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What’s the Difference Between an RN and BSN?

A career in nursing is a fulfilling path for many. One of the best parts of nursing is the variety of academic and career paths an aspiring nurse can take to pursue their dream. In this article, you will learn about the path to becoming a nurse and additional credentials you can earn that help you advance your career. This includes being an RN without a BSN, or being an RN with a BSN. Any registered nurse with or without a BSN has passed the  National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) exam and obtained nursing licensure. The distinguishing difference between a BSN nurse and an RN is that BSNs hold  a bachelor’s degree in nursing while RNs have an associate degree.

If you’re interested in starting on a nursing career path or you’re currently an RN and looking to advance your career, you should know how important credentials are to your success as a nurse. It all starts with your education, which gives you the foundation upon which you’ll build your career. And the stronger your educational background, the better prospects you’ll have as you move up the professional ladder. For these reasons, you may want to explore BSN programs.

What is a BSN Degree?

A BSN, or Bachelor of Science in Nursing, is a bachelor’s degree program that helps someone become a registered nurse or gives added credentials to current RNs. For nurses who want to advance their careers, a BSN is a crucial step to realizing that goal, as an increasing number of hospitals look for nurses with BSNs when they’re staffing. In some states, a BSN is required education for those looking to become full-time nurses. A BSN is also a key component to stepping into more senior leadership roles.

What is a RN License?

An RN—or registered nurse—is the term for the certification that nurses need to practice nursing. Note that this credential is a license, not a degree. Each state has different education and qualification requirements, but universally, nurses must have a nursing diploma, an associate degree,  or a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, all aspiring nurses are required to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) as part of their certification process. Once they pass and get licensed and registered, they can begin working in a variety of medical or care facilities, including hospitals, private practices, med spas, and more.

Can You Become an RN without a BSN?

You can become an RN without a BSN. The minimum required education is a nursing diploma or associate degree. However, it is very strongly recommended that ambitious nurses pursue a BSN or MSN program because these will vastly increase their job and salary opportunities.

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What is the Difference between an RN vs BSN?

There are many different educational paths you can take to become a nurse. Some hospitals offer sponsored diploma nursing programs, but these nursing degrees may not be acceptable education if you move to another state. You could get an Associate Degree in Nursing, which also prepares you to be licensed and registered as a nurse in your state. A BSN is a higher level of education by comparison to a sponsored diploma or ADN and opens you up to more nursing job opportunities and a higher salary. Regardless of which educational path you choose, your journey as an RN will start with one of these accredited programs and requires you to pass the NCLEX-RN. Current RNs can also advance their careers by pursuing an RN-to-BSN program or RN-to-MSN program, as some higher-level nursing positions—such as leadership roles—require a BSN or even an MSN.

Salary Comparison Between RN and BSN

In addition to education, job opportunities, and daily responsibilities, there are also salary differences between RNs and BSN nurses. One important takeaway is that BSN nurses almost always earn more compared to registered nurses at the same experience level and in the same industry. Refer to the following salary data as reported by nursingprocess.org.

RN/ADN Years of Experience

Average Salary

Entry-level nursing

$49,000+

1–4 years

$57,000+

5–9 years

$70,000+

10-19 years

$86,000+

20+ years

$106,000+

RN/ADN Years of Experience

Average Salary

Entry-level nursing

$49,000+

1–4 years

$57,000+

5–9 years

$70,000+

10-19 years

$86,000+

20+ years

$106,000+

BSN Nurse Years of Experience

Average Salary

Entry-level nursing

$53,000+

1–4 years

$62,000+

5–9 years

$75,000+

10-19 years

$94,000+

20+ years

$115,000+

BSN Nurse Years of Experience

Average Salary

Entry-level nursing

$53,000+

1–4 years

$62,000+

5–9 years

$75,000+

10-19 years

$94,000+

20+ years

$115,000+

Industry

RN Average Salary

BSN Nurse Average Salary

Hospitals

$76,000+

$82,000+

Physician’s Offices

$66,000+

$72,000+

Home Healthcare

$70,000+

$76,000+

Nursing Care Facilities

$66,000+

$72,000+

Outpatient Care Centers

$81,000+

$87,000+

Industry

RN Average Salary

Industry

BSN Nurse Average Salary

Hospitals

$76,000+

Hospitals

$82,000+

Physician’s Offices

$66,000+

Physician’s Offices

$72,000+

Home Healthcare

$70,000+

Home Healthcare

$76,000+

Nursing Care Facilities

$66,000+

Nursing Care Facilities

$72,000+

Outpatient Care Centers

$81,000+

Outpatient Care Centers

$87,000+

Becoming a BSN Nurse

If you’re interested in becoming a BSN, you must complete some essential steps and prerequisites. The steps are slightly different for students who are already registered nurses and those who are starting from scratch. Keep reading to find out how you can move forward, depending on your starting point.

Earning a BSN without an RN:

  • Possess a high school diploma or GED.
  • Submit to a criminal background check through American Databank. 
  • Apply for a BSN program at an accredited college or university.
  • Apply for financial aid, if desired.
  • Complete the coursework and graduate from the BSN program.
  • Take and pass the NCLEX and apply for RN licensure.

Earning a BSN with an RN: 

  • Possess an associate degree or diploma in nursing.
  • Possess a current, unencumbered registered nurse (RN) license in your state of residence.
  • Submit to a criminal background check through American Databank. 
  • Apply for a nursing BSN program at an accredited college or university.
  • Apply for financial aid, if desired.
  • Complete the coursework and graduate from the BSN program.

Other than these important steps, aspiring nurses do not need prior experience to earn their BSN. 

