Is an RN to BSN Program Right for Me?
The nursing field is constantly evolving, along with it the educational backgrounds needed to succeed in this high-demand field.
While earning a Bachelor of Science (BSN) is a significant time and money investment, many nurses find that the benefits are well worth it.
What is an RN to BSN Program?
An RN to BSN program is an accelerated program that allows working Registered Nurses (RNs) to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, in half the time of a traditional 4-year BSN program.
RN to BSN programs are also referred to as RN-BSN bridge programs or RN-BSN completion programs.
ADN vs BSN Programs
While the Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) education targets essential bedside nursing skills such as placing IVs and foleys or performing tracheostomy care, the four-year Bachelor’s degree focuses on technical skills and introduces evidence-based practice, research skills, critical thinking, and nursing theory. The curriculum also bridges gaps in areas such as teamwork, collaboration, and practice.
BSN programs include courses in a wider range of topics.
- Public Health
- Social Science
- Nursing Informatics
- Nursing Theory Courses
Leading Reasons to Enroll in an RN to BSN Programs
Why do RNs decide to get a BSN? Here are the statistics. Among 1,000 randomly selected senior RN to BSN students, nurses cited these leading factors as influencing their decision to obtain a BSN.
- Greater opportunity for career and educational mobility with a BSN (87.3%)
- Desire to obtain a bachelor’s degree (84.6%)
- More opportunities for personal and professional development (76.7%)
- Desire to pursue an advanced/graduate education (56.6%)
- Convenient location of BSN program (47.0%)
- Status of having a BSN (44.1%)
The BSN is recognized as the minimum educational requirement for what the AACN (American Association of Colleges of Nursing) considers to be professional-level nursing practice.
Factors when Considering RN to BSN Programs
Two of the practical considerations when determining whether to pursue an RN to BSN program are tuition costs and the time commitment. The long-term career opportunities also weigh in, tilting the balance for many nurses.
The cost for an RN to BSN program can range from $25,000 to as high as $88,000 for online programs, and between $32,000 and $100,000 for campus-based programs.
What is the cheapest RN-BSN program? You will not find a definitive answer, because many factors can affect your actual cost, including financial aid.
So is the RN-BSN program worth it? To answer that question, let’s look at the expected salary increase after completing the program. According to Payscale, an RN earns an average salary of $68,000 a year, while an RN with a BSN degree has an average annual income of $82,000. So the annual salary increases by $14,000 on average. Assuming no financial aid, the cost for RN-BSN tuition may be paid off in as little as 2 years. So is it financially worth it to pursue an RN to BSN bridge program? A resounding yes.
The earning potential post-graduation is one of the major motivators for many nurses to pay the tuition. The tuition cost can often be compensated within five years, a short time considering the lifespan of a career.
RN to BSN programs usually take 18 to 24 months to complete. An accelerated program can take as little as 12 months to complete, while a part-time program can take up to 3 years.
What is the fastest RN-BSN program? It is only 9 months, online at the University of Central Florida.
Can you afford to take off a year from work to further your education and career? That is a personal question only you can answer. If you’re the provider in your household, you may not be able to, in which case, search for part-time programs. Depending on your time commitment you may be able to finish in as little as two years, but at an average rate within 3 years, still minuscule compared to the lifetime of your career.
Another factor to consider when pursuing an RN to BSN program is the long-term career opportunities.
According to the August 2019 study by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) hospitals and healthcare settings are shifting toward a BSN preference. “Based on completed responses from 653 schools of nursing, 43.2% of hospitals and other healthcare settings are requiring new hires to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, while 82.1% of employers are expressing a strong preference for BSN program graduates.”
Becoming a BSN-trained nurse will soon become a mandatory part of securing your desired nursing position. A growing number of hospitals, particularly, teaching and children’s hospitals and those that are recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center and Magnet Recognition Program, value the BSN for employment and are pushing to make it a required degree level.
If you’re considering a specialized nursing program, you may find yourself required to complete a BSN program. Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) programs offer a master’s degree in nursing, but will not accept applicants who have not earned their BSN. Salaries and demand for APRNs like Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) can be more than double the salary for an RN without a BSN and likewise the demand.
As the nursing landscape continues to evolve, a BSN program equips you with the skills to change with it. BSN degree programs offer well-rounded preparation for nursing practice and may create a pathway for expanded employment opportunities.
Beyond the aforementioned factors, there are other factors you want to look into.
Some factors affect the quality of education you’ll be receiving:
- teacher-student ratio,
- specializations you’re interested in,
- clinical exposure and hours.
Other key criteria are indicators of the payoffs of studying at said university:
- NCLEX passing rates
- job placements after graduation.
Most universities provide all of the above information on their websites. Additionally, every year the California Board of Registered Nursing, posts the NCLEX passing rates of all nursing programs in California.
Ultimately, location one of the major deciding factors, because relocation is an additional cost, that not everyone can afford, not to mention that state residency may affect tuition costs. See this list of Top Nursing Schools in California, for nearby options.
Top Ten Advantages of an RN to BSN Program
Here are the top ten advantages of an RN to BSN bridge program.
- As lifelong learners, BSN-prepared nurses have more credibility and stronger preparation with a theoretical base.
- Studies directly link BSN-prepared nurses to better patient outcomes.
- This degree type offers more job opportunities.
- The Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates a 12% growth of employment for RNs, with most hospitals preferring BSN-prepared nurses.
- BSN-educated nurses gain more opportunities for advancement and are more suitable for leadership and management positions.
- BSN-prepared nurses are offered more variety in the work environment, with the option to pursue non-hospital careers such as teaching and case management.
- A BSN education often leads to earning a higher salary and receiving greater benefits.
- Hospitals prefer BSN-prepared nurses, with magnet hospitals prioritizing BSN-educated nurses for entry-level positions.
- This program offers a comprehensive nursing curriculum, with courses focused on decision-making, leadership, and evidence-based practice.
- A BSN may soon be necessary for employment, with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) asking for an increased amount of BSN-prepared nurses in the workforce.
The decision to begin an RN to BSN program is a personal choice and must be weighed against the time and money to get there. However, enrolling in a bridge program has the potential to open various doors for career advancement and personal growth. The BSN-prepared nurse is offered greater opportunities as a registered nurse, educator, and future healthcare policy and patient advocate leader.