Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) Programs

A Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing Degree program is currently one of the most popular tracks to becoming a nurse. Combining practice and theory, the courses teach you everything you need to know about models, concepts, and principles of patient care, as well as how to apply the nursing process in a variety of medical settings.

After earning this certification, you will have a wide array of career opportunities and high-paying positions at your disposal, and also a solid foundation for continuing your education towards advanced nursing practice. Often an extremely demanding but also incredibly rewarding career, working as a nurse begins with choosing from the different degree programs available. One of these choices is the BSN track. To see if this certification is the right option for your nursing future, read the comprehensive guide below.

Who is this program for?

The conventional and widely-known Bachelor of Science in Nursing program was designed for undergraduate students who want to earn their RN license and practice as a nurse generalist. If you want to receive specialized instruction from trained professionals, learn the key aspects of nursing and master skills like leadership, communication, and critical thinking, this program is the perfect fit for you.

Even if you are already working as a registered nurse or you have a Bachelor’s Degree in another discipline other than healthcare, you can still apply for a BSN program. The completion of these studies will make you eligible for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which will allow you to practice and land the job you desire. Your academic history is important, but it is not the ultimately determining factor as to whether or not you are qualified for the program.

If you’re interested in practicing in a variety of environments (from intense care units to home care and management), you should pursue a BSN. If you are worried about finding a job after finishing your studies or want to eventually expand your role in this profession, you should apply for a BSN. Similarly, if you know that you would like to move up the ladder and obtain a leadership or management position in the future or you are passionate about advanced nursing (with plans to become a nurse anesthetist, midwife, educator or nurse executive), you should study for a BSN.

If you don’t want to worry about future legislations (or having to go back to school for a Bachelor’s Degree to “upgrade” your qualifications), then a BSN is a reliable and hassle-free choice. Lastly, if you are considering joining an online program to begin your career in nursing, a BSN track is a simple, convenient and resourceful option.

What can a BSN do for you?

Obtaining your BSN is the best decision you can make for your nursing career. Of course, if your goal is a certain job position that only requires a diploma or an ADN, then you might not need one right away. But you will have to earn a Bachelor’s Degree eventually, and it is better to do it sooner rather than later, if your schedule and resources allow. But what exactly do you gain from this in terms of your career and job prospects? After all, you will be studying for 4 years or more. What are the benefits of a BSN program?

You will learn more and gain more experience from the curriculum:

A nursing diploma and an Associate’s Degree are both sharp programs with useful coursework, but a BSN track offers more knowledge, more classes with extensive information, additional clinical hours and, consequently, more experience, as well as more emphasis on management, communication and leadership skills.

You will offer more efficient patient care:

According to The American Association of the Colleges of Nursing (AACN), nurses with a BSN offer better and safer medical care, are associated with an up to 11% decrease in patient mortality in hospital units and are generally viewed as more qualified or equipped to meet the nation’s healthcare needs.

You will earn more money:

If you are a registered nurse (RN), you are looking at an average salary of around $40,000. However, earning a BSN will boost your income to $70,000 or more, depending on the job and specialization you pursue. This means that in the long run, an all-inclusive Bachelor’s Degree will do more for you financially and professionally (as it opens up more opportunities).

You will be eligible for additional job positions:

Earning a BSN will allow you to apply for a wide range of high-end jobs that would otherwise not be available to you. You might feel content working the floor for a few years, but you might also be pulled to advance to different roles or career branches in time. A BSN will come in very handy if you do.

You will gain access to exclusive specializations:

There are several specializations, particularly in advanced nursing practice, which you will not be able to apply for unless you have a BSN. These include the title of nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, executive roles or other high-end positions in midwifery, anesthesia and management.

You will save yourself trouble in the future:

In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published a mandate that warrants increasing the number of BSN holders to 80% by 2020. This means that nurses (RNs, ADN holders, and workers with diplomas) hired in hospitals are strongly recommended to earn a BSN in the coming three years. Even if you decide to pursue different certification now, eventually you will need to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree.

You don’t have to struggle as much to get it:

Just a few years ago, earning a BSN was no easy task – the time, inflexible schedule, intensive coursework and strict deadlines would exhaust even the most brilliant of students. However, nowadays there are a multitude of options and alternatives (if you have a job, if you can’t attend on-campus classes, if you don’t afford to invest heaps of money). In fact, joining an online program solves many of the issues prospective students have with a conventional track. It is no longer as hard or nearly impossible to obtain this certification whoever you are and whatever academic background you have.

What do you need for the program?

