If you're a registered nurse who was trained in an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or diploma program, there are a number of good reasons to consider a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. The BSN is rapidly becoming the new standard in nursing education, and more employers now expect RNs to have this degree. BSN-prepared RNs also have a wider range of options when it comes to nursing assignments, raises and promotions.
Returning to school can be challenging, of course, but online RN to BSN programs are designed to address the unique needs of working nurses. You can get two extra years' worth of training, knowledge and clinical instruction in a shorter amount of time than it would take to earn the same degree on campus. And with online classes, you can go to school on your schedule and take breaks when work or life issues are higher priority.
If you've been curious about the BSN degree or the benefits it offers ADN and diploma RNs, this handy guide can help. Just explore the sections below for answers to some of the most common questions nurses have about RN to BSN online nursing programs.
What Is an RN to BSN Degree?
The RN to BSN is a bridge program that helps working nurses complete their undergraduate education. It is tailored to the needs of RNs, providing them with a fast and flexible way to return to school and gain additional clinical skills. The degree also gives ADN and diploma RNs training in evidence-based practice and nursing leadership, enhancing both their skills at the bedside and their career opportunities.
How Could I Benefit From a BSN?
There are many benefits to earning a BSN, both from a clinical and career standpoint. The additional training in evidence-based practice that a BSN education provides helps RNs build their nursing expertise to take on new challenges in their field. Management-focused coursework also prepares nurses to take on new responsibilities and demonstrate their leadership potential.
There are also practical benefits to earning your degree. Education standards for the profession are changing, and many employers now prefer to hire BSN-prepared nurses. Research by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) indicates that 86 percent of employers have a strong preference for BSN RNs, and 49 percent have made the degree a hiring requirement.
What Courses Will I Take in an RN to BSN Program Online, and What Will I Learn?
BSN coursework is built on the core competencies of modern nursing, including evidence-based practice, and it emphasizes that nurses with knowledge in a variety of disciplines can have the greatest impact at the bedside. Here are some of the courses you will take in NKU's RN to BSN program online:
- Models of Care Delivery
- Role Transformation
- Nursing Research
- Health Informatics
- Population Centered Health
While the courses you take in any RN to BSN program online will cover diverse subject matter, they all have something important in common. Each course allows you to learn more about your role as a care leader and your unique ability to drive positive patient outcomes.
Many students [in health informatics] are familiar with the topics discussed and do not realize how much they already know.
The leadership component that we give students in our RN to BSN program, and the leadership practicum experience, broadens the horizons for the bedside nurse. They will be able to bring opportunities into their work area that they may have never thought about before.
Spotlight: Population Health
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control define population health as an interdisciplinary process by which state and local health departments connect healthcare policy to practice, creating better health outcomes in local communities. In other words, population health is about collaboration between government, care providers and community members who can address local healthcare challenges.
Population health is a strong focus throughout all of the nursing programs at NKU, because the work of RNs is always essential to addressing the root causes and circumstances of illness. Here are a few examples of how population health issues can be addressed through this form of collaboration:
- The CDC and Alaska Department of Health and Social Services have partnered with the Arctic Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Regional Training Center to address high rates of alcohol abuse in the state. During this pilot project with three local clinics, alcohol abuse screening and intervention was provided by nurses during all routine primary care visits. The project was so successful that this approach has now been implemented in more than 240 Alaskan villages.
- Mississippi ranks first in the nation in childhood obesity and second in adult obesity. To address this issue, the Mississippi State Department of Health developed an obesity action plan in 2018 that creates a partnership between government agencies, healthcare workers, and health coalitions. Partners will share data, resources, and intervention strategies to confront the root causes of obesity in the state, including poverty, food deserts, and lack of physical activity.
- The Cuyahoga County Board of Health in Ohio is currently working to address significant disparities in cancer rates and other health outcomes between the state's poorest and most affluent communities. Its Health Improvement Partnership of Cuyahoga has brought 100 organizations and 600 individuals in the Cleveland area together to assess community needs and address policy, environmental, and equity issues that limit access to healthcare for some residents and lead to late screening and diagnosis of disease.
