RN to BSN Programs
If you want to know more about RN to BSN programs, how a bachelor’s degree can expand your role as a nurse, what a typical RN to BSN curriculum entails, and what you need when you prepare to apply, our registered nurse on staff has written about these topics below. To learn more about specific RN-BSN bridge programs, contact the schools you are interested in below, or use the quick search box to find more programs that meet your preferences.
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Why should I get my BSN if I’m already an RN?
Nurses are increasingly required to hold a bachelor’s degree, particularly because most health care agencies agree that nurses with a BSN are better positioned to provide the best care. As such, having your BSN allows you to become more marketable when it comes to landing the job you want.
Your BSN degree will help you stand out against the competition, meet requirements to work in any health care facility you want and learn the leadership skills you need. Some other benefits of earning your BSN include:
- Developing greater critical thinking and communication skills
- Becoming a better nurse who can provide more holistic care
- More career options, such as non-hospital facility options, such as non-clinical settings or nursing careers in teaching, case management, informatics or policy
- Impact the nursing profession’s evolution
- Advanced job opportunities and job security in an ever-evolving market
- Following healthcare’s shift to primary and preventative care
- Possible promotion into a leadership position
Nurses with a BSN also receive higher pay and better benefits. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree made an average salary of $68,450 (2018). Recent research has also shown that BSN holders provide better patient care, including lower mortality rates and failure to rescue rates (AACN, 2018).
Besides the basic education that comes with a four-year degree program, most BSN courses include separate nursing courses that you wouldn’t learn with an associate degree program. The BSN curriculum will cover much more than clinical skills, and some of the courses that you may learn with a bachelor’s degree include:
- Community nursing
- Nursing Ethics
- Nursing Theory
- Nursing Research
- Psychosocial Nursing
- Health Assessment
- Nurse Management/Leadership
Unlike an associate program, which is focused on preparing for the NCLEX exam and basic nursing skills, BSN programs delve more into a broader educational perspective. A bachelor program also works to prepare students for a more advanced nursing degree, such as an MSN. Therefore, a BSN will strengthen your writing and research skills as well.
Why does my employer want me to get my BSN?
Many employers now want nurses to obtain a BSN not only because they provide better care, but because state legislation regarding nurses is expected to change laws across the United States in the near future. A BSN is increasingly becoming the minimum nursing requirement.
Some states, like New York, now require all nurses to obtain a bachelor’s degree within 10 years of receiving a RN license. This means that all nurses working in the field should have their BSN by the year 2020. Because the baby boomer generation holds a large number of nurses with an associate degree, their near retirement should shift these numbers drastically as well.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has also expanded the need for qualified nurses to care for the increased number of Americans with health insurance. The Trump administration may change this legislation, but the percentage of nursing school graduates with a BSN is increasing.
RN-BSN Program Information
Because RN-BSN programs are designed for RNs who already have an associate degree or nursing diploma and want to further their education, earning a bachelor’s degree through a “bridge program” such as an RN-BSN takes around two to three years. You may attend classes on a part-time basis, which could extend the time it takes you to complete your degree. Some online RN-BSN programs may also be available if you’re working as a nurse while working on your bachelor’s degree.
To apply for a RN-BSN program, you may need:
- GPA above 2.0
- A current RN license
- At least a C in all nursing prerequisites
During this time, your BSN courses will provide more in-depth learning and hands-on experience in the nursing field. Expect to take courses in:
- Health information technology
- Nursing practice and theory
As a BSN student, you will learn and examine the many paths professional nurses can choose, from becoming an educator to advocate of care. Your introductory courses will dive into nursing responsibilities, ethics, and evidence-based nursing practice before moving on to clinical experience.
While tuition costs vary by school, the average RN-BSN programs are completed in about two years and cost around $20,000 before financial aid, scholarships or loans are applied. Online RN-BSN programs are often a more affordable option. If you choose to live on campus, expect to see higher fees. However, there are many affordable financial assistance options for your nursing education.
What financial assistance is available to me for my RN-BSN program?
Nursing school can be expensive, but there are multiple financial aid options available from grants and loans to work-study programs and scholarships. If you’re in a RN-BSN program, you may find opportunities including:
- Grants – The US has many grant programs you can apply for that could save you hundreds or thousands on your education because you don’t need to repay a grant. Many schools will automatically consider which grants you may receive when you complete the FAFSA and apply to the school.
- Scholarships – Nursing scholarships are competitive and are often based on academic achievement, GPA, financial need, race, region or require you to follow a specific course of study or organization involvement. While each school has its own scholarship opportunities, you may also find scholarship resources from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), community groups or organizations, or businesses in your area. The Nurse Corps Scholarship Program and the Barbara Forfar Nursing Scholarship are also available for nursing students.
