If you’re wondering about the “how fast” aspect-there must be a reason. For most people, the reason is likely to be money. The quicker you advance from an RN to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), the more money you may earn. The statistics seem to agree with this premise. Payscale.com finds that there are large differences in salary for people with only an RN, compared to a BSN. The 2014 data shows that an RN earns a median of $39,100, while a BSN holder earns $69,000. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), their stats show that an RN is eligible for 51% of  jobs in the nursing field, while a BSN holder is eligible for 88% of the jobs. Also, the analysis in this BLS study of salary showed that the mean salary for associate’s or RN holders was $66,000, and for those with a BSN, it was $75,000. We’ve also featured nursing as one of the highest paying healthcare jobs without an M.D..

Regarding the question of speed – the answer is: it depends. According to The American Association of Colleges of Nursing,  there are over 300 accelerated entry-level baccalaureate programs and 62 entry-level master’s programs available at nursing schools nationwide. Many of these are offered 100% online. These accelerated nursing programs are available in 46 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. That makes for a lot of choices with an assortment of degree options. Some nursing programs, for example, offer 10, six-week, online courses. Other  programs are 10 weeks long which for those with an associate’s degree in nursing or a nursing diploma, you could complete the degree in 18 months. This may also depend on having fulfilled all general education and open elective requirements of your school of choice.  There are programs stating that your RN to BSN may take only 9 or 12 months. The fine print usually stipulates that this is dependent on the acceptability of transfer credits and course load per term or semester.

Transfer credits may satisfy the nursing programs prerequisite courses. These includes completed courses from a STEM program (science, technology, engineering and math) or from an exceptional liberal arts school. If your prior academics do not meet all of the prerequisites, check to see if they are offered at your online school of choice. If not, then you may need to meet these requirements  through a 4-year university or community college. School start dates can also affect the speed. Those with starting dates three times a year can be more expedient. Particularly programs that start in January.

In addition to start dates, your course load affects the completion time. By taking 1 to 3 courses a semester, your BSN may be attained in 1-3 years. The course load may depend on personal obligations, most importantly being employment. A full-time nursing career may create a burden juggling study time with a 40+ hour work week. In this case, a flexible program may suit your needs. One that allows you to take courses at your own pace. To meet the need, there are online flexible paths of study allowing you to complete nursing courses in 12 months of full-time study or 18–24 months of part-time study. Again, assuming  you complete the general education coursework requirements. One such program divides the semester into two learning modules, which are completed in 7–8 weeks so that you may finish up to four courses every semester. Practicums or clinical experiences are embedded in didactic or lecture-based courses and can be tailored to your experience and career goals.

Be sure to check out our popular article looking at the fastest online degree program options available today. This article is not specific to nursing. For those considering pursuing a fast online master’s degree in another field needs read this article.