BSN Degree: What You Need to Know

February 7, 2023


Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Reviewed: 5/13/22

If you’re interested in joining one of the largest health occupations in the United States, read on to learn more about becoming a nurse with a BSN degree.   


Often considered the backbone of the healthcare industry, nurses play essential roles in providing patient care and meeting the growing healthcare needs of the nation.  

With over 3.8 million registered nurses (RNs) in America alone, nurses are the largest single profession in healthcare. However, even with these high numbers, there is a significant nurse shortage that must be overcome.  

If you’re considering becoming a nurse, you’ve likely heard of the BSN degree. But, in case you haven’t heard of a BSN degree or simply want to know more, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about the BSN degree, career options, and the best BSN programs in the United States.

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What is a BSN Degree?

A BSN degree is a bachelor program for students interested in becoming registered nurses (RNs). BSN is an abbreviation for Bachelor of Science in Nursing. 

Within this program, students gain an advanced understanding of topics such as:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Nursing Theory
  • Health Assessment
  • Medical Terminology
  • Mental Health Nursing
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Healthcare Ethics

Aside from learning coursework material, students completing their BSN also complete clinical components to give them hands-on experience. Many programs offer several types of simulations to prepare nursing students for a variety of experiences they’ll encounter as RNs.

After completing a BSN, students are equipped with advanced patient care skills and experience that they will continue using as practicing RNs.

To help you choose the right program for you, we've created the BSN School Selection Quiz that will provide you with a list of programs based on your preferences.

How Long Does it Take to Complete a BSN Program?

The number of years it takes to complete a BSN depends on the level of education you already have.


Completing a full BSN typically takes four years for students with no prior post-secondary education. . This is the most common program nurses pursue.

Accelerated BSN

If you already have a bachelor’s degree related to healthcare, such as Health Science, you might be able to complete an accelerated BSN program. Since some of the coursework will overlap with your previous degree, you’ll be able to complete your BSN in around two to three years.


If you’ve completed an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), you can complete a BSN in less than two years. Since students holding ADNs already have nursing experience and knowledge, they aren’t required to take all of the courses regular BSN students take.

Career Options for BSN Nurses

A BSN degree opens up endless opportunities for nurses. While nurses are typically associated with clinics or hospitals, there are various places nurses can work:

  • Campsites: nurses can work at campsites or retreats to care for counselors and campers.
  • Schools: nurses can work in schools at every level to care for students.
  • Rural areas: nurses can care for patients in isolated areas such as mobile health centers.
  • Hospice facilities: nurses can care for patients at the end of their lives at hospice facilities or at their homes.
  • Community Clinics: nurses can care for victims of abuse, drug addiction, or those living in shelters.
  • Crime Labs: forensic nurses work with and care for victims of criminal violence and assault.
  • Legal Courts: legal nurses serve as experts in legal cases involving healthcare.

Another popular option for nurses that love to travel is travel nursing. These nurses care for patients all over the globe, wherever they are most needed. Travel nurses also tend to make significantly more than other nurses, with many of their salaries reaching the six-figure mark!

Aside from direct patient care, nurses may also pursue more of an educational role. Nurse educators evaluate educational programs, design curriculums, and develop programs.   

Many nursing students also pursue higher education using their BSN, such as medical school. Since BSN students already have medical knowledge and experience, they’re able to excel in medical school.

BSN Degree: Pros and Cons

While getting a BSN can lead to a fulfilling career as an RN, there are some pros and cons you should consider when deciding if a BSN is the right fit for you.


Let’s begin with the pros of getting a BSN degree:

1. It’s in High Demand

Since obtaining a BSN allows you to practice a wide variety of nursing, this degree is in high demand in healthcare, meaning it will be quite easy for you to find a job after graduating. This pro is further amplified due to the current nurse shortage the nation is combating.

In fact, the employment of RNs is expected to grow 15% by 2026, which is a much faster rate than any other profession.

2. It’ll Lead to a High-Paying Job

Nurses with BSNs are one of the highest-paid employees in the entire labor sector. The median salary for RNs is $70,000,  but many nurses eventually make much more than this.

3. A BSN is Preferred Over other Nursing Degrees

By having a BSN, you are not only more qualified for a broader range of jobs, but you’re also more likely to get a job. According to the American Association of Nursing, 88% of employers strongly prefer nurses with BSNs over associate nursing degrees.

