Comparing the RN and BSN: What’s the Difference?

Many people are unfamiliar with the different types of nursing credentials. Nurses may hold one of several types of degrees ranging from the licensed practical nurse (LPN) to a Master of Nursing (MSN) or doctorate (DNP). One of the most commonly confused comparisons is that of the Registered Nurse (RN) and the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) prepared nurse. How are they different? Which one is better and why? 

Educational Comparisons

First, let’s note that nurses who carry the RN title and the BSN title are both RNs. Both have completed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) — a national test that’s required for licensing and practice as a nurse in the United States. The largest difference between the two is the level and length of education they have received.

To become an RN, students can earn an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) from a college or university program or a Diploma of Nursing through a hospital-based nursing program. BSN-prepared nurses have completed a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and have received additional training in leadership, management, and administrative roles. Essentially, ADN-prepared and BSN-prepared nurses can care for patients in the same ways. However, BSN-prepared nurses have been linked to better patient outcomes, lower mortality, and lower failure to rescue rates, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

Nurses with either degree are ready to enter the job market upon graduation and successful completion of the NCLEX. A nurse with an associate degree may choose to continue his or her education and earn a BSN through a bridge program while working as an RN. Some programs take as little as a year to complete and many are available online. 

Differing Job Types

Both ADN-prepared and BSN-prepared nurses can care for patients and perform traditional duties such as assessments, completion of procedures within the scope of practice, and medical charting. But an RN without a bachelor’s degree may not qualify for some nursing jobs that require additional education. These jobs may include nurse educator roles, some unit or departmental coordinator roles, and management positions. Many hospitals require all new hires to have at least a BSN — including those who are staffing the floors and serving in entry-level positions. Nurses who were employed prior to the requirement are usually given three to five years to complete their BSN, and tuition reimbursement may be available.

Job Outlook for RN and BSN

Nursing has been a solid career path for many years — a trend that isn’t expected to slow down any time soon. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 16 percent percent jump in nursing jobs by 2024 and attributes the increase to shifting health care reform policies (more people with health insurance seeking care) and an aging population that will soon flood long-term and acute care facilities. In addition, the Institute of Medicine recommends that at least 80 percent of the U.S. nursing workforce hold a BSN by the year 2020 — and many employers are working feverishly toward this goal.

According to the AACN, 39.1 percent of hospitals and other health care settings that employ nurses require a BSN for new hires, and another 77.4 percent voice a “strong preference” for BSN graduates over other credentials.

Your Future in Nursing

There’s no better time to pursue your goals in the nursing profession. If you hold an associate degree, we know that great patient care and a solid future in nursing are undoubtedly at the top of your priority list.

The RN to MSN program is for registered nurses who do not currently hold a bachelor’s degree and want to expand their clinical knowledge to be able to provide primary care for patients as a Family Nurse Practitioner. For additional information, visit Nursing@Simmons.