How to Become an RN Fast: Change Your Career and Your Life

An accelerated nursing program is one of the most effective ways to become an RN fast, so we’ll examine ABSN programs in-depth and share useful skills for transfer students and individuals returning to school to pursue a career in nursing.

Utica ABSN student with text: Making the change to nursing

If you’re reading this, it’s likely because you’ve decided that pivoting career or educational career paths and pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S. in Nursing) degree is the right step for you. Congratulations! Nursing is an exciting, growing career field, with median pay at more than $75,000 per year and a projected industry growth of 7 percent over the next decade according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But how long does it take to get a B.S. in Nursing degree, and can you quickly enter nursing as a second career? Even if you haven’t already graduated with a degree, how would the transfer process work as an undergraduate student?

Luckily, B.S. in Nursing degrees are now more achievable than ever due to the existence of Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) programs. These programs, like the one offered through Utica College, make a nursing education much more accessible and allow a second career or degree switch to feel much closer.

Read on to learn what it will take to get into an ABSN program, hear from students about the challenges and advantages the program poses, and how to apply previous study or career skills to be successful in your education and as a nurse.

How Long Does it Take get a B.S. in Nursing for Transfer Students?

Typically, a B.S. in Nursing degree would require a four-year commitment at a traditional, 100% on-campus nursing school. Unfortunately, this is simply too long for many, who might feel that spending four years in pursuit of a new career is simply too long when they already have a job, or are close to graduating along a different career path.

Luckily, ABSN programs are a viable alternative that provide the same high-quality nursing education on an accelerated timeframe. Often (and as it is in Utica’s case) ABSN programs can take as few as 16 months to complete for eligible students, who can choose from three start dates per year. The program combines online-based coursework with on-site skills and simulation labs, as well as supervised clinical rotations at leading local healthcare facilities.

However, this 16-month timeline only applies if you’ve met all program admission requirements, including having already completed prerequisite courses. Don’t worry though, you still have an option to complete prerequisites on an accelerated timeline and disrupt your ideal timeline as little as possible.

Utica’s Prerequisite Priority (PREP) Program

Because nursing requires skills in science, math and biology, Utica ABSN (as well as most other nursing colleges) requires students to have completed a series of prerequisite courses before officially beginning the program. However, there is a path to enrollment through taking the courses below as part of our Prerequisite Priority (PREP) Program.

General PrerequisitesNatural Science Prerequisites
StatisticsAnatomy & Physiology I + Lab
Life Span Development PsychologyAnatomy & Physiology II + Lab
 Chemistry + Lab
 Microbiology + Lab

This program allows for students to enroll in 100% online, accelerated prerequisite courses that result in transferrable credits and, most importantly, provisional admission to the ABSN program. Whether you’re a transfer student or simply returning to school for your second degree, our PREP program allows you to become familiar with online, accelerated coursework while expanding your financial aid options. Provided you meet admissions requirements, this can be the best way into an ABSN program and toward your B.S. in Nursing degree.

Transferring into an ABSN Program

Perhaps you haven’t earned your degree yet but are looking to make the switch into the nursing field through a transfer. For this situation, you can leverage Utica College’s advanced standing requirements to enter the Utica ABSN program without a bachelor’s degree (provided you meet eligibility requirements).

Through advanced standing, those who transfer into the Utica ABSN program located in Syracuse, New York, must have a minimum of 65 credits from a regionally accredited college or university, with at least 57 credits being from a four-year regionally accredited college or university. Additionally, students must meet additional eligibility requirements which include:

  • A 2.8 cumulative GPA, with a 3.0 GPA in the sciences.
  • 60 credit hours in liberal arts courses, including ABSN program prerequisites
  • Science prerequisites must be completed with a 3.0 overall GPA.
  • All four courses (and their associated labs) must have been taken in the last 10 years. The lab must also be connected to the course. Any course under a C must be re-taken through PREP. The lab grade must also be a C or better.
  • A grade of ‘C’ or better in general prerequisites.
nursing student studying with book and laptop

Returning to School for a Second Degree Through an ABSN Program

For the Utica ABSN program, the same eligibility requirements as transfer students apply for those who have already graduated with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Returning to school to pursue nursing as a second career can be intimidating. But don’t worry, it’s never too late to learn.

Especially for those who graduated with a degree in (or have been working in the fields of) education or science, nursing school can be a natural fit with plenty of transferrable skills. Later, we’ll discuss helpful career skills in nursing, so if you make the most of what you’ve learned out in the world and also practice good study habits, a degree is within your reach.

Start the application process, and see what comes next for you on an individual level.

Challenges of Accelerated Nursing Programs for Transfer Students

Accelerated nursing programs, like the one offered through Utica College, have their own unique set of challenges. Each of these are elements you’ll need to contend with as a student transferring into an ABSN program, but if you keep each in mind and put strategies in place to overcome them, you can earn your B.S. in Nursing degree on time.

