What Is an ABSN Program?: Everything You Need to Know

By Sarah Collins


Short for Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN), ABSNs put new students or registered nurses on the fast track to obtaining their Bachelor’s degree in nursing. It can be earned in as little as 16 months, consisting of a blended curriculum that involves coursework, nursing simulation labs, and clinical rotations for real-world experience.

Keep reading to learn more about ABSN programs, including required coursework, sample curriculums, and a primer on BSN salaries and job outlook.

Key Takeaways

  • An ABSN program allows prospective nursing students to obtain their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in as little as 16 months.
  • BSN holders enjoy higher salaries, improved quality of care, expanded areas of specialization, and a more favorable job outlook than licensed practical nurses and registered nurses without a BSN.
  • According to a 2021 AACN survey, BSN graduates enjoyed a 76% job offer rate upon entering the profession and 93% after four to six months.

What Is a BSN?

A BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) is a four-year program open to new students or existing registered nurses with associate’s degrees.

The BSN curriculum introduces nurses to nursing theory and clinical practice, focusing on how to provide patient care by performing physical exams, administering medication, working alongside other health professionals, and being a general support lifeline in a patient’s time of need.

What Is an ABSN Program?

Accelerated Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (ABSN) programs are pre-licensure programs for students with/without a registered nursing (RN) license who wish to enter the nursing field with a Bachelor’s degree. They may or may not have a Bachelor’s degree in another area.

ABSN programs allow nursing students to earn their BSN in as little as 16 months. It involves intensive coursework in human sciences. So, expect studies in microbiology, reproductive health, pharmacology, and health maintenance.

For example, the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Northeastern University Bouve College of Health Sciences – School of Nursing is a 16-month, 4-semester program requiring 67 credit hours with nursing simulation work and 300+ clinical hours.

Students enrolled in an ABSN program need to complete 300 to 700 clinical hours and their nursing coursework. You must undertake this time in a hospital or health setting under the supervision of a qualified nurse. The goal is to have you work your way to managing a small caseload eventually. Consider this the “hands-on experience” aspect of nursing education.

What Does a Typical ABSN Curriculum Look Like Today?

For a sample curriculum by semester, refer to the breakdown below, courtesy of the Northeastern University Bouve College of Health Sciences – School of Nursing.

Semester 1CourseCredits
NRSG 2001Foundations of Professional Nursing Practice2
NRSG 2220Nursing Health Assessment and Fundamental Nursing Skills3
NRSG 2221Lab for NRSG 22201
NRSG 2350Integrated Pathophysiology and Pharmaceutical Interventions for Nursing Practice6
NRSG 3302Nursing with Women & Families3
NRSG 3303Clinical for NRSG 33022


Semester 2CourseCredits
NRSG 2210Influences on Health and Illness: A Nursing Perspective3
NRSG 3320Nursing Care of Adults4
NRSG 3321Clinical for NRSG 33202
NRSG 3400Nursing and the Promotion of Mental Health3
NRSG 3401Clinical for NRSG 34002
NRSG 3323NRSG 3323Advanced Assessment and Interventions1
NRSG 3324Lab for NRSG 33231


Semester 3CourseCredits
NRSG 3420Nursing Care of Adults24
NRSG 3421Clinical for NRSG 34202
NRSG 4502Nursing Care of the Child4
NRSG 4503Clinical for NRSG 45022
NRSG 5220Introduction to Research Methods and Applications for Healthcare4


Semester 4CourseCredits
NRSG 4995Comprehensive Nursing Practicum3
NRSG 4996Clinical for NRSG 49952
NRSG 4604Public Health Community Nursing3
NRSG 4605Clinical for NRSG 46042
NRSG 2150Ethical Healthcare Integrating Genetics and Genomics4
NRSG 4610Managing and Leading in Nursing4

What Prerequisites Should I Expect to Take in an ABSN Program?

At the time of application, many ABSN schools require that students complete the following courses with a C or better grade.

  • Anatomy and PhysiologyMicrobiology
  • College Algebra
  • Statistics
  • Chemistry with lab
  • Nutrition
  • English Composition I
  • English Composition II
  • Introduction to Sociology
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Human Growth & Development

All About Nursing Simulation Labs and Clinical Rotations in ABSN Programs

The two most significant educational pieces with ABSN education are nursing simulation labs and clinical rotations outside of coursework. Both comprise hands-on learning alongside instructors who help you practice clinical skills in a simulated setting without interacting with patients.

What Are Nursing Simulation Labs?