Most BSN programs require up to 60 semester hours of general education courses, as well as a grade of minimum for each of these classes. You also need to pass the Assessment Technologies Institute Test of Essential Academic Skills (ATI TEAS) and submit your official score report before you are admitted. The minimum score required to pass is 65%, but if your score is older than 2 years, it will not be recognized, and you need to take the test again. Also, you will need to complete 6 hours’ worth of electives. Please note that you cannot use nursing courses, certificate courses, technical or vocational courses as electives.

Depending on the college or university you choose, there will be a wide range of prerequisites needed for admission. The high school courses required include English (4 years), physics (1 year), social studies (3 years), biology (1 year), chemistry (1 year), algebra and geometry. If English is not your first language, you must pass the TOEFL exam (Test Of English as a Foreign Language).

You also need prerequisites from a regional accredited college. These include social science (social issues, human development and behavior, psychology), world language, natural science (fundamentals of human anatomy and physiology, nursing microbiology, general chemistry, nutrition and health, introduction to animal biology and physics (if you haven’t studied it in high school) and general education (visual and performance arts, literature, global issues, values, society and diversity).

When it comes to your application, you need a minimum GPA of 3.0 and a score report of your HESI A2 entrance exam. In addition, you have to submit a résumé, a personal statement, two letters of recommendation and official copies of your transcripts and GRE scores. You must pass your drug screening test and have a mandatory criminal background check done, as well as provide proof of your Basic Life Support CPR certification and your immigration status (if necessary). Lastly, you need to go through various immunization screenings.

What will you learn?

The coursework and clinical hours will prepare you for a lifelong career in nursing and help you learn how to provide quality, holistic patient care for individuals of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Additionally, a BSN track will improve your decision-making skills, teach you how to manage stress and work under pressure, develop management and leadership skills, and master the basics of effective communication. You will learn alongside other dedicated future nurses and work side-by-side with healthcare colleagues, mentors, and reliable professionals both in medical facilities and outpatient settings.

The core curriculum of most BSN programs typically involves up to 130 credit hours, which include science, nursing, and liberal arts classes. To finalize your studies, you require a minimum of 50 credits from upper division courses. You will learn medical procedures, public healthcare, pharmacology, nutrition, chemical biology, human development, evidence-based policy, patient care, basic statistics, nursing management and leadership in the community. You will also attend clinical rotations in hospitals, high-tech laboratories or medical facilities to improve your practice and gain hands-on experience with patient interaction, care, and health assessment. You will be assigned a mentor or professional who will supervise and guide you through your clinical work.

Here are the main courses you will attend if you join a BSN program:

  • Nursing Care
  • Foundations of the Practice
  • Anatomy & Physiology
  • Molecular View of Biology
  • Aging in Health and Illness
  • Care of the Complex, Acutely Ill Adult and Older Adult
  • First Aid for Health Care Providers
  • Care of the Perioperative Patient
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Psychiatric/Mental Health
  • Process Change in the Community
  • Public Health Nursing
  • Issues and Ethics
  • Parents and Neonates in Health and Illness
  • Global Health Practicum
  • Nursing Management
  • Health Maintenance and Restoration
  • Assessment of Health and Illness
  • Transition into Professional Nursing Practice

How long does the program last?

A typical BSN program includes six semesters and takes 3 to 4 years to complete. In this time you will attend theoretical classes (unless you’re involved in distance learning), clinical rotations and examinations, most of which take place in the morning or the afternoon on weekdays. Keep in mind that this time reference is only valid for full-time students. If you want to attend the university part-time, then that means you will have a longer completion time until you can earn your license and work.

There are other options available if the length of the program is too great. You can look for a specific school that only asks for 3 years. You can search for an online course that is less demanding and allows more flexibility in your schedule, or you can join an accelerated program and earn your degree in as little as 12 months. You should also take into account that there might be a waitlist. These are somewhat common and inconvenient nowadays and might even force you to reapply in the following quarter. Moreover, your waitlist status does not carry over to this period. Typically you will receive an answer (most likely via email) regarding your admission four to six weeks after the application deadline.

Are clinical hours needed for this program?

Depending on the university or school, clinical hour requirements can range anywhere between 900 and 1,600 hours. Generally speaking, you should have three clinical hours for every one hour of classes. These rotations will involve learning how to apply theoretical concepts, assisting or performing nursing procedures, directly interacting with patients, relatives, and families of all backgrounds (if you are assigned a hospital and not a lab or healthcare facility associated with your school) and practicing under a supervisor who can provide specialized instruction and mentorship.

What if you don’t want to be a general RN?

A BSN track is broad, pragmatic and useful, but you might be worried that you won’t be able to practice your dream job with it. Maybe you’re interested in dermatology, chronic diseases or helping cancer patients. Or the specialization you’re after is not covered extensively or at all in the curriculum. Don’t worry – there are several workarounds or options for you so that you end up working in the job you want. One of them is to pursue a Master’s of Science in Nursing program after you finish your initial studies and choose your desired specialty. It involves more hours and effort, but it is time well-spent that will strengthen your knowledge and make you an expert in your field.