Faster-Moving Courses

In a 16-month program that teaches the same amount of material as a traditional nursing program curriculum, course material will start coming at you fast right from the start. This might feel overwhelming at first, especially because previous courses you’ve taken might not be as demanding, but don’t lose hope. Instructors and your fellow students are ready to support you at every turn, whether that means individual help from instructors to understand a concept or regular group study sessions to help achieve as a cohort.

Time-Consuming Study

Multiple fast-moving courses, coupled with skills and simulation labs and clinical rotations, will leave you little free time outside of studying. Here, it’s important to evaluate your personal responsibilities and realistically evaluate whether you’ll be able to take on an ABSN program. By speaking with an admissions representative, you can start to form a plan for balancing your academic and life responsibilities before you’re in too deep.

The Need to Financially Invest

In order to pursue this lucrative career through a high-quality education, you’ll need to be prepared to invest in your future. Luckily, plenty of financial aid and financing options are available, and your increased earning potential for the rest of your career will more than outweigh the upfront cost of earning a valued B.S. in Nursing degree.

Utica ABSN students studying together

Advantages of Accelerated Nursing Programs for Transfer Students

Despite the challenges that naturally come from pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing over the course of an accelerated timeline as a transfer student, ABSN programs come with plenty of advantages that make the effort worthwhile.

From the ability to get your degree and begin your new career more quickly, to the difference that instructors, faculty and your fellow cohort members are able to make on your nursing education, let’s explore the advantages of ABSN programs while hearing firsthand from Utica ABSN program graduates on their experiences.

A Faster Degree Path for Transfer Students and Previous Graduates

With a path to graduation that could take qualified students as few as 16 months, ABSN programs offer a viable way to become an RN fast. By getting your degree more quickly, you’ll have the opportunity to begin earning in your new career years before you otherwise would with a traditional nursing program.

For students who wanted to transfer or go back to school for a nursing degree, becoming a nurse as quickly as possible was a major factor that helped them choose the Utica ABSN program as the right option for them.

“When I was seriously searching for [a nursing program], I wanted one that didn’t take too long, within a one- to two-year period,” says Jason D., 2020 Utica ABSN program graduate. “I wanted the program to be accredited and to get a bachelor’s degree at the end, because I didn’t want to get an associate degree and come back to do a bachelor’s afterward.”

Utica 2019 ABSN program graduate Jessica T. was also excited when she discovered the accelerated nature of the program. As she shared when asked about what drew her to the program, “The main thing about Utica ABSN that stood out for me was that it was obviously a 16-month program. I believe that this is a large enough timeframe to get the education I need but also not hold me back in my career.”

The 16-month length of ABSN programs is career-friendly, allowing students to leverage all the expert instruction and hands-on experience they’ve gotten from their time in the program to find a new job as an RN fast. With a growing career field, plenty of new nursing opportunities are waiting for B.S. in Nursing graduates.

Highly Supportive Faculty and Cohorts

As a student in an ABSN program, you’ll experience online-based coursework, as well as in-person skills and simulation labs and clinical rotations, at a rapid pace. In order to be able to succeed, graduate, successfully pass the NCLEX-RN exam and become a registered nurse, you’ll need plenty of support from everyone around you. In Utica’s ABSN program, that comes in the form of a positive culture amongst faculty, staff and fellow students in the program.

Instructors are attentive to student needs thanks to smaller class sizes and are always ready to answer questions and help students toward success. Beyond positive student/instructor relationships, fellow cohort members go above and beyond to support one another while studying, practicing new techniques, or simply de-stressing before the next deadline. Combined, the support that each student receives makes it feel much more possible to succeed and earn a B.S. in Nursing degree.

On the personalized attention he received during his time in the Utica ABSN program, Jason D. reflects, “Because we have smaller class sizes, I feel like it’s easier to reach out to professors. It’s easier to get answers from them and they’re easier to talk to. When I was first in college, some of those classrooms were auditorium-sized and you got lost in the crowd. These classes, you get the full attention. I feel like it’s better this way.”

Many Utica ABSN students feel especially grateful for the support they received while pursuing their degree. “At the end of the program we had a pinning ceremony and you had the option to choose anyone to attach the pin,” recalls program graduate Jessica T. “I chose my onsite faculty, because they have really seen me progress through these whole 16 months and they have allowed me to excel in this program.”

Intensive, Hands-On Training by Expert Instructors

Traditional B.S. in Nursing programs are similar to ABSN programs in that with both, students will learn the same nursing skills and techniques. In an ABSN program, however, applying those skills and techniques during clinical rotations is especially intensive.

With the Utica ABSN program, for example, over the course of 16 months, each student will complete at least 588 hours of clinical practice at leading healthcare facilities local to our ABSN program site. Under the supervision of a licensed preceptor or clinical instructor, each student will learn how to:

  • Apply nursing theory and clinical skills in patient care,
  • Exhibit caring behaviors when treating patients,
  • Apply appropriate communication strategies,
  • Perform safe therapeutic interventions, and
  • Employ ethical perspectives in patient care.

