Choosing to turn your associate degree or nursing diploma into a BSN comes with a lot of perks, including new job opportunities and greater earning power. It also allows you to deepen your knowledge and advance your clinical practice. Research reveals a strong correlation between educational attainment and patient mortality, which is why both the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing endorse the BSN as the preferred entry-level education for nurses. Hospitals and healthcare employers have shifted their hiring practices to match, so a BSN is a great way to advance your career.
Luckily, an RN to BSN program is designed for working nurses who already have their RN credential and college credits. Completing this bridge program online has many advantages, such as accelerated courses, flexible scheduling and lower tuition. Whether you're curious about what you'll learn or the time commitment involved, there's a lot to consider as you weigh your options. Follow the links below to learn more.
What's the Difference Between an RN and BSN?
An RN is a registered nurse who has passed the NCLEX exam. The minimal educational requirement to sit for the NCLEX is a nursing diploma or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), though it's important to keep in mind that those are just the basic requirements. An RN could also have a higher degree, such as a master's or doctorate in nursing.
A BSN, on the other hand, is a bachelor's degree in nursing. For the purposes of this article "RN" refers to an ADN- or diploma-prepared registered nurse.
If you're an RN interested in continuing your education or moving forward in your career, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is the next step. Nurses in a BSN for RNs program expand their clinical knowledge, build on their diploma or ADN knowledge, and prepare for roles in leadership or management.
What Is an RN to BSN Program?
While some students complete a four-year BSN program before taking the NCLEX and entering the workforce, established RNs with a nursing diploma or ADN degree can earn their BSN in less than two years. That's because the RN to BSN is a bridge program specifically tailored to licensed registered nurses.
An RN to BSN makes the most of your existing education credits. You may be closer to your BSN than you think.
Through an accelerated online program, such as the RN to BSN at the University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM), nurses can complete their BSN in as few as 14 months. The online format is a flexible option for RNs who wish to continue working as they strengthen their existing skills and advance their clinical practice.
What Can I Learn in an RN to BSN Program?
An RN to BSN program covers topics ranging from pharmacology to public health. Nurses will further their research skills for evidence-based practice, and they'll address technological advances in healthcare. RN to BSN students will explore nursing management principles and health assessment techniques as well.
ULM's BSN for RNs not only prepares you for leadership positions in nursing, it also provides an opportunity to put your newfound knowledge into practice through experiential learning. Ultimately, BSN-prepared nurses are equipped to serve as powerful liaisons between patients, nursing teams and interprofessional teams.
Why Should I Consider a BSN?
If you're interested in expanding your knowledge, improving patient outcomes or moving forward in your career, a BSN is definitely worth considering. The BSN is becoming the gold standard for nursing practice, and that's due to a number of factors:
- Growing popularity: According to the American Journal of Medical Research, the percentage of registered nurses with a BSN doubled, from 25% to 50%, between 1980 and 2016. Inside Higher Ed reports that, between 2010 and 2017, the number of registered nursed with a BSN grew by 170%.
- Policy changes: Citing advances in healthcare, hospital operations and technology, as well as nurses' increased role in primary care, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) — now known as the National Academy of Medicine — published its landmark 2010 report recommending that 80% of nurses complete their BSN by 2020. Based on similar logic, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recommends a BSN for 100% of registered nurses.
- Legal developments: New York State passed its "BSN in 10" legislation in 2017. Much as its name implies, the law requires registered nurses to complete their BSN within 10 years of licensure (exemptions apply to student nurses and licensed nurses who were active before the law went into effect). While New York is only one state, New Jersey and Rhode Island are considering similar bills.
- Improved patient outcomes: A seminal 2003 study published in JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that a 10% increase in the proportion of staff nurses with a bachelor's degree led to a 5% reduction in surgical patient mortality. Several studies have expanded on these findings since.
