What is an RN-to-BSN Degree?
Holding a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) allows a registered nurse (RN) to pursue management positions and other roles with greater responsibility than a nurse can obtain without a bachelor’s degree. Earning a BSN can open new career opportunities in popular specialties, such as emergency room and intensive care, hospice and palliative care, pediatrics, cardiac care, and neurology. BSNs may also become a certified registered nurse anesthetist, a nurse midwife, a labor and delivery nurse, or a researcher. Some nurses choose to pursue an RN to MSN program instead; this program takes longer to complete, but allows working nurses to proceed straight through the training necessary to earn a master’s degree, which opens up even more career options.
Over the past decade, the number of nurses seeking an RN-to-BSN degree has increased as nurses strive to maintain and advance their careers. This shift can be attributed to an increasing demand for improving the level of care and safety in hospitals. In 2010, the Institute of Medicine recommended that at least 80% of RNs should have a BSN by 2020. This decision followed studies which showed nurses with BSNs produced better patient outcomes and reduced patient mortality rates overall. Many professional organizations, including the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, American Organization of Nurse Executives, and American Nurses Association, also support making a BSN the minimum degree for practicing nurses.
RN-to-BSN programs typically feature hands-on clinical experiences and training in making quick treatment decisions. These programs also focus on interacting with others, both as an aspect of patient care and as a member of a healthcare team. BSN programs also offer training in management skills. Most people pursuing a BSN are practicing nurses who can gain some of this experience on the job. Fortunately, working nurses can choose from a variety of online RN-to-BSN programs to earn a degree without putting their career on hold.
What Can You Do with an Online RN-to-BSN?
- Flight Nurse: A flight nurse assists ill or injured patients during air travel, when they require fast transportation to another location for proper care. Flight nurses typically must earn certifications in areas such as basic life support, advanced cardiac life support, pediatric advanced life support, or advanced trauma. Their duties include monitoring the patient’s vital signs, administering medications, treating wounds, and performing life support procedures. Earning a BSN provides the training necessary to pursue this critical care position.
- Labor and Delivery Nurse: Labor and delivery nurses work in a hospital’s maternity department. They care for pregnant patients who are in labor and giving birth, and assist the doctors before, during, and after delivery. These nurses monitor patients’ vital signs and contractions, administer medications, assist with epidural and cesarean procedures, and help care for newborns immediately after birth. Hospitals prefer candidates with a BSN for this specialized, high-pressure position.
- Staff Nurse: Most staff nurses care for patients in hospitals or long-term care facilities. They often manage other nursing staff members, create work schedules, and oversee patient care. Staff nurses assess patients’ conditions, keep treatment records, and administer medications and other treatments. Due to its high level of responsibility, most employers prefer an experienced nurse with a bachelor’s degree.
- Nurse Midwife: Nurse midwives typically work for hospitals or obstetrician/gynecologists’ offices, and sometimes practice in private homes. They examine patients; counsel them about fertility, family planning, and pregnancy; provide prenatal care for pregnant patients; and keep treatment records. Nurse midwives often assist with delivering babies, either in a hospital, a birthing facility, or in a patient’s home. The educational requirements depend on state laws, but most nurse midwives must hold a BSN.
Common Employers for Professionals with an RN-to-BSN
Hospitals: Nurses care for patients throughout the hospital. Many hospitals now require RNs to earn a BSN, as studies show that patient outcomes improve when the nursing staff is more highly educated. Nurses generally need a BSN to manage others or work in specialized departments, such as intensive care, the emergency room, or labor and delivery.
Long-Term Care Clinics: RNs care for elderly or disabled patients in nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, assisted living residences, and other long-term care facilities. They monitor patient health, administer medication, and may assist patients with daily activities, such as bathing and dressing. RNs may also help inform the patient’s family members about the patient’s condition. An RN with a BSN may supervise other nurses who perform these tasks.
Schools: A school nurse assesses students’ injuries and illnesses, administers first aid, and may perform routine examinations of students’ vision, hearing, or other conditions. Earning a BSN allows an RN to meet the National Association of School Nurses’ standards, which recommend that a school nurse must hold a bachelor’s degree at minimum. School nurses must sometimes make emergency medical decisions without a doctor’s presence, and a BSN prepares RNs for this responsibility more effectively than an associate degree.
Salaries for Professionals with an RN-to-BSN
Salary Potential for an RN-to-BSN
|Entry-Level (0-5 Years)||Mid-Career (5-10 Years)||Experienced (10-20 Years)||Late-Career (20+ Years)|
|Labor and Delivery Nurse||$56,000||$63,000||$69,000||$76,000|
Is an Online RN-to-BSN Program the Right Choice for Me?
