Four-year BSN training programs are one of three educational paths to becoming a registered nurse (RN); other programs include diploma or associate degree programs in nursing (ADN). However, accredited BSN programs, which required a high school diploma or GED for enrollment, provide better employment and advancement opportunities upon graduation.
Many RNs with a diploma or associate's degree choose to later pursue a BSN, since a bachelor's degree or higher is often required for career advancement into nursing positions in administration, research labs, or training. RNs can do this through a specialized two-year RN-BSN program. Accelerated BSN programs lasting 12-18 months also exist for those with a non-nursing bachelor's degree who wish to switch careers, as long as students meet GPA requirements and course prerequisites. Some programs may be available online, especially for the RN-BSN.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
First-time nursing students pursuing a BSN spend their first two years completing general liberal arts education requirements, as well as nursing prerequisites as pre-nursing majors. Students then apply for acceptance into the upper division nursing program to complete their final four semesters of advanced coursework and clinical experiences. Supervised clinicals help develop competencies in nursing therapies, leadership, health interventions, and general care for patients with acute and chronic illnesses. Upper division courses include lectures and lab hours that emphasize:
- Nursing skills in communication
- Physical health assessments
Accelerated BSN Program
This program is designed for individuals who already hold a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing discipline. Prerequisite courses for acceptance include human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, statistics, and psychology. The curriculum includes the same upper division coursework and clinical supervision as traditional BSN programs. Some course topics might include:
- Wellness/health promotion across the lifespan
- Nursing management of the adult patient with health problems
- Nursing care of patients with complex health problems
- Professional nursing: past, present and future
- Nursing care of the childbearing family
These programs are designed for licensed RNs who wish to advance in their career. Applicants are expected to have completed college coursework in topics such as anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and psychology, as well as general education requirements in the humanities. Clinical experiences are still a vital component of the program. Coursework in this program may include:
- Health assessment
- Health care ethics
- Issues in aging and longevity
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the employment for registered nurses from 2014 to 2024 is expected to grow 16%. As of May 2015, these professionals make a mean annual salary of $71,000, as stated by the BLS.
Continuing Education Information
All 50 states require nursing candidates to obtain a nursing license. To obtain licensure, candidates must graduate from an accredited training program in nursing and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) before practicing professionally. In addition to national licensure, candidates must meet other requirements outlined by each individual state. Nursing candidates should contact their state's board of nursing for further details.
Some nurses may choose to earn credentials in a specialized area such as gerontology, pediatrics, ambulatory care, or informatics. Credentialing for RNs is available through several professional nursing associations, including the National League of Nursing and the American Nursing Credentialing Center.
Most states require RNs to complete continuing education credits at regular intervals in order to maintain and renew licensure. Continuing education courses and seminars are offered by colleges, universities, community health organizations and professional nursing associations. Seminars and workshops provide opportunities for RNs to refresh their skills, learn new methods for nursing practice and understand technological advances in the nursing field.
Graduates from a BSN program may consider pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) to become an advanced practice nurse. Advanced practice nurses typically become a nurse practitioner, clinical practice nurse, nurse-midwives and nurse anesthesia. Business programs are also available for nurses wishing to work in healthcare administration.
BSN education programs can be completed in several forms, including a typical degree, an accelerated program for existing degree holders, and an RN-BSN program for registered nurses. All states require nurses to earn and maintain licensure, and both certification options and graduate degree programs are available for advancement.