Alternate Nursing Pathways

Are you interested in nursing, but didn't get into the BSN program at CSULB? The CSULB BSN program is what's called a "traditional BSN" program. However, nursing is a large, varied profession, meaning there are many alternate pathways to the profession. There are also many other health professions that could fulfill your desire for patient care and community wellness. We will go over a few options as you decide on your next steps.

  • Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (A-BSN)
  • Entry Level Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN)
  • FAQ on Second-Degree Programs
  • Explore Other Healthcare Options

Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (A-BSN)

For: students with a Bachelor's degree in any field who have completed the necessary prerequisites, students who want to explore the field of nursing as a RN.

Length: full-time, typically 12 to 24 months

An Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program (A-BSN) prepares students to take the National Council Licensing Examination (NCLEX) for Registered Nurse (RN) licensure while obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. These programs are full-time and intensive programs. Students will build on prior undergraduate coursework while also gaining valuable experience through lectures, labs, and clinical training.

California A-BSN Programs

(Name: length):

Entry Level Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

For: students with a Bachelor's degree in any field who have completed the necessary prerequisites, students interested in advanced practice and who know which nursing specialty they want to practice in.

Length: Full or part-time, 2-3 years

Entry-level Master of Science in Nursing degrees are designed for students who already possess a bachelor's degree or higher in a discipline other than nursing. Alternate names for Entry-level Masters include Direct-Entry MSN, Accelerated MSN, and Masters Entry to Nursing Practice (MENP). Students complete their baccalaureate-level content and initial RN licensure within the first year of the program before moving onto a specialized track for their Masters-level content. These fast-paced programs provide a challenging environment for students that have already proven their ability to succeed in post-secondary studies.

California Entry Level Master's Degree Programs

FAQ on Second Degree Programs

How competitive is it to get into a program?

Second-degree programs are typically competitive, especially for accelerated programs.Programs usually require a minimum of a 3.0 GPA and a thorough pre-screening process. Identifying students who will flourish in the rigorous environment of second degree programs is a priority for administrators.

What prerequisites will I need? What do I need to apply?

If you have applied to CSULB's BSN nursing program, the pre-requisites are largely the same for A-BSN or MSN programs. However, you must check the specific programs you are interested in applying to for their list of prerequisites. The following list is what many programs ask for from their applicants.


  • Human Anatomy with lab
  • Human Physiology with lab
  • Chemistry with lab
  • Microbiology with lab
  • Statistics

Some programs may also require courses in:

  • Oral Communication (i.e. Public Speaking)
  • Written Communication (i.e. English Composition)
  • Critical Thinking (i.e. Philosophy, Logic, etc.)
  • Psychology
  • Sociology or Anthropology
  • Child/Human Development
  • Nutrition

Standardized Exam

  • ATI TEAS: standardized exam for entry to a nursing program


  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Healthcare experience

What should I look for in a program?

This question is unique to each individual when it comes to cost, location, time, etc. However, in general, students should look for accredited programs (ACEN and/or CCNE) with a high pass rate on the NCLEX, the credentialing exam for nurses necessary to obtain a RN license and practice. As of 2020, the national average first-time pass rate is 89.61%.

Should I go for an A-BSN or MSN?

Considerations when choosing which programs to enter include time, cost, and your goals for your nursing career. A-BSN programs tend to be shorter and thus, less costly compared to MSN programs. A-BSN programs prepare students to become RNs involved in direct patient care, such as bedside nursing or in a clinic-based setting. Meanwhile, a graduate with a MSN may have options in other nursing roles, such as administration, management, or education.

Students who complete A-BSN programs always have the opportunity to go back to school after gaining experience as an RN, a path encouraged by many health care employers who may offer tuition reimbursement for employees pursuing higher education. However, an entry level MSN may be right for students who already know that they are interested in advanced practice, know which nursing specialty they are interested in, and want a more direct path to those careers.

Explore Other Healthcare Options

Reflect on why you are interested in nursing. Is it the amount of patient contact a nurse has? Do you enjoy the clinical care that nurses provide? Do you simply want to be part of the healthcare team to serve people? There is a wealth of health professions that could also fulfill your desire. Here are just a few of them:

Physician Assistant

Physician assistants (PAs) are health care professionals who practice medicine under the supervision of a licensed physician. PAs provide physical exams, order and administer tests, make diagnoses, and treat illnesses. PAs work in a variety of settings including hospitals, long-term care facilities, and surgical centers. They are qualified to practice in over 60 specialty areas. For students who are interested in advanced practice nursing akin to a nurse practitioner, such as prescribing medications or diagnosing illnesses, the PA path may be a great option for you.

Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists help people who suffer from chronic respiratory diseases like asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. People who have had heart attacks or who have sleep disorders and infants who are born prematurely might also need respiratory therapy to help them breathe more easily. They also provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart attacks, drowning or shock. For students interested in pulmonary or cardiopulmonary medicine and also want direct patient contact, the RRT career path may be a great option for you. Find out more about respiratory therapists on ExploreHealthCareers.

Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapy is the art and science of helping people do the day-to-day activities that are important and meaningful to their health and well-being. Occupational Therapists (OTs) make it possible for people who face physical, cognitive, or mental health changes to participate more fully in their life roles at home and at the school, at work, and at play. Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes. For students interested in direct patient contact, aiding individuals from a number of settings, and variety in their work activities, the OT career path may be a great option for you.

Physical Therapist

Physical therapists (PTs) are evidence-based healthcare professionals who diagnose and treat individuals of all ages who have medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives. They offer cost-effective treatment that improves mobility and relieves pain, reduces the need for surgery and prescription drugs, and allows patients to participate in a recovery plan designed for their specific needs. In addition, physical therapist work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs by developing fitness and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles. For students interested in direct patient contact and aiding individuals from a wide variety of settings, along with an interest in rehabilitation, the PT career path may be a great option for you.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

Diagnostic medical sonographers use specialized equipment to generate images used for assessing and diagnosing various medical conditions. Many people associate sonography, which utilizes sound waves, with pregnancy. It's how a fetus can be seen in the womb. But this technology has many other applications in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions in the abdomen, breast, heart and blood vessels and, more recently, in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal problems. For students interested in working with a wide range of individuals, healthy or sick, along with working with high-tech instrumentation and interpreting the results, diagnostic medical sonography may be a great option for you. Find out more about diagnostic medical sonographers on ExploreHealthCareers.

Other Careers

To explore additional healthcare careers, please check out ExploreHealthCareers. For students particularly interested in careers that are similar to nursing, consider visiting their Allied Health Professions page.

Additional Resources