“My clinical professors have helped me grow into a nurse I want to be when I graduate from this program,” Jessica T. shares. “I want to be very confident when approaching a patient, and I’ve been able to learn that with Utica’s education.”

Knowledge, skill and the confidence to put them into practice are invaluable when preparing for a career in nursing, as Utica ABSN students have found.

“My favorite part of the ABSN program have been clinicals,” says Utica ABSN graduate Sandra A. “I love clinicals. I feel like it helps us put all our learning into practice. Not that we are practicing on patients, but every time I step into a patient’s room I become more comfortable, and I think that’s really necessary to build the confidence and feel like you’re competent. Because it’s hard as a new nurse. You’re going to feel like ‘I don’t know anything!’ But you do know.”

Accelerated Nursing Program FAQs

Despite everything you’ve already heard about ABSN programs, it’s natural to have more questions, especially if you’re considering going back to school and pursuing nursing as a second career. Here, we’ll answer a few more questions about earning your B.S. in Nursing and how it can help you to make your nursing goals into reality.

ABSN Study Skills for Transfer and Second-Degree Students

Whether you’re a transfer student entering the Utica ABSN program to change your degree path, or returning for a second degree with sights set on a new career, you’ll need to make the most of your study skills to see you successfully through your 16 months of accelerated nursing education. With courses and material presented on this accelerated timeline, tests and deadlines can hit hard if you don’t stay consistently prepared.

What are some of the most important study tips to keep in mind as an ABSN student? During your previous degree path you may have made use of some or all of these skills, but keeping them in mind and putting them into practice will help you to stay ahead.

Organize Your Study Schedule

ABSN program graduates who have experienced the tight deadlines and rapid pace reiterate the need for study and organization. As Catalina C., a 2019 Utica ABSN program graduate says, “My advice to the students applying is don’t procrastinate. Do everything on time and don’t wait until the last minute, because you will feel the pressure.”

Take Advantage of Support Resources

Chelsea E., who graduated in 2020, adds the importance of relying on support in addition to structuring your studies.

“You want to take it step-by-step by looking at the calendar for all 16 weeks.,” she says. “Just know that it’s doable and classmates are there to help. Faculty is there to help. You don’t have to do it on your own. There are people there to support you.”

Skills You Can Apply from Your Previous Career Path to Succeed in Nursing

Whether you’ve just passed the NCLEX-RN exam or are still looking forward to labs and clinicals, there are several key characteristics that can make a nurse successful in their field. Luckily, if you’ve worked for an extended length of time in a previous career, you’ve probably honed multiple important skills that will transfer well into a nursing career. Each of these skills is important to take to heart, as they will be used on a day to day basis as you continue your nursing responsibilities.


Between attending to multiple patients, completing paperwork, speaking with other care providers and the many other day-to-day responsibilities you’ll be encountering as a nurse, multitasking is key to a successful nursing career. You’ve had to juggle projects before, and needed to stay on top of day-to-day responsibilities in addition to new or disruptive events in your previous career, no matter what field you worked in. Applying that flexibility and adaptability to nursing will help you stand apart once you enter the field.


Caring for patients is a team endeavor, with multiple nurses as well as other care professionals all taking up a valuable role. Similar to past careers, working well with people from different departments can help make your role as a nurse much easier. As a nurse you’re one of each patient’s most important advocates, so knowing who can do what for each patient and then arranging for the best care possible all comes down to collaborative skills. Practice collaboration as a student, and you’ll have the right attitude when entering a professional nursing environment.

Communication and Empathy

No matter how well you’re able to stay on top of your on-paper responsibilities, you’ll find nursing to be a challenging career if you’re not eager to communicate with and listen to patients. For those who connect with people easily, nursing can be a valuable opportunity to reach out and provide care to populations while forming rewarding bonds with patients.

As graduate Sandra A. relates, “I did community outreach for about 4 or 5 years. I conducted a lot of focus groups, I talked to a lot of community residents, particularly immigrant populations. Speaking to them and hearing their concerns, a big thing that stood out for me was the fact they couldn’t relate to their health care providers or even the health care team – from their patient services associate who was greeting them at the door, to their medical assistant, to their nurse. That really made me feel like, ‘OK, this is what I have to do.’”

three nursing students standing by patient bed

Start Pursuing a B.S. in Nursing Degree Today

No matter whether you’re attempting to transfer into a different degree path before graduation or return to school after years or even decades in a career, you can still earn your B.S. in Nursing degree and enter a new, exciting career path as a nurse.

Utica’s ABSN program can help you become an RN fast, and can be the next step you’ve been waiting for on the path to professional and personal fulfillment. Reach out to an admissions representative today and take the next step in your personal journey.

The Ultimate Nursing School Admissions Checklist

Ready for nursing school but stressed about applying? We recommend downloading our free admissions checklist to learn the important ins and outs of applying to accelerated nursing school.

The ultimate nursing school admissions checklist