Four-Year Nursing Degree Alternatives | Goodwin University (2023)

There is no doubting the value of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The BSN degree can position registered nurses for high pay potential, professional advancement, specialized career paths, and leadership roles. Research shows that a BSN education can also improve nurses’ quality of patient care.

However, not all aspiring nurses have the ability to commit to a four-year nursing degree program. And this is the traditional format for the BSN. Generally speaking, BSN degree programs consist of:

  • Two years of prerequisite liberal arts and science courses and
  • Two years of core, nursing curriculum (including clinicals).

Over the course of four years, students gain both an introduction to nursing as well as in-depth knowledge of the field. BSN students take classes in nursing theory, research, nurse leadership, as well as general education courses like statistics, psychology, and anatomy. A four-year BSN degree provides a well-rounded curriculum that prepares students for a variety of nursing careers. Upon completion of a traditional, four-year nursing program, graduates are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN licensing exam.

The BSN is an excellent, entry-level pathway for anyone new to nursing, who has the time and the means to commit to a four-year nursing program. However, the traditional four-year degree path is not the only option for those seeking a BSN degree. There are alternative options that every aspiring nurse (and current nurse!) should consider as they evaluate prospective nursing programs.

Four-Year Nursing Degree Alternative #1: The RN-to-BSN Degree Path

The RN-to-BSN degree is a type of program designed for licensed, registered nurses who wish to go back to school for their bachelor’s in Nursing. It is an extremely flexible program, offered entirely online, that allows nurses to advance their education without a significant time or cost commitment.

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If you are new to nursing, you may be asking, how does this program apply to me if I am not yet a registered nurse (RN)?

Well, if you are brand-new to nursing and eager to get started fast, four years may not be realistic for you right now. Fortunately, a four-year nursing degree is not required to launch a career in nursing. The standard, minimum requirement for registered nurses today is an associate degree in Nursing. This degree path only takes about two years to complete.

An associate degree in Nursing, also known as the ADN, teaches the fundamentals of nursing, preparing nurses to deliver safe, quality patient care after graduation. In an associate program, students take some general education courses, like sociology and lifespan development, science courses including anatomy and physiology, as well as major-specific courses like nurse skill development to prepare for nursing practice. Nursing students in an ADN program are also required to complete clinicals, where they gain hands-on experience in patient care.

Upon completion of an ADN program, you will be eligible to take the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) to become licensed as an RN. And once you have earned your license as an RN, you can begin to practice as a registered nurse in a real healthcare setting!

An associate degree in Nursing positions you to get started in nursing faster than the traditional, four-year BSN route. You can start working, gaining experience, and making connections with other members of the healthcare team. You can collect valuable, autonomous, real-world practice that you wouldn’t have access to during a four-year nursing program.

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Once you gain experience and start building connections in nursing, you can then decide to go back to school for your bachelor’s degree. Enter, the RN-to-BSN program.

The RN-to-BSN program is a part-time, online degree offering that enables registered nurses to complete their Bachelor of Nursing in as few as 12 months. Classes are taken part-time, so that you can continue working (and gaining experience) as a nurse while going to school. The online flexibility of an RN-to-BSN program also means that you can earn your degree at your convenience, completing assignments at home or on your lunch break.

If you are already a registered nurse, this BSN degree alternative is a logical next step to advance your nursing career. It is designed for busy, working nurses who desire to meet the expanding demands of employers and advance their skillsets in the nursing field.

The benefits of going from an associate degree to an RN-to-BSN program are clear:

  • You can start working and gaining experience faster than your BSN-educated counterparts.
  • You can build connections within healthcare and establish yourself as a nurse earlier on.
  • You can get your registered nursing (RN) license more quickly than those in a four-year program.
  • You can benefit from a more flexible, online program offering when working towards your BSN.

If the RN-to-BSN degree pathway is appealing to you, you can learn more by downloading our free RN-to-BSN Guide here.


Four-Year Nursing Degree Alternative #2: The Accelerated BSN (ABSN)

So, what if you are changing careers to nursing and do not want to commit to a four-year program (again)? You already have a bachelor’s degree – in a non-nursing major – but realized somewhere along the way that nursing is your true calling. Do you have to go back to school for a four-year nursing degree? What are the BSN options for those who have already completed a bachelor’s degree once?

Accelerated Bachelor’s in Nursing (ABSN) programs are designed with you in mind. The accelerated BSN is an intensive, fast-paced nursing program that is available to aspiring nurses with a previous bachelor’s degree, in a non-nursing major, from an accredited college or university.

