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5 Reasons to Choose a Competency-Based Nursing Degree Program

Want to learn online at your own pace? Looking to potentially save time and money on your nursing education? Completing a BSN or MSN degree through a competency-based learning format is an excellent option.

Whether you’re a registered nurse wanting to earn a degree through a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) completion program, or you are a nurse manager looking to grow as a leader by earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, you probably know that online degree programs can be a great option for furthering your nursing education, expanding your skills, and opening new career opportunities. As a working nurse, you may like the idea of being able to fit online classes around your busy schedule. But there is another way to earn your degree that could be an even better option for you: competency-based learning.


What Is a Competency-Based Degree Program?

Some nursing schools offer bachelor’s and master’s nursing online degree programs that are competency-based. With this type of nursing education model, instead of progressing through an online program course by course, you work toward your BSN or MSN degree by completing a series of professional competencies. Competencies are certain skills, knowledge, and abilities required of nurses to work successfully in the field today.

To finish a competency area—nursing leadership, for example—you study the program material on your own time then complete an assessment to demonstrate you understand the subject. You’ll move on to each competency as you’re ready. Once you successfully finish all the competencies in the MSN or RN-BSN program, you can move forward in your career with the same nursing degree that students earn through the course-based learning experience in a standard online program.

Why Choose a Competency-Based RN to BSN or MSN Degree Program?

A competency-based education can offer many benefits for working nurses. Depending on your learning style and career goals, competency-based learning could be your ideal way to earn a BSN or an MSN degree online. Here are five reasons to choose a competency-based degree program:

  1. Go at Your Own Pace
    One of the top advantages of a competency-based learning program is that you can earn a bachelor’s or master’s in nursing degree at your own pace. Are you a fast learner? Great! You can speed through the material as quickly as you want. Maybe you like to take extra time to absorb what you’re learning. That’s fine, too. You decide how fast—or slow—you learn.

    With a competency-based education model, you can also adjust your pace of learning to fit the fluctuating demands of your career, family, and life. Slow down your online education during a busy season, and when you have a stretch of extra time on your hands, you can move faster through your studies.

  2. Accelerate Your Progress With Previous Work Experience
    Your previous career experience and prior nursing knowledge can help you progress faster through a competency-based degree program. For example, an RN to BSN program might have a competency area that focuses on technologies in the field. If you already work extensively with patient care technologies or health informatics, you demonstrate what you already know through competency assessments. By applying your real-life professional experience, you can accelerate your progress by spending less time on subjects you already know.

  3. Control Your Schedule
    If you want an online BSN or MSN degree program with maximum flexibility, a competency-based learning format is the way to go. Nursing schools and colleges that are good at delivering a competency-based education online offer a mobile-optimized experience, access to content on demand, and online communication with faculty. And since competency-based degree programs don’t have weekly deadlines, it is completely up to you to decide when, where, and how you learn online—and how fast you progress toward your bachelor’s or master’s degree.

  4. Apply New Skills Immediately to Improve Your Nursing Career
    Competency-based degree programs require you to complete a series of competencies grouped by areas of expertise on topics such as healthcare policy, patient care technologies, leadership and management in nursing, and best practices and trends in nursing. To earn an MSN or BSN degree, you will have to complete all competency areas, but you can tackle each subject in almost any order. That means you can align your studies with your current career priorities.

    For example, if your community is facing a disease outbreak, you could skip to the competency area that focuses on the role of nurses in public health and gain new skills you can start using in your job right away. Is your hospital transitioning to a new workflow system? You might find it helpful to focus on the competency that covers informatics in healthcare. With a competency-based learning model, you can gain the knowledge you need when you need it.

  5. Control Your Costs
    Let’s face it, a postsecondary education can get expensive. But if you choose to earn a BSN or an MSN degree through a program that is competency based, you have a way to control your tuition costs. In most competency-based degree programs, you pay a flat-rate subscription fee for a certain time frame, instead of paying per credit or by online course like you would in a standard course-based program. If the subscription term is for three months, you can do as much learning and complete as many competencies as you want during that time.

    If you’re a fast learner, have extra time to dedicate to your online learning, or can apply previous work experience, you might accomplish a lot in that three-month subscription period, potentially helping you lower the cost of your education while reducing the time it takes to earn your nursing degree.

Competency-based learning might not be right for everyone, but it offers many benefits that can make it a great option for busy working nurses. If you want to learn online and earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or Master of Science in Nursing at your own pace—while potentially saving time and money on your nursing education—a competency-based degree program could be the ideal choice for you.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering select competency-based nursing degree programs through its Tempo Learning® format, including a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) Completion Program, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)-Nurse Executive degree program, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)-Nursing Education degree program, and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)-Nursing Informatics degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,