ADN vs. BSN: Which is Right for You?

You may be wondering "what is an ADN" or "what is a BSN," and trying to decide between ADN vs. BSN for your own nursing school path. There are many differences between the two including salary, career opportunities, job outlook, and educational costs.

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Choosing between an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) can be difficult, especially if you’re unsure which provides the best preparation for your desired career. At first look, they seem similar. They both involve class time, labs, and clinicals and prepare you for a career as a nurse. However, in the rapidly evolving world of health care, it is more important now than ever to understand the differences between the two degree programs before applying to nursing school.

What is an ADN?

An ADN program typically takes around two years to complete and involves coursework, skills and simulation labs, and clinical hours. It covers basic nursing knowledge and practices, including anatomy and microbiology, and may be offered by community colleges and universities.

Nurses with ADNs may graduate, become a registered nurse (RN), and pursue an entry-level nursing job. However, nurses with ADNs must still earn their RN licensure by passing the NCLEX-RN® upon graduating.

What is a BSN?

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing is typically a four-year degree program that involves coursework, skills and simulation labs, and clinical rotations. The first two years include general education, prerequisites, and core-level nursing knowledge classes. Once accepted into the nursing program, students will take more specialized nursing classes and begin hands-on learning experiences. However, with the increasing need for nurses in the workplace, many nursing schools are introducing accelerated BSN programs for nurses with previous college or career experiences.

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Nurses with a BSN will take the NCLEX-RN and enter the workplace upon graduating. They may work in a hospital as a registered nurse and pursue a non-advanced nursing specialty. They may work in pediatric nursing, critical care nursing, neonatal nursing, geriatric care, etc.

What Are the Differences Between an ADN and a BSN?

While an ADN and a BSN might seem similar, they are different paths and can determine where you go in your career. Therefore, learning where these paths will take you before you begin applying to programs is crucial. Here are a few differences between the two degrees to help you decide which is the right choice for you:

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Job Outlook

While both associate and bachelor’s degrees allow you to become a registered nurse, there are more opportunities for nurses with BSN degrees. With studies showing better patient outcomes for nurses with BSN degrees, many hospitals hire nurses with a BSN over those with an ADN.

While an ADN may be the right fit for some nurses, check your regional requirements before earning a degree to be sure you can build a thriving career in the location of your choice.

Career Opportunities

The career advancement opportunities for nurses with an ADN versus those with a BSN have significant differences. Registered nurses with an ADN often perform standard nursing tasks such as conducting assessments, administering medications, and keeping records. They may venture outside the hospital and pursue work as a home health nurse or in a nursing home.

Nurses with BSNs have a broader range of opportunities when it comes to career opportunities and specialties. RNs with bachelor’s degrees can pursue the following careers:

  • Cardiac care nurse
  • Obstetrics nurse
  • Geriatric nurse
  • Pediatric nurse
  • Nurse midwife
  • Mental health nurse
  • And many more

ADN vs BSN Salary

Nurses with ADNs and BSNs both graduate and become registered nurses, so they often have the same starting salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, RNs make an average of $89,010 annually. That being said, nurses with BSNs can pursue further specialties and wage growth compared to those with ADNs.

As mentioned, nurses with BSNs may pursue more advanced specialties through experience, additional certifications, and even advanced degrees. Nurses in these positions have the potential to earn significantly more, with salaries reaching an average of $91,290 annually.

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Cost of Education

While a BSN is worth it in many ways, prospective nursing students often pursue an ADN at a community college to finish their program in around two years and pay less tuition. This can depend on the individual school and type of program but is usually a factor for most nursing students when choosing a program type.

If finances inhibit you, consider exploring alternative options for paying for nursing school, such as scholarships, grants, or loans. You may also determine you are eligible for an accelerated BSN program, which is completed in fewer than four years (usually around two) and may be more financially feasible.

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Why a BSN in Nursing is Important

With all these differences in mind when earning an ADN vs. BSN, a BSN demonstrates a distinct advantage over an ADN in salary, job, outlook, and career opportunities. A BSN provides many more possibilities if you are searching for a career in nursing with upward movement, work variety, and options. Even if you are concerned about the time spent in the nursing program and the cost of tuition, alternative BSN programs can accommodate your needs.

Why Choose Nursing as a Career

Nursing is a rewarding career in so many different ways. It offers significant room for career growth, an excellent salary, and a fantastic opportunity to serve others and make a meaningful impact. Nurses can make the most profound connections with patients of all healthcare workers and indeed influence the lives of patients and their families in difficult times.

Now that you understand the differences between ADN vs. BSN, it is time to take the next step. If you are considering a career in nursing and are ready to begin looking for schools that fit your needs, use our online nursing school finder to contact those schools. This is a free service, and you are not obligated to any schools that contact you.

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