RN vs BSN: What’s the Difference?

The RN vs BSN is a common debate. Both allow you to work as a registered nurse, but what is the benefit and difference of getting a BSN versus RN.

RN (registered nurse) is a qualification or a job title. You become an RN by taking and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). That’s the only way to become a registered nurse in the US.

To be able to sit on that test, though, there are various paths. You may obtain your nursing education by a diploma in nursing, an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN or ASN), or a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). This is what BSN stands for; it is an acronym for a degree.

It is only one of the paths an aspiring nurse may take to be eligible to take the NCLEX-RN.

RN or BSN: Time required

It usually takes 4 years for a full-time student to complete a BSN. Another year can be devoted to taking the NCLEX-RN and landing a job.

To become an RN, a shorter route can be taken with a diploma or an associate’s degree that takes about 2 years. Take the NCLEX-RN test and go right to the job market. Then, again, the longer route can be taken via BSN.

The end result is the same; the time involved is different.

BSN vs RN jobs available

RNs do typical clinical duties. They are responsible for monitoring patients’ progress, keeping medical record of treatments administered, administering medications as ordered by physicians, operate medical devices, work with the medical team, and educate patients and their families.

BSN degree holders do all those, too, once they pass the NCLEX-RN and find a job in hospitals and other medical facilities.

However, they also have other job opportunities as nurse educators, public health workers, hospital supervisors, personnel managers, hospital administrators, and researchers.

In an analysis conducted by Burning-Glass.com in 2013, 64% of nursing jobs posted required applicants to have at least an ADN, and 36% required a BSN.

This means that both RNs and those with BSNs are eligible for 51% of job opportunities, but those with BSNs have an edge for 37% more of those jobs posted.

RNs have the same clinical job opportunities as those with BSN; the latter has those and more.

Salary difference between RN or BSN holders

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows registered nurses earned a mean annual wage of $68,910 per data gathered as of May 2013.

This figure does not distinguish between the different educational backgrounds of those belonging to this occupational group.



Employers, however, vary in their salary wage approaches. Most employers give higher salaries to BSN-holders than what they pay non-BSN RNs, to a difference of $0.5-$1.0 or more per hour, or around $2,000 to $3,000 a year.

Other hospitals pay the same salary rates across same-level RNs, on the ground that they perform the same jobs.

Basically the difference comes with experience and years served as RN, and responsibilities held.

The thing there is that RNs with BSN are often given wider responsibilities and more opportunities for promotion. Naturally, wage increments go with higher positions and bigger responsibilities.

Initially, non-BSN RNs and BSN RNs may start at the same footing, do the same clinical jobs, and earn the same wages.

In the long run, however, those with BSN on their resumes have better chances of making more dollars per hour and get better jobs.

Career advancement

Looking ahead is important at this early stage of decision-making.

If you believe that you are headed for advanced practice nursing (APN) in the future, no matter how far ahead that is, a BSN is the way to go.

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum academic background required for a master’s degree in nursing.

If you see yourself working in hospital administration and management, doing research, pursuing specialty areas and advanced practice nursing, or taking higher responsibilities in the future, BSN is your preparatory degree.

The future of a registered BSN also holds more work opportunities in the non-clinical medical industries, such as healthcare insurance, pharmaceutical and biomedical equipment manufacture, and education systems.

An RN with an ADN may take additional units to complete a BSN. There are programs that cater to part-time students who work as nurses at the same time.

If you take this plan of action, make sure that the coursework and nursing program that you choose will be credited to a BSN should you decide later to complete a bachelor’s degree. It will take an additional 1 or 2 years.

Regardless of your nursing education and training, you will become a competent RN as long as you pass the NCLEX-RN and commit to your work. What you plan to eventually become has a bearing on the choice you make today.

Bottomline: BSN vs RN

Employment growth in this occupational group is faster than the average for all occupations at 19%. There is a shortage of RNs in many states, and many states do not emphasize on their preference for BSN RNs over non-BSN RNs.

At this point, you already know where to draw the line between RN and BSN, and decision-making will be much facilitated. Either of the paths will lead you to your destination – becoming a registered nurse and working in a clinical setting. The BSN, however, has an added perk because it opens to several other doors.

If you are certain that working in the hospital setting is your ultimate goal, then don’t beat around the bush. Become an RN by the academic program that best suits your circumstances.

If you know that you will be pursuing other fields beyond the hospital setting, then make a head start by taking up BSN.



I hope this RN vs BSN article has been helpful and explained the difference.

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