BSN vs RN: What Is the Difference?
Nursing may seem a pretty linear career: you study pretty hard, you practice as much as you can and then you get a challenging, but rewarding job in a hospital. Is it, though?
There are so many different types of nurses that the term itself can become confusing for anyone interested in this career. From becoming an LPN (licensed practical nurse) or an RN (registered nurse), to advancing to the NP (nurse practitioner) role, you have many options to choose from.
If you’ve already decided to pursue a nursing career, you probably stumbled upon the RN vs BSN debate many times in your research. A Registered nurse (RN) and a Baccalaureate of Science in Nursing (BSN) are two different key concepts in the nursing educational and professional fields.
How are these different and what degree should you choose? Our article will help you understand the two concepts and better assess their differences.
Let’s dive into the RN vs BSN comparison:
Meaning of RN and BSN in the Nursing Industry
Let’s start by clearly defining what each of the two terms refers to, in the context of nursing education and practice.
A Registered nurse (RN) is a job title referring to a healthcare professional with the certified competence to assist doctors and other types of personnel in caring for patients. In order to become an RN, you must have graduated from a specific nursing program: either a 2-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Program, or a 3-to-4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Additionally, all registered nurses must have attended and passed the NCLEX-RN, or the National Council Licensure Examination for the RN level.
A Bachelor of Science in Nursing is a nursing education degree. It usually lasts three-to-four years as a full time BSN Program, but can be completed in shorter time spans through a 1-year RN-to-BSN bridge or an Accelerated BSN (ABSN) program. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree prepares nurses for entry-level practice in many healthcare settings, including hospitals and clinics.
The BSN program is a great education option for people who are thinking of starting a career in nursing as well as for people who are already practicing in the nursing field and want to increase and improve their career options.
If you are set on building a career in nursing and you can commit to a full-time BSN program from the very beginning, you should pursue the degree. The new industry requirements in the nursing field, the adoption of the BSN in 10 law by more and more states, and the growing demand for registered nurses with a BSN are changing the landscape of the industry.
Read more about the BSN RN requirements by state, to understand the emerging trends in the industry, in relation to the necessity of earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
How Are RN and BSN Different?
As opposed to the RN, BSN is a degree, not a job title - it’s the next-level nursing education program that can lead to becoming an RN.
As you may notice, you can be an RN with or without a BSN degree, so this is not a straightforward apples to apples comparison. This is why many RNs are wondering whether or not ADN is enough for their career, or if they should enroll in (or continue with) an RN to BSN program.
Some future nurses choose to get an ADN because it is the fastest way to become a nurse and enter the workforce sooner.
However, choosing to get a BSN degree opens up more career possibilities, such as leadership and management positions and different nursing specializations, accompanied by significantly higher remuneration.
If you need a program that best adapts to your current situation and needs, consider enrolling in the BSN Program at Nightingale College, that combines fully online learning with supervised on-ground field experience, to provide a hybrid and accessible learning option. We also provide a 1-year, fully online RN-to-BSN track that allows you to advance your education and career in the simplest way.
The differences between an RN and a BSN RN be easily divided into 5 categories:
- Education period required for getting certified as a registered nurse
- Program curriculum, as well as the ADN vs BSN patient outcomes for each
- Program Costs, including tuition and other expenses, as well as the available financial support
- Salary differences, including the nurse salary by state in comparable positions
- Career options, as well as duties, responsibilities, and roles in the workplace
1. RN vs BSN Education Period Differences
Many future nurses are confused as to whether you can become an RN without a BSN. The answer is yes, you can because the basic education requirement for an RN is earning an ADN degree.
Usually, the ADN program takes around two years to complete, so many RNs have graduated from this program. Many practicing registered nurses want to be able to enjoy these career benefits so they choose to go back to school to continue their education to earn a BSN degree through an RN-to-BSN bridge nursing program that can be completed in as few as 1 year.
BSN RNs, on the other hand, are nurses who have completed a three-to-four year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. The extra time spent in schools provides graduates higher academic credentials that bring more career opportunities in the near future.
