ASN Vs. BSN: Which Degree Should You Earn? (2023)

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Many prospective nurses find themselves deciding between pursuing a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and an associate of science in nursing (ASN)—also called an associate degree in nursing, or an ADN. Both degrees prepare you to become a registered nurse (RN) and meet the requirements for RN licensure—so which one is right for you?

Each degree has its benefits and potential drawbacks, and for many, the choice comes down to their resources and personal career goals. Follow along as we compare ASN vs. BSN programs, including the pros and cons of each.

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ADN vs. BSN

An ADN and a BSN are both undergraduate nursing degrees. Generally speaking, associate degrees take about two years to earn, while bachelor’s degrees take four years to complete. Read on to learn more about each degree.

What Is an ADN?

ADN programs build basic nursing skills through classroom learning and hands-on clinical training. As an ADN student, you may encounter courses such as microbiology, health assessment and lifespan development, though exact course offerings vary by program.

You can earn an ADN in two years through an institutionally accredited community college. If you plan to become an RN, your ADN program should also hold programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or your state’s accrediting agency for nursing programs, if applicable.

An ADN program requires approximately 70 credits to complete. It prepares you to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which all prospective registered nurses must pass before applying for state licensure. As an RN-ADN, you can find employment in a traditional hospital system as a community health nurse, an outpatient care nurse or a similar role requiring entry-level nursing skills.

Pros and Cons of Earning an ADN

You may pursue an ADN if you’re looking for a shorter program than a BSN, which can take four years to earn. An ADN enables you to enter the nursing field quickly to start earning a salary and gaining practical nursing experience.

ADN programs are also less competitive and expensive than BSN programs. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that tuition and fees at a public, in-state two-year college cost an average of just $3,501 per year.

On the other hand, ADN programs are not as in-depth or holistic as BSN degrees. ADN students learn basic clinical nursing skills, while BSN students have more time to absorb management, research and higher-level clinical skills. Plus, hospitals with Magnet status—which the American Nurses Credentialing Center confers to denote high-performing hospitals—typically prefer to hire nurses with a BSN.

What Is a BSN?

A BSN is a rigorous, four-year university program that involves intensive clinical training. BSN students spend 300 to 700 hours in various clinical settings and learn leadership skills that prepare them for advanced roles and degrees.

BSN course offerings vary but can include subjects like foundations of professional nursing, health equity, care coordination and case management, and informatics, patient safety and quality improvement. Most BSN programs require 120 or more credits to graduate.

(Video) ADN vs BSN Nursing Degree's | PROS & CONS

Pros and Cons of Earning a BSN

BSN programs take longer to complete than ADNs, meaning BSN students may not enter the workforce as quickly as they would with just an associate degree. BSN programs can also be significantly more expensive, and you may need to take out student loans to cover the cost of tuition. According to the NCES, tuition and fees at a public, in-state four-year university cost $9,375 per year on average—nearly three times that of a two-year school.

Regarding career outlook, however, many say the pros of earning a BSN outweigh the initial cons. The depth of study required by a BSN program better qualifies students to take on complex nursing tasks.

BSN students are also more likely to pass the NCLEX on their first try: In 2022, 82.32% of bachelor’s graduates passed, versus 77.91% of associate graduates, according to data from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

A BSN degree can propel students into positions with more responsibility and set them up to specialize their careers and earn certifications in particular areas of nursing, such as gerontology or maternal health. BSN graduates are also prepared to pursue master’s or doctoral degrees.

Finally, nurses who hold a BSN earn higher salaries than their ADN counterparts, which can make up for the difference in tuition over time. Payscale reports that BSN graduates earn an average annual salary of about $91,000, versus approximately $74,000 for ADN degree holders.

Do You Need a BSN to Become an RN?

In short, you do not need a BSN to become an RN, but you should examine the state of nursing in the U.S. before you choose which degree to pursue.

Research published in the the journalHealth Affairs shows that hospital settings employing larger proportions of highly educated nurses have better patient outcomes. As the nursing field evolves in response to this type of research, a BSN can make it easier for RNs to land jobs and advance their careers.

In late 2010, the National Academy of Medicine called for 80% of RNs to hold BSN degrees by 2020. The U.S. didn’t quite hit this goal, but in 2020, more than 65% of nurses held a bachelor’s degree, according to NCSBN’s National Nursing Workforce Survey.

