RN to BSN Programs

    Even though a registered nurse (RN) may have either a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), nurses with their BSN are usually paid more money and tend to be considered first for promotions and positions of leadership. For these reasons, many nurses choose to go back to school to pursue a bachelor’s in nursing. “Bridge” programs are specifically designed for working nurses who wish to pursue a higher degree to gain more opportunities in their careers. RN to BSN bridge programs are usually accelerated and can take less time than traditional BSN programs, with completion possible in as few as 12 to 18 months. RN to BSN (or ADN to BSN) programs also frequently offer flexibility for students, with evening or weekend classes and online options.

    Why Enroll in an RN to BSN Nursing Program?

    RN to BSN programs are ideal for RNs who want to increase their level of knowledge, their responsibilities at work, and their rate of pay. Because bachelor’s degrees usually take longer than associate’s degrees and include higher-level courses, the studies they offer are typically more in-depth and specialized. As a result, employers tend to offer expanded opportunities for BSN-prepared nurses; nurses with a BSN are more frequently considered for positions in management, promotions, and pay raises.

    RN to BSN Nursing Program Requirements and Prerequisites

    While RN to BSN requirements vary by school, an associate’s or diploma in nursing and a current RN license are typically the minimum requirements. Some prerequisite courses are also usually required, in general education as well as nursing, and may include English, math, anatomy, and physiology. Each school will also have minimum requirements based on transferred GPA and the overall strength of the application, which may include a statement of purpose and letters of recommendation. Applicants for RN to BSN bridge programs must be registered nurses (RNs) with a current and valid license. Some programs may require letters of reference from a recent employer, a personal interview, and/or a background check.

    Before enrolling in an RN to BSN program, prospective students should be confident about their career as a nurse, since they will be devoting time and money to pursue more opportunities in this career. They should have a genuine desire to help others, good communication skills, and physical and emotional stability. They should also be academically ready, especially in the fields of biology and other sciences. Having previously worked as RNs, potential RN to BSN students will already know that a career in nursing can be physically and emotionally draining, often involving long hours and variable schedules, but it can also be extremely rewarding. People with compassion, organizational skills, stamina, and excellent people skills will be the most successful in nursing care.

    RN to BSN Nursing Program Coursework

    The coursework in RN to BSN nursing programs will vary by program, and can take as little as 12 or 18 months, or as long as three years, depending on the courses taken for their previous degree and whether the student is full- or part-time. Typically, students take courses like anatomy, physiology, biology, English composition, and chemistry prior to admission into the RN to BSN program, but some of those courses may have been completed in the prior degree program. RN to BSN program courses might include:

    • Transition to Baccalaureate Education
    • Leadership and Management in Health Care Systems
    • Concepts of Community
    • Informatics for Professional Nurses
    • Pathophysiology
    • Population and Public Health Nursing Perspectives
    • Gerontology for Nurses
    • Health Policy: Local to Global
    • Trends and Issues in Clinical Nursing Practice
    • Theory and Evidence-Based Practice
    • RN Capstone

    In addition to the coursework listed above, students in RN to BSN programs may or may not be required to complete clinical work, where they will practice hands-on skills. Depending on the program and the student’s work history, any required clinical work may be able to be completed at the hospital or clinic where the student works. Students in these programs are also expected to maintain a minimum grade point average in order to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

    Online RN to BSN Programs Versus On-Campus Programs

    Since most students in RN to BSN or ADN to BSN programs are working professionals, online programs can be a good option. Accredited online RN to BSN programs can provide more flexibility than traditional programs, and they are usually designed for nontraditional students. Some online programs even allow students to take just one class at a time. Online programs sometimes offer year-round admissions and class schedules, making it easier for working students to enroll and attend class. RN to BSN online bridge programs can be less expensive overall than on-campus programs, especially when taking into consideration the time and money students will save by not having to travel to and from class each day.

    Online programs are not for everyone, however. Attending school online requires students to be highly motivated and self-driven since their schedules are self-managed to a greater degree than with on-campus nursing programs. Traditional on-campus programs offer students the social aspect of meeting and collaborating with their fellow students and asking questions of professors after class, which can be beneficial. While RN-BSN online programs do frequently offer opportunities for students to collaborate, electronic interaction is not the same as physically being in the same room with others, and some students can find this isolating. Some nurses will prefer an online option for the convenience and flexibility, and others will prefer the traditional classroom as a means to become an RN. With advantages and disadvantages to each, nurses must decide which type of program is best for them.

    Career Opportunities for Graduates of an RN to BSN Program in Nursing

    After completing an RN to BSN program, graduates will be prepared to advance in the workforce. Nursing is one of the most popular job fields and bachelor’s degree nurses are in high demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016 registered nurses earned a median annual wage of $68,450.1 The outlook for RNs is also promising. Registered nursing jobs are expected to increase by 16% through 2024, with 439,300 new jobs expected to become available.1 The job pool for RNs is large, and with a bachelor’s of nursing and an RN license, there should be many opportunities for employment.

    The increased demand for nurses 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 are expected to have an advantage in the job market. Long-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 RNs who apply for these jobs may have a better chance.

    Additional Resources

    • American Nurses Association – The American Nurses Association is a resource for all registered nurses. Once you are a member, you can find information here about continuing education and networking opportunities.
    • American Society of Registered Nurses (ASRN) – The ASRN is for registered nurses to continue their education, advance in their careers, and attend training and conferences.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can I transfer courses from other colleges or universities to an RN to BSN program?

    Most colleges and universities will accept transfer credits from other regionally accredited schools, but will likely require a minimum passing grade for those classes. Check with your school of choice for more information on transferring college credits from other schools.

    Should I choose an RN to BSN bridge program or an RN to MSN program?

    For RNs who would like to increase their knowledge and possibilities of advancement, RN to BSN bridge programs are an excellent choice. They offer flexibility and are shorter than RN to MSN (master of science in nursing) programs, so they may be more cost-effective than RN to MSN programs. For RNs who want to set their sights higher, an RN to MSN program can also be a good choice. While RN to MSN programs take longer to complete because they include the bachelor’s degree component as well as the master’s degree component, they offer more specialization than bachelor’s programs, which typically results in higher pay in the workforce, giving graduates an edge over their BSN counterparts. Graduates of master’s degree nursing programs are also typically eligible for advanced practice nurse licensure.

    Are in-person clinical rotations required for RN to BSN programs?

    It depends on the program, but most schools do require in-person clinical hours. Some schools will take into account the student’s work history, allowing the clinical work to be completed at the hospital or clinic where the student already works. Other programs may allow students with enough prior experience to skip clinical work altogether. Check with your RN to BSN school of choice for more information about their clinical requirements.

    1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Registered Nurses: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm