How Long Does It Take to Get Your BSN?

By Sarah Collins

06/1/2022

With over 3 million registered nurses (RNs) in the country and a double-digit job outlook through the next decade, the demand for Bachelor’s in Nursing (BSN)-educated nurses is multiplying.

Currently, BSNs enjoy high salaries and job prestige. They can also move into different specialization areas through a traditional four-year or 16 to 24-month accelerated BSN program.

Keep reading to learn more about how long it takes to get your BSN, helpful stats, salary/job outlook figures, and the process for a non-nursing degree or registered nurse to obtain a BSN.

Ready? Let’s get started!

Key Takeaways

  • A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree has two routes: a traditional four-year program or an accelerated (16 to 24 months) program.
  • All BSN programs consist of on-campus and online options.
  • To become a nurse, all BSN students must pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

How Long Does It Take to Get Your BSN?

The timeline for getting your BSN depends on the degree program.

There are several BSN degree options: traditional Bachelor’s in Nursing (BSN), accelerated BSN, and RN to BSN programs.

Traditional BSN

An entry-level Bachelor’s degree in nursing takes four years to complete. To graduate, you must earn 120 credits over eight semesters. A traditional BSN consists of coursework, nursing simulations, and clinical labs to prepare students for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Passing the NCLEX-RN transforms non-registered nurses into registered nurses.

Accelerated BSN

Accelerated BSN programs take between 16 to 24 months to complete. This program offers a condensed, more intensive version of a traditional four-year program. The accelerated BSN program is popular among full-time and part-time workers.

Accelerated BSN programs apply the same principles (coursework, nursing simulations, and clinical labs) as the conventional BSN path. This program also prepares students for the NCLEX-RN.

RN to BSN

RN to BSN programs are available to registered nurses with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) degree. Consider it a flexible pathway, where you can obtain a BSN in less time due to easier credits transfer from other institutions or fields.

If you opt for an RN to BSN program, expect to transfer a set number of credits from an accredited school. Registered nurses can become BSNs within a year.

How Do I Find the Right Nursing School Program for Me?


Here are our top tips for finding the right nursing school program for you:

Accreditation: Look for nursing schools accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). The CCNE and ACEN are recognized organizations that enforce high-quality standards and placement in the NCLEX.

NCLEX Passage Rate: Consider a nursing school with NCLEX passing rates at or above 85%. Anything less should be a cause for concern.

Clinical Rotations: Study the nursing school’s clinical rotation programs. What hospitals are part of its network? How much clinical time is required? Are clinical rotation hours completed on a full-time or part-time schedule? All of these evaluation criteria matter.

Nursing School Rankings: Albeit not a primary consideration, rankings provide a solid picture of where a nursing school stands. You can get actual and up-to-date rankings from US News & World Report.

Location: Students have the choice of in-person or online options. Online BSN programs offer greater flexibility, allowing students to manage full-time or part-time jobs while schooling. However, possessing excellent time management skills is a must for this venture.

All About BSNs

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) consists of an accelerated 16 to 24-month or traditional four-year program open to new students and registered nurses with associate degrees.

Why Pursue a BSN?

For starters, a BSN is one of the most valuable degrees in nursing.

Additionally, many healthcare organizations now demand BSNs as the minimum education requirement. Even state governments are involved. For example, in 2017, New York passed the ‘BSN in 10 law.’ This provision requires all nurses to obtain their BSN within ten years of receiving their RN license.

The NYC government passed the mandate in response to studies showing that BSN educated nurses oversee lower patient mortality rates, lesser readmission rates, and better patient outcomes.

What Does the Job Outlook Look Like for BSNs?

Over the next decade, BSNs will have a healthier job outlook than most professions.

A 2021 AACN survey reveals that 93% of BSN graduates get hired within four to six months. Immediately after graduation, the numbers also look strong, with a 76% job offer rate.

Additionally, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 16% growth in healthcare occupations from 2020 to 2030. The reasons for this booming demand include older nurses leaving the workforce and the growing organic demand for healthcare.

Lastly, according to a 2019 American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) survey, 82.1% of employers demonstrated a preference for BSN graduates over lower credentialed nurses (registered nurses and ADNs).

What Is an ADN?

Short for Associate Degree in Nursing, ADNs represent the entry-level pathway for registered nurses. They play a smaller role in patient health, working alongside RNs to perform numerous medical duties such as recording patients’ medical histories, administering medications, assisting with diagnostic tests, and educating patients on their condition.

Typically, an ADN program takes up to 3 years to complete.

