Nursing Degrees & Schools / ADN vs. BSN
Aspiring nurses focused on becoming Registered Nurses (RN) must decide between earning an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Both degree programs qualify nursing candidates to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam to earn their RN licensure.
Deciding which one to choose depends on several factors. Nursing students must consider the differences between ADN and BSN degrees before making the choice that is right for them.
In this article we will explore:
- What is an ADN?
- What is a BSN?
- Main differences between ADN and BSN nurses
- Length of time
- Scope of practice and core competencies
- Patient outcomes
- How to go from an ADN to a BSN
- Career opportunities and job growth
- Salary differences
What is an ADN?
An ADN is an Associate Degree in Nursing, and can also be an entry into the field of nursing. Although nurses who have their ADN can practice as RNs, (as long as they pass the NCLEX) many hospitals will expect nurses to obtain their BSN degree within 5 years of their hire date.
What is a BSN?
A nurse who holds a BSN means they have a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, and they have also passed the NCLEX exam as well.
What are the main differences between ADN and BSN nurses?
Length of time
One of the biggest differences between an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is the length of time nursing students spend in school earning their respective degrees.
Generally, ADNs take 2 years to finish while BSNs take 4 years. But the time can vary for each.
ADN programs can take 1-1/2 to 2 years to finish when attending full-time. Nursing students enrolled in an ADN program learn the basics of nursing best practices and patient care.
BSN programs can take between 3 to 4 years for nursing students if they choose this path to their RN licensure. BSN programs delve deeper into nursing best practices to improve patient outcomes, making them an asset to nurses who wish to continue advancing their careers. It is worth noting that employers have begun to favor RNs who have a BSN because they have more extensive nursing knowledge than their ADN counterparts.
Scope of practice and core competencies
The best way to describe the professional skill differences between an ADN-prepared RN and a BSN-prepared RN is to look at the nursing scope of practice for each and examine the technical vs. professional.
Associate Degree Nursing programs focus on clinical nursing skills. RNs who complete ADN training focus on day-to-day patient care such as monitoring patients, updating patient charts, and administering medication.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs teach clinical nursing skills as well, but they also include leadership, management, and nursing research competencies that can fast-track a nursing career. RNs with bachelor’s degrees have a firm grasp of the cultural, economic, and social issues that can affect patient outcomes, which makes them more valuable to employers.
At least one study points to improved patient outcomes when BSN-trained RNs handle patient care. Evidence in the research findings indicates that BSN-prepared RNs performed significantly better in 12 of the 16 nursing areas for quality and safety.
Baccalaureate-degree nurses were also better equipped to prevent unnecessary deaths and diminished quality of care than their ADN counterparts. The study also found that hospital units with a 10% increase in BSN-prepared nurses lowered patient mortality odds by 11%. Improved patient outcomes may be one reason why healthcare employers favor BSN-educated nurses.
ADN and BSN salary differences
Another consideration when choosing between an Associate Degree in Nursing and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree is salary.
[ Looking for more information? Get instant salary estimates and personalized matches with high-paying nursing jobs. ]
ADN vs BSN: Career opportunities and job growth
Career descriptions for Registered Nurses (RNs) who have an associate degree will not differ that much from RNs who hold bachelor’s degrees. Both can expect to have the same job responsibilities:
- Administer medication
- Consult with healthcare teams about treatment plans
- Deliver 1:1 bedside patient care
- Monitor and update patients’ medical charts
That is where the similarities end for RNs who chose different paths to their licensure. Nurses who wish to pursue long-term career opportunities have an advantage if they started with a BSN. Holding a bachelor’s degree allows RNs to easily work toward new job roles like Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Midwife, and Nurse Anesthetist.