Travel nurse holding a diploma

Do New Grad RNs Need a BSN?

Hooray for you! Your new RN status is exciting, but you’re wondering if your nursing career needs another degree to go with that cap. If you currently have a nursing diploma or an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), you may be unsure if you should pursue a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree to nab better jobs, perks, and pay.

Across the country, education experts and employers are recommending that nursing school graduates, including those interested in becoming travel nurses, should pursue their BSN--and recommend doing it sooner rather than later. New grad RNs with some experience can work as a travel nurse with just their diploma or associate’s degree, but there are far more opportunities for BSN nurses.

Know Your Educational Options

There are different paths to begin working as an RN: Option one is to get a diploma from a hospital-based nursing program, but those programs are becoming rare; option two is to earn an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), and option three is to earn a four-year BSN degree. With any of these options, new nursing grads will need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam before they can enter the job market. Nurses can also shorten the path to a BSN if they have an associate’s degree and enroll in an RN-to-BSN program. Plus, some universities are now working with community colleges to make BSN programs more accessible.

Improve Your Job Options

Both your pay and opportunities increase with the BSN degree. A nursing school graduate with a BSN might perform the same duties as other RNs, but they are often given more responsibility and have more opportunities for advancement.

One reason that more hospitals and other employers are seeking nurses with a BSN is that a nurse’s education has a direct bearing on patient outcomes. Multiple studies by Linda Aiken, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania, have shown hospitals that employ larger numbers of BSN-prepared nurses have lower patient mortality rates.

Not only does that four-year degree get you more interviews at Magnet hospitals and other top facilities, but it also gives you more career options, including opportunities in public health nursing or nursing education. A BSN-prepared nurse can pursue a master’s or doctoral degree to become an advanced practice nurse or nursing professor.

Browse Nursing Jobs

Job Outlook & Salary

An RN with an associate’s degree is qualified for about 58 percent of available nursing-related jobs while a nurse with a BSN qualifies for 82 percent of those openings. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there are 2.8 million working RNs, 42 percent with BSNs and 38 percent with associate’s degrees. An RN with a BSN can earn more than an RN without a four-year degree, and the higher compensation often comes in the form of promotion to managerial roles.

BSN Improves Core Competencies

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has recommended that 80 percent of all nurses should have their BSN by 2020. Why? Knowledge of basic nursing skills is no longer enough and nurses increasingly need these core competencies:

  • Leadership 
  • Health policy 
  • System improvement 
  • Research and evidence-based practice 
  • Teamwork and collaboration 
  • Competency in specific content areas such as community and public health and geriatrics 
  • Technological knowledge

So, if you were considering putting your nursing education on hold, you might want to think again. Even if you are starting work without a four-year degree, you can still plan to complete your BSN degree to help your future nursing career.

About AMN Healthcare Company

Are you a new grad RN? Becoming a travel nurse early in your career gives you the chance to see the country, meet new people, learn new nursing skills and build your résumé. Learn about the career advantages of travel nursing at AMN.

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