Degree over Experience?

Nurses General Nursing



Do you feel that more emphasis is placed on what degree(s) a nurse has rather than experience?

Editorial Team / Admin

Rose_Queen, BSN, MSN, RN

6 Articles; 11,531 Posts

Specializes in OR, Nursing Professional Development.

I think there used to be, when considering many hospitals wouldn’t even look at your application if you didn’t have a BSN. Heck, my one employer terminated several nurses for not getting their BSNs despite the fact that they had between them over two centuries of experience and never had bad performance reviews. 

Now, I think employers are so desperate for staff they don’t care what degree you have at hiring (but you better have that BSN in 5 years!) or even if you have experience. Warm body with a pulse? When can you start? If they had a choice, I’m sure they’d go with someone with experience who would need a shorter orientation. 

Davey Do

1 Article; 10,340 Posts

Specializes in Psych (25 years), Medical (15 years).

A degree proves that one can color inside of the lines and answer the majority of the questions correctly, when experience proves that the job can get done.

Trauma Columnist

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN

97 Articles; 21,237 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU.

Depends on the job. For a staff RN position, of course you have to be an RN. However, in my area staffing is so bad, facilities are closing, surgeries being delayed and the stress is tremendous for all staff members.

Degrees are important when it comes to advanced practice opportunities. Being an experienced RN doesn't mean you can get a job as an APRN without the degree. 

So, depending on the circumstances, both matter


Tweety, BSN, RN

33,494 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac.

No.  Management here seems thrilled when the get an experienced nurse that want's to work here.

RNperdiem, RN

4,592 Posts

My hospital was very much into BSN, being a magnet hospital and all. These days staffing is so short that I hope they relax the requirements a bit. 

OUxPhys, BSN, RN

1,203 Posts

Specializes in Cardiology.

Prior to covid most hospitals wanted BSN for the MAGNET certification. Now that has gone to the wayside. I hope they realized (although I don't have faith in the suits) the mistake they made requiring BSN only nurses. Perhaps MAGNET will change their guidelines to include LPNs and associates prepared nurses going forward.


4 Articles; 2,467 Posts

Specializes in New Critical care NP, Critical care, Med-surg, LTC.

We have two hospitals near me that used to require BSN before they would even look at you. Now they're allowing ADN degree nurses, but they still have to sign an intent to finish BSN agreement.

I remember when I first started my floor RN job, my badge had my name and MSN. While I was still on orientation, one patient looked at my badge and said "you must be an excellent nurse with your master's degree". I had to tell them that since my MSN was in management, they were just as likely to have a good patient experience with any of my coworkers. It was really bizarre to me that a patient would place emphasis on a degree that TRULY meant nothing related to their care. 

Specializes in Med-Surg, Geriatrics, Wound Care.

Many countries require BSN for entry into nursing. PhD is the base for PT/OT. Social Workers, bachelor's. Respiratory therapist entry is associate's. Registered Dietician, bachelor's.  PA, master's.

The fact that there are still pre-associate's degree courses for entry level nursing is surprising. 

Education isn't everything, but it can be a lot. I had to repeat courses to make them current when applying to nursing school to keep them within 5 years. I learned a lot more repeating those courses. Many states require continuing education for license renewal (many don't!). I believe in lifetime learning, and think it makes for a better nurse. Sure, expereince is important, but a person with a bachelor's would have, what, 2 years less experience than one with an associate's? Many jobs will pay for future education. Why people would choose to stay stagnant is not something I understand.

RNperdiem, RN

4,592 Posts

I wouldn't describe it is "choosing to stay stagnant".

Education costs money. In a country where the majority of people don't have the money to cover even a $400 emergency expense, a community college ADN makes financial sense for entering the profession. The ADN makes it possible for a more diverse population to even enter nursing. 

I did get my BSN at nearly 50. It wasn't because I was afraid of becoming stagnant.  I was afraid of becoming unemployable being both older and ADN (like many ADN nurses, I have a BA degree in a different subject) in an upscale educated area. Yes, I did learn something, and I hope the thousands of dollars and many hours of time will be worthwhile. If I am really being honest, most of what I learned about nursing, I learned while working as a nurse. 

2BS Nurse, BSN

700 Posts

"I believe in lifetime learning, and think it makes for a better nurse".

True, but most of the BSN curriculum was a repeat of my ADN and unnecessary. I completed the BSN to be more marketable (so I could change jobs) and my company footed the bill. Nurses should be required to take "soft skills" courses in conflict resolution, professional behavior, etc. In my experience, this is where we are lacking as a profession.

klone, MSN, RN

14,683 Posts

Specializes in OB-Gyn/Primary Care/Ambulatory Leadership.

Nope, not at all. I can tell you that with leadership jobs, they seem to really not care that I have an MSN in Nursing Leadership. They're way more interested in what I've done. 

I would say that a degree may help you get your foot in the door for that first role. After that, it's all about experience.

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