Professors in NKU's RN to BSN online program encourage nursing students to collaborate with local government agencies on population health projects, to address the most pressing healthcare issues in the communities where they live and work.
What Are the Admissions Requirements?
For admission to most RN to BSN online programs, you will need to:
- Have an active and unencumbered RN license
- Meet the program's minimum GPA requirement for admission, which usually lies somewhere between 2.0 and 3.0
- Submit official transcripts from all schools you've attended
Some RN to BSN programs require a drug screen and a background check as well. They may also ask that you provide evidence of current CPR certification and nursing liability insurance, or that you are up to date on your immunizations.
NKU's online RN to BSN program requires applicants be in good standing with the last school they attended, meaning they are not on probation or dismissal from another program at the time of application. Applicants do have the option to apply and begin the program before gaining RN licensure, though it must be obtained during the first course in the program.
Will I Have to Do Clinicals Again?
You do not have to repeat any of the clinicals that you completed for your ADN or diploma program as part of your BSN degree. However, you will get additional clinical experience as most RN to BSN programs do have a practicum course that allows you to put your training to use and address a healthcare problem in your community.
At NKU, this course is NRP 478: Leadership Practicum, where students design and implement an interdisciplinary team project focused on issues identified in a specific healthcare setting.
Will I Get Credit for My Previous College Coursework?
Admissions representatives at NKU can best evaluate your transfer credits, but coursework from your former school should transfer as long as there is an equivalent course at your new school. Accredited nursing programs may not accept transfer hours coming from an unaccredited program, however.
Learn more about our RN to BSN online program
Will I Need to Take Any Prerequisites?
It all depends on your previous college coursework, and your online RN to BSN program. If you have fulfilled all of the math and science requirements for an ADN, chances are good you can go straight into upper-level nursing courses without a problem. If you haven't taken a statistics course, however, or passed one with a grade of "C" or better, you may need to remedy that situation.
At NKU, the only online nursing course with a prerequisite is NRP 472: Nursing Research, which requires completion of a previous statistics course.
Additional general education courses may be required as well.
Why Is Statistics Required for a BSN?
According to the journal American Nurse Today, significant numbers of RNs report feeling anxiety when it comes to working with statistics. At the same time, statistics has become one of the most powerful components of evidence-based practice, and according to American Nurse Today, more nurses are being asked to work on projects that involve statistical analysis of patient data.
The BSN requires statistics because this type of preparation gives RNs tools that are relevant to their jobs now and in the future, as research becomes a more integral part of improving patient outcomes and ensuring quality care at the bedside.
Will My Salary Be Higher With a BSN?
According to ZipRecruiter (February 2019) the average BSN RN salary is now $82,722 per year. Salary figures by state also show that in many areas of the country, BSN RNs are making $10,000+ more than the average for all RNs.
|State||Average Salary for BSN RNs||Average Salary for All RNs|
Source: ZipRecruiter, February 2019
What Is the Career Outlook for BSN RNs Compared to ADN or Diploma RNs?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth for RNs will continue to rise faster than all other professions through 2026. A workforce study published in the American Journal of Medical Research in 2018 indicates that two-thirds of all nurses now have a BSN or higher, and as employer preference for BSN RNs continues to expand, nurses holding this degree will have the competitive advantage in a booming job market.
BSN-prepared RNs also have a wider range of career possibilities when it comes to the different nursing roles they can fill and possibly how far they can advance in the profession. Many experienced ADN and diploma RNs who have risen through the ranks previously without a BSN are now finding they need one to get their next pay raise or promotion, or to do the same nursing job for a different employer.
Why Do Employers Want BSN RNs?
