For decades, the leaders in the field of nursing have encouraged Associate's and Diploma level nurses to pursue a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Research has proven that nurses with higher education experience improved job satisfaction, improved patient outcomes, fewer medication errors, and decreased mortality rates.

Within the last few years, the push to hire Bachelor's educated registered nurses has really gained momentum. It's obvious that in the future the Bachelor's degree will be minimum education requirement for registered nurses.

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Do Hospitals Only Hire BSN Educated Nurses?

Most hospitals will still hire both Associate's and Bachelor's degree educated nurses. However, this is going to change, and in most large teaching hospitals, it already has.

This is because after decades of research, the evidence is undeniable showing that hospitals with a high level of BSN educated nurses have better patient outcomes and decreased patient mortality, as well as improved job satisfaction which leads to employee longevity, compared to those with fewer.

What Are Some Research Studies to Support Higher Nursing Education?

Of the many studies performed throughout the years, below are the conclusions from a few:

In 2013, Medline performed a study of 134 hospitals and stated, "We estimate that if all 134 hospitals in our study had increased the percentage of their nurses with baccalaureates by ten points during our study's time period, some 500 deaths among general, orthopedic, and vascular surgery patients might have been prevented. The findings provide support for efforts to increase the production and employment of baccalaureate nurses." (

In 2013, the Journal of Nursing Administration found, "Hospitals with a higher percentage of RNs with baccalaureate or higher degrees had lower congestive heart failure mortality, decubitus ulcers, failure to rescue, and postoperative deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism and shorter length of stay." (

In 2003, the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded, "In hospitals with higher proportions of nurses educated at the baccalaureate level or higher, surgical patients experienced lower mortality and failure-to-rescue rates." (

In 2001, the Journal of Nursing Administration concluded, "Controlling for patient acuity, hours of nursing care, and staff mix, units with more experienced nurses had lower medication errors and lower patient fall rates." ( )

Obviously, research has supported the idea that registered nurses with higher education are able to help in promoting better patient outcomes.

For RN's with an ADN, literally hundreds and hundreds of RN to BSN bridge programs are available. Learn more about the roles of BSN RN's.

Do BSN Educated Nurses Provide Better Patient Care?

Research has linked registered nurses with higher education to having fewer medication errors, positive patient outcomes, and lower patient mortality rates ( ).

While many studies support this conclusion, a few are listed here:

  • In an article published in the March 2013 issue of Health Affairs, nurse researcher Ann Kutney-Lee and colleagues found that a 10-point increase in the percentage of nurses holding a BSN within a hospital was associated with an average reduction of 2.12 deaths for every 1,000 patients-and for a subset of patients with complications, an average reduction of 7.47 deaths per 1,000 patients.
  • In the February 2013 issue of the Journal of Nursing Administration, Mary Blegen and colleagues published findings from a cross-sectional study of 21 University Healthsystem Consortium hospitals which found that hospitals with a higher percentage of RNs with baccalaureate or higher degrees had lower congestive heart failure mortality, decubitus ulcers, failure to rescue, and postoperative deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism and shorter length of stay.
  • An increase in a nurses' workload by one patient increased the likelihood of an inpatient dying within 30 days of admission by 7% (odds ratio 1.068, 95% CI 1.031-1.106), and every 10% increase in bachelor's degree nurses was associated with a decrease in this likelihood by 7% (0.929, 0.886-0.973). These associations imply that patients in hospitals in which 60% of nurses had bachelor's degrees and nurses cared for an average of six patients would have almost 30% lower mortality than patients in hospitals in which only 30% of nurses had bachelor's degrees and nurses cared for an average of eight patients. Therefore, Nurse staffing cuts to save money might adversely affect patient outcomes. An increased emphasis on bachelor's education for nurses could reduce preventable hospital deaths. ( )
  • In the October 2012 issue of Medical Care, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that surgical patients in Magnet hospitals had 14% lower odds of inpatient death within 30 days and 12% lower odds of failure-to-rescue compared with patients cared for in non-Magnet hospitals. The study authors conclude that these better outcomes were attributed in large part to investments in highly qualified and educated nurses, including a higher proportion of baccalaureate prepared nurses.

