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RN to BSN vs. Prelicensure

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Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degrees at WGU

Today’s nurses have a lot of options for nursing education that will help advance their careers, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is a wise choice for many. Nurses with BSNs are preferred in many hospitals and medical facilities because they bring a level of skill and expertise needed in our ever-changing healthcare environment. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), positions for nurses with BSNs are expected to grow by 7% from now until 2029.

But job security isn’t the only perk of earning your BSN degree. In many cases, there’s more money to be made, too: An RN with a bachelor’s degree in nursing can earn about $81,000 a year, versus an average $67,000 with an associate degree, according to PayScale data. 

If you’ve decided a BSN degree program is the right choice for advancing your nursing career, WGU offers two degree pathways to get you there—the RN-to-BSN and Prelicensure nursing programs. Both of these pathways focus on nursing core (ethical and social issues), nursing theory and practice, health sciences, and nursing science. The curriculum in both of these programs was created by nursing professionals who have worked directly in the field, ensuring that your education will prepare you for the daily life of a nurse.

However, while these programs do share some similarities, they serve two very different purposes. This guide will explore each program to help you determine which one might be a better fit, given your experience, career goals, and lifestyle.

 

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: $3,998 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.
  • 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 Degree in Health Services Coordination 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, IN, TX, MO, or UT to enroll in this program. The coursework in this program is offered online, but there are in-person requirements 
  • Tuition: $6,430 for the 1st term, $7,616 per 6-month term for the remaining 4 terms.
  • Time: This program has a set pace and completion time of 2.5 years

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 Degree in Health Services Coordination instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry, while also working directly with patients who need help.

RN-to-BSN Program

An online RN-to-BSN program—like the one offered at WGU—expands on the knowledge you’ve already gained as an RN and tackles more complex and specialized subjects, such as leadership, management, and informatics. It can be a great option for current RNs looking for a flexible, reputable, at-home, and affordable program. Not only can you work full-time while pursuing your degree, but thanks to WGU’s competency-based learning model, you can use your experience and knowledge to accelerate through your courses and graduate even faster. Many nurses even use their RN credentials to waive several courses. In an RN-to-BSN program, your coursework will include topics such as:

  • Nursing theories
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Leadership
  • Community health
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Nutritional science

These courses help give you an educational edge, which can open doors for raises, promotions, and additional opportunities in the nursing field.

How Much Does the RN-to-BSN Program Cost?

$3,998

Each term at WGU is six months long, and during that time you can complete as many courses as you're able. Unlike other schools, you aren't charged per course or per credit, so if you earn your degree ahead of schedule, you can save both time and money.

How Long Does the RN-to-BSN Program Take?

18 Months

However, thanks to WGU’s competency-based education, some students find they can complete their program in as little as one year.

Do I Need a Current RN License for this Program?

Yes

In order to qualify for this program, you’ll need to have a current, active RN license. Many nurses pursue a diploma program or Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) to get their initial RN license, then opt to get their BSN.

Who Should Apply for the RN-to-BSN Program?

If you’re a busy RN who wants to keep working while you earn your BSN, this program could be the right move for you. The courses are online, fully flexible, and competency based so you can use your current knowledge and move faster through your program. Plus, with scholarships and financial aid available, many students find it financially doable as well.

"Growing up we never talked about college but it was something I always wanted to do. The competency-based model really worked for me because it applied immediately to my job and helped me be a better nurse and better communicator"

—Melvin Bolden
B.S. Nursing RN-BSN

Prelicensure Program

WGU's prelicensure pathway allows you to earn licensure as an RN and earn a BSN. This is a competitive health care program open to a limited number of aspiring RNs and is only available in select states, including Texas, New Mexico, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Utah, and Nevada. This is because there are clinical requirements associated with becoming an RN, and WGU only has clinical partnerships arranged in these states. Coursework covers the daily realities of being a nurse and nursing best practices, including:

  • Care of adults and children
  • Physical assessments
  • Medical dosage calculations
  • Critical care nursing
  • Caring arts and science
  • Community health
  • Psychiatric and mental health

Upon graduation, you’ll earn a BSN and meet the requirements to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. You must then pass the exam to become a licensed registered nurse.

