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 linear, though?
There are so many different types of nurses that the term itself can become confusing for anyone interested in this career. From LPN (licensed practical nurse) to NP (nurse practitioner) and RN (registered nurse), there are many roles 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 – but how are they different, in fact?
And what degree program to choose?
Let’s dive into the RN vs BSN comparison:
First, let’s define what each RN and BSN in nursing means:
A Registered nurse (RN) is a job title that refers to a healthcare professional with a certificate of competence that allows them to assist doctors in caring for patients. If you’re an RN, then you are someone who has graduated from a nursing program, whether that’s a 2-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Program or a three-to-four year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), and has obtained licensure to practice by passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).
A Bachelor of Science in Nursing is a nursing education degree – it usually lasts from 12 months (as an accelerated RN to BSN bridge program) to three-to-four years (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) and 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, you can commit to a four-year BSN program from the very beginning, because changes in the landscape of nursing indicate that BSN education is the future of nursing. And this future is close!
Compared to 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 our without BSN, so this is not a straightforward apple to apple 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 earn an ADN degree because it is the fastest way to become a nurse and enter the workforce sooner.
However, choosing to obtain a BSN degree opens up more career possibilities, such as leadership and management positions and different nursing specializations, accompanied by significantly higher remuneration.
The differences between an RN and a BSN RN be easily divided into 5 categories: education, salary, career options, costs, curriculum:
Here are all the ways RN and BSN are different:
1. RN vs BSN Education 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 a bridge nursing program, such as RN-to-BSN, which can be completed in as few as 12 months.
BSN RNs, on the other hand, are nurses who have completed a three-to-four year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. This degree provides them higher academic credential that brings 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 RN-to-BSN Program.
2. RN vs BSN Salary & Pay Differences
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pay for RNs in 2018 was $71,730 per year and $34.48 per hour. These statistics refer to registered nurses overall, which include both ADN- and BSN-educated nurses.
How much does an RN without a BSN earn?
In the beginning, both ADN- and BSN-level nurses can earn similar salaries.
However, according to Payscale, the salary for an RN without BSN is of $68,000 annually, on average (in the United State). 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?
The same data platform shows the salary for an RN with BSN is of $82,000 on average, meaning that BSN-educated registered nurses tend to be better paid than RNs.
Of course, there are many other variables that can influence a nurse’s salary: location, experience, job title, and specialization are just some of the other factors that play a part in how much a registered nurse earns.
3. RN vs BSN Program Costs Differences
Costs are equally important when it comes to choosing the most suitable degree program for your career. After all, it 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.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected growth rate of the demand for nursing jobs for the next five years is as high as 16 percent. That is why 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.
At Nightingale, the tuition for the ADN Program is $825 per semester credit. There are additional course fees based on the course and you can check them in the College Catalog.
Moreover, you may be eligible for financial aid (you can find out more here). This way, you ensure that options for paying the cost of your education are thoroughly explored.
How much does a BSN program cost?
The same goes for the BSN programs. The costs depend on several factors and may go between $40,000 and $200,000 for all four years of study.
Tuition for the BSN Program at Nightingale is $525 per semester credit, plus several course fees that you can check here.
4. RN vs BSN Curriculum Differences
BSN curriculum includes all the courses from ADN curriculum, which are meant to equip future nurses with basic knowledge in clinical care, that they will later transform into skills during experimental activities.
These main subjects for these courses usually are nursing, human physiology, psychology, human anatomy, biology, chemistry and nutrition.
Both RN educational programs include experiential learning activities, which are essential for every nurse, providing hands-on experience before entering the field. During these activities, future nurses learn how to do practical things like start an IV, administer medication and monitor and update medical charts and patients’ symptoms, which will be included in their day to day activities.
Still, BSN programs include courses that are not in ADN curriculum and are usually focused on the knowledge required for leadership and management positions.
Typically, a BSN program curriculum touches on 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, two nursing schools won’t have the exact same curriculum for the same program. They can either have different courses, or they can have different names for the same courses.
5. RN vs BSN Careers & Job Outlook
Career options are where the real differences between RNs and RNs with BSN degrees show.
When it comes to entry-level specialized jobs, RNs and BSN RNs broadly have the same job options and basic responsibilities. Still, things change with long-term career opportunities, which are much more varied and flexible for BSN-educated 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 nurse
- Emergency room nurse
- Intensive care unit nurse
- Labor and delivery nurse
- Operating room nurse
- Telemetry nurse
- Orthopedic nurse
Yet, even though the above entry-level job options are available for both RNs and BSN-level RNs, BSN-educated nurses usually have more duties than RNs that only obtained an ADN degree.
BSN level nurses also have more job options to choose from, for example 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
- Nurse researcher
- 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.
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 and BSN RNs can usually work in:
- Physicians’ offices
- Home healthcare services,
- Nursing care facilities
- Outpatient clinics and schools
Yet, there are some types of healthcare settings that only BSN-level RNs can work in – here they are:
Military nursing settings. This type of RN usually works in military bases, military hospitals, and clinics. Military nurses are commissioned officers, so you need to have a BSN degree in order to work in military settings.
Travel nursing. A travel nurse travels the country and fills in for nurses who are currently unavailable to do their jobs for various reasons, such as maternity leave or sick leave. In order to work in travel nursing, nurses require a BSN degree, so this is a job opportunity that ADN nurses won’t be able to enjoy.
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 time 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 an 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.
Here are some of the benefits of attending Nightingale:
– Hybrid-virtual programs
– No waitlists! We’re enrolling now for our Fall semester
– No prereqs needed to apply
– Accelerated timeline! No summers off at Nightingale, you become a nurse as fast as possible
– Advanced placement for LPNs
– Accredited degree programs
– Local experiential learning
And much, much more!