Is an ABSN Worth it – (Pros VS. Cons)


Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN


Do you have a bachelor’s degree but think a career change to nursing is something you’d like to consider? Maybe you’ve thought of becoming a nurse before but didn’t want to lose previous college credits or even know where to begin. If this sounds like you, an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) degree could be what you're looking for. Then again, you may be wondering, “Is an ABSN worth it?”

Throughout this article, I am going to share some information about ABSN programs, including 25 reasons why an ABSN is worth it and also 7 reasons why it may not be the right degree for you. By the time you finish reading, you will have enough information to determine if an ABSN degree is something you wish to pursue. So, let's get started!



WHAT IS AN ABSN DEGREE?


An ABSN degree is an undergraduate degree designed to give students with a non-nursing bachelor's degree the opportunity to become registered nurses in less time than a traditional bachelor's in nursing program. Because you already have a bachelor's degree in another field, you can usually complete the program for a fraction of the cost without sacrificing a quality nursing education.

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HOW LONG DOES AN ABSN DEGREE TAKE?


Typically, ABSN programs are completed within 12-18 months. However, some variables will affect the time you spend taking courses, including whether you are enrolled full or part-time, your educational background, and the number of eligible transfer credits you have. The shorter length of ABSN programs is one of the biggest reasons an ABSN is worth it.

One example of an ABSN program is found at the University of Pennsylvania. The program at the university takes full-time students 15 months to complete. Part-time students can earn their BSN in two or three years. Villanova University has a program that's only 14 months if you attend full-time and 23 months if you enroll part-time.



HOW MUCH DOES AN ABSN DEGREE COST?


ABSN programs range widely in cost. Some programs start around $40,000, while others cost $130,000 or more. For example, Loyola University Chicago's ABSN program tuition is $60,920. The price does not include books or other program and course fees. This price applies to both online and in-person students.

The University of Pennsylvania ABSN program costs approximately $115,225 for tuition. Program fees, living expenses, books, and supplies typically cost an additional $41,060. In all, attending the 15-month ABSN program will cost you around $156,285.



WHAT ARE THE ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS FOR AN ABSN DEGREE?


Colleges and universities establish admission criteria for their programs. Although some admission requirements vary, most have the same general requirements. The following are examples of the admission requirements for accredited ABSN degree programs.

• You must have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field earned at an accredited college or university
• Have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 for the last 60 credit hours of college coursework
• Complete the HESI entrance exam with minimum scores achieved
• Provide official transcripts from any post-secondary coursework
• Prepare a Statement of Intent
• Submit a resume or CV





WHY IS AN ABSN WORTH IT? – THE PROS


(The following are the 25 reasons why an ABSN is worth it in 2023.)

REASON #1: You will go further with a bachelor's degree.


This is one of the top reasons why an ABSN is worth it. Associate degrees are a minimum requirement for nursing licenses, but employers know that ABSN holders have advanced knowledge and skills that are beneficial to their medical practice. You will have access to more administrative and leadership opportunities with a bachelor's degree in nursing.


REASON #2: Increase your earning potential.


According to Forbes Magazine, the average annual income for individuals with a bachelor's degree in any field is $59,600. Graduates of ABSN programs who earn their RN license and work as registered nurses earn an average of $82,750. The income-earning potential alone is one of the top reasons why an ABSN is worth it. Not only will an ABSN help you land better positions, but you'll also bring home more money by choosing a specialty field. Travel, neonatal, and emergency room nurses are just a few of the positions that can net a bigger paycheck.


REASON #3: Nationwide Shortage Means Available Jobs


The current nursing shortage in the United States and abroad means there is a need for new nurses to provide patient care. Pursuing your RN career through an ABSN degree program means you can earn your degree and get to work faster, making it another of the excellent reasons why an ABSN is worth it.


REASON #4: An ABSN grants you the ability to work in a Magnet hospital.


Another one of the biggest reasons why an ABSN is worth it is that Magnet hospitals want quality-trained bachelor’s trained nurses to work with patients. Magnet hospitals are the gold standard when it comes to innovation in the nursing field. They receive certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) if the institution empowers nurses to lead patient care.


REASON #5: You will get your nursing degree sooner.


Traditional BSN programs can take four years or longer to complete. When you leverage your previous bachelor's degree to transfer eligible credits, you can cut the time it takes to become a registered nurse in half, which is a huge plus if you're ready to get out there and put your love for nursing to work!


REASON #6: Remote learning is available.


If your lifestyle does not allow time for you to sit in a lecture hall or classroom for hours, you may have the option of online learning as part of the ABSN program. All nursing programs have in-person clinical requirements. So, you will need to consider the time requirements for completing the clinical training component. However, you may be able to complete some or all of your coursework online.


