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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.
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.
Common Careers for ADN Graduates
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
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.
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.
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.
Is it better to get your ASN or BSN? ›
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 it worth getting an ASN? ›
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.What are the benefits of obtaining a BSN as opposed to an ADN? ›
Choosing between an ADN and BSN degree also involves thinking about the kind of nursing career you want to build. A BSN degree provides you with more employment opportunities, as well as a chance to earn a higher salary. With a BSN degree, you will also be able to provide a wider range of healthcare to patients.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.Do I have to get my ASN before my BSN? ›
Some nurses choose an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) due to the shorter duration while others go for a BSN degree straight away. With a BSN, you can take on more responsibilities sooner. But how can you earn your BSN without an ADN? All you need is your high school diploma or your GED.Is it worth it to get a BSN in nursing? ›
Nurses with bachelor's degrees are prepared to perform more multifaceted tasks and are given more autonomy on the job than nurses who hold associate degrees. In fact, research shows that BSN-educated nurses have a higher earning potential over time.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.What is the highest paid ASN nurse? ›
|Annual Salary||Monthly Pay|
Both BSN and ADN degrees prepare students to take the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) open_in_new to become registered nurses. The NCLEX exam does not differ for those on the BSN or ADN educational path. Last updated January 2022.What are the benefits of using an ASN? ›
ASN-based shipping and receiving practices assist businesses and buyers with quick and accurate loading and unloading of shipment, never forgetting the efficient sorting and management of inventory. ASN-based shipping rectifies loopholes like human-errors like confusing variants of similarly titled items.
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.Are BSN nurses better nurses? ›
We found that hospitals with a larger proportion of nurses with BSN qualifications have significantly lower risk-adjusted mortality for surgical patients, regardless of the specific pathway nurses take to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing.Why more BSN nurses are needed? ›
Better Patient Outcomes
Patient care continues to become more and more complex, leading nursing leaders to push for more baccalaureate-educated nurses in clinical settings. That's because research supports the idea of education correlating with the quality of patient outcomes.
Pharmacology. 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? ›
- 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.
It is said that up to 90% of what you do on the job after graduation was not learned while in nursing school. I'm not convinced the learning curve is that high, but there is a lot of on-the-job training required. Nursing is a complex profession.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.
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.What does PN stand for in nursing? ›
Like most things in life, it's not quite that simple. There are two major categories of nurses working in medical settings across the U.S.—the registered nurse (RN) and the practical nurse (PN)—also called a “vocational nurse” in California and Texas.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 percentage of nurses have a Bachelor degree? ›
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%).Is being a nurse mentally draining? ›
Nurses can easily get dragged down by the difficult and draining nature of the job, making life feel heavy and stressful. Focusing on difficult and hard things day after day while pouring out energy and compassion for others can lead to burnout and depression.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.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 type of nurse is most in demand? ›
2. Registered nurse (RN)
|Education||ASN (required) or BSN (recommended)|
|Certifications||Must pass the NCLEX-RN exam|
|Annual Salary||Hourly Wage|
- Legal nurse consultant. ...
- Forensic nurse consultant. ...
- Public health nurse. ...
- Occupational nurse. ...
- Medical writer. ...
- Physical therapist. ...
- Psychiatric nurse practitioner. ...
- Medical or pharmaceutical sales.
Immediate disqualifiers are as follows: Major misdemeanor conviction for crimes involving weapons, violence, embezzlement, dishonesty, misappropriation, fraud or sex crimes. Any felony conviction. More than one drunk driving or related conviction in the past three years.How many times can you take the NCLEX? ›
If you happen not to pass the exam, you can retake it after 45 days. And if you are wondering how often you can take the NCLEX, the NCSBN retake policy allows for a retake eight times a year, ensuring 45 exam-free days between each test.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.
Who uses ASN? ›
EDI 856, also known as an Advance Shipping Notice or ASN, is an important, and frequently used EDI transaction among suppliers, distributors, manufacturers, and retailers.Who needs an ASN? ›
Network operators need Autonomous System Numbers (ASNs) to control routing within their networks and to exchange routing information with other Internet Service Providers (ISPs). There are two different formats to represent ASNs: 2-byte and 4-byte. A 2-byte ASN is a 16-bit number.Who sends an ASN? ›
An advanced shipment notice (ASN) is an electronic data interchange (EDI) message sent from the shipper to the receiver prior to the departure of the shipment from the shipper's facility. The message includes complete information about the shipment and its contents.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 hard is the Nclex exam? ›
NCLEX Pass Rates
The second-attempt pass rate for domestically-educated students taking the test was 45.56%. These results demonstrate that it is a pretty difficult test. The questions are designed to test your critical thinking, knowledge of the nursing process, and assessment skills.
