adn vs bsn pros and cons

The Pros and Cons of a BSN Degree Program

Nursing is one the few medical professions that offers several pathways to licensure. Registered Nurses can launch their careers in two or three years by completing an associate degree in Nursing (ADN) or, in some states, a hospital-based diploma program. Alternatively, aspiring RNs can pursue a bachelor’s degree in Nursing (BSN), which traditionally takes about four years to complete. All paths will qualify a nurse to sit for their licensing exam and become an RN.

Some employers require a bachelor’s in Nursing for entry into a job, such as the military and some school systems. Additionally, some employers are starting to request that nurses go back to school for their BSN. While not a standard requirement in the field, a BSN can build upon an RN’s education and experience. The curriculum can bolster a nurse’s critical thinking skills, sharpen their knowledge of complex conditions, and—as studies have shown—improve their patient outcomes.

Of course, as with any college decision, you must weigh your options carefully. It is important to understand the pros and cons of a BSN, as well as the pros and cons of other nursing degrees.

Weighing Your Nursing Degree Options

No matter which type of nursing degree you pursue, you can expect a rewarding career with a great salary at the entry-level. You can also expect to impact patients’ lives right away. So, the decision will come down to which type of degree best meets your needs.

If you are already a nurse and hoping to expand your education through a BSN program, it is also important to understand the pros and cons of going back to school.

Let’s explore the different types of nursing degrees.

  • Associate degree in Nursing: The ADN is an entry-level program designed for nurses looking to learn the ins and outs of patient care, while also getting into the workforce fast.
  • Bachelor’s degree in Nursing: A traditional BSN is a four-year program that involves both patient care practice along with courses in theory and management.
  • RN to BSN degree: An add-on to the associate degree, the RN-to-BSN is designed for licensed Registered Nurses looking to go back to school for their bachelor’s, at a flexible pace.
  • Accelerated BSN degree: An accelerated BSN (ABSN) is a program specially designed for those who are new to the nursing field, but who already have a bachelor’s degree in another major and wish to change career fields. Learn more here.

The Pros and Cons of a BSN Degree for Aspiring Nurses

If you are brand new to nursing and just getting started towards your degree, you may be weighing the pros and cons of a BSN degree versus an associate in Nursing.

As noted above, an associate degree in Nursing is the standard requirement for RNs today – but some consider a BSN degree program out the gate, to ensure career mobility down the road. Let’s consider the pros and cons of a traditional BSN degree program.

Pros of a Traditional BSN:

• You’ll develop advanced skills in administration and nursing theory.

BSN programs go beyond the basics of patient care. In a BSN degree program, you will find courses in nursing research, healthcare policy, patient advocacy, theory, plus leadership and management. The goal of the BSN curriculum is to prepare students for supervisory and administrative roles—careers that are not typically attainable with an associate degree. Of course, you may not qualify for advanced leadership jobs right out of college. It will still take some time to build experience and credibility, but the bachelor’s degree will position you for those opportunities when the time is right.

• You can earn an advanced degree in one fell swoop.

While it’s possible to earn an associate degree in Nursing and go back to school later for a bachelor’s degree, many students prefer to complete their BSN in one go. Going this traditional route, students apply to one program – their BSN program – and knock out all of their nursing requirements while there. With their BSN degree completed right away, they can immediately qualify for all types of nursing careers after graduation. They can also feel comforted in knowing their BSN will help them meet any “BSN in 10” requirements that may arise down the road.

Cons of a Traditional BSN:

• It takes four years to complete.

One of the most obvious “cons” of a bachelor’s degree is that it requires more time to complete. Entry-level BSN programs are about four years in length. This means BSN students often need to wait four years to get their license, start earning money, and begin building experience in the field. Meanwhile, some of their counterparts who completed a two-year program will be able to dive right into nursing, making connections and earning a salary after graduation.

• You may feel behind.

In a four-year BSN program, the typical structure is as follows: The first two years are designed to provide students with practical skills in patient care and clinical processes. The following two years, however, branch into broader topics around leadership and administration, theory, and policies. While these later courses are undeniably valuable for nurses, they are less focused on the practicalities of daily nursing tasks. As a result, some feel that nurses who graduate from two-year associate degree programs transition more easily into patient care roles (such as in hospitals), due to their recent experience in the field.

