What’s the Difference Between a BSN and an RN-to-BSN ?

A career in nursing is one of the most sought after degrees with a growing demand for skilled, trained and degreed professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is forecasting the demand for nurses is to increase by 16% by the year 2024. To meet this high demand, many college programs are offering traditional BSN programs as well as an accelerated BSN program. With each providing the same final result, a Bachelor’s in Nursing Science, it can be confusing finding the right program for you. You may be left wondering what the difference between these programs are.

First Things First: Know Thy Letters

First, let’s clarify the letters associated with these degrees. If you have a 2 year, associate’s degree in nursing, you earn the letters ASN. If you complete a 4-year traditional college program in nursing, you earn the letters BSN. However, in both instances, you will have to sit for state board exams to earn the RN letters. Basically, once you pass the boards, you become a registered nurse.

Traditional BSN Programs

Now that you understand to be an RN, your degree must be completed first – we can explain the difference between traditional BSN programs and the RN-to-BSN accelerated program. The traditional programs are suited for all students who are going to college for the first time. These students do not have degrees in other fields, or are wanting to change careers and become a nurse. Nor, are they the students who have an associate’s degree in nursing or otherwise. This program is going to take approximately 4 years to complete. During this time, you will complete general education courses such as algebra, english, history, humanities and other required electives offered by your program. Those courses are usually completed within the first 2 years of the program. Next, you will begin your nursing/healthcare specific classes, labs and likely get some hands on experience. At the end of the program, you will have earned your Bachelor’s in Nursing Science, BSN. Following graduation, you will sit for the state boards examination. Once you pass the boards, you can add RN to your credentials as you will be a Registered Nurse.

Interested in these traditional programs? Check out our Top 50 Best BSN programs for 2017.

The Fast Track: Online RN-to-BSN and Accelerated Programs

There has been an explosion of new accelerated RN-to-BSN programs over the past decade. The demand for nursing is increasing and the ability to get on a “fast track” is appealing to many candidates. However, these accelerated programs are specifically designed for people who have already earned a degree (second-degree students). If you have an associates degree in nursing, and have passed the state boards, you are already an RN. However, there are benefits of pursuing the bachelor’s degree and these accelerated programs are perfect for those candidates. Another candidate that fits well into the accelerated program is someone who has a degree in a field other than nursing, and is looking to make a career change. These programs can make that possible within 18 months, some even offer online or hybrid learning options. If you are curious what some of these programs look like, check out our 15 Top Online/Hybrid ABSN programs, we have already done some research for you! The best thing you can do as you look into an accelerated RN-to-BSN program, is to check the prerequisites. Dig out your transcripts and compare the courses you have already completed to their required prerequisites. If you need to take a few classes before you start the program, this will help you when figuring out your own personal timeline. If you desire a career in nursing, there is definitely a program out there to fit your personal profile and will have you launching your career in no time!

Like the speedy route? Check out our Top 50 Best Accelerated BSN programs listing.

Sandra Janowicz

Keeley Jones
Registered Nurse

Carrie Sealey-Morris