There are two routes to becoming a registered nurse: an associate degree in nursing, or ADN, and a bachelor's degree in nursing, or BSN. Each path to becoming an RN has its advantages and disadvantages. However, more professional nursing organizations, as well as hospitals and health care facilities, are encouraging students to seek their BSN over ending their education with an ADN. Deciding whether the BSN is the right path depends on several factors.

Improved Knowledge and Skill Set

Nurses often report that they understand patient care in a broader context after earning their BSN, that they ask better and more detailed questions about patient care and that they are able to practice their jobs more effectively. This improved knowledge and greater skill set leads to increases in patient safety and better health outcomes. Many organizations, such as the American Nurses Association, have been calling for a greater push toward making the BSN the standard for becoming a registered nurse.

Greater Opportunity for Advancement

Earning a BSN also opens up more opportunities for advancement. Many advanced nursing positions, such as becoming a nurse manager, require a BSN. Although RNs with a BSN do not earn more than nurses with an ADN when they first start, over time, nurses who hold BSNs make approximately $5,000 more per year, on average, than nurses who only hold an ADN. In addition, earning a BSN is a necessary step toward earning a master's degree or a PhD in nursing, which leads to increased salary and other opportunities, such as teaching nursing skills and theory to college students.

Longer Completion Time

One of the main drawbacks to earning a BSN is the time that it takes to complete the degree. Although there are accelerated BSN programs that take only three years or less, most students need four years to complete a BSN degree, as opposed to two years to complete an ADN degree. Many students choose to forgo the BSN in favor of the ADN because they can become an RN two years quicker.


Another drawback to earning a BSN is the expense. The cost of college tuition is rising rapidly, and two extra years in college can amount to an extra $15,000 in tuition costs and fees, in addition to the two years of wages that the student is choosing to forgo in favor of staying in school. However, over time, the BSN degree pays for itself with the increased earning potential and the greater opportunities for advancement.