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All You Need to Know About RN to BSN Programs

Answers about RN to BSN programs

If you're a working registered nurse, you've heard about the BSN, or Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Maybe your employer is asking (or requiring) you to earn a BSN degree. Maybe you've heard your fellow nurses talking about RN to BSN programs, and you're curious about them. Perhaps it's time to complete your bachelor's degree for the sense of accomplishment you gain from having that level of higher education.

Regardless of why you might go back for a BSN, there is a lot to consider as you weigh the options. Here we answer some of the most common questions about RN to BSN programs and the degree itself.

What Is a BSN?

"BSN" is short for "Bachelor of Science in Nursing." A BSN is one educational level above an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). Because it is a bachelor's degree, it requires general education courses and at least 120 credit hours for completion as defined by the U.S. Department of Education [download].

What Is an RN to BSN Program?

Number of Rn to BSN students nationwide

An RN to BSN is a bridge program for licensed registered nurses who have an either a diploma or an associate degree in nursing and are looking to obtain their bachelor's degree in nursing. In the UTA online RN to BSN program, assignments are designed for the working nurse and include opportunities to apply lessons learned in the classroom to your current work.

RN to BSN programs are very popular for diploma- or associate degree-prepared registered nurses looking to advance their education. In Fall 2017, there were 133,494 students enrolled in 896 different RN to baccalaureate programs, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

What Is the Difference Between an RN and a BSN?

An RN is a licensed registered nurse. The Texas Board of Nursing provides a comprehensive definition of a professional nursing and what an RN does, including the assessment and care of patients who are ill or injured. A registered nurse can have many different levels of education, including bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees, and still be called an RN. The difference is the education level that nurse has obtained. As a BSN-prepared nurse, you'll have more opportunities and job options than you would as an ADN or diploma nurse.

What Are the Prerequisite Courses for an RN to BSN Program?

Because a BSN program is a bachelor's degree, it requires a minimum of 120 credit hours. General education prerequisite courses will typically include math, English, and history courses.

You can see a full list of UTA's required gen ed credits in the courses section. Many of these courses can be completed concurrently with your nursing courses (these are also called co-requisite courses).

Do I Have to Be an RN to Get a BSN?

For an RN to BSN program, yes. But there are other options for going straight into a BSN program without an RN license. UTA also offers this type of pre-licensure BSN program online.

How Do I Become an RN?

If you're not already a registered nurse, you can become one by taking the necessary courses and clinicals; earning an associate degree in nursing, a diploma in nursing or a BSN; then passing the NCLEX, which is the required test to gain RN licensure.

Learn more about the RN to BSN online program

Why the Push for BSN-Prepared Nurses?

Research correlates BSN preparation with improved patient outcomes. Since the Institute of Medicine (now National Academies of Medicine) released their findings in 2010, there has been a strong push for associate degree and diploma nurses to earn BSN degrees. The IOM recommended that 80 percent of nurses have a BSN by 2020. Progress has been made toward the goal, but there is concern that it may go unmet.

UTA online RN to BSN graduate Doris Blacksher
In order for our hospital to keep our Magnet status, we have to have a certain percentage of nurses with BSNs.
Online RN to BSN graduate in Arlington, Texas

Magnet status is awarded by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) after a hospital has completed a rigorous set of criteria. Magnet Recognition is a strong indicator of hospital's commitment to care.

Why Should I Earn a BSN?

If you're a diploma or associate degree-prepared RN and aren't being required to get a BSN degree, why should you consider it? Research from the AACN indicates that nurses with a BSN result in better patient outcomes and lower mortality rates among their patients. Earning a bachelor's degree also offers a sense of accomplishment and a sense of educational equality. Additionally, a BSN can help you expand your career options.

With all of the changes in the nursing field, and the Institute of Medicine wanting the majority of nurses to have a BSN by 2020, there were certain places I felt I couldn't get into unless I had my bachelor's degree.
online RN to BSN graduate in Bethesda, Maryland
Online RN to BSN graduate Rebecca Trupp

What Will I Learn?

