Non-Nursing Degree to BSN Online: Becoming a Nurse Without Previous Background Knowledge

By Craig Miller


Key Takeaways

  • Non-nursing professionals can gain their BSN degree online upon meeting all prerequisites.
  • Becoming a nurse without any background in the field follows a traditional four-year format or accelerated (16 to 24 month) program.
  • Online BSN acquisition programs require little of your physical presence, but they are tasking, too. Commitment is vital to see this journey through.

What Is a BSN?

BSN (short for Bachelor of Science in Nursing) is a degree that enables you to apply for a nursing license. Owning this degree is one of the ways to become an RN (registered nurse).

Typical BSN programs last four years, although specific colleges now offer accelerated options that take 16 months only. Note the BSN may be substituted with an ADN (associate degree in nursing), but the former remains the standard among employers.

How Much Do BSN Nurses Earn?

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that registered nurses earn a median pay of $77,600 per year or $37.31 per hour (2021).

However, this figure varies according to various factors, such as location, experience, and specialty. For instance: Alabama BSN holders average $69,000 annually while their Connecticut counterparts average $75,000.

See the table below for every state’s average annual and hourly BSN salary, courtesy of

State Annual Salary Hourly Salary
Alabama $74,455.00 $35.80
Alaska $79,420.00 $38.18
Arizona $79,029.00 $37.99
Arkansas $69,505.00 $33.42
California $89,529.00 $43.04
Colorado $74,012.00 $35.58
Connecticut $81,271.00 $39.07
Delaware $73,893.00 $35.53
Florida $71,853.00 $34.54
Georgia $76,327.00 $36.65
Hawaii $83,409.00 $ 40.10
Idaho $84,251.00 $40.51
Illinois $69,127.00 $33.23
Indiana $78,522.00 $37.75
Iowa $73,756.00 $35.46
Kansas $74,276.00 $35.71
Kentucky $70,781.00 $34.03
Louisiana $75,003.00 $36.06
Maine $82,194.00 $39.86
Maryland $79,067.00 $38.01
Massachusetts $85,988.00 $41.34
Michigan $69,454.00 $33.39
Minnesota $77,338.00 $37.18
Mississippi $69,586.00 $33.45
Missouri $67,982.00 $32.52
Montana $79,850.00 $38.39
Nebraska $77,805.00 $37.41
Nevada $78,795.00 $37.88
New Hampshire $91,299.00 $43.89
New Jersey $79,650.00 $38.29
New Mexico $73,233.00 $35.21
New York $94,296.00 $45.33
North Carolina $58,250.00 $28.00
North Dakota $78,839.00 $37.90
Ohio $76,746.00 $36.90
Oklahoma $72,312.00 $34.77
Oregon $75,374.00 $36.24
Pennsylvania $80,558.00 $38.73
Rhode Island $79,983.00 $38.45
South Carolina $74,275.00 $35.71
South Dakota $76,537.00 $36.80
Tennessee $77,307.00 $37.17
Texas $81,709.00 $39.28
Utah $75,688.00 $36.39
Vermont $86,178.00 $ 41.43
Virginia $76,785.00 $36.92
Washington $100,401.00 $48.27
West Virginia $81,945.00 $39.40
Wisconsin $77,068.00 $37.05
Wyoming $84,293.00 $40.53

What Are the Top Paying States for BSN Nurses?

Having noted that states influence your earnings as an RN, you may be interested in knowing the top five states on the chart..

State Annual Salary
Washington $93,772
New York $87,488
New Hampshire $84,739
California $83,471
Vermont $80,022

How’s the Job Outlook For BSN-RNs?

Current and upcoming RNs can delight in the profession’s favorable job predictions. The US Bureau of Labor Stats (USBLS) projects a 9% growth in the next eight years, with about 276,800 new nurses.

Note increasing healthcare demand for seniors and the currently aging nursing populace are significant reasons for this projection.

What Is the Difference Between an RN and a BSN?

