Nursing shortages are prevalent in much of the nation, especially in underserved communities like rural and inner-city areas. As the demand for highly qualified nurses increases, so do the opportunities to help people who need it the most. If you’re considering nursing as a new career, but are concerned about the four-year requirement to achieve a BSN degree, you may want to look into accelerated nursing programs.

Nursing Degree Options

Many people aren’t aware that there are different levels of nursing degrees and certifications. From beginning or entry level positions to much more advanced degrees, it’s important to match the education requirement to your desired position.

CNA – Certified Nursing Assistant

This certification gets you started in nursing very quickly. Generally speaking, it takes about seventy-five hours of instruction, with sixteen hours of clinical training (along with passing your state’s CNA exam) to receive this designation. Average annual salaries for CNAs is ~$30,000.

LPN/LVN – Licensed Practical Nurse or Licensed Vocational Nurse (CA and TX)

The licensed nurse is a non-degreed certification. Most programs require about twelve months of study, including the clinical training. All states also have an exam for licensure. The LPN/LVN works under the direct supervision and guidance of a registered nurse (RN). Average annual salaries for a LPN/LVN professional is ~$47,000.

RN – Registered Nurse

With RN jobs predicted to grow upwards of 15% in the next five years, a registered nurse position is often sought after. The path to becoming an RN can start as a LPN to an RN, or via associate degree programs that can transfer to a degree program (bachelor of science in nursing) and corresponding state exam. Traditional four-year programs are available as well. Most RNs work at hospitals, but opportunities are also available in school, public health sectors, parishes and more. The average annual salary for an RN is ~75,000.

Master’s degrees are also available in nursing, as well as more advanced degrees including for nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwife, and certified nurse anesthetist. These all require a BSN for admission.

Accelerated Programs

If you already have a bachelor’s degree, even if it is not related to the medical field, there are accelerated nursing programs available throughout the country. These are designed to help career changers enter the lucrative and economically secure position of an RN. Basically, these accelerated nursing programs transfer in some of your general education or liberal arts courses into the BSN program, thus accelerating your completion of the second bachelor’s degree. Generally, accelerated nursing programs are between fifteen and twenty-four months long.

General Requirements and Structure

Most accelerated nursing programs require an application and fee, letters of recommendation, official transcripts of your previous studies, as well as a personal statement. Some require you to submit GRE scores, or other standardized test scores. There are online options, except for your clinical practice, and programs are available in every state via public as well as private institutions.