Research study after research study has proven that the safest hospitals have more BSN educated registered nurses than Associate's or diploma educated nurses. Because of this, the trend in nursing is to encourage higher education and has been for many years.

While Associate's degrees are fine for most healthcare facilities to get hired, the long-term employment prospects of a BSN degree educated nurse are far better than a registered nurse without a BSN.

Will I Be Able to Find a RN Job Without a BSN Degree?

For now, yes. The demand for registered nurses is very high and healthcare facilities need Associate's degree nurses to fill the demand.

However, the nursing shortage has been in effect for years and to help fill the void a call for more nurses to enter the field has been heard and responded to in massive numbers. Many, many nursing students have completed nursing programs and have entered the field of nursing, and many more are in the process of doing so. This is creating a shift for the hiring managers of healthcare facilities.

Healthcare facilities are now privileged to have a large number of qualified registered nurses to interview and hire. This allows managers to be more selective and choose candidates who have higher levels of education or the strong desire to earn the Bachelor's degree within a few years of employment.

The future of the nursing field is to have every registered nurse hold a Bachelor's degree. This shift is largely supported to the 2010 IOM initiative.

In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in collaboration with the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation launched a 2-year initiative to transform and assess the field of nursing. Together, they concluded 4 key points:

  • Nurses should practice to the full extent of their education and training.
  • Nurses should achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression.
  • Nurses should be full partners, with physicians and other healthcare professionals, in redesigning health care in the United States.
  • Effective workforce planning and policy making require better data collection and information infrastructure.

( )

The second bullet point highlights the importance of achieving higher education and training in nursing as well as encouraging schools to make this easier.

Schools have responded to this call to action with overwhelming support. In schools where there were no RN to BSN bridge programs before, they were created. In schools who still do not have BSN programs, they are in discussion to create them.

The demand for registered nurses to earn a Bachelor's degree is clear and school's have never made it easier for Associate's degree educated nurses to achieve higher education. This shift to promote learning is supported by research and the nursing community. Each day, more and more registered nurses are taking advantage of these opportunities.

Read up on working as an RN.

Why Should I Take the Time to Earn My BSN When I'm Already a RN?

Many, many registered nursing positions are waiting to be filled throughout the country's healthcare facilities. But for many years the nursing community has been pushing to eliminate the Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN), just as the diploma program for nurses was eliminated decades ago.

The Future of Nursing report issued by the Institute of Medicine in December of 2010 outlined 8 recommendations for advancing the field of nursing for the future. The fourth recommendation is that by 2020 80% of all RN's should hold a Bachelor's degree (

Major reasons for this shift to higher education include:

  • Research to support better patient outcomes by RNs with a BSN
  • Increasing availability of BSN programs
  • Europe, New Zealand, and Australia already require a BSN for entry level RN jobs
  • Highly complex healthcare environment requires higher education

Barriers to accomplishing this change in the past have been the tremendous registered nursing shortage. Hospitals have been more focused on filling the open RN positions to ensure adequate nurse to patient ratios and quality patient care, but less focused on encouraging or hiring registered nurses with higher education.

However, as more and more new graduate nurses finish school and being flooding the workforce, hospitals are finding they can be a little more choosy. Fortunately for hospitals and patients, this trend is expected to continue.

How Long Are RN to BSN Programs?

The general requirement is 120 credit hours, including undergraduate hours already completed during the Associate's degree program.

So, for most students, it's really just 30 upper-level courses.

The breakdown is generally:

  • 60 undergraduate credit hours (which is the Associate's degree you already have)
  • 30 upper-level BSN courses
  • 30 practical or clinical hours, or equivalency exams (most schools consider full-time RN employment as satisfying the required hours)

What Are the RN to BSN Program Requirements?