According to a survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 27.7% of hospitals and other healthcare employers require new hires to hold a bachelor’s degree, and 71.7% strongly prefer it.

RN-to-BSN Bridge Programs

If you became an RN with only an ADN, you can still return to school for a BSN degree. RN-to-BSN bridge programs simplify and expedite this process. These bridge programs, which are growing in popularity, allow licensed RNs to bypass many typical BSN program prerequisites and complete their BSN degrees in one to two years instead of four. You can also pursue RN-to-MSN or BSN-to-MSN bridge programs if you want to earn a master’s in nursing.

(Video) What they DIDNT TELL YOU about ADN/ASN NURSING DEGREE || ADN NURSING WORTH IT? || Carle Rae

Common Careers for ADN Graduates

Registered Nurse

Median Annual Salary: $77,600
Required Education: ADN/ASN or BSN, based on employer preference
Job Description: A registered nurse can hold either an ADN or a BSN. An RN uses clinical skills to provide a high standard of care to patients in various hospital and clinic settings. Daily duties of an RN can include:

  • Monitoring patient needs
  • Coordinating care with doctors and other hospital staff
  • Updating patient charts and administering medication

Nurse Manager

Average Annual Salary: Around $92,000
Required Education: ADN/ASN or BSN, based on employer preference
Job Description: Working as a nurse manager shifts your focus from patients to your fellow nurses. Nurses on the hospital or clinic floor report to nurse managers, who create schedules and help mediate disagreements. Nursing managers must have at least five years of experience as floor nurses before transitioning to more managerial and administrative duties.

Nurse Case Manager

Average Annual Salary: Around $77,000
Required Education: ADN/ASN or BSN, based on employer preference
Job Description: Nurse case managers move from acute patient care, or caring for a patient during a specific treatment or following an operation, to creating holistic recovery plans. A nurse case manager’s duties may include helping someone recover from or learn to cope with a life-changing injury or new diagnosis. Many RNs become case managers to specialize in a particular type of patient or a specific condition to provide more comprehensive care.

Common Careers for BSN Graduates

Clinical Nurse Manager

Average Annual Salary: Around $86,600
Required Education: BSN
Job Description: A clinical nurse manager implements new or changing regulations, policies and initiatives. A clinical nurse manager may undertake recruiting, budgeting and training tasks to ensure nurses can provide top-quality patient care. Clinical nurse managers must be detail-oriented and able to collaborate with other clinical managers, doctors and hospital staff.

Nurse Educator

Median Annual Salary: $77,440
Required Education: MSN or doctorate in nursing
Job Description: Policies, treatments and systems in healthcare shift on a near-constant basis. In response, nurse educators ensure that all nurses and staff who work with patients stay updated and on top of their continuing education by providing regular opportunities for learning and evaluation.

Nurse educators also oversee new nurses in hospital settings, create continuing education materials and help implement policies. Beyond hospitals, nurse educators work in higher education and various healthcare-adjacent organizations.

Nursing Director

Average Annual Salary: Around $95,600
Required Education: BSN
Job Description: Nursing directors undertake extra responsibilities to ensure a unit (e.g., psychiatric or maternity), department (e.g., outpatient, inpatient or radiology) or group of departments operates efficiently. A nursing director’s duties may include:

  • Creating business plans and multi-year goals
  • Overseeing policy, procedures and regulatory compliance
  • Advocating for nursing staff and providing mentorship
  • Leading nurses and nurse managers

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About ASN vs. BSN Degrees

Is an ASN the same as an RN?

No; an ASN or ADN is an associate degree conferred to students upon program completion. The RN designation is a license earned by passing the NCLEX and meeting other state licensure requirements. RNs can hold either an ADN or a BSN degree.

Does an ADN make the same as a BSN?

No, an ADN does not make the same salary as a BSN. Nurses with BSN degrees typically earn higher wages than those with only ADNs. Hospitals prefer BSN graduates, and nurses with BSNs have more opportunities to advance their careers.

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FAQs

ASN Vs. BSN: Which Degree Should You Earn? ›

A BSN is a higher educational

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Teacher education or teacher training refers to programs, policies, procedures, and provision designed to equip (prospective) teachers with the knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, approaches, methodologies and skills they require to perform their tasks effectively in the classroom, school, and wider community.
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credential than an ASN and requires approximately four years to complete. BSN programs cover the same material as an ASN curriculum, but with greater depth and added training in leadership, case management, information management and more.