REASON #7: ABSN holders are respected in and outside their field.


It generally goes without saying that people respect the effort it takes to earn a college degree. When you earn your degree through an ABSN program, you will have two degrees under your belt, something everyone you meet can respect.


REASON #8: You can choose a specialty area that utilizes your strengths.


One of the great things about nursing is that there are endless opportunities to choose a specialty role or patient population to focus your career on. For example, if you have a natural rapport with older patients, you should consider gerontological nursing. If working with children is easy for you, pediatric nursing may be a good choice. The great thing is, with so many specialties to choose from, you can always transition to something new if you feel burned out or want a change.


REASON #9: ABSN programs focus solely on your nursing education.


You're entering an ABSN program because you already had fulfilled the general learning requirements when you earned your first bachelor's degree. Now, you can focus solely on the nursing education.


REASON #10: The return on investment is positive.


The earning potential alone means the ABSN is worth it, but the return on investment is another reason to consider enrolling in a program. Fresh nursing school graduates can expect to make an average of nearly $60,000 annually, which means they will have paid for school (depending on the program) within a year or two.


REASON #11: No prior nursing experience is required.


As long as you have a bachelor's degree, you can apply to an ABSN program. It does not matter if the degree is in psychology, communications, history, or another non-related field. Another benefit is you won't feel out of place in class, as there will be others in the program without nursing experience. The diversity in backgrounds will provide helpful insights everyone can use in nursing.


REASON #12: You have real-world experiences with work and school.


Because you have already been a student and gained some real-world experiences in the workforce and your personal life, you are a few steps ahead of a traditional nursing student. Your adjustment period will be shorter because you’ve already learned to manage life's curve balls and know which resources to tap into when faced with challenges.


REASON #13: You’ll make yourself more marketable to employers.


Attending an ABSN program shows a level of dedication and commitment most employers are looking for. You earned not one but two bachelor's degrees. The second bachelor's, your BSN, is earned in an accelerated format, which tells prospective employers you can stay on task and accomplish goals quickly and efficiently. The investment of your time and effort will not go unnoticed by potential employers when they review your resume.


REASON #14: You will help contribute to better patient outcomes.


Caring for patients has become more complex with the introduction of new technologies. An ABSN program prepares you to work with new techniques and advancements in the field. The knowledge and skills you acquire in the ABSN program will help you become an effective nurse capable of contributing to high-quality nursing care and improved patient outcomes.


REASON #15: ABSN programs teach more than technical care skills.


Nurses undoubtedly need to learn the technical skills needed to perform the job, but there are also "soft" skills that must be used when interacting with patients and families. They include effective communication, compassion, patience, being a team player, and more. One of the top reasons an ABSN degree is worth it is that you will learn essential skills needed to demonstrate professionalism and compassion, resulting in better nurse-patient and nurse-peer relationships.


REASON #16: You can easily transition to a graduate program and seek an advanced practice degree.


An ABSN degree is worth it as it lays the foundation for future graduate nursing studies. When you pursue a graduate degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice, you can take on advanced practice roles, such as becoming a Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Midwife, or Clinical Nurse Specialist.


REASON #17: Travel the world with your ABSN degree.


You don't have to stay stateside to care for patients. Once you complete your ABSN degree and get some bedside experience, you may decide it's time to travel the world. With an ABSN degree, you can work as a travel nurse, making money while seeing and experiencing places you may not otherwise go. Travel nursing is an excellent way to boost your resume, too!


REASON #18: Gain the needed clinical experience in less time.


Nursing is one field where hands-on practice is a necessary part of your learning. An ABSN program puts you on the fast track, so you will have a variety of simulated lab experiences before going into the field and working with real patients.


REASON#19: You can pursue a role outside of the traditional hospital or clinic settings.


Perhaps you love the nursing field but feel that hospitals are dreary. With an ABSN, you can look beyond the hospital and work in a setting more suited to your liking. You may choose to become part of an airplane nursing crew, medical disaster team, or work in public health settings. The opportunities are endless.


REASON #20: Dual degrees mean more doors of opportunity.


Another reason an ABSN is worth it is that you can leverage the fact that you have two degrees to find the perfect job. Depending on your degree specialty, you may choose to be a nurse consultant, nurse attorney, counselor, or nurse writer for blogs, websites, magazines, tv shows, and movies.


REASON #21: Boredom is not an option.


ABSN degree holders soon find out that no two days are the same in the life of a nurse. Every day, you get to meet new people and tackle new challenges. Constant changes keep work exciting as you care for patients and families and provide support to your team.