While program requirements will vary by school, there are some basics they all share:

  • Licensure
  • Criminal background check
  • General admission criteria
  • Full-time RN employment or equivalency exams


RN to BSN programs require its students to be registered nurses in good standing. This means no disciplinary action without explanation and follow-up. If you have had issues with disciplinary action against your license be sure to check the school's policy on this.

Criminal Background Check

As with Associate's degree program, a clean criminal background check is required for the RN to BSN program. Along with this, some schools may require a drug test or physical.

General Admission Criteria

Based on undergraduate transcripts from accredited institutions many schools have a minimum 2.0 GPA requirement and required undergraduate courses. Most students have satisfied the general admission requirements as these were also required to pass the Associate's degree program.

Full-Time RN Employment or Equivalency Exams

About 30 hours of clinical/practical hours or equivalency exams are required for many RN to BSN programs. If the student is a full-time working RN throughout the program this will satisfy the requirement for most schools. For RN's who are not working during the program, many schools offer exams or other ways to satisfy the 30 hour requirement. The best thing to do is to discuss this with the school's advisor.

What Will I Learn and What Classes Are Required for a RN to BSN Program?

The Bachelor's curriculum does not address clinical components in the same fashion as the Associate's degree program because these were already mastered in order to become licensed, but general requirements for each RN to BSN program will include these.

Undergraduate requirements vary by program and are usually about 60 credit hours, include:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Biology
  • Math
  • English
  • Foreign Language
  • Chemistry
  • And electives

RN to BSN program curriculum varies by school, but generally they include:

  • Community Health Nursing
  • Evidence Based Practice
  • Statistics for Nurses
  • RN Collaborative Healthcare
  • Nursing Management
  • Healthcare Informatics
  • Nursing Ethics
  • Nursing Leadership
  • Nutrition

The format for online learning involves reading from an electronic textbook, emailing, discussion boards, and chat rooms. Most schools offer additional help for students who want it via telephone or private email with the instructor.

Finding help during classes is usually quick and easy. The school wants you to succeed and are motivated to provide any additional resources or answer any questions. Some platforms allow for online chat while logged in.

Can I Still Work While Attending a RN to BSN Program?

Yes! And not only can you work, but most schools require it!

Maintaining full-time employment as a registered nurse during the RN to BSN program is encouraged by most schools. Not only does this satisfy the 30 "clinical hours" requirement of many RN to BSN programs, but it allows for the nurse to take advantage of the employer's tuition reimbursement programs and qualify for certain nursing scholarships and grants.

Many online RN to BSN programs are flexible enough to allow for full-time employment hours without a lot of adjustment. If the course requires daily or 3-4 day a week participation log-in's, meaning participating in a chat room discussion or posting on a discussion board, this usually only takes 15-30 minutes maximum. This can be annoying after a long day at work at bedside but it's definitely not enough of a time consumer to require quitting work. Besides, most bedside nurses work 3 twelve hour shifts a week. This allows for entire days of working on projects and assignments.

Do BSN Educated Nurses Make More Money?

Pay scales at most healthcare facilities are comprehensive calculations which take into account highest degree held, years of experience, certifications held, and department. Typically nurses with the highest degrees, many years of experience, those with certifications, and who work in specialized departments, such as labor and delivery or intensive care, will earn more money than those who do not have these attributes working to his or her advantage.

Therefore, nurses with a Bachelor's degree or higher will start out higher on the pay scale than those with lower levels of education.

It should be noted, however, that it is not uncommon for a new graduate (meaning inexperienced or entry-level) nurse with a BSN to make less money than an experienced RN with an Associate's degree. However, overtime, the new graduate will gain experience and earn more than the Associate's level nurse.

For this reason, RN to BSN bridge programs are a great way to ensure more money for the future and for the life of the nurse's career. And with so many options, earning the BSN has never been easier!

Hospitals will pay more for registered nurses with higher education. The starting wage of a Bachelor's degree educated registered nurse is higher than that of an Associate's degree educated registered nurse with the same level of experience.

To be fair, experience counts for a lot in nursing. An entry level Bachelor's educated nurse may start out making less money than an Associate's educated nurse but later, as experience accumulates, the pay scale will even out.

