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RN-BSN Degree Program RN to BSN Guide

Learn about RN to BSN degree options

Are you an RN ready to boost your résumé with a BSN? WGU's online RN to BSN program is designed for working nurses who are ready to further their education.

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RN and BSN.

This guide is designed to give you information about common nursing terms RN and BSN, and help you determine if an RN to BSN degree program is a good option for your education. 

What is an RN?

An RN is a certification that states you are licensed and registered with your state and can practice nursing. Nurses obtain their RN status by attending an associate degree or bachelor's degree program, as well as passing specific tests and meeting state certification requirements. Registered nurses work in doctors offices, hospitals, clinics, public health centers, schools, and more. RNs can also specialize, gaining more credentials and skills to work with certain types of patients.

What is a BSN?

A BSN stands for Bachelor of Science in Nursing and is a bachelor's degree program that can help those who are wanting to become a registered nurse, or give current nurses additional credentials. BSNs are increasingly becoming more necessary for registered nurses as more hospitals are looking to hire nurses who have a BSN. A BSN for those who are not yet nurses takes about 4 years to complete and will help you obtain your nursing license. For current nurses a BSN may only take 2-3 years to complete.

What is the difference between RN and BSN?

The difference between RN and BSN is the level of education received. Someone who is a registered nurse may not have a bachelor's degree—they may have gotten a nursing diploma or associate degree that allowed them to become licensed. A BSN is a registered nurse who also has a bachelor's degree—this higher level of education can lead to more job opportunities, higher salary, and more. 

3 common questions about RN to BSN degree programs.

Are you a nurse with your RN license, ready to take your career to the next level? The RN to BSN program at WGU is designed for nurses like you—completely online so you can continue working and keep up with your other responsibilities while going to school, flexible with no set class times or due-dates, with a focused curriculum designed for current nurses. Boost your résumé with the help of the RN to BSN program at WGU.

1. What is RN to BSN?

An RN to BSN degree program is designed to help current RNs further their education and earn a bachelor's degree. Current RNs have important skills and experience, and a BSN just helps boost their résumé and can help them get needed credentials to be qualified for additional nursing positions. 

The RN to BSN program at WGU is focused on helping current nurses pursue higher education. This degree program is focused on helping expand on a nurse's experience and skills.

2. What can I do with a BSN?

A BSN is designed to help nurses stand out and enhance their résumé. Some nursing positions and specialties require a BSN as proof that a nurse has credentials and experience.

Registered nurses with a BSN can be qualified for many nursing positions including:

  • Addiction nurse
  • Critical care nurse
  • Surgical nurse
  • Rehabilitation nurse

3. Why get an RN to BSN?

Hospitals across the country are working toward Magnet status, and part of the requirements of Magnet status involve having a nursing workforce with bachelor's degrees. Earning your RN-BSN degree enables you to add to your hospital numbers for Magnet status. 

Additionally, an RN-BSN degree gives you valuable credentials that can help you stand out, boosting your résumé and giving you important experience. This can make you eligible for raises, promotions, and opportunities in the nursing field.


About RN to BSN programs.

Today more than 60% of nurses still enter the workforce with an associate's degree or diploma in nursing. Because of increasing desire for hospitals and clinics to add BSN educated nurses to their workforce, there are now more than 700 RN to BSN programs in the United States. Because of the accessibility of these options, growing numbers of BSN graduates are earning RN to BSN degrees. Nearly 50% of BSN graduates today have earned an RN to BSN degree.

So what can you expect in an RN to BSN degree program? In an online RN to BSN program you can expect to take general education courses required for a bachelor's degree, as well as some nursing courses that will help you gain additional skills. In many online RN to BSN programs, your experience and RN license will allow you to waive many of the courses, accelerating your program. Many RNs choose this kind of degree program because they are able to continue working while they attend school—they don't have to log in to classes at a certain time to listen to lectures. Instead they have the ability to be in charge of their degree program, 

It's important to research and find a school that is recognized and accredited for your RN-BSN program. For example, WGU is CCNE accredited, demonstrating that it is a school that is recognized in the United States as qualified to teach healthcare professionals. This accreditation will validate your degree, and is vital to showing employers and peers that your credentials are reputable. 


RN to BSN careers.

A happy young nurse walks down a hallway.

As more hospitals work to achieve Magnet status, they may be looking to only hire nurses who have a bachelor's degree. In fact, some job listings may explicitly state not to apply unless you have a bachelor's degree. A BSN is becoming increasingly important for nurses who want to stand out from the competition and be considered for positions. BSN nurses often have many more options and opportunities in the nursing field.

Similarly, nurses who earn a BSN can expect a pay raise. This may vary by facility, but the industry standard is that nurses who earn a BSN can expect a percentage pay raise to accompany their new credential. Hospitals see great value in BSN nurses, and want to reward RNs who work to earn their degree. The average annual salary for a registered nurse is around $75,000 per year, and nurses can usually expect a 3-5% pay raise when they earn their degree. Research shows that RNs with an associate's degree can expect to earn around $75,000, RNs with a diploma can expect to earn around $78,000, and RNs with a BSN can expect to earn around $80,000 per year.

