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Nursing School and Salaries: Differences Between RN and BSN


All nurses have to be at least an RN, but those who go the extra mile and become a BSN get higher salaries and reach new heights.

If you’re considering going to school to embark on a career in nursing, then you probably have a few questions. What kind of nursing degree should you get? What’s an RN’s salary? What about a BSN’s? And what exactly is the difference between the two?

There are a lot of similarities between a registered nurse  and someone with a bachelor of science in nursing. RNs and BSNs alike have to study, pass the NCLEX, and get themselves licensed. The big difference is that a BSN is a degree and an RN is a license. Getting a degree doesn’t mean you have a license, and vice-versa.

Related resource: 10 Reasons to Get Your Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing

What is an RN?

Registered nurses have been around for over 100 years. In 1901, New Zealand made history with the world’s first RN program. Since then, in nearly every country across the globe, nurses have had to be trained, licensed professionals.

Every state in the US has different rules for becoming an RN, so be sure to check the what the license requirements are where you live. Regardless of state, though, every prospective RN has to pass a national licensing exam, the NCLEX-RN. If you’re pursuing an RN license, you can generally get yours in about two years. With Ameritech’s nursing program, you can get the training and certification you need in as little as 20 months. If you’re eager to get out of the classroom and into a professional environment as soon as possible, then pursue the associate degree in nursing and RN license first. You can always return to school and get a BSN further down the road.

Related resource: Becoming a Registered Nurse: The Steps You’ll Take and Requirements You’ll Need

What is a BSN?

Like it says in the name, nurses who get their bachelor’s of science in nursing have the equivalent of a four-year degree in their professional field. RNs may or may not have a bachelor’s degree, but always have at least an associate’s degree in nursing. That additional level of education means that BSNs generally have more opportunities and larger salaries than RNs. Getting your BSN isn’t just something you do for yourself, though. It also benefits your patients. Studies have shown that BSNs have lower patient mortality rates and lower failure to rescue rates. What’s more, there’s a large array of jobs for nurses outside of hospitals. Nurses can be educators, consultants, writers, and more, and having a BSN can be the edge you need to get those jobs. At Ameritech, RNs who want to challenge themselves and get their BSN can do so in about 12 months.

Related resource: Here’s How Your Work Might Change With a BSN Degree

Career choices for the future nurse

Regardless of the path you choose, job opportunities for both RNs and nurses with BSN degrees are good. Current projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics cover a 10-year period between 2014–2024, and nursing jobs are expected to increase by 16 percent during that period. That rate is much higher than the national average for other industries.

The pay range for nurses varies greatly. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for registered nurses in 2015 was $67,490, but salaries were as high as $101,630. That upper echelon of nursing jobs is almost always reserved for nurses who’ve extended their studies, gone further, and pursued a BSN.

At Ameritech, our CCNE-accredited, online RN to BSN degree completion program is based on holistic principles and rigorous clinical coursework, and has recently been endorsed by the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation. To learn more, get in touch with us today. And to keep up with the latest from Ameritech, follow us on Facebook.