REASON #22: Work as a per diem nurse with your ABSN degree.


One of the best aspects of the nursing field is the flexibility you can have in your schedule. Per diem nurses fill in gaps where there's a need. This is great for those who really want to go where healthcare access is limited, or workers are understaffed. These nurses are on-call and pick their own schedules, not to mention per diem pay is usually quite generous.


REASON #23: Flexible work schedules


Another reason people love nursing is the variety of jobs and schedules they can choose from. ABSN programs are worth it if you want flexibility or say-so concerning when and where you work. Unlike many professions with set schedules, nurses, like graduates of ABSN programs, can choose part-time, full-time, or rotating shifts. The flexibility in scheduling is especially appealing to nurses with families or other obligations outside of work.


REASON #24: Many nursing specialties and employers prefer BSN nurses.


Many healthcare facilities prefer to hire registered nurses with at least a BSN degree. Studies suggest that BSN nurses are associated with better patient outcomes, including reduced risk of patient injuries and medication errors. Hospitals prefer to hire nurses with at least a BSN degree, as this is one of the criteria for achieving Magnet status. If you plan on working in the nursing industry for any amount of time, it is safe to say earning your ABSN is worth it.


REASON #25: Enjoy a rewarding and fulfilling career.


Each day you will go to work knowing you are making a difference in the lives of your patients and their families. The impact you have on those you encounter and the relationships you form with patients and peers is invaluable.



WHY AN ABSN MAY NOT BE WORTH IT FOR YOU? – THE CONS

Now that we have discussed the 25 reasons why an ABSN is worth it, I want to share a few reasons why you could feel an ABSN is not worth it.


REASON #1: Absorbing so much information in so little time will be difficult.


Although there are perks to earning a degree in a short time, the amount of information you must absorb and retain in an ABSN program may leave you feeling overwhelmed. If you have no knowledge of healthcare or healthcare-related experience, it can be quite challenging. In this case, you may feel an ABSN degree is not worth it.


REASON #2: It's a high-priced investment.


An accelerated nursing program has its perks, but if you're pinching pennies, it may not be the best option for you. Although ABSN programs start out in the $40,000 range, some cost upward of $130,000 or more. There are scholarships, grants, and loan opportunities, but you need to apply early and be persistent if you need help paying for your degree.


REASON #3: Rigorous curriculum


Shorter program lengths make ABSN programs appealing. However, the curriculum is typically rigorous and content-heavy. Keeping up with coursework can feel overwhelming at times and may leave you feeling that an ABSN degree is not worth it. Don’t sell yourself short and give up, though! With dedication and good time management for study, you can do this!


REASON #4: Free Time? What’s that?


Another reason you may feel an ABSN is not worth it is the lack of free time. ABSN programs cover a lot of content in a short time, which means you need to focus. It's up to you to decide if the short-term inconvenience is worth the long-term benefits of earning the degree.


REASON #5: Restrictions on Federal Financial Aid


If you’re counting on financial assistance to pay for your ABSN program, you’ll need to do your research. Eligibility for Federal Pell Grants is restricted to students who have not yet earned a bachelor's degree, which means ABSN students need alternative sources to help pay for their degree. There are other options for financial assistance, such as applying for scholarships, grants, and student loans. If you plan to use any of these resources, it is wise to apply early and to as many programs as you can find.


REASON #6: Limited Electives


Accelerated BSN programs are exactly that... accelerated. You will cover a lot of content in a short time. The programs are usually strictly structured, which means there is little or no time to add electives of your choosing. While this is not a deal-breaker, if you are interested in a specialty or career focus, you may need to wait until you complete the ABSN program and enroll in additional courses to pursue those interests.


REASON #7: You cannot rely on external motivators and succeed.


It takes a strong resolve and personal motivation to succeed in an ABSN program. If you rely on others for motivation, you may find it difficult to succeed in the program. Create a list of goals and dreams that are important to you and keep it where you can see it as a reminder for why you are pursuing this degree. Remember, encouragement from others is always a plus, but at the end of the day, it is your drive and genuine desire to earn this degree that will make you succeed.




WHAT ARE THE 3 MAIN REASONS BEHIND THE DEMAND FOR ABSN DEGREE HOLDERS?


When choosing a new career path, one of the most important things to consider is whether there is a need for the services you'll provide. Nursing is no different. The demand for ABSN holders is high right now due to a nursing shortage that is predicted to only worsen if action isn't taken soon. The following are the three main reasons behind the strong demand for ABSN holders.