- Work-study – These programs help pay a student’s tuition (minimum wage) in exchange for working on-campus jobs, like assisting teachers or working in the campus lunch room. Awarded based on financial need and the school’s available funding, some work-study programs allow you to work in your field of study and gain added experience.
- Student loans – While you later have to repay loans, college loans have low interest rates that make them easier to repay and you don’t need to begin paying until six months after you have graduated. There are federal student loans, like the Stafford Loan or the most popular student loan available, or private loans that offer higher limits. However, private loans will begin to accrue interest even while you’re in school while federal loans do not.
Will my employer pay for me to earn my BSN?
While some students depend on federal financial aid or scholarships to help pay for their education, many nurses have the ability to return to school with assistance from their employers to help pay for college. These funds are even tax-free up to $5,250.
Talk to your employer to see what benefits they offer. There are two main ways employers will typically help pay for their employees RN-BSN program:
- Tuition Reimbursement – An employer may reimburse an employee either in part or full for the cost of their college tuition.
- Career Ladder Programs – Employees may receive a scholarship toward their education, usually with the promise of working at the institution later or even receiving a promotion upon graduation. These programs also come with lengthy contracts, as the institution will require a serious commitment from you to stay with their company for at least five years after you obtain your degree.
How do I pick an RN-BSN program?
There are many factors to consider when deciding which RN-BSN bridge program is right for you, so you want to research various nursing schools and consider your personal needs. If you know that you want to attend a specialized program or take online courses, for example, you’ll need to look for specific details as you consider schools.
You may also consider:
- The length of the program – How long will it take to complete your degree? Most RN-BSN programs total 120 credit hours or around two years of study. You may be able to transfer credits from previous courses, which can cut down the amount of time.
- Location and size of the school – Research which schools near you offer the programs and nursing specialties you want.
- Tuition price per credit hour – Prices vary between private and public schools and whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state resident.
- The school’s NCLEX pass rate – Ask for data spanning the last five to ten years and look at the percentage of students who passed to see how well the school prepares its students.
- Class size for both classroom and clinical instruction settings – Student to faculty ratios with small class sizes is more important in nursing courses than prerequisites.
- Clinical rotation time – Ask nursing students at the school if the clinicals varied enough and provide hands-on experience.
- Accreditation – If a school is accredited, that means it meets to standards of education set by the national accrediting organization.
There are also online accelerated BSN programs that require less time than a standard RN-BSN program would take to complete. Many students finish their degree in 12 to 18 months. However, the admission criteria may be stricter. Students in an accelerated program need a GPA of 3.0 or higher and go through a rigorous screening process to be admitted. In a program like this, courses and clinical hours are accelerated as well. This means the same number of courses and clinical hours are required, but nursing students have a more intensive schedule that allows them to complete their study faster.
RN to BSN Bridge Curriculum
As you look into your options for RN to BSN bridge programs, you will want to make sure that you are aware of admissions requirements, the application process, and requirements for completion. Most programs will require proof of a valid, unrestricted RN license, proof of immunizations and health assessment, transcripts from your RN completion program, along with personal, professional and/or academic references.
A bachelor’s nursing program will include the broad general education requirements that you may not have been required to take when you first became a Registered Nurse. Some programs may dictate that general education courses such as Speech, English/Literature, and Philosophy be taken prior to upper level Nursing courses, while others may incorporate these courses across the program.
Most of the nursing-specific courses you will take in an RN-BSN program are focused on expanding your current skill set and knowledge base, in order to enhance the nursing care you provide. There is also a component of what you will learn that is intended to develop leadership skills, improve your managerial abilities, and incorporate high level conceptual knowledge into your practice.
Typical nursing courses in an RN to BSN program may include:
- Nurse Leadership in the 21st Century
- Advanced Nursing Theory
- Translating Nursing Research into Evidence Based Practice
- Community Health Assessment
- Population Based Nursing
- Global Health Perspectives
- Nursing: Lifespan Development
- Nursing Capstone
Most Bachelor of Science in Nursing bridge programs require approximately 30-40 credit hours of nursing coursework along with 30-50 credits of general education requirements. Some of these credit hours will transfer from your RN program, but it is important to speak with an advisor to learn which of your previous courses can be applied to your BSN.
There will also be a clinical component to your RN to BSN bridge program, which will likely be focused on nursing within community settings. Clinical settings may include public health agencies, elementary and secondary schools, homeless shelters, free clinics, outreach agencies and mental health facilities. When you became an RN, your clinicals were geared toward learning basic nursing skills and techniques. BSN level clinicals, on the other hand, are geared toward learning how to practice in varied settings, under various conditions, and with a wide patient demographic.
Careers for BSN Nurses
Nurses are in high demand, which wont change anytime soon! According to O*net, the projected job growth for registered nurses is growing much faster than average, projecting 15% or 438,100 more jobs by 2026 (2018).
RNs often make various salaries depending on the setting they work in. The mean annual wage for a registered nurse, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $72,180 (2018). Registered nurses who work in hospitals, on the other hand, make slightly more, with an average of $74,270 per year (BLS, 2018).
While the majority of nurses work in hospitals, some also work in private clinics, schools, prisons, military bases and home health agencies. These employers often only hire experienced nurses with a BSN. In a home health care service setting, for example, you would travel to a patient’s home and make an average salary of $69,350 (BLS, 2018).
If you want to make a bit more each year, registered nurses working in outpatient care centers make an annual mean wage of $74,800 (BLS, 2018). Nursing jobs at the federal level require a BSN and a nurse in the federal executive branch makes an annual mean wage of $84,610 (BLS, 2018). However, expect these jobs to be more competitive.
Expert Advice: Why Should I Get My BSN?
Chris O’Brien received her BSN from Auburn University and her Master’s in Public Health degree from Emory University. With a background in cardiac care, home health, nursing research & education, and medical writing, she now enjoys the dual paths of being a freelance medical writer and yoga teacher in Decatur, GA.
Why should I get my BSN as opposed to other nursing degrees?
If you’ve been working as an RN for a while then you may have discovered that nurses with a bachelor’s degree (BSN) have some advantages over those who don’t have a BSN. There is a general trend toward requiring more education for entry level positions in all fields, and you definitely don’t want to get stuck in a situation where your options are limited if you can help it, so it’s good that you’re reading this article.
Limited Nursing Job Prospects without a BSN
In some cases you may be limited in terms of the types of jobs you can get as a registered nurse without a BSN. Management positions in particular may require a BSN. This is partly because non-BSN programs do not cover leadership/management material in any depth.
Some employers may even pay more starting out if you have a BSN. Others pay the same for all staff nurses working in the same type of position. Still others only hire nurses with BSN degrees or those who are actively pursuing a BSN.
Once an RN, the Hardest Part of Earning Your BSN is Done
Getting a BSN once you’re an RN doesn’t take quite as long as it would if you started without your RN, and you will definitely have an advantage in your clinical courses if you have experience. This will allow you to relax somewhat and hopefully learn more than those who are brand new to a clinical setting and taking things in for the first time.
As in most professions, the further you advance your education, the greater earning power you have and starting with a BSN will allow you to move on to a master’s or doctoral degree, which you can’t do otherwise.
Earning a BSN Gives You a Sense of Accomplishment
Challenging yourself to improve helps to provide a sense of accomplishment in life, which keeps you from getting stuck in a rut. We all know people who seem stuck, and we’re all prone to get stuck at one point or another. If you enjoy being a nurse, then going back to school can open your eyes and help you see things differently. Expanding your horizons can get to be a way of life, and starting a BSN program can be the very seed that helps you cultivate the habit of lifelong learning. Go for it!
Expert Advice: Should I do an RN-to-BSN or an RN-to-MSN program?
Jennifer L.W. Fink, RN, BSN is a professional freelance writer with almost a decade of experience as a Registered Nurse. She’s worked in both hospitals and nursing homes as a med-surg, geriatric and transplant nurse. Her national publication credits include Parents, RN, Ladies’ Home Journal, Nursing Spectrum, Pregnancy and Journal of Christian Nursing.
Whether you should do an RN-to-BSN or an RN-to-MSN depends. What are your short- and long-term professional goals?
A BSN prepares you to take on additional responsibility and enhances your clinical and theoretical knowledge. Often, a nurse will pursue a BSN because she’s interested in a career as a nurse manager. Other times, it’s a purely financial decision: Some healthcare facilities pay more for a BSN. And sometimes, it’s a matter of personal interest. After working for a number of years, some nurses want to expand their professional knowledge and desire the recognition conferred by a BSN.
With a BSN, you’ll be eligible to work in almost any clinical setting. You won’t, however, be able to work as an advanced practice nurse – as a nurse practitioner (NP), nurse midwife (CNM) or clinical educator. If you ultimately hope to become an NP, CNM, clinical nurse specialist (CNS), certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), nurse executive, clinical educator or health policy consultant, an RN-to-MSN program is your best bet. While these programs appear to bypass the BSN degree, in actuality, BSN content is included at the beginning of the program. Some programs even confer both BSN and MSN degrees at graduation.
Of course, there are other factors to consider as well? Will you be working while you attend college? What are your other life responsibilities? How much time can you devote to school? Most RN-to-BSN programs can be completed in less than two years; most RN-to-MSN programs take three years. If you can devote three straight years to education, a RN-to-MSN program may indeed save you time and money in the long run. But if you have extensive family responsibilities and want to put your new degree to work ASAP, a RN-to-BSN program might be a better choice.
