Bachelor's Degree in Nursing

What is a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing?

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a higher educational credential than the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), and its curriculum delivers thorough professional nursing instruction. Similar to ADN programs, candidates are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN at the culmination of study. A bachelor's degree in nursing program generally takes four years to complete.

Furthering your education is a requirement for career growth, and nearly always leads to higher salaries and greater responsibility in the workplace. The bachelor's degree in nursing is not only proof of extended study but also a gateway to further higher education in the form of a Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a doctoral degree.

Why Should I Get a BSN?

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What Can I Do With a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing?

Career Available with a BSN Career Unavailable with a BSN

Nursing CareerADN +Registered Nurse

Minimum Degree Needed *

ADN; but a BSN is recommended because of higher salary and better job outlook

Required ADN Degree | Become a Registered Nurse

Nursing CareerMSNNurse Practitioner

Minimum Degree Needed *


Required MSN Degree | Become a Nurse Practitioner

Nursing CareerADN +Travel Nurse

Minimum Degree Needed *

ADN; certifications in specialty area recommended

Required ADN Degree | Become a Travel Nurse

Nursing CareerBSNNurse Anesthetist

Minimum Degree Needed *

BSN, graduation from accredited graduate school of nurse anesthesia

Become a Nurse Anesthetist

Nursing CareerADN +School Nurse

Minimum Degree Needed *

ADN; BSN recommended as industry standard

Required ADN Degree | Become a School Nurse

Nursing CareerBSN +Psychiatric Nurse

Minimum Degree Needed *

BSN; MSN required for Advanced Practice Nursing certification

Alternative MSN Route | Become a Psychiatric Nurse

Nursing CareerMSNNurse Educator

Minimum Degree Needed *

MSN or DNP to teach at BSN granting institutions

Alternative MSN Route | Alternative DNP Route

Nursing CareerBSN +Flight Nurse

Minimum Degree Needed *

BSN; MSN required for Advanced Practice Nursing certification

Alternative MSN Route

Nursing CareerMSNClinical Nurse Specialist

Minimum Degree Needed *

MSN required for Advanced Practice Nursing certification

Alternative MSN Route

Nursing CareerBSNNeonatal Intensive Care Nurse

Minimum Degree Needed *

BSN recommended along with advanced experience

*Key: ADN = Associate Degree in Nursing; BSN = Bachelor of Science in Nursing; MSN = Master of Science in Nursing; DNP = Doctorate of Nursing Practice

Should I Get a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing?

Technically, you don’t need a bachelor’s degree in nursing to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. However, many hospitals require that all incoming nursing staff hold a BSN in addition to state credentials. This hiring trend is a response to an industry-wide push for all nurses to hold baccalaureate degrees: in 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) announced an initiative to create a workforce of 80% BSN-prepared nurses by 2020.

Thanks to advances in health care, Americans are living longer than ever before, and this increased longevity translates to a greater patient population. Medical science is also experiencing rapid growth in diagnostic and treatment knowledge, largely due to technological developments that were unimaginable a few years ago. For nurses, the workplace environment is changing. Increasingly, advanced training is more of a necessity than a luxury for workplace success.

Your personal financial situation, time constraints and family obligations may impact your decision to pursue a 4-year degree. Take a look at these pros and cons of pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing:

Advantages to a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing

  • Greater career mobility. Most administrative and supervisory positions require a BSN.
  • Grants entry to master’s or doctoral nursing programs, leading to career advancement and higher salaries.
  • The critical thinking skills imparted by a BSN translate to improved patient care and safety.
  • Job opportunities outside of traditional floor nursing begin with the bachelor’s degree in nursing; these graduates are positioned for a range of specialized nursing jobs.

Disadvantages to a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing

  • Baccalaureate study means that you’ll spend four years in a program before generating income.
  • Tuition for four years is significantly more expensive than for two, and often means additional years of student debt.
  • In nursing positions that don’t require the bachelor’s degree in nursing, holding one does not necessarily equate to a higher starting salary.

Need to Know: Should I Consider an RN-BSN Bridge Program If I Have My ADN?

Another branch of the IOM’s educational initiative is an official endorsement of ADN-prepared nurses returning to school. As a result, accredited RN-to-BSN bridge programs have sprung up across America. These programs build on the foundational knowledge imparted in ADN programs, diving deeper into course materials and more specialized clinical experiences.

If you already hold an ADN, consider some of the advantages and disadvantages of an RN-to-BSN program.

