By Tyler Faust, R.N.
When looking to make a career move, your educational background will impact your candidacy. You must consider not only how your formal education fits for the job you're looking to apply for but also the relative competition that you are up against. Geographical location plays a large part in the opportunities given to candidates based on their educational background. Cities and urban areas tend to be increasingly competitive while rural areas tend to be less competitive.
When looking for a new job there are three main categories of nurses you will see: two-year RN (ADN), four-year RN (BSN), and a masters degree in nursing (MSN).
Two-year RNs (ADN)
Nurses in this category are generally either new nurses who chose an affordable school option (wise choice) or an experienced nurse who chose not to go back to school to further their education. Many ADNs could be currently in school for their BSN or an AD-MSN program, which are becoming increasingly popular. ADN prepared nurses have the least amount of education. Most of the education they missed out on when compared to a BSN or MSN is leadership and critical thinking and assessment, important and valuable nursing skills that are highly sought after. Therefore, ADN prepared nurses are the least appealing candidates from an educational standpoint.
(If you are an ADN prepared nurse and are not looking to further your education, you should consider maximizing your experiences and looking for other ways to separate yourself from other candidates (e.g. professional certifications). ADN nurses should strongly consider going back to school because, without at least a BSN, you will face many barriers to career advancement and leadership opportunities. Larger healthcare facilities are requiring ADN prepared nurses to go back after hire within a predetermined amount of time to get their BSN. ADN to BSN programs are generally not intensive and most organizations will help pay for schooling.
If you are an ADN prepared nurse and not nearing the end of your career, the best thing you can do to be competitive in the job market is to get your BSN. If you are in a BSN program that could be a big selling point to add to your resume as well!
Four-Year RNs (BSN)
Four-year RNs already possess the training and skills beyond that of an ADN prepared nurse. Research has shown that BSN prepared nurses provide a significantly higher quality of care compared to ADN prepared nurses after graduation. Consequently, the Institute of Medicine pushed for 80% of the nursing workforce to have their BSN by 2020 in their The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health report published in 2010.
BSN-prepared nurses have a significant advantage over ADN-prepared nurses. If there are large applicant pools of BSN-prepared nurses, ADN-prepared nurses could get taken out of the application process by HR early on and never actually get their application to a hiring manager, let alone get an interview. Since healthcare organizations have pushed for nurses to get their BSN and schools have increased their capacity more nurses have their BSN than ever before so although you might have your BSN, you don’t necessarily stand out compared to other candidates.
Having your BSN will be a big help in getting you an interview for any job but if you work in a competitive environment, it won’t do much to catch the eye of the hiring manager. You will be above an ADN-prepared nurse but your BSN won’t get you far beyond that. If you are looking to get into a leadership position you will need to further your education to be competitive for most jobs. If you’re looking to work in a rural area, a BSN would probably suffice, in more competitive markets, you might not even be able to apply without an advanced degree.
Masters Degree RNs (MSN)
MSN-prepared nurses are a luxury in staff positions and they are more common than you might expect. Many nurses get their MSN and decide that they don’t want the added responsibility or they don’t want to work full-time so they stay at the bedside. MSN-prepared nurses are a high value at the bedside. Their extra training coupled with their experience makes them highly marketable for staff positions. They will surely be more attractive than a BSN-prepared nurse.
If you have an MSN and are looking to get into a leadership position, it will likely be a competitive process. You will be set from an educational standpoint but given the level of competition and the fact that fewer leadership jobs exist, you will want to utilize other skills during the hiring process to get the job. One thing to consider when applying for a staff position with an MSN degree is to make sure you make it clear to the hiring manager that you don’t intend to pursue a leadership position in the near future. If they get that sense, they might not want to hire you out of fear that you will only be in that position for a short amount of time till you move on. That would mean the hiring manager hired you and spent a lot of money training you but didn’t get many benefits from hiring you because you left a short while after.
Nursing education is a big factor in being competitive in the job market. When looking to obtain a new job, it’s helpful to understand where you stand given your education and how furthering your education might impact your candidacy.
About the Author
Tyler Faust is a full-time registered nurse and part-time freelance healthcare writer. He has his BSN and Master's degree and Winona State University and has worked at Mayo Clinic for over 7 years. Currently, he works as a nurse manager. Tyler is a creative thinker, strategist, and passionate about leadership.