Most employers with a preference for BSN RNs are following the recommendations of a landmark research study on nursing published in 2010. In "The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health," the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine) provides compelling evidence that having high numbers of BSN-prepared nurses on staff leads to better patient outcomes, lower hospital readmission rates and lower mortality rates.
The Institute's chief recommendation was that 80 percent of all nurses earn a BSN by 2020, and many employers have been working to meet that goal by providing incentives and tuition assistance to ADN and diploma RNs working toward their BSN.
Here are a few additional facts employers are considering when they hire a BSN RN:
- Studies published in the Journal of Nursing Administration and the Medical Care journal show as much as a 10 percent decrease in hospital patient deaths following a 10 percent increase in the number of BSN RNs on staff. Researchers have also found lower rates of post-operative pulmonary thrombosis, deep vein thrombosis and congestive heart failure mortality in hospitals with a higher percentage of BSN RNs.
- BSN-prepared nurses save their employers money. According to HealthLeaders Media, hospitals employing 80 percent BSN nurses have the potential to trim their annual costs by as much as $5.6 million due to greater care efficiency.
- Hospitals and other healthcare facilities seeking the Magnet designation of excellence from the National Nurses Credentialing Center (NNCC) must have 80 percent BSN RNs on staff, and 100 percent of nurse managers and nurse leaders must be BSN-prepared nurses as well.
Nursing has always been known as an art and a science. Nurses must have the knowledge of healthcare issues and have the skills to take care of a patient's total needs. They need to be able to assess a patient, develop a plan of care, deliver the care and evaluate the effectiveness of their care. At the same time they need to be able to demonstrate the art side of care delivery. Good communication skills, empathy, compassion and interpersonal skills are all necessary.
What Is BSN in 10?
You may have heard about BSN in 10 because a number of states are considering a law that would require all RNs to have a BSN within 10 years of gaining licensure. Visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to check current RN regulations for any state where you may wish to practice.
"BSN in 10" may also refer to the IOM's recommendation mentioned in the section above. When the report came out in 2010, the goal for an 80 percent BSN-prepared nursing workforce by 2020 was a 10-year goal.
Can I Get a Better Job With a BSN Degree?
The BSN degree is becoming a requirement for many nursing management positions, and it can also open up opportunities in departments or units you may not have had the chance to experience. Here are some interesting job options for BSN RNs who want to work in a complex direct care setting or pursue a non-bedside career path.
|Regional Nurse Consultant||Detroit, Michigan||$112,644|
|NICU RN||Chicago, Illinois||$105,792|
|Pharmaceutical Sales Rep||Newark, New Jersey||$94,735|
|Endoscopy RN||Sioux Falls, South Dakota||$91,135|
|Travel Nurse Manager||Dallas, Texas||$89,914|
|Assistant Nurse Manager||Albuquerque, New Mexico||$88,251|
|Transplant Coordinator||Cincinnati, Ohio||$86,597|
|Dialysis RN||Madison, Wisconsin||$83,006|
|Nurse Educator||Des Moines, Iowa||$84,830|
Source: ZipRecruiter, February 2019
Will Demand for BSN RNs Keep Growing?
Overall demand for RNs is expected to increase by 46 percent over the next decade according to research by the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis. The research projects that the following states will see exceptional job growth in nursing, which means BSN RNs will be in high demand.
Projected RN Job Growth by 2030
Becker's Hospital Review also predicts that Texas, New Jersey, Alaska and South Dakota will experience a critical shortage of RNs by 2030, creating significant opportunity for BSN RNs practicing in those states.
Where Are BSN RNs Being Heavily Recruited Right Now?
January 2019 data from Labor Insight indicates that BSN RN recruitment is higher than the national average in a few key states. The percentages below reflect the difficulty employers currently have in hiring enough BSN nurses to fill available positions.
BSN RN Need/Recruitment (Above National Average)
Are BSN RNs More Likely to Get Hiring Incentives and Other Perks?
