How to Earn a BSN Degree

Everything you need to know about earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), how to choose a program, and the career outlook for registered nurses (RNs). Education

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A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) includes various subjects, including anatomy, pharmacology, pathophysiology, nursing ethics, health promotion, and disease prevention. Students learn to assess the needs of patients, administer medications, perform medical procedures, and collaborate with interdisciplinary teams.

For those seeking a BSN, here's everything you need to know about the steps, how to choose your program, and the career outlook for registered nurses (RN).

Steps to Getting Your BSN

Although the education process may vary depending on an individual's circumstances, here's a general overview of how to get a BSN.

 Step 1: Get High School Diploma or GED 

Successful completion of a high school diploma is a necessary step before applying to a BSN program. These programs have specific pre-requisite courses that one must obtain through their high school diploma, for example, biology, chemistry, and English. 

 Step 2: Apply to an Accredited BSN Program 

Check the admission requirements of programs to ensure you meet the prerequisite criteria. Once you have identified the programs of interest, complete an online application. Online applications typically include writing essays, obtaining letters of recommendation, providing transcripts, and paying application fees.  

Step 3: Fund Your Education 

Getting into the program can be exciting, but having financial concerns can make this process a bit more challenging. Be sure to research funding options available and contact the financial aid office for guidance on available funding.    

Average Tuition Fees (USD):

  • $6,000 to $20,000 per year 
  • Out-of-state: $15,000 to $40,000 or more per year
  • Private universities: $20,000 to $60,000 or more per year. 

Related: Best BSN Programs in 2023

Step 4: Attend the Program 

You must complete a series of nursing education courses if accepted to a BSN program. These courses typically include pharmacology, pathophysiology, psychiatric nursing, health assessment, medical-surgical nursing, pediatric nursing, and community health nursing. Moreover, BSN programs include clinical rotations in health care and community settings. Several classes provide hands-on training and skills in preparation for them.  

Step 5: Pass NCLEX-RN 

After completing a BSN program, one must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become a licensed RN. The exam assesses your competence to practice safely and effectively as an entry-level nurse. There are many resources available online that assist in preparation. 

 Step 6: Get Your First RN Job 

Once you have the RN license, you may work in long-term care, community health, hospitals, or research settings. Some may pursue advanced education, such as a Master of Science in Nursing, and eventually become a nurse practitioner (NP).

How to Choose a BSN Program

Choosing a BSN program is an important decision that impacts the quality of education and the ease with which your nursing career begins. It requires thoughtful consideration of your personal goals, preferences, and resources. It is imperative to thoroughly research prospective programs and seek advice from academic advisors, current students, or nursing professionals to make an informed decision. 

Here is the list of factors to be considered as per a survey completed by nursing students across the US and Canada: 

  1. Cost (tuition, housing)
  2. High pass rates for licensing (NCLEX) and/or certification exams 
  3. Location 
  4. Academic reputation
  5. Availability of financial aid and scholarships
  6. Length of time to obtain the degree 
  7. Flexibility of schedule
  8. Curriculum
  9. Campus and surroundings
  10. Nursing clinicals location
  11. Availability of online courses

It's important to note that the factors influencing which nursing school is best will vary per person, and prospective students should research each program of interest before applying.

Best BSN Programs

The following schools have been selected based on allnurses' methodology of surveying our readers to understand what they value most while selecting schools, with the addition of NCLEX pass rates, graduation rates, student-faculty ratio, price, mode, duration, and admission rates of hundreds of the most prominent nursing schools in the United States.

1. Emory University (Atlanta)

Emory University offers a traditional BSN program and a distance-learning BSN for students with a previous bachelor's degree to obtain their BSN in 12 months.

2. University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)

The University of Pennsylvania offers a traditional BSN track and an accelerated program. Students can work in a state-of-the-art simulation lab to get hands-on experience before entering the workforce.

3. Duke University (Durham, N.C.)

The prestigious Duke University offers a full-time, campus-based accelerated BSN program that can be completed in as little as 16 months and is recognized as one of the best in the nation.

4. The Ohio State University (Columbus)

The Ohio State University offers a traditional BSN and works with local community colleges to offer students an RN to BSN pathway.

5. University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign

The University of Illinois offers a full-time, hybrid BSN program combining face-to-face instruction and hands-on training. 

BSN Salary Expectations

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for RNs was $89,010 in May 2022. 

With the top-paying states being:

  • California: $133,340
  • Hawaii: $113,220
  • Oregon: $106,610
  • Massachusetts: $104,150
  • Alaska: $103,310

Many additional factors may impact the salary of RNs, including years of experience, level of education, specialty, institution of practice, and more.


Q: Is a BSN worth it? 

Whether a BSN is worth it can depend on various factors, including your career goals, financial situation, and personal interests. Several potential benefits to earning a BSN include:

  • Career Advancement: A BSN can open up opportunities for advanced roles in nursing, including positions in leadership, administration, and specialized areas of healthcare. Many hospitals and healthcare facilities prefer or even require nurses to have a BSN, especially for positions beyond entry-level.
  • Higher Pay: Nurses with a BSN often earn higher salaries than those with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN).
  • Better Patient Outcomes: Research has shown that hospitals with a higher percentage of nurses with a BSN tend to have better patient outcomes, including lower mortality rates.
  • Preparation for Advanced Degrees: If you're interested in advanced practice nursing roles such as NP, clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetist, or nurse midwife, you'll need an MSN or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). A BSN is typically required for admission to these graduate programs.
  • Increased Knowledge and Skills: A BSN program provides a more in-depth study of nursing research, nursing science, public and community health, and nursing leadership. This broader knowledge base can lead to better patient care and more effective nursing practice.

Q: How difficult is a BSN? 

Since BSN programs offer a depth of knowledge to care for patients even in their worst condition, it is meant to be challenging and demanding. Not only are these programs generally heavy on courses like pharmacology, anatomy, health assessment, etc., but they also encompass regular clinical rotations that challenge you to work in the field. Students can expect to have their weekends busy in preparation for the week after.


Jasmine Hunjan has 5 years experience and specializes in Community health & case management.

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