Registered nurses who are in RN to BSN programs, sharpen a variety of skills and gain new ones. Even nurses who have decades of experience can benefit from a quality RN to BSN curriculum. Students will learn about evidence-based practice, how to lead and manage, and how to better care for specific populations. Below, some UTA graduates talk about what they learned in the program:

RN to BSN graduate, Gina Adair, in Texas
I feel like I walked away with new knowledge in every single course I took.
Online RN to BSN graduate in Fort Worth, Texas
Thanks to my UTA training, I was able to log in to the library at the school and get some recent evidence-based articles about a health issue that told me the facts about what the research is showing, and I was able to make decisions that are evidence-based. That's something that is extremely helpful.
Online RN to BSN graduate in Temple, Texas
RN to BSN student Chris Chirdo
RN to BSN alumna Roberta Deutsch
I've been a nurse for 33 years and the UT-Arlington program builds off of your work experience already and that was the biggest factor why I chose UT-Arlington.

Online RN to BSN graduate in New Braunfels, Texas

RN to BSN alumna Roberta Deutsch
I deal with mostly senior citizens here at my job. One of the classes dealt directly with nursing with the older population, which I enjoyed quite a bit.

Online RN to BSN graduate in La Quinta, California

California RN to BSN graduate Rose Garcia
RN to BSN graduate Loretta Hise
I had a lot of experience. I thought, 'What can they teach me?' The answer is, 'a lot.' The instruction and material were very good, which makes the program worthwhile.

Online RN to BSN graduate in Glen Rose, Texas

RN to BSN graduate Loretta Hise
I didn't think it was going to help me improve on my bedside care, but it did.

Online RN to BSN graduate in San Bernardino, California

RN to BSN graduate Lisa Schnoor
RN to BSN graduate Brenda White
It helped me become a better leader. I was always a charge nurse, in a supervisor role, but doing a leadership class helped me bring something more to the table.

Online RN to BSN graduate in Houston, Texas

RN to BSN graduate Brenda White
The floor that I work on is mostly people who are 60 or older getting their hips and knees replaced. The geriatrics course that I took helped me touch base with gerontological care. The patients are elderly, so you have to know about how everything affects everything else.

Online RN to BSN graduate in Temple, Texas

RN to BSN graduate Jessica Prince

What Jobs Can I Get With a BSN?

Earning a BSN can open up new career paths such as nursing management and leadership.

The career benefit is that you can more easily change locations, departments or facilities. A BSN can meet the necessary requirements when applying for a new role whether with your current organization or a new one. BSN-prepared nurses qualify for these additional career opportunities, which typically come with increased salaries. In many organizations, a BSN degree is required to progress on the clinical ladder.

I just finished! I am now employable anywhere. They cannot say, 'Sorry, you have wonderful experience, but we want a BSN.' I am 57. If I can do it, so can you.

Online RN to BSN graduate

"The RN to BSN definitely gave me the leadership skills that I needed and rounded out my overall nursing knowledge."

online RN to BSN graduate in Texas who became a charge nurse one month after graduation

RN to BSN graduate Misty Plummer
It was limiting only having an associate degree.

Online RN to BSN graduate in Texas, who became an interim nurse manager 18 months after graduation

Is a BSN Required for Some Nursing Jobs?

According to a 2017 report from AACN, 49% of hospitals and other healthcare employers require new hires to have a bachelor's degree in nursing; 86.3% strongly prefer BSN nurses.

Magnet hospitals require 100% of their nurse managers and leaders to hold a BSN degree. There may also be an emerging trend of states requiring their nurses to earn bachelor's degrees as well. New York, for example, passed a "BSN in 10" bill in December 2017 that requires nurses to obtain a BSN degree within 10 years of becoming an RN.

I worked in an ICU for about 23 years between two different hospitals. In order for me to change to a different department, I had to sign a contract saying I would go back for my bachelor's degree.

Online RN to BSN student in Dover, Delaware

RN to BSN student Michele Klippert
"Now, I am not only a staff nurse, I'm a charge nurse. I'm a preceptor. I'm a mentor. My degree helped with all of that -- especially with the leadership."

online RN to BSN graduate in Arlington, Texas

The feedback we receive from employers of nurses is incredible. We use that in many ways. Not only are they telling us that our nurses, when they graduate, are able to practice in new and different ways, but it helps us refine our curriculum to ensure that we're consistently relevant to the needs of our community and the populations that we serve.

