Registered Nurses, or RNs, often start their careers after graduating from an associate’s degree program in nursing or a hospital-based nursing program. They often find that the more challenging and better-paying jobs are only available to RNs who have earned a bachelor's of science in nursing, or BSN, degree. There are universities in the United States that offer programs for RNs who decide they would like to pursue their BSN. They are usually called RN-to-BSN programs. Most of these programs are tailored to working professionals who can only attend classes part-time and some of them are even offered online either in full or in part.
Most RN-to-BSN programs require that students seeking admission have taken a few prerequisite courses in their previous education. If those courses or their equivalents have not been taken, then they may need to be completed before seeking admission. The prerequisites vary from school to school. For example, at the University of Virginia, the prerequisites consist of classes in lifespan development, health assessment, pharmacology and statistics. Students should consult with someone in the schools they are considering to determine what may be required. If there are deficiencies, most prerequisites can be completed at community colleges.
Once admitted into the RN-to-BSN program, the coursework required is typically in subjects such as nursing theory, health policy, research, leadership, management, ethics, epidemiology and community health. Students are required to work closely with an adviser, who will evaluate their prior education and determine what coursework is necessary to complete the degree.
Other Program Information
Most programs are 30-36 credit hours, not counting the prerequisites. Some programs can be completed in as little as 12 to 20 months, even on a part-time basis. Because these programs are often geared toward working adults, they don’t necessarily follow a typical college semester schedule. They may be entirely online or may meet on campus once a week or on another alternate schedule. Students should make sure whatever program they choose is accredited by a regional accrediting body and approved by their state’s licensing board.
After completing the BSN, nurses find that they are often qualified for jobs as nurse managers, administrators and case managers. The Institute of Medicine recommends that the number of nurses with bachelor’s degrees should increase to 80 percent by 2020, so earning a BSN is becoming increasingly important.