Registered nurse (RN) and Baccalaureate of Science in Nursing (BSN) are two different key concepts in the nursing educational and professional fields.
Registered nurse (RN) refers to someone that has graduated from a nursing program: an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), and has obtained licensure to practice. As you may notice, BSN is the next-level nursing education program that leads to becoming an RN.
Many RNs are wondering whether or not ADN is enough for their career, or should they enroll in (or continue with) a BSN program. If you are an aspiring nurse, it’s important for you to know how the RN and BSN concepts differ and how they can impact your education and career, so you can make informed decisions about your future. This is why we at Nightingale College have prepared this guide on RN vs BSN and what getting your Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree means for your career path.
What Does RN Mean?
An RN or registered nurse is a health care professional with a certificate of competence that allows them to assist doctors in caring for patients. This means they have graduated from either an ADN or BSN program and have passed the NCLEX-RN licensure exam.
Basic RN duties include monitoring and assisting patients throughout the recovery process, administering their medication, conducting medical tests and educating them on post-hospital treatment.
Registered nurses can work in an array of different institutions and can have different specializations, so RN duties will vary according to the nurse’s specialization.
How Can You Become an RN?
There are two paths that you can take in order to become a registered nurse. You can either choose to complete a two-year ADN program or you can opt for a three-to-four year BSN program. No matter which one you choose, you will have to take and pass the NCLEX exam in order to get licensed as a nurse.
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.
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.
What Does BSN Mean?
A Bachelor of Science in Nursing is a nursing education program that usually lasts three-to-four years and prepares nurses for entry-level practice in many health care 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.
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 health care 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 health care organization have BSN degrees, hospitals tend to prioritize hiring BSN-educated nurses.
What Are the Major Differences Between RN and BSN?
The differences between an RN and a BSN RN are can be easily divided into two categories: education and career options. Here is how the two RN and BSN differ in terms of education:
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. So many RNs have graduated from a two-year ADN program.
BSN RNs, however, are nurses who have completed a three-to-four year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program.
BSN curricula include all the courses from ADN curricula, 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 curricula 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 programs. 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.
Despite differences in education between an RN and an RN with a BSN, both need to sit for the NCLEX exam in order to become practicing nurses.
The NCLEX-RN is the same for all registered nurses, so it makes no difference which nursing program you graduated from. Graduates with an ADN degree and graduates with a BSN degree will tackle the same subject matter on the exam.
If education-wise RN and BSN don’t differ as much, career options are where the real differences between RNs and RNs with BSN degrees show:
Job Titles and Nursing Specialties
If you are a BSN graduate who passed the NCLEX-RN exam, the start of your nursing career won’t differ much from that of an ADN graduate, because when it comes to entry-level specialized jobs, RNs and BSN RNs broadly have the same job options. Still, things change when you think about long-term career opportunities, which are much more varied for BSN-educated nurses.
Here are some of the most popular specialized entry-level nursing positions that are available to both ADN and BSN RNs:
- Neonatal nurse
- Emergency room nurse
- Intensive care unit nurse
- Labor and delivery nurse
- Operating room nurse
- Telemetry nurse
- Orthopedic nurse
Yet, even though some entry-level job options are available for both RNs and BSN RNs, BSN-educated nurses usually have more duties than RNs with an ADN degree. They also have more job options to choose from.
Here are some of the nursing specialties for which employers either require nurses to have a BSN degree upon employment, or they prioritize hiring nurses who do:
- Military nurse
- Travel nurse
- Public health nurse
- Case manager nurse
- Nurse researcher
There are some specialized nursing jobs, such as an oncology nurse, in which you can start with ADN, but should earn a BSN degree along the way.
Administrative and leadership positions are usually reserved for BSN registered nurses, and the chances for ADN-prepared nurses to occupy such positions are limited.
Both RNs and BSN RNs usually get hired in entry-level positions in the same types of health care facilities.
However, your degree level can influence your employment in different locations and health care 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.
RNs and BSN RNs can usually work in:
- Physicians’ offices
- Home health care services,
- Nursing care facilities
- Outpatient clinics and schools
Yet, there are some types of healthc are settings that only BSN nurses can work in. These are the most popular such settings:
Military nursing settings. This type of nurse 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 bachelor’s degree, so this is a job opportunity that ADN nurses won’t be able to enjoy.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the median 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.
Payscale data shows that the median ADN-educated RN salary in the United States is $60,028. This suggests that the median annual salary for BSN RNs in the U.S. is higher than $71,730, 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.
Conclusion: Which 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 will have to juggle both education and job responsibilities.
Here’s some of the benefits of attending Nightingale:
– Hybrid-virtual programs
– No waitlists! We’re enrolling now for our Fall semester
– No pre-reqs 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!