The Complete BSN Guide: What is BSN, How to Get the Degree & What it Can Do for Your Nursing Career

bsn degree guide

Whether you’re already a registered nurse (RN) or you plan to become one, you might know that getting a BSN degree can open up plenty of nursing career opportunities that go beyond patient health care and can lead to new administration and leadership positions.

Nursing is a truly competitive field and just having an ADN degree doesn’t elevate the profession enough. A BSN degree is now preferred. If you’re looking to further your education, develop skills and reasoning, advance from an ADN competency level, and want the best and fastest way to get a BSN degree, here is our complete BSN guide.

This BSN guide has all the information you need to know about what you can do with a BSN degree, how to prepare, and the various career paths it opens. Keep reading and discover why a BSN degree is important, what the requirements are, how to get it, and what it can do for your nursing career.

What Does BSN Stand for and What is It?

BSN is the abbreviation for Bachelor of Science in Nursing, which is a professional academic degree preferred in a nursing career.

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program is a basic entry-level program for students without any previous medical degree in nursing education. BSN programs award a baccalaureate nursing degree and require three to four years of college academic credit.

what is a bsn degree

BSN programs prepare students for careers as registered nurses in hospitals and long-term care by focusing on critical thinking, leadership skills, and professional development, the assets needed for students to develop the ability to make informed decisions about safe patient care.

What are the Differences in Nursing Degrees?

BSN degree programs provide a broad base of knowledge for entry-level nursing positions. Even though you can work as an RN (registered nurse) without your bachelor’s degree, nurses with a BSN degree are higher paid and carry more responsibility in their department.

Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) vs Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)

The most popular path to becoming a registered nurse is earning an ASN (associate of science in nursing) degree, which is a two- to three-year program. It requires general education classes which include core nursing courses and anatomy, chemistry, and biology.

bsn vs asn courses


The associate’s degree is the minimum education required to get licensed as a registered nurse. However, with the ever-changing nursing landscape and nurses required to have advanced knowledge and skills, registered nurses are advised to earn their BSN. Opportunities arise faster for nurses with BSNs that often are associated with a higher pay. Considering that the nursing field is extremely competitive, experts say that all registered nurses will be required to have a BSN degree in the near future. It is recommended that 80% of nurses nationwide be BSN prepared by 2020.

Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) vs Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN)

You can become a registered nurse if you earn either an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in nursing and pass the national licensing examination. Nurses who wish to continue their education can go on to earn their MSN, a master’s of science in nursing.

Some career options available when considering a master’s degree in nursing include teaching at community and technical colleges and becoming a nurse practitioner, anesthetist or clinical nurse specialist.

Accelerated Second Degree BSN Nursing Programs

Some people choose to change careers and pursue a second degree while others simply like to get things moving as fast as possible. For these individuals, there is one option to consider: an accelerated nursing program.

What is an Accelerated Nursing Program?

An Accelerated Nursing Program is designed for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field. For example, if you already have a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and want to become a registered nurse, an accelerated nursing program may be for you. Accelerated programs usually offer a flexible schedule, allowing students to attend school in the evening or on weekends. Because of the flexibility in schedule, taking the accelerated program route is more popular with individuals interested in a career change or those with the desire to further their education and career. Accelerated nursing programs provide a fast-track degree and offer a hands-on job experience quickly.

accelerated nursing program


Keep in mind that a lot of information is packed into a shorter period causing the program to be challenging at times.  Accelerated programs are truly rigorous and definitely not for everyone even though it gives you the opportunity to quickly complete the program. There are also financial aid considerations when trying to apply for federal loans for a second bachelor degree.

These type of programs are also known as second-degree nursing programs, permitting students to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree in less than a year and a half.

BSN Benefits: Why Get a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing?

A BSN is a good degree if you’re looking for better employment opportunities and career advancement and looking to serve your community as an agent of health. Employers are starting to divulge the benefits of having BSN-prepared nurses on staff and the value they bring to the nursing units. It’s a necessity for RNs to continue their education to be able to provide quality patient safety and care in diverse areas of care and environments.

why get a bsn


If you see yourself working in health care in the near future, obtaining a BSN degree is one of your best options and a strategic move to ensure job security and advance your career. There is a nursing shortage in the United States and holding a BSN degree can be a great asset that will provide you with not only a good salary but stable career.

What are the benefits of getting a BSN degree?

Here are the advantages of getting a BSN degree:

  1. Deeper training: BSN Curriculum teaches much more than clinical skills. BSN-prepared nurse, have more training in the social sciences, communication, leadership and critical thinking.
  2. More opportunities: Part of BSN programs is to familiarize students with clinical experiences in non-hospital settings (administrative positions, consulting, etc.) in order to showcase the numerous advantages of what careers can be pursued with a BSN degree.
  3. Greater salaries and benefits: Nurses with a BSN degree are able to move up through the ranks more quickly and while duties and responsibilities will increase with the job title, the salary will reflect the new role.

