Working as a registered nurse (RN) is a rewarding career with a bright future. If you love your job taking care of patients, then you’re in the right place.
But if you want more professional opportunities, would like to advance your education, or need a higher salary, consider getting a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN).
Find RN to BSN Programs in Your State:
Getting a BSN if you already have a RN
A BSN can open many doors in the nursing profession. You can work in hospitals, as 60 percent of RNs do, or you can work in almost any other area of healthcare that has a need for nursing skills or expertise. Nurses with BSNs also hold education or management positions, work as consultants, or use their specialized knowledge to work in a private business or the public sector. Having your degree is the first step toward furthering your education—such as earning an MSN, Ph.D., DNP, or entering advanced practice as a nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse midwife, or nurse anesthetist.
RN to BSN programs can be found at four-year colleges or universities. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), 633 programs are available in the U.S. and they are growing in popularity in response to demand.
These programs can be one to two years in duration, depending upon the individual institution’s requirements. More than 400 programs have at least a partial online component, and some offer family- or work-friendly schedules such as weekend or evening classes.
The most common admission requirements are having an RN license, and having a certain amount (approximately 60 to 80) of qualifying transfer credits from your previous training program. Your GPA is considered, as is your work experience.
Some colleges may also require you to complete non-nursing classes that are required for a bachelor’s degree such as English, sociology, or history. The program’s nursing classes focus on topics such as critical thinking, leadership, ethics, and social/cultural issues in healthcare. Aside from core content, you also may need to complete an independent project or research paper.
The biggest advantage of RN to BSN programs? Depending on your work experience, you may be able to waive clinical classes and graduate quickly.
Getting Your RN to BSN: Challenges and Choice
Written by Kelli Dunham, RN, BSN
Kelli is an RN with 15 years of clinical nursing experience and the author of 4 health/health professions related books, including the American Journal of Nursing Nursing Book of the Year, How to Survive and Maybe Even Love Nursing School (FA Davis, 2008, 3rd edition).
The biggest concerns for most nurses considering an RN to BSN program are cost-related: not just the financial cost, but the amount of time it takes to get an advanced degree and the costs to one’s personal commitments to family and community.
There’s no question that these these can be real challenges, especially for the working nurse. But by considering the many options within the RN to BSN path, and finding the best fit for your personal situation, an RN to BSN program can be surprisingly manageable.
Calculating Cost: Financially
If you’re considering an RN to BSN program, there’s a good chance money is part of the equation, especially if you’re in a geographical area where pressure is on for nurses to be bachelor’s prepared at all practice levels.
Donna Luongo, a Pennsylvania nurse and recent RN to BSN grad explained her choice to return to school shortly after graduating with her associate’s degree: “Every med/surg hospital in my area is magnet so it is virtually impossible to get a job without BSN.”
The nursing workplace is often the driving force for the RN to BSN quest, and it’s also the first place to consider turning for financial help. If you’re already working as an RN, your facility may offer some kind of money for school, whether it’s a standard tuition reimbursement plan or a workplace based scholarship.
Before you use the workplace reimbursement, it’s important to check exactly what strings are attached to make sure using the benefit will actually benefit you. For example, if you’re working in long term care and your facility offers a $2000 a year tuition reimbursement but requires a two year working commitment after you graduate, this might not be a bargain.
If tuition assistance isn’t available from your current employer sometimes a simple lateral move might provide substantial financial help in getting your BSN. For example, if you’re a primary care nurse in an office practice, you might be able to change to a university based office practice and benefit from higher rates of tuition reimbursement or even, in some cases, tuition remission.
Additionally, workplace-based aid is certainly not the only help you can get financially for an RN to BSN program. If you don’t already have a bachelor’s degree in another field, you will still be eligible for federal financial aid for undergraduates.
Finally, before you commit to a program, make sure you calculate any relative hidden costs. For example, a program at a university closer to your home or workplace might be more expensive than another program the next town over, but the commuting costs might offset the difference.
Calculating the Cost: Time
If you’re employed as a nurse either full or part-time you may well be coming home exhausted and wonder “how could I possibly add school to my schedule?”
Fortunately, RN to BSN programs are created specifically for working professionals, so if you look hard enough, there’s a good chance you can find a way to fit school into your schedule.
If you’re worried about overall time spent working on a program, make sure to investigate programs that offer credits (either by testing or portfolio) for life experience and continuing education. If you graduated with your associate’s degree in the last few years, check to see if there are any university programs that have matriculation agreements with the college that offered your original degree. This will save you time in completing added pre requisite courses.
More and more programs are offering online options for classes, and these can be great time-savers because it shrinks your commuting to class time to the few minutes it takes your laptop to boot up. Realistically consider your computer skills before you choose a mostly on-line program. If you’re not actually comfortable using all the technology that’s required it may cost you more time than you were hoping and may be a source of frustration as well.
Calculating the Cost: Juggling Family and Community Commitments
The growth in online education has been a huge gift to busy nurses on the RN to BSN path. Jennifer Little, a recent RN to BSN grad, said that “the factor that weighed the most heavily in my program choice was West Chester University offered a new on-line program, which required me to go onto campus for class only three times in a semester. I liked this feature because I have two small children at home.”
Not all online programs are created equal, and some are more flexible than others. Keep in mind that even if you aren’t required to physically be in class at certain times, you may be required to be cyber-present in a specific time frame to participate in, for example, class video discussions. You’ll have to assess how each program’s requirements fits with your responsibilities.
Even if online or partially online programs don’t work for you or you can’t find one you like, there are options to make the work/school/family juggling act more manageable. For example, some universities offer classes at the workplace, often timed to shift changes. While it might be overwhelming to think of attending a lecture on nursing theory as you leave your 7 pm- 7 am shift, the extra coffee you consume might be worth it if you get to have dinner with your kids.