Nursing simulation labs allow nursing students to practice their core clinical skills in a controlled environment. Each candidate learns vital medical skills, such as catheter injections, NG tube injections, wound care, and IV placements. Students perform this simulation in staged hospital rooms, with the aim being to replicate real-time clinical situations.

A debriefing session follows all simulations with instructors and classmates to learn from one another. Expect to receive feedback, including criticism on mistakes, as you hone your nursing skills.

What Are Clinical Rotations?

Clinical rotations place nursing students in real hospitals and other healthcare settings. You apply all theoretical knowledge and clinical skills into practice here. Expect to build off your simulation lab experience with actual tasks, such as utilizing clinical skills,  conducting interviews, treating patients, and other tasks requiring direct contact with patients.

Also, clinical rotations aim to introduce you to potential future employers. So, it is not uncommon to receive an offer before graduating from the program.

The number of clinical hours required depends on the ABSN program. You can expect this figure to have a lower limit of 300 hours and a higher limit of 1000 hours.

What Does an ABSN Clinical Curriculum Look Like Today?

Here is a sample clinical curriculum, courtesy of Marian University’s ABSN program.

1NSG 201 Health Assessment and Communication
1NSG 241 Fundamentals
2NSG 331 Care of the Adult Client in Community /Acute Care Settings I
2NSG 335 Mental Health Nursing
3NSG 307 Care of the Childbearing Client in Community/Acute Care Settings
3NSG 317 Care of the Pediatric Client in Community /Acute Care Settings
3NSG 431 Care of the Adult Client in Community/Acute Care Settings II
4NSG 441 Leadership/Community in the Nursing Profession
4NSG 451 Clinical Immersion Experience

What Does a Typical Clinical Rotation Shift Look Like Currently?

The routine for your clinical rotation depends on your school.

Many clinical shifts start with a pep talk between the clinical instructor and other nursing students.

Afterward, you begin a shift, where a clinical instructor walks you through a typical day. Sometimes, you may take vitals and manage various patient situations that will allow you to put your theoretical coursework into practice.

All About BSN and BSN Jobs

How Much Do BSNs Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for a registered nurse is $75,330.

Note: many factors influence BSN salaries, including the state, years of experience, type of shift (day versus overnight), and the hospital or health care system.

What Are the Highest Paying States for BSN holders?

Here is a list of the top five highest paying states for BSN nurses, courtesy of the ZipRecruiter.

StateAnnual Salary
New York$87,488
New Hampshire$84,739

What Are the Highest Paying BSN Jobs?

Here are six high-paying BSN jobs. All salaries are courtesy of Payscale.

Title: Operating room nurse

Description: Operating room nurses work in, you guessed it, operating rooms. They deal directly with patients before and after surgery, working alongside surgeons to ensure that everything goes according to plan.

Average Annual Salary: $91,600


Title: Travel nurse

Description: Travel nurses provide medical services all over the country. They work to fulfill staffing needs in underrepresented areas, performing short-term contracts anywhere from 6 weeks to a year. Some travel nurses earn upwards of $5000 per week.

Average Annual Salary: $99,200


Title: Pharmaceutical nurse

Description: Pharmaceutical nurses specialize in jobs within the pharmaceutical industry, heavy on sales and technical writing. You may also work as a liaison between drugmakers and pharmaceutical industries on the correct use of drugs and therapies.

Average Annual Salary: $84,300


Title: Neonatal nursing

Description: Neonatal nurses work to diagnose and treat premature babies and babies suffering from sight-threatening conditions. They work to cut down on fatal infant rates and keep families well informed of their baby’s health.

Average Annual Salary: $70.780


Title: Critical Care Nurse

Description: Intensive care unit (ICU) nurses work in high-octane environments, diagnosing and treating critically ill patients in last-hour situations.

Average Annual Salary: $73,730


Title: Informatics Nursing

Description: Infomatic nurses work with numbers, employing technology to monitor healthcare systems and programs. It’s an excellent alternative for nurses who prefer not to practice in a typical hospital setting.

Average Annual Salary:$79,200

How Do I Choose the Right ABSN Program?

When choosing an ABSN program, keep the following in mind:

Accreditation: Look for ABSN programs accredited by the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission (NLNAC) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Accredited schools tell the world it adheres to common standards of quality with formal recognition by peers. More and more hospitals and healthcare settings require degrees from accredited schools to ensure their talent pool is up to date on best practices and teaching standards.

Cost: BSNs can cost anywhere from $9000 to $100,000+, depending on the school and status as a public or private institution. Qualified students can complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for grants, work-study aid, and loans.

NCLEX-RN passage rate: Look for schools that offer an NCLEX-RN passage rate of 85 percent or higher.