Yes. Since so many hospitals and other healthcare employers prefer to hire BSN RNs, competition for nurses with this degree can get intense. Here are some recent examples that demonstrate just how far healthcare employers are willing to go to hire the right nursing personnel:
- CNN Money and medical industry trade magazine STAT report that in addition to signing bonuses, a hospital in West Virginia is offering free housing for RNs willing to commute, as well as college tuition for both nurses and their children.
- Becker's Hospital Review notes that five-figure signing bonuses are becoming more common for RNs, reporting that a Colorado hospital system has begun offering $10,000 at sign-on plus a $4,000 annual continuing education benefit to attract new nurses.
- Healthcare consulting group Advisory Board reports that a hospital system in Kentucky has offered signing bonuses as high as $25,000 for hard-to-fill RN positions, as well as the chance to win a new car.
- Modern Healthcare reports that a hospital system in Texas has made an $18 million investment in tuition reimbursement, student loan assistance, and nurse residency programs to recruit qualified RNs and retain them after hire.
Is It Less Expensive to Earn a BSN Online?
It depends on the school you choose, but in most cases it is indeed cheaper to earn your degree online. Learning online is a more streamlined process, and designed to save you money when you consider the number of semesters you might spend completing the same coursework in a traditional on-campus nursing program. Online RN to BSN programs can also sometimes charge fewer fees than their on-campus counterparts.
Cost savings from online education can come from other places aside from fees and tuition. Earning a degree online can help students save on other related expenses such as gas and parking. Parents can also skip the babysitter and stay home with their kids while doing schoolwork. These are small savings, but they can add up over time.
Will I Have to Pay Out-of-state Tuition?
Many online RN to BSN programs charge in-state and out-of-state students the same tuition rate. Just be sure to confirm this is the case during the application process, as some schools do charge out-of-state students more.
At NKU, all online RN to BSN students pay the same tuition. There is no out-of-state tuition rate.
How Much Do Online RN to BSN Programs Cost?
Public colleges and universities offer some of the most affordable RN to BSN programs online, especially compared to private schools and for-profit colleges.
Tuition rates can vary widely between nursing programs, however, so it pays to do your homework. You could still pay as much as $1,029 per credit hour at some public schools, but the average cost per credit hour is $338. For a typical 3-hour course at that rate, your cost would be $1,014.
The total cost of your degree will be determined by the number of hours required for your program, as well as the number of transfer credits you have. NKU's RN to BSN online program can be completed in as little as 30 hours, for a total tuition cost of $10,380.
Learn more about our RN to BSN online program
Can I Just Pay By the Course?
Yes. One of the great benefits of earning your BSN online is that you can take things one course at a time, and pay by the course too. Moving through your RN to BSN degree at your own pace allows you to manage your budget along with your nursing studies and other responsibilities.
Is Financial Aid Available to Online Students?
Yes, as long as you are eligible for aid and attending an accredited school. Once you fill out the U.S. Department of Education's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a financial aid officer for your program can evaluate your circumstances and tell you more. Online RN to BSN students can use scholarships, grants and loans to pay for their education just as on-campus students do.
Can Service Members and Veterans Use Their Education Benefits for an Online BSN?
Yes. If you are eligible for education benefits through the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard, you can use them to earn your BSN online. All branches of the military require that you attend an accredited nursing school in order to access those benefits.
NKU makes the process simple for veterans and active military members by outlining a series of steps to using your education benefits that you can follow.
I'm a Working Nurse — Do I Have Time for School?
Online degree programs have changed the way working nurses learn and also how many RNs think about their education. A BSN is no longer just an option for those who happen to work the right schedule or have the right timing. It's a path to knowledge and better opportunity that's available to any RN with the passion to pursue it.
When you study online, you don't have to press pause on your life in order to earn a degree. Watch lectures and participate in class when it's convenient for you, whether that's on an afternoon shift break, on your day off, or in the middle of the night when the kids are asleep. Whatever your needs, online study can accommodate them, allowing you to have a life, a job and a degree.
