Comparing Two Types of Nursing Degrees: ADN & BSN

Nursing and other health care jobs provide emotionally and financially rewarding careers. The U.S. health care industry employs thousands of registered nurses and the job outlook continues to improve each year. This article examines two common types of degrees held by RNs and seeks to highlight the primary differences between the two. An individual who has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) or an Associate’s Degree (ADN) can become a licensed Registered Nurse (RN) after passing the NCLEX-RN examination. However, there are certain advantages to having a BSN degree rather than an ADN. Although both degrees fulfill the educational requirement to become an RN, a BSN degree offers greater opportunity for career advancement and higher potential earnings.

Differences Between ADN & BSN

An Associates degree in Nursing (ADN) is a two-year program that fulfills the nurse education requirements of becoming a registered nurse. The ADN offers similar opportunities to Associates degrees in general. Some ADN programs require prospective students to have an LVN/LPN or to attend a course that would help them acquire their RN licensure. A four-year Bachelors degree in Nursing awards the individual with both a four-year college degree and fulfillment of the nursing education requirements.

The BSN degree is a four-year college degree with an emphasis in Nursing. Many BSN students are current RNs who are interested in furthering their education and seeking career advancement in their field. A student without practical nursing experience or previous college credits can earn a BSN degree in approximately four years. A registered nurse with an ADN can receive credit for their previous coursework and complete their BSN degree in 18-24 months. The amount of time it takes for an RN to finish a BSN program depends on the educational institution, program type and the course load that the individual can handle. Some nursing schools offer accelerated BSN programs for students who want to complete their degrees as quickly as possible.

Advantages of Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN)

There are two significant advantages of choosing an ADN program instead of a BSN program. The first advantage is that an ADN program can be completed in two years. If you cannot afford to attend school for an extended period of time, or if you want to begin working in the field as soon as possible, the ADN might be a better option.

The second advantage is that the ADN program costs much less than a BSN program. Since ADN programs can be completed at local community colleges the costs are much lower than attending a four-year university. The average cost of a moderately priced public university for in-state tuition is usually close to $10,000 per year. Thus the total cost of the BSN program would exceed the cost of the ADN program by at least $20,000. That is not including room and board, four years of university tuition or the increased costs associated with out-of-state tuition or private university tuition.

Advantages of BSN Degree

A BSN degree prepares RNs for advanced career options in nursing specialty fields like pediatrics, geriatrics, forensics, and a host of other specializations. These nursing specialty fields typically offer higher average salaries than standard RN positions. They also offer an opportunity to explore a specific topic of interest rather than a general practice.

Aside from the core nursing curriculum, a Bachelors level education exposes the student to a wide range of clinical settings and includes more general education courses than an Associates degree program. A BSN graduate will have a wider range of career options and will not be limited to a career in nursing. Many BSN recipients pursue careers in consulting, administration and teaching.

The nursing job market has become more competitive and many health care employers now require incoming nurses to have their BSN degree. While many employers still hire RNs with diplomas or Associates degrees, there is clearly a strong preference amongst employers for the more highly educated nursing candidates. Within the nursing profession many career advancement opportunities are only open to nurses who hold BSN degrees, such as nursing management positions.