Last updated on February 16th, 2024 at 06:59 pm

You are thriving as a registered nurse but would like to take the next step in your career. The right collegiate nursing program could make a world of difference, equipping you with one of the most trusted academic credentials in the healthcare field: the Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

The BSN represents the culmination of several years of focused study, including a wealth of theoretical, evidence-based coursework that delves into many areas of nursing. This bachelor’s degree is not easy to earn, but it’s absolutely worthwhile, as it provides numerous professional and personal advantages that we will discuss in more detail below.

There are several paths to earning your BSN, but for many, the best and most relevant approach is an RN to BSN program. Designed to help registered nurses take the next step in their academic and professional journeys, this bridge program encourages licensed nurses to seek a bachelor’s degree.

Are you ready to elevate your nursing career? If you are already a registered nurse, you could be a great candidate for the RN to BSN. To help you determine whether this program is right for you, we’ve compiled a guide that answers a critical question: What is an RN to BSN program? Keep reading to find out — and to discover the advantages of earning your BSN. 

Importance of RN-to-BSN in the Nursing Field

The value of a BSN is increasingly recognized throughout the healthcare industry and beyond, reflected in impactful state legislation. In New York, for example, the BSN in 10 has made waves with its unprecedented mandate: Newly licensed RNs must attain their BSN within ten years.

As the healthcare sector continues the push for more BSN-trained nurses, securing a BSN may one day become a matter of necessity. This may also be dictated by employers, especially as healthcare leaders increasingly recognize the value of an advanced education. American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) data already reveals a strong preference among employers for BSN-trained nurses.

Other findings from the AACN suggest that quality of care improves dramatically when a greater share of nurses study at the bachelor’s level. The implications for this could be considerable, affecting everything from healthcare mortality rates to length of hospital stays and even patient satisfaction. 

Benefits of Pursuing Your BSN Degree

Healthcare sector advantages aside, a BSN degree is worth pursuing for individual reasons as it is one of the best and most reliable paths to progressing as a nurse. Many of this degree’s core benefits relate to climbing the career ladder, but there are also several personal advantages to consider. We’ve highlighted these in detail below: 

Enhanced Professional Opportunities

As they gain experience and take on new responsibilities, many RNs feel drawn to specific types of nursing. Finding work in these areas can be difficult without specialized training or a higher-level degree. A BSN equips nurses with a valuable skill set for moving into the specialties they find most compelling. While some of these positions are only available with a master’s degree, many specialties are within reach upon earning a BSN.

As we’ve touched on, the BSN can also open the door to general RN positions that are less likely to be available for Associate Degree in Nursing (and)-trained nurses. Previously mentioned AACN research indicates that the overwhelming majority of healthcare employers prefer to hire BSN nurses, and for over 41 percent of employers, this level of training is an outright requirement. 

Increased Salary Potential

Although it is possible to earn an excellent salary as an RN with an associate degree, a BSN can provide a definite boost in earnings. Nurses trained at the bachelor’s level are currently in high demand, so many employers are willing to offer competitive wages and benefits to hire the field’s best and brightest RNs.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) details on nursing wages do not reflect differences related to educational level, but some insight can be gained from salary data compiled by PayScale: an average of $93,000 per year for BSN-trained nurses, while ADN nurses can expect a more modest $76,000 per year. 

Expanded Responsibilities and Roles

If you desire new responsibilities and greater autonomy as a healthcare professional, a BSN is the way to go. While your general scope of practice will remain consistent due to your continued designation as RN, you may get the chance to take on leadership roles, marking a distinct shift from working in a strictly clinical capacity to pursuing opportunities in care management or quality control. 

Admission Requirements for RN-to-BSN Degree Programs

Interested in entering an RN to BSN program? The path forward is clear: Apply for and gain admission into a respected BSN program and begin fulfilling the course requirements to earn your bachelor’s degree. You will first need to fulfill a few basic requirements: 

Essential Qualifications

The absolute minimum requirement to gain admission to an RN to BSN program? An Associate Degree in Nursing earned from an accredited college or university and a current RN license. Other requirements will vary from one program to the next; at Salem University, admission requirements for the RN to BSN include a cumulative grade point average of 2.5. 

Steps for Successful Admission

Ready to apply? Be prepared to provide transcripts and documentation of your RN licensure. If admitted, you could earn up to 60 credits automatically based on your previous completion of an ADN program, plus your experience as an RN. It may also be possible to transfer additional courses, contributing to a maximum transfer of 90 credits. 

Overview of RN-to-BSN Curriculum

Once you’ve earned your spot in an RN to BSN program, you will be ready to enroll in undergraduate courses and dive into challenging yet fascinating concepts. Your curriculum will build on the strong foundation you previously developed while studying to become a registered nurse but with additional opportunities to specialize in areas you find compelling. 

Transition to Professional Nursing Courses

The BSN marks a distinct transition to professional coursework. At this point, you have mastered the basics and are ready to delve into higher-level concepts. These may include general education courses designed to enhance your skills more broadly, plus foundational, research-oriented coursework delving into evidence-based practice, ethical concerns and nursing leadership. These courses are taken at the 400 level, reflecting their complex subject matter. 

Clinical Experience and Upper-Level Nursing Classes

The RN to BSN incorporates experiential activities to help synthesize nursing concepts and apply them in the field. Cutting-edge research is also typically emphasized while completing nursing capstones and other upper-level coursework.