The Pros and Cons of a BSN Degree for Current RNs

What about if you are already licensed as a Registered Nurse, but looking to grow your career opportunities with a bachelor’s degree? Many RNs consider a BSN to increase their salary potential, qualify for advancement opportunities, and ensure job security in a constantly evolving field. However, is a BSN degree worth it? What are the pros and cons of a BSN program for working nurses?

This is where an RN-to-BSN program comes into play.

Pros of an RN-to-BSN:

• You can take your courses online.

The thought of going back to school (not to mention, commuting to campus) can be intimidating for a busy, working nurse. For this reason, many RN-to-BSN programs are offered in online or hybrid formats. This allows RNs to complete coursework remotely, where they feel comfortable and at a time that works best with their schedule. RN-to-BSN students enjoy flexibility. At Goodwin University, you can design a schedule that works for you—not a schedule you have to work around.

• You can earn your BSN in 12 months part-time.

The beauty of pursuing an RN-to-BSN degree is that it does not require another long stint in school. Most RN-to-BSN programs can be completed in a matter of 12 to 16 months. Further, these programs can be completed on a part-time basis, so you can continue working your full-time job while earning your degree. At Goodwin University, the RN-to-BSN program can be completed in 12 months part-time. Couple this with our 20-month associate degree program, and you have a total investment of 32 months (less than three years) in nursing school.

Cons of an RN-to-BSN:

• You will need to balance school and work.

One thing to keep in mind is that, as a Registered Nurse, it’s unlikely that your work schedule will change to accommodate your education. You will likely need to continue working while going to school. This can be a challenge for some nurses, but remember that RN-to-BSN programs are designed for the working nurse. Some are offered in part-time and online formats. As long as you have strong time management skills, self-motivation, stress management techniques, and flexibility in your weeks, you will be able to manage both responsibilities.

• It is another investment.

Like any educational endeavor, an RN-to-BSN program is an investment of both time and money. You will need to take time to apply to this (second) nursing program and have the means to cover tuition and material costs. Of course, there are affordable RN-to-BSN programs out there—along with scholarship and financial aid opportunities for nursing students. Be sure to research all your options before settling into a program, to ensure your investment is well-worth it.

The Overarching Benefits of a BSN Degree

When weighing the pros and cons of a BSN, it’s clear to see that this degree path is a smart move, no matter when you choose to pursue it. Whether you reach for your BSN as an early nursing student, or go back to school for a BSN degree later in your career, you are sure to reap benefits such as:

• Increased job opportunities.

With a bachelor’s in Nursing degree, you will be qualified for a broader range of job prospects, beyond your typical patient care positions. You may choose to pursue a career in leadership with a BSN degree. Or, you may choose to pursue a career in a niche field that requires a bachelor’s degree, such as the military, nursing research, and case management. Some specialties, such as OB/GYN and psychiatric nursing, also require a BSN. Learn about advanced nursing careers here.

• Higher salary potential.

Registered Nurses with a BSN degree may qualify for higher salary potential. While RNs at all education levels typically start out at the same, entry-level pay, a bachelor’s degree can position a nurse for higher earnings over the course of their career. As cited by, the salary of nurses with an associate degree averages at around $69,000 per year, while a BSN-educated nurse may earn as much as $84,000 annually. Again, part of this discrepancy is due to the fact that BSN degree holders qualify for more advanced nursing positions, which often promise great pay.

• Better patient outcomes.

Research has long associated higher education with better patient outcomes in the field of nursing. A study conducted by the Journal of Nursing Administration, for example, found that nurses with a BSN degree had stronger patient outcomes, including higher survival rates, less complications, and reduced inpatient stays. BSN-educated nurses also exhibited a greater ability to manage complex patients.

These are just some of the many, many benefits of a BSN degree.

The question is no longer, “Is a BSN degree worth it?” but rather, “At what point in my career should I pursue a BSN degree?” A bachelor’s in Nursing, while not yet required, can truly elevate a nurse’s skillsets and knowledge, and in turn allow them to have a greater impact in patients’ lives.

Whether you pursue an associate degree in Nursing first, and a bachelor’s down the road, or you decide to go for the BSN right away, rest assured that your career prospects will be bright. If you’d like to learn more about launching a nursing career, or the various programs at Goodwin University, do not hesitate to reach out. Contact Goodwin at 800-889-3282 or visit us online to request more information.