Charting a health care career can have challenges, but there are more options than ever. With in-person, hybrid and online offerings that allow you to work at your pace, becoming a nurse and managing your career has never been easier.
After you earn your associate degree, you can test to become a registered nurse (RN) and enter the workforce or stay in school and obtain your Bachelor of Science (BSN). Many nurses work for several years with their associate degree before pursuing their bachelor’s.
“It depends on where you are in life. I would highly encourage you to get your bachelor’s and do it all at once,” said Heather Bomstad, vice president and chief nursing officer at OSF HealthCare Saint Elizabeth Medical Center. “But some people want to get out and work, and it’s more convenient to go to a local associate program and then go back for the bachelor. Either way, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
What are the differences between an RN and BSN?
A Bachelor of Science in Nursing makes for well-rounded nurses, giving you a greater understanding of diseases, more insight into how to care for your patients and a better grasp on complex public health issues. It also opens the path for greater responsibility, advancement and compensation. As in other areas of education, you must obtain your bachelor’s degree before pursuing other advanced degrees.
“It gives you more options and allows you to do more. If you want to steer your career away from direct patient care, you need a higher education,” Heather said. “Plus, if you have your RN and you’re going back for a BSN, you’ll already have the clinical experience that can help you along the journey.”
Some health care positions require you to have a BSN or other advanced nursing degrees, including:
- Case management
- Charge nurse
- Clinical education
- Quality control
RN vs BSN salary
Because a BSN opens the doors to many other non-clinical nursing roles and leadership positions, it isn’t easy to gauge a BSN nurse’s salary or a BSN to RN’s salary. Average salaries also depend on various factors, including experience, job title and geographic location.
According to Nurse.org, the average starting salary for an RN with a bachelor’s degree is usually $3 to $5 an hour higher than an RN with an associate degree.
However, these numbers must be carefully considered because they are averaged out over the country and many types of positions, both clinical and non-clinical. These variables affect starting salaries, annual salaries and access to higher-paying positions. The key point – a bachelor’s degree increases your opportunities for different positions and advancements, leading to a higher salary.
How long do BSN nursing programs take?
According to Heather, you should expect it to take a couple of years, but it depends on how fast you are going and if you still have prerequisite classes to complete.
“How long it takes is hard to say. But you’re still receiving a great education in a way that allows you to meet all of your needs, going fast or slow as needed,” Heather said. “At OSF, we understand that everybody can’t take multiple classes at a time, so we give you the option to go at your own pace.”
In-class, hybrid or online RN to BSN programs
There are several ways to achieve your education goals. Many community colleges and universities offer associate and advanced degrees in nursing education with different learning options. Whether you stay in school straight through to your BSN or use your RN license to practice nursing, there are many programs available to choose from.
OSF HealthCare colleges, Saint Anthony College of Nursing and Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing, have adjusted their programs to meet working nurses’ busy lifestyles, offering RN to BSN online and hybrid programs.
“What our two colleges are doing is fantastic. They are meeting people where they are in life, knowing that they need that flexibility and how important this is,” Heather said. “Our hybrid program offers a combination of online and in-class instruction. And if you want more time with your peers, we have satellite spots once a month where you can work as a group.”
To be sure you are getting the best possible training, you should attend a school accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
BSN nursing financial aid
Most health care organizations offer tuition assistance, and you can look for local scholarships and state and federal assistance programs.
“OSF HealthCare offers an education assistance program for its employees. They don’t owe us money back, but there is a work commitment once completed,” Heather said. “You can also search online for all kinds of scholarships.”
Last Updated: January 12, 2023