If you’re passionate about helping others, nursing has probably been one of your top career choice. There are many paths you can pursue to become a nurse. The most famous two are through an associate degree in nursing program or a bachelor’s degree program.

Because both ADN and BSN graduates become registered nurses, it’s easy to get confused which is the better option to pursue. Let’s find out what the differences are between the two-degree types and explore which degree may be best for your needs and career goals. We’ll explore the advantages and differences of both ADN and BSN degrees, so you can be a step closer to finding your answer!

What is the main Difference between an ADN- and BSN-Level Nurse?

If you want a career in nursing, you have lots of entrance options. Whether you choose to pursue an ASN or a BSN degree, one thing is sure: after you graduate and pass the NCLEX exam, you will be licensed as a  registered nurse.

adn vs bsn nurse

A traditional RN job includes simple nursing care, recording patient symptoms, and medical history, supporting the family, educating patients on diseases, working in close consultation with doctors and using simple medical equipment. Compared to an ADN-level nurse, a BSN nurse conducts more complex procedures under the doctor’s supervision and can be in charge of other nursing staff. It is safe to say that after you earn your baccalaureate degree, your career options get broader than it would with an ADN.

With a BSN  degree in hand, the main difference is about the perks that come with advanced education such as more leadership responsibilities and higher pay. The degree can easily take you from registered nurse to statuses like nurse educator, public health nurse or other specialties you might be interested in that require a BSN degree.

Are BSN Nurses More Qualified?

Nobody is claiming ADN nurses offer less care than nurses with a BSN degree. BSN nurses are simply better trained and ready to tackle more care jobs thanks to their education experience. The elaborate curriculum and clinical hours required by academic criteria make BSN nurses highly trained and qualified to meet the nation’s patients’ nursing needs and deliver safe, effective patient care.

In a study published in the October 2014 issue of Medical Care, Olga Yakusheva, researcher at the University of Michigan, found out that a 10 percent increase in the proportion of baccalaureate-prepared nurses on hospital units was associated with a 10.9% possible decrease in patient mortality.

nurses education guide


The correlation between a nurse’s level of education and patient mortality is confirmed by the last 10 years of nursing research that the American Association of the Colleges of Nursing has been collecting. The research shows that higher nursing education is reflected in the quality of clinical practice.

Basically,  nurses with a BSN degree tend to earn more and have better patient outcomes, make proficient diagnoses and quality nursing interventions. Read more about the highly educated nursing workforce on AACN.

When will a BSN be mandatory for Nurses?

Everybody’s talking about a proposed BS in 10 law that suggests nurse’s who don’t already have a BSN degree will need to earn one within their first 10 years of practice. The state legislature has held hearings, but no concrete action has been taken.

The bill came up for debate in 2010 and died in the committee. It was advocated by both Democratic Assemblyman Joseph Morelle of Rochester and Republican Senator James Alesi of Monroe County and has the endorsement of many nursing associations and health policy organizations, such as AACN and the New York State Nurses Association. The bill, if passed, will be  a method used to raise the skill level of today’s nurse workforce. If you want to find out more about this legislation, read the New York Daily News piece on the topic.


ADN  vs. BSN Education differences

The main differences between the programs are their length of time needed to complete each and the amount of credits required to graduate from the program. An ADN typically takes 2 years while a BSN will take 4 years to complete. If you’re already an RN and want to improve your outcome in less time, you can complete the RN to BSN Bridge Program in as few as 12 months or 3 semesters, if the required General Education (GE) courses have not been completed.

associate or bachelor degree nursing


According to AACN, traditional baccalaureate nursing programs (BSN) include all the course work taught in the ADN program and diploma programs (the most basic nursing certificate) plus a more in-depth training in social sciences, management, research, public and community health, and leadership. The main focus of BSN programs is for the learner to broaden their scope of practice and have the opportunity for enhanced professional development.  As a BSN nurse, you will have a better understanding of the cultural, economic, and social issues that affect patients and influence health care delivery systems.

Associate Degree in Nursing

Earning an ASN degree is a great start to your nursing career. The main advantages to an ADN program are that it’s less expensive and less time-consuming. You’ll become a nurse faster, start earning money and getting nursing experience. You can complete  ADN programs in as few as 18 to 24 months. Although there is a way to get a BSN faster ] that is only possible if you already have a Bachelor degree and want to change careers.

For second career seekers looking to switch to the nursing profession, a BSN Bridge Program will help segway your acquired skills to the skills required for admittance into a nursing program. Many people choose to first pursue the ADN program, so they can enter the workforce, gather experience and go to school later to obtain their BSN in an RN to BSN program.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

A BSN program typically takes four or five years to earn a bachelor’s degree and can take the NCLEX-RN immediately after graduating from the program. BSN programs are recognized for giving learners a well-rounded education and preparing them to successfully enter the nursing field. Compared to the ADN-level degree offerings, BSN programs feature more extensive clinical experiences. There are also accelerated BSN programs, which take around two years to complete. You can access this kind of degree only if you already completed a degree program or nurse training course.