RN to BSN Salary Comparison By State

State RN-BSN Salary RN-ADN Salary Percent Increase
California $91,733 $86,830 5.6%
Texas $74,817 $70,804 5.7%
Florida $70,454 $64,446 9.3%
Illinois $75,051 $66,947 12.1%
Ohio $71,716 $62,601 14.6%

Table data obtained from 06/2016

Do BSN Educated Nurses Have More Job Options and Job Flexibility?

Registered nurses with a Bachelor's degree tend to find jobs faster, closer, and easier than those with an Associate's degree. This is because more healthcare facilities are hiring nurses with a BSN and most prefer the higher level of education for it's employees. However, registered nurses with an Associate's degree are qualified to work at most healthcare facilities.

At this time, most healthcare facilities will hire a registered nurse with an Associate's degree. Many of these require the RN to obtain his or her BSN within a set amount of time, usually about 5 years. Often the facility will even provide tuition reimbursement for part of the cost of the Bachelor's degree.

Some healthcare facilities, typically large teaching hospitals and research facilities, may only hire BSN educated nurses. Because of this, BSN educated registered nurses may have an easier time finding a job than those with an Associate's degree nurses. In facilities which hire registered nurses with either degree, the BSN educated nurse may have the advantage in being offered the position over one with an Associate's degree simply because of the higher level of education.

For Associate's educated nurses, be assured that with the nursing shortage presently and predicted for the future, most facilities need to fill registered nursing positions and do not set an education limit, at least not yet.

Because of this push for all facilities to hire Bachelor's educated registered nurses, starting now to earn the BSN is a wise decision.

What Kind of Job Can I Have with a BSN Degree?

Most healthcare facilities will only allow Bachelor's educated nurses to advance to positions in:

  • Nursing education
  • Infection control
  • Quality control
  • Case management
  • Healthcare informatics
  • Assistant managers
  • Charge nursing

Many of the same nursing positions are available for Associate's and Bachelor's degree educated nurses at the entry-level. At least for now. However, as discussed, many healthcare facilities are shifting or have already shifted to only hiring BSN educated nurses, or those who are willing to earn the BSN degree within a few years of employment.

Advancing to a graduate degree, such as a Master's degree in Nursing (MSN) or Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP), opens up positions in administration, Nurse Practitioner (NP), Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CNRA), Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), and Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS).

Is BSN Tuition Reimbursement a Possibility?

For registered nurses working at many healthcare facilities, the answer is "yes."

For the registered nurse already employed many incentives may be offered by the facility to advance education. These may include:

  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Increase in salary
  • Eligibility to be promoted

Healthcare facilities want registered nurses to be more educated. To support nurses in this, many offer either a set dollar amount or a percentage in tuition reimbursement.

The dollar amount would be a set annual or per-semester amount of money each employee is eligible to accept for education.

For BSN program reimbursement, the RN would submit a course schedule or payment receipt to the Human Resources department to receive reimbursement. This process is usually easy and streamlined and the money is added to the nurse's paycheck without a fight. Of course, each facility is different, but because facilities encourage advancing education obtaining reimbursement is usually not very difficult.

Online RN to BSN Programs

Many, many, many online RN to BSN programs are advertised on the internet. A simple search will provide a plethora of options and finding the right online RN to BSN program has never been easier. From online programs to a traditional classroom setting the right fit is accessible for all nurses.

Advantages and disadvantages to any style of learning are a personal decision. Consider your own learning style and what you respond to as a student when reading more about online learning.

Advantages of Online RN to BSN Programs

Some advantages to online learning include:

  • Flexibility
  • Having a virtual location allowing for prestigious schools out-of-state
  • Learning from the comfort of your living room
  • Eliminates language barriers
  • Information previously discussed is still available for review later


Attending classes from the comfort of your living room can't be beat. Participation in classes can be completed around a work schedule, usually allowing full-time work during school. For many nurses this level of flexibility alone is enough to pursue online education.

Raising a family as well working and maintaining a social life is certainly possible with the flexibility of internet-based learning. Some schools require full-time registered nurse employment status to be maintained throughout the program.

