What to Know About Getting a BSN Degree: Common Courses and Requirements

Meg Lambrych, RN-BC
Updated May 24, 2024
Edited by
To receive a BSN degree, you must complete coursework, clinicals, and lab work. Learn more about BSN requirements in this guide.
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Group of nursing students wearing protective face masks back at school take notes while attending class lecture. Each individual is seated at their own desk due to Covid-19 social distancing regulations.Credit: Fly View Productions / E+ / Getty Images

A bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) is a popular and often preferred educational path to become a registered nurse (RN).

A BSN degree can expand opportunities for specialization, professional responsibility, and pay. But it requires substantial time and financial commitments. BSN programs also require you to complete several prerequisites before applying.

Learn about the common courses and other requirements for BSN programs. Exact prerequisites vary by school, so be sure to check with your program for specific requirements.

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Steps to Earning a BSN Degree

Upon deciding to become a nurse, there is an established track to follow that streamlines the process. As such, pursuing a BSN includes the following steps:

  1. Earn a high school diploma or GED certificate. Most require their students to have taken high school-level English, math, science, and social studies courses prior to acceptance.
  2. Apply and gain admission into an accredited four-year BSN program. It is critical that the academic institution is accredited. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) accredited nursing programs.
  3. Complete the undergraduate nursing program.
  4. Take and pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX). The NCLEX determines students’ ability to apply their medical knowledge and analyze nursing scenarios. The exam is broken down into four sections: safety and effective care environment, health promotion and maintenance, psychosocial integrity, and physiological integrity.
  5. Apply for licensure.
  6. Find employment.
  7. To maintain a nursing license as well as remain knowledgeable of the most recent nursing methods, pursuing additional education and training is crucial.

BSN Admission Requirements

While requirements for admittance into a BSN program can differ from school to school, the majority look for the same basic criteria. Therefore, when applying to nursing school, it is important to understand the entire application process.

Typically, the basic requirements include the following:

  • Cumulative GPA in high school or associate degree program of 2.75 or higher
  • GPA of 2.5 or higher for all science courses
  • Essay
  • References
  • CV or resume
  • Significant volunteer experience
  • Prior coursework in anatomy, biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, microbiology, physiology

To transfer credits from another university, schools tend to require a certain number of credits, usually in the area of 30-40.

After being admitted into an accredited academic institution, it is important to review the program’s curriculum to prepare for the coursework.

The BSN Degree Curriculum

The nursing school curriculum includes a variety of courses, ranging from the humanities to the sciences. While students must complete general education courses, their main focus is health science.

The specific courses students are required to take to earn a BSN will vary depending upon the academic institution, yet most programs cover the following classes:

  • Assessment of Health and Illness
  • Human Anatomy
  • Pharmacology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Health Maintenance and Restoration
  • Research in Nursing
  • Health Promotion and Risk Reduction
  • Mental Health
  • Reproductive Health
  • Statistics
  • Psychology
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Leadership and Management
  • Nursing Care I and II
  • Microbiology
  • Nursing Informatics

BSN Clinical Hours Requirements

Throughout their coursework, nursing students will participate in clinicals, putting into practice what they learned in the classroom through providing patient care and completing labs. The hours needed to complete a BSN program range from 300-700.

With many academic programs providing online options, nurses who take this route still need to complete in-person clinical hours. Online programs partner with institutions that can provide nursing students with the necessary experiences.

When completing clinicals, students work alongside registered nurses and learn about the common tasks associated with the position. These tasks include checking a patient’s vitals, performing assessments, and administering medication. Clinical requirements can vary depending on a nurse’s specialty and the courses they take.

Specialties such as diabetes management, oncology, dermatology, or geriatrics all require varying subsets of skills and different clinical experiences.

BSN Professional and Technical Requirements

Upon completing in-class work as well as clinicals, nurses should have met certain professional and technical requirements that allow them to effectively perform their duties. Necessary skills include the following:

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    Technical skills

    Nursing students are assessed in both their practice labs and clinical hours to ensure they can fully perform all of the necessary technical skills. These skills include checking vital signs, administering medication and IVs, and providing wound care.

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    Decision-making & critical thinking requirements

    Critical thinking is crucial for clinical nursing, as the nurse is responsible for providing effective patient care. Nursing students’ abilities to measure, reason, calculate, and analyze information will allow them to successfully treat their patients.

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    Observation abilities

    Nurses need to accurately observe the patient so they can assess their condition and identify signs of disease. They must also recognize if a patient is at risk of deterioration, determine the impact of any changes in a patient’s condition, and make objective observations.

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    Good communication

    Successful communication allows nurses to effectively talk to patients, doctors, and family members. Nurses must utilize both verbal and nonverbal language, written communication, and active listening when interacting with those involved in a patient’s treatment.

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    Social requirements

    Maintaining strong emotional and mental health allows nurses to exercise their best clinical judgment. Having a sympathetic mindset and knowing the best way to interact with different types of people allows nurses to develop important relationships with their patients.

BSN Requirements: Frequently Asked Questions

A BSN stands for a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). A BSN degree is one educational path you can take to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam and become a registered nurse (RN).

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