4. You’ll Have a Large Knowledge Base

A BSN program involves a comprehensive and rigorous curriculum that allows students to gain abilities that go beyond nursing. So, for BSN grads interested in case management, health promotion, research, or leadership opportunities instead of bedside nursing, they’re equipped with the right skills to excel.

5. Personal Satisfaction

You’re most likely entering the healthcare field because of your genuine passion for people. With a BSN degree, you’ll be able to care for people in so many different ways! As discussed, you have various opportunities to choose from that don’t just involve working directly with patients in hospital or clinical settings.

You’ll be able to find your niche and help thousands of people along the way!


While there are fewer cons to list, the challenges of attaining a BSN degree are still worth mentioning. Here are a few:

1. It’s Stressful

Everyone knows that being a nurse is both physically and mentally demanding. But obtaining your BSN can be quite stressful too! You’ll most likely be in school full-time and will have to study hard to do well. Since people’s lives will be in your hands, your instructors will have high expectations for all of your assessments. 

2. It’s Expensive

Obtaining a BSN degree is definitely an investment. Considering most students take four years to complete their BSN, most RNs have a lot of student debt. Some of the best BSN programs, such as the University of Pennsylvania’s, cost around $63,270 in tuition per year.

3. It’s a Specialized Degree

Since a BSN is a specialized program, you won’t have as many opportunities to expand your knowledge outside of nursing. With more general majors such as Health Sciences, you have more opportunities to choose diverse electives to explore your passions.

If you choose a BSN, you should be set on becoming a nurse and be sure patient care is your passion! It’ll be all you’ll focus on for four years while you’re in school and for decades after you begin your practice.

Best BSN Programs

Considering there are currently 996 BSN programs for you to choose from, you might feel overwhelmed trying to decide which nursing school to attend. To narrow your search, we’ve compiled a list of the eight best BSN programs in the US:

1. University of Pennsylvania

UPenn’s nursing program is the number one Nursing Program in America and impressively ranks as the best nursing program in the world! This university dedicates itself to developing the next generation of experts in the health field.

2. University of Washington

The University of Washington places second as the Best Nursing School in the nation. Among all public universities, it ranks first for its BSN program. UW’s mission is to turn ideas into impact and improve the health of people and communities.

3. Duke University

Duke University ties with the University of Washington as the second-best Nursing School. Their nurse-led curriculum aims to transform healthcare delivery and reduce health inequities.  

4. Emory University

The Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory is another excellent option to pursue a BSN. It ranks fourth in Nursing and offers students a tight-knit community and access to internationally recognized health systems.

5. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

The University of Michigan also ranks fourth in Nursing and is committed to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible by challenging the status quo and preparing daring nurses to change the world.

6. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Like Emory and UM, the University of Carolina ties fourth in Nursing. Its nursing school encourages active and visionary thinking, innovation, creativity, and the pursuit of unrestrained scientific inquiry to change lives.  

7. New York University

NYU’s Rory Meyer’s College of Nursing ranks seventh in Nursing and produces nurses that provide innovative and exemplary healthcare to shape the future of nursing.

8. Oregon Health and Science University

Tied with NYU, Oregon Health and Science University’s nursing school ranks seventh in Nursing. OHSU is dedicated to providing excellent nursing education through lifelong learning and compassionate, high-quality care of individuals and communities.

FAQs: BSN Degree

If you have any remaining questions, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about BSN degrees.

1. Is a BSN the Same as an RN?

No, a BSN is different from an RN. A BSN is a degree you acquire to become a Registered Nurse (RN). One is a degree, while the other is a professional title.

2. What Does a BSN Mean in Nursing?

BSN stands for Bachelor in Science in Nursing and is a popular program to complete for aspiring RNs.

3. What is the Easiest BSN Program to Get Into?

Cox College is one of the most accessible BSN programs to get into. It has a 100% acceptance rate and requires a low cumulative GPA of 2.0.

4. What is a Good GPA for BSN?

A good GPA to get into a BSN program is a 2.5. To get into a top nursing program, students should aim for a GPA above a 3.5.

5. Is a BSN a Good Degree?

Yes! Not only will it lead to a rewarding career, but it’s high in demand and leads to high-paying jobs.

6. How Much do Nurses with BSN Degrees Make?

The median salary of nurses with BSN degrees is $70,000.

Final Thoughts

Despite the challenges that come with a BSN degree and nursing, there are immense benefits to obtaining a BSN. Students who obtain a BSN degree have profound and direct impacts on the people they care for and have the ability to change the world by advancing and reshaping health care!

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