Lindsay Smith
Last updated at January 9, 2021

When it comes to building a career in nursing, many nurses complete their associate degree in nursing. They then typically pass the NCLEX-RN and begin working as an entry-level registered nurse. In time, they may look to advance their careers by applying for supervisory roles or pursuing specialty roles as critical care or pediatric nurses. If you're an RN interested in advancing your career, an RN to BSN program can help you earn your degree faster.

What Does RN to BSN Mean?

The RN to BSN program is designed especially for registered nurses (RNs) who want to enhance their careers by obtaining a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Commonly called a “bridge” program, the curriculum of an RN to BSN program takes into account your prior education, training, and experience.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), as of 2019, there were 777 RN to BSN programs across the United States of America. Of of the schools offering the program, they all generally take between 12 and 24 months to complete.

Depending on the school you choose, you may have the option of picking between a part-time and full-time schedule. In choosing a full-time schedule, the time to attain your BSN could be shortened by up to 30 months when compared to a traditional four-year program.

What are the Benefits of Completing an RN to BSN Program?

The benefits of earning your bachelor of science in nursing through an RN to BSN program are substantial. Not only will you deepen your skills in critical thinking and leadership, but you'll also have better earning potential and job opportunities.

According to the most recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses earn a median annual salary of $73,300 or $35.24 per hour. And according to PayScale, the average salary for a nurse with a BSN is $85,584.

What are Some of the Courses I Will Have to Take?

Depending on the school you choose, you will take courses like these.

  • Economics
  • History, Humanities, and Literature
  • Nursing management
  • Community and public health nursing
  • Health information technology
  • Transition to baccalaureate/professional nursing
  • Cultural diversity

You will also obtain more practice experience from the program. This is broken down into two sections – direct and indirect care. Through these sections, you will strengthen your proficiency in collaboration and communication, integration of technology into practice, leadership development, and clinical prevention and population health.

What are the Requirements for Admission?

Having your nursing diploma or associate degree in nursing from an accredited program will put you well on your way to meeting the typical requirements for admission. Although each school will have its own specific requirements, you’ll probably need the following additional qualifications.

  • Have a current, unrestricted RN license
  • A passing score on the HESI Admission Assessment (A2) Exam
  • A GPA of 3.0 or higher

You'll also likely need to complete a criminal background check at the time of application. As for the HESI exam, it isn't required for all schools so do your research.

Once you've selected a school, verify your school of choice is accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

What is the cost of an RN to BSN Program?

Costs will vary by school and can range from as little as $4,000 to as high as $25,000. Many registered nurses with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) earn their BSN with the help of employee tuition reimbursement benefits. Be sure to ask your employer about tuition reimbursement.

There are also different types of grants and scholarships available. These scholarships can be based on various things such as merit, policies of the college, courses in the school, or student need.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking to highlight your career further and enhance the nursing knowledge you already have, an RN to BSN program is a great option. It will not only provide you with the required practical experience that is necessary for supervisory and specialty roles but will also increase your knowledge and skills that you would need in your day to day job.

Once you've made your decision to go for it and narrowed down the programs that meet your needs, do a quick review of your goals and schedule. Does each of the schools offer courses in your area of career interest? Can you adjust your schedule to meet the requirements of the clinical hours and classroom work?