However, RNs and BSNs enjoy a more comprehensive range of responsibilities with better patient outcomes.

How Long Does It Take ADNs to Become BSNs?

Those who complete their Associate’s Degree in Nursing can enroll in an RN-to-BSN program and obtain a degree within 12 months. To meet this timeline, you must fulfill general education requirements.

Who Can Participate in a BSN Program?

Non-nurses with a different degree, registered nurses, and those with a nursing diploma, Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), or Associate of Applied Science in Nursing can enroll in a BSN program.

The BSN Curriculum

What Type of RN-to-BSN Courses Can I Expect?

RN-to-BSN courses cover a wide range of pre and post-licensure coursework around the human sciences, specialized nursing courses, critical thinking, ethics, policy, research, and technology subjects.

What Does the BSN Curriculum Look Like?

To understand the types of courses to expect during a BSN program, you’ll need to see a sample course list.

Fortunately, we got one courtesy of Florida International University Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences (70 credits):

 

Junior Year: Fall Semester (15 credits)

  • NUR 3029: Foundations of Nursing Practice (3)
  • NUR 3029C: Foundations of Nursing Practice Lab (2)
  • NUR 3029L: Foundations of Nursing Practice Clinical** (3)
  • NUR 3125: Pathophysiological Basis of Nursing Practice (3)
  • NUR 3066C: Health Assessment & Promotion (4)

 

Junior Year: Spring Semester (16 credits)

  • NUR 3226: Nursing Care of Adults I (3)
  • NUR 3226L: Nursing Care of Adults I Clinical** (3)
  • NUR 3145: Pharmacologic Basis of Nursing Practice (3)
  • NUR 3535: Psychosocial Nursing (3)
  • NUR 3535L: Psychosocial Nursing Clinical** (3)
  • NSP 3801: Inter-Professional Approaches to Health Care (1)

 

Junior Year: Summer Semester (12 credits)

  • NUR 3227: Nursing Care of Adults II (3)
  • NUR 3227L: Nursing Care of Adults II Clinical** (3)
  • NUR 3666: Evidence-Based Nursing & Research in Global Health Care (3)
  • NUR 3821: Professional Nursing Leadership: Concepts & Issues (3)
  • NUR 3685L: Integrative Nursing Care I*** (0)

 

Senior Year: Fall Semester (15 credits)

  • NUR 4355: Care of Families: Childrearing Nursing (3)
  • NUR 4355L: Care of Families: Childrearing Nursing Clinical** (3)
  • NUR 4455: Care of Families: Childbearing Nursing (3)
  • NUR 4455L: Care of Families: Childbearing Nursing Clinical** (3)
  • NUR 4686L: Integrative Nursing Care II* (0)
  • NUR 4667: Nursing in Global Health Care Systems (3)

 

Semester V: Spring (12 credits)

  • NUR 4636C: Care of Communities: Community Health Nursing (4)
  • NUR 4286: Nursing Care of Older Adults (2)
  • NUR 4945L: Senior Clinical Practicum (1:3)**** (4)
  • NUR 4940: Senior Nursing Synthesis (2)

Here’s a sample clinical curriculum of Marian University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program:

Semester 1 (18 credits)

  • NSG 129: Nursing Concepts and Connections (1)
  • NSG 201: Health Assessment and Communication (4)
  • NSG 241: Fundamentals (4)
  • NSG 221: Community Health Concepts (2)
  • NSG 251: Pharmacology and Dosage w/Lab I (4)
  • NSG 221: Pathophysiology (3)

 

Semester 2 (16 credits)

  • NSG 223: Nutrition (1)
  • THL 105: Introduction to Theology** (3)
  • NSG 331: Care of the Adult Client in Community /Acute Care Settings II (5)
  • NSG 335: Mental Health Nursing (4)
  • PSY 205: Statistical Methods** (3)

Semester 3 (17 credits)

  • THL 200 and above** (3)
  • NSG 343: Nursing Research and Informatics (3)
  • NSG 307: Care of the Childbearing Client in Community/Acute Care Settings (3)
  • NSG 317: Care of the Pediatric Client in Community /Acute Care Settings (3)
  • NSG 431: Care of the Adult Client in Community/Acute Care Settings II (5)

Semester 4 (13 credits)

  • NSG 493: Transition to Practice (2)
  • NSG 441: Leadership/Community in the Nursing Profession (4)
  • NSG 451: Clinical Immersion Experience (5)
  • NSG Nursing Electives (2)

What Is the Difference Between RN and BSN?

