RN-to-BSN Degree Overview

NurseJournal Staff
Updated May 23, 2023
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    Licensed registered nurses can expand their career options by earning a bachelor of science in nursing. Use this guide to explore types of RN-to-BSN programs, admission requirements, and salary prospects.
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    Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

    A female Filipino nurse is sitting down at her laptop to study. She is wearing scrubs and a stethoscope. She is smiling at the camera. Image credit: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty ImagesCredit: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images

    Average Program Length

    9-24 months

    Average Credits Required

    120 including previously earned credit

    Average Earning Potential


    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    Opportunities With a BSN

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      Good career mobility

      Most administrative and supervisory positions require a BSN.

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      Path to advancement

      Grants entry to master’s or doctoral nursing programs, leading to career advancement and higher salaries.

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      Job potential

      With a BSN, a range of specialized nursing jobs outside of the traditional floor nursing is available.

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      Skills learned

      Clinical and leadership skills, Case management, Community participation, Nursing care of children and adults

    Popular Online RN-to-BSN Programs

    Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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    Careers For RN-to-BSN Graduates

    Registered Nurse

    RNs focus on health promotion and patient education. RNs may check vital signs, take patient histories, administer diagnostic tests, and perform procedures such as drawing blood, performing skin and wound care, and monitoring IV medications.

    • Salary: $73,300*
    • Job Outlook: 7% increase from 2019-2029
    Learn More About Registered Nurses

    Geriatric Nurse

    Geriatric nurses provide patient care that addresses the unique needs of the aging population. They care for patients with medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, dementia, osteoporosis, and mobility limitations.

    • Salary: $64,870*
    • Job Outlook: Positive Growth in Coming Years
    Learn More About Geriatric Nurses

    OB/GYN Nurse

    OB/GYN nurses work with expectant mothers before, during, and after labor and delivery. They assist obstetricians and gynecologists to provide a variety of patient services for females during the childbearing years.

    • Salary: $60,000*
    • Job Outlook: 7% increase from 2019-2029
    Learn More About OB/GYN Nurses

    Travel Nurse

    Travel nurses perform general RN duties in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare sites across the United States, often providing services in underserved areas. Most U.S. placements run between 1-3 months; overseas contracts require a 1-2 year commitment.

    • Salary: $79,000*
    • Job Outlook: 7% increase from 2019-2029
    Learn More About Travel Nurses

    Neonatal Nurse

    Neonatal nurses provide care to critically ill newborns, monitor premature or sick infants, and educate and comfort parents and families. Working in neonatal intensive care units, these RNs take care of newborns for a few days to several months.

    • Salary: $60,797*
    • Job Outlook: 7% increase from 2019-2029
    Learn More About Neonatal Nurses

    *Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale

    How Much Will I Make With a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing?

    Hourly Salary

    Monthly Salary

    Annual Salary

    *Source: Payscale.com

    Steps to Obtaining an RN-to-BSN Degree

    1. 1

      Determine If You Qualify

      Eligibility requirements for RN-to-BSN programs vary by school, but all applicants should hold a state-issued RN license in good standing.

    2. 2

      Find RN-to-BSN Program

      After deciding which factors are important to you in a school, use our degree finder to find programs that fit your criteria.

    3. 3

      Apply to BSN Programs

      Common application requirements include transcripts, an essay, references, CV or resume, volunteer experience, and prior coursework.

    4. 4

      Secure Funding for BSN Programs

      There are many ways to finance your degree, including financial aid, grants, scholarships, and loans.

    5. 5

      Attend RN-to-BSN Classes

      Complete the required courses and obtain clinical hours to get hands-on experience. Learn how to work independently with your own patients.

    6. 6

      Graduate with a BSN

      Congrats on earning your degree! Now you can take the NCLEX-RN and become a registered nurse (RN), or continue your education and get your MSN.

    Benefits of an RN-to-BSN Degree

    The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), hospitals, and other employers increasingly view the BSN degree as the minimal preparation for professional nursing practice. As nursing roles expand in the changing healthcare environment, registered nurses with BSN degrees will find rewarding employment opportunities in an array of medical settings.

    The RN-to-BSN requires about half the time as a traditional bachelor of science in nursing and builds on already acquired nursing experience and training. This type of program can often be completed entirely online. An RN-to-BSN also provides a strong academic foundation for graduate studies in advanced practice nursing.

    While hospitals continue to rank among the major employers of RNs, BSN-holders can expect to enter a variety of nursing roles beyond traditional inpatient treatment and acute care. The RN-to-BSN opens up careers in community health clinics, outpatient centers, HMOs, schools, and homecare, where professionals provide primary and preventive patient care.