WGU’s BSN program is competency based, so students are able to take classes at their own pace. In fact, 66% of RN-to-BSN students at WGU are able to finish their degree program in 18 months or less, so particularly ambitious students can get their nursing career started as soon as possible.

Daily Responsibilities of BSN Nurses

BSN nurses have many important responsibilities that vary from day to day, so a career in nursing is great for people who are looking for an exciting career where they can help those in need. Some of the responsibilities of BSN nurses include:

  • Practice nursing from a holistic, ethical, patient-centric approach.
  • Coordinate and manage patient care for individuals, groups, and entire communities.
  • Apply nursing education to their professional practice in the workplace.
  • Leverage leadership skills and evidence-based practices to make smart and effective decisions to help their patients. 
  • Effectively communicate about health details with patients, families, and other medical staff. 
  • Maintain patient records.
  • Take patient vitals and assist with physical exams.
  • Interact with insurance providers.
  • Administer medicine and treatment regimens to patients.
  • Continue learning in the field and in academic programs to provide the best possible care to patients and keep up with education requirements.

Daily Responsibilities of Registered Nurses (RN)

An RN—or registered nurse—is the term for the certification that nurses need to practice nursing. Note that this credential is a license, not a degree. Some of an RN’s common duties include: 

  • Monitoring patients and updating their records
  • Sharing health information with doctors and other medical professionals
  • Supporting other medical staff as needed
  • Administering medications
  • And more

BSN Salary Expectations

The benefits of pursuing a BSN are vast. The financial opportunities alone make advancing education worth the time and resources. Entry-level BSN nurses can expect to earn $53,000 a year on average, which is about $4,000 more than RNs. BSN nurses who have 20 years under their belt earn more than $115,000 on average, while RN’s can expect to make almost $10,000 less in the same year of their career.  The more education a nurse pursues, the higher salaries they’re eligible for.

 

 

Career and Job Opportunities

Those who want to start a career in nursing should really consider getting a bachelor’s or even master’s degree in nursing for many reasons. For one, they stand a much better chance at getting a desirable job and salary, and second, they are simply more qualified to give patients proper and effective care. Studies have shown that RNs with higher education show fewer medication errors, more positive patient outcomes, and lower mortality rates. As a result,  more and more hospitals are going to prioritize staffing nurses with BSNs.

Other Perks of Being a BSN Nurse

Advancing your education is never a bad idea, but it’s an excellent move for individuals looking to start their nursing career off on the right foot and for those simply looking to advance their current career. Some of the benefits you can experience from obtaining your BSN include:

  • You’ll make yourself available for more career options as you advance.
  • You can work in a wider range of environments that are non-hospital settings, such as teaching, case management, and more. (Those career options offer a higher salary than RNs with basic credentials or ADNs.)
  • You’ll have a higher level of preparation for your role in patient care, particularly if you work in a high-pressure setting.
  • You’ll have stronger credentials, which can help you stand out in a crowded employment space.
  • You’ll have more of a background in research, ethics, and informatics, which can better prepare you for upper-level roles.
  • You’ll have stronger clinical skills that can translate to lower mortality rates, lower failure-to-rescue rates, better patient care, and stronger diagnosis abilities.
  • You’ll have more job stability and a stronger résumé to present to potential employers.
  • You can help your hospital attain Magnet status by adding your credentials to their list of RNs who have advanced education. Similarly, having a BSN can help you get a job at a Magnet status hospital.
  • You’ll have more opportunities for raises and promotions. 

Next Steps

As you’re deciding the educational path that will set you up as a nursing professional, it’s important to think about the future of your career and where you hope to see yourself years down the road. Not only will obtaining a BSN be helpful in presenting opportunities for more senior roles down the line, it’ll also set you up for success no matter which nursing role you choose. Having a stronger education and advanced credentials will help you catch the eye of hiring managers who are looking for the cream of the crop, and they’ll also prepare you for the challenges that come with being a nurse—helping you to be the best nurse you can possibly be. Submit an application to WGU’s accredited RN-to-BSN program and start your future today.

Nursing (RN-to-BSN Online) – B.S.

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking the added...

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking the added theoretical depth, employability, and respect that a bachelor's degree brings:

  • Time: 77% of graduates finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition: $4,685 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 23 total courses in this program.
  • Transfers: Students can transfer up to 90 credits.

With over 35,000 BSN alumni, this is one of WGU's most popular online degree programs. View our RN to BSN degree guide. If you are an RN ready to earn your BSN, this program will help you accelerate to earn your degree.

If you don't currently have an RN and don't qualify for your nursing prelicensure program, consider getting our Bachelor's in Health and Human Services instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry in a unique way.

Nursing (Prelicensure) – B.S.

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN and a...

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN and a baccalaureate-prepared nurse:

  • Locations: Due to in-person clinical requirements, students must be full time residents of FL, GA, ID, IN, IA, KS, KY, NE, NV, NM, NC, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, UT to enroll in this program. The coursework in this program is offered online, but there are in-person requirements.
  • Tuition: $6,430 per 6-month term for the first 4 terms of pre-nursing coursework and $8,755 per 6-month term for the remaining 4 terms of clinical nursing coursework.
  • Time: This program has a set pace and an expected completion time of 4 years. Certain coursework may be accelerated to finish faster.
  • WGU offers the prelicensure program in areas where we have partnerships with healthcare employers to provide practice sites and clinical coaches to help teach you and inspire you on your path to becoming a nurse.
  • If you don't live in one of our prelicensure states or don't qualify to apply, consider getting our Bachelor's in Health and Human Services instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry, while also working directly with patients who need help.

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