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A Look at RN to BSN Programs

Explore the RN to BSN options

If you are a nurse looking to advance your education, you've probably heard about BSNs or RN to BSN programs. However, you might have questions about these types of programs. Below, we try to answer some of the most common questions about RN to BSN programs.

If you're looking for something specific, you can skip down to a section using this menu:

What Is an RN to BSN Program?

RN to BSN is a bridge program for working nurses

An RN to BSN program is an accelerated nursing program that takes ADN- and diploma-prepared RNs to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Sometimes called a "bridge program," an RN to BSN program allows RNs to get credit for courses taken previously. Students in these programs typically do not have to repeat clinical hours. However, each program will have different requirements.

In the Arkansas State online RN to BSN program, no preceptor is required and students can choose from a variety of different locations to complete their hours.

Basically, think of it as an ADN to BSN program – you're advancing your nursing education through this type of program.

What's the Difference Between an RN and BSN?

Simply put, an RN is a license and a BSN is a degree. Nursing school graduates become registered nurses when they pass the NCLEX exam. You are eligible to sit for the NCLEX after completing coursework in an accredited associate degree program, nursing diploma program or a BSN program.

A BSN is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Though this is typically a four-year degree, it can often be completed much quicker in an accelerated online program, especially for ADNs doing a bridge program such as an RN to BSN.

What Will I Learn in an RN to BSN Program?

RN to BSN programs are designed to add to an RN's already-vast clinical knowledge. You will learn more about leadership and management within the healthcare space. Critical thinking and decision-making skills are also prioritized. RN to BSN programs also focus on evidence-based practice, which will increase the quality of patient care you provide, while increasing patient satisfaction and the overall cost-effectiveness of treatment. 

"I learned many new skills during my bachelor's program that I was able to apply to my practice, including assessment skills, and an improved ability to think critically. Looking back, I see significant growth in my professional practice since completing my bachelor's degree." – Nicole Clute, online RN to BSN graduate

"I want my students to learn nursing management skills, including leadership communication and delegation, which are necessary for the BSN nurse. Evidence-Based Practice offers students foundational skills for nursing research. Capstone provides the final course that allows the student to plan a project and implement a change for an identified problem." – Mollie Manning, Assistant Professor

"I would like students to complete each course with additional knowledge to help them transition to leadership roles after graduation from the RN-BSN program." – Sarah Davidson, Assistant Professor

It was applicable to the job I was doing every day. It was almost like I got to read about work, more in-depth.

Learn more about the A-State online RN to BSN program

What Kind of Jobs Can I Get With a BSN?

A BSN qualifies for you for jobs that may not be available to you with just an ADN or diploma. Magnet designated hospitals, for example, require all nurse managers to have a BSN. With a bachelor's degree, you can specialize in areas such as psychiatrics, pediatrics, gynecology, oncology and more. Military nurses are also required to have a BSN.

Many higher paying nursing jobs require an MSN or beyond, and you must have a bachelor's degree to be accepted into graduate school.

"Since I got my bachelor's degree, it has opened more doors -- especially towards certifications such as a wound care nurse. Those certifications require a bachelor's degree." -- David Dorris, online RN to BSN graduate

BSN-prepared nurses are also strongly preferred by the vast majority of healthcare employers. Nursing positions that require or strongly prefer BSN nurses include:

  • Military nurses
  • Magnet hospital nurses
  • Nurse unit manager
  • Legal nurse consultant
  • School nurse
  • Nurse midwife

Will I Make More Money as a BSN Nurse?

It depends on your situation, employer and location. Some hospitals and other healthcare organizations give BSN nurses raises after they've earned the degree; others do not. Regardless, the primary financial benefit of earning a BSN comes more in the form of new and advanced career opportunities such as those listed above. 

Why Earn a BSN if I'm Already a Working Nurse?

If you're already a nurse, you might wonder why you should pursue a BSN program. After all, you already have lots of clinical experience. But there are benefits for active RNs. Aside from the fact that you might be required by your employer to earn a BSN at some point or need it to change jobs, you become a better patient advocate and a more well-rounded nurse.

