Things to Know Before You Go Back to Get Your Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing
It isn’t easy to decide to go back to school, but once you’ve made that decision there are a few things you should know. Nurses often choose to go back to school to get a BSN for the advanced education it provides and to make more money. Many choose to do this by enrolling in an online nursing program, but not all degrees are created equally, and you need to be aware that it isn’t possible to get a nursing degree completely online because clinical experience is an important part of any good nursing program. Take the time to evaluate your options carefully to find the program that’s best for you. The good news is that nursing is always expanding and demand is growing, which makes it a great option for baby boomers who aren’t ready to retire, but want to make a career change.
It’s Not Possible to Get Your RN to BSN Online…Completely
Many registered nurses who didn’t initially pursue a BSN choose to go back to school via an online program. An important thing to keep in mind is that it isn’t possible to get a nursing degree completely online because hands-on clinical experience is a critical component of a nurse’s education.
Accredited BSN nursing programs across the U.S. include clinical experience as a requirement for graduation. Hands-on experience prepares nursing students for patient-care environments. Employers want to have confidence that new hires have the clinical nursing skills necessary to work without constant supervision. Knowing a nurse has clinical experience assures them that the proper steps will be taken for quality patient care.
Moving From RN to BSN – Salary Myths and Realities
Myth: Getting a BSN Will Result in an Immediate Raise
The reality is that, if you’re already earning the salary of a nurse, you may not immediately earn significantly more when you complete your bachelor’s degree. If you do see an increase, it’s likely to be small. In fact, you may wonder if all your efforts were worth it.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that between May 2016 and May 2017, registered nurses brought in a median salary of $70,000 per year – a 3.7% increase compared to the previous year, with salaries ranging from $48,690 to $104,100 annually. The higher salaries typically go to nurses with a BSN or higher degree. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, (updated June 24, 2018).
The key thing to understand is that the opportunity for higher earnings is likely to come from increased responsibilities and roles that become available to you as a result of having a BSN. A Registered Nurse with a BSN can expect to earn more over time. That’s the main reason licensed RNs return to school.
Many institutions employing nurses now require a BSN or give hiring preference to those who hold the degree. Others strongly encourage RNs to earn a BSN within five years. Annual salaries for RNs at these institutions tend to be higher than average.
Myth: BSN Nurses Make More than RNs
This may not be true. In 2017 the typical starting salary for a registered nurse with a BSN was very similar to an RN. Beyond the initial salary, there are many factors–years of experience, types of experience, skill, knowledge, ability levels, specializations, and employers–that come into play to determine salaries. It’s possible for an RN to earn more than a counterpart who holds a BSN. However, in many situations, a nurse with a BSN will have access to more opportunities that offer greater earnings. Over the course of a career, those increased earnings can add up to a significant difference.
Most RN-to-BSN Degrees Are Created Equally
As the demand for nursing has increased, a number of accelerated RN-to-BSN programs have appeared. These programs are great if you’re an RN, or if you have a degree in another field and want to make a career change. A good way to prepare for nursing school is to acquire (or dust off) good time management skills. Good time management is vital to successfully completing nursing school.
Most RN-to-BSN online programs let you earn the degree in 12-18 months and most have a similar curriculum. You can expect core classes to include these, or similar, topics:
- Health Assessments
- Patient Care Technology
- Foundations of Nursing Research
- Quality and Safety
- Evidence-Based Practices in Nursing
- Role of the Nurse in Global Health
- Topics in Clinical Nursing
- Issues and Trends in Nursing
If you want to go back to school for a BSN, you can be sure there’s a program to fit your background and needs.
The Hard Truth about Nursing School and Working the Floor
Nursing programs are rigorous. Significant time commitments are required to complete the coursework and necessary clinical experience. It’s often recommended that students who have a job try to limit their work week to no more than 15-20 hours per week. Depending on personal study habits and other commitments, some find even that is challenging but they can’t afford to be without the income that even a part-time job brings in. So what do you do?
A good place to start is to budget for loss of hours and income before you start the program. If you’re a working RN, the salary of a nurse may make it possible for you to cut hours and work part-time while you go to school.
During the first part of the program, you’ll want to work as much as you can because the demands won’t be as great as they’ll become later on. In some situations, it may make more sense to go to nursing school part-time, even though it takes longer to complete the program.
Often, working RNs can get approvals from their employer and the school to use clinical experience on the job to meet the school’s requirements under the supervision of an approved nursing supervisor.
It can be hard to juggle family, school, and a job. But, if you want something badly enough, you can usually work it out. With creativity and support, you can reach your goal.
Boomers in the Age of Online Nursing School
People are living longer and many older adults are looking to extend their working years. Baby boomers who aren’t ready to retire often decide they want to do something meaningful. Working in healthcare is one of their top choices. Demand for nurses is high, salaries are good, and resources are available to help boomer-aged students. State and federal government aid is available for older students. Those who meet the income requirements can apply for the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which is equivalent to a scholarship of up to $2500 per year for tuition and other expenses. Additionally, there are a number of scholarships, grants, and loans available.
Older students who have pursued a second career in nursing offer compelling testimony. They talk about the decision being one of the best things they’ve ever done.
Today’s colleges understand the apprehension and challenges older students face, particularly when dealing with new technologies, so software programs are intuitive and easy to use. They also offer tech support and provide instructional labs.
When it Comes to Degrees, Nursing Is Always Expanding
Nursing education is constantly changing and evolving to meet the increasing demand for nurses. There are more degrees in nursing and more specializations available than ever before. Some programs provide a solid liberal arts background while others focus on the sciences. Coursework can be done on a traditional college campus, online, or through a hybrid program.
The United States has an aging population so the outlook for jobs for nurses remains strong, particularly for those with a bachelor’s or higher degree. When you walk across that stage to graduate you will be amazed at how much you have learned. Regardless of the length of your program, you will have gained knowledge and be more prepared to provide great care. The results can be more satisfying than you could have ever imagined.