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What is the Difference Between an RN and BSN Nursing Degree

Many people assume that all nurses have the same credentials. In short, there is only one type of nurse. Even students wishing to pursue a career in nursing hold this view. But is it true? The answer is no. Contrary to popular opinion, there are different types of nursing credentials.

There are licensed practical nurses (LPN), Registered Nurses (RN), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Master of Nursing (MSN), and even a doctorate (DNP). Each nursing degree leads to different roles within the nursing profession. No matter what type of nursing job you work, it’s critical to be aware that healthcare is changing every day, and everyone in the healthcare industry must be prepared to accept that, Prospective nursing students usually have a hard time differentiating RN and BSN credentials. And because they cannot tell how the two differ, they get confused on which one to pursue. Here then are the differences between an RN and BSN nurse.

1) Academic Credentials

RN and BSN titles can be confusing because these two types of nurses are both RNs. Also, both have sat the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to get a practicing license. How then are they different? The first difference is in the level and length of their education. To become an MSN, one needs a bachelor’s degree such as Arizona State University’s online nursing degree. Extra training in leadership, management or administration is also necessary.

An RN, on the other hand, holds an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) from a university or a Diploma of Nursing from a hospital-based course. While on the job, an RN can resume studies for about a year to become a BSN. The second difference regards the nurse’s performance. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, BSN nurses perform better than RNs. Their patient outcomes, failure to rescue rates, and mortality rates are higher.

2) Different Nursing Roles

For the most part, RN and BSN nurses perform the same tasks, and in the same way. They care for patients, do assessments, conduct medical procedures, and make medical charts. But, because BSNs undergo extra training while in school, there are things they can do that are out of the reach of an RN. For instance, RNs cannot hold positions in management, administration, coordination, or as educators. To be able to do this, they must go back to school for a year or so and earn a BSN.

3) Different Job Outlooks

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of nurses in general will increase by 16% over the next 10 years. It cites health care reform as the reason for this growth. Healthcare legislation such as Obamacare has seen more people signing up for health insurance. Besides, the American population is also aging and will soon require medical care.

To meet this increased demand for healthcare services, employers are hiring more nurses, and will continue to do so for some time. Unfortunately, most are demanding that all new hires must have a BSN. This is in a bid to comply with the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation that requires 4 out 5 nurses to have BSN credentials by the year 2020.


The nursing profession is not as monolithic as most people think. There are many types of nurses, nursing degrees, and nursing roles. Many nursing titles also exist such as RN, BSN, MSN, LPN, and DPN. Although they may cause confusion to begin with, they become clearer once a person delves into the different aspects of each.