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Many registered nurses (RNs) consider pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing Degree (BSN) to expand their career options and enhance their professional skills. Many healthcare facilities now require the nurses they hire to have a BSN.

While the same career paths are open to all RNs, regardless of degree, those who possess a BSN have had more science coursework. Nurses with BSNs also take courses in public health, management, research, science, and the humanities allowing them more exposure to information regarding the issues facing patients, hospitals and the overall health care field.

Using the Directory

Learn about more than 7,000 nursing programs, including over 800 RN to BSN programs, at nearly 1,800 schools to find the nursing degree program that best suits your career goals. Then read our exhaustive guide, designed specifically for students considering a bachelor's degree in nursing, to get started on your degree and ramp up your nursing career.

What is the RN to BSN degree?

There are three ways to receive training to become a registered nurse:

  1. Complete a three-year diploma program.
  2. Earn an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) at a community college; or
  3. Earn a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing Degree (BSN) from a four-year college or university.

In all cases, you need to pass the NCLEX-RN examination to become fully licensed.

The RN to BSN degree is appropriate for those RNs who have the diploma or ADN. It requires additional coursework and typically includes a hands-on clinical portion to increase awareness of patient care and community/public health concerns.

RN to BSN programs are usually one or two years in length. Many are available either through online programs or healthcare facilities, allowing nurses to continue their careers while completing their advanced studies.

Why would someone get a BSN when they are already a RN?

The RN to BSN program includes an in-depth study of science and nursing, but also includes coursework to enhance a nurse’s professional development, including studies in social issues, culture, and economics. The coursework in a RN to BSN program helps to expand a nurse’s understanding of the healthcare profession and patient care.

Studies show that when registered nurses hold a BSN there are significant improvements in patient safety, lower mortality rates, and enhancements to overall patient care. As a result, more hospitals and other healthcare facilities are making the BSN a required degree as they hire new staff.

Because of their advanced coursework, BSN nurses also have strong communication, analytical, leadership, and problem-solving skills.

Are there online RN to BSN programs?

There are several online RN to BSN programs. Quite a few of such programs are accredited by regional and state accreditation bodies; however, very few of these online programs are accredited by national entities; specifically, The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Do I need to attend a program that includes clinical work?

Clinical work is not required to receive your BSN. However, many employers and graduate programs look favorably on programs that included clinical hours as part of the degree. Clinical hours will enhance your own skills and professional development.

  1. You receive hands-on experience that supplements the theoretical coursework.
  2. Clinical time provides an opportunity to demonstrate practical knowledge.
  3. Some clinical experiences allow students to qualify for extra certifications. For example, completion of California State University, Fullerton’s Community Health course qualifies students for a Public Health Nursing certification.
  4. Most accredited programs include clinical hours to allow students to demonstrate competence within the nursing field.
  5. Some programs may assist you with clinical placement and help you find a placement that can work in your existing schedule.
  6. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing strongly recommends all RN to BSN programs include clinical hours as part of the degree.

What type of accreditation is important for RN to BSN programs?

There are two accrediting bodies, the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Both are recognized and respected accreditation agencies, and there is no consensus within the nursing profession that one is better than the other. Both the ACEN and CCNE list accredited programs on their websites.

There are also accreditation entities for specific advanced fields, such as the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME) for midwifery programs.

What are the differences between CCNE and ACEN?

Why an Accredited Program is Important

You will need to apply to an accredited RN to BSN program if you plan to seek federal financial aid. A program needs state and/or regional accreditation to qualify for federal financial aid; however some scholarship programs may expect ACEN or CCNE accreditation as well. You may also need to be enrolled in an accredited program if you plan to seek tuition reimbursement from your employer. Having a degree from an accredited program is also important if you plan to seek a graduate degree in the future.

Keep in mind that to qualify for financial aid, attending a college accredited by state or regional higher education accreditation bodies may be sufficient; however some employers will only hire graduates of an ACEN or CCNE accredited program.

Am I eligible to attend a BSN program with a diploma or ADN?

Your BSN eligibility depends on whether or not the program you plan to attend will accept the course credit you earned during your RN training. If you haven’t yet earned your diploma or ADN, you should do your research to make sure your coursework is transferrable to a BSN program later.

What type of licensing is important for these programs?

All nursing programs, including RN to BSN, should carry licensing from the State Board of Nursing in the state in which it operates.

What are the basic requirements to apply to a BSN program?

For a RN to BSN program, you will need to first acquire your RN licensing and then apply to the program. If you do not yet possess your RN, you can apply to a BSN program as a freshman or transfer student.

Basic RN requirements

  • Graduate from an ADP/Diploma/BSN program that is approved by the State Board of Nursing

  • Passing score on state licensing NCLEX exam

Basic RN to BSN requirements

  • Current RN license in your state with your ADN/Diploma

  • Transfer completed coursework

  • Complete additional coursework and clinical work

What will I learn in a RN to BSN program?

The RN to BSN program will include coursework in research, ethics, leadership, teaching, community/public health, and advanced medical/science coursework, such as epidemiology. You will also need to complete additional non-nursing courses in science or liberal arts. You will also complete coursework in a clinical setting such as a hospital, clinic, or public health facility, where you will be guided by a preceptor (specialist) who oversees your training and evaluation.

How do I compare RN to BSN programs?

For your best chance of future career success, look for programs that have CCNE or ACEN accreditation, and that also include a clinical component. You should also ensure the program has been licensed and approved by the appropriate State Board of Nursing.

You can search for RN to BSN programs on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s website.

You might also consider RN to BSN programs that provide any or all of the following:

  • financial assistance

  • assistance with placement for clinical work and careers

  • part-time or flexible hours (if you have a full-time job)

  • graduate degrees

  • flexible start/end dates

  • statistics on graduation and placement rates