What Is a BSN and Why Is It Important?

When individuals consider entering the nursing field, they may base their decision on a simple underlying concept: to care for others. It’s a field that pays well, but nurses need a foundation of care and compassion to find meaning in their work and success in their career.

It is important to understand all the different levels of nursing and the opportunities that exist within each.

RN, BSN … What’s the Difference?

Sometimes the abbreviations RN and BSN are used interchangeably or believed to be the same. There’s a distinct difference. Registered nurses (RNs) don’t necessarily hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, or even need a BSN to get a nursing job.

The three educational paths to becoming an RN are:

  1. Graduate with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)
  2. Complete a “diploma” nursing program
  3. Earn a BSN degree

Regardless of education level, all nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam to become a licensed RN. They will also need to obtain licensure in the state in which they are working — which may or may not transfer should nurses move or choose to work in travel nursing.

Why Should an RN Pursue a BSN Degree?

In recent years, hospitals and health systems, private practices and public health facilities have leaned toward hiring BSN-prepared RNs over those without the degree. Regulatory measures support this trend, such as New York’s passing of its “BSN in 10” law. The law states that “to continue to maintain registration as a registered professional nurse in New York state, [nurses must] have attained a baccalaureate degree or higher in nursing within 10 years of initial licensure.”

Some positions require nurses to have graduated from a BSN program. Examples include school nurse and military nurse. Magnet hospitals also ask for their nursing hires to hold a BSN.

Transitioning From Skill-Based Practice to Heightened Care Competency

Due to the growing complexities in healthcare, medical institutions across the nation prefer BSN-prepared nurses. This system requires a transition from the more basic skill-based competencies of nursing practice to more robust expertise surrounding health policy, system improvement, research, evidence-based practice, teamwork and collaboration, complex decision-making, and leadership.

To meet those criteria, nurses require training beyond the coursework of either an ADN or diploma program. Fortunately, RNs who don’t yet have their BSN degree can earn it fairly quickly. Some RN to BSN programs allow for completion in as few as 12 months. The availability of online programs makes attending school flexible — perfect for parents or nurses who are already working part-time or full-time jobs.

Schools like the University of South Carolina Aiken offer multiple start dates throughout the calendar year, so nurses aren’t limited to a strict quarter or semester scheduling format.

What Do Nurses Learn in an RN to BSN Program?

RN to BSN programs vary slightly in the coursework offered, but most of them cover topics like:

  • Principles and concepts of ethical nursing; making intelligent, unbiased, ethical decisions
  • Legal responsibilities within nursing practice
  • Assessing patients’ physical and psychosocial health status
  • Pathological basis of disease processes; clinical manifestations
  • Theories of human development, from birth to death
  • Research within the field and how to analyze it for merit; critical thinking
  • Specific knowledge and skills surrounding leadership and management

Often, programs will also include more specialty courses, such as gerontology or public/community health issues. Currently, gerontology is a burgeoning area. Individuals are living longer, but not necessarily healthier. Nurses who pursue this track further into their careers or continue their education may discover a number of desirable opportunities.

Accelerate Your Career Today

There’s no better time for registered nurses to boost their careers. Earning your BSN not only expands your abilities as a professional caregiver, but it also makes you more marketable to employers.

While COVID-19 revealed just how much nurses matter, a post-pandemic existence will demand an increasing number of nurses to support the healthcare industry and mitigate the projected global shortage.

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


NursingSchool.org: Hospital Nursing Programs: Traditional Diploma

RegisteredNursing.org: Are Nursing Licenses Valid When Traveling and Working in Other States?

Nurse.com: New York Governor Signs BSN in 10 Into Law for Nurses

American Nurses Credentialing Center: ANCC Magnet Recognition Program

RegisteredNursing.org: What Is Geriatric Nursing?

Related Articles

Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.

Our Commitment to Content Publishing Accuracy

Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only. The nature of the information in all of the articles is intended to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered.

The information contained within this site has been sourced and presented with reasonable care. If there are errors, please contact us by completing the form below.

Timeliness: Note that most articles published on this website remain on the website indefinitely. Only those articles that have been published within the most recent months may be considered timely. We do not remove articles regardless of the date of publication, as many, but not all, of our earlier articles may still have important relevance to some of our visitors. Use appropriate caution in acting on the information of any article.

Report inaccurate article content: