Get the Most Out of Your RN Certification by Getting a BSN

You probably became certified as a registered nurse (RN) through an associate degree program because it took less time than earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). There’s nothing wrong with that. After a year or two of study, you qualified for entry-level jobs. However, more and more employers require at least a bachelor’s-level education.

The U.S. Public Health Service, the Veterans Health Administration, and all branches of the military are good examples. In several states, you must have a BSN to practice. It’s estimated that there will be 80 percent more nurses with BSNs in 2020 than there were in 2010.

Make the most of your RN certification by adding a BSN.

What’s So Special About a BSN?

Two-year degree programs teach the most basic nursing skills in a classroom or hands-on clinical setting. The curriculum is designed to equip future RNs for patient-centered care.

RN-to-BSN programs focus on expanding your personal development, building your skill set and increasing your cultural awareness. Upper-level curriculum may include some of these classes:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Psychology
  • Chemistry
  • Nutrition
  • Adult, pediatric and geriatric nursing
  • Global health care
  • Ethics
  • Specialized nursing electives

BSN programs also place heavy emphasis on leadership. You’ll be fit for advancement and a variety of rewarding jobs that pay more.

Show Me the Money

Tacking on a BSN could increase your salary by anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars per year.

Much depends on your specialty, how many years of experience you have and where in the country you work. Nationwide, average salaries for RNs range from $46,000 to $89,000. For nurses with BSNs, the average jumps to between $52,000 and $99,000. In some cities, like New York and Seattle, they earn well over $100,000. Other attractive markets include Atlanta, Chicago, and Houston.

Some of the highest paid nurses specialize in these diverse areas:

  • Surgery
  • Intensive care
  • Hospice care
  • Obstetrical, gynecological, and neonatal care
  • Pediatrics
  • Midwifing
  • Legal consulting
  • Forensic consulting
  • Occupational consulting
  • Education

If you’re a computer geek, you may like nursing informatics. If you took top honors in English, consider nurse writing or reporting. Advancing into management is another path to higher earnings. Nurse managers, unit managers and clinical staff supervisors are very well-paid.

In short, higher credentials increase your options and earning potential, particularly if you specialize.

Can I Earn a BSN in My Pajamas?

Yes, you can. Schools have responded to increasing demand for skilled nurses by adding online RN-to-BSN options. There are close to 750 accredited programs throughout the U.S., and more than half of them are partially or fully available online. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has seen online enrollment go up every year for more than a decade.

Online formats are a godsend for nurses who must work full time while continuing their studies. Requirements vary from college to college, but you may never have to set foot on a campus. These programs cater to working nurses.

You can expect the course work to be as rigorous as that in a campus setting, but you’ll be able to go at your own pace. Also, many RN-to-BSN programs allow students to pay by the credit.

In general, getting a degree online is faster than getting one by physically attending class. The convenience may even encourage you to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree.

As with anything online, scams abound. Do your research to ensure that the program you choose is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

Can I Afford This Upgrade?

Costs vary wildly depending on where you study. It’s almost impossible to pin down even a rough guess. Several variables come into play:

  • Campus attendance or online study
  • Public or private college
  • In-state or out-of-state tuition
  • Number of credits transferred
  • Additional fees

One of the most acclaimed and affordable programs in the country is offered online for $7,000, but a few others at half that price are also highly rated. On the other hand, some colleges charge closer to $20,000.

As a starting point, you may want to explore programs within the $5,000 to $10,000 range. Be sure to figure in fees as well. If you physically attend classes, you’ll pay extra for things like textbooks, lab coats, and stethoscopes. Count on lab fees. Online courses charge technology fees, and some require a criminal background check at your expense.

Don’t overlook these cost-saving ideas:

  • Nursing school scholarships
  • Federal aid for full-time students
  • Employee scholarships or employer contribution programs
  • Passing your classes, the first time around

What’s the Time Investment?

Again, it depends. Factors include where you take the program, how many hours you must work at your job, your course load and how many credits you can transfer. Approximately 120 credit hours are required, so two years is a reasonable estimate.

There are accelerated programs. If you don’t have to work and can study full time, you could receive your degree in 12 to 18 months. However, the admission requirements are stricter for fast-tracked degrees. You’ll probably have to undergo a screening process and maintain a GPA of at least 3.0.

RN-to-BSN programs are more accessible and flexible than ever and pursuing that second degree could pay off sooner than you think. Few RNs who add BSNs regret the time and expense.

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