"The value of a BSN includes professional mobility within the workplace, improved patient care, leadership opportunities and the opportunity to attend graduate programs." – Sarah Davidson, Assistant Professor

Why Are ADNs Being Asked to Earn BSN Degrees?

Growing numbers of RN to BSN graduates since 2010

The Future of Nursing: Focus on Education report shows improved patient outcomes when there is an increase in BSN-prepared nurses. Released in 2010, this report includes a recommendation that 80% of all registered nurses hold BSN degrees by 2020. While this is a recommendation, and not yet a requirement, nurses are heeding the call. New data shows growing numbers of RN to BSN graduates – a 180% increase since 2010.

How Much Do Online RN to BSN Programs Cost?

The cost of an online RN to BSN program can range from under $10,000 to upwards of $60,000. The reasons for this large discrepancy include public vs. private schools, nonprofit vs. for-profit schools, out-of-state vs. in-state tuition, differences in fees, and brand recognition, to name a few.

Tuition for the online RN to BSN program at Arkansas State University comes in at $269 per credit hour. With the average credit hours needed being 36, you can expect to pay $9,288. Visit the A-State tuition page to confirm current tuition rates.

Is the Tuition the Same for In-State and Out-of-State Students?

Many online RN to BSN programs offer their courses at the same price for in-state and out-of-state students, but some do not. It's always best to check with the admissions department for pricing details.

Tuition for A-State's online RN to BSN program is the same for in-state and out-of-state students. In fact, the A-State online program is quite popular with nurses in surrounding states including Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Missouri and Texas.

How Long Do Online RN to BSN Programs Take to Complete?

How long to complete an RN to BSN program

A typical RN to BSN takes approximately 24 months to complete. With an accelerated program, that number can go down significantly. The time can vary depending on how many credit hours you have and how many are transferable to the new program.

Students can complete the RN to BSN nursing courses at A-State in as few as 12 months.

Can I Find Out if My Credits Transfer Before I Apply?

Because you've already earned a nursing degree or diploma, most of your credits will transfer. After all, that's the point of an RN to BSN program! If you have any questions about specific credits, contact the admissions office at the school you are considering.

How Many Hours a Week Will I Have to Study?

On average, students spend about three hours a week per credit hour studying. Your study time will usually vary with the class you're taking, but plan to spend at least nine hours per three-credit course.

Are There Financial Aid Options for Online RN to BSN Programs?

Yes! Financial aid options are available for most programs. Check out scholarships from the school, local businesses, and others. Your employer may also offer tuition reimbursement. Grants are also available for some students. To qualify for federal student loans, you must attend an accredited program. Talk to the financial aid office with specific questions.

Is There Assistance for Military Members and Veterans?

Military support for RN to BSN students

Some online RN to BSN programs do have programs to support veterans, active military and their families.

A-State is approved for both the Post 9/11 GI Bill and the Montgomery GI Bill. Because the program is online, you don't have to worry about school if you're transferred to another location or deployed.

Is the Online Faculty the Same as the On-Campus Program?

Yes! At Arkansas State, most online RN to BSN courses are taught by the same faculty members who teach on campus. You're still getting the same quality education you'd get if you were physically in class.

Is an Online RN to BSN Program Really That Convenient?

Online RN to BSN programs are extremely convenient. You don't have to worry about missing work or changing your schedule. You don't have to worry about traffic on the way to campus. And you can still hang out with your friends and family. Online RN to BSN programs allow you to study when and where you want.

"I was able to do a lot of my homework on my phone. I could turn on my lectures and listen to them in the car whenever I would drive back and forth to work, so it was very easy to do on my phone as well as on my computer." -- Nicole Clute, online RN to BSN graduate

The program is online, and in this day and age, everything is online. You're able to do anything 24/7. If I wanted to do my homework at 2:00 o'clock in the morning I'm able to, and it's nice to be able to just work that in into my lifestyle.

