Is it worth getting your BSN?

May 16, 2016

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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You have a few different options if you want to work as a registered nurse including earning a two-year associate nursing degree (ADN) or completing a four-year bachelor’s nursing degree (BSN). Some nurses start with an associate degree and after working in the field for a while go on to earn a bachelor’s degree. But is attending school for two additional years worth it? The answer depends on a variety of factors including your budget, career goals and interests.

ADN vs. BSN: Similarities

It may be helpful to understand how ADN and BSN programs are similar and how they are different. When it comes to similarities, students are required to take specific core classes whether they are in a two-year or four-year program. For example, classes in communications, biology and social sciences are required for both types of degree programs.

Nursing specific classes, such as pharmacology, maternal and newborn nursing, adult health and pediatrics are also part of the curriculum for both types of programs. Students in both ADN and BNS programs are required to complete clinical rotations where they will work in a hospital or other healthcare facility.

Keep in mind, many two-year nursing programs may have prerequisites before starting your core nursing classes. This may mean you have to take classes in English, math, chemistry and nutrition before being accepted into a two-year program. Depending on individual program requirements, it may add a semester or two onto the length of your program.

ADN vs. BSN: Differences

Length of program: The obvious difference is a BSN program takes about two more years to complete. Although the exact amount of credits needed to earn the degree will vary, a bachelor’s degree programs will take longer to complete.

Curriculum: In a BSN program, you will take the same type of classes required for an associate degree but they may be more in-depth. The length of clinical rotations may also vary based on the program. For instance, in a BSN program you many have more rotations or each one may be longer than in an associate degree program. Also, since it takes two additional years, you are required to complete more classes, such as nursing theory, informatics and several more electives.

Cost: Associate degree nursing programs are offered at private technical schools and community colleges. BSN programs are largely offered at colleges and universities. Although college tuition can vary widely, community colleges tend to cost less than four-year institutions. In addition, a bachelor’s degree program requires two more years of tuition, textbooks and other school-related costs.

Which degree is right for you?

When you are looking into nursing schools, research both two and four-year programs. Compare costs, time involved and curriculum to determine, which sounds better suited for your goals and interests.

It can be difficult to decide between a two-year or four-year program since both have their pros and cons. But consider some of the following factors when choosing which is right for you:

BSN advantages

Opportunities: A BSN degree may be the way to go if you already know you want to pursue a career outside of bedside care. For instance, if you think you want to work as a clinical specialist, case manager or public health nurse, a BSN degree is probably a good idea. Also, if you plan to get into teaching or management, you need to get a BSN degree. Some experts also predict most employers will require a BSN degree in the future.

Potential salary: Over the long run, nurses with a BSN degree tend to earn higher salaries than those with an associate degree. Nurses with a BSN degree also may qualify for higher paying positions that nurses with an associate degree are not eligible for.

Lower Unemployment Rates: According to Medscape, unemployment rates are lower for nurses who have a BSN degree. Keep in mind, though, that various factors determine unemployment rates including your specialty and what part of the country you live in.

ADN advantages

Saves money: Attending nursing school for only two years means you spend fewer dollars on school. Saving money may be a big reason some people choose an associate degree program over a BSN program.

It’s quicker: Getting through your registered nursing program in two years as opposed to four allows you to enter the workforce faster. If you are primarily interested in doing direct patient care in areas such as pediatrics, oncology or the emergency room, you may feel earning a two-year degree is the better option. With an associate degree, you are able to get in and get out and start your career quickly.

Factors to take into consideration

If you initially choose a two-year program that does not mean it is the end of your education. It is important to keep in mind, you can always go on for your four-year degree at a later time. There are many RN to BSN programs that are geared towards working nurses. The structure of the programs vary, but many are part-time or include evening classes.

Choosing to delay getting your bachelor’s degree may be a good option for some people. For instance, if you are unsure of your nursing career goals, it makes sense to work in the field for a while and with time decide if a BSN degree is needed.

Some people may also have financial limitations that make paying four years of tuition difficult. Starting a job may allow you to save some money and attend an RN to BSN program when you can afford it. Also, some employers offer tuition reimbursement, which may pay for some or all of your BSN program.

Many BSN programs also offer online classes for students who are already registered nurses. An online program may offer the flexibility and convenience you need to earn your degree while you work.


Whatever pathway you choose, it’s unavoidable that any length of medical study can be expensive and time-consuming, particularly if you aren’t 100% sure it’s the right choice for you. We recommend that all aspiring med school applicants – and even current students – take on some hospital shadowing experience. It may mean that you make far better decisions about your future.



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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives, and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.