The field of nursing encompasses a number of different specialties, and nurses can also earn a variety of different degrees. The different degrees involve varying periods of education to prepare nurses to work in the health care industry. Nurses may be RNs or LPNs, and they may have a BSN, MSN, DNP, or associate degree. The terms “RN” and “BSN” are often confused, but they are different in several ways. A registered nurse can earn the title of RN upon graduation from a nursing program with either an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree. Someone with an associate degree is said to have an ADN; a four-year program will lead to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN.

Which Degree Is Better?

Nurses with both degrees can be registered nurses, or RNs. Nurses with both degrees have completed the national licensing examination as well as all required practice testing to work as registered nurses. All registered nurses possess essential skills. However, nurses with a BSN degree have completed more education than nurses with an ADN. BSN study involves four years of education instead of just two or three years required for an ADN degree. The BSN course of study involves more liberal arts courses and more in-depth nursing education that includes research, theory, care models, leadership training, and management. Thus, BSN graduates are positioned to not only work in direct patient care but also advance into administrative and supervisory positions.

Which Degree Has Higher Pay?

All nurses are in demand due to a nationwide nursing shortage. However, nurses possessing BSN degrees will likely have more opportunities for advancement due to their expanded education and expertise. An RN with an ADN degree will qualify for approximately 65 percent of all registered nursing positions available in the country, but a registered nurse with a BSN degree will qualify for 100 percent of the positions available. The median salary for RNs in the United States was more than $68,000 as of 2016, but an RN with a BSN could expect to earn slightly more than this. However, the main earnings advantage for BSN RNs is the opportunity for advancement to managerial and specialized positions.

Different Job Types

Both ADN and BSN registered nurses have the training and qualifications to care for patients, performing all of the traditional nursing duties and procedures in a health care facility such as a hospital, clinic, or nursing home. An RN with a BSN can also advance to management positions, nurse educator positions, and department coordinator positions. A BSN RN may work in research with physicians or may work as a clinical educator. An RN with a BSN is also positioned to continue the education path by attending graduate school. With a master’s or doctorate, a registered nurse might become a clinical nurse specialist or a nurse practitioner.

The Future of Nursing

Because professional recommendations indicate that at least 80 percent of the nursing workforce in the United States should possess a BSN by the year 2020, many employers in the health care industry are already requiring that all new hires possess this degree. ADN RNs already holding positions on staff will likely be given a specific time frame to earn their BSN, and they may also receive some tuition reimbursement. Some nursing students may choose to attend nursing school full time, focusing primarily on earning their BSN degrees. Other students may need to work and take courses simultaneously. The standard course of study for these students involves five full-time semesters, but students can stretch the coursework out to fit their schedules. Many colleges also offer online nursing degree programs, which can make it possible for students to fit classes around work and family commitments. Online classes have a flexible schedule, and students can attend and study remotely.