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What is a BSN Nursing Degree?

What is a BSN Nursing Degree?

Continuing our exploration of different pathways toward fulfilling the dream of becoming a nurse, I dedicate the April blog to the topic: what is a BSN nursing degree. Questions often asked by those either interested in learning more about nursing, or those considering a career in nursing are, “what does BSN mean” “what is the difference between RN and BSN”, “what are the benefits of earning a BSN”, and “is a BSN right for me”. As I think about how to answer those questions regarding a BSN degree, I realize the distinction between levels of education and types of nursing licensure may not be clear to some.

What Does BSN Mean?

The BSN stands for a Baccalaureate of Science in Nursing degree. It is also commonly referred to as a Bachelors in Nursing. It is an undergraduate level of education that is often pursued by registered nurses who have graduated from Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or diploma programs. Nurses often continue their education and earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree in order to fulfill their personal and/or career goals and increase their earning potential. Ottawa University’s RN to BSN program is designed for the current RN who is ready to advance his or her career in nursing and make a difference in the health care field

What is the Difference Between RN and BSN?

As you consider the degrees you need to become a nurse, it is crucial to know the difference between RN and BSN. The central point to remember about RN vs BSN is that a Registered Nurse is the licensure allowed by the state you practice in while the Baccalaureate of Science in Nursing is the level of education you earn. Let’s break this down further.

  • RN

Becoming an RN, or Registered Nurse, is a type of nursing licensure, A Registered Nurse obtains licensure upon graduation from a state board approved nursing program, generally either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, and then passing the NCLEX. There are a few state board of nursing-approved diploma programs still open in the U.S., and a diploma program remains eligible for NCLEX-RN examination upon completion.

The diploma program model is the original U.S. nursing education program model, a hospital based, clinically focused two-three year program, with eligibility for RN licensure upon graduation and NCLEX examination pass. The ADN is typically a two-year classroom and clinically focused nursing program, with prerequisite courses in such areas as English, Algebra, Anatomy & Physiology, and Microbiology, for admission eligibility. The ADN program may also require a Certified Nurse Assistant certificate for admission.

  • BSN

On the other hand, the BSN, or Baccalaureate of Science in Nursing degree, is a level of higher education as explained previously. A nurse’s credentials include both the level of education achieved, and the level of nurse licensure. For example, credentials of BSN, RN indicate a bachelor level of education and the RN licensure through successful completion of the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses) examination.

The BSN pre-licensure program is generally a four-year program, (120) total credit hours, with many programs offering admission to the final two-year curriculum after completion of all liberal arts sciences and nursing prerequisite courses. Historically, holding a bachelor’s degree brings the professional respect and status to the nurse as a member of an interdisciplinary team.

What are the Benefits of Earning A BSN?

The sentinel 2011 “Future of Nursing” report (Institute of Medicine, 2011), and the follow-up 2021 “Future of Nursing 2020-30” report (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine) paved the way going forward for an all-BSN nursing workforce. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) (2022) highlights research which points to the link between improved quality healthcare outcomes and the BSN nursing workforce.

There is no doubt that obtaining a BSN degree offers several advantages. Nurse Journal lists ten benefits of earning a BSN degree, which include:

  1. higher salary potential on average about $16,000 more potential per year
  2. expanded job opportunities including leadership and supervisory, specialty area, and clinical nurse educator roles
  3. enhanced career advancement opportunities due to the ability to specialize in specific areas such as pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, and hospice care. 
  4. advanced knowledge gained from experienced nursing faculty
  5. advanced employment opportunities at facilities requiring the BSN
  6. higher quality patient care outcomes including lower medication error and lower mortality rates
  7. greater access to employment within a Magnet hospital, with all the benefits and opportunities a Magnet organization offers
  8. meeting future trends of nursing requirements of the Bachelors of Science in Nursing as the minimum level of education for entry into nursing practice
  9. greater access to online nursing programs with the virtual world now a reality
  10. a bridge to a higher degree, such as a Master’s of Science in Nursing, which opens the possibility of a broader array of nursing roles and employment possibilities

Is Nursing Right for Me?

So, how do you know if nursing is right for you? If you are considering pursuing a BSN, I encourage you to take a moment and reflect. One way to do so is to use a decision-making model as a guide. One such tool, the OODA Loop, or better known as the OODA, is used in complex, high information overload situations. What is the OODA, you might ask? It stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. When adapted to nursing, the OODA Loop is perfect because of the complex and high information overload germane to the role of a nurse. When evaluating if the BSN is the right path for you, try out the OODA Loop.

Unique RN to MSN Option

Keep in mind that, a “layer-cake” progression, as a nurse colleague once called the process of beginning as an LPN or ADN, then the BSN, might be the best path for some students. The RN-BSN and RN-MSN programs, both offered by Ottawa University, provide for a progressive educational journey.  

OU’s accelerated online RN-MSN program is designed for RNs who have graduated from an accredited program. A current, unrestricted RN license obtained in the U.S. is required. The fully online RN-to-MSN program can help students fulfill career goals and increase their overall earning potential. This unique program was designed for busy professionals who need a flexible schedule with the added option of accelerating their learning. Our graduates will be empowered as servant leaders in the nursing profession as they improve health outcomes for individuals, families, and communities in a wide variety of settings.

Additionally, we allow students to tailor their MSN degree to meet their specific career goals by selecting one of two concentrations:

Start Your Online Nursing Program Today!

If you are interested in expanding your nursing opportunities, consider earning an online nursing degree at Ottawa University. We provide a world-class nursing education and the flexibility that working nurses need. Learn more about our online nursing degree programs or request more info today!

See Also:

What Degree Do I Need to Be a Nurse

Is Nursing the Right Career for Me

How Do I Become a Nurse


American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2019). The impact of education on nursing practice [Fact sheet].

Shalala, D., Bolton, L. B., Bleich, M. R., Brennan, T. A., Campbell, R., & Devlin, L. (2011). The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health. Washington DC: The National Academy Press. doi10, 12956.

Wakefield, M., Williams, D. R., & Le Menestrel, S. (2021). The future of nursing 2020-2030: Charting a path to achieve health equity. National Academy of Sciences.

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