But, don't be under the assumption that online school is easy! Most schools require daily or 3-4 day a week log-in's for class participation. This may be cumbersome after a long day of working bedside as a nurse!

Weekly projects with group participation are usually required as well. This may be in the form of a Powerpoint presentation, essay, research paper, or something like this. Many hours of schoolwork are usually required. Reading from a text and proving comprehension in some form are also part of online learning.

Clinical hours are not required for the RN to BSN program. The state does not require taking an exam like the NCLEX-RN or becoming newly licensed as a BSN educated RN. Once the nurse has become licensed as a RN by the state, no clinical hours are required unless he or she wishes to pursue a Master's degree in Nursing.

Virtual Location

Because the RN to BSN bridge program is usually available 100% online the student can live anywhere in the world and attend classes. Clinicals are not required by the State for a RN to BSN program, however some programs may require full-time employment as a RN.

This opens up the possibility of attending competitive universities outside of one's state. Some of which have wonderful reputations within the nursing community. When considering the cost of these universities versus other schools, think about what the end-goal is and whether it matters to have a degree from an expensive university with a well-known name or if a less well-known but accredited schools serves your needs.

If the end-goal is to attend graduate school then having a more prestigious Bachelor's degree is advantageous. Also some employers, such as research facilities or schools, may only hire nurses with a more prestigious degree.

Why sit in a hard chair in a bland lecture hall when you can put your feet up with a glass of wine and learn just as much? So much of school is about reading and comprehension that it just makes sense to spend this time being comfortable in your own home. With no commute and no traffic to sit in, you can be relaxed while you participate in discussion boards for class participation points, or just read the E-textbook and work on your projects while earning your degree.

Eliminates Language Barriers

In a traditional English-language classroom setting, international students have a harder time understanding the course content and following along with lectures. With online school, either the school can provide a platform with the students' native language or translation programs are available. Sometimes just using Google Translate is enough. The best part about this is that the student is able to learn more effectively because he or she can actually understand 100% of the course materials.

Information Previously Discussed is Still Available for Review Later

Any information the instructor went over during the class is still available. Unlike a traditional classroom, the chalkboard is never erased and the speed at which a student can write isn't a factor! Everything is typed and communicated through the E-classroom. This information is stored until the class is over and sometimes longer than that. Information can also be printed at home.

Disadvantages of Online RN to BSN Programs

While this is a personal decision for every student, some disadvantages include:

  • Lack of student interaction
  • Being contracted by the school
  • Must be self-motivated
  • Inability to receive help when needed
  • Lectures are not paced like traditional lectures

Lack of Student Interaction

With the online learning format student interaction happens but it's all through chat and email. For many students this is perfect for his or her learning style. However, other students may thrive with more face-to-face interaction to understand the learning materials.

Most online schools offer a lot of support for students and have instructors who are very involved. This is usually in the form of email, discussion boards, chat rooms, Skype, or phone calls. For most students this is enough support to get them moving in the right direction

Being Contracted by the School

Some schools may require a contract in order to enroll in classes. Mostly this may consist of paying for the entire program even if it is not completed. These may be meant as a well-intentioned effort to promote attendance and completion of courses or they may just be a way for the school to ensure they will be paid for the seat the student is occupying. Either way, for some students this may not a pleasant requirement.

Must Be Self-Motivated

This could be either a pro or a con, really. Because classes are self-paced and require attendance if the student is not able to force themselves to do these things he or she will fail. But for self-motivated students, this is not a drawback, but a benefit to online learning. Having self-paced classes is wonderful for those who are willing to put in the time to complete the coursework.

Most RN to BSN students work full-time and often must participate in class after a long day's work at bedside in order to pass the class. This usually takes the form of a chat room discussion a few times a week along with projects and papers. Before enrolling be sure to see what each course requires and really think about whether you are the type of person who can be motivated to finish each course.

