There are several paths to becoming a registered nurse. You can earn a bachelor's degree (a baccalaureate degree), a three-year diploma or an associate degree. While there are similarities among the programs, a bachelor's degree takes two years longer than an associate degree and, therefore, teaches some competencies the shorter programs do not.

Broad Knowledge

Bachelor's degree programs teach broad knowledge as well as specific skills. Such degrees in nursing are no different: they teach nursing skills as well as a substantial number of electives, general science courses, and other things that do not directly pertain to nursing but do help broaden your knowledge. A four-year degree is looked at favorably by supervisors, committees and other people who are in charge of promotions in the nursing industry.

This is not to say that an associate degree program is more specialized. Because the bachelor's degree program is twice as long, it is just as specialized, and has the additional benefit of additional education.

High-Tech Health Care

According to the National Association for Associate Degree Nursing, nurses with bachelor's degrees are much more likely to work in high-tech hospitals, which have nicer facilities and lower mortality rates among their patients. Because bachelor degree programs tend to offer courses in using technology, such students have some experience before applying for a job, enhancing their chances of getting hired. This also means that nurses with bachelor's degrees have more opportunity for improving their competency in high-tech equipment than those with associate degrees.

Career Advancement

The bachelor's degree is a steppingstone. Master's degree and other postgraduate programs, such as midwifery, nurse practitioner and certified nurse anesthetist, require bachelor's degrees in order to matriculate. Therefore, nurses with bachelor's degrees have the ability to immediately enter higher-level programs whereas those with associate degrees do not.

In addition, some hospitals require bachelor's degrees for nurses who work in specialized units or to move into supervisory positions.


Courses toward a bachelor's degree cost between $200 and $400 per credit hour. The degree requires about 120 credit hours, meaning the total tuition cost is $24,000 to $48,000. On the other hand, you can earn an associate degree in half the time and it costs about $75 per credit hour. Therefore, the degree costs about $4,500.

According to NursingLink, the starting salary rate is basically the same for an ADN or a BSN prepared nurse. However, many advanced positions require a BSN, so a nurse with a bachelor's degree has the potential to earn more money.

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