Should I Get an ADN or BSN?

BSN student headshot

Once you decide to become a nurse, you will begin to look at nursing preparation programs and discover that there are two avenues to become a registered nurse. In beginning your nursing education, you can earn several degrees, including an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or you can earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Though both pathways can prepare you to become a registered nurse, employers may view these programs differently. Many registered nurses (RNs) start with an associate degree and continue their education with a BSN. Before deciding whether you want to begin your nursing education with an ADN or BSN, it is important to understand what these degrees offer you.

Differences Between ADN and BSN Nursing Degree Programs

Academic content is the primary difference between ADN and BSN programs. BSN programs tend to emphasize research and informatics alongside the theoretical knowledge and practical work required for nursing careers. A BSN program will include a clinical rotation in both community and public health settings. ADN and BSN graduates receive similar clinical experience in performing assessments and procedures, meaning that graduates from both degrees are prepared to fulfill their basic responsibilities as RNs.

BSN graduates may not necessarily get more clinical experience than ADN graduates in terms of carrying out assessments and procedures, but higher academic attainment is connected to the overall performance of RNs. Hospitals may hire BSN graduates to receive certain grants, accreditations, or recognition such as American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Magnet Recognition® status. In addition, many hospitals prefer hiring BSN graduates based on acute care research that shows a connection between academic attainment and quality of care.

Public healthcare organizations tend to exclusively hire BSN graduates. This is because the government and nonprofit organizations require a higher level of education for healthcare staff. However, ASN graduates often find employment in areas such as long-term care and geriatric care, as the requirements for these facilities often differ from a hospital.

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Opportunities for ADN and BSN Nursing Degree Graduates

Many institutions offer specialized training to their registered nurses to help them grow their knowledge in certain medical areas, allowing RNs with a BSN to progress into specialized positions throughout their careers. These institutions often exclusively hire BSN degree graduates since master’s degrees typically require BSN degrees as a prerequisite. However, RNs with an ADN are more likely to find work quickly in areas with a low overall nurse population or nursing shortage.

If you are preparing to begin your career in nursing or have earned your ADN, consider earning your BSN with Grand Canyon University’s College of Nursing and Health Care Professions. Through our Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Pre-Licensure) program or our Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program, you will obtain the educational foundation needed to pursue advanced nursing programs. To learn more about our college, click on the Request Information button on this page.

1Cannot be used in conjunction with other GCU scholarships or awards.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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