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RN Vs. BSN Degree: Salary & Job Differences

This article explains the important differences an RN degree and BSN degree. Explore the differences in educational level, licensure, salary levels and career options between these similar, but somewhat different, degrees.

Careers at a Glance

A person can work as a nurse with either an either an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). While nurses with either degree will be in high demand in the coming years, each degree leads to different job opportunities and compensation levels. The table outlines briefly the major distinctions.

Associate's Degree in Nursing Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Program LenthTwo yearsFour years
Licensure Requiementsmust pass NCLEXmust pass NCLEX
Program ComponentsNursing foundation coursesManagement courses. More clinical hours.
Average Salary (2019)$68,098*$82,000*

Source: *Payscale.com

What Are the Educational Differences Between an ADN and BSN?

RN stands for registered nurse. Registered nurses must earn an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). BSN stands for Bachelor's Degree in Science in Nursing which is a higher level of education than an RN with an ADN. BSNs must also pass the NCLEX. Often, RNs will further their education to earn a BSN. BSN programs will include more courses in management, leadership, advanced nursing theory and public health. RN programs will cover core nursing competences and clinical work.

What Is the Pay Difference?

A nurse with an ADN will typically get paid a bit less than a nurse with a BSN. For example, the median salary for a registered nurse with an ADN is $61,000. The median salary for a registered nurse supervisor is $68,000. A nurse with a BSN has a median a salary of $65,000. A family nurse practitioner with a BSN has a median salary of $9,000.

What Types of Job Opportunities Are Available for Each Degree Level?

As well as earning more money, nurses with a BSN will have more career options than those with an ADN. A nurse with an ADN may work in a hospital, doctor's office, outpatient center or other health care service organization. Their duties will include keeping and maintaining patient records, monitoring patient's vital signs, treating injuries and treating illnesses. A nurse with a BSN may specialize in surgery, pediatrics, gynecology or other specialization.

What is the Employment Outlook for These Careers?

Jobs for nurses with both types of degrees are expected to grow at a rate of about 12% between 2018 and 2028 according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is significantly faster than the average growth rate for all jobs. Gwynedd University reports an even faster rate of growth for critical care nurses (about 29%), orthopedic nurses (26%) and nurse administrators (20%). An aging baby boomer population is likely to increase demand for nurses, in general.

What Are Some Related Careers?

Alternative related careers include nurse practitioner, nurse midwife and respiratory therapist . Still further options might include dental hygienists, EMTs and paramedics, as well as, possibly, doctors, researchers or hospital administration.