What is a Second Degree BSN?

Earning a degree in nursing is recognized as a very worthy educational goal today. At least one million new registered nurses will be needed by 2020. This constitutes a nursing shortage that cannot be fully addressed by nursing students who are earning their first bachelor’s degree. That is where a second degree BSN could come into play.

Are you considering a second degree BSN? This type of nursing degree program is appropriate for a working professional who already has a bachelor’s degree and work experience in another career. But, you may feel a calling after a few years to enter the field of nursing.

Fortunately, there are many online second BSN degree programs that you can choose from. These types of bachelor’s degrees are also referred to as accelerated BSN programs.

Basics of Accelerated BSN Programs

  • Accelerated or second degree BSN programs offer you the fastest way to become an RN. This type of program is for the professional who has a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree in another field.
  • The typical fast track BSN program can be done in 11-18 months, which would include your prerequisites. A fast track master’s program can take three years to finish.
  • At this time, accelerated BSN programs are available in 46 states. As of 2012, there were 255 second degree BSN programs in the US. Also at least 25 new programs are being developed, and there are many available online.
  • Accelerated BSN programs are usually able to build on your past education so that you can earn your bachelor’s degree in nursing faster. It should be noted that these programs are very intense and require a lot of time. While you can earn your second degree BSN online, you will have limited ability to work anything more than a part time job.
  • Most second degree BSN programs require applicants to have a 3.0 GPA in their previous coursework.

You can earn your second degree BSN faster than getting your first, with this happening in as little as two or three years. This is due to the fact that you probably took many general education courses in your first bachelor’s program that can count for your basic requirements for your BSN degree.

Many nursing schools, including many that are online, have specific nursing tracks that are made for second degree BSN students. In fact, the entire class or cohort you are studying with could  be studying nursing as a second career. There are some accelerated programs that can be completed in three years, and even a few that could  be completed in as few as 18 months.


You should check that any second degree BSN program that you are thinking about has been accredited by the CCNE, or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Second Degree BSN Programs

There are many solid, online BSN programs online that will allow you to take most of your courses online, with limited campus visits. Here are some of the best ones:

#1 The University of Wisconsin

The accelerated BSN program at the University of Wisconsin first started in 2003, and was the very first of its kind in the US. It allows people who have their bachelor’s in another profession to earn their BSN in just 12 months.

The theory classes are offered online, and the clinical rotations are done in your area. These clinicals are guided by your nurse preceptor and are supervised by UW’s clinical faculty.

This program has two cohorts, with one starting in May, and the other in October. You will take one class at a time and go through the program with your cohort. The curriculum is done one credit per week, and you must not work at all during the 12 month program.

You will have a total of three weeks in residency in the 12 months. At those intensives, you will do intensive clinical skill work and also conduct regular health assessment labs.

Your required classes in this 12 month program include:

  • Intro to Professional Nursing
  • Caring and Human Behavior: The Foundation of Nursing Practice
  • Evidence – Based Practice
  • Health Assessment Theory Pathophysiology I
  • Adult Health I with Pharmacologic Implications
  • Pathophysiology II
  • Health Assessment Lab (on campus)
  • Skills Lab (on campus)
  • Adult Health I Clinical (on campus)

#2 Marian University

Marian University offers a 16 month, second degree BSN program that streamlines the nursing education for the professional who already has a bachelor’s degree. This program is available both online and on campus. You can choose the learning format that is best for your schedule.

After you graduate from this 16 month program, you will be able to sit for your NCLEX-RN exam so that you can earn your RN designation. The program has hands-on learning that takes place at the campus in Indiana which you will visit a few times during your program.

You must complete 750 hours of clinical rotations in your local area, where you will gain the experience in caring for patients in an advanced health care setting. You will learn the skills that you need to be a successful nurse in any clinical situation.

Your required classes include:

  • Pharmacology I and II
  • Professional Role Socialization
  • Dosage and Calculations
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Fundamentals of Nursing
  • Mental Health
  • Nutrition
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Maternal Nursing
  • Research

#3 Drexel University

Drexel University has an accelerated BSN program for people who either have an RN designation already, or already have a bachelor’s degree in another field and are new to nursing. The campus is based in Philadelphia PA.

The second degree BSN option is designed for the adult professional who wants to change their career and earn their degree online in less than three years. This BSN program will provide you with a very intense immersion into nursing science, and your initial entry into nursing practice.

After you have finished the program, you will take your NCLEX-RN exam. The pass rate overall for this program is over 97%. When you graduate and get your RN degree, you will be ready to take an entry level clinical nursing position in any hospital, out patient clinic or health care center.

The Drexel program offers two different options based upon your educational needs:

  • 11 Month Day and Afternoon Option: For nursing students who can go to classes five days per week on campus. You also must take some classes and clinicals on the weekend.
  • 24 Month Evening and Weekend Option: This is a nursing program for those who need to take their classes in the evenings and on weekends. Many of the classes are taken online, with limited campus visits.

Your required classes include a total of 86 credit hours:

  • Foundations of Nursing Practice
  • Concepts of Pathophysiology in Nursing
  • Medication Principles
  • Clinical Concepts
  • Health and Illness Concepts I
  • Health and Illness Concepts II
  • Concepts of Mental Health Nursing
  • Nursing Pharmacology Concepts I
  • Reproductive Health Across the Lifespan
  • Population Health Concepts
  • Pediatric Health Concepts
  • Nursing Pharmacology Concepts II
  • Health and Illness Concepts III

#4 Roseman University

This online university Roseman University based in Nevada allows you to leverage your earlier bachelor’s degree towards an exciting nursing career. This curriculum consists of 70 credit hours, and has both online theoretical course work and at least 800 clinical hours.

This program will usually take the student 16 months to complete, and you will have mostly online class discussions, presentations, modules, and other materials that you can access 24/7.

The coursework has been set up to improve your professional progression from basic nursing knowledge to more advanced clinical and critical thinking skills so that you can move into your nursing career successfully as soon as you graduate and pass your RN exam.

Lab work with be completed in person in several residencies at the campus in Roseman NV. You will enjoy a new and modern nursing simulation lab.

Required classes in this CCNE-accredited program are as follows:

  • Health Assessment
  • Introduction to the Nursing Profession
  • Fundamentals of Nursing
  • Fundamentals of Nursing and Basic Skills
  • Nursing Pharmacology
  • Adult Health Nursing I
  • Adult Health Nursing II
  • Nursing Theories Practice and Issues
  • Nursing Research

#5 Capital University

Capital University based in Columbus OH provides people who have a first bachelor’s degree in another field to complete their nursing degree in only 20 months online.

Capital University has a strong reputation for excellence in the education of nurses. It takes a great deal of pride in being able to graduate the best nursing clinicians who have a strong focus on holistic nursing practice.

Most classes are offered online and you will need to meet on campus each term for several classes. During these class visits, you also will perform clinicals from 7 am to 7 pm on weekends.

Required classes in this CCNE-accredited program are:

  • Advanced Clinical Nursing Concepts
  • Population Health Fundamentals
  • Introduction to Nursing Care
  • Pharmacology
  • Health and Illness Fundamentals
  • Principles of Medication and Dosages
  • Introduction to Leadership in Nursing

Being able to earn a second degree BSN degree is a major advantage; you will be able to get through your nursing degree program in two years or less in many cases. And, you can enter an exciting, in demand and financially rewarding field that allows you to help others.