Sr. Associate Dean for Education Innovation, College of Nursing and Health Innovation

UTA online RN to BSN graduate, Rebecca Trupp, landed a new job as a nurse specialist of research at a research center in Bethesda, Maryland, after completing the degree program.

Will I Get a Higher Salary With a BSN?

Nursing salaries vary for many reasons -- geography, employer, type of job, and education. Nurses who have earned a BSN are eligible for higher-paying positions. Some employers and cities or states do offer BSN-prepared nurses higher hourly rates. The pay rate increase could range from $0.25 an hour to $1 an hour or more.

According to data from November 2018, ADN RNs earn an average annual salary of $59,508 while BSN RNs make $61,965. These salaries are national averages, only represent the basic title of "Registered Nurse," and do not include other job titles, such as Nursing Manager or RN Supervisor.

Below is some additional salary information for BSN RNs by different geographies:

Location Salary Source
National $76,710
Dallas-Fort Worth, TX area $76,670
San Diego, CA $103,659
New York, NY $97,915
Orlando, FL $68,509

How Long Does an RN to BSN Program Take?

Explore online RN to BSN programs

Program completion time will vary for each student. If you don't need any general education courses, you can complete the UTA online RN to BSN program in as few as nine months. If you need pre-reqs or co-reqs, it will take a little longer. Keep in mind that you can take your co-reqs at UTA online as well. All online courses in the program are accelerated. Nursing courses are five to 14 weeks long.

"I had been away from school for so long that it was like, 'Okay, I'll start with one class.' Then, I did two. One semester, I had four classes." -- Brenda White, online RN to BSN graduate in Houston, completed the program in 18 months. She needed some general education courses to complete the program.

Jessica Prince finished the program in under 12 months despite taking a couple of breaks along the way.

How Much Time Do I Have to Spend on Homework?

Most students report spending 10-15 hours per week on their studies. This will vary depending on your course load and your familiarity with the subject area.

"On average, I spend two or three hours a night on school. I work day shift, so I usually come home from work and take a little nap or eat dinner. Then, I'll spend a couple of hours at the computer." -- Michele Klippert, online RN to BSN student in Dover, Delaware

How Will I Find Time to Study?

Many students in online programs work full-time jobs and have families. It's challenging, but doable. Online allows the flexibility to study when convenient to you.

"Being a mom and working full time, I could do homework at 3 o'clock in the morning or come home at 10 o'clock at night and do it. It was very flexible. Scheduling was not much of an issue. I spent between 20-25 hours a week on school. Any downtime I had at work, I had my laptop with me and would fill it with study time." -- Rebecca Ventura, online RN to BSN graduate in Springfield, New Jersey

How Much Does an RN to BSN Program Cost?

nonprofit universities are more affordable

Tuition rates vary widely from school to school. Private universities and colleges tend to be the most expensive, while state schools are typically more affordable. Some for-profit schools advertise low tuition rates, but they often have caveats, such as flat tuition by designated periods of time. This sounds good to some students, but it may mean trying to do too much at once, cramming multiple courses in at the same time, which can be hard for a working nurse or parent.

UTA is a public, nonprofit university. As of October 2018, the tuition for nursing courses in the RN to BSN program totals $8,995. General education courses, if necessary, are at an additional per credit hour tuition rate of $362, or $1086 per 3-hour course. View the costs page to learn more.

Is There Out-of-State Tuition?

Not at UTA. All online students, whether you're in California, Texas, New York, or one of the other 44 states where the program is available, pay the same low tuition rate.

The program's affordability was important, and that's what the bottom line was for me.

Online RN to BSN graduate

How Can I Pay for an Online RN to BSN Program?

Some online programs, including UTA's, qualify for federal financial aid. Students can complete the FAFSA to learn if they qualify for grants or loans. Some employers offer tuition reimbursement or assistance; check with your employer's human resources or benefits department to learn more.

UTA's program is pay-as-you-go, so you can start with one course and see how it works for you financially. UTA also occasionally offers scholarships for online students, including discounts for employees of partner hospitals and health systems. Call 866-489-2810 to find out what might be available to you.

