How Second Degree Nursing Programs Work

January 13, 2024
4 mins read

How Second Degree Nursing Programs Work

By Career Desk



Saturday, November 28, 2020.


There is a growing number of students who are interested in becoming registered nurses (RNs). This number includes students who already have a first degree in another field.¬


Nursing schools have put a program in place to cater to this unique set of students wishing to change careers. These programs are called second degree RN programs. Also known as direct-entry or accelerated nursing programs, second degree RN programs allow students to become qualified nurses within one year of full-time study. After completing the program, they get awarded a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.


It is only natural for second degree RN program students to feel reluctant to return to campus life. Not many people would want to commit to many more years of school. After all, a first degree is already in the bag. The good news is that the program is not like freshman year of college. Students do not have to worry about dorms or learn how to do laundry for the first time. They can simply focus on their new nursing career and gain clinical experience along the way.


Who Can Qualify?

Anybody wishing to pursue a career in nursing can be enrolled in second degree RN programs, so long as they have their Bachelor’s degree and they meet the admission requirements. The ideal candidates are usually required to have a striving for academic excellence. The training is intense, so some degree of ambition, motivation, and dedication are extra tools needed to excel.

Drawn by Better Career Prospects

Not many people would want to be drawn to a program as fast-paced and as intensive as the second degree RN program. Many students are dissatisfied with their current jobs. Some have had a good personal experience with nurses and other healthcare professionals. Nurses have typically been described as smart, caring, and empathic.


Program Types

Second degree RN programs are designed to offer a fast-track degree and prepare students for a rewarding career in nursing. There are different program types, and each may have specific requirements, so it is important to take note of them. Some schools are open only to students who have a bachelor’s in science, while others tailor their programs to students with a bachelor’s in any discipline.


Schools running second degree RN programs do not all have a specific or standard start date. Some may begin in September, others may start in October or January, as the case may be.¬


Due to the condensed nature of second degree RN programs, there are no breaks between semesters. Classes are held throughout the year, so it is important to plan and draw up schedules accordingly.


Students have the option to study online or on-campus. The online option is significantly cheaper, as the cost of travel, campus accommodation, and training materials are not included among the list of expenses. The amount of time spent on clinical practice (about 700 to 800 hours) is the same for both pathways.


The Curriculum

Some of the courses included in the curriculum for second degree RN programs are as follows:


Pathophysiology and Pharmacology for Nursing

Comprehensive Health Assessment

Health Assessment Lab

Fundamentals of Nursing Practice

Promoting Healthy Populations

Transitional Care of Families and Populations

Collaborative Practice

Biophysical Processes

Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice

Adaptive Processes

Leadership in Healthcare Delivery and Policy

Interactive Processes

Healthcare Ethics

Second Degree Synthesis for Professional Nursing Practice

Complex Processes


Clinical rotations occur in real hospital settings. Students work with real nursing staff and tutors in a variety of settings.

The Online Route

Schools offering second degree RN programs have incorporated an online element to meet the needs of students who find it hard to attend face-to-face sessions. This makes scheduling more flexible and provides more ways to learn. Students are not required to show up in a classroom. They have the freedom to get their work done at their convenience. This does not mean, however, that strict deadlines do not apply to these students. The program is structured, and as such due dates must be met.


It should also be noted that while classes can be received online, clinical practice and lab work must be done in person. Clinical rotations can be completed in nearby communities, so students do not have to travel far from their places of abode.

Admission Criteria

Students should typically have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in a field other than nursing. All prerequisite courses must have been completed with a grade of C¬†or better in each course and a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher by the application deadline.¬


Some of the prerequisite courses are listed below:


Human Nutrition (3 credits)

Medical Microbiology or General Microbiology (3 credits)

Anatomy and Physiology I with lab (4 credits)

Anatomy and Physiology II with lab (4 credits)¬

Statistics (3 credits)

Human Growth and Development throughout the Lifespan (3 credits)


Accredited programs are designed to prepare students to take the National Council License Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).¬


Financial Support

There is plenty of information and guidance to help students fund their second degree RN programs. Schools have funding opportunities for students, thanks to alumni and donors who regularly come to their aid. The appropriate departments within the schools can help students apply for grants, loans, employment opportunities, and other need-based scholarships.

A lot of hard work is needed to complete the second degree RN program. It is all worth it in the end, as registered nurses are said to have a rosy outlook, with a 12 percent increase in projected job growth through 2028, according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics. Nurses with a BSN degree have a lucrative career ahead of them, with many specialties to choose from. Forbes reported the average annual salary of an RN to be $75, 510.


No doubt, the second degree RN program is fast-paced and intense. It requires a lot of time and effort. With focus and dedication, good friends, and a support system, there will be no challenge too big to overcome. It will be an enjoyable ride!

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