How do BSN-Educated RNs stack up against RNs with an Associate’s Degree or Diploma?
What You Should Know Before Choosing a Nursing Degree
First things first: Let’s eliminate some of the confusion that might be out there; “RN” is a license, while “BSN” is a degree.
The standard education for earning an RN license has always been an Associate’s Degree in nursing ADN, but more often people are choosing to earn a BSN as a pre-licensure degree. RNs who have earned a bachelor’s degree will sometimes use “BSN”(John Doe, BSN, RN) as a credential after their name, but it’s important to understand that a BSN (BSN = RN) nurse is still a registered nurse by definition.
A nursing diploma, an associate degree (ADN), or a bachelor’s degree (BSN) will all allow you to take the NCLEX-RN and become licensed as an RN. However, each option varies greatly in how well they prepare you for a career in nursing.
So the question on everybody’s mind is, ‘What’s the real benefit of putting in the extra time and paying the extra money to earn a BSN?’
Diploma, ADN, BSN - What Is the Difference?
The nurse diploma (Nurse Diploma) program is typically offered through hospitals. At once popular, this option is not as common due to the nursing field becoming more demanding. The program, which lasts 1-3 years, focuses strictly on nursing-specific topics (patient care, lifespan nursing, nutrition, etc.). Upon graduation and passing the NCLEX, you would be ready for an entry-level position.
For the past several decades, the associate degree in nursing (Associate Degree in Nursing ADN) has been the standard for RNs. Usually offered at community colleges, this degree will take 2-3 years to complete. Because this is a degree program, general education courses such as English, math, and humanities will be required beyond the nursing classes. This pathway will prepare you for the NCLEX as well as an entry-level position.
Of the three options, the Bachelor of Science in Nursing BSN is the most in-depth and comprehensive. Although this program takes 4-5 years to complete, your employment opportunities will be more diverse and higher paying. This degree option encompasses the course work taught in the ADN program as well as courses in leadership, nursing informatics, research, and community or public health.
All RNs qualify for positions in skilled nursing homes, doctor’s offices, and hospitals. No matter what degree they hold, they all start their careers at a similar level and have to put in some time to earn their stripes before taking on more responsibilities.
Still, you’re going to find more entry-level jobs are available to BSN-prepared nurses, and there’s definitely a lot more opportunities for advancement when you have a higher degree. Since baccalaureate-level nurses often have stronger communication and critical-thinking skills, they are often able to transition to leadership roles sooner. In fact, many clinical leadership roles require a BSN.
The AACN has even reported that 44% of hospitals require new nurses to hold a BSN, while 79% show a strong preference for BSN-educated RNs.
While RNs with a diploma or associate’s degree often qualify for the same nursing jobs as BSN-educated RNs when it comes to direct patient care in hospitals and clinics, other employers often prefer a BSN. This opens the door for more opportunities with insurance providers and in areas like clinical research. For those interested in military service, a BSN will qualify you to serve as an officer, resulting in higher pay than RN enlisted members.
Nursing salaries are also commensurate with education, specialty, and experience. For example, the national median salary for an ADN-prepared RN with between 1-4 years of experience is about $61,000 ADN $61,000, while BSNs with the same level of experience earn nearly $70,000 BSN $70,000.
Nursing occupations play a big role in determining salaries. Nurses serving in areas with high responsibility such as Pediatrics, Critical Care, Leadership, or Public Health will command a greater salary (Please place with typography of your choice without the comma in between). Nurses that hold a BSN are more likely to obtain careers in these specialties. And when a BSN takes advantage of their education by moving into roles that require more responsibility, they can expect to earn considerably more. For example, a BSN working as a clinical nurse manager can earn over $80,000.
Quality of Care
Just within the past 5 years, research has shown that BSN graduates deliver higher quality care than their RN counterparts. Studies have shown that health care facilities with a higher percentage of BSN nurses have better patient outcomes as well as lower mortality rates.
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