What Are the Differences Between Distance ABSN and MENP Programs?

MENP nurse
MENP nurse

The extraordinary shortage of nurses will likely intensify through 2030, making now an ideal time to start a new career in nursing.

Second-career registered nurses (RNs) have many educational paths to enter the profession. Those who have a bachelor’s degree can complete an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) or a Master’s Entry in Nursing Practice (MENP) program.

But how do the programs compare? Learn the differences between the degrees and how they prepare aspiring nurses to transition into the profession.

Plus, explore how Elmhurst University’s distance MENP program will help you advance as a nursing leader by focusing on patient safety and quality outcomes.

What Are ABSN and MENP Programs?

ABSN and MENP programs provide accelerated pathways for career changers to join the field.

They're designed for individuals who have earned a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline. You don’t need any nursing education or experience to apply to ABSN and MENP programs.

ABSN programs confer the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), while MENP programs award the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Both degrees prepare graduates to take the national nurse licensure exam, the NCLEX-RN, and become a registered nurse.

MENP programs add additional graduate level content, such as leadership, quality and safety, which allows graduates to sit for the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) certification exam upon completion of the program. With a CNL certification, combined with your nursing experience, you will be poised to take on additional responsibilities and move up the clinical ladder in health systems.

What Are the Motivations of ABSN and MENP Students? 

Second-career nurses come from many educational backgrounds. But they have one thing in common: the motivation to start a new career where they know they can make a difference.

Second-career nurses choose the profession for many reasons. A literature review published in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing identified the most common reasons:

  • Higher Job Satisfaction. Professionals who switch to nursing want more fulfillment and pleasure from work.
  • A Desire for More Knowledge. Health care workers transition to nursing to care for people in a new capacity.
  • Inspiration from Nurses. Second-career nurses may have experienced the rewards and impact of nursing through an illness or the perspectives of nurses they know.
  • Responsibility to Help Others. Other second-career nurses are motivated to act on a sense of social responsibility by promoting public health, especially among vulnerable populations.

The difference between ABSN and MENP students is their short-term career goals.

ABSN students want to make a difference through direct patient care and take the fastest pathway to the nursing profession.

MENP students want to enter nursing and quickly advance to leadership or advanced nursing roles. They begin their nursing careers with a master’s degree and CNL competencies for improving patient outcomes through strategic decision-making. Many times, graduates of MENP programs decide to pursue additional academic coursework through post-masters/post-graduate certificates or advanced degrees (DNP, Ph.D.) to specialize as an advanced practice registered nurse.

Both objectives are admirable. No matter the students’ motivation, ABSN and MENP programs enable professionals from various backgrounds to start new, meaningful careers in nursing.

What Are the Program Structures?

Earning an ABSN or MENP will facilitate the transition to a nursing career. Both types of programs require students to have earned a bachelor’s degree in any discipline, but the programs prepare second-career nurses for different career trajectories. They feature distinct prerequisites, curricula, formats, and lengths.


ABSN and MENP programs have similar prerequisites, but some of the specific requirements vary by program.

One example is GPA. All ABSN and MENP programs require candidates to meet a minimum GPA. The exact requirement differs by program. Generally, MENP programs have higher GPA standards than ABSN programs. 


ABSN and MENP program curricula prepare students to enter the nursing profession. The ABSN prepares for generalist RN practice, while the MENP covers the generalist practice and has additional content in leadership, quality and safety, often preparing the MENP graduate for the CNL examination.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) sets the competencies used to drive quality in nursing education. In spring 2021, The Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education were updated and will be phased in by nursing programs to update existing curricula.

Both ABSN and MENP programs are considered entry-level professional nursing education. In the updated Essentials, there are 10 domains and competencies that reflect the essence of professional nursing practice. These are the same for entry and advanced levels of education, but the sub-competencies build in complexity from entry-level professional nursing practice to advanced levels of nursing practice. Below are the key elements of professional nursing educational programs:


  1. Knowledge for nursing practice
  2. Person-centered care
  3. Population health
  4. Scholarship for nursing practice
  5. Quality and safety
  6. Interprofessional partnerships
  7. Systems-based practice
  8. Information and health care technologies
  9. Professionalism
  10. Personal, professional and leadership development


  1. Clinical judgment
  2. Communication
  3. Compassionate care
  4. Diversity, equity and inclusion
  5. Ethics
  6. Evidence-based practice
  7. Health policy
  8. Social determinants of health

Spheres of care of entry-level professional programs:

  1. Wellness, disease prevention
  2. Chronic disease management
  3. Regenerative/restorative care
  4. Hospice/palliative

Both ABSN and MENP programs will prepare students for entry-level professional nursing practice and to take the NCLEX-RN examination to become a licensed registered nurse upon graduation. Curricula in both programs follows content outlined in the NCLEX-RN blueprint.


ABSN programs offer the fastest path to RN licensure, taking 11 to 18 months to complete. They are shorter than traditional 4 year entry-level nursing programs because the curricula build on students’ previous learning experiences.