When will BSN be mandatory for Nurses?

To meet health management requirements, recent research and public policy recommendations strongly address the need for more highly educated nurses, nurses that have a BSN degree. The Institutes of Medicine recommends that 80 percent of all nurses should hold a BSN degree by 2020.

bsn mandatory for nurses


ADN  vs. BSN Curriculum differences

Both ADN and BSN programs share core courses that will teach the competencies of nursing as well as nursing clinicals to help with hands-on learning in health care settings.

However, the BSN programs include some courses that ADN programs don’t:

  • Management, leadership, public health, and social sciences, critical thinking and communication courses are part of BSN curriculum. Leadership training helps nurses that wish to advance to administrative, research or teaching positions.
  • Nursing theory and nursing informatics that teach you how to use new technology in the workplace.
  • Additional courses advanced from an ADN level that help nurses have a better understanding of the complex issues affecting both the patient and the health care environment.

The nursing field is continually evolving as nurses and doctors use new technologies in treating and diagnosing patients. To keep up with these growing trends, hospital administrators are changing the way nurses interact with their patients. BSN program’s curriculum broad flexibility can make the difference in helping nurses succeed against the continuous challenges involved in patient care.


ADN  vs. BSN Career Opportunities differences

If you graduated from a BSN program but work as a registered nurse, your career won’t be much different from an ADN graduate’s experiences.

Both ADN and BSN graduates working as registered nurses will have the same career:

  • work side-by-side caring for patients
  • administer medication
  • monitor and update medical charts and patients’ symptoms

However, things get different when you think about long-term career opportunities.

nurses bsn qualification


ADN vs BSN Employment Titles and Medical Settings

Most ADN and BSN nurses are employed in hospital settings. As long as a nurse’s degree level will influence your specialty or earnings, it can also influence your employment in different locations and health care settings.

Why do Hospitals require BSN- trained Nurses?

Research shows that patient outcomes and quality of care improve with BSN-prepared nurses. According to AACN, hospitals and other medical facilities are following the IOM guidelines. These guidelines advocate and validate the need for the ”BSN-in-10” legislation, which is nurses to have their BSN by 2020, or face job termination. Their argument is based on the importance of nursing’s future and healthcare’s importance, which hinges on highly trained nurses.

Can BSN nurses teach or have administrative roles?

BSN nurses usually get a greater variety of duties than ADN nurses, and they tend to have more jobs to choose from. Nurses with a  BSN degree can aspire to administrative and leadership positions or various nursing specialties like nurse education, nurse research, or public health nurse, case nurse managers to name a few.  ADN-prepared nurses have a limited chance of obtaining such roles and responsibilities that require a BSN degree.



ADN  vs. BSN Salary Outlook differences

Both ADN  and BSN  degrees prepare nurses for entry-level roles. However, the BSN degree is designed to offer more career opportunities for upward mobility,a bigger paycheck, and ultimately, job security.

What’s the starting salary for a Registered Nurse with a BSN degree?

The starting salary for a registered nurse with a BSN can be, in the beginning, similar to an ADN nurse. As stated in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Report from 2015, registered nurses earn a median annual salary of $67,490 — but salaries vary by state, specialty, employer and level of education.

However, RNs with an ADN degree may land entry-level positions that will provide them with $40,250 on average, while RNs with a BSN can earn up to a mean annual income of about $67,490. Opting for an area of specialization also affects a nurse’s salary. However, a baccalaureate degree gives you the opportunity to explore and expand your horizon and the chance to move beyond hospital employment.

rn starting salary


For example, if a nurse is interested in a teaching or administrative position, a BSN will be the minimum qualification required.


Why Should you Earn a BSN? It May Be a Requirement in 2020

While every degree matters, higher education open more doors. Your nursing career depends on your personal choices and professional desires. Keep in mind that holding the BSN degree won’t be just an option for long. If you find yourself choosing one program over the other, you should consider your future and what will benefit you in the long run.

Do you see yourself advancing beyond the registered nurse position? If your answer is yes, you have your choice made clear: take the BSN program. It will be a requirement by 2020 anyway. Because health care facilities already consider a BSN degree as the new entry-level degree, nurses are advised and required by some employers to pursue a BSN degree.

If you are already a registered nurse and would like to advance your nursing career, consider enrolling in an RN to BSN Bridge program at Nightingale College, which will broaden your nursing knowledge and skills plus advance your career opportunities.

Read the complete guide about the Bachelor of Science in Nursing here.