While nursing associates will contribute to most aspects of care, including delivery and monitoring, registered nurses will take the lead on assessment, planning and evaluation. Nurses will also lead on managing and coordinating care with full contribution from the nursing associate within the integrated care team.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.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 easiest nursing class? ›
The Easiest Classes in Nursing School
- Social Sciences (Intro Psychology, Sociology, etc.)
- Intro to Speech (or Communication)
- English Composition.
- Using Information Technology.
What makes an LPN or LVN preparation program the easiest type of nursing education you can pursue is its focus on training for basic nursing services only and its quick completion time. However, aspiring LPNs and LVNs still need to take coursework in studies such as biology, pharmacology and nursing.
What is the lowest BSN salary? ›
- 10th Percentile: $59,450.
- 25th Percentile: $61,790.
- 75th Percentile: $97,580.
- 90th Percentile: $120,250.
- Projected job growth: 6.2%
Certified Nursing Assistant
A CNA program is a fast-paced program that only takes a couple of months to fully complete. After graduation, students can enter the field right away, assisting nurses with patient work in a wide variety of settings.
- 1.) University of Pennsylvania.
- 2.) Duke University.
- 3.) Villanova University.
- 4.) Northeastern University.
- 5.) Loyola University Chicago.
- 6.) Clemson University.
- 7.) George Washington University.
- 8.) Metropolitan State University of Denver.
After acceptance into the nursing program, each student must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for coursework in the nursing major to remain in the nursing program.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.What is the failure rate for nursing degrees? ›
Roughly 18 percent of students in Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs. About 60 percent of students in Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs.Can you go from BSN to doctor? ›
Many registered nurses are incredibly satisfied with their career choices. Yet some wonder if it's possible to go from nurse to doctor. While this may not be the typical path, it's certainly a feasible to become a career changer by pursuing medicine.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.Should I get my MSN right after BSN? ›
RN to BSN/MSN.
This is an ideal pathway for registered nurses looking to earn a bachelor's and master's in nursing degree. Typically a BSN is earned first and then an MSN is pursued.
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.
Are ADN programs 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.What does AAS stand for in college? ›
An associate of applied science degree (AAS) can be one of the quickest paths to a stable, well-paying career in a number of fields. Here's what you need to know about this degree level, plus what you can do with an AAS degree and the next steps to take after you finish your AAS.What is the highest nurse position? ›
Understanding the Hierarchy of Nursing. Chief Nursing Officer (CNO): The CNO, sometimes referred to as the chief nursing executive (CNE), is at the top of the pyramid. This position usually works under the CEO of the hospital or agency and has administrative and supervisory roles.What is the final nursing exam called? ›
The NCLEX-RN, which stands for the National Council Licensure Examination [for] Registered Nurses (RN), is a computer adaptive test that is required for nursing graduates to successfully pass to be licensed as a Registered Nurse in the US and Canada.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 ...Is an ASN the same as an RN? ›
An ASN is a type of degree that can lead to a career as an RN. You have many options to choose from to become an RN but getting your ASN is a great way to get your career started.Does GPA matter for BSN? ›
GPA requirements vary from school to school, and some early admission nursing programs require an even higher GPA of at least 3.8 or higher (weighted or unweighted). In general, you can expect that any highly competitive nursing program will have a high GPA requirement for applicants.What is the fastest way to become a nurse in Florida? ›
An associate's degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) are the two most common fast track options. With each of these ways to receive nursing instruction, they require passing the NCLEX licensure examination.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.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.
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%).Can you take the Nclex with a ASN 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.Can you be a nurse in the Army with an ASN? ›
Earn Your Nursing Degree.
In order to become a military nurse, you must earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an advanced nursing degree from an accredited school. (Because military nurses are commissioned officers, an associate degree will not be accepted).
While most nursing schools set their minimum GPA requirements at 3.0, there are accelerated nursing programs out there that accept students with 2.7 and 2.8 GPAs. Keep in mind that this doesn't mean you'd receive a lesser nursing education with these programs.Can an average student become a nurse? ›
To start nursing school, you don't need any prior nursing experience or healthcare education. All you need is a high school diploma or GED. Once you are accepted, your journey to RN begins! You can become an RN in 2 to 4 years by studying for an associate's degree (ASN) or bachelor's degree (BSN).What's the easiest type of nurse to become? ›
One of the easiest nursing jobs to get into is in the field of occupational health. Occupational health nurses work in large industries, HMOs, and factories to treat work-related injuries and onsite illnesses.
An LPN or LVN program usually takes around a year to complete, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). What makes an LPN or LVN preparation program the easiest type of nursing education you can pursue is its focus on training for basic nursing services only and its quick completion time.Which state is the hardest to become a nurse? ›
- MAINE. ...
- ALASKA. ...
- Georgia. ...
- Alabama. ...
- Hawaii. ...
- South Carolina. ...
- Kentucky. ...
- Summary. There are a few cases when temporary licenses can be obtained through the state board of nursing.