Another option is to check if you already qualified for the job position you’re interested in. For instance, a BSN degree prepares and makes you eligible for advanced nursing practice, including disciplines like anesthesia, management or midwifery. If being a nurse generalist does not appeal to you, then you can look for a BSN program that offers functional clinical training in the subject area you are passionate about. Again, this will require additional hours (which you will carry out during your studies or at a post-bachelor’s level), but it will be a worthy investment. You can end up working in genetics, dermatology, diabetes management and holistic nursing or become an oncology nurse, an orthopedic nurse, a geriatric nurse or an obstetrical nurse.

Are there any online options?

There are various reasons why you might want to earn your degree online. If you pursue this type of program, you will be trained by a certified nursing instructor in the same curriculum available for students of the traditional BSN track. Additionally, you will benefit from coursework personalized and more attuned to your academic goals and learning skills. You will also have a more unrestricted schedule if you’re worried about family life, you have other responsibilities or a job to balance along with your studies.

With the growing demand for nurses, today’s employers are much more open-minded towards alternative methods of furthering your education and some will even prioritize a potential worker enrolled in an online program instead of a traditional one because it allows more flexibility and presence for the job. Not only do these certifications no longer carry misconceptions and stigmas around them, but they have also established a strong reputation amongst professionals. This is in part due to the fact that many of the online programs on the market are put forth by renowned universities and colleges that also have conventional tracks for prospective nurses. Whatever obstacles you may have had in finally enrolling in a BSN program will essentially be erased by an online opportunity.

Online studies for a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing will teach you everything about nursing training, community health, case management, leadership, and nursing education. Here are some of the most distinguished institutions that offer this type of program:

  • University of Wisconsin
  • Indiana State University
  • Marian University
  • University of Cincinnati
  • University of Alabama
  • Western Governors University
  • North Dakota State University
  • Arizona State University
  • University of South Carolina
  • Concordia University
  • Ohio State University
  • Michigan State University
  • University of Denver

How much will the program cost?

A traditional BSN program usually costs $15,000 per year if you are a state resident. If you are an out-of-state student, then the prices go up to around $45,000 every year. Online alternatives can range between $9,000 and $15,000, but you can always choose a less expensive option if finances are an issue. You will also have to pay an application fee, a clinical lab fee, student health insurance and other necessities (uniforms, lab equipment and supplies, parking, leaning resources, practicum insurance, preparation materials, required immunizations, CPR certifications, criminal background check, drug screens, and physical examinations). These fees are non-refundable and may be altered every year.

What about accreditation?

If you are enrolled in a conventional, on-campus program, most likely you don’t have to worry about accreditation. However, you should still be aware of the main organizations that can provide legitimate authorization to protect yourself from potential scams. This is particularly important if you are planning to join an online BSN track. Make sure you look into the agency, university or school’s history and check if they have received accreditation from any of the following institutions: The Accreditation Commission For Education in Nursing (ACEN), The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), The American College of Nurse-Midwives Division of Accreditation (ACNM) or The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA).

Where can you work with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing?

A BSN will allow you to work in medical facilities, hospitals, clinics, intensive care units, physicians’ offices, outpatient settings, universities and in other healthcare organizations. For a quick overview of the job positions available if you earn a BSN, take a look at the list below:

  • Nurse
  • Surgical Nurse
  • Staff Nurse
  • District Nurse
  • Critical Care Nurse
  • Emergency Room Nurse
  • Oncology Nurse
  • Pediatric Nurse
  • Psychiatric Nurse
  • Obstetric and Gynecological Nurse
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Clinical Care Leader
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Acute Care Nurse
  • ICU Nurse
  • Hospice Nurse
  • Outpatient Care Nurse
  • Midwife Nurse
  • Clinical Nurse Educator
  • Industrial Nurse
  • Toxicology or Forensic Nurse
  • Genetics Nurse
  • Research Nurse
  • Holistic Nurse
  • Nurse Case Manager
  • School Nurse
  • Nursing Informatics Specialist
  • Dialysis Nurse
  • Occupational Health Nurse
  • Public Health Nurse
  • Pharmaceutical Nurse
  • Dermatological Nurse
  • Travel Nurse

How much can you earn with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing?

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the average salary for a registered nurse (RN) was $66,620 in 2014, whereas the average for an RN with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing was $75,484. As a BSN holder, you will earn a minimum of $59,725 per year (with less than one year of experience) and a maximum of $83,007 (for over two decades of experience).