Also called a “second degree nursing program,” the ABSN option enables students to switch careers, get licensed as RNs, and start working in the field in a matter of 16 months (full-time). However, this fast-paced program is only available to those who have previously earned a bachelor’s degree in another major. This is because you have likely already met the prerequisite, general education requirements in your previous coursework—and those credits can transfer to your nursing degree.

Accelerated nursing programs are not typically available for entry-level nurses who do not have any prior college experience. For new nurses just launching their college education, an associate degree in Nursing or a four-year BSN program are the best options when starting out.

Why Get a BSN Degree At All? Weighing the ADN vs. BSN

It’s true that an associate degree in Nursing (ADN) is the minimum, standard requirement to become a registered nurse today. However, many nurses feel it is in their best interest to pursue a bachelor’s in Nursing to advance their career prospects. As described above, the BSN can be pursued right away, upon entering nursing school (via the traditional four-year route), or can be pursued later in your career, after gaining experience in the nursing field.


The question remains: Why even take this next step? Why pursue a BSN degree, when an associate degree will suffice for a nursing career?

The answer is relatively simple: better job prospects. Nurses with a BSN education can qualify for more jobs after graduation. In fact, many employers – such as the U.S. Military, and several schools – require nurses with a bachelor’s level education. Other employers, including many hospitals, simply prefer to hire nurses with a BSN degree. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, over 82 percent of employers expressed “a strong preference for a bachelor’s degree” when hiring RNs.

Considering that over 65 percent of registered nurses now hold a BSN degree or higher, earning your BSN can help you stay competitive in a booming workforce—and ensure you land a great career. Keep in mind that BSN-educated nurses can go beyond the patient care role. Many nurses with BSN degrees go on to pursue leadership roles in nurse administration, informatics, research, and case management. They can also specialize in areas of nursing that require a bachelor’s degree, such as pediatrics, neonatal nursing, psychiatry, and public health.

BSN nurses can also qualify for promotions and advancement opportunities beyond the RN role, including increased salary potential. It’s cited that BSN nurse salaries are about 27 percent higher than those nurses with the minimum degree requirement. Of course, this varies by employer and state.

The benefits of a bachelor’s in Nursing are clear, but there is not one “right” way to earn your BSN. Ultimately, the choice is yours. Do you want to knock out your BSN education with a four-year nursing degree? Do you wish to start with an associate in Nursing, gain experience as a nurse, then go back for a flexible and affordable BSN? Or, do you qualify for the accelerated BSN pathway?

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Ask yourself these questions and then begin to research the nursing programs available to you. If you would like to learn about Goodwin University, a leading nursing school in Connecticut, you may explore our nursing programs (on-campus and online) here.

If you would like to learn more about earning a BSN, you may also download our free guide: Your Guide to Earning Your Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing.



Four-Year Nursing Degree Alternatives | Goodwin University? ›

Yes, it is possible to get into a nursing program with a 2.5 GPA. Many programs accept students with a lower GPA. It may take some extra work from you, though, especially if you are applying to a school that typically requires a higher GPA.

What to do if you want to go to nursing school but your GPA is low? ›

Yes, it is possible to get into a nursing program with a 2.5 GPA. Many programs accept students with a lower GPA. It may take some extra work from you, though, especially if you are applying to a school that typically requires a higher GPA.

What is the easiest nursing degree program? ›

What makes an LPN or LVN preparation program the easiest type of nursing education you can pursue is its focus on training for basic nursing services only and its quick completion time. However, aspiring LPNs and LVNs still need to take coursework in studies such as biology, pharmacology and nursing.

What is the hardest class for a nursing major? ›

Pharmacology. Pharmacology, or the study of medication, can seem scary because of the sheer scope of the course. "It becomes one of the hardest classes for nursing students due to the depth and amount of knowledge needed," says Megan Lynch, RN and instructor at Pima Community College.

What degree should I get instead of nursing? ›

For those who are interested in more behind-the-scenes work, or who want to explore their options in healthcare, health science is a great alternative major to nursing. A health science degree can lead to many different careers, from a healthcare administrator to medical biller and coder.

Can I get into nursing school with a 2.75 GPA? ›

While most nursing schools set their minimum GPA requirements at 3.0, there are accelerated nursing programs out there that accept students with 2.7 and 2.8 GPAs. Keep in mind that this doesn't mean you'd receive a lesser nursing education with these programs.

