Advanced Practice Nursing

Can You Apply a Non-Nursing College Degree Toward Becoming a Nurse?

Can You Apply a Non-Nursing College Degree Toward Becoming a Nurse?
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Lisa Falk Ellis July 31, 2014

Everything you need to know about going back to school to complete an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

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You’ve always dreamed about being a nurse, but perhaps you put those dreams aside to earn a college degree in a different field. Now you’re having second thoughts.

Luckily, it’s not too late to make a career change, and some of the credits you’ve already earned can even help you on your way.

A Second-Degree Program

It’s not all that uncommon to re-evaluate your career goals once you finish college and join the workforce. For people who already have a college degree in an unrelated field and decide they want to be a nurse, some nursing schools offer a special second-degree program called an accelerated baccalaureate program, or an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
Cheryl Bergman, PhD, ARNP, CEN, Associate Dean of the School of Nursing at Jacksonville University College of Health Sciences, explains that accelerated programs generally work by accepting some of the credits students earned from the prerequisites they completed for their first degree. This way they don’t have to repeat them the second time around, but instead, can build on them to get the practical experience they need for a nursing degree.

Prerequisites for the Fast-Track

This fast-track option generally takes between a year and 18 months to complete—but keep in mind, this timeframe doesn’t include any extra classes or science requirements you need to get into the accelerated track. Often the requirements are beyond what you’ve already taken, so you may have to take a few additional classes before beginning the accelerated program. While the requirements can vary from school to school, the types of courses you’ll need under your belt include human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, nutrition, statistics, psychology, sociology, and English composition.

Are You A Good Fit?

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that many people who participate in accelerated nursing programs are older and have worked for a while before deciding to go back to school. Ideal candidates are highly motivated students with an excellent academic track record (usually a 3.0 or higher is required). AACN points out that an Accelerated BSN program is especially intense, with no breaks between sessions. The students are also required to fulfill the same number of clinical hours they would in a traditional four-year nursing program. As a result, most students aren’t able to hold jobs at the same time.

Finding a Nursing School Near You

If this sounds like something you’d like to try, the AACN website offers a list of schools throughout the country that offer accelerated nursing programs. To help you evaluate the options, Bergman offers some advice. “One of the most important considerations is to be sure the program is accredited,” she says. “Also ask about the expertise of the faculty, what clinical opportunities are available, various clinical sites, and the ratio of faculty to students in the clinicals.”


Accelerated Nursing Programs. (n.d.). American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Retrieved July 24, 2014, from AACN

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Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle. He has been managing editor of the website for over four years.

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