Salary: How Much Does a Registered Nurse with a BSN Degree Make?

A bachelor’s degree allows an RN to pursue higher management positions, meaning advancement within the organization and a higher salary.

The expected pay usually varies by level of education and geographical region. Read more about the nursing salary pay scale in the United States, by state.

Salary Range for Registered Nurses

Registered nurses enjoy great employee benefits, solid job stability, and also some of the highest average paying jobs nationwide. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, RNs with zero to five years of experience earn about $60,483 per year and for nurses with more than six years of experience, the annual salary reaches about $65,459.

registered nurse salary range


The average salary for a registered nurse is around $64,690 per year or about $31.00 per hour. If you’d like to find more specific salary details about each nursing job specializations, check Nurse Journal’s article.

Salary Range for Registered Nurses with a BSN Degree

Unlike RNs without a BSN, BSN graduates who pass the NCLEX-RN qualify for advanced positions which may come with a higher pay. There is a great difference between the salary rates because of the extensive education and training BSN holders have. However, BSN nurses do not make more than ADN nurses if they work as a registered nurse, it is dependent on the job and nurses with a BSN degree qualify for advanced positions which may come with a higher pay In 2011, ADNs earned about $64,000 on average while BSNs made $76,000. You can look up the historical rates on the Indeed website.

For example, an RN with a BSN can become either a registered nurse supervisor with an average salary of $78,493, a clinical nurse manager with an average salary of $78,493 per year, or a family nurse practitioner with an annual salary of $78,493.

Average Salaries for 10 of The Most Popular Nursing Positions

All data is compiled from, from highest to lowest.

  • Family Nurse Practitioner: $95,000
  • NICU Nurse: $80,000
  • ER Nurse: $73,000
  • Labor and Delivery Nurse: $70,000
  • Travel Nurse: $67,000
  • Pediatric Nurse: $65,000
  • Ambulatory Nurse: $64,000

What Jobs Can You Have with a BSN Degree?

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree offers a greater range of career options than an ASN degree in the nursing field. Take into consideration that most salaries vary depending on the city you’re working in and level of experience. Here are some of the jobs you can acquire with a BSN degree:

Registered Staff Nurse

Registered staff nurses provide basic care and monitor the patient’s health state. They work in hospitals and other health care facilities. The average yearly salary for registered nurses is $68,910 a year.

registered staff nurse


Clinical Nurse Educator

A clinical nurse educator provides training to recent nursing graduates, develop curricula and teach health care topics. Some health educators work directly in hospitals, but many of them can be found in colleges and universities. The average yearly salary for clinical nurse educators with a BSN is $76,000.

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners can diagnose patients, prescribe medication, and are even allowed to work without the supervision of a doctor in some circumstances.  The average yearly salary for nurse practitioners is $95,070.

Medical and Health Services Manager

A medical and health services manager performs administrative tasks, plans, directs, and organizes medical services in order to improve quality and efficiency. They also take care of the finances and create work schedules, while being responsible for a specific sector of the medical industry, a hospital floor or a special group of employees. The average annual pay for medical and health services manager with a BSN is $101,340.

Skills: What Can You Do with a BSN Degree?

A BSN degree may be essential if you want to move up to a management role. It provides you with broad knowledge in management and leadership that become assets you’ll need in order to be a leader.

what can you do with bsn


Keep in mind that a BSN is essential if you ever want to get out of basic clinical care and pursue a career in the administration or teaching department.

The Responsibilities of a Registered Nurse 

The objective of the BSN degree is to prepare nurses to provide professional, informed patient care. Such responsibilities and tasks are:

  • Developing care treatment plans and performing lab work
  • Educating and treating patients for illnesses, injuries and administering medications and injections
  • Providing support to patients and their families
  • Supervising other nurses and assisting doctors during surgeries or major procedures

What Certification Will You Need at the End of the BSN Program?

After you finish your degree program, you have to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

bsn graduation certification


To get there, you need to apply for a nursing license from your state board of nursing. Remember that each state has different eligibility criteria, so check with your state board to be sure you’ve met the requirements. Find here the list of state boards of nursing from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

BSN Requirements: How to Prepare to Get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree?

If you want to get a BSN degree your best option is to start early or get some tutoring help from the college you want to get in. High school is a good place to gain the knowledge in anatomy, biology, and chemistry.

