A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) provides a more academic route into the field of nursing than an associates or a nursing diploma. BSN programs also require much more coursework and will take you about twice as long to complete. Offered as both a traditional and online bachelor degree, BSN programs emphasize research and theory in addition to the clinical practice aspects.
Like an associates and a nursing diploma, a BSN will also prepare you to take the NCLEX exam and earn your RN license. Additionally, it is also a prerequisite that you must earn before you can enroll in a graduate program. For many nurses, a traditional or online bachelors degree is seen as a stepping stone on their path toward becoming an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) or earning a doctorate.
A BSN degree will typically take you about 4 years to complete, although students who already have an associates in nursing can usually transfer credits and may need as little 2 years for the program. Almost every major university offers a BSN, and a growing number of these schools also offer degrees.
In recent years the nursing profession has become highly specialized in order to keep up with advances in medicine. As a result, the bachelors degree is increasingly viewed by healthcare employers as the entry-level degree for RNs. If you decide to enroll in a traditional or online bachelors program, you can expect to receive more clinical training hours and much more theoretical training than you would from an associates program. For this reason, the BSN is generally considered to be the most robust undergraduate degree.
Who should pursue a nursing bachelors degree?
Students who think that they may want to continue their education at the graduate level almost always choose a BSN program. Even if you do not want to pursue a masters or doctorate, a bachelors will still provide you with a number of career options that are not open for nurses who have an associates degree or a nursing diploma.
Both brick-and-mortar and online masters programs will first require you to complete the bachelors-level curriculum before you can begin advanced practice coursework. And although a number of schools offer special RN to MSN programs for nurses who do not have a bachelors degree, BSN to MSN programs are more common.
All traditional and accredited online BSN programs are designed to prepare you for various roles and specializations beyond basic patient care. For BSN nurses who do not want an advanced practice license, their degree will still qualify them for a number of clinical management, educational and administrative jobs within the healthcare profession.
Finally, if you are interested in studying abroad, you can often find a traditional or online BSN through a university that will give you the opportunity to spend a semester or summer studying in another country. Particularly larger, well-established nursing programs often have partnerships with universities and healthcare facilities in foreign countries. Through these partnerships, they are able to offer student exchange programs that focus on topics like comparative health systems.
Nursing bachelor courses
Traditional and online BSN programs offer diverse courses that cover the numerous roles that nurses can play. These will include classes in theory, clinical technique, research and the ethical responsibilities of clinical practice. A few of these courses might include:
This course will help you develop your assessment skills so that you can evaluate your patients and plan for their healthcare needs based on physical examinations, lab data and medical history. By the end of this course you will be able to identify the symptoms that are associated with various diseases, assess each patient’s risk factors and use these findings to create a plan of care.
Cultural diversity and nursing
This course examines common cultural differences in practices and concepts. In this course, you will learn about the different approaches to nursing practice used around the world and evaluate their various advantages and disadvantages according to the populations that they serve.
Gerontology in nursing practice
In gerontology classes you will learn how to provide care to elderly patients in a variety of settings. These classes focus on strategies that you can use to improve the quality of life for aging patients, prevent the occurrence of chronic conditions and provide end-of-life care to terminally ill patients.
Gaining admission to a nursing bachelors program
The admissions requirements for BSN programs are generally more rigorous than those for associates and nursing diploma programs. One reason for this is that BSN programs generally have more advanced coursework and they must be sure that entering students are prepared to succeed.
Every BSN program will require you to fill out a standard application form and pay an application fee that can range from $25 to $75. Most schools will give you the option of completing your application online or filling it out by hand and sending it in the mail. Additionally, you will usually have to submit 1 or more writing samples as well as multiple
letters of recommendations from teachers or employers.
BSN programs often look for at least a 3.0 average in your high school classes and an SAT score of at least 1,000 on the math and critical reasoning sections. Additionally, almost every traditional or accredited online bachelor degree program will check to see that you have completed a specific number of core high school courses in subjects like math, biology, chemistry and English.
While these are some of the most typical admissions requirements, it is important to remember that the most competitive BSN schools will expect even more from your application. In addition to having strong high school grades and SAT scores, 1 of the best ways to strengthen your application is to get involved in extracurricular activities. For instance, many high schools have clubs for students who are interested in health or medical professions. You can also check with local hospitals and clinics about part-time volunteer or work opportunities.
Once you are accepted, you will be expected to pay tuition and gather the required course materials, which may include books, online tutorials or medical equipment. Some of the best bachelor degree programs may also charge you an additional technology fee, and brick-and-mortar programs often have student services fees that give you access to on-campus resources.
Holding a job during your nursing bachelors program
Many students enrolled in traditional and online bachelor programs continue to work during their studies. While some hold typical student jobs in restaurants and cafes, the majority of BSN students look for part-time work in hospitals and clinics. In general, you will have the same work opportunities as students enrolled in associates degree programs.
Most healthcare facilities actually prefer to hire students to work as nursing assistants, and some large hospitals will even offer to pay part of your tuition if you agree to keep working for them as a nurse after you graduate. These types of clinical jobs can offer you valuable hands-on experience with patients as well as opportunities to network with other healthcare professionals. One drawback, however, is that you may have to work nights, evenings, weekends or during semester breaks, which can leave you little free time.
If you already have an RN license, accelerated RN to BSN programs often encourage you to continue working as an RN during your studies. This can help you keep your clinical skills sharp, earn money and even strengthen your resume once you finish the program.
Studying online for a bachelors degree in nursing
Today there are numerous online BSN programs that are accredited by organizations like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and offer hybrid curricula that include on-site clinical courses combined with online classwork. If you want to become an online learner, some colleges now provide extensive information about their programs in the form of online webinars.
In addition, a growing number of traditional universities offer their BSN programs in an online format. This option, however, is much more popular among working adults than it is among traditional college students who have just finished high school. The ability to continue working while completing a degree program can be a significant economic advantage for students with families or other financial obligations.