Educational Attainment of RNs, 1980-2016
Spotlight on Patient Outcomes
While a BSN can lead to an increase in salary and job options, it also saves lives. A 2014 Medical Care report (cited in HealthLeaders magazine) showed that increasing BSN-prepared staff by 10% led to a 10% drop in patient mortality. A 2013 Journal of Nursing Administration article revealed that in hospitals with a higher percentage of RNs with a bachelor's degree, patients had shorter hospital stays. Patients at this threshold also had lower failure to rescue rates, lower rates of congestive heart failure mortality, fewer occurrences of postoperative deep vein thrombosis and fewer cases of postoperative pulmonary embolism.
In 2018, an International Journal of Nursing Studies article reviewed a collection of nursing studies (all conducted since 2001). Researchers found that, of the 18 studies examining nurse education and mortality rates, 61.1% connected higher proportions of BSN nurses to lower mortality rates. Of the eight studies examining failure to rescue, 75% found a positive correlation between nurses' education and improved outcomes. From there, the collective study noted that the failure to rescue correlation "has stronger theoretical underpinnings with nursing processes and interventions," as these deaths result from "potentially preventable complications" under nurse observation.
Do Employers Prefer BSN RNs?
Yes, and this preference is well documented. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), BSN nurses have the best job prospects when compared to diploma and ADN RNs. This is true in both the public and private sector. The Balance Careers notes that the U.S. military requires active-duty nurses to hold a bachelor's degree in nursing. The Department of Veterans Affairs is the largest employer of RNs in the United States, and a BSN is required for all nurses who want to move beyond an entry-level position.
Citing a 2014 survey of RN job postings, the American Journal of Medical Research noted that around 33% listed the BSN as a requirement. Since then, a 2018 AACN survey has revealed that 45.6% of healthcare employers require a BSN for new hires. Even when the degree isn't compulsory, 88.4% of employers strongly favor BSN-prepared nurses.
Why the Strong Preference for BSN Nurses?
Improving patient outcomes is an important goal. After all, IOM and AACN recommendations are partly based on the link between educational attainment and patient mortality. Employer inclination toward BSN nurses, however, isn't shaped by IOM and AACN recommendations alone.
HealthLeaders magazine reported that a staff of at least 80% BSN nurses can cut patient readmission by 18.7%, which in turn reduces hospital costs by $5.6 million. The higher salaries of a BSN-majority staff could cost hospitals an additional $1.8 million, which leaves $3.8 million in savings. In other words, employers are also motivated by their bottom lines.
Learn more about our RN to BSN online program
Do Magnet Hospitals Require BSN-Prepared RNs?
Magnet hospitals, certified by the American Nurses' Credentialing Center (ANCC), meet rigorous standards designed to both sustain and further nursing excellence. Hospitals with the Magnet designation must support continued education for nurses, and they must include nurses on hospital governing committees. Magnet hospitals also have lower nurse burnout and turnover rates, which results in better patient outcomes.
In a study published by the Journal of Nursing Administration, researchers found that Magnet hospitals have lower nurse-to-patient ratios when compared to their non-Magnet counterparts. They also found that nurses at Magnet hospitals benefit from increased opportunities for professional development and career advancement.
Some of the most prestigious hospitals in the world hold a Magnet designation, and if you plan to work in a Magnet hospital, you will likely need a BSN. In fact, 100% of nurse managers and nurse leaders at Magnet institutions must hold a BSN. Hospitals seeking Magnet recognition are held to the same standards, which means any diploma or ADN RNs at the management level would be required to complete their BSN.
Magnet recognition is a four-year process for hospitals. Nurses can earn a BSN online in less than half that time.
What Jobs Can I Get with a BSN?
You can get any job available to diploma- and ADN-prepared RNs, but as NursingLicensure.org suggests, BSN RNs have a competitive edge with prospective employers. Some of the largest and most prestigious hospitals (military, academic and Magnet) either prefer or require BSN-prepared nurses. In other words, having a BSN means you're more likely to find and land the position you want.