If you have an ADN degree and want to get a BSN diploma, you can opt for an accelerated program such as the RN-to-BSN Program from Nightingale College. This fast track is 100% online, thus preparing you for your responsibilities as a BSN nurse, while still allowing you to practice your work during your study period.
2. RN vs BSN Curriculum Differences
The BSN curriculum includes all the courses from the ADN curriculum, which includes core courses meant to equip future nurses with basic knowledge in clinical care and provide the necessary practical skills during field experience activities.
The main subjects for your courses usually include nursing, human physiology, psychology, human anatomy, biology, chemistry and nutrition.
Both RN educational programs include experiential learning activities, these being essential for all future registered nurses. They provide hands-on experience before entering the field. During these activities, future nurses learn specific practical skills such as starting an IV, administering medication and monitoring and updating medical charts and patients’ symptoms, all of which being part of their day to day activities.
Still, BSN programs include courses that are not in the ADN curriculum. These are usually focused on the knowledge required for leadership and management positions.
Typically, a BSN curriculum includes the following subjects:
- Adult, Pediatric, and Geriatric Nursing
- Basic Pharmacology
- Emergency Care
- Nursing Assessment
- Nursing Research
- Nursing Theory
- Nutrition and Diet
- Public health
Although there are specific guidelines regarding what a nursing program curriculum should include for ADN as well as for BSN, you are likely to encounter differences in subjects from one educational institution to another. However, all certified institutions should provide you with the same core knowledge, no matter the way in which they structure their curriculum.
3. RN vs BSN Program Costs Differences
Costs are equally important when it comes to ADN RN vs BSN RN debates and to choosing the most suitable degree program for your career. After all, your professional formation is an investment in your future in the long term, and you want to make sure all the money goes to the right educational program for you.
Fortunately, there are some accessible and affordable options for you to choose from in order to become a registered nurse.
Many educational institutions have developed accredited online programs, which offer the same level of qualification and competence as a traditional learning facility.
How much does an ADN program cost?
Normally, the costs that cover tuition, fees, books and supplies depend on location, length, reputation, type of learning facility (public or private, online or traditional). For a private school, an Associate Degree may cost between $30,000 and $100,000, while public college programs can cost you somewhere between $6,000 and $40,000.
One cheaper option if you want to earn an ADN-equivalent degree, if you are already a licensed practical nurse, is to opt for a bridge program, such as the LPN-to-ASN path at Nightingale College. This way, not only will you pay only $22,500 in tuition fees per 9 months, but you will complete your educational advancement in a hybrid program, with online learning and on-ground field experience. Additionally, you can graduate in as few as 16 months.
Enroll into the LPN-to-ASN Program and advance your nursing career!
How much does a BSN program cost?
The costs for BSN programs depend on several factors and may go between $40,000 and $200,000 for all four years of study.
Comparatively, at Nightingale College, the BSN Program will cost you $18,120 per 9 months in tuition fees. The hybrid approach that combines online learning and on-ground supervised field experience can also lower costs, while also allowing you more time for work during your education.
4. RN vs BSN Salary & Pay Differences
According to the latest figures published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pay for RNs was $81,220 per year and $39.05 per hour. These statistics refer to registered nurses overall, including both ADN- and BSN-educated RNs.
How much does an RN without a BSN earn?
According to Payscale, the average annual salary for an RN with an ADN is $70,564). The annual pay for the ADN-level RNs jobs continues to grow, but at a slower rate than for BSN RNs (more employees are looking for BSN qualified nurses).
How much does an RN with a BSN earn?
As BSNedu points out, registered nurses with a BSN degree are top 25% earners in their field. Thus, according to the data provided by BLS, we can estimate the average annual salary for BSN RNs to be $101,100, across the U.S.
Of course, there are many other variables that can influence a nurse’s salary, including experience, job title, and specialization. However, your location may play the highest part, even bigger than the AND vs BSN certification differences. While we can estimate the difference between BSN and non-BSN registered nurse salaries to be around $12,090, the pay difference between the best- and worst-paying states for BSN nurses sits at around $83,803 per year.
