Traditional vs. Accelerated BSN: Choosing the Right Nursing Program

happy male and female nursing students

As a prospective nursing student researching a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), the abundance of information available online can be overwhelming and often lead to uncertainty about which nursing program path you should follow.

Here we break down the difference between two popular Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program paths: a traditional BSN and an accelerated BSN. We will discuss the required academic level, program length, time commitment, and suggested lifestyle for each of the programs, so you can narrow down your options to the one that would be the best choice based on your preferences.

First, it is important to know Bachelor of Nursing program abbreviations. 

Happy male student enjoying class



BSN stands for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. It is a traditional nursing degree.

ABSN stands for an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing. It is a fast-track nursing degree.

Also learn the other nursing program abbreviations outside of a Bachelor of Nursing.

While this blog post focuses on a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, it is crucial that you also understand what the other nursing degree abbreviations outside of a Bachelor of Nursing are. Keep in mind, while these abbreviations are important to know, they may not be applicable to your individual academic journey.

An Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) is a two-year degree program. Before the pandemic, 75 percent of employers looked for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing versus an ASN. While a student who receives an ASN can practice as an entry-level registered nurse, career advancement is limited.

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is an advanced degree program. A student holding an existing BSN can pursue an MSN to advance their career and take on more advanced and specialized roles.

A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is designed for nurses seeking a terminal degree in nursing practice and offers an alternative to research-focused doctoral programs.

BSN vs. ABSN program paths distinctions

I. Academic requirements

The academic requirements for a BSN vary; however, many universities—including St. John’s University—offer programs that are designed for undergraduate students with a high school diploma and no previous experience in professional nursing. On the other hand, an ABSN is for students who have completed a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field of study and need additional required courses to earn a degree in nursing. 

II. Program length and credits

Since a student completing a BSN is at the beginning of their undergraduate studies, it will take a total of four years to complete. This nursing degree typically consists of 120–128 credits. On the flip side, with an ABSN, a student already has an existing bachelor’s degree resulting in a shorter length of completion—between 16 to 18 months—and the coursework consists of 60–65 credits.

III. Program time commitment  

Since you can expect to complete ABSN coursework within 16 to 18 months, you should also prepare to devote hours comparable to a full-time job. A BSN also requires a commitment to your education; however, it can be more flexible regarding coursework and time.

IV. Student lifestyle throughout the program

Since BSN coursework is spread out across the four years required to complete the degree, part-time or per-diem jobs are encouraged if they do not interfere with your academic success. On the other hand, you complete ABSN coursework at a much faster pace, devoting hours to it comparable to a full-time job. Therefore, working while pursuing an accelerated degree is not recommended.

What type of nursing program does St. John’s University offer?

Group of students surrounding a professor in a lab coat

St. John’s University currently offers a stellar, four-year B.S. in Nursing (BSN) degree program that prepares you to be eligible to sit for the NCLEX licensure exam upon graduation. Upon the success of the licensure exam, you may enter the profession as a Registered Nurse.

Throughout the four-year program at St. John’s, you can expect a unique, real-world learning experience and direct networking opportunities. 

Below are some significant program distinctions.

St. John’s University’s Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Nursing program offers:

  • Individualized personal attention from distinguished faculty and practicing nurses.
  • A hands-on capstone program where you can work alongside registered nurses in a preceptor format as you transition from nursing student to registered nurse.
  • Clinical rotations in off-site institutions with our renowned clinical partners such as New York City Health + HospitalsNewYork-Presbyterian Queens and Catholic Health Services of Long Island.
  • On-campus career days with on-site interviews assist you with employment upon graduation.

Do you have any questions regarding St. John’s University’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program?

Director of Nursing and Associate Professor of College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Department of Clinical Health Professions.

Contact Francine Laterza, Ed.D., R.N., PNP, CNE, Director of Nursing and Associate Professor/Industry Professional, Department of Clinical Health Professions at St. John’s University.