- Jamie Pasmore, online RN to BSN graduate

What Are the Technical Requirements of an Online RN to BSN Program?

To complete any online program, you'll need certain hardware and software. Most computers come with this hardware and software.

Hardware Requirements

  • A modern computer with Windows or Mac IOS
  • Broadband internet connection
  • Speakers and headphones
  • Some courses may require a webcam for presentations and exams

Software Requirements

  • Adobe Acrobat Reader
  • Adobe Flash
  • Anti-virus software
  • Apple Quicktime
  • Google Chrome Browser (Recommended)
  • Java
  • Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint and Excel) or Open Office
  • Windows Media Player

Don't worry: it's ok if you're not a computer whiz. Students of all ages and abilities are able to successfully complete online courses, and there is support when you need it.

Is Online Tutoring Available for Online RN to BSN Programs?

Most schools offer a host of services for their online students, including online tutoring. Check with the school before applying.

A-State assigns a highly qualified teaching assistant to support the student with feedback and answers to questions related to the course.

Will I Be Able to Talk to My Professors in an Online RN to BSN Program?

People often think that they will be cut off from their classmates and professors in an online program. This is not the case for most online programs. Faculty members are usually available by email, phone, and text, and some are also available via Skype and chat. Most schools have a policy of returning calls and emails within 24-48 hours.

The instructors were very friendly. They were quick to answer any questions that I had ... even though the only way I was able to contact them was mostly through the internet. I never felt like I was bothering them if I had to ask a question. It was a great experience.

-- Nicole Clute, online RN to BSN graduate

A-State RN to BSN graduate Nicole Clute

Will I Have Networking Opportunities With Other Students?

Online programs are great for networking with your fellow students, maybe even better than on-campus programs. Though you might not see each other in person, you will participate in group work and discussion boards that will keep you connected. What are the benefits of networking with online students? You'll get perspectives of nurses across the country instead of just those in your immediate area. And who knows? Maybe you'll one day want to take a job in another state or city where one of your classmates lives and works. That type of connection can be invaluable.

Do Online Students Have Access to the A-State Library?

Students in the RN to BSN online program at A-State have access to the online library 24/7. Not only will you have access to the resources materials, you can chat with a librarian live any time of day or night.

Does A-State Offer Career Placement Services for Its Online Students?

Career and student services available for online students

A-State offers career services including:

  • Career advice
  • Resume help
  • Mock interviews
  • Career fairs
  • Presentations and workshops

Can I Attend Graduation if I Complete an Online Degree Program?

Yes, you can attend graduation and we encourage it!

When Can I Start the Online RN to BSN Program at A-State?

With multiple start dates a year, you won't have to wait long once you've made the decision to come to A-State.

Is Accreditation Important When Choosing an RN to BSN Program?

Accreditation shows that a college or university maintains the high standards that will prepare its graduates to succeed as professionals in their field and also gain admission to other institutions of higher learning.

Accreditation is crucial when choosing a school. Employers often look for recruits who have degrees from accredited universities, and most graduate schools require applicants to have credentials from an accredited program.

A-State is accredited by the ACEN (Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing). The RN to BSN program is also approved by the Arkansas Board of Nursing.

Why Choose a Nonprofit School Over a For-Profit School?

For-profit schools are relatively new compared to most nonprofit schools, and many of them don't really compared to traditional, nonprofit schools.

  • Your credits from a for-profit college may not transfer.
  • You'll likely pay more in tuition and fees at a for-profit school.
  • Your financial aid options at a for-profit school may be limited.
  • Many for-profit schools have an open admissions process, meaning you only need a high school diploma or a GED.
  • For-profit schools have a reputation for fraudulent practices (whether they deserve it not). This can hurt your job search.
  • For-profit institutions are often criticized for their recruitment practices and low graduation rates.
  • Many for-profit colleges are not accredited or accredited by less desirable organizations.

Learn more about the A-State online RN to BSN program