I'm a nontraditional student with a job and a son, and [online learning] makes it a little more flexible with time, instead of having to follow a rigid structure.
There are generally no synchronous meetings, you do everything on your own time. You have due dates and you can set your own calendar as to when you do your work... it's up to you how many courses, whether you want to go full time or part time, and that is a decision that is made based on your lifestyle. The flexibility is definitely one of the positives of the online environment.
How Often Will I Need to Study?
A good rule is to set aside 3-5 study hours per week for every hour of course credit you're taking. This means you may need about 12-15 hours of study time each week for a 3-hour course, to complete all readings, lectures, discussion board posts and assignments. This is just a guideline, however, and the subject matter and difficulty of assignments will also determine your study needs course to course.
Can I Finish My BSN Degree Faster Online Than I Could On Campus?
In most circumstances, yes, because many online RN to BSN programs have shorter courses and multiple course start dates through the year. This enables students to learn at an accelerated pace, focusing intently on one or two classes at a time. Students also complete their courses in an average of seven weeks, which is less than half the time required for courses held in a standard 16-week semester.
At NKU, you can actually earn your RN to BSN online in just 10 months.
NKU is very student focused. ... If a student chooses NKU, I think they will find that the faculty are really attuned to making sure that our students are successful.
Is My Computer Ready for Online Classes?
You don't need the newest or fanciest technology to take courses online. As long as the computer or tablet you are using is up to date enough to perform a few key functions, you should do well navigating online courses. Just make sure your device is equipped for:
- Video streaming
- Video chatting/webcam
- Word processing
Will I Be Going to School With Other Students?
Yes, even though your classmates may live in many different parts of the country. This aspect of an online education is a nice bonus for many nurses, because sharing experiences with RNs in diverse locations and circumstances can bring fresh perspective to familiar subjects.
You'll also get a wider frame of reference on problems and solutions in contemporary nursing than you might in a traditional classroom. If your classmates are RNs from Delaware, Nevada, Indiana and Texas for example, they may see different types of illness through the year based on conditions in their region, or different patterns of disease in the patient populations they serve.
Online RN to BSN students also work together on projects and assignments, interact through discussion board conversations, and develop friendships just as students do on campus.
How Do Professors Teach in Online RN to BSN Courses?
Many professors prepare modules for students to complete that contain lectures to watch on video, readings, and an assignment or two. Some use notes, slide presentations and interactive technology as well, and video chat for real-time meetings.
Professors may also participate in conversations about lecture and reading material on the course discussion board or ask students to write response papers that engage with subject matter on a deeper level. However your professor conducts the course, the online classroom is a space where you can interact with him or her in multiple ways and work together directly as you learn the material.
The faculty are just super, super supportive of everybody. They are caring. They are actually invested, individually, in the students. ... The faculty and staff are here to support you throughout the entire journey.
Since all of the students I teach are registered nurses, my goals for my students are to increase their knowledge of nursing and increase their ability to seek solutions for quality care.
Will I Be Learning From Professors With Clinical Experience?
Yes. All professors teaching RN to BSN courses have clinical experience, both from earning their master's or doctoral degree and from their own nursing practice. In fact, one professor at NKU knows exactly what it's like to be a working nurse earning a degree online, because she's done it herself.
I have been a nurse for 34 years. I received my nursing diploma right out of high school, but didn't go back to school to my further degrees until I was 39 and earned my doctorate at 49! I have seven children and worked full time while raising my children and going to school online. ... I started teaching because I felt my experiences and love of nursing would help others to improve the healthcare system.
I've Been Out of School for a Few Years. Is There Help for Returning Students?
Yes. Schools that offer RN to BSN programs online recognize that many RNs are returning to school after a break, and they may need extra support to get back in the groove of being a student again. Nurses who have not taken online classes before may also need some help getting acclimated to the virtual learning environment. Resources vary by school, so be sure to ask any program you're considering about the specific support services they offer for online students.
