The Ultimate BSN Degree Guide

As a BSN nurse, you’ll be eligible to take the same NCLEX exam as those with an ADN. So you may wonder, why spend the extra money and time to earn a BSN when you can get the same RN licensure with an ADN?

When considering an RN vs BSN, it’s important to know that while ADN-prepared registered nurses can find work, many report it’s much more difficult. Most employers looking for RNs prefer nurses with a BSN. Also, BSN nurses tend to earn higher salaries than their ADN counterparts. 

Many nurses start out by earning their ADN, then go back later and get their BSN through an RN-to-BSN program, which can often be completed online and many times employers will pay for it. 

Aside from the career prospects, there are some distinct differences between BSN and ADN training:


  • Program length: 1-4 years
  • Tuition: $20,000 to $100,0001
  • NCLEX pass rate: 83% 2
  • Curriculum: Includes patient care but emphasizes nursing theory


  • Program length: 18 months – 2 years
  • Tuition: $6,000-$20,000 1
  • NCLEX pass rate: 79% 2
  • Curriculum: Focuses on hands-on patient care

1. Meet Admission Requirements

Each university will have its own BSN admission conditions. However, BSN programs have become highly competitive across the board, making it difficult to get in on bare minimum qualifications alone. Prospective students should do everything they can to meet baseline BSN admission requirements and strive to exceed them. 

Some of the most common BSN admission requirements are:

  • High school diploma or GED equivalency
  • Earn a minimum high school GPA
  • Meet GPA requirements for prerequisite courses
  • Achieve minimum ACT/SAT scores
  • High school and/or transfer transcripts
  • Earn minimum score on HESI and/or TEAS
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Admissions interviews
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You should also consider going above and beyond expectations through the following activities:

  • Volunteer work at local hospitals/clinics
  • Pursuing classwork in nursing-related courses (e.g., biology or anatomy)
  • Work experience in medical or clinical settings
  • Participation in honors societies and future healthcare organizations (e.g., Hosa)

2. Apply to an Accredited BSN Program

After meeting the BSN program requirements, you may begin the application process. We recommend choosing programs that accommodate your needs. For example, if you already have an ADN degree, you can enroll in an RN-to-BSN program. If you’re looking to complete your BSN quickly and for as little money as possible, you may want to consider a cheap and fast online RN-to-BSN program. 

Attending an accredited program ensures you’ll be eligible for the NCLEX exam. It also removes roadblocks to finding gainful employment or transferring credits for graduate degrees. The two main nursing school accreditation bodies are the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

>> Find RN-to-BSN Programs Accepting Applications Now

3. Create a Financial Plan

BSN education costs between $20,000 and $100,000, depending on which university you attend. This major financial investment requires careful planning that you should complete before starting class. You can start determing how to pay for nursing school by defining your financial needs and exploring your options, which include:

4. Attend Your BSN Program

Once accepted, you can begin your BSN curriculum. Expect the first two years of your degree program to focus on education fundamentals and prerequisites.

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Though these first two years may not feel as relevant to your prospective career, do not neglect them. Many BSN programs have minimum GPA requirements for this portion of the curriculum. If you don’t pass the pre-nursing standards, you may not get to continue with the program.

The second half of BSN programs focuses on nursing-specific education and clinical rotations. Clinical hours give you experience and skills in real-world settings, preparing you to provide competent patient care. Some common classes BSN students take include the following:

  • Nursing Care I and II
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Assessment of Health and Illness
  • Leadership and Management
  • Pharmacology
  • Health Promotion and Risk Reduction

Once you complete all the credit and clinical requirements per your school’s standards, you will graduate with your Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. After that, you can sit the NCLEX-RN exam, which qualifies you to apply for RN licensure in your state.

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