What’s the Difference Between RN and BSN in Nursing?

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What’s the difference between RN and BSN acronyms? For that matter, what is an RN, and what is a BSN? An RN is a registered nurse — a licensed professional who assesses and treats patients. A BSN is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, which prepares graduates to become RNs.

nurse sits with patient

If you’re thinking of switching to a career in healthcare, one of the first things you may notice when doing research is all the different acronyms. It can be intimidating at first to sort through the terminology, and some questions may arise. What is an RN? What is a BSN? What is the difference between RN and BSN programs?

Although it may seem confusing at first, these acronyms are quite straightforward. Here, we’ll explore the difference between RN and BSN designations so that you can confidently research your education options.

You might not have to attend a four-year nursing school if you already have a completed non-nursing degree or at least 60 college credits. Instead, consider the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) programs at Felician University, where you can earn your nursing degree in as few as 16 to 18 months.

nurse with manikin

What is an accelerated nursing program? Learn all about it here.

What Is an RN?

Before exploring the difference between RN and BSN designations, it’s helpful to know the answer to the question, “What is an RN?” An RN is a registered nurse. RNs can:

  • Assess patients and monitor their conditions
  • Perform diagnostic testing and physical exams
  • Provide patient and family caregiver education
  • Assist other clinical providers during procedures
  • Advocate for their patients’ best interests

RNs can choose from an incredible variety of specialties and jobs within nursing. For example, they may specialize in working with children (pediatrics), older adults (adult gerontology), cancer patients (oncology) or patients with kidney failure (dialysis nursing). RNs work in various settings — hospitals, outpatient care centers, emergency medical evacuation flights, and schools.

After gaining some clinical experience, some nurses choose to focus on the administrative side of healthcare. As health service managers or administrators, nurses can work toward ensuring that their organization provides the best possible care to patients. Other RNs decide to become nurse educators at colleges and universities, where they educate future nurses.

What Is a BSN?

If an RN is a professional nurse, what is a BSN? A BSN isn’t a professional job title; it’s a nursing degree, short for Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Earning a BSN is one way someone could become an RN. All aspiring RNs must also pass a national licensure exam, the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

nursing student putting stethoscope in ears

A traditional BSN program typically takes four years to complete. This type of nursing degree is designed for students with a high school diploma but no prior college education. However, not every prospective nurse must attend a four-year nursing program. An accelerated BSN program, such as those available at Felician University, can allow you to graduate in as few as 16 or 18 months (depending on your specific program).

These types of ABSN programs leverage your prior non-nursing college education so you can earn your BSN on a faster timeline. They eliminate general education courses.

Earning a BSN, through either a four-year program or an accelerated one, is one of the main pathways toward becoming an RN, but it’s not the only one. Becoming an RN with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is also possible. This is typically a two-year program offered at community colleges. Graduating from an ADN program qualifies individuals to sit for the NCLEX and obtain licensure as an RN.

This raises the question: How do ADN-prepared RNs vs. BSN-prepared RNs compare? Is one program more advantageous than the other? Take a closer look at the differences below.

Is nursing school hard? Here are 8 things you should know about working through an accelerated nursing program.

nursing students studying with tablet

Exploring the Pros and Cons of an ADN

One way to decide whether you want to become an RN with an ADN or an RN with a BSN is to look at some pros and cons.

ADN Pros

  • Short timeline to completion compared to four-year programs
  • The shorter timeline may translate to lower tuition rates
  • Will still qualify to sit for the NCLEX

ADN Cons

  • The shorter timeline means a less comprehensive nursing education
  • ADN graduates may feel less prepared for the rigorous NCLEX
  • ADN-prepared RNs may not have as many job opportunities available
  • ADN-prepared RNs will need to go back to school to earn a BSN to advance their careers

Pros and Cons of a BSN

Felician nursing student typing on laptop

Now, consider some of the pros and cons of becoming an RN with a BSN. Note that a four-year BSN and an accelerated BSN are indistinguishable in terms of the quality of education and how employers view a nurse’s credentials.

BSN Pros

  • More comprehensive nursing education
  • Stronger preparation for the NCLEX
  • More job opportunities available
  • Provides a foundation for pursuing graduate degrees and career advancement
  • Well-respected nursing degree

BSN Cons

  • Longer timeline to completion (unless enrolling in an ABSN program)
  • More of a financial investment, but financial aid may be available

ADN-Prepared RN vs. BSN-Prepared RN: Why Choose a BSN?

Now that you have a general idea of the pros and cons of ADN-prepared RNs vs. BSN-prepared RNs, let’s examine why so many aspiring nurses decide to pursue a BSN.

Better Patient Outcomes

Generally, nurses choose to enter the profession because they have a genuine interest in helping others in need. Serious or chronic health problems can take a heavy toll on an individual’s emotional well-being and may affect many different areas of their life. The attentiveness of a caring and friendly nurse can make all the difference, helping patients to know they’re not going through it alone.

two students working on white board

Although ADN-prepared nurses can certainly provide attentive care to patients like BSN-prepared nurses, studies show that nurses who earn a BSN tend to contribute to better patient outcomes.

For example, one study from 2019 demonstrates that RNs with a BSN are “significantly better prepared” in 12 out of 16 areas (including quality and safety) compared to RNs with an ADN. Other studies have found that hospitals with a higher proportion of BSN-prepared RNs are associated with better patient outcomes.

Employer Preference

Because RNs who have earned a BSN are better prepared to contribute to improved patient outcomes, unsurprisingly, many healthcare employers prefer to hire them over ADN-prepared nurses. In fact, for some jobs and healthcare settings, a BSN is a minimum requirement. For example, all Magnet hospitals in the U.S. require all nurse leaders and nurse managers to earn at least a baccalaureate degree.

Potential for Career Advancement

Another compelling reason to choose a BSN instead of an ADN is the potential for career advancement. To pursue advanced positions, such as a role as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), you will need to earn a graduate nursing degree. To earn a graduate degree, you’ll first need a BSN.

nurses wearing face masks sitting in classroom

Thinking about career advancement already? Here’s what to know about getting an advanced nursing degree.

Earn Your BSN Faster at Felician

Now that you know the answer to the question, “What is the difference between RN and BSN designations?” and you’ve taken a closer look at the ADN-prepared RN vs. BSN-prepared RN issue, you may be ready to begin working toward your nursing career.

Felician University offers hybrid and on-ground ABSN programs, so you can choose the one that best fits your needs. Apply to our 16-month Hybrid ABSN program in Parsippany, NJ, or our 18-month On-Ground ABSN program in Rutherford, NJ. Contact our friendly admissions counselors today and take the first step toward pursuing a rewarding career in healthcare.