This emphasis on evidence-based practice can help nurses continue to apply research-backed techniques in a clinical capacity long after graduation and may also provide valuable preparation for the challenges of graduate-level coursework. 

Factors to Consider When Choosing an RN-to-BSN Program

Even if you found the decision to pursue your BSN simple, finding the right college can be trickier. There’s a lot to consider, such as program length, format and faculty members. Ready to apply for an RN to BSN program? We’ve highlighted several factors that will play heavily into this important decision.

Accreditation and Program Quality

Is your desired nursing program accredited by a respected authority? Accreditation conveys that your program is highly trusted across the healthcare profession. For nursing, the ultimate mark of confidence comes from the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (NLN CNEA). As you research potential nursing degrees, verify accreditation status, both for the desired program and the college itself. 

Length of Program

While the standard BSN program encompasses a total of 120 credits that (along with the ADN portion) may take up to four years to complete, there are plenty of variations depending on students’ schedules and other concerns. In some cases, it is possible to complete a BSN within a shorter time frame.

Other students prefer a slower pace that allows them to focus on gaining experience as ADN-trained RNs and provides more time to apply research-backed concepts on the job. When selecting a program, be mindful of the standard time frame and opportunities to study on a part-time basis. 

Program Flexibility

It is common practice for RNs to continue working full-time as they seek their bachelor’s degrees, meaning that BSN programs need to be uniquely flexible to accommodate busy nursing schedules. This flexibility stems from how nurses schedule their courses and whether they can take these courses online. Program flexibility is also impacted by transfer credits: When in doubt, look for a program that will accept most or all ADN credits. 

Clinical Opportunities

Theoretical study is essential for gaining a greater understanding of nursing practice, and RNs rely on clinical opportunities to help them apply this newfound knowledge. For some, this is as simple as applying evidence-based practice in their daily work as nurses. Experiential activities may also be built into BSN programs, along with capstones that encourage extensive collaboration with leaders in the healthcare community. 

Faculty Expertise

BSN courses should be taught by respected nursing professionals who can draw on a wealth of experience to share impactful insights with nursing students. When selecting RN to BSN programs, be mindful of the types of positions faculty members have held in the past, particularly if they have experience in relevant or compelling specialties. Credentials also matter — especially the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE). 

Alumni Network

The importance of networking cannot be overstated; it is how many nurses find work in their preferred niches and with desired patient populations. BSN programs allow RNs to build strong relationships with fellow nurses, forming the basis of a robust professional network. Take a close look at alumni opportunities to reveal how these connections can be maintained after graduation. 

Online or In-Person Classes

Many BSN programs are available online or in a hybrid format, which can be helpful for busy nursing students already working full-time as RNs. Distance learning boosts flexibility by expanding the range of colleges and universities students are realistically able to attend, rather than forcing them to make decisions based on geographic proximity.

There’s a lot to appreciate about distance learning, but some students still prefer the traditional, in-person nursing school experience. On-campus classes certainly have their benefits, although advanced technologies and cutting-edge instructional formats replicate many of the advantages of in-person coursework. 

Tuition and Expenses

For some aspiring BSN nurses, the cost of tuition plays heavily into nursing school selection. Colleges should be transparent about the cost of attendance. Scholarship opportunities must also be considered, as these could cover a portion of tuition expenses. If available, use net price calculators to gain better insight into realistic expenses upon entering the program.

Some employers are willing to help nurses cover the cost of tuition (or a portion of it), recognizing that high-level training can boost outcomes, both for individual RNs and on a larger scale as more nursing staff secure bachelor’s degrees. 

Career Prospects With an RN-to-BSN Degree

While RNs often maintain similar job titles upon graduating with their BSN, this degree can boost access to desired specializations or even leadership roles. Across numerous RN specialties, BSN degrees make candidates more competitive. Many employers cite a clear preference for RNs educated at the bachelor’s level, with some even listing this as a requirement. 

Roles and Responsibilities in the Healthcare Field

BSN nurses take on a variety of healthcare roles and responsibilities, often transitioning beyond clinical practice to pursue other opportunities in nursing management, research and even education. Examples might include:

  • Monitoring staff and implementing measures to improve infection control.
  • Drawing on data analytics and risk management practices to boost quality control.
  • Working alongside nurse managers to assist with the counseling and mentoring of RNs.
  • Leading bedside nurses as unit supervisors or charge nurses while ensuring nursing operations run smoothly. 

Potential Salary Ranges

Regardless of their degree, RNs can earn a competitive income. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for RNs reached $81,220 as of 2022. With experience and the right credentials, it is possible to earn far more, with BLS data indicating that the annual income for the top 10 percent of RNs exceeds $129,400.

The BSN can also open the door to other opportunities for advancement. Some BSN nurses go on to pursue graduate degrees and become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) or nurse practitioners (NPs). BLS data reveals a significant pay boost for these roles: a median of $125,900 per year for the category encompassing nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners. 

Is an RN-to-BSN Degree the Right Choice for You?

Are ready to take the next step in your nursing career? Your path forward could involve an RN to BSN program. This is your chance to expand your skill set and boost your resume with a bachelor’s degree. Salem University is pleased to provide accredited opportunities through our RN to BSN program, which culminates in earning the esteemed Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Reach out today to learn more.

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