Additionally, a BSN can help prepare nurses for additional certifications and job opportunities. Many specialized nursing positions will prefer a nurse with a BSN. While it may not be required to become a critical care nurse or a trauma nurse, your degree can help you stand out from the competition for these positions. There are also many nursing positions that require a BSN nurse, including pharmaceutical RNs, public health nurse, case management, and more. 

A RN to BSN degree is an important step in furthering your education, and many nurses may want to continue their education and earn an MSN to help propel their career. A BSN is required to earn an MSN degree, and an MSN can open doors to nurse management, nurse education, and other important leadership positions in the field. 

If you're ready to earn a raise, promotion, or prepare for your future, an RN to BSN degree is a critical first step.


Benefits of a BSN degree.

There are many benefits for nurses and employers when it comes to BSN degrees, including:

  • Preparation. Nurses who earn their BSN will be prepared for specific situations in the hospital setting. They will have learned extensively about nursing research, ethics, and informatics, equipping them to know how to handle challenging situations in their profession.
  • Magnet status. Magnet status designates a hospital as one of the best in the country. As more hospitals are working to obtain Magnet status, they are looking to have their current RNs obtain bachelor's degrees, or plan to hire only BSN holding nurses. A BSN can help you move to a Magnet hospital, or can help your current hospital move up in status. 
  • Clinical skills. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing say that BSN nurses tend to have better clinical skills than ADN nurses. BSN nurses are shown to have lower mortality rates, lower failure-to-rescue rates, and better ability to diagnose and evaluate patients. A BSN can help you improve clinical skills and be a better nurse.
  • Career opportunities. A BSN degree can help current nurses be prepared for career opportunities in a nonhospital setting. They are able to move into teaching, case management, policy review, and more. Some of these career opportunities will require a master's degree or MSN, and a BSN is required for students to move forward into higher educational opportunities.

Is an RN to BSN degree worth it?

Young health-profession students take notes during a lecture.

Most RNs who have gotten their BSN degree will tell you it is 100% worth it. The potential for raises, promotions, new career opportunities, and skills you gain in your BSN are key for your future. A BSN can help you propel your own career and can help you become a better nurse. You can see better patient outcomes, learn new techniques and strategies, and overall help improve the healthcare industry moving forward.

So who should obtain an RN to BSN degree? Any currently licensed RN is a great candidate for an RN to BSN degree. Your skills and experience earning your RN and working as a nurse will help make this program meaningful and impactful for you. 

Some nurses worry about the time commitment and cost of earning a BSN. At WGU, we work to make sure nurses can earn their degree without headache. We focus on keeping tuition costs low so current nurses won't break the bank to earn their degree. Our tuition is charged per-term instead of per-credit, so taking more courses doesn't raise your cost. We also offer financial aid and scholarship options to make our tuition even more affordable. 

Similarly we use a unique educational method called competency-based education to help current nurses move through their program faster. You can use your knowledge and experience to waive courses and to help you move faster through the courses you do take. You don't have spend time logged in to a class, and your assignments don't have deadlines. You can move through your courses as quickly as you can master the material. This allows you to graduate faster and spend less money on your BSN degree.


WGU's RN to BSN at a glance.

18 Months

66% RN-BSN students at WGU are able to finish their degree program in 18 months or less!

81 Credits

On average, RN-BSN students can transfer 81 credits due to their RN license and experience.

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$3,225

WGU's RN-BSN tuition is charged per-term instead of per-credit, so finishing faster helps you save.

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24 Classes

The curriculum of the RN-BSN degree program is designed for working professionals.

Learn about WGU's RN to BSN

Get more information about the RN to BSN program offering at WGU.

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Admission information for the RN to BSN degree program.

To be considered for this program, you must:

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Start dates are the 1st of every month. Meet requirements by the 15th to start next month. Discuss steps and deadlines with your Enrollment Counselor.

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How much does an RN to BSN degree cost?

Affordable tuition is key at WGU. Our tuition is charged per-term instead of per-credit, so you are in control of the overall cost of your degree. The majority of students finish the RN to BSN program in just 18 months, making the cost of your degree just over $10,000. We also offer scholarships and financial aid to help make your degree even more affordable. 

Flat-rate tuition of $3,370 per term links cost to time.

By charging per 6-month term rather than per credit hour—and empowering students to accelerate through material they know well or can learn quickly—WGU helps students control the ultimate cost of their degrees.

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Common questions for this program:

No, but you must have an unencumbered RN license, and your previous nursing experience will be valuable and could help you move through the program more quickly.

Yes! Almost every student with a license as a registered nurse can clear on transfer 50 to 90 credit equivalents from a previous program into this program. If you’ve taken courses or received a degree from another college or university, you may be able to clear some of these requirements through transfer credit. You will need to provide WGU with your official transcripts for review.

WGU is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and, in order to uphold this accreditation, we must require our own background checks. A third-party company is used to provide this service and the information is proprietary; therefore, we are unable to access a background check completed for, or requested by, another entity.

No, this program does not require clinicals; however, you will be expected to complete a Field Experience that correlates with coursework during your program. Ninety practice hours are required as part of this field experience, some of which will be fulfilled through community assessments, simulations, and other activities.

