Which RN Degree Is Right for You?
March 19, 2014
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If you're thinking about pursuing a career in nursing, you may be wondering about the difference between an associate degree in nursing (ADN) and a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) to become a registered nurse (RN). Besides the amount of time you spend in school, the truth is the differences between the two are probably fewer than you think. Here are some of the points you'll want to consider before you make a final decision.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
First and foremost, there are obviously two different commitments to the amount of time spent in school with each program. For a BSN, you'll spend approximately four years in school if you attend full time. For an ADN, most finish in two years with a full class schedule. If you attend part time, each program could take up to twice as long to complete.
Factors that will affect your decision include whether you have to work part time or even full time on top of your school commitments, or if you're a nontraditional student with a family to support. Obviously, if you have to work and/or have a family, nursing school is going to be a more challenging task for you compared to those who can focus on school full time without other responsibilities. This sometimes means you want to get your training done quickly and get out in the workforce as soon as possible.
The High Cost of Training
Some students struggle to find time for their studies due to family or work obligations, but the decision may sometimes come down to a simple matter of dollars and cents. With an ADN, you'll have only two years of school to finance as opposed to four, and because most ADN programs are run by technical schools and community colleges, you'll frequently find much lower tuition costs at a community college than at a traditional university. For example, a standard community college can have on-campus nursing programs as low as $2,430 for an academic year, as opposed to an average of $10,044 for state universities. It may not be financially feasible for working parents to spend four years in school when they could be out working in their profession and earning a solid income for two years.
You may be thinking that a BSN RN surely makes more than an ADN, right? This is sometimes true, but not because the higher degree earns you a higher premium on starting salaries. Those with a BSN tend to be favored for promotions to managerial positions and certain specialized areas. If an ADN and a BSN both apply for an entry-level hospital position on a typical medical-surgical unit, they'll likely start at more or less the same salary of approximately $31.48 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Differences in wages take time to manifest because of different career paths.
Moving Up the Ladder
As previously mentioned, there are certain administrative positions that heavily favor nurses with at least a BSN or even a more advanced degree. Other specialty areas that prefer a BSN include research, consulting and case management. Some nursing specialties absolutely require having a BSN or higher. You'll have to get your master's degree if you want to become a nurse practitioner or if you want to teach at most levels.
Each prospective student has to assess his or her time commitments, financial situation and desired career goals when making this important decision. And with so many options in nursing, your planned career path may change in the future. But the good news is, if you do start out with your ADN and decide you need a higher degree of nursing, you can always go back and complete that BSN.
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