RN vs. BSN

a nurse taking the blood pressure of a patient

If you would like to earn a healthcare degree and enter the nursing field, it’s important to be able to differentiate between two key terms in the industry: RN and BSN. For new nursing students especially, it may be difficult to keep these terms straight. Read more to learn about the differences between an RN and BSN.

What Is an RN?

RN stands for “registered nurse.” RNs have graduated from a nursing program with an associate’s in nursing (ADN) or have obtained a nursing diploma. They have passed the NCLEX exam that allows them to practice nursing, which is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. RNs must meet all other licensing requirements mandated by their state’s board of nursing.

What Is a BSN?

A BSN stands for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a degree that can prepare students to assume roles as nurses after graduating and passing the NCLEX exam. Those holding a BSN have completed further education than RNs with an associate’s degree. If you are already an RN, you can transition into a BSN with an RN to BSN program in order to move toward higher leadership roles and potentially pursue a graduate education program, such as an MSN degree. Many colleges and universities offer RN to BSN programs as a path to initial licensure or a way to increase your expertise after becoming licensed.


How Do the Courses Differ for Each Program?

BSN degrees provide a more comprehensive course offering than an ADN or an RN certificate. ADN programs focus primarily on instilling technical skills whereas BSN degrees cover more professional skills to provide graduates with a wider expertise. Both degrees include clinical practice and high-level competency courses. Course offerings of an ADN may include biology, basic pharmacology, anatomy, acute care, chronic care and more. While BSN degrees include courses in these areas, the curriculum is supplemented through courses in public health, leadership, pathophysiology, nursing research and more.

How Long Does Each Program Usually Take?

Associate Degrees in Nursing are faster to complete than Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees. ADN programs typically take two years to complete, providing a quicker entrance into the workforce. BSN degrees, alternatively, typically take four years to complete due to the more intensive coursework and course load. However, those with an RN may be able to transfer credits into an RN to BSN program to provide a quicker graduation rate. Therefore, if you are an RN, you may be able to complete your BSN in as little as one to two years.

What Are the Benefits of Having a BSN?

A BSN opens up a variety of opportunities that may be unavailable to those without the degree. People with a BSN could choose to work in public health or as a nurse educator, or further their career with a position in nursing management or unit leadership. Overall, employers may prefer a candidate with additional education for a wide range of positions. Because of this, BSN-prepared nurses can earn a higher salary than those with just an associate degree.1 The degree also provides a quicker path to a master’s or doctoral degree in the field.

The BSN in 10 Law

Some measures are being put into place to increase the number of nurses with BSNs, including New York’s recent BSN in 10 law. The piece of legislature requires that nurses who finish an ADN must obtain a BSN within 10 years of their initial license. The hope is that increasing the educational requirements for nurses will help improve patient outcomes.2 This law is an important market of a potential shift in the field of nursing, as other states could elect to follow the example set by New York and require nurses with an ADN to pursue their BSN. It indicates that in the future, a BSN may be a mandatory requirement for nurses.

How to Choose Which One Is Right for You?

Those with the necessary resources, including time and money, should consider a BSN as a way to increase their employment opportunities and depth of knowledge in the field. If you’re looking for a quicker, less expensive path to enter the nursing field and start serving others in their health care needs, an ADN is still a trusted path to become a registered nurse. In the end, your personal preferences will play a large part in determining which degree is the best fit for you.

If you are interested in GCU’s RN to BSN program within the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions, then visit our website or contact us today. By transferring up to 90 approved credits, you could earn your BSN in as little as 12 months. Use our free Lopes Credit Evaluation tool to help you determine how many credits will transfer to GCU. Use the Request More Information button at the top of the page for more information!

Retrieved from:

1 https://www.gmercyu.edu/academics/learn/rn-vs-bsn

2 https://nightingale.edu/blog/rn-bsn-requirements-by-state/

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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