Difference Between BSN and RN


While to some, there may be very little difference between a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) and a RN (Associate of Science in Nursing), these two courses vary in a number of ways. Both programs result in becoming a registered nurse, but the routes that a student will take to reach this goal are quite different.

Whether you receive an RN certification or a BSN certification, you will need to complete a training program that is nationally accredited and also pass the National Council Licensure Examination. The first major difference between the two certifications is the length of time spent in each program.

What is a RN?

A registered nurse will need to enroll in a two year program and they are able to earn their degree at either a nursing school or a local community college. These programs are open to anyone who has received their GED or a high school diploma.

What About the BSN?

Conversely, earning a BSN certification is much more challenging. A BSN is earned during a four year course of study at a college or a university. There may also be prerequisite courses in math and science that need to be taken before enrolling.

Getting Educated

Some schools may require a student to have prior experience in the field of health care prior to beginning the program. If you have already received your associate’s degree as a registered nurse, there are often accelerated programs available.


Each program’s coursework is different, as well. When a student is in an associate’s registered nurse program, the focus is on teaching students the basic skills of nursing. Teachers utilize a combination of conventional classroom learning techniques and practical curriculum that are more hands on.

In addition to learning about the ins and outs of registered nursing, students in RN programs are also required to take a number of general education courses in subjects such as English, science and mathematics.

Students who wish to transfer to a BSN institution after completing their RN studies are advised to choose a school that will transfer their credits. In these instances, you may also be asked to take some additional liberal arts courses.

However, the coursework that must be completed for a BSN certification is much more taxing and specific to the duties of a nurse. For example, a BSN student is expected to complete coursework in communication, statistics and biochemistry. They will also have to complete a series of general education courses.

The same coursework that is completed by an associate’s student must also be completed by a student enrolled in a bachelor’s program. Several clinical practicums must be completed, as well as coursework related to basic nursing.

Area of Study

Certain elements of coursework are completed by entrants into either program. Nursing theory, nursing fundamentals, mental health nursing, microbiology, surgical nursing, pharmacology, pediatric nursing, physiology and anatomy, these are all courses that will need to be completed in both study formats.

Moving Into a Career

Upon successful completion of either program, a student is then eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. While the programs differ in the amount of time it takes to graduate, this is one crucial similarity.

The most important difference of all between the two study programs is the opportunity for continued education and the ability to maximize overall earning power over the course of your entire career. Whether you have graduated from a BSN or an RN program, you are eligible for the same entry level nursing positions.

Even though a registered nurse does not have the same level of education as their BSN counterparts, they are still able to rise through the ranks of their chosen profession and are still selected for management positions. While this may be true, the best way to climb the ladder is by continuing your secondary education.

Once a nurse has obtained their BSN certification, this allows them to pursue a master’s degree in nursing or even a doctorate. By enrolling in a graduate program, a student can then become a nurse midwife, nurse practitioner or a clinical nurse specialist.

All of this may seem complicated, but it is important to remember one key fact: Every nurse with a BSN certification is a registered nurse. On the other hand, every registered nurse cannot perform the duties of a BSN. Having a BSN certification is viewed as a major plus and significantly increases a person’s job market.


A BSN is a degree, while an RN is merely considered to have a registration license. There is also a gap in earning power for a registered nurse, as opposed to someone with a BSN certification. The low end of the RN salary spectrum starts off at around $43,000 per year, rising to $77,000, depending on the state you reside in and your overall experience level.

Meanwhile, a BSN certification gives you more professional freedom and the ability to negotiate a higher salary than your registered nursing counterparts. $77,000 per year is at the high end of what a registered nurse can expect to earn every year, but for a nurse with a BSN certification, $77,000 is more in line with the average salaries in this field.

As you can see, the differences between these two seemingly similar professions are numerous. The amount of time spent in school, the complexity of what is learned, and the ability to apply it vary greatly. For maximum earning power and increased job stability, a BSN certification is the way to go.