Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing

Obtaining a bachelors in nursing provides a solid foundation for those looking to be a Registered Nurse (RN). The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN or BScN) is a degree awarded to students after studying in a program for three or four years. Some accelerated bachelors in nursing programs can take even less time. A bachelor’s degree of nursing is offered at colleges and universities. The following provides a guide for the bachelor’s degree in nursing, the types of courses involved, and the job outlook for people who obtain this degree.

Why Pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing?

A bachelors in nursing prepares graduates for a solid career in nursing, and a baccalaureate offers a more in-depth study of nursing than other degrees. Nurses care for patients at hospitals, clinics, or patients’ homes. A nurse’s job duties vary from dressing wounds to checking blood pressure to administering medicine. A BSN qualifies a person to perform nursing duties and provide excellent care to patients. While a bachelor’s degree is typically more time-consuming than an associates, it usually better prepares students to pursue a nursing career, with more in-depth studies of physical and social sciences, communication, leadership, and critical thinking. Because of this, an RN with a bachelor’s of science in nursing may have more job opportunities, especially in leadership, than one with an associate’s in nursing (ASN). After obtaining a degree in nursing, graduates will be able to pursue licensure in their state so that they can secure a job as a nurse.

While a bachelors degree (combined with licensure) will prepare graduates to enter the workforce immediately as nurses, it can also be a springboard for further education. Someone with a BSN may later decide to pursue a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) for example, which may provide even further advancement opportunities for leadership positions.

Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing Requirements and Prerequisites

While the requirements to enter a bachelor’s program in nursing vary by school, a high school diploma or a GED is typically the minimum requirement. Each school will also have minimum requirements based on standardized test (ACT or SAT) scores, high school grade point average, and the overall strength of the college application (including the statement of purpose and letters of recommendation). Admission into bachelor-level nursing programs can be extremely competitive. Because there are often more applicants than there are available spaces in nursing programs, many schools require prerequisites for entry, such as the completion of all general education courses as well as some science and nursing courses. Prerequisites may include anatomy, pharmacology, microbiology, nutrition, and chemistry courses. No prior work experience is required to get a bachelor’s degree of nursing.

Prospective nursing students should have a genuine desire to help others, be detail-oriented, and have physical and emotional stability. Since nurses will talk to patients and their families about treatment plans, they should have strong communication skills. Prospective nurses should also be strong students, especially in the fields of biology and other sciences. A career in nursing can be physically and emotionally draining, often with long hours and unstable schedules, but it can also be extremely rewarding. People with compassion, organizational skills, stamina, and excellent people skills will be the most successful in the field.

Bachelors Degree in Nursing Coursework

The coursework required for a bachelor’s of nursing will vary depending on the school and program, but a BSN student will typically cover general education requirements first. Then, students can expect courses in subjects like anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry, and psychology. Specific classes may include:

  • Nursing Basics
  • Foundations of Professional Nursing
  • Nutrition
  • Microbiology
  • Clinical Nursing
  • Psychiatric Nursing
  • Maternity and Newborn Nursing
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Applied Principles of Health and Disease
  • Applied Ethics in Clinical Practice
  • Leadership and Management in Healthcare
  • Medical-Surgical Practicum
  • Advanced Clinical Assessment

In addition to the coursework listed above, students in BSN programs also learn hands-on skills that will help them in their future practice. As a part of their clinicals, they typically learn and practice the skills they will use in the real world, such as taking vital signs, drawing blood, and administering intravenous therapy (IV). For example, prospective nurses may practice technical skills on a dummy patient, or human patient simulator (HPS). This way, real life emergency situations can be simulated in a controlled, safe environment, allowing students to practice what they have learned before dealing with real patients later. They may also practice on real patients during their clinical studies, giving supervised care at hospitals or clinics. Usually, students will be required to complete a certain number of hours of clinical work, in addition to their regular coursework, before graduating from the bachelor’s program.

The courses taken to obtain a bachelors of science in nursing degree will give students an introduction into various nursing fields, and hopefully provide some direction in choosing the field they might wish to pursue as a career. Students in bachelors programs are also expected to maintain a minimum grade point average in order to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Career Opportunities for Graduates of an Bachelor’s Degree Program in Nursing

Graduates of any BSN program will need to get licensed to practice nursing in their state before being hired, typically with an exam called the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). To become a registered nurse, graduates will take the NCLEX-RN. The NCLEX-RN covers the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for entry-level nursing practice and tests the critical thinking ability of the candidate. It is a highly individualized test, meaning that the computer selects each question based on how the previous one was answered. Most questions are multiple-choice, but there are also a few format questions, which may be open response-style, or others that may ask test-takers to identify a body part.

Nursing is one of the most popular job fields in the US, and it is in relatively high demand. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses earned a median wage of $65,470 in 2012.1 The outlook for RNs is promising, with registered nursing jobs expected to increase by 19% through 2022, significantly faster than other occupations.1 This increased demand is due to the aging of the baby-boomer generation, growing rates of chronic illnesses among the general public, and the retirement of many nurses in the coming years. Nurses who are willing to work in medically underserved and in rural areas will have an advantage in the job market. Longer-term care facilities are expected to have a greater need for nurses than hospitals, and home healthcare is also expected to see an increase, so nurses who apply for these jobs may have a better chance.

Additional Resources

American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) – The AACN advocates that the bachelor’s degree in nursing should be the minimal education requirement for nurses. The organization is dedicated to nursing as a profession, and to improving health and delivery of care services.

Nursing World – The American Nurses Association is a professional organization for all registered nurses. Membership provides opportunities in networking, advancement, and education.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) – Visit the NCSBN’s website to find out about the exams offered, practice analyses, and testing locations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I get a bachelor’s of nursing degree online?
Yes. Bachelors degrees in nursing are offered at many colleges and universities, and some colleges offer a bachelor of science in nursing online. Check with the individual school to see if they offer an online bachelors degree in nursing before applying.

As an RN, will a bachelors in nursing improve my pay over those with an associates in nursing?
Yes, it is likely that obtaining a bachelor’s degree in nursing will give you an edge over colleagues with an associate’s in nursing. Nurses with their BSNs are often paid more money than nurses with their ASNs, and they also tend to be considered first for promotions and positions of leadership.

How is a BSN different from an RN-to-BSN?
A BSN is designed for people who are not yet registered nurses, but desire to become nurses by first obtaining their bachelor’s degree in nursing, then becoming licensed in their state by taking the NCLEX-RN. An RN-to-BSN program is designed for nurses who are already licensed, but desire to further their education and advancement opportunities by going back to college to obtain a bachelor’s degree, since the bachelor’s degree typically offers better pay and better opportunities for advancing to positions in management.

What can you do with a bachelors in nursing?
A bachelor of science in nursing is becoming the most common route for people who want to become nurses. After obtaining licensure, people with their BSN can be staff nurses at private or public hospitals or physicians’ offices, home health care nurses, or even take on leadership roles to assist other nurses. Some may also go on to pursue an advanced nursing degree, if they are interested in becoming an advanced practice registered nurse.

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm