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Is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing right for you?

Is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing right for you?

Portrait of a group of nursing professionals standing outside hospital.

New research, technological advancements, and the evolving needs of patients drive constant change in the medical field. As a result, health care providers must learn, grow, and adapt to provide their patients with the best possible care. Professional development and training programs help nurses stay on top of the best practices in the nursing profession.

As medical care advances, the need for nurses with advanced training increases. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program can help registered nurses discover the latest in health care delivery and gain skills in leadership and management in health care systems. Learn how a BSN degree can support your career aspirations and open up new job opportunities in nursing.

Understanding the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree

A bachelor of science in nursing is an undergraduate degree that expands on the skills and knowledge registered nurses have gained in their associate's degree (ADN) program. A BSN degree program for working RNs offers mid-career nurses an opportunity to learn about patient care technology, ethical and legal issues in nursing care, advanced problem-solving for clinical judgments, holistic health practices, and care coordination across the health care system.

A BSN program includes core coursework on topics such as health assessment, professional nursing, community health nursing, research, and nursing leadership. Students also have the opportunity to take elective courses on subjects like wellness, communication, and statistics for behavioral sciences. Learn how knowledge of statistics can help you in your nursing career.

A typical bachelor's degree program is designed to take four years to complete, but there are BSN degree programs that offer working registered nurses flexible options for higher education.

Options for nursing degree programs

Online BSN degrees are becoming more widely available. Depending on the specific BSN degree program, some of the advantages of online classes include the opportunity to enroll in a program that is not nearby and the flexibility to do coursework around your job, family, and other commitments. Many, but not all, online programs include requirements for BSN nursing students to participate in clinical practice hours in their own area.

Credit for previous work as a registered nurse

RN to BSN programs, such as the online RN-BSN from Oklahoma City University (OCU), will offer academic credit for your RN license and your experiences in the nursing positions you've held. These are often referred to as accelerated programs or accelerated BSN programs. You may be able to complete your bachelor's degree in nursing in as little as a year, depending on your prior education and work experience, in an accelerated BSN.

How a BSN degree can benefit your nursing career

BSN-educated nurses, on average, have more career opportunities than those with an ADN degree alone. Bachelor's level nursing education helps develop critical thinking skills and a deeper understanding of nursing theory and practice, preparing BSN students to address broader issues in case management and health promotion. Job opportunities expand beyond clinical work and may include leadership roles such as nurse manager or charge nurse.

Earning a bachelor's degree in nursing can also change the scope of the nursing jobs you do. Depending on your interests, you can focus on pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, hospice and palliative care, or other specializations. If you are interested in working outside of clinical practice, you can also focus your elective courses to prepare for a career in public health, research, or health care policy.

A BSN degree can also be a stepping stone to a higher salary. According to 2023 salary research, an RN with an ADN earns an average salary of about $76,000 per year.1 Average BSN salary is about $92,000 per year.2

Assess your personal aspirations and goals

Before embarking on a BSN program, it’s worthwhile to consider your personal and professional aspirations. Ask yourself questions about the current state of your career and what changes you would like to make in the coming years, such as:

  • Is my income sufficient to meet my needs?
  • Is my current schedule compatible with my personal and family life?
  • Do I want to move into a management or leadership role?
  • Do I want to specialize in a particular area of medicine?
  • Do I want to seek a certification such as a Nurse Practitioner license?
  • Does my current level of training allow me to work where I want to live?

    By measuring your personal and professional goals against your current training and job, you can decide if this is the right time to pursue a BSN.

    Evaluate the current nursing landscape

    There is a growing demand for BSN-prepared nurses. The Institute of Medicine (IOM)3 and the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice (NACNEP)4 have called for more nurses to hold four-year degrees. Some states require a BSN for all nurses. For example, New York State recently passed a measure requiring all new RNs to get continuing nursing education and receive a BSN within ten years of initial licensure.5

    Compare job opportunities with ADN and BSN degrees

    Many people begin their nursing careers by completing an ADN program and getting licensed as a registered nurse (RN). These qualifications allow nurses to provide direct care in various healthcare settings.

    An ADN degree with RN certification typically takes about two years to complete, and the cost is less than a four-year degree program, allowing nurses to avoid excessive student debt and start working more quickly.

    Careers for RNs with an ADN are fulfilling, but there may be limited job availability and opportunities for career advancement. Some health care systems require a four-year degree for nurses who want to work in management positions, and some organizations require a BSN for those who want to work in research or certain medical specialties. In 2023, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reported that 28% of employers require nurses to have a BSN, and 72% strongly prefer it.6

    Factors to consider in decision-making

    When choosing an educational program, it’s important to consider practical aspects, such as:

    Academic considerations

    Look at the overall program duration, the coursework requirements, and what the clinical practice requirements are.

    Financial considerations

    Find out the total cost, including tuition, extra fees, books, parking, and other expenses. Look into financial aid options such as scholarships, student loans, and employer tuition support programs. Compare the cost of your education to the potential salary differences and career opportunities after you graduate.

    Personal considerations

    Think about the weekly time commitment and schedule of different nursing programs you're considering to ensure you can accommodate school, family obligations, and work commitments.

    Seek guidance and advice

    Discussing your educational goals with others can help clarify your thinking. In addition to talking with close friends and family, you can contact colleagues, mentors, and advisors at BSN programs.

    Colleagues

    You can talk to your colleagues about the benefits of a BSN degree. If you work with nurses who have completed a BSN program, ask them to share their experience and how it affected their careers. They can also share recommendations for programs and classes.

    Mentors and supervisors

    You can also talk to your mentor or supervisor. They can offer advice about managing your schedule while taking classes. In addition, you can discuss what opportunities might be available when you finish your degree.

    Students and teachers

    If you are considering a particular program, contact the administration for more information. Ask to speak with current students or recent graduates about their experience. You may also be able to talk to teachers or academic advisors who can give you insight into the coursework.

    Other resources

    You can use online resources and career assessment tools to determine if a BSN is the next best step on your career path or if there is another direction you should consider.

    Make an informed decision

    There are many factors to consider before deciding whether a BSN program is the right choice for your career. Take the time to consider the pros and cons of the program, personal and family life, and your short- and long-term career goals. Ask questions about the program to ensure it's the right fit for you.

    Once you have weighed all these factors, you can decide whether a BSN is the best way to achieve your personal and professional goals.

    Advance your career with Oklahoma City University's online RN-BSN degree

    If you are an experienced registered nurse, the Kramer School of Nursing at Oklahoma City University can help you take your career to the next level in as little as one year with the online RN-BSN program. The flexible, affordable program designed for working adults offers the opportunity to learn from accomplished nurse faculty in small-size classes with peers who have professional experiences and values like yours. Because the program is designed for working registered nurses, there are no traditional clinical hours requirements.

    The OCU RN-BSN program can help you develop essential competencies in critical thinking and problem solving while increasing your knowledge of nursing theory, practice and research. If you’re ready to elevate your nursing career with OCU, contact an admissions outreach advisor today.

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