Pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is often the best choice for a pathway to a nursing career. A full BSN degree program better prepares nurses with a background in research, leadership, and health policy than a certificate or associate degree. This broader background helps graduates provide the highest quality care possible in today’s dynamic healthcare environment.
This blog post will discuss what a BSN is, why this degree is desirable for nurses, and how to pursue a BSN if you are considering this degree program to become a registered nurse (RN).
What is a BSN?
A BSN is an undergraduate degree program that prepares individuals to become RNs. BSN programs go beyond providing technical nursing education such as that offered by an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or licensed practical nursing (LPN) program. BSN programs offer comprehensive nursing theory, leadership, evidence-based practice, and research courses. BSN programs, therefore, provide a solid foundation in both theoretical and clinical aspects of nursing.
Through a BSN program, students complete biology, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and nursing research and leadership courses. Students also take courses in pediatric care, maternal-newborn care, and mental health in nursing care. Completing a BSN is a significant step in starting one’s nursing career. It is highly valued because of the comprehensive and rigorous nature of preparation.
Career Opportunities with a BSN
The career opportunities for registered nurses after obtaining a BSN are vast. BSN-prepared nurses can practice across most specialties of nursing. These include, but are not limited to, the following types of settings:
- Hospital Settings: Many BSN graduates work in an acute care setting like a hospital after graduating. Hospitals often contain specialty units, including medical-surgical, emergency room, trauma/intensive care, labor and delivery, pediatrics, and psychiatric units. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 60% of registered nurses work in hospitals.
- Ambulatory Settings: BSN-prepared nurses are also needed in ambulatory or outpatient settings. These can include primary care offices, hospital-affiliated outpatient clinics, day surgical centers, visiting nursing associations, and more. You can learn more about ambulatory care nursing here at The American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing’s website. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 18% of registered nurses work in an ambulatory care setting.
- Long-Term Care and Skilled Nursing Facilities: BSN nurses may also choose to work in long-term care or skilled nursing facilities, which often provide a range of nursing services and chronic condition treatment to patients on a long-term basis. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates about 6% of nurses work in a long-term residential care or nursing facility.
- Government and Educational Services: The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that about 6% of nurses work in government settings and 3% in educational settings, indicating that these are areas where BSN nurses may also find employment after graduating.
Preferential Hiring of BSNs
Another benefit of a BSN degree is that many employers prefer hiring BSN-prepared nurses in the current healthcare job market. This advantage again comes because BSN-prepared nurses are known to provide superior care to patients compared to their non-BSN-prepared counterparts. Many job descriptions for RN roles specifically state that a BSN is not just preferred but required for employment, which is why students should opt for a BSN degree as their pathway into entry-level nursing.
Benefits of a BSN in Career Advancement
BSN-prepared nurses are also positioned well for career advancement and pursuing advanced nursing degrees if desired.
BSN-prepared nurses who develop their practice at the bedside may find themselves advancing into management or leadership positions. After gaining experience, they may also be able to transition into a nurse educator role in their chosen clinical setting.
Some nurses also return to graduate school to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing. Most of these programs require a BSN as a prerequisite for admission. Graduate nursing programs include nurse practitioner (NP), clinical nurse specialist (CNS), certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), and certified nurse midwife programs. They can also include doctorate programs through which nurses can earn either a PhD in nursing or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP).
Overall, a BSN lays the groundwork for advanced nursing practice by providing the necessary knowledge, skills, and competencies that provide the foundation for career growth at the bedside and for advanced degrees. Pursuing a BSN is a strategic step for individuals who aspire to take on advanced clinical, leadership, or educational roles within the nursing profession.
Earning Potential With a BSN
BSN nurses may also enjoy higher earning potential than non-BSN-prepared counterparts due to the more comprehensive and rigorous coursework characteristic of BSN programs. It is also likely related to the excellent care BSN-prepared nurses are known to provide. This earning potential is yet another reason why earning a BSN is an excellent choice for your nursing degree.
While a direct comparison between BSN and non-BSN-prepared nursing pay is not readily available, the median annual wage for registered nurses in The United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, was $77,600 as of May 2021.
How to Pursue a BSN
Arizona College of Nursing proudly offers an accelerated, 3-year BSN program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and offered at seventeen of our campuses across the country. Our BSN degree provides an opportunity for many future specializations for advanced practice, high earning potential, clinical excellence, and outstanding job opportunities.
We invite you to learn more about Arizona College of Nursing’s accredited BSN program here and look forward to helping you kickstart your transition to your future career in nursing.
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Tana Bao MSN, FNP-BC, NP-C, APRN
Tana Bao is an experienced advanced practice registered nurse. She earned her BSN from The University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2016 and her MSN from Thomas Jefferson University in 2019. She is board certified to practice as a family nurse practitioner with both The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (NP-C) and The American Nurses Credentialing Center (FNP-BC). Clinically, she has worked in various medical settings including family planning, women’s health, sleep medicine, and primary care. She now also writes professionally as a health content writer and journalist and is also pursuing a post master’s certificate in nursing education.
American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Fact Sheet: The Impact of Nursing Education on Nursing Practice, at https://www.aacnnursing.org/news-information/fact-sheets/impact-of-education
American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Employment of New Graduates and Employer Preferences for Baccalaureate-Prepared Nurses at Research-Brief-10-21.pdf (aacnnursing.org)
American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Nursing Fact Sheet at https://www.aacnnursing.org/news-data/fact-sheets/nursing-fact-sheet.
American Association of Colleges of Nursing APRN Consensus Model at https://www.aacnnursing.org/our-initiatives/education-practice/teaching-resources/aprn-education/consensus-model
American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Your Guide to Graduate Nursing Programs at https://www.aacnnursing.org/Portals/42/Publications/Brochures/GradStudentsBrochure.pdf
American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing. What is Ambulatory Care Nursing? at https://www.aaacn.org/practice-resources/ambulatory-care-nursing/what-ambulatory-care-nursing
Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Registered Nurses,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm (visited August 11, 2023)
Information in this blog post is accurate as of September 29, 2023.