This article was last updated on December 16, 2019.

An associate degree in nursing (ADN) has been a common educational path for aspiring RNs for decades. In about two years, these programs prepare graduates for licensure and a nursing career. So, why are more ADNs heading back to school for their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)? Improved patient outcomes is one reason. There are other notable benefits as well.

Online RN to BSN programs can make it more affordable and convenient for RNs to take this step. The University of Maine at Fort Kent (UMFK), for example, offers an accredited online RN to BSN that students can complete in 10 months. For RNs who want to keep up, now is the time to go from an ADN to a BSN.

Why the Push to Earn a BSN?

The call for RNs to earn their BSN is front and center in today’s complex healthcare environment. But it is not new. In 2005, the American Organization of Nurse Executives called for RNs to be educated in baccalaureate programs.

Today, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recognizes the BSN as the entry-level requirement for professional nursing practice. Here is the difference a BSN can make:

Stronger Skill Set: A recent study examined the education gap between ADNs and BSNs. It found that a much higher percentage of BSNs than ADNs reported being “very prepared” in 12 of 16 key topics, including evidence-based practice and patient-centered care.

Improved Patient Outcomes: Research links BSNs to better patient care. The AACN summarized findings that include lower patient mortality, lower readmission rates, lower costs, and shorter lengths of stay.

Higher Earnings: As of November 2019, PayScale reported that RNs with a BSN were earning over $19,000 more than RNs.

Career Advancement: Earning a BSN improves job prospects, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hospitals are the largest employers of RNs, and many require or prefer BSN-prepared nurses. From a job-security standpoint alone, a BSN is a smart move. A BSN also prepares nurses with the higher-level skills they need to advance to leadership roles, which typically pay more.

Evidence of the growing preference for BSNs is seen in the following healthcare systems:

  • RNs seeking employment with the Veterans Administration (VA), the nation’s largest employer of RNs, will need to earn a BSN to advance beyond entry-level positions.
  • RNs who want to work at a Magnet hospital will want to earn a BSN sooner rather than later. Nearly 50% of RNs at Magnet hospitals have their BSN, and a BSN is required for some positions.

How Can an Online RN to BSN Program Help?

Online RN to BSN programs help working nurses overcome common obstacles to earning a BSN. Finding time to return to school is a common concern. Unlike traditional, campus-based programs, RNs decide for themselves when and where to complete assignments. Additional advantages include:

  • Online programs can be a cost-effective choice. UMFK tuition is an affordable $300 per credit hour. Paying by the course, rather than the semester, can also be easier to manage.
  • Multiple start dates accommodate busy schedules.
  • RN to BSN programs build on RNs’ clinical experience. This can accelerate the time it takes to earn a BSN.

Striving for excellence is an ethical ideal of the nursing profession. Pursuing higher levels of education is one of the ways RNs can meet this obligation. With a BSN becoming the standard in today’s nursing workforce, now is the time for ADNs to make the move to advance their education and their practice.

Learn more about the University of Maine at Fort Kent’s online RN to BSN program.


American Association of Colleges of Nursing: Fact Sheet: The Impact of Education on Nursing Practice

American Association of Colleges of Nursing: The Baccalaureate Degree in Nursing as Minimal Preparation for Professional Practice

The Joint Commission Journal of Quality and Patient Safety: Bachelor’s Degree Nurse Graduates Report Better Quality and Safety Educational Preparedness Than Associate Degree Graduates

American Association of Colleges of Nursing: The Impact of Education on Nursing Practice

PayScale: Average Registered Nurse (RN) Hourly Pay

PayScale: Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Registered Nurses – Job Outlook Should I Work for a Magnet Hospital?

American Nurses Association: Code of Ethics for Nurses With Interpretive Statements