According to 2017 statistics from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), the national average first-time pass rate for BSN holders was 90%.

Location: ABSN programs have in-person and online options. The latter is an excellent choice for full-time jobholders who do not have the time to commit to on-site lessons. Expect no shortcuts with online programs, as it promises the same grading intensity and number of clinical hours to complete as traditional BSN programs.

Clinical partnerships: Look for BSN schools with an unwavering focus on keeping an active and robust local hospital connection. You shouldn’t be surprised to receive your first offer before graduating if you’re undertaking your ABSN in a college with such ties.

Success coaches: If your ABSN program offers success coaches to act as mentors, consider it a plus. When paired with such tutors, students can create individualized plans, improving their chances of success.

Individualized plans include:

  • Learning time management strategies between work and school
  • Setting academic goals
  • Understanding available educational support resources

What Does the Job Outlook Look Like for BSNs?

The job outlook for BSNs is strong. According to a 2021 AACN survey, 76% of BSN graduates land a job within three months after graduating, and this percentage increases to a whopping 93% after four to six months. Additionally, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects healthcare occupations to grow 14% through 2028.

It is also important to note that various state legislatures, hospital networks, and employers now require BSNs over registered nurses. For example, all military nurses applying for the US Army, US Navy, and US Air Force need to obtain a Bachelor’s degree.

Additionally, the state of New York passed a 2017 law, “BSN in 10”, which now requires all registered nurses to obtain a bachelor’s degree within ten years of receiving their license.

The nursing profession is one of the fastest-growing fields in the country, with excellent job prospects, high salaries, and the ability to move into different areas of specialization.

Is an ABSN Program Worth It?

Yes, we feel an ABSN program is worth it.

Shorter time frame: You can complete accelerated nursing programs in a fraction of the time as traditional programs.

BSN over ADN: BSNs offer increased career prospects and higher salaries than Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)s. Also, most hospitals and health clinics require all nurses to hold a Bachelor’s Degree.

Due to high BSN demand, the state of New York passed a 2017 law, “BSN in 10”, which now requires all registered nurses to obtain their Bachelor’s Degree within ten years of receiving their license.

Enhanced Clinicals: Hands-on lab work exposes BSNs to real-world healthcare facilities. Under the supervision of a nurse, clinical students manage a small caseload, performing many actual nursing tasks such as conducting nursing assessments to wrapping a wound. Expect to see lots of actual patients and mannequins.

Improved Quality of Care: Studies have shown that BSNs enjoy a higher quality of care than registered nurses without a BSN. This perk includes a lower mortality rate, fewer clinical errors, and a lower readmission rate.

Specializations: BSN-trained nurses can move into dozens of disciplines, including but not limited to:

  • Psychiatric Mental Health
  • Pain Management
  • Informatics
  • Perioperative
  • Critical Care
  • Dialysis
  • Neonatal

Higher Earnings Power: BSN-prepared nurses earn up to $10,000 more than registered nurses with an associate’s degree. In the state of Washington, BSN-prepared nurses earn an average annual salary of $94,000. With ten years of experience and specialization or two thrown in, that number can easily exceed $140,000.

Moving on Up: BSN-degree holders could pursue graduate-level training, allowing nurses to advance their careers in clinical or leadership positions. Depending on the role, nurses with MSN degrees may operate within collaborative environments or with greater autonomy and independence.

Nursing jobs available with a Master’s or Doctor of Nursing degree include certified registered nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners, which can specialize in subfields such as orthopedics, neonatal, and oncology. Salaries for nurse practitioners are very high. For example, the average salary for orthopedic nurse practitioners is $115,687 per year, nearly double that of first-year registered nurses.

Key Points:

  1. ABSN programs are pre-licensure programs for students with/without a registered nursing (RN) license looking to enter the nursing field with a Bachelor’s degree.
  2. ABSN programs vary in length (16 to 24 months) and the number of clinical hours.
  3. All ABSN programs require a C grade or higher with prerequisite courses like anatomy and chemistry
  4. ABSN programs incorporate theory, nursing simulation labs, and clinical rotations to develop real-world experience

5.BSNs can expect to make an average of $13,000 more per year than registered nurses.

  1. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the employment rate for registered nurses to increase by 9% from 2020 to 2030.

What is an ABSN Program?: Conclusion

All in all, ABSNs programs offer a fast track for nursing students to complete their degrees in as little as 16 months. This career path provides an excellent job outlook, high salaries, and the ability to move into different areas of specialization. Graduating with an ABSN will put you on the fast track to success in your professional life.

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