Many nurses have gone through the decision of whether to earn an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. They pause and wonder, “Is getting a BSN worth it?” Before you can make that same decision, it’s important to understand the difference between the two, including education, job prospects and your potential career growth.
Education: ADN vs. BSN
One of the main differences between earning your Associate’s Degree in Nursing and your Bachelor of Science in Nursing is the amount of time you will spend earning your degree and what your education will consist of.
Associate’s Degree: Students who pursue an ADN will learn the fundamentals of nursing practice. Students will be prepared for entry-level nursing positions once they have successfully passed the NCLEX-RN. Most courses in ADN programs consist of nursing-specific material, as well as clinical rotations at local healthcare facilities. Associate’s degrees are less expensive and require less time commitment than a bachelor’s degree.
Bachelor’s Degree: A traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing will take four years to complete. While nurses who have earned an ADN will be just as prepared as BSN-educated nurses to pass the NCLEX-RN and begin entry-level nursing careers, baccalaureate-prepared nurses take courses that go beyond the basic nursing curriculum. Nurses who have earned a BSN have taken additional courses on theory, leadership, and critical thinking skills.
Accelerated BSN Degree: Accelerated nursing programs offer those who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field the chance to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing without enrolling in a traditional four-year program. Accelerated BSN programs offer all of the education of traditional programs in shorter time frames; Marian’s ABSN program is only 16 months. Students will still achieve the same education, as well as work in skills labs and clinical settings to master their nursing skills.
If you went into a hospital and examined the nurses, it would be difficult to tell who had earned a BSN and who had earned an ADN. Many of these nurses will hold the same positions. Both BSN- and ADN-educated nurses can work as labor and delivery nurses, critical care nurses, or ICU nurses, amongst many other options.
However, advancing your nursing career beyond those positions will require a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. This is the key difference that makes getting a BSN worth it.
For example, nurses with a BSN can pursue careers such as nurse researchers and nurse managers.
Many hospitals are also seeking Magnet® status, which is a recognition by the American Nurses’ Credentialing Center of nursing skill and quality within healthcare settings. Although Magnet® status does not mean hospitals can’t hire ADN nurses, many aim to hire baccalaureate nurses to improve healthcare quality, patient safety and lower patient mortality rates, all of which play a part in earning Magnet® status.
If you are interested in going into a highly advanced nursing career you will have to earn your Bachelor of Science of Nursing in order to continue on in your education to earn your master’s or even a PhD. Earning these degrees can pave the way for you to start careers such as:
- Nurse practitioner
- Nurse midwife
- Nurse administrator
- Nurse educator
- Nurse anesthetist
The nursing shortage affects each of these career options, so opportunities for employment are plentiful. Nurse educators are also highly desired to help lower the shortage by educating the next generations of nurses.
Which nursing degree should I choose?
Many nurses choose to pursue a nursing career with an associate’s degree in order to get in some real-life experience, then return to school to earn a bachelor’s degree. While it may make sense to get an associate’s degree in order to get some experience, it can also make things a bit more difficult in the long term. College expenses continue to rise, so you may end up paying more in the long run to earn your ADN now and then attend an RN-to-BSN program after a couple of years.
Those who are seeking a nursing career as a second career option may choose to earn their associate’s degree specifically so they can start their nursing career sooner. However, there are plenty of accelerated BSN programs that could take less time than an associate’s degree, and choosing an accelerated program means you won’t have to return to school a third time after a couple of years.
Many professional nursing organizations and lawmakers are suggesting students pursue a bachelor’s degree over an associate’s degree. In 2013, a bill was introduced in the New York state legislature requiring all registered nurses to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing within 10 years of initial licensure. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) and many others all suggest supporting the continued education of registered nurses to achieve baccalaureate standing.
You should ask yourself what are you looking to get out of a nursing degree? Do you want to work bedside your entire career in the same unit? Or do you enjoy moving around in your field, experiencing different environments, and taking on more responsibilities? If you want to work in a nurse leadership role or know that you will want to advance throughout your career, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is the best bet.
Are you ready to commit to earning your Bachelor of Science in just 16 months? Contact us today to speak to an academic advisor about your future as a registered nurse.