An RN is a nursing professional who’s completed an accredited nursing degree and passed the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination). This nurse has the license to practice in any healthcare setting.

On the other hand, a BSN is a degree secured to become an RN. However, you must pass the NCLEX after securing the BSN before becoming an RN.

However, RN may be used differently in specific contexts. The term also describes nurses with a nursing degree less than BSN, like an ADN or an ND. So, the difference between RN and BSN sometimes may be that the former is a lower nursing certification than the latter.

How Does a Typical BSN Online Program Look?

A standard BSN online program consists of three vital components: coursework, nursing labs, and clinical rotations.

Coursework covers numerous healthcare aspects, such as family health, mental health, pharmacology, pathophysiology, and personalized nursing.

Nursing labs facilitate hands-on experience by simulating a hospital setting to put theory into practice. Standard activities include wound care and catheterization.

Lastly, clinical rotations rely on partnerships between hospitals and healthcare facilities to place you in the field. Expect plenty of real-world experience working alongside supervising nurses.

This particular element requires physical involvement, so it’s advisable to confirm if your institution has partners close to your location before enrolling in an online program.

How Does a Sample BSN Curriculum Look?

Please refer to the University of Florida’s College of Nursing’s Traditional BSN Curriculum Plan below for a sample BSN curriculum.

Course Number Credits Clinical Hours
NUR 3106 Lead and Inspire 1: Professional Nursing Practice 2
NUR 3196 Pathophysiology/Pharmacology in Nursing 1 4
NUR 3066C Clinical Reasoning: Health Assessment 3 (2/1) 45
NUR 3737C Principles of Personalized Nursing Care 1 6 (3/3) 135
NUR 3168 Lead and Inspire 2: Research and Evidence-Based Nursing Practice 2
NUR 3128 Pathophysiology/Pharmacology in Nursing 2 3
NUR 3227C Principles of Personalized Nursing Care 2 2 (1/1) 45
NUR 3219C Clinical Reasoning and Personalized Nursing Care: Adult Acute Conditions 4 (2/2) 90
NUR 3535C Clinical Reasoning and Personalized Nursing Care: Mental Health 4 (3/1) 45
NUR 4108 Lead and Inspire 3: Policy and Change in Nursing Practice 3
NUR 4467C Clinical Reasoning and Personalized Nursing Care: Women, Children and Families 6 (4/2) 90
NUR 4768C Clinical Reasoning and Personalized Nursing Care: Adult Chronic Conditions 6 (3/3) 135
NUR 4827 Lead and Inspire 4: Leadership and Innovation in Nursing Practice 2
NUR 4636C Clinical Reasoning and Personalized Nursing Care: Population Health 4 (3/1) 45
NUR 4766C Clinical Reasoning and Personalized Nursing Care: Adult with Complex Conditions 6 (3/3) 135
NUR 4815 Professional Nursing Transformation 3

For a sample accelerated BSN curriculum, refer to Florida Atlantic University Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing’s plan below, worth 60 credit hours.

Course Number Course Title Credits
NUR 3065 Health Assessment in Nursing Situations 2
NUR 3065L Health Assessment in Nursing Situations Lab 1L
NUR 3115 Foundations of Caring in Nursing Situations 3
NUR 3119C Foundations of Nursing Practice 2L
NUR 4125 General Pathophysiology 3
NUR 3145 Pharmacotherapeutics 3
NUR 4824 Professional Development in Nursing I 1
Spring 1
NUR 3262 Chronic Care in Nursing Situations for Adults and Aging Populations 3
NUR 3262L Chronic Care in Nursing Situations with Adults and Aging Populations in Practice 2L
NUR 4525 Psychiatric and Mental Health: Nursing Situations Across the Lifespan 3
NUR 4525L Psychiatric and Mental Health: Nursing Situations in Practice 2L
NUR 4638 Population Health: Nursing Situations 3
NUR 4165 Nursing Research 3
Summer 1
NUR 4937 Scholarship for Evidence-Based Nursing Practice 3
NUR 4716 Acute Care Nursing Situations with Adults and Aging Populations 4
NUR 4716L Acute Care Nursing Situations with Adults and Aging Populations in Practice 2
NUR 3465 The Developing Family: Nursing Situations 4
NUR 3465L The Developing Family: Nursing Situations in Practice 2
NUR 4833;4860 Professional Development in Nursing II, III 2
Fall 2
NUR 4764 Complex Care in Nursing Situations with Adults and Aging Populations 3
NUR 4764L Complex Care in Nursing Situations with Adults and Aging Populations in Practice 1L
NUR 4829L Nursing Practice Immersion 4L
NUR 4861L Professional Development in Nursing IV: Member of a Caring Profession 1L
NUR 3171 Creating Healing Environments 3

