RN Or BSN

By Sarah Collins

05/10/2022

  • You must pass the National Licensure Competency Exam (NCLEX) to become a licensed nurse. However, to be eligible to participate in this examination, you’d need to have secured a nursing degree before your application.
  • Your goal, finance, and career preferences influence your decision. However, note that you can put off securing the degree for some time.
  • An ADN or BSN is enough to become an RN. Alternatively, you may prefer to secure both for unique benefits.

Does the RN Or BSN decision keep you up at night? Welcome to the maze; countless others have been here. Fortunately, you’re on the right way out!

This guide evaluates your dilemma, noting the difference between both terms and revealing helpful information on how you can secure your first degree. It essentially guides you to make the ideal decision.

Ready? Let’s dive in! But, first; a few critical points:

What Is the Difference Between RN and BSN?

The first noteworthy difference here is each term’s meaning.

Do you know what they mean?

RN is a nursing license you secure after passing the NCLEX, while BSN is a 4-year degree needed to gain nursing knowledge and eligibility to take the NCLEX.

In other words, a BSN is a precursor to an RN. You must complete it to sit for an NCLEX. Should you pass, you become a registered nurse. Otherwise, you’d have to retake the test.

However, remember you can complete other programs instead of the BSN to qualify for the NCLEX. The ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing) is a more affordable alternative, requiring only two years to attend.

Nevertheless, most employers prefer a BSN degree. A BSN program is more practical, for a start, not to mention the excellent curriculum.

What’s better?

A BSN prepares you for nursing leadership roles, as it makes transitioning into advanced practice degrees or teaching positions seamless.

When Should I Choose to Pursue BSN or RN First?

Practical work experience is an essential component of your nursing career. Even if you want to continue your education, some advanced practice degree programs require you to have a certain amount of experience before being accepted. Many people want to get their RN and start working as soon as possible.

Finances are also a consideration. Sometimes, it can be helpful to start earning money right away as an RN instead of dividing your efforts between work and school. Also, some medical establishments often offer scholarship funding to their nurses, helping them further their education and bag a BSN.

You need to consider your personal goals and the amount of time you can commit to a program as you make your decision. Is getting a BSN crucial at this stage, or do you have other responsibilities that currently take priority?

However, suppose your main goals involve moving into leadership positions or getting an advanced practice degree. In these cases, it’s best to start earning your BSN degree right away.

How Do I Know If an RN Program Is Right for Me?

It’s challenging to select a suitable school for your RN program. Your final decision will map out your entire career most of the time, as a reputable educational institution will impact your degree and future job opportunities.

So, keep the following tips in mind as you pick out a program:

Look at the school’s ranking, particularly the status of its nursing program. What is the college’s reputation? Do they have a high retention rate of their nursing students? How does the school measure up compared to other nursing institutions in the area?

  • One good measurement is the NCLEX pass rate. How many students who complete the school’s nursing program pass the NCLEX?

Talk to nurses who have completed the program and nursing students in the program. The people who best understand a program have been through it or are going through it. Talk to these individuals, either in person or online. Get an idea of what the program entails. What did they like? What areas needed improvement? How well did the program prepare them for their nursing career?

Consider your financial options. What financial student aid does the school offer? What scholarships are available? While money shouldn’t be your only consideration, exploring which schools are most helpful in reducing your costs can help you decide.

Examine the school’s accreditation and location. Does the campus location work for you based on the program? For example, if your coursework is online, are you in a region where you can meet the school’s clinical components? Consider where you wish to practice. Is the school appropriately accredited to meet its jurisdictional requirements?

Tour campuses with nursing school programs. It’s essential to shop around if possible for nursing programs. After all, every program is a little different, and different schools have various resources available to students. Going for tours or visits can help you better understand a program to know if it aligns with your goals.

Tips on How to Get Into an RN Program

The requirements for getting into an RN program varies based on the state and school. Generally, you’ll need to have graduated from high school or taken the GED. Requirements also extend to include a specified GPA rating and specific prerequisites. Some of these courses are available in high school as AP classes.

Completing some of these general electives early on can help free up time in your schedule later. You will also need to have a strong science background as you enter the nursing field. Consider taking courses like biology and chemistry in high school to help prepare you for the required nursing coursework.

So, in essence, you should study hard throughout high school and during any college classes. Tailor your courses to help you work toward a nursing degree.

The Application Process

When applying for programs, keep the following in mind:

  • Give yourself time to fill out applications: The application process for college can be challenging and take longer than you want—pencil down a few hours on your schedule, using this period to apply for various nursing programs. Be thoughtful when writing essays and make careful choices about recommendation letters.
  • Think through your reasoning: Okay, you want to be a nurse. Why? Ask yourself the hard questions about what you wish to get out of your nursing degree; then, if the program you are applying for can facilitate these goals.
  • Carefully go over the admission requirements: You don’t want to go through filling out a nursing program application and then discover that you fall short of its conditions. Ensure you meet all admission criteria before applying.