Inability to Receive Help When Needed

The availability to receive help with assignments, tech support with the website, have questions answered quickly, and similar issues which are associated with the virtual classroom vary by school, instructor, and program. Some schools are wonderful at promptly responding to inquiries and creating relationships which will serve its students well. Other schools may still be working out the kinks on keeping students happy and involved in coursework.

When researching schools, be sure to ask the advisors what kinds of complaints they receive from students, as well as searching online for other student's reviews of the school and what issues they have had. Websites where nurses get together are probably a good place to start.

Lectures Are Not Paced Like Traditional Lectures

During a traditional lecture, the instructor gauges how well the students are following along with the material and adjusts the lecture accordingly. Maybe he or she asks questions or reads the students faces to determine this. With online lectures the pace is set and the course just keeps on going whether the instructor knows the students are comprehending or not. Students are usually able to chime in and ask questions during the lecture but often questions are posted on discussion boards or through email later.

What Are Some Advantages of an In-Classroom RN to BSN Program?

Advantages to in-classroom, or traditional, learning include:

  • Immediate responses
  • Networking with other students
  • Dedicated time and place to schoolwork
  • Fewer technological requirements

Immediate Responses

With the traditional classroom setting any questions and answers are addressed on the spot. Many online programs have chat rooms and the professors are available by email or Skype, but many students prefer the face-to-face interaction from professors.

When the flow of a lecture is happening some students prefer not to wait for a response to a question he or she thinks of in the moment. Meeting with the instructor after class to discuss lecture material or coursework is also a benefit.

Networking with Other Students

The RN is able to meet other nurses and speak face-to-face with students as well as professors and university staff. This can lead to new friends and professional contacts which can help advance careers and promote social circles.

In an online classroom this kind of bonding and conversation doesn't really happen. This is because the format is not face-to-face and most students are logged in at different times during the day for chat boards and class participation.

Dedicated Time and Place to Schoolwork

Students have to be physically present and set aside hours in the day dedicated to in-classroom formatted school. While this is also required for online learners, for some students it may be harder to dedicate time in this way while not in a physical classroom.

Fewer Technological Requirements

For some students having fewer technological requirements is a great benefit to the traditional classroom. Not only does this format avoid using the internet, school-specific online platforms which are new and unpracticed, email, chat rooms, discussion boards, and figuring out how to download E-books, but it is a comfortable environment the student has been accustomed to learning in since preschool. For students who did not grow up working with computers this can be a very attractive benefit to traditional classrooms.

What Are Some Disadvantages of an In-Classroom RN to BSN Program?

Some disadvantages to in-classroom, or traditional-style, learning include:

  • Passive role of the student
  • Learning is dependent mostly on the instructor's communication skills
  • Time consuming
  • May be more expensive than online learning

Passive Role of the Student

Students who physically sit in class are listening to the professor and not reading, discussing, or interacting in an active way. Perhaps they are taking notes or raising their hands but this may be more of a race to write something down before it escapes the brain or asking about a spur of the moment thought instead of actually processing the information.

Taking a more active role in learning has been proven to be a more effective method of solidifying comprehension. In the online classroom, participation is required and demonstrated through discussion boards and chat rooms. Students are able to actively read what other students are saying about the material and they can all learn from each other.

For online learners, this may be easier because of the required class participation and required textbook reading with complementing assignments. Having the exposure to course materials backed up by the solidification of discussing the material or completing an assignment helps most students learn for the long-term.

Learning is Dependent Mostly on the Instructor's Communication Skills

Students are at the mercy of the professor's communication skills. If the professor is a poor speaker the materials may not be received well by the class. Most students can relate to having a professor who was unable or unwilling to try to help the class understand coursework. This issue is eliminated with online learning because most of the coursework is created as a standard course curriculum or in the E-Textbook. The instructors monitor participation, grade projects, and are available to answer questions but the integrity of the class is not completely dependent on the communication skills of the instructor.

Time Consuming

From the commute to and from the classroom, sitting in traffic, finding time for homework, and also maintaining a balance between work, school, and family, the student may become overwhelmed with simply finding enough time in the day to fit it all in! While online learning is also time consuming, issues like drive-time and classroom time are eliminated. The student can feed the baby while earning class participation points or be logged in to the discussion board while sitting in the same room as the family. Balance is just a little easier without a physical classroom.