How Do I Earn a BSN Online With a Non-nursing Degree?

Earning a BSN online without initial nursing education starts from the applicant’s high school diploma or GED. Your result will have to include biology, chemistry, and math. Subsequently, you’ll have to sit for SATs or TEAS (depending on your preferred institution).

Suppose you meet these prerequisites; selecting your program type comes next. There are two BSN program types for applicants: the traditional four-year and the accelerated sixteen-month option, and we recommend the latter alternative for a faster, less expensive curve.

What Are Other Pathways to Earning a BSN?

Several paths lead to the BSN nursing counter. So, you can still secure your BSN degree without applying for any of the programs mentioned above. The standard options are:

  • LPN-to-BSN: These bridge programs allow Licensed Practical Nurses to earn their BSNs. You may opt to secure an LPN first before advancing to BSN.
  • RN-to-BSN: Nurses with lower degrees, such as an ADN, can also apply for BSN. Consequently, you may consider securing any such degree before bridging to BSN.

Steps to Earn a BSN Online With a Non-nursing Degree

Speak With an Admissions Counselor

Admissions counselors help review your information and arrange a pre-admission interview to define your goals and reasons for seeking a nursing degree.

You can settle for a start date upon completing this interview.


Ensure to learn a program’s eligibility criteria before your application. The general requirements may be similar, but specific schools have unique requisites.

For example, admission into the University of Rochester School of Nursing upholds the following requirements:

  • Anatomy and Physiology I and II (w/ Lab) (B- or above)
  • Microbiology with lab (C or above)
  • Nutrition (C or above)
  • Human Growth & Development (C or above)
  • Statistics (C or above)

In contrast, Texas-based Baylor University’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing’s online accelerated BSN program requires minimum grades in these subjects:

  • Anatomy & Physiology I
  • Anatomy & Physiology II
  • Bible-based Religion
  • Chemistry
  • Developmental Psychology
  • English Composition I
  • English Composition II
  • English Literature
  • Federal Government
  • History
  • Intro to Psychology
  • Intro to Sociology
  • Microbiology
  • Nutrition
  • Statistics
  • World Religion


Complete the application for admission to the school of your choice, providing all official transcriptions and optional HESI A2 entrance exam scores.


Suppose you gain admission, and endeavor to pay tuition within the stipulated period. It’s also essential to browse the payment page for other fees you have to pay. Start learning!

What Are the Benefits of a BSN Online Program?

Enrolling on a digital BSN program has the following merits:

  • Standard Requirement: Research has established that BSN is inherently valuable. Consider the American Association of the Colleges of Nursing’s suggestion that BSN Nurses record lower patient mortality and readmission rates and fewer clinical errors. As such, employees emphasize the need for a BSN these days. For example, New York’s BSN in 10 law mandates BSN-less RNs (LPs and ADN-RNs) to secure their BSNs within ten years of gaining their licenses.
  • Learning Style: Online learning relies less on face-to-face interactions among nurses and fellow students and more on self-paced learning. Therefore, the experience is more focused and purposeful.
  • Lower Costs: Online nursing programs are generally cheaper than in-person programs due to lower overhead costs. Expect significant savings with travel costs, meals, and other incidentals.
  • One-on-one Instruction: Online, cloud-based learning allows increased one-on-one instruction, an advantage over larger traditional classes. You can contact your instructor easily using resources like Slack, video conferencing, and email.
  • Work at Your Own Pace: Virtual programs allow you to learn at a pace you find comfortable. Contrast that with a traditional classroom setting where all nursing students march to the beat of the same drum.