Prerequisites Courses for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing

If you want to be eligible for professional admission to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, you have to complete some prerequisite courses. All prerequisites must be completed with a “B” grade or better. The minimum prerequisite GPA (calculated based on this list) for admission consideration is a 3.0. For example, Nightingale College does offer the general education (GE) prerequisites.

bsn prerequisites


The college nursing prerequisites include:

  • First-year composition sequence
  • One year general chemistry
  • One year human anatomy & physiology
  • One semester introductory biology
  • One semester microbiology
  • One semester statistics
  • One semester lifespan development
  • One semester nutrition

Once your prerequisite classes have been completed, make sure that nursing becomes your major. That will ensure the right path for earning a BSN degree.

Requirements for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree

If you want to practice as a registered nurse, you must follow some prerequisites before you can get accepted. The requirements usually differ depending on the state you are studying in and the college you want to attend.

However, there are some standard requirements:

  • Minimum scores on SAT or ACT.
  • A GPA (grade point average) between 2.0 and 3.25 ranging on a sale between 0.0 – 4.0
  • Three years of math (algebra II and geometry)
  • Three years of science subjects (chemistry and biology)
  • Four years of English
  • Two years in any other foreign language

bsn study requirements


Curriculum: What Does a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing Consist of?

The BSN curriculum program’s structure varies considerably from college to college.

Many of the programs can be completed partially or fully online, while most consist entirely of traditional classroom courses.

General BSN Curriculum

  • Biology/Microbiology
  • Nursing Leadership
  • Non-nursing-related courses from a four-year liberal arts degree
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Nutrition and Die
  • Adult, Pediatric, and Geriatric Nursing
  • Community Health Care and Development
  • Ethics in Nursing


How Long Will It Take to Complete a BSN Program?

Completing a BSN program depends on your level of education and dedication. A bachelor’s degree program takes four years. Attending part-time is an option at most schools, but the program will take longer to complete.

bsn how long it takes


At Nightingale College, the RN to BSN Bridge Program is completed in 12 months of instruction without the required GEs. More information about the general education credits that can be transferred can be found in the College Catalog.

Can You Get a BSN Degree Online?

Even if nursing is a hands-on job, more and more people are looking into ways of studying online. Traditionally, this was not possible but there are now various bachelor and associate degrees that can be completed in part online.

For registered nurses looking to take such online nursing programs (didactic part only), there is the RN to BSN program.

The program is designed for those who already work as a registered nurse but want to improve their clinical skills and knowledge. Remember that these types of programs are usually available only to those who already have health care experience and a high GPA.

BSN Tuition Fee: How Much Does a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program Cost?

The tuition fee for a BSN degree that takes four years to finish usually ranges from $50,000 to well over $80,000 in private institutions and large universities. If this exceeds your budget, you can check out BSN programs offered in community colleges. The costs are considerably lower. Tuition and fees in community colleges can range anywhere from $5,000 to about $14,000 a year.

At Nightingale College, the RN to BSN Bridge Program cost $375 per semester credit. The additional $100 per course fee includes all required e-Books and reference materials.

bsn degree cost


The RN to BSN Bridge Program provides distance instruction, where students engage in online didactic learning in community nursing, leadership, policy, ethics, critical care, gerontology, health promotion, disease prevention, etc.

The program may be completed in 12 months without the required General Elective courses.

Upon satisfactory completion of the RN to BSN Bridge Program, students will obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree.

BSN Nursing Scholarships and Grants

A BSN student will easily spend a lot of money attending a four-year program, trying to earn the necessary nursing credentials. Fortunately, there are scholarships available to qualified applicants. Very few students have to carry educational financial burdens alone.

Types of scholarships you should consider applying to:

  • Nursing Scholarships: There are plenty of nursing scholarships and they vary by sponsor. Many of the best scholarships are limited to certain schools, states or certain backgrounds. Your best bet is to read the terms of each scholarship carefully before submitting an application.
  • Federal Student Loans: Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is available to many students and often the first recommendation by financial aid advisors. To learn how to apply for FSA, visit their website by clicking here.
  • Nursing Grants: Grants operate like scholarships in that they are awarded according to financial need or academic performance and are often designated to students pursuing degrees in high-demand fields. To check the list of available education grants in your state, check here.

What Comes After the BSN Degree?

Nursing is a continuously evolving industry and nurses are required to stay updated with the latest knowledge and skills. After completing a BSN program and successfully obtaining the degree, you will need to:

  1. pass the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses) exam, which will allow you to practice as a registered nurse
  2.  begin your career as a nurse
  3.  pursue a master’s degree after earning a BSN degree and successfully passing the NCLEX-RN

bsn graduation what jobs


Where Can I Get a BSN Degree?

Choosing the right BSN program depends on your desires and needs.

You could pursue an on-campus BSN at a large university away from home or you can choose to stay close to your family and take the didactic courses online, while you complete the clinical hours at a college/health facility near you.

nightingale college bsn


If you already have a nursing background and wish to take it to another level with a BSN degree, you should consider the RN to BSN program at Nightingale’s College.