How to Choose and RN to BSN Program

What RNs Should Know Regarding Choice of RN to BSN Programs

For years, there has been a push for nurses to earn their bachelor’s degree. More and more hospitals are striving for Magnet status recognition, and nurses are setting their sights on higher degrees and leadership positions. Due to the demand, more and more RN to BSN programs are springing up – including online programs which allow nurses to earn their degree while continuing to work.

Earning a BSN

While it may seem intimidating to return to school, earning a BSN is more attainable than one might imagine, especially when familiar with what to expect. The length of time to complete a BSN program depends on the nurse’s starting point. If starting with a diploma in nursing, students must complete around 120 credits. This includes undergraduate hours as well as BSN courses and clinical hours. For those who already have an associate’s degree, the requirement falls to around 60 credit hours, which include BSN courses and clinical hours. However, for both types of students, many schools count full-time employment towards the required clinical hours or give students the option to complete an equivalency exam.

Preparing to enroll in a BSN program should also include gathering the necessary admission requirements. Each school has different requirements for the BSN program, but one can generally expect to show proof of licensure, submit any transcripts, complete a background check, and meet the general admission requirements for the school. Health clearance and proof of immunizations may also be required.

One of the most common questions prospective BSN students have is what courses they should expect. Again, the curriculum will depend on if they hold an associate’s degree or not. For those who do not have an ADN, they must complete general undergraduate coursework to include:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • College-level English
  • College-level Math
  • Chemistry

BSN-specific courses may vary slightly between schools, but general BSN courses include:

  • Leadership and management
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Statistics
  • Informatics
  • Nursing ethics
  • Community/Public Health

Some BSN programs even allow nurses to earn a public health nurse certificate as well as a BSN.

How to Pick a BSN Program

When looking into different BSN programs, several points need to be taken into consideration. One is accreditation. The program should be nationally accredited to avoid any snafus with licensure or job prospects later down the line.

Cost is another consideration, and often a pretty significant one. Since there is a high degree of cost variability between different schools, it’s difficult to give an exact figure to the student-to-be. Most schools are very transparent with tuition costs, out-of-state resident fees, and additional expenses so that students can calculate a ballpark amount. Additionally, most schools also have financial aid options available and offer part-time status to help offset costs. However, before becoming hung up on the cost, it’s important to think about the end goal. Will the student advance into higher-paying roles? Will the organization pay more for BSN nurses compared to ADN?

Another consideration is if a program offers online learning. Online BSN programs are becoming more and more popular with nurses. Distance learning offers a great deal of flexibility and allows students to learn at their own pace, which leads to a higher chance of success. Nurses can work odd hours, and flexibility with their school is imperative for a healthy work/school/life balance. Some online programs do require occasional campus visits, so students should research the specific campus visitation requirements when looking into online BSN programs.

Career possibilities are plentiful in nursing and climbing the career ladder may require the BSN as a stepping stone to more advanced roles such as manager, administrator, educator, or advanced-practice nurse. While nurses have individualized goals when it comes to their career choices, earning a BSN will help develop leadership and communication skills that will benefit them in any role they choose.


Guest Post: Amanda Bucceri Androus has been a Registered Nurse since 2000. She graduated from Sacramento State University with a BSN. She has worked in pediatrics, telemetry, and with stroke patients. She is currently working as a charge nurse for a busy family practice medical office. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and spending time with her two children.