Ultimately, career development and opportunity is one of the greatest differences between a BSN and a diploma or ADN. If you're interested in nurse management or leadership, including the positions listed below, a BSN is often required:
|Job Title||Average Salary|
|Nursing Informatics Coordinator||$72,400|
|Healthcare Risk Management Manager||$74,363|
|Clinical Nurse Supervisor||$76,367|
|Clinical Nurse Manager||$81,203|
Source: PayScale (April-May, 2019)
If you prefer clinical specialization to a role in management, a BSN is still a good bet. The degree is all but required for RNs in acute care, oncology, surgery and other advanced nursing departments.
It's also worth noting that a BSN places you one step closer to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). A master's in nursing can lead to a lucrative career as a nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist or clinical nurse leader.
Do BSN Nurses Make More Than ADN and Diploma Nurses?
While salary depends on several factors, including years of experience and location, BSN-prepared nurses tend to fare better than their diploma- and ADN-prepared counterparts. ZipRecruiter, for instance, reports that the average BSN salary is $81,844, while the average RN salary is $68,465. This trend remains consistent across multiple states:
|State||Average RN Salary||Average BSN RN Salary|
Source: ZipRecruiter (May, 2019)
Do BSN Nurses Have a Better Career Outlook Than ADN RNs?
BSN-prepared nurses have a competitive edge in the labor market. They're far more likely to work in leadership, and they're increasingly preferred by employers. Thus, BSN nurses benefit most from a positive career outlook within the industry. This is especially true in the midst of nursing shortage issues documented by the National Institutes of Health.
There are two main drivers behind the staffing shortage. The first is a rapidly retiring RN workforce. The second is an increase in chronically ill patients. Both stem from the same cause: an aging population. Growth in key states, including Texas and California, is another contributing factor. According to the National Center for Workforce Analysis, by 2030, nursing shortages will be particularly strong in the following locations:
|State||Projected RN Demand by 2030||Projected Shortfall|
Nationally, the BLS has forecast a 15% rate of growth for nursing employment in the United States between 2016 and 2026. This means nursing jobs are expected to grow from 2,955,200 to 3,393,200 over the same period. Given the specific demands of an aging population, shortage projections for nurses in long-term care are three times greater than BLS projections.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Health Resources and Services Administration Bureau of Health Workforce, and the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis also completed a study on long-term care and nursing demand. The study predicted that, between 2015 and 2030, long-term care nursing positions will grow from 438,600 to 638,800.
Things are changing. They're looking for bachelor degrees, especially for management positions, where I've worked for the past seven years.
How Much Does an RN to BSN Program Cost?
That depends on several factors. Tuition for the online format, for instance, is often less expensive than the on-campus version. There are several hidden cost-saving benefits to studying online as well. While tuition varies from format to format, it also varies from school to school. Transfer credits, however, may impact your tuition most. That's because universities typically charge by the credit hour, so the more transfer credits you've already earned, the fewer you'll need to pay for as you complete your BSN.
There's another significant cost differential between public universities and private universities. The former are funded by the state, which often keeps tuition low. Private universities, on the other hand, rely mainly on private donations and student tuition, which drives up the price. While some private institutions may come with smaller class sizes or more prestige, Business Insider concluded that "the benefit doesn't seem to outweigh the price tag of going public." This is especially true for nursing programs because state licensure boards aren't concerned by the distinction between public and private.
If you're considering an RN to BSN online, the tuition comparisons below illustrate the importance of shopping around:
|University||Public||Cost Per Credit Hour|
|Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University||No||$555.39|
|Loyola University New Orleans||No||$450|
|Houston Baptist University||No||$415|
|University of Southern Mississippi||Yes||$359.59|
|Sam Houston State University||Yes||$1,120.50 (out-of-state)|
|University of Louisiana Monroe||Yes||$291.67|
Credit hour rates taken from university websites
Learn more about our RN to BSN online program
Are Online RN to BSN Students Eligible for Financial Aid?
