Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Lindsay Smith
Last updated at August 20, 2021

If you’re thinking about becoming a nurse, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) will give you the education many employers expect from a registered nurse (RN). While you can work as an RN with an associate degree, nurses with a BSN typically enjoy higher pay and are given greater responsibility.

In August 2020, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) conducted its eighth survey of nursing schools that offer entry-level baccalaureate and master’s programs. Based on 647 responses, “41.1% of hospitals and other healthcare settings are requiring new hires to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, while 82.4% of employers are expressing a strong preference for BSN program graduates“.

Since 2010, 14 states have seen increases of registered nurses with bachelor's degrees in nursing increase by more than 10%. Leading the way for this national growth are:

  • Delaware (20.7%)
  • Missouri (15%)
  • Montana (13.4%)
  • Louisiana (13.3%)
  • Oregon (13.2%)

Source: American Association of Colleges of Nursing 

What is a BSN?

A Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (BSN) is a four-year-long nursing program. The first two years of the program are made up of liberal arts courses intended to fulfill the general education requirements of the program. The final two years are reserved for classes specific to nursing and clinical rotations designed to provide students with the practical hours and experience needed to be an entry-level nurse.

What Can I do With a BSN?

With a bachelor of science in nursing, you can take the NCLEX exam and become a licensed registered nurse. As you gain experience, you can then pursue other roles such as charge nurse, nurse leader, or nurse manager. A BSN also gives you the foundation to pursue specialty certifications or graduate-level nursing degrees.

Advantages of Getting A BSN

Apart from providing you a good stepping stone for your nursing career, there are many advantages to pursuing this degree.

  • Having a BSN will offer you more earning potential than having an ADN. With a BSN you will be offered a higher salary, even at entry-level positions. According to Payscale, where an average nurse's salary is $65,343 per annum, an individual with BSN can earn $85,539 on average.
  • More employment opportunities are another benefit of the BSN. With a BSN, you will be preferred by employers hiring nurses.
  • With BSN, you will also have more career options. You can pursue a career in oncology, geriatrics, and more.

What is the Salary of a Nurse with a BSN?

The median salary of a nurse with a BSN is $85,539, with the bottom of the range at about $72,000. Because registered nurses with BSNs are in high demand, the pay continues to increase every year.

How do I get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing?

There are several paths to a BSN. Each one will depend on your prior education and experience. The four paths to getting your BSN are:

  • A traditional four-year degree program
  • An LPN-to-BSN bridge program
  • An RN-to-BSN bridge program
  • An accelerated or direct entry program

High school graduates with no college education or healthcare experience should consider pursuing the traditional four-year degree program. Professionals with prior nursing education and experience can take a faster route through a “bridge” program.

Bridge Programs

Bridge programs allow nurses with prior education and experience to avoid repeating coursework and may not require as many hours of clinical training. Some programs offer “credit by exam”. This means you may be eligible to take exams to “test out” of certain courses by receiving credit hours for the areas of study you demonstrate proficiency in.

If you are an RN with an active license, the RN-to-BSN bridge program could be a good option for you. This program takes between 18 and 24 months to complete.

If you are an LPN, the LPN-to-BSN bridge program gives you the option of earning the credentials you need to qualify for your RN license while also meeting the criteria for a bachelor of science in nursing. A typical LPN-to-BSN program takes two to three years of full-time study to complete.

Second Degree BSN

If you have a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field, a direct-entry nursing program or Second Degree BSN program might be a good fit for you. These programs allow you to use the liberal arts courses from your education to meet your non-nursing course requirements and move ahead with your nursing course requirements.

Accelerated programs, also know as direct-entry programs, typically take 11 to 18 months to complete. If you do it part-time through evening and weekend classes, it takes about 22 months.

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What Does the Curriculum Look Like?

The BSN follows the curriculum provided by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The program also includes practical training where students are taught how to assess the health and illness of a patient, Anatomy, Statistics, Leadership and Management, Mental Health, Research in Nursing, and more.

The degree requires about 120 credits, with some variation depending on the school/program.

While an ADN or diploma program focuses on ensuring nurses have the most essential entry-level nursing skills, the BSN curriculum goes beyond the basics and provides a more thorough education. By covering legal and ethical subjects, students are being educated about healthcare management issues, and the effects their decision-making will have on patient care and outcomes.

General education requirements vary by program but generally cover the following subjects.

  • Nutrition
  • Technology
  • Biology
  • Psychology
  • Ethics
  • Sociology
  • Statistics
  • Chemistry
  • English composition

Nursing specific classes prepare you for general nursing and include the following subjects. 

  • Public health
  • Health assessment
  • Family nursing
  • Nursing management
  • Leadership
  • Medical and surgical care
  • Psychosocial nursing
  • Professional nursing

When it comes to clinical training, students will spend between 700 and 800 hours in various healthcare settings (acute care, long-term care, etc.) and with different types of patients (geriatric, children, etc.).

How Much Does a BSN Degree Cost?

The average cost of a bachelor of science in nursing is between $72,000 and $104,000. This range is for tuition only as additional costs such as books, meals, fees, and accommodations will be more.

Your school of choice location, and whether the school is public or private, will be the primary factor in the cost of your degree. Typically private nursing schools, and those with higher graduation rates, have higher tuition fees. 

Is Financial Aid Available?

While the cost may be substantial, many colleges and nursing associations offer scholarships and provide loans to students. For example, The National Student Nurses Association Foundation provides a scholarship amount of up to $7,500 based on academic performance and financial need. Similarly, the Oncology Nursing Foundation provides a scholarship of up to $5,000 for qualifying candidates.

Apart from scholarships, students will also have the option to apply for loans from a financial institution. There are private loans through banks and other types of credit unions.