May Be More Expensive

While tuition costs vary, and certainly, some online private schools are quite costly, they are usually less expensive than traditional schools. At schools who offer both online and traditional learning compare prices and see how they compare.

What Should I Consider When Choosing an Online RN to BSN Program?

The main points of consideration include:

  • Accreditation
  • Length of program
  • Program model
  • Tuition cost


Ensuring the proper accreditations are in place for a RN to BSN program is essential. Attending graduate school may not be an option if the school is not accredited by the proper nursing and educational bodies. Locating an ideal graduate school, or a few potentials, and checking into their accreditation requirements for eligibility may be the best way to avoid frustrations later. See are overview of nursing school accreditation.

Length of Program

While schools may vary in length most require approximately 30 credit hours of upper level BSN courses. This does not include prerequisite classes, which vary by school. Most prerequisite courses are completed with the ADN.

For many online RN to BSN programs, the courses are 5-7 weeks long and are taken one at a time, but each curriculum varies by school and how motivated the student is to completing the program in a timely manner. This is because most online programs are self-paced and courses can be taken 1 at a time or more than 1 at a time or breaks can be taken between courses. This model is great for flexibility but some students may find it difficult to stay motivated with this structure.

Program Model

Various types of RN to BSN programs exist, as discussed above. Traditional versus online programs as well as hybrid courses are available. And within these models are self-paced and structured curriculums. The best way to decide which model best suites each student is to consider the style of learner and the amount of time to required to finish the program.

  • Are you a person who needs to be strongly guided through each course to have the discipline to finish?
  • Are you a self-motivated person who wants to complete the program as fast as possible?

Tuition Costs

When determining a budget for school consider the end-goal. Will a raise in pay and tuition assistance be possible upon graduation? And consider what the increase in pay and tuition reimbursement is worth when spending money on a program. Many hospitals offer a 5% raise with about $2000 a semester in reimbursement, although this varies by company. Consider the financial aid payments and interest rates with regard to the increase in pay.

How Do I Pay for the RN to BSN Program?

Scholarships, grants, private loans, and cash payment programs are available for those who qualify.

Accredited online nursing schools have financial aid available for those requiring student loans. Most schools meet these criteria.

Before taking out student loans or a private loan, it may be wise to think about the pros and cons of accepting student loans to pay for school.

  • Will the degree help you to make more money?
  • Have more job flexibility?
  • Is it a stepping stone to attending graduate school which will earn more money?

The answer for all these questions in transitioning from a RN to BSN program is "yes!"

Many students find it makes sense to take out student loans to pay for the program if the employer offers a raise, allows the nurse to apply for management positions which are higher paying, or when the end-goal is to become a Master's degree educated advanced practitioner, which has a higher salary base than bedside nursing with an Associate's degree.

If the end-goal is to attend a Master's program then consider how much of a pay increase this will be and the necessity of having the BSN as a stepping stone. There are some RN to MSN programs available but they are less common than RN to BSN and BSN to MSN programs. Also the requirements and length of these programs will vary greatly.

Scholarships and Grants

Scholarships and grants are available for nursing students. A little research into this goes a long way. Many nursing organizations offer help with paying for nursing school in the hopes that more and more students will choose nursing as a major. This is good for the long-term health of the field because it alleviates the current nursing shortage and helps prevent a worsening nursing shortage in the future.

Some great organizations offering nursing scholarships and/or grants include:

Bear in mind that scholarships and grants may come with stipulations and requirements for keeping the money they provide. This is usually a GPA requirement or requirement for completion of the program. If something happens and the student has to withdraw from school or fails out of school, he or she could be responsible to repay the money. So be sure to read and approve of the stipulations before accepting the money.

For the working RN many places of employment will provide tuition reimbursement for BSN bridge programs, both online and in-classroom styles. This may cover one class a semester or be 100% repayment. Ask your human resources department about tuition reimbursement.

