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ABSN vs. BSN: Which One Should You Choose?

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Mar 4, 2024
Nursing student in scrubs working on a laptop.

ABSN vs. BSN: Which One Should You Choose?

Earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing offers nursing professionals many career advantages. There are, however, two pathways to earning this degree: through an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. Before choosing between ABSN vs. BSN programs, students and nurses should compare the similarities, differences, and benefits of each degree type.

How Are ABSN and BSN Degree Programs Similar?

While these two distinct program options are available to prospective nursing professionals, there are several similarities between the two pathways. Below are the features that are similar in both ABSN and BSN programs from accredited universities.

The Degree

Upon completing either program, students are awarded a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. This degree is popular for professionals who are already registered nurses (RNs) or for students preparing to take the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed as an RN.

The University Options

Many universities offer both ABSN and RN to BSN programs. Students can apply to their chosen university and generally find both programs available, offering similar faculty and student support.

The Potential for Career Advancement

While prospective nurses can earn an RN license without a BSN degree, taking the next step and earning a bachelor’s degree is a crucial step for career advancement. According to a 2023 study by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, almost 70% of employers strongly prefer new hires to have at least a BSN degree.

Salary Expectations

Holding a BSN can increase salary potential for nurses. According to the compensation website Payscale, those with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) earned an average base salary of $76,000 per year as of 2024. Those with a BSN degree, on the other hand, earned an average salary of $93,000 per year as of 2024.

How Are ABSN vs. BSN Programs Different?

Despite earning the same degree upon completion, these two programs offer distinct differences in a few key areas. Nurses seeking a BSN degree should compare the length and application requirements of ABSN vs. BSN programs to find the right fit for their situation.

The Length of the Program

The exact length of a program depends on the number of credits taken per semester and the chosen university. For most BSN students, however, earning a degree takes about four years. ABSN students can complete their accelerated program in as few as 18 months, helping them enter the workforce or seek a raise with their newly received qualifications.

The Application Requirements

Another key difference between these programs is their application requirements. The reason an ABSN can offer an accelerated program with approximately 60 credit hours of courses is that it requires applicants to have already earned a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s degree holders have minimal general education requirements to complete as compared to students without a conferred bachelor’s degree.

A BSN program, on the other hand, accepts applications from students who hold a high school diploma or associate’s degree.

ABSN vs. BSN: Which One Is Better?

Both ABSN and BSN programs offer their own strengths and limitations.

Benefits of an ABSN Degree

For students who have already earned a general bachelor’s degree, an ABSN is a streamlined way to quickly earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN). Professionals interested in a career change to nursing may find an ABSN program to be an effective way to enter the field in a timely fashion.

An ABSN offers the following benefits for students:

  • Accelerated timeline. Most students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field can complete an ABSN program in as few as 18 months.

  • Reduced credit hours. An ABSN generally only takes 60 credits to complete, rather than 120 credits (for a BSN).

Benefits of a BSN Degree

Students who haven’t completed a bachelor’s degree program, and students who wish to pursue their degree part time, may be ideal candidates for a BSN program. This is a competitive option for professionals who are already working and want to start or advance their careers as nurses.

Below are the benefits for prospective students choosing this degree program.

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree. Prospective students who haven’t already earned a bachelor’s degree may not qualify for an ABSN program, so a BSN program can offer the most direct route to earning a degree.

  • Work while studying. Because a BSN program doesn’t use an accelerated approach, many nursing professionals can continue to hold a part-time job while studying. BSN programs also offer part-time schedules, giving students additional time to work while they study.

Explore Your Degree Options at The University of Tulsa

Whether you’re considering a bachelor’s degree for the first time, or are looking for opportunities to launch a career as a nurse, The University of Tulsa has online programs for you. Explore your route to enter the nursing field through an ABSN program today, or advance in your nursing career with an RN to BSN program.

Reach out to learn more about the programs today.

Recommended Readings:

What Can You Do With a BSN?

The Most Important Leadership Skills for Nurses

3 Reasons to Expand Your Nursing Scope of Practice


American Association of Colleges of Nursing, New Graduate Employment Data: 2023 Employment Research Brief

American Nurses Credentialing Center, Our Certifications

Indeed, “RN vs. a BSN Degree: What Are the Key Differences?”

National Council of State Boards of Nursing, NCLEX & Other Exams

Payscale, Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) Degree

Payscale, Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses

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