nurse in blue scrubs with stethoscope next to text overlay difference between an RN and BSN degree

RN vs BSN: Explaining the Differences between RN and BSN

Staff Writer
Mar 24, 2022

If you’re considering going to school to embark on a career in nursing, then you probably have a few questions. What nursing path should you take? How much does a registered nurse (RN) make? What does a nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) do? And what exactly is the difference between the two?

1. What is an RN?

An RN is a licensed nursing professional who holds a minimum of an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) degree. Nursing students can get the training and certification needed to become an RN in as little as 20 months with an ASN degree. If you’re eager to get out of the classroom and into a professional environment, the fastest way to becoming an RN is to pursue an ASN degree and pass the NCLEX. This comprehensive exam will test the knowledge you gained in school to ensure you’re ready to become a nurse. You cannot become an RN without passing this exam.

2. What is a BSN?

A BSN is an undergraduate degree, rather than a licensure or job title, for students who seek to become an RN while earning their bachelor’s degree, or for those who already are an RN and have earned an ASN. BSNs offer a broader education than an ASN program, opening a new set of possibilities for a nursing career. This degree teaches expanded skills in critical thinking, leadership, and research. It exposes nurses to more in-depth topics such as patient care technology, research, health promotion, and safety within the healthcare system.

3. RN vs BSN: Education Requirements

At Joyce University, students looking to earn their RN license can complete an ASN program in as little as 5 semesters. Using a combination of online learning and campus-based instruction, Joyce’s nursing programs are designed to maximize your flexibility, helping balance academics with everyday life.

To receive a BSN degree, you have to complete a BSN program and all of its educational and clinical requirements. Traditional programs are 4 years long, but Ameritech’s BSN is designed with the education and skills needed to pass the NCLEX and start working as an RN in just 3 years.

RNs who have earned their ASN and want to further their career, can earn their BSN in about 12 months. RN to BSN programs help RNs earn a bachelor’s degree, bridging the gap between an ASN and BSN.

4. RN vs BSN: Salary Differences

As a nurse, your degree and job responsibilities greatly affect your earning power. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for RNs was $75,330 in May 2020 and topped out at $116,230. That upper echelon of nursing jobs is almost always reserved for nurses who’ve extended their studies, gone further, and pursued a BSN.


5. Career Options for an RN

Regardless of the path you choose, job opportunities for both RNs and nurses with BSN degrees are good. The BLS estimates employment of RNs is projected to grow 9 percent from 2020 to 2030, averaging 194,500 openings per year. As nurses quit or reach retirement age, hospitals, clinics, schools, and others need to fill those gaps with new nurses.

6. Career Options for a BSN

That additional level of education means that BSNs generally have more opportunities and larger salaries than RNs. BSN holders can qualify for managerial and leadership positions, and are preferred in advanced such as public health nursing, nursing forensics, nurse education, research, and more. Nurses with a BSN degree can choose to further their education with a master’s or doctoral degree in order to become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN).

7. RN vs BSN: Which One is Right for You?

The journey to becoming a nurse varies from student to student. With many career opportunities in healthcare available for both RNs and BSN degree holders, the choice comes down to personal preferences regarding time, work experience and future career goals. Learn more about the programs that Joyce offers and begin your RN journey today.

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