    Admission Requirements for an RN-to-BSN Program

    Although eligibility requirements vary by school, all RN-to-BSN programs only admit applicants who hold a state-issued RN license in good standing. Most programs take 1-2 years to complete. Students with an RN license who have completed their associate degree in nursing may choose to enter accelerated bridge programs, therefore finishing their degree in 9-12 months depending on the number of prerequisites accepted in transfer.

    • Minimum 3.0 GPA in previously completed courses
    • Official transcripts
    • Prerequisites in statistics and science
    • 2-3 letters of recommendation
    • Personal statement and resume
    • Criminal background check and vaccination records

    Core Concepts in an RN-to-BSN Program

    While an ADN or diploma program emphasizes entry-level nursing skills in preparation for the NCLEX-RN exam, the BSN provides a foundation in general education courses from across the liberal arts and sciences coupled with training in generalist nursing with applications in a variety of healthcare settings. The RN-to-BSN curriculum covers advanced nursing competencies not typically offered in associate or diploma programs.

    In addition to foundational courses in anatomy and physiology, chemistry, microbiology, and pharmacology, BSN students can expect coursework in the following areas:

    • Health Assessment and Communication
    • Nursing Theory
    • Management and Leadership
    • Evidence-Based Practice and Applied Nursing Research
    • Community Health
    • Population-Focused Nursing

    While most programs focus on generalist practice, some programs offer content in specialized areas such as nursing informatics, sociocultural issues in health and illness, and forensic nursing.

    Clinical and Lab Components in an RN-to-BSN Program

    Besides the didactic, lecture-based curriculum offered by RN-to-BSN programs, this program may include practical training in clinical and lab components:

    • Simulation Labs: Clinical experiences designed to teach various skills and procedures in low-free environments
    • Clinicals: Closely supervised hands-on field experiences that teach patient care skills, caring for communities, implementing evidence-based practice and health promotion interventions

    Working nurses completing an RN-to-BSN program can often meet these clinical requirements in their current work setting.

    What to Expect From an Online RN-to-BSN Program

    An online RN-to-BSN degree offers a flexible option for RNs seeking a bachelor’s degree while working full-time and/or keeping up with family responsibilities. Before choosing an online program, nursing students need to consider whether distance learning fits their personal needs and situation.

    For example, some online programs include mandatory on-campus sessions or use blended formats incorporating some campus-based courses. While online nursing education offers convenient and accessible virtual delivery of the didactic, classroom-based segment of the degree, all students must complete clinical hours in person. Some programs allow RNs to fulfill clinical requirements where they work or find placements near their communities. However, some nursing schools require online learners to complete their clinical experiences at specific hospitals or sites requiring travel that may not be convenient.

    Nursing Bridge Programs: How Do They Work?

    Bridge programs refer to accelerated instructional plans that provide a quick route to a nursing degree. Bridge programs generally allow working or prospective nurses to build on prior coursework to earn a higher-level degree. RN-to-BSN bridge programs accept RNs with a valid license and an associate degree or nursing diploma. This degree path leads to a bachelor’s in half the time of a traditional BSN. ADN-to-MSN bridge programs offer an accelerated path to an MSN degree and a career in advanced practice nursing.

    Students without a BSN who want to pursue nursing can also take advantage of bridge programs. An accelerated BSN designed for non-nursing degree-holders requires less than two years of study. The direct-entry MSN takes approximately one year to complete BSN requirements followed by two years of graduate coursework.

    ADN vs BSN: What’s the Difference?

    The AACN, the primary professional organization for nurses, has championed the BSN degree as the minimal educational qualification for nurses. Healthcare employers, while continuing to hire RNs with ADN or diploma degrees, increasingly prefer highly skilled nurses prepared for professional roles beyond the traditional hospital inpatient settings. Recent studies support the quality of patient care provided by BSN-trained nurses.


    • Two years of study or less depending on the program; 60 credits; provides prerequisite courses needed to transfer into a BSN
    • Focuses primarily on general education courses and basic clinical skills; prepares graduates for the NCLEX-RN exam
    • Provides the fastest educational path to a nursing career in hospitals, outpatient facilities, doctor’s offices, and home healthcare; less expensive than a bachelor’s degree
    • ADN and RN licensure serve as the minimal requirements to practice legally in most states.


    • 4-year baccalaureate degree; two years or less for licensed RNs or prospective nurses with an associate degree; 120 credits; provides strong academic foundation to pursue MSN and doctoral degrees
    • Curriculum includes general education courses, nursing prerequisites, and training in generalist nursing practice, leadership, and management
    • Prepares graduates for the NCLEX-RN exam if they did not enter the program as licensed RNs
    • Higher salaries and more employment opportunities than RNs in clinical and administrative roles
    • An increasing number of states and employers recognize the BSN as the minimum required degree for RN nursing positions.

    Explore RN-to-BSN Programs

    Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

    Whether you’re looking to get your pre-licensure degree or taking the next step in your career, the education you need could be more affordable than you think. Find the right nursing program for you.