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RN vs BSN: What's the Difference?

It’s a question that many aspiring nurses must address: What is the difference between an RN and BSN? Put simply, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a degree that can help you succeed as a registered nurse (RN), which is a licensed position. Understanding the difference between the BSN degree and the RN job title is critical — especially for those who are considering pursuing a nursing degree or starting their nursing careers — since earning a BSN can aid up-and-coming nurses in achieving their professional goals.

Typically, a BSN is a four-year degree that includes both liberal arts courses and a curriculum rooted in practical nursing, expanding students’ knowledge and preparing them to fulfill the role of an RN. While a BSN is not required for employment as an RN, earning a BSN can help registered nurses stand out from other candidates applying for the same position.

After developing critical skills such as time management, problem-solving, communication, and cultural awareness, as well as receiving practical education in medical care, BSN graduates are prepared to dive into a variety of nursing roles. Read on for all the necessary RN vs. BSN information required to choose the best course of action for your professional progress.female nurse practitioner

Understanding the Educational Requirements for Becoming an RN

Even with the steadily growing demand for healthcare professionals, currently predicted to grow 14% between 2018 and 2028 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), candidates without a formal nursing education cannot legally qualify for RN positions. While professionals with limited nursing expertise can hold healthcare aide and nursing assistant positions, the role of an RN is available only to individuals with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) who pass the NCLEX exam and earn an RN license from the states where they reside.

After completing BSN coursework, an RN should have a stronger comprehension of nursing theory, human biology and psychology, and cutting-edge care techniques. As with any professional field, a higher level of education can qualify nurses to take on more workplace responsibilities, thereby allowing them to accelerate their careers and step into more lucrative positions.

Key Differences Between RN vs. BSN

Nurses who have graduated from accredited ADN or BSN programs can become RNs. All aspiring nurses must pass a state licensing examination and complete required practice testing to work as registered nurses. RNs can administer basic care; counsel clients on their options; track paperwork and patient progress; and communicate effectively with those in their care, as well as other staff members.

Beyond these similarities, there are some compelling differences between an ADN program and a BSN. BSN degrees generally require four years of education instead of the two to three years required to complete an ADN, although nontraditional paths can offer different options and timelines. The BSN course of study features more liberal arts courses and a 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.

Skill Differences Between RN and BSN

BSN graduates develop unique skills that can set them apart from RNs who don’t hold a BSN degree. This includes skills in leadership, management, problem-solving, communication, and critical thinking. As part of their education, BSN students will also delve into the medical theory and research behind healthcare processes.

These competencies can be applied across a range of medical settings and roles, such as nurse anesthetist and geriatric nurse practitioner. An RN, on the other hand, will have foundational skills for providing clinical care, but may not have sufficient skills for pursuing advanced nursing careers in administration, education, or speciality fields.

BSN vs. RN Salary and Professional Outlook

As baby boomers age, nurses have become increasingly in demand, according to U.S. News & World Report. That means students who wish to pursue work as an RN are likely to find many professional opportunities. However, BSN graduates will have more opportunities for advancement due to their expanded education and expertise. Organizations such as the American Nursing Association suggest that all nurses pursue a BSN to improve quality of care. Additionally, some state licensing boards, such as New York’s, require all ADN holders to complete a BSN within 10 years of graduation.

According to the BLS, the median salary for RNs in the United States was $73,300 as of 2019, though RNs with a BSN may earn more as they advance to managerial and specialized positions. It is important to note that pay in all positions can vary with experience and geographic location.

Why Healthcare Establishments Prefer to Hire BSN Graduates

A range of medical establishments, such as government facilities, hospitals, and military organizations, recognize the importance of hiring BSN graduates for their skills and breadth of knowledge in the field. Magnet hospitals, for example, require all nurse managers and leaders to have at least a BSN. The National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice (NACNEP) has created a countrywide call for two-thirds of all nurses to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.

BSN graduates not only are better prepared for entering nursing careers, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), but also yield better patient outcomes, diagnoses, and lower mortality rates. As the healthcare field continues to evolve to accommodate an aging population of baby boomers and new technologies, medical facilities will need BSN-educated graduates to navigate these changes and lead groundbreaking initiatives in improving patient care.

Earning a BSN Can Better Prepare You for a Nursing Career

Completing a BSN program exposes nursing professionals to subjects that enhance their ability to provide quality patient care. For example, liberal arts courses help them improve their communication skills, while courses in pharmacology and nursing management and leadership in contemporary healthcare coach them on how to be leaders in their field.

While a bachelor’s degree program does not always offer students the same hands-on skills they can learn through years of clinical practice, BSN programs are designed to provide in-depth knowledge of evidence-based healthcare processes. All nurses, regardless of whether they approach the field via an ADN or a BSN, must possess a desire to continue learning, as technology and treatment approaches are always advancing.

The primary objective of healthcare facilities is to ensure positive patient outcomes. The comprehensive education provided in a BSN degree program, which typically includes the development of soft skills such as creative problem-solving and intercultural communication, can help RNs thrive.

Consequently, BSN degree-holders may have more flexibility in the job market because of their higher proficiency in all aspects of nursing. This is a key advantage for those who hope to transition to positions that allow them to treat specific categories of patients in healthcare environments that suit their personal preferences.

Commit to Your Future in Nursing

By completing an RN to BSN program, such as Maryville University’s, you can expand your overall mastery of nursing, enabling you to more effectively protect patient populations from adverse health outcomes. This can be both personally and professionally rewarding. Nursing students reap many benefits through study at the bachelor’s level, from discussion of ethics in healthcare to practical applications of care techniques.

Find out more about the benefits of earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing to see if it matches your goals. With the right education, graduates can embark on a number of potentially rewarding and lucrative careers in nursing that offer the chance to help others.

Recommended Reading
A Look at a Career in Travel Nursing

The Future of Nursing: Leading Change in the 21st Century

The Future of Telehealth: An Inside Look at the Merger of Tech & Healthcare

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, The Impact of Education on Nursing Practice

Houston Chronicle, “Facts About Becoming a Nurse”

Monster, “Where Will an ADN Put You on the Nursing Career Ladder?”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Healthcare Occupations

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses

U.S. News & World Report, “Is There a Coming Shortage of Nurses?”