Why Do I Enroll in an Accelerated BSN Program (ABSN)?

Choosing an ABSN program over the traditional four-year option has its exclusives pros, and they include:

  • Timesaving: An accelerated nursing program cuts down four years’ worth of work into as little as 16 months. However, this alternative requires intense focus and a more intense curriculum with heavy coursework, simulation labs, and clinical rotations.
  • Opportunity Cost: Its shorter length provides the opportunity to enter the workforce with a BSN faster. Remember, opportunity costs apply when enrolled in a traditional four-year program.
  • Fast Track to Advanced Degrees:  Passing an accredited BSN program will put you on the fast track to gaining higher degrees, such as a Master’s Degree in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing. These degrees open you up to $120,000+ a year titles like nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, and nurse case manager, with an even more excellent opportunity to move into educational and management roles.

Can I Find BSN Scholarships?

You can find BSN scholarships through various resources, such as the FastWeb and the Nurse Corps Scholarship Program.

BSN scholarships currently available include:

  1. $500 RN to BSN/MSN Challenge Scholarship

  2. AfterCollege/AACN $10,000 Scholarship Fund

  3. Foundation of the National Student Nurses’ Association Career Mobility Scholarship

  4. Bridge Your Career: The RN to BSN Scholarship

  5. A Place For Mom Senior Wisdom Scholarship 

  6. Mildred Nutting Scholarship 

  7. Caroline E. Holt Nursing Scholarship 

  8. Senior Caregiver Scholarship 

  9. $5,000 Education Award 

  10. Indian Health Service Scholarship Program 

  11. Nursing Foundation of Rhode Island Undergraduate Education Scholarships

  12. National Association of Hispanic Nurses Scholarships

  13. US Department of Health and Human Services: NURSE Corps

  14. Doctor Thomas P. and Edwina H. Devlin Medical Scholarship Fund

  15. Army Nurse Corps Association Scholarships

  16. NBNA Scholarship Program

  17. Barbara Rhomberg Nursing Scholarship 

  18. Hector Gonzalez Past Presidents Scholarship

  19. Geraldine “Polly” Bednash Scholarship

  20. American Association of Critical Care Nurses Scholarships

Note: You must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify for scholarships.

What About MSNs: Do I pursue an MSN?

A Master of Science in Nursing degree opens plenty of opportunities with improved pay, better career prospects, and increased specialization.

MSN nurses are among the highest earners in the field, thanks to the various roles available to them:

  • Certified registered nurse anesthetist
  • Neonatal nurse practitioner
  • Cardiac nurse practitioner
  • Orthopedic nurse practitioner
  • Oncology nurse practitioner

Median annual salaries for these five highest paying nursing titles range from $115,401 to $190,726.

Similarly, MSN-RNs can apply for:

  • Clinical nurse researcher
  • Chief nursing officer
  • Director of nursing
  • Nurse administrator
  • Nurse manager

So, yes, an MSN is advisable to interested persons. What’s better? The job outlook is equally excellent, as the USBLS projects double-digit percentage job growth for certified registered nurse anesthetists through 2028.


Turning a non-nursing degree into BSN online may be a frightening prospect due to the time and resources you’ll have to spare. Not to mention that balancing your current career with your classes may pose a challenge sometimes.

However, becoming a BSN-RN has outstanding benefits. Apart from the excellent pay, a BSN nurse can find fulfillment in the healthcare they render to their numerous patients.

Subsequently, we recommend following through with this dream should you begin. Few feelings beat the surge of joy after nursing a patient back to good health!

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