That is why you should always consider nurse salaries by state, along with discrepancies based on accreditation.
5. ADN RN vs BSN RN Careers & Job Outlook
Career options are where the real differences between RNs with ADN and RNs with BSN degrees show.
When it comes to entry-level specialized jobs, ADN RNs and BSN RNs broadly have the same job options and basic responsibilities. Still, long-term career opportunities represent the main difference between the two, being more varied and flexible for BSN nurses.
Here are some of the most popular specialized entry-level nursing positions that are available to RNs, with or without being BSN prepared:
- Neonatal (NICU) nurse
- Emergency room (ER) nurse
- Intensive care unit (ICU) nurse
- Labor and delivery (L&D) nurse
- Operating room nurse
- Telemetry nurse
- Orthopedic nurse
Yet, even though entry-level job options are available for both RNs with an ADN and BSN level RNs, the latter usually have more duties than the former.
BSN level nurses can also work in other fields, such as in public health or education. Here are some of the nursing specialties for which employers need BSN level RNs (or prioritize hiring nurses who do):
- Military nurse
- Travel nurse
- Public health nurse
- Case manager nurse
- Research nurse
- Nurse educator
- Informatics nurse
Administrative and leadership positions are also usually reserved for BSN registered nurses, and the chances for ADN-prepared nurses to occupy such positions are very limited.
ADN RN vs BSN RN Workplace Differences
Both RNs and BSN RNs usually get hired in entry-level positions in the same types of healthcare facilities. However, your degree level can influence your employment in different locations and healthcare settings.
Many hospitals prioritize hiring BSN-educated nurses and those that don’t may require upon employment that RNs earn a BSN degree during their time working there. Plus, BSN RNs are qualified for the same jobs as ADN prepared nurses. That is why a next-level degree would offer you more career flexibility in the long run.
RNs with an ADN and BSN RNs can usually work in:
- Physicians’ offices
- Home healthcare services,
- Nursing care facilities
- Outpatient clinics and schools
- Military settings
- At-home care (as travel nurses)
RN vs BSN Legislation: The BSN in 10 Law
There is a clear indication that BSN is soon to be the norm for RNs, and that is the BSN in 10 law, which emphasizes the importance of well-educated nurse personnel and places a great deal of importance on BSN degrees.
The law requires that nurses who get licensed either hold a BSN degree or that they obtain a BSN degree in 10 years from the moment they get licensed.
Another indication that BSN is seen as the better alternative for RNs is hospitals’ interest in obtaining Magnet status. Magnet status is like a stamp of approval that certifies the quality of a healthcare institution’s patient care, so many hospitals are taking steps toward attaining it. Because one of the requirements for Magnet status is that 75% of nurses in that specific healthcare organization have BSN degrees, hospitals tend to prioritize hiring BSN-educated nurses.
So, Which One Is Better, RN or BSN?
Many future nurses want to know whether RN is better than BSN. Both ADN and BSN paths lead to the same destination: becoming a registered nurse, which makes them equally good for reaching your RN goal.
However, once you look over the career differences between RN and BSN, and the signs that indicate BSN is slowly becoming the standard education for nurses, you might realize that BSN is the best choice for your future career.
Enrolling in a BSN Program right from the start will not only help you climb the nursing career ladder faster, but it will save you having to go back to school to earn a BSN degree later when you have to juggle both education and job responsibilities.
An ADN is only recommended if you aim to spend less on your initial schooling, enter the registered nurse job market as fast as possible, and accumulate experience. And, given the current industry requirements and emerging legal statutes around nursing degrees, you can later opt for earning your BSN via a 1-year RN-to-BSN track.
No matter your choice, completing your education online is simply more feasible, less expensive, and incredibly accessible. It also allows for greater flexibility in your education, so you can dedicate time to your private life or even work in parallel. If all of the above sound like what you need, don’t hesitate to enroll in one of the certified programs at Nightingale College.