1. An aging population requires healthcare services:

All baby boomers will reach the retirement age of 65 by 2030. This may be considered a double-edged sword, as not only are members of the general population and in other professions aging, but so are nurses. The increase in older populations with varying degrees of health, illness, and chronic disease means there is an increased need for qualified nursing professionals to provide care.

2. Post-pandemic burnout has led to many nurses leaving their positions:

When hospitals were overrun with COVID-19 patients, nursing units were understaffed. The nurses on duty were overworked and left fatigued due to higher patient loads and additional responsibilities. The emotional, mental, and physical toll resulted in burnout causing many nurses to choose different career paths. The absence created by the nurses who made a healthcare exodus means we need more nurses to fill those voids.

3. There has been a rise in chronic diseases among adults in the United States:

Chronic diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease are major contributors to annual healthcare costs. Excessive tobacco and alcohol use, sedentary lifestyles, and poor nutrition are at the center of this upsurge. The increase in chronic disease means more Americans are seeking healthcare professionals to treat their conditions. ABSN nurses bridge the gap between patients and doctors, performing nursing assessments, and teaching patients and families about illness, disease, and health promotion and disease prevention measures, and the need for these services is now greater than ever.



WHAT IS THE STARTING SALARY FOR NEW ABSN DEGREE HOLDERS?


The average starting salary for ABSN program graduates is $59,450 per year. That breaks down to $4,950 monthly, $1,143 weekly, and $28.58 hourly.

Hourly$28.58
Weekly$1,143
Monthly$4,950
Annual$59,450
(Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)



WHAT IS THE AVERAGE SALARY FOR EXPERIENCED ABSN DEGREE HOLDERS?


The average salary for ABSN holders is $82,750 annually. That translates to $6,900 per month, $1,591 per week, and $39.78 per hour.

Hourly$39.78
Weekly$1,591
Monthly$6,900
Annual$82,750
(Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)



IS THE COST OF AN ABSN DEGREE WORTH THE RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI)?


The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows registered nurses earn a median annual wage of $77,600. Even if you attend a more expensive ABSN program and pay over $100K for your degree, after two or three years, you will begin to see a positive Return on Investment, indicating the cost of an ABSN degree is worth it.



WHAT ARE THE 3 BEST JOBS YOU CAN GET WITH AN ABSN DEGREE?


Obtaining your bachelor's degree in nursing opens doors to several different career pathways. You can work bedside with patients or choose an administrative position. Here are the best three jobs ABSN holders can get.

1. Nurse Lobbyist:

If the challenges facing the nursing profession concern you and you want to do something to pitch in and help, you can get involved on a legislative level by becoming a nurse lobbyist. As a nurse lobbyist, you will work with politicians, public officials, and government institutions to introduce bills that, if passed into law, will improve the healthcare system, benefiting patients, nurses, and the profession.

2. Nurse Educator:

Nurse educators have the privilege of spreading their wealth of knowledge to nursing students entering the field. Education facilities are in need of dedicated registered nurses to help train new staff and introduce new policies and procedures. Teaching is a great way to make use of your expertise and pass what you know on to a new generation of nurses. The fact that you are a dual degree holder is a definite plus on your Nurse Educator resume, too.

3. Tech Nurse:

This is a relatively new field that continues to grow. Advances in technology have opened opportunities for nurses to enhance the healthcare services they provide. Tech companies work with nurses to gain their professional perspectives on how technology can be implemented in the industry.



BONUS! 3 TIPS TO MAKE MORE MONEY WITH AN ABSN DEGREE?


While the healthcare field focuses on bettering the well-being of its patients, no one pursues a career in hopes of making less money. Here are a few ways you can earn extra money with your ABSN degree.

1. Become certified:

Obtaining certification in a specialty area will beef up your resume and, subsequently, your paycheck. Becoming certified increases confidence in your skills, which empowers you to pursue better job opportunities.

2. Freelance healthcare writing:

The internet is the first place people look for help when they are not feeling well. Unfortunately, there is a lot of untrustworthy medical advice out there that can harm those who believe they are on a credible website. As a professional nurse, you have the knowledge and experience that healthcare blogs and websites need to advise readers responsibly.

3. Telehealth nursing:

If you want to earn additional money in nursing without leaving the comfort of your couch, telehealth nursing allows you to work from home. You can schedule doctor appointments, perform follow-up telehealth calls with patients, and triage patients to determine if they need outside care with little more than a phone or computer with a webcam.



