RN to BSN Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Nursing has been a high-demand field for the past several years. It is the largest sector of health and medicine jobs, with 59% of healthcare professionals working as nurses.

The COVID-19 pandemic illuminated the critical role nurses play in healthcare and our society as a whole. Even when the pandemic eases, nurses can expect opportunities across healthcare sectors to grow, in some cases, quite rapidly. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that nursing will add 7% more jobs between 2019 and 2029, a much faster rate than the average for all occupations.

Given the industrywide push for RNs to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, only some nurses will be in a position to take advantage of those opportunities. Many employers strongly prefer BSN-prepared nurses over non-BSN candidates — and more and more are requiring the degree.

If you want to jump-start your nursing career, you should consider pursuing a BSN. Here are a few checklist items to get you started.

1) School Choice

The traditional structure of in-classroom instruction, campus living and high tuition rates is giving way to alternate modes. Online programs have boomed in recent years, offering immense flexibility. Students can complete some RN to BSN online programs in as few as 12 months. Of course, if you prefer a less-accelerated pace, that is an option as well.

It is also important to consider the courses offered. Some programs include specialty courses that may or may not be part of your career vision, so make sure you find a program that best fits your plan.

2) Tuition Considerations

Tuition is often an obstacle to pursuing higher education, but it is surprising just how affordable some online programs can be. For example, the RN to BSN program at the University of South Carolina Aiken offers an all-inclusive tuition of $9,486 for both in-state and out-of-state students. For some, that amount may seem prohibitive. Thinking of it as an investment in one’s future earnings can help offset the sticker shock. In some cases, employers even offer tuition reimbursement benefits because they recognize the ripple effect: better nurses make the entire system better — and more profitable.

3) Learning Outcomes

The healthcare industry calls for an elevation of competency among nurses, which the coursework in an RN to BSN program reflects. You will learn everything from health assessments (both physiological and psychological) to research practices and legal/ethical concerns. The program also covers nursing leadership and management, foundational for moving the industry forward.

4) Admission Requirements

Admission rules are unique to each RN to BSN program, but most follow a similar set of standards. Here are a few of the basics:

  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Diploma in Nursing
  • Current RN license in good standing (e.g., no history of disciplinary action)
  • Minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0, but some schools require higher (2.5 or even 3.0)
  • Official transcripts from previous institutions

Some programs also require criminal background checks, even if conducted through previous/current employment.

5) Job Options With a BSN

Opportunities for BSN-prepared nurses are vast and varied. From pediatrics to geriatrics, critical care, oncology, orthopedics, trauma, public health, and case management, the choices are almost endless. Travel nursing is an exciting option for some; it was, and continues to be, in high demand due to the pandemic. If your passion is working with children, you may explore becoming a school nurse.

Many positions also exist outside of a traditional clinical setting. One could work for an insurance company or as a forensic nurse associated with law enforcement and legal entities.

6) Earning Potential

Nursing is rooted in care and compassion. Some individuals who choose this path put those attributes first and compensation second. The good news is you can have the best of both. The earning potential for BSN-prepared nurses is worth the journey.

Nationwide, ZipRecruiter places the average annual salary for nurses with a BSN degree at $79,623 (December 2020). But some jobs pay more depending on the level of skill and years of experience. Salary also varies by state. For example, states like California, New York and Washington rank higher on the pay scale than Illinois or Michigan. Previous and projected findings indicate a steady growth in pay for BSN jobs over the next few years.

As you look at the above considerations, think about your own motivation to pursue a BSN. Whether you want to improve and expand your career opportunities, become more financially stable or simply gain the skills and knowledge to be a better nurse, following through with an RN to BSN program can help you achieve your goals.

Learn more about the University of South Carolina Aiken online RN to BSN program.


World Health Organization: State of the World’s Nursing 2020

Nurse.com: Future of Nursing Report Card – Progress After 10 Years

Minority Nurses: Why Leadership Matters for Nurses

Nurse Journal: 31 Best Specialty Career Choices for Nurses

ZipRecruiter: BSN Nurse Salary

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