RN is a Registered Nurse.

BSN is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

BSN holders enjoy higher salaries, an increased number of specializations, and career growth prospects than registered nurses.

Today, more and more hospitals require BSNs over RNs, thanks to the formers’ better overall patient outcomes.

All About the NCLEX-RN Exam

What Is the NCLEX-RN Exam?

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) administers the NCLEX-RN in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Nursing students take this examination to become fully licensed registered nurses.

New students with a bachelor’s degree in another field or registered nurses pursuing a BSN can take this exam upon accredited BSN program completion.

What Material Does the NCLEX-RN Exam Cover?

The NCLEX-RN exam covers all material learned during nursing school. This material has eight subsections:

  • 20% Management of Care
  • 12% Safety and Infection Control
  • 9% Health Promotion and Maintenance
  • 9% Psychosocial Integrity
  • 9% Basic Care and Comfort
  • 15% Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies
  • 14% Physiological Adaptation
  • 12% Reduction of Risk Potential

Are There Scholarships Available for BSN Students?

Like most fields, BSNs can enjoy funding from all organizations, including public and private. Many BSN scholarships come from nursing organizations. Expect to meet specific eligibility requirements (a minimum GPA, financial aid, or membership in a trade or affiliation).

Don’t forget the importance of personal essays and letters of recommendation. These entries help you stand out from the hundreds of other students seeking a scholarship.

Here’s a list of BSN scholarships you can apply for:

 

All About RN to BSN Programs

What Is an RN to BSN Program?

An RN to BSN program is a bridge program allowing registered nurses to earn their BSN. Successful completion enables RNs to earn higher salaries, enter different specialization areas, and become more knowledgeable.

Who Can Enroll in RN to BSN Programs?

To participate in an RN to BSN program, nursing students must have a nursing diploma, Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), or Associate of Applied Science in Nursing (AAS).

Other degrees

I’m Not Ready for a BSN. What Are Other Nursing Degrees I Can Consider?

If you rule out a BSN, here are lower credentialed nursing degrees and diploma programs worth considering:

Practical Nursing Diploma (PN): This entry-level program takes one to two years to complete. It puts you on the fast track to becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). According to a 2020 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), LPNs make an average annual salary of $50,090 yearly ($24.08 per hour)

Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN or ADN): ASNs/ADNs offer a two-year program. This program prepares you for the NCLEX-RN exam required to become a Registered Nurse (RN).

I’ve Already Earned My BSN? Should I Continue With a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)?

MSNs are special programs that allow nurses to become Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs).

Advanced practice registered nurses can enter many specializations, including Certified Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Certified Nurse Midwife, and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.

Certified Nurse Practitioners perform work similar to physicians. They diagnose and treat patients from infants to the elderly.

Clinical Nurse Specialists work with a specific population and type of disease.

Certified Nurse Midwives work with pregnant and birthing mothers.

Certified Nurse Anesthetists administer anesthesia to patients undergoing surgery. They’re also responsible for monitoring and overseeing recovery, including performing postoperative procedures to minimize pain.

How Much Do Nurse Practitioners, Certified Nurse Midwives, Certified Nurse Anesthetists, and Clinical Nurse Specialists Make?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are the average annual salaries of these professions:

  • Certified Nurse Practitioners: $111,680 per year
  • Certified Nurse Midwives: $111,130 per year
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists: $183,580 per year
  • Clinical Nurse Specialists: $75,330 per year

Note: salaries are subject to change based on job title, years of experience, and location.

Key Points:

  • It takes 16-24 months to obtain a BSN (accelerated program) or four years under a traditional program.
  • BSN is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • There are many ways to fund your BSN education, including scholarships and need-based grants. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to view available scholarships and grants.
  • All BSN students must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become registered nurses.
  • A typical BSN program consists of coursework, nursing simulations, and clinical labs.
  • When evaluating BSN programs, focus on cost, accreditation, NCLEX passage rate, location, and rankings.
  • 93% of BSN graduates earn a job within four to six months (2021 AACN survey).
  • According to PayScale, BSN nurses earn an average annual income of $89,000. This amount varies based on the state of residence, specialization, and shift type.

Parting Shot: The Timeline to Becoming a Registered Nurse

It takes approximately two to four years to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN). To ensure your journey is smooth sailing, choose a nursing school that suits your educational and financial requirements.

A BSN puts you on the fast lane to more opportunities, employment benefits, and respect within your field. With healthcare organizations and governmental bodies prioritizing this degree, getting one is a no-brainer.

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