As you think about getting your nursing degree, you will soon need to decide between earning your Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or your Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN). Both result in you earning your RN designation, once you pass the NCLEX-RN examination. So what’s the difference?
The ADN is a two or three year nursing degree that provides aspiring RNs with the basic nursing skills, knowledge and experience they need to get a foothold in the nursing profession.
The BSN is usually a four year undergraduate degree that provides you with additional clinical and academic training that goes above and beyond an associate’s degree.
Both nursing programs will provide you with the skills that you need to be a successful as an RN. Both programs will provide you with essential clinical training in:
Both programs also require extensive clinical experiences in the field in various areas of the hospital, as well as long term care facilities and home health facilities. Still, there are significant differences in each program that you should weigh before you make your decision.
ADN vs BSN Training
As we hinted to above, the bachelor’s degree program because it is more in depth and longer in duration, has more significant training in leadership, communication, critical thinking, and advanced clinical skills. The registered nursing field is always bringing in new ways of thinking and practicing with patients. Many nurses find that a BSN provides a more complete training in overall nursing that is of great importance.
For nurses who want to eventually advance into administrative roles, the additional training that one receives in a BSN program cannot be underestimated.
The American Association of Colleges of Nurses points out that the additional BSN coursework will aid your professional development in the long term, and will prepare the nurse for a wider scope of practice (perhaps paving the way for you to earn your master’s degree in nursing). It also gives you a better understanding of the cultural, political and social issues that affect clinical patients.
Also note that more employers are requiring that their nurses either have a bachelor’s degree or will earn one in the near future. This change is being driven by a 2010 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report that set a target for 80% of all nurses to have a BSN by 2020.
That aggressive goal was set due to academic research that found that patients get better care in hospitals where nurses have a bachelor’s degree.
Also, note that the Hospital Magnet Recognition Status Program requires that all nurse managers and supervisors to have a BSN degree. This Magnet Status was created by the American Nurses Credentialing Center to draw attention to the best healthcare facilities in the US.
A BSN is NOT required for RNs who do only bedside, clinical work, but you having your BSN still is viewed as significant for hospitals that want to achieve Magnet Status.
ADN vs BSN Salary
Both ADN and BSN graduates can hold mostly the same positions in a clinical setting, but the BSN graduate will usually make more.
For instance, Indeed.com reports the following average salaries for each degree:
However, you should know that the actual salary you have is only part of the picture. A nurse with an ADN and a nurse with a BSN could be in a similar job and get paid a similar wage.
But the nurse with a BSN degree will have far more opportunities for advancement. ADN nurses tend to be confined to more entry level clinical roles. That is fine for early in your career, but after a few years, it could feel confining and limiting.
For instance, if you want to become a nursing shift supervisor, a BSN will almost certainly be the minimum requirement, and an MSN may be preferred. The BSN and ADN will both prepare you about the same for entry level nursing roles, but the BSN will have higher mobility long term.
Which Is Best?
The choice between ADN and BSN comes down to you and your career goals. Do you see yourself being in an entry level nursing role in five years? In 10 years? If so, that is fine; perhaps getting an associate’s degree would be the best option in that scenario.
Becoming a nurse with an ADN has the advantage of taking less time before you can begin working, and of course, it costs less.
You should keep in mind though, that at some point, your hospital may require you to earn your BSN degree. Your employer could even pick up part of the cost, or all of it.
For a nurse who sees herself eventually moving into a supervisory or administrative role, an extra year or two to earn a BSN degree could be a valuable investment in your future. Luckily, for nurses who have an ADN already and want to get their BSN, there are many online RN to BSN programs available online that will allow you to earn your BSN, usually in one or two years.
If you want to earn your ADN degree, you will generally need to do so at a local community or vocational college, as there are few fully online ADN options.
After you earn your ADN and work in nursing, you then can enter an RN to BSN online degree program. Two of the best are highlighted below.
RN to BSN Online Degree Programs
Washington Governor’s University has a leading RN to BSN degree program that will improve your career prospects, boost your pay, and generally increase your job security. Earning your BSN will expand your skills and knowledge well beyond the mere clinical aspects of nursing.
You will gain a strong background in evidence based practice, patient safety, integration of technology, and healthcare systems and policies. Coursework includes:
- Care of the Older Adult
- Health Assessment
- Health and Wellness Through Nutritional Science
- Professional Roles and Values
- Community Health and Population-Focused Nursing
- Evidence-Based Practice and Applied Nursing Research
- Organizational Systems and Quality Leadership
- Leadership and Professional Image
- Information Management and the Application of Technology
The below subject areas are required for your BSN, but you can get credit for them by transferring credits from your ADN:
- Applied Healthcare Statistics
- English Composition I
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Introduction to Sociology
- Introduction to Psychology
- Survey of United States Constitution and Government
- Introduction to Communication
- Introduction to Humanities
- Clinical Microbiology
WGU’s program has been accredited by the CCNE, which is the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. With this accreditation, you know that the program has the highest standards of quality in the nursing profession.
Another highly regarded RN to BSN option is offered by Jacksonville University online. If you have career goals in nursing besides clinical bedside work, this BSN program will provide you with essential skills in community health, critical care, research and assessment, and general education in nutrition, anatomy, physiology and statistics.
Additional benefits from this RN to BSN program include:
- Develop advanced nursing clinical thinking skills that will prepare you for possible administrative and and supervisory nursing work.
- Learn valuable leadership skills that will teach you about nursing management and administration, which are essential for advancement.
- Communicate with your nursing peers and instructors, which provides you with highly valuable networking potential.
Past graduates of this program have moved into these types of positions:
- Director education
- Charge nurse
- Manager of ambulatory surgery
- Clinical nurse manager
- Chief nursing officer
- Healthcare risk manager
- Director of case manager
This program has been accredited by the CCNE.