A traditional or online RN to BSN allows registered nurses with an associates in nursing (ADN) or a nursing diploma to earn a bachelors degree and broaden their theoretical knowledge. On average, you will need about 2 years to fulfill all of the degree requirements, although you can complete an accelerated program in as little as a year.

Similar to LPN to BSN and ADN to BSN programs, top RN to BSN programs require you to first satisfy prerequisite liberal arts and science requirements before you can enroll in advanced courses or earn clinical practice hours. Additionally, you will find both brick-and-mortar and online RN to BSN programs that will allow you to choose between full or part-time education tracks.

Like every BSN program, RN to BSN programs will help you gain a broader and deeper knowledge of the field of nursing than associates degrees or diploma program in nursing. Your RN to BSN program will emphasize theoretical, research and leadership approaches as well as teach you how to actively use critical thinking and research in everyday clinical practice.

In addition to full-time and part-time programs, there are also several top accelerated RN to BSN options that allow you to earn your BSN in as little as a year. These programs cover the same material as standard programs in a shorter amount of time. Because of the accelerated pace, they are not a good option if you have to work during your studies.

Who should enroll in an RN to BSN program?

Like most ADN to BSN online and on-campus students, nurses who enroll in RN to BSN programs already hold an RN license and have usually worked for a number of years in a healthcare setting.

RN to BSN students typically want to expand their career options and earn higher pay. For these nurses, the first step toward specialized or managerial RN jobs, advanced practice nursing (APN) careers or academic nursing is often to enroll in a RN to BSN online or on-campus program.

However, if you are already sure that you would like to continue your education at the masters level, you may want to look into an RN to MSN online or on-campus program.

The growing complexity of healthcare technology and an aging population has created a high demand for nurses who hold BSNs and can manage patient care plans and make critical decisions about patient health. If you want to invest in your career but are not yet sure whether you would like to go on to graduate school, accredited RN to BSN programs provide a convenient pathway for you to make yourself more valuable on the job market while leaving the option open for an even more advanced nursing education.

RN to BSN program courses

The curriculum for traditional, online and accelerated RN to BSN programs includes courses that emphasize critical thinking in patient care and teach you the theoretical principles and leadership strategies that are needed to lead a nursing staff. A few courses that students might expect to take in an RN to BSN program include:

Case management

This course teaches students about the ethical and technical aspects of caring for both individuals and families. Students collaborate with peers to analyze nursing research and data and learn how to advise patients on health management techniques.

The science of community health promotion

In this course you will get training in systematic approaches for managing healthcare for different demographics of people. You will learn about the role of the nurse in the community as well as how to utilize science and epidemiology as the foundation for dealing with a variety of population health issues.

Nursing leadership

This course teaches students how nursing research and professional collaboration can improve healthcare systems and practices. You will be trained in strategies for managing clinical teams by understanding the different roles and responsibilities of various healthcare professionals.

Gaining admission to an RN to BSN program

Both traditional and accredited RN to BSN online programs will have admissions requirements that are very similar to ADN to BSN programs. Along with your standard application forms, schools will usually ask you to submit a copy of your current RN license and a record of your previous nursing degree.

In some instances, schools may offer you conditional admission if you have already taken the NCLEX exam and are simply waiting for the test results. Additionally, it is important for you to be aware that some RN to BSN programs will only admit students with an RN license that is issued by the state where the school is located. Be sure check out each of your top school’s specific licensing requirements.

Like most bachelors-level tracks, RN to BSN programs usually require you to keep a minimum 3.0 GPA during all of your coursework. If your grades drop below a 3.0 average you may be placed on academic probation for 1 or 2 semesters. If your grades still do not improve, some schools may dis-enroll you from the program.

Holding a job during your RN to BSN program

RN to BSN programs are just as challenging as traditional BSN programs, and some students may find it difficult to balance their work schedule with coursework, exams, projects, term papers and clinical practice. This is especially true if the job is not in the healthcare field and does not contribute to building their knowledge and skills.

However, like ADN to BSN students, most RN to BSN students continue to work as a nurse on a part-time or even full-time basis. Some are able to keep their nursing job by picking up shifts on evenings, weekends and holidays in order to accommodate their school schedule.

Most ADN to BSN schools, however, will also try to accommodate your work schedule and provide you with maximum flexibility by using the same types of strategies used by ADN to BSN and LPN to BSN programs. These commonly include offering you a combination of online courses, flexible clinical locations and evening classes.

Studying online in an RN to BSN program

If you need the flexibility of online courses, there is a wide variety of accredited RN to BSN online programs for you to choose from. Some of the best online RN to BSN programs are offered by traditional universities. Although these are generally more expensive than online-only schools, they often provide you with better resources and many employers consider their degrees to be more prestigious.

You will also find several accredited accelerated RN to BSN online programs that you can finish in as little as a year. Programs like these are taught primarily online except for clinical placements, which are coordinated between students and faculty on a case-by-case basis.

While online learners may have more flexibility in their class schedules, you should not expect online RN to BSN programs to be easier. These programs are typically just as rigorous as on-campus versions, and they require even more self-discipline and dedication. You will probably spend at least 15 to 20 hours a week on class assignments, readings and examinations in addition to your clinical work.

Online RN to BSN programs should by no means be viewed as an easier alternative to brick-and-mortar schools. Instead, online programs are a practical option for students who live far away from a traditional campus or cannot meet the fixed time requirements of traditional coursework.