NKU's staff, advisors and professors are all dedicated to making sure your online learning experience is comfortable and manageable, and that you have the resources you need to do well. The NKU Writing Center, Library and IT Help Desk all offer assistance tailored to the needs of online students, including online appointments and live chat options for fast and accessible support.
If you're hesitating and you're thinking, 'Well, it's online, I'm not really sure. I'm not familiar or not comfortable with this environment,' remember that we are here to help you. It's what we do.
Why Should I Look for an Accredited RN to BSN Degree Program?
RNs who graduate from an accredited degree program have a much greater chance of success on the job market and encounter fewer obstacles as they climb the nursing career ladder. Employers want BSN RNs from accredited programs because accreditation ensures the education and training nurses receive meets professional licensing standards for the field.
State and federal financial aid programs also require that students attend an accredited nursing degree program to be eligible for aid, and many colleges and universities will not accept transfer credits from schools that are not accredited. These are some of the reasons it's important to know a nursing program's accreditation status before you apply.
What Does Accreditation Mean?
When the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) evaluates a nursing degree program as part of the accreditation process, reviewers look at a broad range of criteria to determine whether students are receiving an appropriate education. Here are some of questions they must address during the process:
- Are the teaching methods and curricula up to date and relevant to modern nursing practice?
- Is the program financially solvent and conducting its business in an ethical and responsible manner?
- Are faculty members qualified to teach the courses they are assigned and supervise clinical rotations?
- Does the program engage in continuous evaluation of standards, practices, policies and procedures, and actively work to improve based on evaluation results?
- Does the program respond to complaints in a proactive manner and address issues raised in a timely fashion?
- Are graduation rates and NCLEX pass rates acceptable, demonstrating that students are prepared for professional licensing?
While the CCNE and ACEN accrediting bodies have been the standard for many years, a newer accrediting body within the National League for Nursing (NLN) is emerging as an option as well. This relatively new accrediting organization, Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (CNEA), was established in 2013 to help foster the NLN's commitment to quality in nursing education.
You can learn more about accreditation at the U.S. Department of Education website, where you can also check out the accreditation status of any nursing school you may be considering.
NKU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and NKU's RN to BSN program is CCNE-accredited.
Learn more about our RN to BSN online program!
American Association of Colleges of Nursing:
The Baccalaureate Degree in Nursing as Minimal Preparation for Professional Practice
Employment of New Nurse Graduates and Employer Preferences for Baccalaureate-Prepared Nurses
U.S. Centers for Disease Control:
What is Population Health?
The National Academy of Medicine:
The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health
The Future of Nursing: A Look Back at the Landmark IOM Report
The Journal of Nursing Administration:
Nurse Outcomes in Magnet and Non-Magnet Hospitals (full text download available)
Baccalaureate Education in Nursing and Patient Outcomes
Medical Care (journal):
Effects of Nurse Staffing and Nurse Education on Patient Deaths in Hospitals With Different Nurse Work Environments
Economic Evaluation of the 80% Baccalaureate Nurse Workforce Recommendation: A Patient-level Analysis
Average Salary of RN BSN Jobs
Average Salary of RN Jobs
What Is the Average RN Salary by State?
What Is the Average RN BSN Salary by State?
Nursing Informatics Specialist, Las Vegas, Nevada
Travel Nurse Manager, Dallas, Texas
NICU RN, Chicago, Illinois
Dialysis RN, Madison, Wisconsin
Assistant Nurse Manager, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Regional Nurse Consultant, Detroit, Michigan
Nurse Educator, Des Moines, Iowa
Pharmaceutical Sales Rep, Newark, New Jersey
Transplant Coordinator, Cincinnati, Ohio
Endoscopy RN, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Burning Glass Technologies. http://www.burning-glass.com. 2018. (various reports by state)
U.S. Department of Education:
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Accreditation: Universities and Higher Education
Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges