RN to BSN GuideEdited by Nancy Lynn Swezey, BSN, RN, CNOR
As healthcare evolves, so do many standards of nursing practice. While registered nurses have historically been licensed after completing a two-year associate degree, many employers now encourage existing nurses to complete their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) and might not hire those that have not completed it. Certain states, such as New York, have even passed laws requiring all registered nurses to complete their BSN within a certain amount of time. Current RNs may choose to complete a BSN degree for professional growth or to meet increasing standards. There exist a variety of different coursework formats and study paces to allow for work-life balance. When choosing a program, RN to BSN applicants can consider individual program requirements, preferred learning style, and their goals for degree completion timing. An RN to BSN program can then open the door to more advanced opportunities and salaries in the nursing field.
View our full ranking list of top online RN to BSN programs here.
What Is RN to BSN?
RN to BSN programs are designed specifically for registered nurses who wish to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Because most RNs already hold a minimum of an associate degree in nursing and have on-the-job experience in nursing, they can often complete a BSN on a shortened timeline.
Current RNs can often transfer credits from their associate degree to bypass more foundational courses and focus on more advanced skills training, health sciences, and principles of nursing.
How to Choose an RN to BSN Program
Nurses evaluating RN to BSN programs often consider different schools' reputations, curriculums, and program schedules. A necessary first step is to confirm that the school is accredited by either the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), two agencies considered reliable validators of nursing education.
Next, applicants should consider tuition and how to pay for classes. Working RNs may receive tuition reimbursement and will need to know the conditions of this arrangement. When thinking about RN to BSN programs, applicants also need to decide whether or not, or to what extent, they will continue working. Many schools have classes at set times, while others offer more flexible, self-determined scheduling. This is true of both online and in-person classes. Applicants can also choose to enroll either part-time or full-time. The best option varies person by person, depending on how they learn best and other responsibilities they have during the program.
Applicants can also choose to enroll either part time or full time. This is another vital detail to consider when students are looking at programs to which they want to apply.
Online RN to BSN Programs
For students who prefer the flexibility of computer-based learning, there are plenty of RN to BSN online programs available. This type of program is also a strong option for students who do not live near a school with an accredited RN to BSN program. It is a viable choice for those who require convenience and prefer a self-directed learning style.
RN to BSN Curriculum
Each RN to BSN curriculum varies by school, but students can expect classes to focus heavily on science and research. Coursework often includes health assessment, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, pathophysiology, evidence-based practice, statistics, nursing informatics, ethics, and community health.
How Long Does It Take to Graduate From Nursing School?
The typical RN to BSN program length is about two years for students who pursue the degree at a full-time pace, though it is possible to complete the program within 18 months. Part-time students will take longer to finish depending on how much of a course load they are able to take on.
Admission Requirements and RN to BSN Prerequisites
Schools vary in their RN to BSN prerequisites. At a minimum, applicants should already be licensed and registered nurses. Other RN to BSN admission requirements include an associate degree from an accredited school and a minimum GPA from that program. Applicants submit official transcripts as well as reference letters from either an academic or professional contact. In addition to this, many programs require background checks and proof of active clinical work as a registered nurse.
Many schools also set a minimum of general education requirements that must be completed before enrolling in the RN to BSN program. Applicants should review the types of courses and number of hours required in each area to ensure they qualify for enrollment.
RN to BSN Salary
RNs who are considering a BSN should understand how a BSN may affect their current salary. Typically, pay is lower for an RN with an associate degree than for an RN with a BSN, which makes earning a BSN a worthwhile investment for many. According to PayScale, the median hourly wage for an employee with a BSN is $31, while median salary is $81,000 per year. However, nursing salaries vary greatly by state and city. BSN graduates may also see more advancement opportunities after completing their degree.
Frequently Asked Questions About BSN Degrees
Can I Earn a BSN Without an RN License?
Non-nurses enrolled in direct-entry BSN programs do not need a nursing license to begin. Upon degree completion, they take the NCLEX-RN and apply for licensure. An RN license, however, is required to enter an accelerated RN to BSN program like the ones discussed on this page.
Do You Need a BSN to Be an RN?
An RN license can be earned with either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Both types of degree holders must take and pass the NCLEX-RN in order to become a licensed RN. As discussed previously, this may change as the nursing field evolves, along with standards of care, education, and professionalism.