MENP programs are longer than ABSN programs. They span approximately two to three years because of graduate level coursework in leadership, quality, safety and integration of evidence into practice.


The format of ABSN and MENP programs is similar in that it develops competence through a combination of coursework and clinical experiences. In distance programs, students complete coursework online and participate in clinical rotations in their local communities with one or two campus residencies, where students participate in simulated experiences to apply what they learned in the classroom without risk to patients

Another similarity between the program formats is that they are both full-time and intensive. Most ABSN and MENP programs require that students not work during their studies. The benefit of this rigorous structure is that it prepares second-career nurses in a shorter amount of time than traditional BSN and MSN programs.

nursing graduate

What Are the Nursing Career Options for Graduates?

The career outlook is bright for ABSN and MENP program graduates. They’re prepared to fill some of the most in-demand jobs in health care.

Professional Nursing 

Both degrees prepare second-career nurses for employment as RNs, an occupation with high demand.

RNs provide patient care and education in numerous health care settings. Approximately 3 in 4 RNs practice in hospitals and ambulatory clinics, and the remainder work in nursing and residential care facilities, government and educational services.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that RN jobs will grow by 7% between 2019 and 2029, almost twice as fast as the average for all occupations.

Plus, RNs educated at the baccalaureate level and higher have stronger employment prospects than RNs with associate degrees. Thus, graduates of ABSN and MENP programs have some of the best job prospects for nurses.

Advanced Nursing Pathway

Similar to ABSN graduates, MENP graduates will first take an entry-level professional nursing job to gain experience after becoming a licensed registered nurse; however, their education in leadership and quality concepts will give them the educational foundation and safety focus to advance faster than BSN colleagues into leadership roles. These higher roles enable MENP graduates to make a broader impact in health care.

What Is the Return on Educational Investment?

Advancing their education is an investment that can benefit second-career nurses right away.

Transitioning to nursing may enhance job satisfaction, health care knowledge and the ability to make a difference in people’s lives. Second-career nurses can also achieve a considerable return on their educational investment.

The tuition of ABSN and MENP programs differs by university. MENP tuition is usually higher because the programs provide graduate-level nursing education and are longer. For example, the tuition for Elmhurst University’s distance MENP program is $10,000 more than their distance ABSN program.

Based on the prevailing nursing salaries, the potential return on investment for ABSN and MENP graduates is significant.

RNs take home an average salary of $80,010. Second-career nurses who enter the workforce with a master’s degree are likely to accelerate their earning potential after gaining initial nursing experience because their graduate program of study prepared them to take on roles leading quality and safety initiatives within health care settings. 

In addition, nurses with an MENP degree are positioned for even higher returns because they have a faster path to advanced practice nursing. 

Transition to a Nursing Career as a Leader

Is your goal to start a nursing career that leads to managing patients’ care and improving quality and safety? Elmhurst University offers a distance MENP that will prepare you in under two years to enter the nursing profession with an NCLEX-eligible MSN and to take the Clinical Nurse Leader certification exam.

As the only distance MENP in the country, it provides an immersive educational experience that emphasizes hands-on experience and exceptional clinical skills.

Students develop competence in:

  • General Nursing Knowledge. Learn the necessary skills and theories to pass the NCLEX-RN exam.
  • Clinical Nurse Leadership. Prepare for Clinical Nurse Leader certification to validate your comprehensive skills and knowledge.
  • Evidence-Based Nursing Practice. Develop clinical and decision-making skills to manage care for patients across the lifespan.
  • Quality Improvement and Research Methods. Build competencies in research, health care systems and information technology to foster change and improve outcomes.
  • Advocacy, Ethics and Accountability. Integrate professional values and standards to advocate for individuals and populations and advance the nursing profession.

nursing graduate attending a patient

Elmhurst ABSN vs. MENP Program Comparison

There is not a “right” path for second-career nurses. Both of Elmhurst’s ABSN and MENP programs facilitate the transition to nursing and prepare aspiring nurses to make a difference. The decision of which degree to pursue largely depends on your career goals and available time.




Ideal for

Students who want to enter the nursing profession quickly

Students who want to enter the nursing field and advance to leadership roles

National Licensure Examination Eligibility 



Professional Certification Eligibility


Certified Nurse Leader 





Bachelor’s degree in any discipline; minimum 2.8 GPA

Bachelor’s degree in any discipline; minimum 3.2 GPA


Entry-level nursing competencies developed through coursework and clinical experiences

Entry-level nursing competencies and advanced-level leadership competencies developed through coursework and clinical experiences


11 to 18 months

20 months




Credit Hours



Career Options


RN and opportunity for advancement into leadership roles based on CNL 

Employment Outlook

Projected RN job growth is almost two times faster than the average for all occupations.

Projected advanced practice nursing job (requiring additional post-master’s education) growth is up to 6.4 times faster than for RNs.

*Once examinations are passed and licensure is obtained


The program offers support resources that empower students to achieve their fullest potential. Develop as a nursing leader with dedicated guidance from your enrollment advisor and clinical placement specialist.

Learn more about Elmhurst University’s distance MENP program.