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What Is An RN To BSN Degree & Is It Worth It?

Many healthcare-related fields are growing by leaps and bounds these days. That said, something even bigger is happening in the nursing field. For decades, registered nurses (RNs) have been at the center of patient care for hospitals, physicians’ offices, home healthcare services, and nursing care facilities. But now, RNs who have associate degrees (ADN) or diplomas from nursing schools are being asked to gain more education. Healthcare systems increasingly want to staff their floors with nurses who have a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

It’s a major shift that will affect many of the 3 million RNs in the US. But why? In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) conducted research about nursing care and advised that the U.S. should dramatically increase the number of nurses with a BSN. The recommendation was to increase the percentage of BSN-prepared nurses in the U.S. from 50% to 80% of all nurses by 2020.

The reason for the change is simple and powerful: Having more BSNs saves lives. Research showed that more BSNs translates into a decrease in mortality and an improvement in failure-to-rescue. By bringing better patient care and better patient outcomes, the BSNs prove their worth.

So, here we are, 8 years later—and despite great strides in BSN enrollments, we’re not there yet. That’s why we’re still seeing a continued push to increase enrollment and hiring of BSN-prepared nurses. And you just might need to be one of them!

What the IOM Research Means to Nurses Today

The IOM summary included four key BSN messages that may fuel your next education and employment efforts:

graphic describes what the IOM research means to nurses today

What Is a BSN Degree?

A BSN is a degree that is often a nurse’s ticket into nursing leadership roles. It’s often preferred for nursing supervisors and managers to have a BSN because its rigorous level of study provides such a strong base for patient care and leadership.

Why Go from RN to BSN?

The healthcare world is shifting, in no small part because of the IOM report, which built a strong case for more BSNs. Here are just a few of the ways you can expect these changes to affect your world:

  • Rapidly evolving employment standards for nurses - The BSN degree is quickly becoming a requirement for most nursing positions.
  • Higher salaries - According to, the average salary for an RN is $66,620, and the average for BSN-educated RNs is $75,484. (source)
  • Fulfilling advanced-degree requirements - A BSN is a prerequisite for admission to nursing master’s programs.
  • Broadening your management skills - This is a necessary step if you want to move beyond the practice of nursing and into the management of nurses or teaching of nurses.
  • Advancing your care capabilities - Add critical nursing and leadership skills to your resume to prepare you for modern (and future) healthcare, including: clinical competence, personalized medicine, evidence-based practice, community and population health, health informatics, and healthcare law and ethics.

All signs suggest that it’s a smart time to pursue a BSN degree. If you’re currently working as a registered nurse, you can take an RN-to-BSN path, and accelerate time to graduate.

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What’s the Coursework like for an RN-to-BSN program?

The bulk of your major coursework will provide practical instruction in nursing, including ethics, health information, community health, and nursing leadership. Though some programs require students to complete clinical rotations, not all of them do. Below is an example of the Accelerated Online BSN curriculum from Franklin University. Their degree-completion program is transfer-friendly and designed specifically for RNs with an ADN or nursing diploma. It includes 9, six-week, online nursing courses that fit your life and schedule.

graphic describes RN-BSN semester schedule and it's hours expected to complete the coursework

What Enrollment Prerequisites Are There for RN-to-BSN Degree?

Each school will have its own list of requirements to enroll in an RN-to-BSN program. Likely, some of the prerequisites will include:

  • Have an associate degree or diploma in nursing
  • Hold a current RN license
  • Earned acceptable minimum grades in all prerequisite courses
  • Provide various documents as needed to verify

To learn the prerequisites for a program you're considering, look online or contact an admissions officer.

What Kind of Jobs Can You Get with a BSN?

According to the labor market analytics company called Emsi, the sheer number of nursing jobs is expected to balloon by 19% from 2015-2025.

Once you earn your BSN, a whole new broad landscape of career opportunities will be opened to you, Specialized nursing jobs for a person with a BSN degree included nurse manager, public health nurse, school nurse, research nurse, diabetes management nurse, nursing information specialist, psychiatric mental health nurse, and many more.

graphic describes the top-paying employment opportunities

Of course, that is just a short list of some of the top-paying jobs available to a person with a BSN. Keep in mind, a BSN can also be the catalyst to begin teaching nursing or earning a doctorate.

Is a BSN the Right Career Path for You?

Returning to school to earn your BSN degree will open a wide variety of career options for you. As you already know from the IOM data, you’ll find yourself in high demand, most likely for years to come. Plus, you’ll be accepting a role where others will appreciate the way you stepped up to the plate in a time of great need. That sounds like a powerful combination of career stability and satisfaction, but only you know whether it’s the right choice for you.

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