Why Online for an RN to BSN?

An online RN to BSN program is one of the best ways for a working RN to earn his or her BSN credential. Online programs are flexible and allow RNs to continue working while earning their degrees. Being able to earn an income while advancing your education makes the degree more accessible and affordable.

"UTA makes the online program very easy to use." -- Lisa Schnoor, online RN to BSN graduate in San Bernardino, California

"The online format has worked out very well with my schedule." -- Michele Klippert, online RN to BSN student in Dover, Delaware

The online program does make it a lot easier for us working nurses, working mothers because we can work in the middle of the night, do our homework in the middle of the night when our children are sleeping.

Online RN to BSN graduate

Will I Be Able to Talk to My Instructors?

Yes. Online programs allow you to communicate with your instructors. You might talk to them on the phone or chat online or exchange emails.

"I was always able to reach out to my instructors. If I wasn't going to be able to meet a deadline, they were very flexible. There were a lot of storms and crazy things going on through my cohort -- our electricity and water went out. The instructors were all very responsive and the program was quick." -- Jessica Prince, online RN to BSN graduate in Temple, Texas

In addition to faculty, the UTA RN to BSN program offers academic coaches who work directly with students and help them stay engaged and progressing through their courses.

Why Does Accreditation Matter for Nursing Programs?

UTA RN to BSN is CCNE accredited

Accreditation tells students -- and their employers -- that the program is rigorous and meaningful. Nursing programs that have passed recognized accreditation standards afford their graduates more employment opportunities and the option to continue to graduate school. Many employers will only hire graduates from accredited programs and many graduate schools also require applicants to have accredited BSN degrees.

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) reviews baccalaureate and graduate level programs, as well as post-graduate APRN certificates and entry-to-practice nurse residency programs.

UTA's nursing programs are CCNE-accredited.

What About University-Level Accreditation?

Nursing accreditation only covers a nursing program. The university itself should also be accredited. Credits earned at accredited colleges and universities are more easily transferred and more broadly accepted at other institutions. UTA is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

What's Better -- National or Regional Accreditation?

National sounds better, right? But it's not. National accreditation isn't as rigorous as regional accreditation and is often used by for-profit schools, and the standards aren't as strong as those from the regional accrediting bodies. Credits earned at regionally accredited colleges and universities are more easily transferred and more broadly accepted at other institutions. Regional accrediting organizations are more established and respected. There are six recognized regional accrediting organizations in the US:

  • Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

Why Choose UTA for an Online RN to BSN Program?

UTA is a pioneer in providing high-quality online nursing education. The UTA accelerated online RN to BSN program launched in 2008 and has had more than 14,000 graduates since the inception of the program.

To sum up, here are some of the many reasons to choose UTA's online RN to BSN program:

  • CCNE-accredited nursing programs
  • Regionally accredited university
  • Top-tier faculty
  • Same curriculum as on-campus program
  • Same low tuition rate no matter where you live

By enrolling in the UTA online RN to BSN program, you will:

  • Gain knowledge that's immediately applicable to your work.
  • Benefit from a strong network of nurses.
  • Earn a degree that allows for continuation to grad school.
  • Be able to fit studies around your schedule.

The UTA RN to BSN online program is one of the top programs in the country. Whether you're from California, Florida, New York, Texas or somewhere in between, you can benefit from a strong nursing education from UTA.

"UTA is very supportive. If I have any questions, they are there to answer them for me. I am impressed with the University of Texas at Arlington, and the Texas education system, in general. It's much better than our education system, in my opinion." -- Valerie Lane, online RN to BSN student in Bakersfield, California

"Enrolling in UTA's online RN to BSN program was one of the best things I have ever done." -- Rebecca Ventura, online RN to BSN graduate in Springfield, New Jersey

Learn more about UTA's RN to BSN online program


AACN 2017-2018 Enrollment and Graduations in Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in Nursing

The National Academy of Medicine: The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health

Glassdoor: RN, BSN Salaries in the United States

Becker's Hospital Review: New York State passes 'BSN in 10' nursing education legislation

AACN: Employment of New Nurse Graduates and Employer Preferences for Baccalaureate-Prepared Nurses