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Online Accelerated BSN Programs: Second Degree BSN for Career Change


I have a psychology bachelor’s and want to change careers to become an RN (registered nurse). Are there any online accelerated BSN programs that will admit me without RN certification? I’ve heard there are second degree BSN programs that will admit me as an advanced second degree student and prep me to take the RN exam in a year or faster.

—Peter in Madison, WI

The good news: healthcare is booming and the nursing degree is the most popular program major in this surging career sector. Get Educated profiles 300+ accredited online BSN programs nationwide.

The American Nurses Association reports an additional 114 nursing programs are available in a hybrid format (50 to 99 percent online). Hybrid means some courses are taught online while others require campus or site attendance.

The type of nursing degrees you are asking about are often referred to as online accelerated BSN programs. These degrees are usually offered in a hybrid format. Theory courses, such as anatomy and medical coding, are taught online while you complete supervised clinicals in a hospital or healthcare facility close to your home.

These special nursing degrees are also often called “second degree BSN programs” because they only admit students who already hold a bachelor’s degree with a formal major in some area other than nursing. These second degree programs are perfect for career changers like you who want to build upon their first bachelor’s degree to earn a second accelerated BSN degree that will qualify them to take the RN exam at completion.

Online nursing programs impose strict admission requirements. Most accredited online BSN programs require a valid RN license in the state where the applicant lives before admission. And, in most cases, online programs are open only to applicants who have completed at least an associate’s degree in science in nursing (ASN) and hold a valid state RN license.

What you’d like to know is if there are any accelerated online BSN degree programs that admit students who do not yet hold RN designations.

That question is complicated. Below are some of the career factors you’ll need to consider:

  • Nursing education includes two components: theory (textbook) learning and hands-on work in a hospital setting. The latter is referred to as clinical training.
  • If you already hold an RN license, colleges assume you have completed both the required foundation lab courses, such as chemistry, and the required clinical hours.
  • A local supervised clinical setting is required for all online degrees in nursing. Most RNs are already employed in a local healthcare facility. This means they can complete advanced courses online while continuing to work. Their work setting becomes the “supervised clinical” setting for the online BSN degree.
  • You can use online education to make a nursing career change. But first you will need to spend a few months to a year completing clinical experience and foundational science (lab) courses in a residential or campus setting.


Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, for example, offers an 

 for individuals who hold at least 86 transfer credits. This program is designed to allow online students to earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) in just 12 months.

To enter the program, you must already hold an RN certification. This is to ensure you have completed hands-on clinicals and labs in a supervised setting. Completing the RN provides exposure to the healthcare field and ensures an understanding of basic nursing concepts. 


Check your local community college for a hybrid degree plus online CNA certificate or diploma program. These programs are also called nurses’ aide programs. Technical and trade colleges as well as local healthcare facilities may all offer training toward the CNA.

The CNA will be your quickest and cheapest route to meeting the clinical experience you need to enter an online accelerated nursing program. You may still need to take a few residential lab courses in anatomy, biology and chemistry to switch to a career in nursing.

Because of the severe shortage of nurses, almost every state sponsors a RN-to-BSN degree option through distance learning. Check our online nursing degree guide for leads on a local or state college that offers online bachelor’s degrees that utilize local hospital settings for clinical training.


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Become an RN Online: Choosing Online RN Degrees
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