What Is a BSN?

BSN student going to class

If you’re thinking about a career in nursing, you may be wondering, What is a BSN? and Why should I get a BSN in nursing? A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is an academic qualification that you may use to potentially launch a career in the healthcare field. This undergraduate degree teaches you essential nursing knowledge and skills, ranging from complex care management to leadership in nursing.

Why get a BSN? Nurses who are qualified to work in hospital settings, physician's offices, at-home healthcare services and various elderly care facilities can expect nearly 193,100 new openings throughout the U.S. each year on average from 2022 to 2032.1

In This Article:

What Is the Difference Between a BSN and an ADN?

The healthcare field has a lot of acronyms that are important to understand if you plan on pursuing a healthcare career. So, what is an associate degree in Nursing (ADN) and what is a BSN and how can they both lead to becoming a registered nurse (RN)?

Both ADN and BSN degrees can prepare students to become RNs — working professionals who are licensed to care for patients. The main difference between the two is that BSN degrees dive deeper into nursing studies and expand more upon this knowledge. Both degrees can qualify students to take the NCLEX-RN@ in order to become an RN.

It should be noted that not all RNs have a BSN; they may have other valid nursing degrees. Currently practicing RNs who hold an ADN rather than a BSN may opt to go back to school to earn this degree while working, with the goal of advancing their skills and positioning themselves for the potential of opening the door to new and more lucrative opportunities.

What Is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree? A Look at Different Degree Programs

Some universities offer different paths toward completing your BSN degree program. These are designed to meet the needs of individuals at varying stages of their careers. For example, if you are a high school student or recent graduate who would like to enter the healthcare field, you could enroll in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Pre-Licensure) program. 

This BSN can enable you to establish a thorough framework of nursing skills and knowledge. During your program, you will be taught how to care for patients and work with other healthcare professionals — from conducting health assessments to preparing hospitalized patients for a safe discharge. This program helps prepare you to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN®) exam to obtain licensure as an RN.

Some individuals become registered nurses after earning an associate degree (ADN) and passing the NCLEX-RN® exam. This allows them to enter the nursing field without a four-year degree. However, RNs may choose to build upon their ADN education by going back to school to earn their BSN degree through an RN to BSN program. This degree program is an accelerated program that is customized to meet the needs of working professionals who seek in-depth nursing knowledge and skills.

Another nursing degree option for individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree in another field but want to transition to the nursing field is the accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program (which confers a BSN degree). This program allows individuals to complete their nursing degree in as little as 16 months.2

Why Get a BSN?

Some students wonder, If I can start working with just an associate degree, why should I earn a BSN? Although it is possible to be a nurse without a BSN, a BSN may be preferable for healthcare workers.3 There are many compelling reasons to earn your BSN degree, including the following.

Better Patient Outcomes

Research has shown that increasing one's level of nursing education beyond the associate degree results in better patient outcomes. In fact, a study found that patients who suffered cardiac arrest had higher chances of survival when treated by BSN-educated nurses, minimizing potential long-term damage and leading to better patient outcomes.4 In the BSN program, you will have the opportunity to gain a comprehensive view of patient care principles to help you strengthen your ability to care for patients.

Higher Earning Potential

Registered nurses who hold a BS in Nursing have the potential to earn more than those with only an associate degree. Employers value RNs who are better prepared to contribute to favorable patient outcomes.3

Qualify for More Positions and Gain Promotion Opportunities

According to NurseJournal, RNs with a BSN may be more likely to be hired for higher-level positions. They may also find themselves with increased job opportunities.3 Furthermore, as a BSN-prepared nurse, you may position yourself for the opportunity to be promoted to a potential leadership position. Depending on where you work, you may be able to advance to a role where you oversee other nurses and work directly with upper management.3

Work in a Variety of Settings

A BSN degree will teach you the skills needed to take on more responsibilities in the workplace. Therefore, you may be presented with a wider variety of career opportunities. Some of the places where you can apply your knowledge are hospitals, community care settings and health service organizations. Additionally, many BSN-prepared nurses work in case management, private homes and public health.

Prepare for Graduate School

Earning your BSN can prepare you to pursue a master’s degree in nursing. Someday, you may want to specialize or enter a leadership position that requires a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). By working toward a bachelor’s degree now, you can be more prepared to enroll in a master’s program in the future.

Find Fulfillment

A career in nursing is one that you may find to be very rewarding. Although pursuing a BSN can be challenging at times, the hard work you put into your education can be worth it for a career that allows you to make an impact in the nursing field and a difference in people’s lives.

It May Be Legally Required

The healthcare industry as a whole may be shifting toward a preference for more highly educated nurses. In fact, at least one state (New York) has passed a BSN in 10 law, which requires all RNs to obtain a BSN within 10 years of earning RN licensure.5 It’s possible that more states will follow suit in the future.

What Are the Career Options for BSN Graduates?

For individuals who are just beginning to explore healthcare as a potential career option, it is often surprising to learn that there are many choices within the nursing field. There are numerous paths for specialization for registered nurses with a BSN, including but not limited to:

  • Oncology nursing: This type of nursing involves working with cancer patients.
  • Pediatric nursing: Specializing in children’s health and development is a part of pediatric nursing.
  • Dialysis nursing: Dialysis nurses ensure the safety of kidney disease patients while they receive dialysis treatments. 
  • Bariatrics nursing: Working with patients undergoing weight-loss surgeries is part of bariatrics nursing.

Begin working toward your career in nursing with a BSN degree from Grand Canyon University. Our options include the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Pre-Licensure), an accelerated BSN program and an RN to BSN degree for currently practicing nurses. Complete the form on this page to learn more about joining our dynamic learning community.


Approved by the associate dean of the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions on March 22, 2024.

COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 to 2022 may be atypical compared to prior years. Accordingly, data shown is effective September 2023, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Registered Nurses, retrieved on Jan. 5, 2024.

2 Secondary applicants must transfer a minimum of 60 of the required 123 credits or have completed a baccalaureate degree which includes nine prerequisite courses/labs and 10 general education courses prior to starting the core nursing courses, which can be completed in as few as 16 months. Direct entry applicants that do not transfer 60 credits but meet the minimum requirements can complete these credits through GCU prior to starting the core nursing courses. Depending on the state where student has enrolled or intends to complete the program, student may require additional courses. This may include, but is not limited to, additional general education courses, courses in the major, clinical courses or a different course sequence. See University Policy Handbook.

3 Deering, M. (2023, Jan. 10). Top 10 Advantages of a BSN Degree. NurseJournal. Retrieved on May 10, 2023.

4 Harrison, J. M., Aiken, L. H., Sloane, D. M., Brooks Carthon, J. M., Merchant, R. M., Berg, R. A., & McHugh, M. D. (2019). In Hospitals With More Nurses Who Have Baccalaureate Degrees, Better Outcomes For Patients After Cardiac Arrest. Health affairs (Project Hope), 38(7), 1087–1094. Retrieved Jan 5, 2024.

5 Mensik, J., PhD, RN, FAAN. (2017, Dec. 20). New York governor signs BSN in 10 into law for nurses. Nurse.com. Retrieved April 6, 2023.

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.