Can I go to nursing school with a 2.0 GPA? ›

A minimum GPA: Between your bachelor's degree and your prerequisite courses, you'll need to meet a minimum GPA. This again ranges depending on your program of choice. Most programs require at least a 2.5 GPA or higher. Some set their limit at a 3.0 GPA.

What is the fastest degree to become a nurse? ›

An associate's degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) are the two most common fast track options. With each of these ways to receive nursing instruction, they require passing the NCLEX licensure examination.

Which state is the hardest to become a nurse? ›

  • MAINE. ...
  • ALASKA. ...
  • Georgia. ...
  • Alabama. ...
  • Hawaii. ...
  • South Carolina. ...
  • Kentucky. ...
  • Summary. There are a few cases when temporary licenses can be obtained through the state board of nursing.

Is it too late to go to nursing school at 30? ›

When you think of nursing school, you likely envision young people 18–24, but there are actually many nurses who don't get their RNs until their 30s, 40s, or 50s! You're not too old just because you're older than the average student. In fact, there are a lot of benefits to becoming a nurse later in life.

What state pays RN the most? ›

In the United States overall, the average registered nurse salary is $82,750 and the median (50th percentile) is $77,600. California, with RN salaries averaging $124,000, is the highest-paying state for nurses as of May 2021 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Is it common to fail nursing class? ›

Many nursing schools require a minimum grade of roughly 80% to actually pass, as well. By the time you realize you aren't doing well enough to be successful in the course, the choices can be pretty limited. Failure happens all the time. It happens every day...

Which is the toughest degree in the world? ›

What are the hardest degrees in the world? Ranked by Experts
  • Chartered Accountancy.
  • Astrophysics.
  • Quantum Mechanics.
  • Law.
  • Aerospace/ Aeronautical Studies, Engineering.
  • Biomedical Studies, Neurosciences, Biochemistry.
  • Nursing.
  • Dentistry, Medicine.
Dec 16, 2022

What career is closest to nursing? ›

Examples of nursing-related careers in this field include:
  • Chiropractic assistant.
  • Physical therapy assistant.
  • Medical assistant.
  • Sonographer.
  • Diagnostic tester.
  • Clinical laboratory technologist.
  • Radiologic technologist.
  • Health care customer service representative.
Mar 3, 2023

What degree do most nurses have? ›

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

How do I get out of nursing? ›

  1. Making the Decision. ...
  2. Consider alternatives to your career. ...
  3. Do not tell coworkers you are planning to leave before talking to your supervisor/employer. ...
  4. Prepare a letter of resignation. ...
  5. Schedule a time to visit with your employer and discuss your decision.

Who has the easiest BSN program? ›

15 Easiest BSN Programs to Get Into – 2023
  • RN-to-BSN Capella University. ...
  • BS - Nursing (Registered Nurse - R.N. to B.S.N.) Grand Canyon University. ...
  • BS in Nursing (RN to BSN) Louisiana State University Alexandria. ...
  • BS in Nursing Bay Path University.

Can I be a nurse if I have bad grades? ›

Absolutely. You may need to get creative. You'll definitely need an open mind about which schools you're willing to attend (including possibly relocating to make it happen). Finally, you'll need to work hard—not just to get into nursing school, but once you've been accepted.

Do employers care about GPA nursing? ›

Many nursing jobs will ask for your GPA when you're a new nurse filling an entry-level position. Because you don't have much experience to list yet, the GPA score may be the only criterion differentiating candidates. Short answer, yes, GPA scores are a factor when applying for nursing jobs.

How hard is nursing school compared to other degrees? ›

But nursing school is notoriously difficult. Most nursing programs require high GPAs and impressive scores in math, chemistry, biology, psychology, and other demanding subjects. It's also extremely fulfilling.

What happens if my GPA is lower than 2.0 college? ›

When a student's cumulative GPA drops below 2.0, the institution can put them on academic probation. Academic probation means students risk losing financial aid and even being dropped from college. Low grades are a warning sign that students need to make changes quickly to continue their education.

What is the highest GPA for nursing? ›

After acceptance into the nursing program, each student must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for coursework in the nursing major to remain in the nursing program.

What type of nurse is most in demand? ›

BSN-prepared nurses are the most sought-after RNs in the job market and can advance to leadership and management roles more quickly than the ASN nurse.
2. Registered nurse (RN)
EducationASN (required) or BSN (recommended)
CertificationsMust pass the NCLEX-RN exam
1 more row

Where is it easiest to become a nurse? ›

Easiest states to become a nurse – Length of licensing process
  • Maine: 1-2 weeks.
  • Maryland: 2-3 days.
  • Missouri: 2 weeks.
  • Nevada: 1-2 weeks.
  • North Carolina: 1-2 weeks.
  • North Dakota: 1-2 weeks.
  • Texas: 2 weeks.
  • Vermont: 3-5 business days.