When it comes to federal financial aid, it doesn't matter if students attend online or on campus. You can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on the Federal Student Aid website and send it to any university you're considering. However, there are a few eligibility requirements for federal aid. Your chosen degree program must be accredited, and you must attend at least half-time (enrolled for a minimum of six credit hours per semester).
Scholarships and grants are another great source of funding, and U.S. News & World Report offers some good tips for finding them. NerdWallet also features some scholarships that are reserved just for nurses, and unlike student loans, they don't have to be repaid. If you're interested in exploring your options, the AACN has a scholarship and financial aid guide for nurses as well, including loan forgiveness programs. Loan forgiveness offers funding toward your student debt, usually in exchange for clinical service in a high-need facility or underserved area.
Many hospitals also offer tuition reimbursement as part of their employee benefits package. This is another funding source that doesn't need to be paid back, but hospitals may ask you to commit to your position for a set period of time. It's always a good idea to confirm tuition reimbursement policies with your employer.
Can I Borrow For a BSN If I Already Have Student Loans?
The federal government limits the total amount you can borrow, but as long as your student loan debt remains under the limit, you're still eligible for federal loans. If your existing federal loans are in default, however, you'll need to resolve your default status first. You'll also need to resolve your default status to apply for loan deferment.
With loan deferment, you can suspend payments on your existing federal loans. You're eligible for in-school deferment if you complete six credit hours, or two three-credit courses, per semester. This minimum is especially convenient in an accelerated online program.
Accelerated programs such as the BSN for RNs at University of Louisiana Monroe schedule courses by the half-semester. That means courses take seven to eight weeks to complete, rather than the traditional 15 weeks. In other words, students can take one course at a time while still benefiting from federal aid and loan deferment.
Can I Apply My Military Education Benefits to Online BSN Tuition?
Like federal aid, your military benefits are available for both online and on-campus programs. As long as your degree program is accredited, you can apply your education benefits for yourself, your spouse or your children. If you're not sure whether or not your university or degree program is eligible, you can check by using the VA's WEAMS Institution Search tool.
The University of Louisiana Monroe supports military and veteran students with its dedicated Office of Veterans Affairs, which also processes education benefits. If you have any questions, you can speak to an enrollment specialist at 800-917-3236.
What Are Nursing Core Courses?
An RN to BSN degree plan accounts for your transfer credits and general education courses. The classes that remain are your major requirements, or nursing core. Depending on your program, nursing core classes typically fall between 27 and 42 credit hours.
At ULM, the BSN for RNs nursing core consists of 10 courses and a capstone, for a total of 30 credits:
- Principles of Pharmacology
- Professional Nursing Concepts
- Health Assessment
- Computing for Nurses
- Nursing Research
- Gerontology and Genomics
- Nursing Management
- Nursing Management Practicum
- Public Health Nursing
- Public Health Nursing Practicum
- Capstone for RN to BSN
The final course in your degree plan at ULM, the Capstone for RN to BSN, provides a framework to integrate theory and practice. It's also worth noting that two of the courses above are practicums, or clinical practice experiences. With practicum courses, you'll have an opportunity to incorporate your newly acquired knowledge in the clinical environment of your choosing. Many students complete their practicums at their place of work, which is another benefit of online study.
Can I Start My Nursing Core Before Completing My General Courses?
It depends on your program. Some universities require students to complete their general education courses before moving on to their nursing core subjects. Other universities allow you to begin the nursing core once you've completed a set of prerequisites or a minimum number of credit hours.
Some programs don't place these restrictions, allowing you to work on your nursing core and general education credits simultaneously. The RN to BSN degree at ULM falls into this category. You can get started on your nursing courses right away.
Will My Credits Transfer?
While every university sets its own policies, most accept transfer credits from accredited programs. Beyond that, the best way to determine which credits will transfer is to fill out an application, which will include all of your transcripts. From there, an academic advisor will review your transcripts, calculate your transfer credits and help you design a customized degree plan.