You will find that these courses are typically higher-level courses that are an integral part of our core BSN program and vital to your success.  The good news is, because of your prior knowledge and experience with these subjects, you are likely to master the competencies easier and progress through the course faster.  That's why competency-based education is so appealing!

Yes! Our BSN program is recognized by the board of nursing in all 50 states! This recognition is due to our esteemed accreditations, both regionally and through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Yes. The bachelor’s and master’s nursing degree programs at WGU are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (655 K Street, NW, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20001, 202-887-6791).    

As a nonprofit university, WGU doesn’t need to benefit shareholders. Our students are our main concern. We also try to keep our operating costs low. And since we’re an exclusively online university, we don’t need to maintain expensive classroom buildings, a campus, and other nonacademic programs.    

WGU has several options available including Payment Plans, Federal Financial Aid, Third-Party (Employer) Payment, Military Tuition Assistance, and Veterans Benefits. We also offer hundreds of scholarships every year through several specialized scholarship programs. 

Payments received or payment arrangements must be completed on the student portal by: new students on the 22nd of the month prior to term start, or for renewing/returning students on the 1st of the new term.

Through the generosity of numerous corporations and foundations, plus special federal government appropriations, WGU maintains a robust program of scholarships made available to qualified students. Scholarships are one of the many ways in which WGU removes obstacles from your path to achieving your education goals and improving your career opportunities. It’s part of our investment in the future of our students.

In this nontraditional setting, the availability of one-on-one academic and personal support on an as-needed basis is critical, so the role of faculty has been redefined, with mentorship at its core. Two distinct mentor roles—Program Mentors and Course Instructors—exist at WGU to focus solely on supporting students’ academic success. Other faculty functions, such as curriculum development, grading and assessment, and degree program management, are assigned to other members of WGU’s faculty, each specializing in a specific function. This allows mentors to devote their full attention to students. The type and intensity of instructional support varies based upon the needs of each student in a particular course, from help with specific questions that arise to more fully engaged tutorial support.

Admissions requirements vary widely from program to program and from school to school. Nurse practitioner programs—including Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), and post-MSN NP certificate programs—can be among the most competitive. One factor commonly considered for enrollment in post-graduate nursing programs is grade-point average (GPA) from previous college work. The nature of WGU’s competency-based model means WGU graduates do not have a GPA when they earn their degree.

However, other factors beyond GPA are considered by many programs across the country. WGU provides opportunities for students to demonstrate excellence beyond a GPA, including participation in nationally recognized honors programs, real-world projects that you complete as part of your program that you can showcase in your post-graduate applications, and letters of recommendation from WGU faculty or leadership.

For any aspiring graduate student, it is important to maximize your own qualities as well as do the research to understand the schools that offer the programs you seek to join.

You can start your research by reviewing this list of post-graduate programs that have admitted WGU alumni in the past. Look on LinkedIn for WGU nursing alumni who have gone on to become nurse practitioners, and check their profiles to see which schools they attended for the MSN or DNP program. Contact the school to ask whether they enroll students from competency-based programs like WGU’s. And talk to your WGU Enrollment Counselor. WGU can provide alumni with a letter they can share with graduate schools, explaining our competency-based model. This letter has helped WGU alumni be accepted into a variety of graduate programs in a number of fields and disciplines.

Transcripts must be received by the 1st of the month before your intended start date. WGU requires that ALL official transcripts of previous academic work completed at other colleges and universities be submitted for evaluation.

Have more questions? Find more info here.

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CCNE Accredited

Valuable accreditation.

CCNE accreditation: The bachelor's and master's nursing degree programs at WGU are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (655 K Street, NW, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20001, 202-887-6791).

WGU graduates loved their experience.

Hear from WGU Health College graduates and see how they feel about their education experience. 

Breann Dickey
April 20, 2021

Great choice!

WGU has a wonderful learning platform where you can learn and succeed at your own pace, and they have mentors and course instructors to guide you along the way.

Karmela Londo
April 15, 2021

At WGU

At WGU, I was able to work at my own pace. I was able to complete work on my own time, when I had time. I completed my BSN on under 1 year. I felt totally supported at WGU. All of the course instructors are friendly, supportive, and helpful.

Zhao Chen
April 12, 2021

Excellent program

A super practical, flexible, and self-paced program did I have. Many resources to rely on. I love it and will definitely recommend it.

Joanna Darnell
April 9, 2021

The support and Student Services at WGU…

The support and Student Services at WGU are phenomenal! From the Writing Center, Library, Mentors, and Course Instructors, to everyone in between, student success is their goal.

Teresa Wilkins
April 9, 2021

I love attending WGU

I love attending WGU. I have learned alot from the BSN program. WGU has a great team of leaders who are there to support you with any situation. I would definitely recommend this school to any and eveybody I come across. Thank you for helping me accomplish my goal.

1. CCNE is located at 655 K Street, NW, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20001, 202-887-6791.
2. Results from a 2019 Harris Poll survey of 1,437 new college graduates nationwide with a survey of 1,247 WGU graduates.