Advantages of RN to BSN Programs

  • Many of these programs are available partially or fully online, lending themselves well to a working nurse’s schedule.
  • Credits from ADN programs can often be transferred, shortening the path to the BSN.
  • In some cases, credit may be applied for prior work experience, or credit hours may be granted in exchange for proof of competency.
  • Accelerated programs can significantly speed up the process of earning a BSN.
  • Practical and clinical experiences are often quite specialized, focusing on areas like community health, pediatric or gerontological care.

Disadvantages of RN to BSN Programs

  • RN-to-BSN programs are competitive; a minimum GPA requirement of 3.0 is not uncommon.
  • More strict admission criteria includes criminal background checks and competency assessments.
  • Accelerated programs are extremely rigorous academically and require total commitment.
  • These programs often run end-to-end, without breaks on the calendar.
  • Online programs may have practicum specifications that require students to travel.

How Much Will I Make With a BSN?


PayScale, accessed October 2015

How Do I Get a BSN?

  • Decide Type of BSN Program

  • Find BSN Programs

  • Apply to BSN Programs

  • Secure Funding for BSN Programs

  • Attend BSN Classes

  • Graduate with a BSN

What Kind of Classes Will I Take?

The core curriculum in any accredited bachelor’s degree in nursing program includes the study of adult, maternal, newborn and pediatric professional nursing. At many schools, psychiatric, gerontological and community health nursing is also covered. The primary distinction between BSN and ADN course content is that nursing theory is explored in greater detail in the bachelor’s degree in nursing program.

Nursing the Infant, Child and Adolescent Patient

An examination of the health and illness of all levels of pediatric patients. Students are expected to think critically about patient health at all ages. Class materials and instruction augment foundational knowledge in the natural and social sciences, focusing on data analysis, care strategy and outcomes assessment. Socio-cultural, communication and nutritional aspects of patient health are integrated with physical, emotional and cognitive development theory. Includes didactic and clinical practicum.

Women’s Healthcare: Theory and Practice

An examination of the reproductive process and related women’s health issues, including the human response of families and individuals to changes occurring to women during their life cycles. Care plans are developed using fundamental knowledge in the social and biological sciences. Special emphasis on pregnancy and delivery complications. Didactic and laboratory components.

Leadership and the Professional Practice

Management theory and its applications for the professional nurse as care director, patient coordinator, charge nurse and supervisor are examined. Leadership skills covered include team building, collaboration, interdisciplinary communication, conflict resolution and delegation. Also includes critical review of nursing knowledge and readiness to transition into licensure. Clinical experiences round out theory with practice.

Nursing Informatics

An overview of the technological aspects of professional nursing practice. Information science, nursing science and computer science are combined to manage patient care information. Technology is used to identify, collect, assess and process data that supports decision-making in the nursing practice.

Online Nursing Bachelor's Degree Programs

A bachelor of science degree is now the most popular degree for prospective resident nurses to pursue. Among all RN’s, nurses holding a bachelor’s degree consistently produce superior patient outcomes in comparison to those with just an associate. The Journal of the American Medical Association writes that hospitals with a relatively high proportion of BSN-holding nurses report lower mortality and failure to rescue rates than other facilities, and that “a 10% increase in the proportion of nurses holding a bachelor’s degree was associated with a 5% decrease in both the likelihood of patients dying within 30 days of admission and the odds of failure to rescue.”

An online BSN program will prepare you to become an RN. Regardless of your specialty, you’ll be able to find an asynchronous online program that will allow you to study in a convenient and flexible format. In classes, you’ll receive a detailed introduction to the field, covering both the anatomy of the human body and common nursing practices in the field. As part of your program, you’ll need to complete a clinical rotation prior to graduation.

BSN programs are becoming increasingly popular: in 2012, for the first time ever, more nursing students graduated from a BSN program than an ADN. If you’d like to learn more about what to expect in an online BSN program, please visit our Online Nursing Programs page. Before enrolling in a BSN program, be sure to double-check that the online nursing bachelor’s degree program is accredited, offered online during your period of study, and all eligibility and licensing requirements meet your situation.

Before enrolling, please be sure to double-check that the online nursing bachelor’s degree program is accredited, offered online during your period of study, and all eligibility and licensing requirements meet your situation.

If you are an accredited, not-for-profit institution that offers a bachelor degree in nursing online and that isn’t listed, please contact us with details about your program, a link to your program page and proof of accreditation.

Use our customizable database to find the best BSN programs for your needs.

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