Last Updated on July 31, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina
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What is an RN?
You’ve always been passionate about helping others and you’ve already thought nursing would truly be a rewarding, reliable career for you to do just that – while making a more than decent living. But what to choose in order to follow your dream career: a shorter Associate’s or the next-level Bachelor’s Degree to become a registered nurse? It has been considerable debate over ADN versus BSN in the past years.
An ADN program seems faster and easier, and a BSN prepares qualified professionals to provide complex patient care and earn a higher income. But there are some major differences between ADN and BSN degrees that you should take into account before choosing the right one for you. Not just in length, number of credits or salaries, but also in the patients’ quality of care, as you will discover below.
Registered nurses have been around for over 100 years. In 1901, New Zealand made history with the world’s first RN program. Since then, in nearly every country across the globe, nurses have had to be trained, licensed professionals.
Every state in the US has different rules for becoming an RN, so be sure to check the what the license requirements are where you live. Regardless of state, though, every prospective RN has to pass a national licensing exam, the NCLEX-RN. If you’re pursuing an RN license, you can generally get yours in about two years. With Ameritech’s nursing program, you can get the training and certification you need in as little as 20 months. If you’re eager to get out of the classroom and into a professional environment as soon as possible, then pursue the associate degree in nursing and RN license first. You can always return to school and get a BSN further down the road.
What is a BSN?
Like it says in the name, nurses who get their bachelor’s of science in nursing have the equivalent of a four-year degree in their professional field. RNs may or may not have a bachelor’s degree, but always have at least an associate’s degree in nursing. That additional level of education means that BSNs generally have more opportunities and larger salaries than RNs. Getting your BSN isn’t just something you do for yourself, though. It also benefits your patients. Studies have shown that BSNs have lower patient mortality rates and lower failure to rescue rates. What’s more, there’s a large array of jobs for nurses outside of hospitals.
How Long Does It Take to Complete a BSN Program?
The time it takes to earn your BSN degree depends on a few factors. As a general rule, bachelor’s degrees require 120 credits. If you already possess an ADN, it will likely transfer to your bachelor’s degree, leading to graduation in 2-3 years. RN-to-BSN programs can shorten program duration, as well.
With an ADN, you can expect a BSN to take less than four years. Other time-sensitive factors include internships, class availability, and delivery method. A full-time student will graduate much sooner than a part-time student. Accelerated BSN programs also allow enrollees to graduate in less time.
Clinical Component for BSN Students
BSN internships allow you to apply your knowledge in nursing settings. When you intern, you can shadow nurses with years of experience and the wisdom that comes with it. Internship hours vary by specialization, setting, and school requirements, but the average internship takes 5-20 hours per week, and most students receive class credit for participating.
Different Job Types
Whether you earn a BSN, ADN, or diploma in nursing, you will spend time in direct patient care. The specific type of work, however, will depend on your education level. An individual with an RN designation performs simple nursing care, such as recording patient symptoms, working with simple medical equipment, educating patients on diseases and illnesses, and consulting with doctors and other nurses.
Nurses who earn BSNs can pursue more professional roles, some of which come with more responsibility and higher pay. People with a BSN can choose to be a nurse educator, a public health nurse, or to specialize in specific age groups or disease types. A BSN also acts as a stepping stone to more advanced nursing roles, including nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, or clinical nurse leader. All of these jobs require you to earn your master of science in nursing (MSN).
- Addictions NurseAn addictions nurse provides treatment for patients with drug or alcohol addiction. These nurses must earn at least an ADN.
- Cardiovascular NurseCardiovascular nurses specialize in disorders like heart disease, working under the direction of a cardiologist. These nurses need an ADN at minimum, but most employers prefer BSNs.
- Critical Care NurseCritical care nurses work in emergency rooms and other crisis settings to care for medically unstable patients. Depending on where you want to work, a nursing diploma, ADN, or BSN can qualify you for this position.
- Genetics NurseA genetics nurse focuses on gene-related disorders and diseases, along with patients who either suffer from them or become likely to develop them. These professionals must possess BSNs.