The University of Louisiana Monroe provides an online transfer credit calculator, along with a helpful video tutorial. The online calculator is an estimate only, so it's still best to submit an application if you want to be certain of your transfer credit status.
How Long Does It Take to Go From ADN to BSN?
Completing an RN to BSN program online takes between one and two years, but that's assuming that most of your general education requirements are met before you begin. Basically, the more transfer credits you have, the less time it takes to complete your degree.
Graduation timelines are also impacted by your course load. A student who successfully completes three or four courses per semester will earn their degree in less time than a student who completes two courses over the same period.
Program requirements are yet another consideration. Degree plans awarding 20 credits for your nursing license will probably take more time to complete than degree plans awarding 40. The same applies to nursing core courses. Programs with a 40-credit core will take longer — and cost more — than programs with a 30-credit core.
In addition to its 30-credit major requirement, the BSN for RNs program at Louisiana Monroe awards 39 credits based on your nursing license. You can complete your degree in as few as 14 months.
Is the Online RN to BSN the Quickest Path to My Degree?
Completing an RN to BSN online can take less time than an on-campus degree. Online courses are often accelerated, so you can move through your core requirements quickly. Because online classes are available 24/7, you can fit your studies into your schedule, which can also save you time. With on-campus courses, an unforeseen scheduling conflict could force you to drop a class and slow your progress.
ULM's BSN for RNs features accelerated courses that take about half the time to complete when compared to traditional courses. The online RN to BSN is tailored to working nurses; it's built to help you meet your goals, and graduate as soon as possible.
As an instructor in these programs, I always have the adult working student in mind when I plan the course, deadlines, due dates, etc.
How Much Time Do I Need to Study?
Because online courses are accelerated, you'll cover a lot of material in a short period of time. Thus, it's a good idea to reserve nine to 12 hours per week for each three-credit course. You'll spend six to nine hours completing assignments, reading and studying. You'll spend the remaining three hours "attending class," either by viewing video lectures, completing course modules or participating in virtual class discussions.
Do your best to log into your courses daily. That way, you can keep up with class discussions and course announcements. You may want to merge your personal, professional and academic calendars as well. This will allow you to plan ahead or work ahead as needed.
"Get a good old fashioned paper calendar and track all assignments with due dates. Time management is key." – Dr. Sherry Peveto, Assistant Professor at ULM
How Does Learning Online Work?
Both online and on-campus courses have largely implemented web-based Learning Management Systems (LMS), such as Blackboard or Canvas. Some on-campus courses use the LMS in a limited fashion, as just a class bulletin board or a place to view grades. Courses that are 100% online are more comprehensive. You can upload assignments, download course materials, view lectures and participate in class discussions via topical forums. Simply log into your course and click on the link you need. Navigating the online LMS is like navigating any other website. Once you're familiar with the layout, you're good to go.
ULM offers technical support if you need assistance. You can reach the Help Desk at 318-342-3333 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will I Need a New Computer?
As long as your computer can reliably access the internet and run basic programs, you should be fine. You'll need to be able to type and save your work, download and open files, and view videos on your computer. Because the LMS is web-based, you may be able to access your course through your phone or tablet as well.
Just check in with your online RN to BSN program for information about LMS technology requirements.
Do Online RN to BSN Professors Have Clinical Experience?
Professors in an RN to BSN program have clinical experience far more often than not, so they understand the demands placed on working nurses. Most nursing professors hold advanced degrees in their field, and these degrees typically require clinical experience.
Every member of the nursing faculty at ULM has worked in a clinical environment. Many chose to become teachers to share their expertise.
When I started working in the ICU after graduating with my RN from ULM, I had many life-changing experiences. I made friends with families that I would stand by at their loved one's funeral and who would stand by me at my baby shower. I knew I was a good and caring nurse… So how do I multiply myself? … That is why I am teaching in the nursing program at ULM.
Can I Meet With My Professors Outside of Class?