Before selecting a program, do your homework. There are over 150 RN-to-MSN programs nationwide, and over 600 RN-to-BSN programs. Many allow you to complete at least a portion of the program online. Be sure to ask about prerequisites, areas of emphasis and expected length of study. Ask to speak to previous students. Then, select the program that best meets your needs.
Expert Advice: How Should I Select an RN to BSN Program?
Lorry Schoenly, PhD, RN is a nurse writer and educator with over 25 years of experience. She has been certified in five different clinical specialties including critical care and emergency nursing. Starting as an associate degree registered nurse, she continued her schooling in traditional and distance-learning settings to obtain a BSN, MSN, and PhD in nursing while working full-time and raising a family. Lorry teaches nursing in a variety of settings including webinars and online nursing courses.
What should I look for in an RN to BSN program (how should I pick one)?
You have many options for RN to BSN programs today! Although that means you will find something that meets your needs, it also means there are many choices to evaluate. My original entry into practice was through an associate’s degree. There were not many flexible programs for RN to BSN education at that time. With so many options before you, each program should be investigated and evaluated against your criteria.
All accredited RN to BSN programs bridge your current nursing education and experience with professional nursing concepts such as theory, research and leadership principles. Be sure the program you select is accredited by a higher education body and by a nursing education association such as AACN (American Association of Colleges of Nursing). Review the list of required courses and the elective courses available to you.
When counseling nurses about obtaining a BSN, I ask that they consider three main components: Learning style, Life situation, Career goals. Let’s look at each one of these individually to help focus your search.
Consider how you learn best. If you gain greater benefit from listening to an instructor rather than reading an assigned text, you may have a better experience in a classroom-based RN to BSN program. If you enjoy learning from reading and also are computer-savvy, an online RN to BSN program might be your best match. Also, consider what motivates you to complete assignments. Self-directed, organized nurses do well in online programs where they must meet deadlines independent of instructor contact. If facing your instructor and peers in a classroom setting is motivating for completing assignments, you will want a classroom program. If you are returning to school after many years away, or if you were never a particularly good student in the past, research the available school options for a program with support services for challenged and returning students.
Select an RN to BSN program that meets your current life situation. Consider your work commitments, family needs and other life components when selecting a program. First determine all your options within driving distance of your home and work. How quickly you can get to class related to your work shifts or school-age child obligations is a huge consideration. Next, check into the level of financial commitment you can make to your education at this time. Look into tuition reimbursement from your employer and any grants that might be available. Consider how flexible your work schedule would be for taking classes. It may be a good idea to discuss your plans with your manager.
The goal you have for obtaining a BSN is also important in your school selection. Be sure to have a specific goal in mind. It will keep you motivated when the going gets tough. If you are considering RN to BSN as a first step toward an advanced degree, you may wish to consider any available RN to MSN programs. There are now programs that combine the BSN and MSN degree requirements for RNs and shorten the time to completion.
Some find it helpful to create a comparison chart of all options during the search process. This chart can be used to evaluate and discuss your choices with trusted advisors. Once you have a clear picture of all your RN to BSN options, compare them against your learning style, life situation and career goals to make the best selection.
Expert Advice: Can I work full time as an RN while I go back to school for my BSN?
Yes! Many nurses work full time while attending school. I did that myself many years ago. However, that being said, you need to carefully evaluate your situation and plan accordingly. Here are some tips from my experience going to school while working full-time.
It may be a good idea to discuss your decision with your employer. Many have some tuition reimbursement. I would not have been able to complete my schooling without the generous tuition reimbursement program at my hospital. Also, see if there are any work schedule issues that need to be considered in your selection process. For example, if you work evening shift and the school classes are in the evening, that is not going to be a good match for you unless you are able to switch to a different shift or can be scheduled off for class evenings during the semester.
Look for a program that will meet your other scheduling needs. Chances are you have life and family responsibilities to consider. For example, many online programs have a regular Sunday midnight due date for projects. If you have family commitments on Sundays you may need to determine if you will be able to complete your schoolwork on a weekday and Saturday timeframe.
In considering going back to school while working full-time you may need to determine what extra activities you will need to forgo to accomplish the goal. While I was in school and working full-time, I needed to back away from several volunteer positions that were enjoyable for me. I knew I would not be able to complete homework and attend classes while still participating in community service organizations. However, once graduated, I was able to return to my hobbies and interests with vigor. There is always personal sacrifice involved in meeting important goals. However, that sacrifice most often also leads to great fulfillment and the joy of accomplishment.
For more information on nursing education and careers, be sure to check out our nurse resources hub!