Should I pursue ADN or BSN? ›

Both ADN and BSN degrees prepare nurses for entry-level roles. However, a BSN degree is designed to offer more career opportunities for upward mobility, and that comes with a bigger paycheck. The starting salary for a registered nurse with a BSN can be, at the beginning, similar to what an ADN nurse earns.

Are BSN programs harder than ADN? ›

ADN programs are also generally easier to get into than BSN programs and they are not as costly. There are many advantages to both ADNs and BSNs. To help decide which program might be right for you, consider cost, program length, salary potential, and career advancement opportunities.

Is an associates in nursing worth it? ›

You can earn an associate degree and become a licensed RN in about 2 years. You can gain essential work experience in the field sooner than others. You can also start building connections in nursing, and with patients, sooner. You can save money by earning an associate, rather than a four-year degree.

Do ADN and BSN take the same Nclex? ›

After earning their degree, BSN graduates are required to pass the same NCLEX-RN test taken by ADN candidates. As a result of the additional education, BSN-RNs are otherwise better positioned for certain nursing specialties, career advancement opportunities, and better pay.

Do ADN and BSN make the same amount of money? ›

Associate degree nurses have a salary range from $49,810 at the beginning of their careers to over $106,000 with twenty or more years of experience. BSN nurses typically begin their careers with an annual salary of about $53,000 and may make over $115,000 annually (or more) with twenty plus years' experience.

Does having a BSN make you a better nurse? ›

RNs who have completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree have been linked to better patient care and overall outcomes, in part because they have more extensive training and additional knowledge to draw upon.

Why choose BSN over ADN? ›

A BSN degree is a bachelor's degree, typically a four-year program, that is a step higher than an ADN degree. Registered nurses with this degree not only go to school longer, but they also gain a more in-depth education compared to those with an ADN degree.

What is the hardest nursing major? ›

Pharmacology, or the study of medication, can seem scary because of the sheer scope of the course. "It becomes one of the hardest classes for nursing students due to the depth and amount of knowledge needed," says Megan Lynch, RN and instructor at Pima Community College.

Who has the easiest BSN program? ›

15 Easiest BSN Programs to Get Into – 2023
  • RN-to-BSN Capella University. ...
  • BS - Nursing (Registered Nurse - R.N. to B.S.N.) Grand Canyon University. ...
  • BS in Nursing (RN to BSN) Louisiana State University Alexandria. ...
  • BS in Nursing Bay Path University.

What is the difference between BSN and ASN nursing degrees? ›

A BSN is a higher educational credential than an ASN and requires approximately four years to complete. BSN programs cover the same material as an ASN curriculum, but with greater depth and added training in leadership, case management, information management and more.

Is 30 too old to go to nursing school? ›

A common question often asked by nontraditional students is whether or not they're too old to go to nursing school. The short answer is that you're never too old to go to nursing school. Even if you're not physically able to do certain nursing jobs, there are other nursing specialties you're going to be able to do.

Is it too late to start nursing school? ›

And while some people might feel that becoming a nurse later in life isn't possible, that's simply not true. Thanks to a variety of diverse nursing programs, it's 100% possible to follow your heart and become a nurse at any age. In fact, it's even easier if you already have a bachelor's degree.

Do you take NCLEX twice for ADN and BSN? ›

The main test that nurses take is the NCLEX, but you do not need to take it more than once after passing. Though there are no other required exams, you may want to take some of the certification exams available.

Are BSN nurses safer than ADN nurses? ›

Over the past two decades, a substantial body of research in the U.S. and abroad has documented that hospitals with a higher proportion of registered nurses with a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) experience significantly fewer deaths, have shorter hospital stays and fewer readmissions, and have lower Medicare ...

Can I pass the NCLEX with an ADN? ›

Can I take the NCLEX-RN with an ADN degree? Students who graduate from accredited ADN, ASN, or AASN programs qualify to take either of the National Council Licensure Examinations (NCLEX) offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

What percentage of nurses have ADN? ›

Abstract. Roughly 40% of the nearly 3 million registered nurses (RNs) in the United States have an associate's degree (ADN) as their highest level of nursing education.

How can a BSN RN make the most money? ›

How To Make More Money As A Nurse
  1. Complete your BSN degree. ...
  2. Pursue experience in a nursing specialty. ...
  3. Volunteer to work overtime on occasion. ...
  4. Get an advanced nursing degree. ...
  5. Get creative with nursing side jobs. ...
  6. Become a travel nurse.
Jan 23, 2018

What is the difference between ADN and ASN? ›

ADN focuses on comprehensive nursing courses and clinical practice. ASN focuses primarily on clinical practice while also providing nursing courses. AAS is a career-focused program that provides basic nursing education.

