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

By Craig Miller


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.

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.

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.

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

How Do I Choose the Right ABSN Program?

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

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.

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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