RN to BSN Frequently Asked Questions

What is an RN to BSN program?

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), an RN to BSN program is one of the degree completion programs for people who are already Registered Nurses and who want to get a baccalaureate degree in nursing. AACN reports that

Why should I apply to an RN to BSN program?

There are many excellent reasons to pursue a BSN degree. An RN to BSN program may be ideal for you if you can answer “Yes” to any of these statements:

  1. I want to improve my clinical abilities.
  2. I want to advance my career in nursing.
  3. There are jobs for which I cannot qualify because they require a BSN.
  4. I want to be a better nursing leader.
  5. I want to understand my patients better.
  6. The place where I work requires that I have a baccalaureate degree in nursing.
  7. I may want to eventually become an advanced practice nurse;
  8. I want to make more money.

What do I need to do to get into an RN to BSN program?

Requirements for an RN to BSN program will vary slightly from program to program. The best way to ensure that you are qualified for a particular program is to contact the program directly. That being said, most programs will require some combination of the following:

  • You must have a valid and active nursing license after passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for registered nurses;
  • You will probably have to have a minimal grade point average from your diploma or ADN program;
  • You may have to submit your transcript from your entry-level nursing program;
  • You may be subject to a criminal background check;
  • You may be subject to drug screening;
  • You will be required to submit a program specific application;
  • You may be required to take and pass specific exams based on the program requirements;
  • You may be required to pay an application fee in order to start your application process.

It is important that you do some research to understand the specific admission requirements for any program you may be considering.

What kinds of RN to BSN programs are available?

Currently, there are almost 700 RN to BSN programs in the United States. These programs can be classified as totally online, totally face-to-face in the classroom, and a hybrid of the two other types. The programs with classroom requirements are offered in colleges and universities throughout the country. A full list of schools offering RN to BSN programs as of Fall of 2015 can be found on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing site at https://www.aacn.nche.edu/research-data/RNBSN.pdf.

If you know you want to eventually pursue a Master’s degree in nursing, you will want to be sure that the RN to BSN program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Foundations and individuals offering nursing scholarships will want to know if the program is accredited. Also, if you are applying for financial aid, program accreditation is often required or strongly preferred.

What classes will I take in an RN to BSN program?

The honest answer to this question is: it depends. The courses you will be required to take will depend on the program, courses you completed for your entry-level degree, and whether or not you can get credit by “testing out” of certain courses. In general, because you are studying for a baccalaureate degree, you will undoubtedly take classes in the sciences (chemistry, microbiology, and physics), humanities (English and history) and the social sciences (psychology, human development, and sociology).

Other classes typically included in RN to BSN programs include nutrition, leadership, specialized nursing classes (public health, pediatric, geriatric, etc.), ethics, statistics, and specialized nursing classes (for example, critical care, obstetrics, and surgical).

Will I get clinical experience in an RN to BSN program?

Again, the answer to this question is: it depends! Typically, all RN to BSN programs will require some sort of clinical experience. Although this experience may be organized and directed by the college or university in a traditional clinical environment, the clinical experience may also take the form of special projects sponsored by your current employer or other community facilities.

What will I learn in an RN to BSN program that I don’t already know?

The best RN to BSN programs will ensure that you are comfortable with:

  • Communication skills;
  • Leadership skills
  • Working with different kinds of patients in a variety of different environments;
  • Factors that can influence health and care;
  • Critical thinking skills that are necessary to lead and provide advanced care.

If I go to an RN to BSN program, what difference will it make to my patients?

In The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health in 2010, one of the primary recommendations of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) was to increase the proportion of nurses with a Baccalaureate degree from 50% to 80% by 2020. This cutting edge group understood then that, as a group, nurses with a BSN degree provide better care than those with an ADN or Diploma. Agencies with more BSN prepared nurses tend to have shorter lengths of stay and better outcomes for their patients. Since the IOM report, there has been an increase in RN to BSN enrollment from 77,259 to 130,345.

How long will it take to complete an RN to BSN program?

Although the program length will vary depending on your previous education and whether or not you attend full time, you can usually expect to complete an RN to BSN program in one or two years.

Can I continue to work while I am studying in an RN to BSN program?

One of the beauties of the RN to BSN program is that you can continue to work while you work on your degree. Often, students that MUST continue to work full time will select an on-line program that does not require classroom attendance.

How much will it cost to go through an RN to BSN program?

Costs of attending an RN to BSN program will vary considerably depending on the program you select. The best place to start is with the admissions and financial aid office of the schools you are considering. Another great idea is to check with your employer to see if they will help with your tuition or some of your expenses. Often an employer will view this assistance in an investment in you that will also help the agency. If you do receive assistance from your employer, you should be ready to work for the agency for some period of time after earning your degree.

How much more will I make if I complete an RN to BSN program?

As of July 2016, there is a difference in salaries for RNs with a baccalaureate degree based on the particular role the nurse is in:

Figure 1: Accessed from Payscale.com August 2016

Compare the BSN salaries to those nurses in similar positions who have an Associate Degree in Nursing:

Figure 2: Accessed from Payscale.com August 2016