Private Loans

Private loans may also be available for those who qualify. The student may find that tuition at some nursing schools, especially private schools, may exceed the amount of federal financial aid awarded. The thought of taking out another loan, such as a private loan, may seem intimidating. These are usually at a higher interest rate than federal loans. But, again, consider that an increase in salary will offset the cost of student loans and the long-term earning potential for a Bachelor's educated registered nurse is higher than an Associate's degree educated registered nurse.

If student loans, scholarships, or grants are not possible, or not desirable, most schools offer incremental cash payment programs.

Cash Payment Programs

These programs are offered and managed by the school. The total cost of tuition for a semester is broken up into the amount of months a semester is and the student pays for each semester monthly or weekly. For example, if tuition for a semester is $2000 and the semester is 5 weeks long, the weekly payment would be $400. Interest usually does not apply since it is not a loan.

Finding a way to pay for the RN to BSN program may take some time and creativity, but the overall benefit is worthwhile. This is especially true for the less experienced RN who will be in the workforce for a long time.

Because more registered nurses are graduating from schools across the country and helping to decrease the nursing shortage, it is possible that the BSN will be required for all registered nurses to begin or maintain employment in the future. This was done once before with the nursing diploma program.

The diploma program was designed to train nurses in both clinical and textbook knowledge, usually within a hospital setting and by other nurses or physicians. Nurses then graduated with a diploma and were able to start work. When RN programs became more organized diploma educated nurses were "grandfathered" into the workforce without the initial requirement of advancing education by most facilities.

Many of these nurses moved into retirement, but for those that didn't, they were eventually required to obtain an Associate's degree or Bachelor's degree to maintain their RN license.

The future of nursing is to move to this model as more and more Bachelor's degree nurses begin work. Associate's degree educated nurses will likely be required to obtain his or her Bachelor's degree at some point during their career.

Are Clinical Hours Required for the RN to BSN Program?

Clinical hours are not required for the RN to BSN program in order to meet state requirements, like they are for the Associate's degree program. Because the Bachelor's educated nurse works clinically in the same capacity as the Associate's educated nurse no additional clinical hours are required by the state. The only reason clinical hours are required is to qualify for state licensure, meaning to qualify to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam and become registered as a nurse. The BSN program is exempt from this because the RN is already licensed. But consider that most programs require 30 hours or clinical/practical hours or an equivalency exam.

This requirement is usually satisfied with full-time RN employment maintained throughout the RN to BSN program. Equivalency testing is available if the student will not be employed as a RN throughout the program, but this is definitely something to ask the school's advisor more about. By comparison, in Associate's degree programs the usual clinical hour requirement is around 300 hours.

Is a RN to BSN Bridge Program Right for Me?

For the registered nurse who enjoys the field of nursing and wishes to either:

  • Stay competitive in the field
  • Learn even more about how to be a great nurse and help people, or
  • Wishes to shift gears to a non-clinical position

The answer is "absolutely!"

Never before have so many RN to BSN bridge programs been available. School's are offering so many options that the right program is available for every RN.

The BSN student can take those required 30 upper level credit hours in 5-7 week online courses from the comfort of the living room and be done in under a year all while continuing to work full-time as a RN. If that's not the best option, the student can choose a traditional classroom program and finish in a short amount of time while networking and learning with like-minded nurses in the field, also while working full-time at his or her current nursing job.

The shift to hire and promote Bachelor's degree educated nurses has been moving forward for years. Nursing students are on wait lists and have been flocking schools to become nurses. Healthcare facilities are able to be more selective because so many graduates are entering the workforce. For the working RN this means more education is needed to stay competitive in the field.

Healthcare facilities prefer to hire Bachelor's degree educated nurses because research has shown improvements in patient mortality, patient outcomes, and nursing job satisfaction. With the overwhelming evidence demonstrating the benefits of hiring Bachelor's degree educated nurses it undeniable that every RN needs to heed the call and become a BSN.

Schools have never made it easier to become a BSN. Don't wait!