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 can use to launch a career in the healthcare field. This undergraduate degree offers a thorough study of essential nursing knowledge and skills, ranging from human anatomy to leadership in nursing.

Why get a BSN? Right now is a great time to pursue a BSN program because there is a need for qualified nurses throughout the country.1

In This Article:

What Is the Difference Between a BSN and an RN?

The healthcare field has a lot of acronyms that may be a little confusing for the uninitiated. So, what is an RN and what is a BSN?

An RN is a registered nurse — a working professional who is licensed to diagnose, treat and care for patients. In contrast, a BSN is a degree program that prepares students to become RNs. It should be noted that not all RNs have a BSN, although many of them do. Currently practicing RNs who do not hold a BSN may opt to go back to school while working to earn this degree and advance their skills, 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 BS in Nursing enables 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) exam to obtain licensure as an RN.

Some individuals become registered nurses after earning an associate degree (ADN) and passing the NCLEX exam. This enables 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 an RN to BSN degree. 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 less than two years.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, the truth is that a BSN is often 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 BSN-prepared nurses are able to provide better care for their patients. In fact, a 2013 study found that hospitals that hired more BSN-prepared nurses between 1999 and 2006 experienced greater declines in mortality than hospitals that did not add more BSN-prepared nurses.4 In the BSN program, you will 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 tend 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 Opportunities for Promotion

According to NurseJournal, RNs with a BSN may be more likely to be hired for higher-level positions. They may also enjoy increased job opportunities. Furthermore, as a BSN-prepared nurse, you can increase your chances of being promoted to a 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

Having a BS in Nursing will offer you the skills 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 can be very rewarding, and earning your bachelor’s in nursing may allow for more opportunities. 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 is 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. It’s possible that more states will follow suit in the future.5

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 flexible 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.


1U.S. Department of Labor (2022, September 8). Registered Nurses. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved April 6, 2023. 

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, January 10). Top 10 Advantages of a BSN Degree. NurseJournal. Retrieved on May 10, 2023.

4 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2014, April 18). Building the Case for More Highly Educated Nurses. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Retrieved April 6, 2023.

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


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

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