ABSN vs BSN: Which is Better?

Submitted by admin on Thu, 12/07/2023 - 16:36
A happy nursing BSN student looking at the camera

Nursing has always been a career that many people find stable and rewarding, but the potential for earning and advancement in nursing is accelerating like never before. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare occupations are expected to grow by 13% between now and 2031. And a data study by the US Department of Health and Human Services projects a need for 3.6 million nurses by 2030 – an increase of over 50,000 RN jobs yearly. 

Nursing students training to become RNs pursue one of two educational pathways: the ADN (associate’s degree in nursing) or the BSN (bachelor’s of science in nursing). ADN programs have fewer requirements but limits a nurse's job outlook and advancement. These days, the educational pathway preferred by many employers is the BSN degree. 

Aspiring second-career nurses with a bachelor’s degree in another field might want a BSN, but hesitate at the time commitment it requires. For these students, accelerated learning programs called ABSNs are worth strong consideration. These programs allow for completion of the BSN in two years or less, focusing solely on the coursework you need to learn nursing skills. 

Let’s break down the differences between the traditional BSN vs accelerated BSN programs. 


What is a BSN?

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is an undergraduate-level bachelor's degree that not only includes the general education courses required by this type of education but also introduces students to the foundational concepts of nursing. These programs include basic coursework in anatomy, physiology, and nutrition, as well as classes on patient assessment, leadership in nursing practice, and community health concepts. BSNs also require students to attend clinical rotations where they learn hands-on experience with patients. 

BSNs typically require four years to complete. After completing coursework and meeting clinical requirements, students can sit for the NCLEX-RN test to get licensed.


Do healthcare employers value BSN degrees? 

A recent survey conducted by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing found that 41% of entry-level nursing jobs required a BSN, while 77% of employers strongly preferred BSN-prepared nurses. It’s no surprise that employers lean toward nurses with a BSN since studies show that patients with a BSN attending to their care tend to have better patient outcomes


What is an ABSN? 

Accelerated BSN programs, also called ABSNs, are programs designed for students who have already completed a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. ABSNs leverage your previous education, crediting you for the general education requirements you have already earned preventing duplication of content in the accelerated curriculum. This allows you to complete a BSN in a shorter time frame than would otherwise be required. 

ABSN curriculum requirements vary, but the programs typically take between 12 months and two years. 


What are the main differences between a BSN and an ABSN? 

The ABSN and the BSN are essentially the same degrees. The main difference is that ABSNs are designed for people who already have a bachelor’s degree and want to go back to school for nursing. 

Deciding between the BSN vs ABSN is a matter of figuring out how pursuit of the degree will fit in with your work and life commitments. People interested in getting into the nursing field as soon as possible will likely prefer the accelerated program. 


Who should get a BSN? 

Anyone interested in going back to school for nursing should consider the BSN as their first option. In New York State, it is actually required that nurses earn a BSN within ten years of licensure, and similar legislation has been proposed in other states. 


How long are ABSN programs? 

The length of ABSN programs varies, but they are always shorter than traditional BSN programs. On average, ABSN programs (including clinical rotations) are completed between 15 months and two years. 


Do a BSN and an ABSN cost the same? 

Since ABSN programs are shorter and primarily designed for second-career professionals, they are more affordable than BSN degrees.


Are the clinical requirements of an ABSN and BSN the same? 

Yes. ABSN graduates are required to meet the same clinical hour thresholds as students who pursue a traditional BSN. 


Do nursing students miss out when their BSN classes are only offered online?

Many ABSN programs take place primarily online – with the exception of clinical hours, which must always be earned in person through an approved healthcare facility. But that doesn’t mean that ABSN students miss out on the community aspect of nursing school or that they get a second-rate education. 

Rapidly improving technologies over the past decade, combined with innovations in education strategy, have broken the mold for remote learning. Online classes are now a community experience complete with study groups, lively forum discussions, and collaborative projects. There are also opportunities for mentorship from faculty, who can now be in constant communication with students. 


Are graduates of the ABSN as well-prepared as graduates with a traditional BSN? 

The ABSN may be a shorter degree, but employers don’t see an accredited ABSN as a “shortcut” degree. Graduates with an ABSN are well-prepared for the nursing workforce and tend to have similar employment outcomes to their BSN counterparts. Potential employers see the value of the bachelor level education, not the way the program is delivered, as the accelerated option allows working professionals who are strongly motivated to enter the field to get licensed quickly. 

Traditional BSN and ABSN students must take the same challenging exam – the NCLEX-RN – to achieve licensure. This exam, in addition to clinical hours requirements, acts as an equalizer between the ABSN and BSN degrees, ensuring that both types of BSN are seen as acceptable. 


How to take the next step

Take the first step toward becoming a nurse today. To help you find your perfect fit, we’ve compiled a list of high-quality, accredited online ABSN programs. Simply enter your Zip code below to find which program(s) are available in your area.