What is the highest a nurse can make an hour? ›

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists earn a median salary of $195,610 per year according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, making it the top paying nursing specialty. CRNAs typically work 40 hours per week, making the hourly wage average out to approximately $94.04 per hour.

What state has the lowest paying nurses? ›

The highest-paying states by median NP salary are California ($151,830), Hawaii ($111,070), Oregon ($99,410), Alaska ($99,910), and Washington ($96,980). The lowest-paying states are South Dakota ($60,540), Alabama ($61,920), Mississippi ($63,130), Iowa ($64,990), and Arkansas ($65,810).

What states pay nurses the least? ›

The five states with the lowest average annual salary for nurses are:
  • South Dakota, at $58,340;
  • Mississippi, at $58,490;
  • Iowa, at $59,130;
  • Alabama, at $59,470; and.
  • Arkansas, at $60,780.
Nov 5, 2019

What age do most nurses start? ›

Worried about being “too old” to become a nurse? Don't be!
  • The average age of ADN nursing students at community colleges is 26-40 years old.
  • BSN programs have an average age of early-mid 20s.
  • Students in RN-to-BSN programs are typically in their late 30s.
Nov 26, 2021

What is the best age to study nursing? ›

There is no “appropriate age for nursing school.” We have had students from age 18 to 55 years old in our NCLEX Exam Prep Course and all of them go on to become great nurses.

Is it worth going to nursing school at 40? ›

The good news is that older nursing students have a tremendous success rate in college. Older students are more focused and less distracted than when they were younger. They take their studies more seriously and understand the importance of making time to study for tests and to complete assignments.

Where do new grad nurses get paid the most? ›

The Highest-Paying States for New Nurses
  1. 1 Alaska - $89,260. Alaska offers stunning natural landscapes, outdoor recreation, and the highest pay for new nurses in the United States. ...
  2. 2 California - $87,620. ...
  3. 3 Connecticut - $75,100. ...
  4. 4 New Jersey $74,260. ...
  5. 5 Delaware - $73,320.
Aug 8, 2022

Is there a nursing shortage? ›

According to The American Nurses Association (ANA), more registered nurse jobs will be available through 2022 than any other profession in the United States. According to an article in the Nursing Times, The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that more than 275,000 additional nurses are needed from 2020 to 2030.

How many nursing students drop out? ›

According to the National League for Nursing, the national dropout rate for nursing programs in the United States is 20%, and this high attrition rate is considered problematic.

What is the hardest semester of a nursing program? ›

Without question, the most difficult semester for me was the last semester of my junior year in nursing school. I attended a 4-year BSN program, and that particular semester included three classes that were very content-heavy, as well as the corresponding clinical hours for those classes.

How many students get rejected from nursing school? ›

In Summary: The American Academy of Colleges of Nurses found 80,407 qualified nursing applicants were denied admission in 2019 because nursing schools didn't have adequate numbers of teaching staff.

What majors have the highest dropout rate? ›

Students who major in computer science tend to have the highest dropout rate, followed by advertising and agriculture majors. College is a significant investment, and selecting the right major can aid in your success.

What is the easiest college degree to get? ›

Business Administration

On average, bachelor of business administration majors spend 42 hours studying for both the core courses and electives. Based on the average GPA, this could be the easiest bachelor degree to get.

What is the hardest Bachelor? ›

Top 15 Hardest College Majors Table of Contents
  • Chemistry.
  • Environmental Economics and Policy.
  • Environmental Earth Science.
  • American Studies.
  • Nuclear Engineering.
  • Energy Engineering.
  • Astrophysics.
  • Applied Mathematics.
Mar 16, 2023

What is the easiest nursing job that pays well? ›

Easiest Nursing Jobs Availabile
  • Nurse Educator. Average Annual Salary: $62,000. ...
  • Nurse Blogger. Average Annual Salary: N/A. ...
  • Clinic Nurse. Average Annual Salary: $65,000. ...
  • Traveling Nurse. Average Annual Salary: $70,000. ...
  • School Nurse. Average Annual Salary: $50,000. ...
  • Summer Camp Nurse. ...
  • Nurse Administrator. ...
  • Public Health Nurse.
Aug 31, 2022

What are 3 related careers to a nurse? ›

Similar Professions to Nursing
  • Medical Assistant. A medical assistant is a certified healthcare professional that takes on both administrative and clinical tasks in a medical practice. ...
  • Dental Hygienist. ...
  • Histology Technician. ...
  • Respiratory Therapist. ...
  • Occupational Therapy Assistant.
May 8, 2020

What are the fastest growing jobs nursing? ›

The employment of specialist nurses (nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners) is estimated to grow by a staggering 40% from 2021 to 2031. investigated U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics' data to see how nursing jobs are growing in the U.S.