- Neonatology NurseThese nurses work with newborns and premature infants in the first few weeks or months of their lives. You may enter this profession with an ADN, but most employers require a BSN.
- Nephrology NurseA nephrology nurse works with patients with kidney disorders, often administering dialysis. To enter this profession, you need a BSN and experience working in a nephrology setting.
- Public Health NursePublic health nurses educate the community about health issues, including flu shots, sex education, and preventative care tips. You need a BSN and have to pass the NCLEX to become a public health nurse.
- Rehabilitation NurseA rehabilitation nurse works with patients suffering temporary, progressive, or permanent illnesses or disabilities, helping them to navigate daily activities. These nurses must possess ADNs or BSNs.
Salary Potential for ADN and BSN Graduates
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a job growth rate for RNs (12%) that far exceeds the rate for all professions from 2018-2028. The median pay for RNs reached $71,961 in 2018, but pay varies based on factors such as location, employer, experience, and education. Those with ADNs tend to earn significantly less than nurses who hold BSNs. The extra education and training yield more salary growth potential and job opportunities, as healthcare employers often seek out BSNs.
An RN with a BSN may take on more roles, including case management, clinical nurse management, and nursing director. Nurse case managers earn a median pay of $71,743, while clinical nurse managers earn a median of $82,215, and nursing directors earn a median of $88,997. Comparatively, nurses with ADNs tend to earn a median pay of $69,000, according to PayScale.
|Family Nurse Practitioner||$113,930|
|Nurse Case Manager||$71,961|
|Clinical Nurse Manager||$82,312|
Salary Differences for ADNs and BSNs
The salaries for ADN and BSN nurses in bedside care are usually similar to start off, but BSN-prepared RNs do usually have more opportunity for higher earnings. According to PayScale, the average salary for an ADN nurse is $69K, while a BSN may be as high as $84K. The big difference is that BSN-prepared nurses can advance to higher-earning positions, such as going onto an advanced nursing role, or stepping into a leadership or managerial role. And some hospitals place beginning BSN RNs on a higher “step” in their payscale than an ADN, so the earning potential will be higher.
Getting Your BSN
Here are some benefits of becoming a BSN-prepared RN:
- Better Employment Chances: While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the employment of RNs to grow 15 percent by 2026, it mentions that the supply of new nurses has increased in recent years. The result is more competition for some jobs. RNs with a BSN “will have better job prospects than those without one,” the BLS adds.
- It’s the New Standard: Healthcare employers across the country have started requiring a bachelor’s degree as the minimum level of education for new nurse hires. This is especially the case at hospitals. This trend began in response to the Institute of Medicine’s 2010 report calling for 80 percent of practicing nurses to hold at least a bachelor’s degree by 2020.
- Better Employment Opportunities: If you’d like to pursue a specialty area or role in nursing, a BSN is often required. It is difficult to enter a field like public health nursing or a role like nurse manager without a BSN. These are just a couple of career paths that typically require a BSN.
- It’s Necessary for Advanced Nursing Positions: Not only will a BSN open doors to specialty areas or roles, but it is a necessary step if you wish to become a nurse executive, nurse educator or some type of advanced practice nurse (APRN). All of these positions require at least a master’s degree. Earning your BSN will allow you to pursue these rewarding and lucrative career options.
- Salary Boost: The ADN-prepared RN vs BSN salary difference of at least $6,000 is a major factor. But note how it plays into other reasons for getting your BSN. You’ll be able to secure higher-paying jobs by obtaining your BSN. For example, a BSN is typically required for nursing manager roles, and the median salary for nursing managers with a BSN is $83,873. The salary data is based on real-time information from PayScale at time of publication.
- Improve Your Skills: The reason you can secure better employment opportunities and a pay raise by earning your BSN is it advances your knowledge of modern nursing procedures and patient care. When you earn a BSN, you are better able to care for your patients and take on additional responsibilities and leadership roles in your position. You’ll become a better nurse, communicator, teammate and healthcare professional.
- It Results in Better Care: Research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supports an association between BSN staffing and outcomes. For instance, higher-educated nurses can lead to lower incidence of pressure ulcers, postoperative deep vein thrombosis, hospital-acquired infections and post-surgical mortality.