The Difference Between RN & BSN


A BSN or Bachelor of Science in Nursing is one route among many to a career as an RN, or registered nurse. Other paths include a hospital diploma, an Associate Degree in Nursing or a licensed practical nurse to RN bridge program. Additionally, bachelor's degree graduates in other majors can prepare for nursing through an entry-level master's program in nursing. Whatever path you choose, you must also complete licensing requirements before you're an RN.

Comparing Programs

  • All RN programs include similar nursing classes, but the BSN is the longest of the common paths because it usually takes four years. Associate degree and diploma programs usually take two to three years.

    The time to finish a practical nurse to RN bridge program varies depending on how many classes the LVN receives credit for. Entry-level master's in nursing programs also vary, but some require less than the standard two years.

BSN Foundation

  • During the first year of a BSN program, students focus on general classes such as communication, biology, speech, English composition and music. They also take nursing prerequisites such as chemistry and informatics. Most colleges require students to complete some sciences classes, such as biology and microbiology, before formal acceptance into the BSN program.

BSN Nursing Classes and Clinical Work

  • Starting the second year, BSN students begin actual nursing subjects, including such courses as introduction to nursing, pharmacology, nutrition, patient management, nursing research and nursing ethics.

    While they take methods classes, student RNs receive parallel supervised practice in clinical health care settings. For example, clinical students may practice taking health histories for a foundations of nursing section, while other rotations provide experience in the care of the adults, infants and acutely ill patients.

    Because BSN programs focus on training RNs for management positions, they typically include advanced coursework such as clinical problem-solving and nursing care management. Many nursing colleges also require a senior project.

Examination and Licensing

  • Graduates from nursing programs must pass the computer-based National Council Licensure Examination at the RN level to receive the RN license.

    RN applicants should request the NCLEX-RN application from the state board of nursing and register to take the test with the Pearson VUE testing company. Testing is available nationwide at Pearson locations all year.

Advantages of a BSN

  • Any type of RN program prepares you for licensing and entry-level work, but many employers prefer the BSN over ADN and diploma programs. A BSN program also increases your potential for advancement over the shorter programs because it teaches the leadership skills necessary for supervisory positions.

    A BSN is the preferred prerequisite to advanced practice master's degree programs, such as nurse anesthetist or nurse practitioner.

    Over time, the BSN is becoming the new standard for most RNs. The National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice recommends that at least two-thirds of working RNs have the BSN or higher, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.


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