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Do All Registered Nurses Need to Earn a BSN?

Whether or not you have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing can affect your nursing career.

Registered nurses are in demand and employed by the hundreds of thousands. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are nearly three million jobs for RNs in the U.S., and that number is expected to expand by another 438,000 between 2016 and 2026.1 It’s a great career full of opportunity. But it’s one that takes specialized training.

To become an RN, you have to complete at least an associate degree in nursing and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. But many RNs choose to go beyond the associate degree level and earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). If you’ve recently finished up an RN program, you may be wondering if a BSN degree is required to work as an RN. It’s not, but it is a good idea. Here’s why:

Do All Registered Nurses Need to Earn a BSN?

The Professional Standard for RNs Is Shifting Toward BSN

In a landmark paper released in 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended that 100% of the nursing workforce have at least a BSN degree and challenged the industry to reach an 80% BSN workforce by 2020.2 The IOM recommendation didn’t come out of nowhere. It’s based on significant research showing that nurses with a BSN deliver better patient outcomes in acute settings than do nurses with a lesser degree. Additionally, the IOM recommendation recognizes that, as the practice of medicine becomes more complex and more infused with technology, we will need more nurses with better training. BSN degree programs can provide the level of training the future of medicine demands.

Regulatory Change Has Already Begun

The IOM recommendation has not been ignored. The nursing profession has taken it to heart and, now, states are starting to turn the recommendation into policy. In 2017, New York state passed into law a new regulation that requires nurses to earn a BSN degree within 10 years of receiving their RN licensure.3 The law could very well be the start of a national trend.

RNs With a BSN Have More Career Opportunities

While having an associate degree in nursing may qualify you to be an RN, it doesn’t always qualify you for the best nursing jobs. Hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare employers are like any other kind of employer—they value bachelor’s degrees more than associate degrees.4 Additionally, to qualify for the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s prestigious Magnet Recognition Program®, which recognizes hospitals and other healthcare facilities for high-quality nursing, all nurse leaders in the facility must hold at least a BSN.5 That means, in many work environments, you can’t rise through the ranks with just an associate-level nursing degree. You need a BSN.

RNs With a BSN Can Make More Money

It makes sense that, if nurses with a BSN have more opportunity for career advancement, they also have more opportunity for higher pay. But that higher pay starts even before promotions are factored in. Within the first year of work, RNs with a BSN degree make an average of $13,000 more than RNs without a BSN.6

Earning a BSN Is More Convenient Than Ever Before

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing can truly benefit your nursing career. And, thanks to online learning, earning your BSN degree is more possible than you might think.

As a nursing student in an online BSN program, you won’t have to give up your full-time job. Online nursing programs allow you to take classes via the internet, at whatever time of day works best for your schedule. There’s no driving to campus or rushing to leave work to make a class. Instead, an online nursing degree program gives you a significant amount of control over your life. Additionally, many RN to BSN online programs allow you to transfer up to 75% of the credits you need, making it possible to complete your degree in less time.

Becoming a nurse doesn’t require a BSN. But moving from your RN to BSN can help you qualify for more jobs, more opportunities, and a higher salary. It’s a smart move. And online education can help you make it.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,