choose a nursing specialization in pediatrics, gerontology, psychiatric care, acute care, oncology, cardiology, or OB/GYN care.

As students evaluate online accelerated RN-to-BSN degree programs, there are additional factors they should consider.

Clinical requirements

Hands-on experience in a clinical setting is an integral part of nursing education. Even if an accelerated RN-to-BSN program is described as “online,” it most likely has some in-person requirements for clinical rotations or internships. Students should confirm these requirements with their program before enrolling to verify that they can accommodate them in their schedule. Students should also ask how clinical placements are decided — whether students are responsible for finding their own internship sites or if they’ll be assigned to a site.

Pacing and workload

For some programs, “accelerated” means students take the same number of credits as those in a traditional RN-to-BSN program but in a shortened time frame. These programs are rigorous, as students are expected to work through material quickly, and are best suited for students who can focus primarily on their studies while enrolled.

Degree completion programs

Accelerated RN-to-BSN degree programs also come in the form of degree completion programs, in which the school accepts up to 90 credits out of the 120 credits needed for a bachelor’s degree. Transferring credits significantly decreases the number of courses a student must take to finish their BSN and is an ideal option for students with an ADN and additional undergraduate credits. Students should always consult an admissions counselor to review their transcripts and confirm what credits will be accepted before enrolling.


For online accelerated RN-to-BSN programs, courses are delivered synchronously, asynchronously, or in a hybrid of both. Synchronous classes meet remotely at the same time every week, like in an in-person setting. This format allows for more direct interaction between students and faculty but requires students to be available on specific days and times. In an asynchronous program, students can access lessons and assignments anytime, giving them maximum flexibility in their school schedule. Students enrolling in asynchronous programs should be comfortable with independent learning, self-discipline, and accountability.


U.S. colleges and universities can have either regional or national accreditation. Accreditation is a process that evaluates the quality of post-secondary educational institutions, with regionally accredited schools held to the most rigorous standards. Students should note that regionally accredited schools only accept credits from other colleges with regional accreditation. Nationally accredited institutions will accept credits from schools with both types of accreditation. Accreditation is important if you’re considering transferring or pursuing graduate study after earning a BSN. A school’s accreditation status can also impact your eligibility for financial aid, professional credentials, and employment opportunities. Students can confirm that any schools they’re considered are accredited by checking the U.S. Department of Education’s accreditation database.

Non-profit and for-profit status

Financially, schools operate either as non-profit or for-profit entities. A school’s status may impact the quality of its programs, how it spends its money, and what financial aid and future employment opportunities students can access. Non-profit institutions must reinvest their revenue by paying for faculty and staff salaries, infrastructure, student services, and more. All public and many private two- and four-year colleges in the U.S. are non-profits. For-profit schools are run more like corporations, with the primary goal being to earn money. These institutions can prioritize paying shareholders before reinvesting in the school and its students. If you’re considering a for-profit school, carefully research its business practices, graduation rates, and outcomes for graduates.

Eligibility and restrictions

While online learning technically means students can study at any school, regulations govern who can attend which schools and programs regardless of location. In the U.S., institutions must be authorized by individual states to grant degrees to students living in those states. Without this authorization, non-resident students are ineligible to enroll in the institution. Currently, over 2300 institutions throughout 49 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), ensuring their distance education programs are authorized to operate and grant degrees in multiple states. Nursing students should also confirm that the programs they’re considering meet the licenses and certification requirements in the state where they practice. Students can speak to an admissions counselor for clarification if they’re unsure about their eligibility for a program.

Best 50 Online Accelerated RN-to-BSN Programs

Best Accelerated RN-to-BSN Programs Badge

Appalachian State University

Ohio State University

University of Texas Arlington

Cleveland State University

University of North Carolina Wilmington

University of Wyoming

University of Arkansas

Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences

Georgia Southern University

Penn State World Campus

The University of West Florida

University of North Florida

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The University of Louisiana At Lafayette

George Washington University

University of Cincinnati

University of Louisiana Monroe

University of Texas Permian Basin

UMass Amherst

University of North Alabama

University of Rhode Island

Oakland University

Herzing University

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How we rank schools

This list features some of the best online accelerated RN-to-BSN programs in the U.S. The schools on this list are non-profit, accredited institutions, either public or private, with high-quality standards for post-secondary education.

We evaluated each degree program on tuition costs, faculty, reputation, student resources, and admission, retention, and graduation rates. We also compared our picks to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report, among others. Using this data, we calculated an Intelligent Score for each program on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

What Can I Do with an RN-to-BSN Degree?

Earning an RN-to-BSN degree can help students prepare for nursing and related roles that require more advanced clinical and professional skills, including specialized areas of nursing, such as neonatology, pediatrics, gerontology, oncology, cardiology, or psychiatric care.

A BSN also prepares students for leadership and administrative roles in health informatics, nurse education, public health, and nurse management. RNs who want to transition from direct patient care but continue working in medical settings may find a BSN helpful.

Students with a BSN can further their healthcare careers by earning a graduate degree. Popular advanced areas of study for nurses include nurse practitioner, nursing administration, physician assistant, or health services.

Career outlook

RNs are expected to be in high demand throughout the next decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment of RNs will grow 6% through 2032, with an average of 193,100 new job openings annually. This job growth is driven by a rapidly aging U.S. population and high turnover in the healthcare industry following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Salaries for RNs vary based on the type of facility, location, and department or specialty, but the median annual wage for RNs in 2022 was $81,220.

