RN vs BSN – What’s the Difference?

January 19, 2022

The nursing field offers several opportunities for prospective students. Prospective nurses can pursue different career paths, courses, and training options. Of course, questions do come up, particularly around RN vs. BSN programs

.If you aren’t familiar with the profession, these acronyms may not mean much, which is why we’ve taken a deep dive into each academic path.

In this article, we explore how the RN vs. BSN credentials vary and help you understand how our RN to BSN program can best serve you.

Registered Nurse (RN) Vs. BSN Programs: What’s the Difference?

Before we compare RN and BSN programs, it is important to note that the former refers to a licensure while the latter revolves around a level of education.

What is an RN?

A registered nurse or RN is one of the most prominent roles available to graduates of nursing programs.

An RN is any nurse who has graduated from a nursing school with the requisite educational qualifications and obtained the required certification/licensure to qualify for nursing jobs legally. 

Each nursing candidate must pass the National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX-RN certification.

Registered nurses have various career opportunities available to them in the form of nursing positions at healthcare facilities.

To become a registered nurse, you must earn an associate degree (ADN) or a bachelor’s degree (BSN) in nursing. After the associate degree or bachelor’s degree, RN candidates sit for the NCLEX-RN exam, governed by the National Council of States Board of Nursing.

Subject to testing and education requirements being met, registered nurse candidates can apply for licensure in the state they propose to work.

ADN-RN is different from a licensed practical nurse (LPN), which typically requires diploma nursing programs, lesser expertise, and results in careers that offer lower pay and salaries.

A team of future nurses at a hospital

What is BSN?

BSN stands for Bachelor of Science in Nursing. BSN programs take three to four years to complete.

You can sit for the NCLEX-RN after your associate degree in nursing (ADN) or after your bachelor’s degree program in nursing (BSN).

There are prominent differences between RN professionals with ADN and BSN nursing degrees.

Compared to the BSN program, ADN degrees are shorter, less intensive courses, which require only two years to complete. ADN programs aren’t as comprehensive as BSN degrees, and BSN-qualified nurses have better job opportunities in terms of RN positions available to them.

Many hospitals require BSN degrees as a part of the education requirements for the RNs they hire. The nursing roles and career options available to BSN-RN candidates and those who graduate from nursing diploma or associate degree programs vary.

BSN graduates typically deliver better patient outcomes when compared to someone with an associate’s degree.

BSN nurses can also apply for Master’s Degree programs, though that decision usually comes after a good amount of work experience and only when they are looking to take on more senior roles such as nurse educator, nurse anesthetist, or management positions. 

You can also complete diploma programs or certificates in nursing specializations after a four-year BSN program to take on advanced practice nurse roles such as a family practice nurse or an adult-gerontology practice nurse.

Related Content: How Hard is Nursing School?

A nurse practitioner at work

The primary difference between RN and BSN is that RN is a position while BSN is a nurse education degree program.

The Difference Between RN with ADN and RN with BSN

An RN is a nurse who either has an ADN or a BSN degree program (the next-level education program). Typically, the title RN is commonly used for a nurse with an ADN degree. Let’s explore this difference between an ADN-RN and BSN graduates more deeply for individuals who are curious about RN vs. BSN:

RN Vs. BSN – Education Requirements

Some nurses prefer an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) because it takes less time to complete, while others decide on a BSN degree straight away. The advantage of a BSN degree is that you can take on more advanced responsibilities and move into leadership positions faster.

How can you earn your BSN without an ADN? The education requirements for students to get into a nursing program for a bachelor’s degree or an associate program are pretty similar.

You’ll need a high school diploma for both these degrees as subjects like English, math, science and social studies are mandatory to enroll for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree Program.

Your GPA will also affect your chances of entering BSN programs or associate courses to become a nurse.

Whether you complete a Nursing BSN program or an associate degree, you must also clear the NCLEX-RN exams to obtain your RN licensure.

Passing the national exam also proves to prospective employers that you have the knowledge, information, and skills required to become a part of their organizations and fulfill your duties as a nursing professional.


Earn your degree in Nursing from NEIT and begin your new career path today!




Related Content: Nursing School Requirements

RN Vs. BSN – Career and Job Outlook

Individuals looking to become registered nurses can look forward to diverse career opportunities after gaining their RN licensure.

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 276,800 openings expected in the job market for qualified professionals in the next ten years.

The employment of RNs will grow by 9%, higher than the national average for all occupations.

RN and BSN graduates typically have similar positions when they start their careers. However, a BSN is vital if nurses want to explore specialty nursing areas and enjoy additional career options down the road. Typical job roles for aspiring nurses include:

  • critical care nurse
  • neonatal nurse
  • clinical nurse specialist
  • informatics nurse
  • emergency room nurse
  • rehabilitation nurse
  • travel nurse
  • public health nurse
  • addiction nurse
  • psychology clinic nurse

The demand for these job types will increase in the coming years, and the job title you receive will depend on the kind of education you have chosen – Associate’s Degree RN or BSN.

Registered nurses with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing Education will also qualify for specialties at clinics and other healthcare settings. They can pursue senior positions, including nurse managers, nursing directors, and different leadership roles in nursing practice. 

BSN degree holders with adequate experience may also qualify for research positions and specializations at an institute of medicine or a university or a similar college environment.

Of course, office and administration roles often come with prerequisites for enrollment. These requirements may include a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) credentials or even a Doctor of Nursing Practice. Lucrative nurse manager positions or administrative roles require a great deal of commitment and dedication.

Career advancement, occupation preferences, compensation, benefits, and career flexibility will depend on the classes you take and the degree you graduate with, even though both routes may cover the foundation of your nursing education.

Nursing careers

RN Vs. BSN – Salary and Payscale Comparisons

According to the BLS, nurses earned a median salary of $75,330 in May 2020.

Of course, there are salary differences in what BSN RNs and associate degree RNs earn. Since the BSNs have a more comprehensive educational background, their salary is typically higher than those awarded to ADNs who have gone on to become registered nurses..

The extensive training offered in Bachelor of Science in Nursing helps them diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries, use equipment that requires specialization, and deduce symptoms. BSN degrees help nurses learn how to administer medication, measure vital signs, and deliver optimum patient care.

Factors including the level of assistance they can offer doctors, communication among the workforce, and more will affect salaries for RN and BSN professionals.

RN Vs. BSN – Program Cost Differences

The price difference between a BSN and ADN-RN education reflects the level of intensity and training involved. What’s more, BSN programs can run twice as long as associate level training.

The more time you spend earning your education, the more you can expect to spend on living expenses and tuition. Though, the higher compensation this kind of commitment leads to is often worth it.

RN Vs. BSN – Curriculum Differences

The curriculum of a BSN program includes more expansive course content, which allows graduates to answer questions more clearly and improve their thinking and decision-making. With a more comprehensive curriculum, BSN-RNs can support the medical staff by taking on more responsibilities with less supervision required. 

Nursing students at work

Pros and Cons of RN and BSN

We have summarized the comparison between ADN-RN and BSN-RN in the table given below:

Pros and Cons of RN and BSN

Is a BSN Degree Expected for Aspiring Nurses?

Aspiring nurses who want to pursue further education or land more advanced roles will need a BSN.

That’s why BSN degree programs are gaining popularity among students who can invest more time and effort into their education. On the other hand, student nurses more eager to join the workforce remain partial to ADN programs.

RN Vs. BSN – Deciding Which is Right for You

Multiple factors go into choosing between BSN and RN courses. Aspiring nurses need to consider factors like:

  • The affordability of the courses
  • The minimum length of time it would take to graduate
  • Their career needs and ambitions
  • Where they see themselves in the world of medicine

Students who plan to live off campus must also consider the proximity of the BSN institute to their current address. Nurses who are worried about the costs of the BSN program should look into RN to BSN options. This option allows them to transfer credits earned during their ADN degree towards the BSN.

How Can the New England Institute of Technology Advance your Nursing Career?

The New England Institute of Technology offers a comprehensive ADN program that prepares you for a career in nursing and helps you meet the licensure requirement for the NCLEX-RN exam. Our online RN to BSN program allows working nurses to obtain their bachelor’s degree in as little as eight months or two semesters.

The need for well-educated nurses is growing exponentially, and it is essential to identify the right institution for you.

The New England Institute of Technology, one of the best schools in Rhode Island, sets the standards for its BSN and Registered Nurse courses and provides students with the competencies, scholarship, and resources to bring out their potential.


Earn your degree in Nursing from NEIT and begin your new career path today!





What Comes First, RN or BSN?

Typically a nurse’s career trajectory involves an Associate’s Degree to become a registered nurse. This option allows them to gain some experience and money before going back to school for an RN to BSN program. This is where they can elevate their knowledge and status in the nursing field.

What Pays More RN or BSN?

A BSN will earn more than an RN. According to Payscale, someone with a BSN degree earns $32.41 hourly on average. In comparison, an RN with an ADN makes $29.83 on average per hour.

This gap is also reflected in their respective annual salaries. BSNs enjoy hiring preferences, better pay, and more opportunities for growth within the professional setting.

Do You Have to Be an RN to Get BSN? Can You Get a BSN Without RN?

No, you don’t have to be a registered nurse to get your BSN degree. You can enroll in a bachelor’s program after graduating from high school and will qualify for the NCLEX-RN exam once you graduate.

What Pays More RN or BSN?

BSN degree holders who pursue specialty clinical practice and advanced roles have higher pay than RNs.

Can You Get Your BSN Online?

If you have obtained your RN license, you can attend an online, part-time RN-to-BSN degree program. These online programs give you the flexibility to learn at your own pace without compromising on current obligations.

How Long Does It Take to Obtain Your BSN?

A traditional BSN takes about 32 months to complete, while accelerated BSN programs require about 12 to 19 months. If you have already completed general education requirements and possess your RN license, you can receive your BSN in as little as eight months or two semesters.

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