SO, IS AN ABSN WORTH YOUR TIME AND MONEY – MY FINAL THOUGHTS


Although earning a bachelor's degree in nursing can lead to a lucrative career, is an ABSN worth your time and money? The answer really depends on your lifestyle and immediate future plans, which is why we covered 25 reasons why an ABSN is worth it and also 7 reasons why it may not be the right degree for you. If you have the time and mental capacity to endure an accelerated degree program and the finances available to complete the course, take it. Getting an ABSN is worth the time and money spent, not to mention the millions of baby boomers approaching retirement age, and overworked nurses will be thankful!



FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ANSWERED


1. What Is The Best Age To Do An ABSN Degree?

There is no recommended age to enter the nursing field. In fact, older adults are encouraged to apply to ABSN programs as they tend to be highly self-motivated and able to prioritize tasks.


2. How Hard Is It To Get Into An ABSN Degree Program?

Admission to ABSN programs can be competitive. However, because of the shortage of nurses, many schools are implementing plans to offer more programs and accommodate more students, which could increase your chances of early acceptance. The major determining factor for ABSN program entrance will be your academic history. Most programs require you to have a GPA of 3.0, but with the predicted nursing shortages to come, some institutions only require a 2.5 GPA.


3. Do I Need Work Experience To Get Into An ABSN Degree Program?

While experience is not required, it is recommended that you have some volunteer or work experience in the field. The more experience you have, the easier it will be for you to understand and absorb the medical training.


4. What Is The Minimum GPA To Get Into An ABSN Degree Program?

Most colleges set the limit for the minimum GPA for ABSN candidates at 3.0 on a 4.0 grading scale.


5. Are Online ABSN Degree Programs Worth It?

Yes! Accredited online ABSN programs are definitely worth it! Online learning permits students to study at their own pace at a time and location that works best for them. This is perfect for students with responsibilities that make it difficult to attend scheduled classroom sessions.


6. Are Scholarships And Grants Available For ABSN Degree Programs?

ABSN programs accept scholarships and grants; just be sure to check with the admissions team for specifics. The Foundation of the National Student Nurses Association (FNSNA) and the Minority Nurse Magazine Scholarship Program both offer students funding for school.


7. Is It Hard To Complete An ABSN Degree?

ABSN programs are intense as they cram four years' worth of learning into 15-18 months. That means you will be buried in books and clinical work for several months. However, despite the difficulties or challenges of the program, it is possible to be successful and begin your nursing career.


8. Can ABSN Students Have A Life?

Of course, ABSN students can have a life. You will need to find a balance between your personal and academic life. Nursing school will take up most of your time, so plan activities and events during the rare moments you find a free moment.


9. Can I Work Part-Time And Successfully Complete The ABSN Degree Program?

Many ABSN students work part-time while attending school and finish the program successfully.


10. Can I Work Full-Time And Successfully Complete The ABSN Degree Program?

The course load for ABSN programs is heavy, and attending nursing school while maintaining a full-time job will not be easy, but it can be done.


11. Do Students Fail In ABSN Degree Programs?

Unfortunately, some students do fail in ABSN programs. You should never measure your likelihood for success based on someone else's achievements or lack thereof. The program can be challenging, but with hard work and dedication, success is possible.


12. Will I Ever Regret Getting An ABSN Degree?

It is impossible to say whether you will regret getting an ABSN degree. Even if you later choose to transition your career in a different direction, the knowledge, skills, and experience you obtain through an ABSN program can be beneficial to you.


13. How Much Does An ABSN Graduate Make Per Hour?

ABSN graduates make an average of $39,78 per hour.

$39.78


12. How Much Does An ABSN Graduate Make Per Year?

The average annual salary for ABSN graduates is $82,750.

$82,750


13. Will ABSN Graduates Be Paid Less In The Future?

In recent years, the nursing shortage has reflected an increase in nursing salaries to make the position more attractive. With the continued shortage and greater demand for nursing professionals, it is unlikely that ABSN graduates will be paid less in the future.


14. Are All ABSN Graduates Successful In Their Careers?

Like any career, not all ABSN graduates find success. Your level of success will depend on your effort, drive, and dedication to the profession. Keep in mind you don't have to settle for one position. You can use your degree to find the job that is best suited for you and become successful.


15. Are ABSN Graduates Happy With Their Jobs?

Studies indicate overall, ABSN graduates are happy with their careers.


16. Can ABSN Degree Holders Become Rich?

While your ABSN salary alone may not be enough to make you rich, there is nothing that says you cannot build wealth as an ABSN degree holder. Having a solid financial plan, budgeting your income and expenses, and investing wisely can help increase your likelihood of long-term financial stability.


17. What Are Some Of The Best ABSN Degree Alternatives?

Some great alternatives to ABSN degrees for aspiring caregivers are careers in medical assisting, health science, respiratory therapy, and occupational therapy, just to name a few.


Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).