What is the lowest degree for nursing? ›

In general, nurses fall into three categories: non-degree, degree, and advanced degree. Non-degree nurses include certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs), who complete nursing education programs that don't culminate in a degree.

Why do nursing students quit? ›

Some of the common reasons nurses drop out of nursing school include poor time management skills, overwhelming stress, bad study habits, and difficulty taking the new NCLEX-style questions on exams.

Why are people leaving nursing? ›

Many nurses are leaving the profession due to the recognition of their own mental health. Nursing is a mentally exhausting career to be in. For many nurses, they are put into difficult situations and often have little time to process or cope.

What percentage of nurses leave nursing? ›

More specifically, over 17% quit within the first year, and a whopping 56% quit after the first two years.

What if I get rejected from nursing school? ›

After getting rejected, many nurses take a year off to become a CNA and gain experience before reapplying. You can complete a CNA program in approximately 15 weeks or less, with classroom hours and clinical training included.

What is a good GPA to maintain in nursing school? ›

Generally, GPA requirements are different from one school to another, but on average, BSN programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0. At the same time, for an ADN program, the average GPA for admission ranges from 2.0. to 2.8.

How much does your GPA matter in nursing school? ›

Grades Do Matter, but They Aren't Everything

The most important thing is that you are able to graduate through the program and pass NCLEX. However, I would encourage nursing students to work hard to keep their grades as high as possible, as there are also many benefits to maintaining a high GPA.

What is a 2.5 GPA? ›

A 2.5 GPA corresponds to a C average, making it a common starting GPA for many colleges and universities, even some more competitive institutions — though acceptance at that level would be a long shot.

How common is it to fail nursing school? ›

Nursing school is difficult and will be hard to pass. Most students pass their nursing program, so you can too. How many nursing students fail? According to the National League of Nursing, the dropout rate for nursing programs in the United States is around 20%.

What percent of nurses fail school? ›

According to a National League for Nursing study, the national dropout rate for nursing programs was 20 percent. While the attrition rate is higher for some bachelor's degree nursing programs, most people in school to become registered nurses (RNs) stayed in school and pushed through.

Why are thousands of nursing applicants denied admission yearly? ›

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), 80,521 qualified applications were not accepted at nursing schools due to a shortage of clinical sites, resource constraints, and faculty in 2020.

Can an average student become a nurse? ›

To start nursing school, you don't need any prior nursing experience or healthcare education. All you need is a high school diploma or GED. Once you are accepted, your journey to RN begins! You can become an RN in 2 to 4 years by studying for an associate's degree (ASN) or bachelor's degree (BSN).

Is nursing school harder than med school? ›

However, don't take it for granted that nursing school will be much easier than medical school, especially in an accelerated format. Both offer a unique set of challenges and demand the utmost in student commitment and work rate.

Why did I drop out of nursing school? ›

Some of the common reasons nurses drop out of nursing school include poor time management skills, overwhelming stress, bad study habits, and difficulty taking the new NCLEX-style questions on exams.

What is the average GPA of a nursing student? ›

Average GPA: 3.53

(Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA.

Is it okay to just pass nursing school? ›

The requirements for graduation vary based on the program you attend, but ultimately, to pass nursing school, you must graduate. However, it is important to note that just because you pass nursing school does not mean you can practice as a nurse.

How can I raise my GPA fast? ›

How to raise your GPA
  1. Avoid classes you don't need.
  2. Meet with a tutor.
  3. Speak with your instructors.
  4. Set goals for yourself.
  5. Turn in assignments on time.
  6. Join a study group.
  7. Study topics as you go.
  8. Improve note-taking skills.
Mar 10, 2023

What is the lowest GPA to get into college? ›

Unofficially, 2.0 is the lowest GPA accepted into a standard college, so while there's a chance that college admission is possible, it's not likely at more than a few institutions.

Can you get a masters with a 2.5 GPA? ›

Yes, many students get into grad school with a 2.5 GPA. While the GPA on your college transcripts is an important consideration for graduate admissions at many schools, it's only one factor among many in terms of your overall applicant profile.


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