How to Choose the Online Accelerated Bachelor’s Degree Program That’s Right for You

Step 1: Determine your needs and priorities

To determine which online accelerated RN-to-BSN program is the best fit for you, it’s important to know what you need.

Are you looking for a degree completion program that will let you maximize your previously earned credits? Do you want a program that will allow you to complete your coursework in the shortest time possible? Can you accommodate a synchronous schedule, or do you need a fully asynchronous program?

You should also reflect on the specific skills you want from this program. If there’s a nursing specialty you want to pursue, look for a program that offers courses in that area. Review clinical requirements and coursework to ensure a program meets all your needs.

Step 2: Research schools and programs

Once you’ve set your parameters, begin exploring schools and programs to find those that offer what you seek.

A key piece of information to confirm at this stage is whether the schools you’re considering have institutional and programmatic accreditation. Institutional accreditation impacts students’ eligibility for financial aid, jobs, and future education opportunities. Students can confirm a school’s accreditation using the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) database. It’s also important for nursing students to verify that the program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) to ensure it meets industry standards for nurse practitioner education.

Students can learn more about RN-to-BSN programs by visiting school websites, attending virtual open houses and information sessions, speaking to admissions counselors or program representatives, and following schools and programs on social media.

During the research process, get answers to these questions to help you determine if a school is the right fit:

  • Who are the faculty, and what are their qualifications?
  • What does the curriculum include?
  • What are the clinical requirements?
  • How do online students interact with classmates and faculty?
  • What online student resources, such as libraries, tutoring, career services, and health and wellness, are available?
  • What is the program’s total cost, and what types of financial aid are available?

Step 3: Prepare for tests and applications

Every school sets its own admissions procedures and deadlines. For the most accurate information about how to apply to a program, visit the school’s admissions website or speak to an admissions counselor. If you’re applying to multiple programs, using a spreadsheet or checklist can help keep track of different requirements.

As the name implies, having an RN license is a prerequisite for enrolling in this type of program. Some RN-to-BSN degrees may also require that applicants have a minimum amount of professional nursing experience.

A standard application for an RN-to-BSN program includes:

  • Completed application and required fees
  • Official transcripts from previously attended colleges
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement or essay
  • Resume or CV
  • SAT or ACT scores

Step 4: Select your program

The number of online nursing programs a student applies to varies based on individual needs and preferences. Some students focus on a single program due to format, faculty, specialization options, or cost. Others may apply to several schools to increase the odds of admission. Remember that schools often charge application fees and budget accordingly if you apply to several programs.

After receiving your acceptance offers, compare your options based on your priorities and choose the one that meets all or most of your needs.

Step 5: Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

During the research process, be sure to get information about the total cost of the program as well as the financial aid options available to you.

Most schools offer both need-based and merit-based aid. Need-based aid includes federal and private student loans, grants, scholarships, work-study, and assistantships. Students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for need-based aid.

Merit-based aid usually comes in the form of scholarships, grants, or fellowships, and students receive their type of funding based on their academic or professional achievements, extracurricular activities, or demographic traits.

Students working while earning their BSN should find out if their employer offers employer tuition assistance benefits to help subsidize their education. Active-duty military members and veterans may be able to get discounted tuition or use GI Bill benefits to pay for their degrees.

Online Accelerated RN-to-BSN Degree Frequently Asked Questions

Should I get an accelerated RN-to-BSN degree in person or online?

There are pros and cons to both formats. The one that’s best for you depends on your needs and preferences.

In-person learning is best for students who like learning through interaction with classmates and faculty and completing hands-on projects. This type of program also provides more structure and support for those who need it.

Meanwhile, online classes provide more flexibility for students balancing school with other obligations. Students can learn wherever and whenever is most convenient, particularly with asynchronous programs. Students enrolling in an online RN-to-BSN program, especially an accelerated one, should ensure they have the organizational, time management, and self-motivation skills to keep on track.

What is the average cost of an online accelerated RN-to-BSN degree?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in the 2021-22 academic year, the average annual tuition for undergraduate programs was $9,596 at public institutions and $37,222 at private colleges.

However, the actual cost of an RN-to-BSN program will vary based on how many credits the student must complete, what type of institution the student enrolls in, and what other fees the school charges in addition to tuition.

Students attending a public institution should note whether the school has different tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students or if distance learners all pay the same tuition rate. Students in private schools will pay the same tuition regardless of where they live.

Nursing students should also consider the financial impact of clinical rotations, which may mean taking time off from your current job or budgeting for transportation expenses to your clinical site, like gas, parking, or public transportation.

Students should speak to a financial aid counselor for the most accurate information about a program’s cost.

Is an RN-to-BSN degree worth it?

An RN-to-BSN can increase a student’s earning potential and open new jobs and educational opportunities.

From a career perspective, the demand for nurses will continue steadily through the next decade, driven by an increase in the elderly population and a need to replace RNs who retire, switch careers, or move to advanced positions.

RNs earn a median annual salary of $81,220. Those with a higher level of education can command more money or work in positions that pay more.

However, what determines whether a degree is worth it is whether students are willing to put the time and effort into learning and mastering the skills covered in the curriculum. Before enrolling in an online accelerated RN-to-BSN program, students should be sure they have the energy and time to prioritize their studies to get the most out of their program.

Learn More About Online RN-to-BSN Degrees