How Much Does the Prelicensure Program Cost?

$7,616

WGU’s flat-rate tuition is charged per six-month term and includes your program, resource, and application fees. Keep in mind that due to the clinical components of this program, it’s more costly than other WGU programs.

How Long Does the Prelicensure Program Take?

2.5 Years

Unlike the flexibility for acceleration in other WGU programs, the prelicensure program has a standard path and set pace. This is because it has in-person clinical components that will require you to work directly with your cohort.

Is the Prelicensure Program Fully Online?

Yes

About 60% of this program is online coursework, with the remaining 40% as hands-on clinical time. The prelicensure program at WGU has clinical locations in specific states where students must go to complete in-person requirements, which is why this degree isn’t offered across the country.

Who Should Apply for the Prelicensure Program?

The program can be a great option if you’re looking to get your RN license and BSN at the same time and live in Texas, New Mexico, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Utah, or Nevada. In many cases, WGU’s prelicensure program is a lower-cost option than many nursing school programs and offers more online coursework than most nursing programs.

Where is the Prelicensure Program Available?

Currently, Texas, New Mexico, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Utah, and Nevada.

If you’re looking to become an RN and earn your BSN and live in one of these states, this program could work for you.

Program Similarities

The most notable similarity is that both programs get you toward the same goal: earning your BSN. Some of the coursework is similar, too. Both the prelicensure and RN-to-BSN programs focus on nursing core competencies, including nursing theory and practice, health sciences, and nursing science. The curriculum in both of these programs is designed by nursing professionals to ensure your education will prepare you for the daily life of a nurse.

Program Differences

Because the prelicensure program is for aspiring RNs and the RN-to-BSN is for current RNs, the requirements for each are very different. To be considered for the RN to BSN program, you must have an associate degree or diploma from an accredited school and possess an active RN license. To be considered for enrollment into the prelicensure program, you must have completed a number of prerequisite courses (communications, humanities, anatomy, sociology, to name a few) or transfer equivalents.

Coursework for the RN-to-BSN program covers complex and specialized subjects, such as leadership, management, and informatics. Meanwhile, the prelicensure pathway includes coursework to prepare students for the national licensing exam, including an NCLEX-RN assessment, intensive NCLEX-RN review, and study plan development.

Why WGU?

Earning Potential

A business management bachelor's degree can dramatically impact your earning potential. After graduation WGU IT management students report earning $15,729 more per year.

On Your Schedule

Competency-based education means you can move as quickly through your degree as you can master the material. You don't have to log in to classes at a certain time—you are truly in the driver's seat of your education

Entirely Online

The business IT management bachelor's degree at WGU is 100% online, which means it works wherever you are. You can do your coursework at night after working at your full-time job, on weekends, while you're traveling the world or on vacation—it's entirely up to you.

No matter which MBA degree path you choose, you’ll have a wide variety of career opportunities available to you. There are also major benefits to pursuing a degree program with WGU, including a flexible schedule, coursework and lessons that are fully accessible online, affordable options for every student, and more. WGU can help you achieve your goals on your own time, according to your schedule.

"I hadn’t been in school for so long, but having the work experience from being a nurse, I not only did well, I actually loved it. The courses were practical, and everything made sense."

—Keith Plant
B.S. Nursing

COST & TIME

An Affordable Masters Degree

By charging per term rather than per credit—and empowering students to accelerate through material they know well or learn quickly—WGU helps students control the ultimate cost of their degrees. The faster you complete your program, the less you pay for your degree.

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Prepared for Success
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From a 2021 Harris Poll of 300 employers of WGU graduates

97% of employers said that WGU graduates were prepared for their jobs.

95% of employers said that they would hire another WGU grad.

98% of employers said WGU graduates met or exceeded expectations.