Why You Might Not Want to Go Straight Into a Nursing Degree After High School

Some people want to jump into a nursing degree as soon as they finish high school. Sometimes, this is a great idea, but you might decide to take a non-traditional path.

Here are a few reasons you might not want to jump right into a nursing degree after high school:

  • Finances: You might want to earn some money before nursing school, as not every program is cheap. Also, taking a bit of time to get your finances in order is often beneficial in the long run.
  • Exploration: You might decide to take time to research other medical professional careers. Nursing is not the only profession where you get to help people and make a difference. Many people often get a different medical certification first before going into nursing.
  • Military service: Some people want to serve their country and pursue their degree later. This patriotic act can be gratifying, and often the military will offer assistance for later schooling after you complete your service.

One option to help you explore the healthcare field and earn some money is to first work as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). CNAs get to do hands-on work with patients and see what it is like to collaborate with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare team members. This partnership helps you develop more realistic expectations about the role of a medical practitioner.

Reasons You Might Not Be Accepted in a BSN or RN Program

Not getting into a nursing program can be disappointing. Don’t be discouraged. There can be any number of reasons you didn’t cut into the nursing program of your choice:

  • You did not meet the admission criteria: You might not have met specific requirements for a nursing program. For example, an ineligible GPA or missing proof of high school completion may disqualify you from admission. Ensure you fill in all the appropriate information before submitting your application.
  • You did not complete the proper prerequisites: You have to meet specific prerequisites for many nursing programs. Sometimes, these courses require a particular grade for these classes to count. For example, if you got a C in chemistry, but the college demands at least a C+ grade, you might need to retake the course to gain eligibility into their program.
  • Application errors: It is essential to give yourself time to fill out applications accurately and without mistakes. The US News and World Report noted that admissions counselors are more likely to consider an application filled out correctly with fewer grammar errors.
  • There were limited spots: Nursing programs can only accommodate a certain number of students. This limit could be due to the number of faculty and available sites for clinical studies. Therefore, schools have to place a high cut-off.

The Three Main Choices

In general, you have three main choices for RN undergraduate programs:

  1. Get your ADN, take the NCLEX, and become an RN. After becoming an RN, you can choose to enroll in an RN to BSN program, typically available online.
  1. Get your BSN degree, take the NCLEX, and have your RN and BSN.
  1. Enroll in a dual degree program to get your ADN, RN, and BSN.

Getting a dual degree can be pretty helpful for some students.

Related Article: How to Apply For A Private Loan

When Should You Work Towards Your BSN and RN at the Same Time?

A BSN degree takes about four years, and an RN spans between two and three years. However, the NCLEX and a nursing job are waiting at the end of either path. Therefore, you need to make an informed decision.

Do you know you have more options? For example, did you know you can work towards your BSN and RN simultaneously?

The Best of Both Worlds: The Dual Program 

Some of the available BSN programs allow you to get your RN along the way. One of such programs is the 1+2+1. This approach enables you to simultaneously get your ADN and BSN. Once you complete the former, you can take the NCLEX and proceed to finish your BSN degree.

How the 1+2+1 Program Works 

This type of program is best suited to students just starting college. You take the required nursing program prerequisites in the first year, such as anatomy and physiology, psychology, and sociology. Then, register for nursing modules necessary for an ADN degree, such as courses with clinical and skills lab components.

After completing these two years, you get your ADN degree and are eligible to take the NCLEX to become an RN. During this time, you might take some BSN courses and associate nursing degree courses.

If you bag the RN certificate, you can go on to complete the final requirements for your BSN in the program’s last year.

The Benefits of the 1+2+1 Program 

Getting both degrees at the same time can be highly beneficial in your nursing career for a few reasons:

  • You can work on BSN courses while still completing associate degree requirements: You can be well on your way to achieving your BSN while getting your ADN. Enrolling in this program promotes flexibility that wouldn’t be possible if you were only in an ADN program.
  • You can take the NCLEX sooner: You get to take the NCLEX with individuals who are only obtaining an associate degree while completing your BSN program.
  • You can work as a nurse while completing your BSN: In your final year of a 1+2+1 program, you will already have your RN certification to work as a nurse while you finish up your BSN courses.
  • You can have a smooth transition into a BSN program: The 1+2+1 format allows you seamlessly transition from an associate degree program to a BSN program. It’s all through one school, so you don’t have to worry about transferring previous credits or retaking specific courses.

Take the First Step in Your Nursing Career

Whether you decide to get your associate degree and RN first or your BSN, nursing is a rewarding field that offers job opportunities and career advancement. Even if you choose to get your BSN degree initially, you will need to successfully pass the NCLEX before practicing as a nurse.

Some options take a middle ground approach, such as the 1+2+1 dual degree program. It would help if you considered your unique career goals, strengths, and limitations as you move forward into the exciting and diverse nursing field.

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