Why do hospitals prefer BSN nurses? ›

Many hospitals favor hiring nurses with a BSN because they can reach the IOM's recommendation without losing ADNs who are close to retirement age. If hospitals do hire nurses with an associate degree, they may require them to complete a BSN program within two to five years.

What nursing specialty pays the most with BSN? ›

Some of the highest paying positions for RNs with their BSNs include:
  • Pharmaceutical RN - $83,486. Pharmaceutical RN's earn an average salary of $83,486. ...
  • Nurse Informatics - $77,791. Nurse Informaticists earn an average salary of $77,791. ...
  • Nurse Case Managers - $71,772. ...
  • Nurse Administrators - $65,000 - $100,000.
Sep 23, 2020

What percentage of nurses hold a BSN? ›

In April 2023, results from the 2022 National Nursing Workforce Survey show that the percentage of RNs with a BSN or higher degree in the US workforce exceeded 70% for the first time (71.7%). Most nurses now enter the workforce with a BSN or entry-level master's degree (51.5%).

What is the easiest nursing major? ›

For the easiest nursing degrees, your best options include shorter programs like licensed practical nurse and licensed vocational nurse programs, associate's degree programs, bridge programs for registered nurses seeking bachelor's degrees and hybrid nursing programs.

What is the fastest nursing degree? ›

The fastest way to become an RN is through an RN diploma program, which can be completed in as little as a year. While completing this program does not lead to a degree, it does make the individual eligible to take the NCLEX and earn their RN license.

What is the lowest BSN salary? ›

Median annual salary for nurses with a BSN degree
  • 10th Percentile: $59,450.
  • 25th Percentile: $61,790.
  • 75th Percentile: $97,580.
  • 90th Percentile: $120,250.
  • Projected job growth: 6.2%

Can you do anything with just a BSN? ›

Graduates with a BSN can work as bedside nurses in medical settings, such as hospitals, clinics, and physicians' offices. They can also pursue careers as nurse educators, health policy nurses, nurse recruiters, nurse informaticists, forensic nurses, clinical research nurses, or nurse health coaches.

Can I be an no directly after BSN? ›

BSN to NP Programs

One of the most common options, a BSN-NP program takes you from a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) directly into a master's NP program. Some students choose to enroll directly from their BSN undergraduate program or work in a clinical setting before advancing their education.

Why ASN is better than BSN? ›

The significant difference between ASN and BSN programs is the length of time required to complete each and the cost. In addition, after completing either of these programs, registered nurses will have different job roles and responsibilities and different career advancement and salaries.

Is an ASN the same as an LPN? ›

Nursing associate degrees prepare nursing students to become registered nurses. On the other hand, licensed practical nurse programs prepare nursing students to become licensed practical nurses. Both LPN and associate degree programs unlock several career opportunities in the nursing field.

What does ADN mean in nursing? ›

As you've been looking into pursuing a nursing career, you've likely noticed a number of options to acquire the credentials you need. One that stands out is an associate degree in nursing (ADN) since you can finish a program in two years or fewer.

What is the best age to be a nurse? ›

The average age of ADN nursing students at community colleges is 26-40 years old. BSN programs have an average age of early-mid 20s. Students in RN-to-BSN programs are typically in their late 30s.

Is it worth going to nursing school at 40? ›

The good news is that older nursing students have a tremendous success rate in college. Older students are more focused and less distracted than when they were younger. They take their studies more seriously and understand the importance of making time to study for tests and to complete assignments.

Is nursing school harder than med school? ›

However, don't take it for granted that nursing school will be much easier than medical school, especially in an accelerated format. Both offer a unique set of challenges and demand the utmost in student commitment and work rate.

How common is it to fail nursing school? ›

Nursing school is difficult and will be hard to pass. Most students pass their nursing program, so you can too. How many nursing students fail? According to the National League of Nursing, the dropout rate for nursing programs in the United States is around 20%.

What is the average age of a nurse? ›

Average Age Of Nurses

The average age of a registered nurse in the United States is 44, though this may change as the demand for nurses increases.

