Whether starting a nursing career or seeking to strengthen your skillsets, credentials are an important foundation for your future in the nursing field. As academic distinctions advance, so will opportunities, earning potential, and career outcomes.
If you are here, you may be wondering the difference between an RN vs. BSN, and how these abbreviations apply to the nursing field.
Simply put, a registered nurse (RN) is a career license and occupational job title, while a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is an undergraduate degree.
What is an RN?
An RN, also known as a registered nurse, is a licensed healthcare professional who provides care to patients in need. RNs also educate their patients and the public on disease prevention, medical conditions, preventive care, and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Registered nurses are typically the professionals you see bustling about hospitals, healthcare clinics, doctors’ offices, and school health clinics. They handle all aspects of patient care, working alongside doctors, physicians, and nurse practitioners.
In order to practice, aspiring RNs are required to fulfill specific education and training requirements, as well as become licensed in the field. One can earn an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). After graduation, an RN with either degree will be eligible for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Passing this exam will grant them licensure and the credentials of an RN.
As reported by the American Nurses Association, the primary responsibilities of an RN include:
- Administering medications
- Collaborating on care with holistic healthcare teams
- Performing physical exams/health histories, and
- Providing health counseling, education, and promotion
While ADN and BSN educated nurses may work in the same setting with many similar duties, BSN nurses are also trained for advanced leadership roles like nursing administration, case management, research, and more.
What is a BSN?
A BSN is a higher-level undergraduate degree than an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). Today, a BSN is the preferred level of education for RNs in many medical environments.
If you are considering becoming an RN, the BSN degree path can be very beneficial to your success. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing elevates skills such as critical thinking and elaborates on topics like ethics, health promotion, humanities, and patient care technology. In turn, this level of education prepares aspiring nurses for more leadership positions after graduation.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) also specifies the impact of education on nursing practice, stating, “Clinicians with Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees are well-prepared to meet the demands placed on today’s nurse. AACN encourages employers to offer incentives for registered nurses seeking to advance their education to the baccalaureate and higher degree levels.”
RN vs. BSN: Education and Essential Requirements
Universally, registered nurses must have either earned an Associate in Nursing or a Bachelor’s in Nursing. The Associate Degree in Nursing can usually be completed in two years, while a BSN degree typically takes four years to complete.
ADN requirements and BSN requirements for admission vary per program and institution. As a part of the certification process, nursing applicants must also pass the NCLEX-RN exam to practice in their state.
There are a few key differences between ADN and BSN programs.
Compared to a preliminary two-year nursing program like an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), a BSN provides students a more in-depth education, instructing on specific subjects like nursing care models, management, medical theory, and the research behind modern, evidence-based healthcare practices and policies.
Students can obtain their Bachelor of Science in Nursing in a few different ways:
- Students can pursue a traditional, entry-level BSN program, which takes about four years to complete.
- For students who are switching careers and have a bachelor’s degree in another major, an accelerated BSN programs offers a faster-track to becoming an RN.
- Students can earn an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), become an RN, and later complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) through an RN-to-BSN bridge program. RN-to-BSN programs are specifically designed for working nurses, offering flexible, online classes to obtain an advanced degree.
RN vs. BSN: Career Opportunities to Consider
Registered nurses have many career options and generally work in care units such as geriatrics, oncology, or pediatrics. RNs can also work in various settings like clinics, doctor’s offices, home care, hospitals, and outpatient and rehabilitation centers.
The employee benefits of obtaining a BSN include:
- An advanced level of clinical confidence for patient care, especially in high-pressure settings
- A stronger résumé and increased job stability
- Career flexibility – further professional opportunities in a wider range of environments
- Higher earning potential — more possibilities for raises and promotions
- Using education credentials to climb the career latter and stand out among the competition
- Ability to apply for nursing jobs that require a bachelor’s degree, such as Military Nursing or School Nursing.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, licensed nursing graduates (of any program type) can “qualify for entry-level positions as a staff nurse.” However, the BLS notes that “employers—particularly those in hospitals—may require a bachelor’s degree.” Additionally, a BSN degree is often necessary for positions in administration, consulting, research, and teaching.
RN vs. BSN: Future Outlook of an Occupation in Nursing
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for registered nurses is projected to grow nine percent from 2020 to 2030, with an average of 194,500 job openings each year.
The 2021 national median annual wage for RNs was $77,600; the top ten percent of earners (typically graduates with additional education) made more than $120,250.
Working as an RN in Connecticut has rewards, too — the median annual salary for registered nurses in the Nutmeg State is $83,860.
Additionally, completing a BSN affords learners to continue their education and attain their MSN or other APRN designations like an FNP or a PMHNP degree. This can lead to even higher-paying and emerging positions in clinical leadership and practice.
RN vs. BSN: What is in Your Future?
Although the differences between an RN and BSN are distinct, earning a degree in nursing provides a pivotal pathway to a compassionate career. While many nurses choose to earn their BSN degree, the road to becoming an RN can look different for everyone.
At Goodwin, aspiring RNs may pursue an Associate Degree in Nursing, gain experience in the field, and then pursue our flexible RN-to-BSN program. Aspiring RNs who are new to nursing, but have a bachelor’s degree in another field of study, can pursue an accelerated BSN. Both are viable pathways to attain the RN credential.
Registered nurses have meaningful professions filled with purpose — making an everyday difference in the lives of each patient they meet.
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