Yes. Professors who teach online courses often make themselves available to students via phone, text, video chat or email. Since RN to BSN faculty have previously worked as nurses, they're familiar with the challenges of balancing work and school. Professors at ULM are no different, and they typically respond to students quickly.
Can Online Students Access the Library?
Many universities allow online students to access e-books, journals and online research databases through the library. In fact, on-campus students typically use the same online research databases as their off-campus peers.
Does Accreditation Matter?
Accreditation matters, and it matters a lot. Accreditation affects federal financial aid, military benefits and transfer credits. You forfeit all three when you attend an unaccredited institution. In other words, you can't get federal aid or use military benefits at unaccredited universities. Courses from unaccredited schools don't transfer to accredited universities either.
Above all, accreditation ensures that your degree meets educational and professional standards. Choosing an accredited program ensures that your degree has been vetted by outside authorities, so you know that you're getting a great education. Employers know it too. They strongly favor graduates from accredited programs.
Ultimately, it's a good idea to understand the basics of accreditation. That way, you can be sure you've chosen the right program. It's especially important since some accrediting agencies are more respected than others. It's also important because accreditation has two layers, one at the university level and one at the nursing program or school level. Make sure to choose an online RN to BSN that comes with both.
Is There Any Difference Between Regional Accreditation and National Accreditation?
While it sounds like national accreditation is better than regional accreditation, it's actually the other way around. Regional accreditation has higher standards, not only for academic performance but for overall administrative performance. Regionally accredited universities demonstrate excellent results for students, constant self-evaluation and improvement, and ethical operations.
There are seven regional accrediting bodies recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, including the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
The University of Louisiana Monroe is accredited by SACSCOC. You can confirm accreditation for any school SACSCOC oversees by using their searchable database.
How Are RN to BSN Programs Accredited?
Once you've confirmed that your university is properly accredited (preferably by a regional body), you'll need to determine whether or not your degree program is also accredited. Program-level accreditation for nursing degrees is issued by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Both are equally respected, and both ensure that your nursing education meets professional and clinical standards.
The BSN for RNs program at University of Louisiana Monroe has been CCNE accredited since 2000. CCNE accreditation ensures that your nursing program demonstrates consistently positive outcomes for students. Accreditation additionally ensures that your program operates with integrity, engages in self-evaluation and improves procedures accordingly.
What Are the Admissions Requirements?
Admissions requirements vary from university to university. Most RN to BSN programs, however, require a valid nursing license and a minimum grade point average (GPA). The latter is meant to determine whether or not students will be successful in an academically rigorous program. Additional admissions criteria outside of these basics will change by program, and that's the case whether you plan to study online or on campus.
The University of Louisiana Monroe accepts graduates of nationally accredited diploma or associate degree in nursing programs. A valid, unencumbered RN license and a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0 are also required. In order to determine GPA and transfer credits, applicants must submit official transcripts from all accredited colleges and universities they've attended.
When Can I Enroll?
Traditional schedules usually allow students to enroll three times a year — fall, spring and summer. Accelerated online programs are more flexible. ULM's BSN for RNs accepts new students six times a year, twice every semester. An up-to-date course calendar is available online.
Learn more about our RN to BSN online program!
Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN):
Academic Progression in Nursing: Moving Together Toward a Highly Educated Nursing Workforce
Employment of New Nurse Graduates and Employer Preferences for Baccalaureate-Prepared Nurses
Scholarships & Financial Aid
International Journal of Nursing Studies: Associations between Nurse Education and Experience and the Risk of Mortality and Adverse Events in Acute Care Hospitals: A Systematic Review Of Observational Studies
National Center for Workforce Analysis:
Supply and Demand Projections of the Nursing Workforce: 2014-2030
Long-Term Services and Supports: Nursing Workforce Demand Projections 2015-2030
Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree
Clinical Nurse Manager
Clinical Nurse Supervisor
Healthcare Risk Management Manager
Nursing Informatics Coordinator
RegisteredNursing.Org: The States With the Largest Nursing Shortages