What Is an RN to BSN Program?

Nurse pushing wheelchair and talking with patient

Often, after exploring various nursing degrees, a student chooses to pursue a career as a registered nurse (RN) by earning an associate degree in nursing (ADN) and completing the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain licensure. However, earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is strongly recommended for those wishing to advance their nursing career.

If you are a practicing RN without a BSN, you may have considered going back to school to earn your four-year degree. Fortunately, there are different options available for you to earn your BSN, such as an RN to BSN program. With the different options available to earn a nursing degree, you may find yourself asking, “What is an RN to BSN program?” Learn all about the RN to BSN option in this career guide.

RN to BSN Degree Program Overview

An RN to BSN nursing degree program is designed to be completed on an accelerated schedule as compared to a traditional BSN nursing degree program. This is because the RN to BSN program is intended for professionals who are already registered nurses and possess foundational nursing knowledge. It is also a great way to provide practicing nurses with the additional knowledge and credentials they need to begin advancing their career in a shorter amount of time.

Because this program is set up for current registered nurses, an RN to BSN program also typically offers a flexible schedule. You may take evening classes on campus, for instance, or you may take all your classes online, depending on which program you choose. Along with these classes, students will need access to a healthcare setting that will enable them to complete the clinical practice hours required for graduation.

How Long Are RN to BSN Programs?

The time to complete RN to BSN programs will ultimately vary depending on the university you choose; however, they are typically set up to be completed in an accelerated format. A traditional BSN degree typically takes four years of full-time study to complete. In contrast, you can earn your RN to BSN degree in as little as 12 months, depending on how many classes you take at a time and whether you enroll as a part-time or full-time student.1 This way, working registered nurses can incorporate completing the program into their schedule as they continue to implement their new knowledge in their current position and start making moves in their career even sooner.

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Only $340 Per Credit2

GCU just lowered the price of our accredited RN to BSN program by 30% to help make college more affordable!

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Who Should Consider Enrolling in RN to BSN Programs?

Associate degree nurses (ADN) should consider enrolling in an RN to BSN degree program if they are looking for career advancement or additional opportunities in the healthcare field. There are many reasons why earning a BSN degree is strongly recommended for career advancement and for commanding a higher earning potential.

According to the results of a survey conducted by American Association of Colleges of Nursing involving 647 nursing schools, 41.1% of hospitals and other healthcare settings require new hires to hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing. There was also a strong preference for BSN program graduates with 82.4% of employers expressing this preference.3 This further strengthens the argument that being a BSN-prepared nurse can give you the credentials you need to become a strong candidate for opportunities that you may not have had previously.

Because of the increase in organizations seeking BSN nurses, your current employer may have options in place to encourage registered nurses to pursue a program such as an RN to BSN program. When considering funding options, speak with your employer about tuition reimbursement incentives.

What To Expect From Your RN to BSN Program

During your nursing degree studies, you will refine your critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills. You will also delve into nursing research and evidence-based practices and learn to implement them to improve patient outcomes. In addition, you will acquire crucial leadership skills, including teamwork, collaboration and communication.

There are specific topics covered in RN to BSN programs designed to provide current registered nurses with healthcare principles needed to be a successful BSN-educated nurse. Some of the topics that RN to BSN programs cover include:

  • Nursing leadership and management
  • Health promotion, disease prevention and wellness for families
  • Physical assessments that are developmentally based
  • Application of evidence from research literature

The coursework for RN to BSN programs is designed to be hands-on and directly applicable to your current work as well as positions with increased levels of scope and responsibility. As a registered nurse, you will already have the nursing fundamentals down. An RN to BSN program capitalizes on your previous knowledge while providing you with the next steps needed to pursue higher positions.

Next Steps After Completing an RN to BSN Program

Having your BSN in and of itself opens a world of opportunities that may not have been available to a registered nurse with an associate degree or diploma degree in nursing. With a BSN degree, you will have the knowledge needed to pursue positions in leadership and education, as well as have the opportunity to improve patient outcomes through the application of evidence-based practice. Some of the careers you may consider include:

  • Nurse manager
  • Division nurse
  • Unit supervisor
  • Patient advocate/educator

After graduating from an RN to BSN program, you may decide to further your education even more by earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. An MSN degree enables you to explore the following careers:

  • Nurse educator
  • Chief nursing officer
  • Nurse informaticist
  • Advanced practice registered nurse

Having your BSN or MSN also allows you to work in a variety of different settings along with different roles. When planning your next career move, explore your interests and discover all the opportunities that furthering your education can present to you.

Is There a Demand for Qualified Registered Nurses?

There is a significant and ongoing demand for qualified registered nurses. The U.S. has an aging population that is expected to continue to exert significant stress on the healthcare system. As baby boomers grow older and their need for healthcare increases, the shortage of qualified nurses is expected to intensify.

By 2030, the United States Census Bureau projects one in five Americans will be retirement age.4 The National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration found that the average age of an RN is 50.5 This indicates that at the time when older adults will have an increased need for healthcare, more RNs than ever will be retiring, further escalating the need for qualified RNs.

In addition to needing more nurses to help older adults, more nurses are expected to be needed to care for those with chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. This may create job growth at long-term care facilities and long-term rehabilitation centers.

As of September 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for registered nurses to increase by about 9% from 2020 to 2030, accounting for an estimated increase of 276,800 jobs in the field.6

Grand Canyon University aims to provide an exceptional academic experience for every student. GCU offers an Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree for non-nursing degree holders that can help your reach your career aspirations. If you would like more information about GCU’s nursing and healthcare programs, including the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) degree program and Master of Science in Nursing with an Emphasis in Health Care Quality and Patient Safety, visit the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions or click the Request Info button at the top of this page.


1 Must transfer 90 approved semester credits toward the required 120 credits and double coursework twice during the 10-week courses in order to complete the program in 12 months.

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

3 American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Employment of New Nurse Graduates and Employer Preferences for Baccalaureate-Prepared Nurses in August 2022

United States Census Bureau, Demographic Turning Points for the United States: Population Projections for 2020 to 2060 in August 2022.

5 American Association of Colleges of Nursing, News & Information, Fact Sheets, Nursing Shortage in February 2022

6 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on September 2021, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Registered Nurses.

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.