If you already work as an RN, a BSN can help you advance your nursing career. Completing an RN-to-BSN program creates a path to enter specialties which require advanced education, such as nurse anesthesia, research, midwifery, or labor and delivery. Fortunately, in-person and online RN-to-BSN programs cater to students who already work as nurses full time.
You need strong self-discipline and commitment to balance your school work effectively with your work schedule and other personal obligations, especially if you enroll in an online program. You must submit your coursework on time and earn satisfactory grades to succeed. If you are a self-motivated person who can dedicate yourself to your studies, an RN-to-BSN program may suit your career goals.
Getting Your Degree Online
- Accessibility: Online degrees make education accessible to people who cannot easily attend classes in person. You can complete an RN-to-BSN program online, with no need to physically commute to a college campus. Students can access online lectures and other study materials from anywhere with an internet connection.
- Flexibility: Completing a RN-to-BSN program online allows students to study on their own schedule. You must complete assignments within a given timeframe, but you can choose to arrange your coursework around your job commitments. Nurses who work irregular hours, including night and weekend shifts, may find this especially beneficial.
- School Options: The distance from a student’s home to a college campus makes no difference when the student enrolls in an online program. Distance learning gives you the freedom to choose the program that suits you best, anywhere in the country. If your program requires you to complete clinical hours or internships, online BSN programs often help you find an approved facility near you.
- Diversity: Pursuing an online nursing degree enables you to interact with students from many different backgrounds who come from other parts of the world. This expansive networking opportunity may help you find more employment options when you graduate. Studying with a diverse student body also provides valuable opportunities to practice the interpersonal communication skills nurses need.
- Technology: Technology connects students in online RN-to-BSN programs with their faculty members and classmates. Schools deliver their course materials online, and you submit completed assignments and tests electronically. Most online college platforms allow you to interact with professors and fellow students through message boards where class discussions occur. Universities frequently offer additional online benefits, including digital library resources, tutoring, writing labs, and academic advising.
Admissions Requirements for an Online RN-to-BSN
Admission requirements vary from school to school, but most RN-to-BSN online programs share basic criteria. These programs are aimed at students who currently work as RNs, so applicants must hold an active, unencumbered RN license in their state. Due to the nature of the program, schools may also request documentation, including immunization records, a drug screening, a criminal background check, current CPR certification, and proof of health insurance. You must also hold an associate degree in nursing, or a nursing diploma. Programs typically require a minimum GPA of between 2.5 and 3.0 from the student’s previous schooling, particularly in science and nursing prerequisite courses, and they may request standardized test scores. Your amount of clinical experience is also an asset.
Accredited Online RN-to-BSN Programs
Before you enroll, it’s important to ensure you only consider accredited online RN-to-BSN programs so that you know you’re making a worthwhile investment in your future. Accreditation means the program’s curriculum and admissions policies have been evaluated and declared satisfactory by experts from a recognized accreditation organization. Your future employers, licensing bodies, and any other schools you may wish to attend later need to see this stamp of approval. If you attend an unaccredited program, then you cannot prove that you received a quality education.
Two major accreditation organizations oversee U.S. nursing programs: the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. As you compare RN-to-BSN online programs, make sure to check if each school is accredited by one or both of these organizations.
What to Expect from an Online RN-to-BSN Program
About the Program
RN-to-BSN programs online allow working RNs to complete their BSNs while still working full time. A bachelor’s degree typically consists of 120 credits, but an RN-to-BSN program is for students who already hold an associate degree. This means a student usually enters the program with 60 or more credits already completed. Students with significant professional nursing experience may also be eligible to test out of some classes and receive credit for them, though such policies vary from school to school.
Many accredited RN-to-BSN online programs take 1-2 years of full-time study to complete. The programs which only take one year to complete are typically accelerated programs with a more demanding workload. Most students complete a full-time program in 3-4 semesters. Part-time students may need three years or more to complete the same programs, depending on how many courses they enroll in each semester.
Typical Curriculum for an Online RN-to-BSN
Online RN-to-BSN programs prepare nurses for a new phase in their careers. Many nurses who enter these programs are seeking jobs with more responsibility, including leadership roles which entail managing other nurses and medical staff. In such a position, their responsibilities may include assessing a patient’s condition and making quick healthcare decisions. They also must research conditions and interact with technology, such as electronic patient records. To prepare nurses to take on these new responsibilities, online BSN programs typically include courses on topics such as role transition to professional nursing, management and leadership, nursing research, health assessment, legal and ethical issues, informatics, and community health.
In addition to these courses, online nursing degrees often require students to complete clinical hours, possibly in the form of a practicum, internship, or capstone project. Many programs help students find an approved facility nearby where they can complete these requirements. Your own work experience as a nurse may satisfy some or all of the clinical requirements. The program’s required courses and hands-on experience that prepare students to provide high-quality patient care and lead others on their healthcare team to do the same.