Is the first year of nursing the hardest? ›

If you become a nurse, your first year on the job is often the hardest. Being in a new environment, suddenly having to use new skills, and the new responsibility of being a nurse hit you all at once. It can be overwhelming.

What happens if you fail NCLEX 3 times? ›

If they fail, they'll need to wait 45 days before retesting. After failing three times, though, they'll need to complete a board-approved remediation program before the next retake. test-takers have six attempts to pass in total.

How many people fail the NCLEX? ›

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) reports 13.43% of NCLEX-RN candidates fail the exam on their first attempt. The number of unsuccessful test-takers is low compared to the more than 86% who pass the exam on their first try.

What happens if you don't pass NCLEX in 3 years? ›

If you have not passed the NCLEX by the three-year anniversary of your graduation, you will have to attend a nursing education program before you may take the exam again.

What is the hardest nursing certification to get? ›

Emergency nursing is considered one of the most difficult fields of nursing, and certification in this specialty is highly desirable.

Is there a difference in scope of practice between ADN and BSN? ›

BSN nurses may enjoy increased autonomy in decision making on the job, with increased knowledge and understanding of RN specialties and skills. ADN nurses are typically highly focused on technical clinical tasks and day-to-day care, such as monitoring patients, administering basic procedures or updating charts.

What can a BSN do that an RN Cannot? ›

“As a BSN, you have more opportunities than your RN counterparts. You can step up to a leadership position, move into nursing education, work in public health and focus on health education within the community, or even go on to pursue a nurse practitioner or nurse administrator degree,” Christman said.

Is getting ADN harder than BSN? ›

An ADN program seems faster and easier, and a BSN prepares qualified professionals to provide complex patient care and earn a higher income.

Is BSN harder than ADN? ›

ADN programs are also generally easier to get into than BSN programs and they are not as costly. There are many advantages to both ADNs and BSNs. To help decide which program might be right for you, consider cost, program length, salary potential, and career advancement opportunities.

Is it worth getting an ADN in nursing? ›

For those who want to become a registered nurse, an ADN degree can help them get into the field quickly. It can be a useful stepping-stone to receive a bachelor's degree in nursing or for other advanced medical degrees. Becoming a registered nurse can lead to a wide variety of opportunities and career paths.

How much does a BSN make in Texas compared to a ADN? ›

Texas BSN Degree Holders vs ADN Degree Holders – Who Earns More? To show the impact having a baccalaureate degree can truly make in your salary, consider that ADN-educated RNs in Texas earn an average of $76,530 a year. BSN-educated RNs earn $6,760 a year more at $83,290 a year, on average.

Should all nurses have a BSN? ›

While several degree options that grant entry into the nursing profession exist, the BSN is the one that opens the most doors. That's because it goes beyond basic nursing knowledge, taking a deeper dive into health policy, research and evidence-based practice and leadership development.

What is the average salary for a BSN in California? ›

$70,994 is the 25th percentile. Salaries below this are outliers. $120,445 is the 75th percentile.

Why do hospitals prefer BSN? ›

Many hospitals favor hiring nurses with a BSN because they can reach the IOM's recommendation without losing ADNs who are close to retirement age. If hospitals do hire nurses with an associate degree, they may require them to complete a BSN program within two to five years.

Can a BSN make 6 figures? ›

Can Nurses Make Six Figures? Yes, you can 100% make six figures as a nurse. The disclaimer is that working in some states may make this easier than working in other states. Geographic location is a huge indicator of starting salary and can be a reason why some of you are not as close to others when looking at raw data.

What is the difference between BSN and ASN? ›

A BSN is a higher educational credential than an ASN and requires approximately four years to complete. BSN programs cover the same material as an ASN curriculum, but with greater depth and added training in leadership, case management, information management and more.

What is the value of a BSN degree? ›

A BSN in nursing is important because it supports better patient outcomes, meets changing industry demands, offers a path toward higher job security, provides higher earning potential, and opens career advancement opportunities. Additionally, a BSN may soon be mandated, so earning one will put you ahead of the curve.

How much do new grad BSN nurses make in California? ›

How much does a New Graduate Registered Nurse make in California? The average New Graduate Registered Nurse salary in California is $75,849 as of March 28, 2023, but the range typically falls between $68,041 and $86,710.

What is the starting salary for a BSN nurse in USA? ›

How much does a BSN RN make a year? The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average RN in the United States earns $77,600 annually. According to Zippia.com, RNs in the United States earn $84,027 annually, with a typical starting salary of $46,000.

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