What is a BSN Degree? - The Complete Guide

Written By: Editorial Staff @ NursingProcess.org

A BSN program is a bachelor’s degree in nursing designed to provide you with the knowledge you need to become a successful registered nurse (RN). Here, you will learn everything you need to know about BSN programs, what is involved with earning this degree, and what you can expect after completion.

What Is a BSN Degree?

BSN stands for Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and it is a four-year program that provides you with classroom education as well as laboratory, simulator, and hands-on experience that you will utilize throughout your career as an RN. It is also designed to give you the knowledge you need to sit for and pass the NCLEX-RN licensure exam, which is required for employment in all 50 states. Once you pass, you can work in a variety of settings, including in hospitals, doctors’ offices, outpatient facilities, nursing and rehabilitation centers, and more. Primarily, your duties include working with other members of a healthcare team to provide high-quality patient care centered on excellent results.

Do I Have It in Me to Pursue This Program?

A BSN is right for you if you wish to pursue a nursing career anywhere in the country, especially since it also prepares you for further postgraduate education if you so choose. If you are interested in pursuing a BSN, you will need a solid work ethic, the desire to help sick and injured patients, the ability to work a flexible schedule, and a good degree of physical strength and stamina.

Why Should I Go for an BSN Instead of an ADN?

Both the two-year ADN program and the four-year BSN program will give you the knowledge you need to pass the NCLEX-RN examination and enjoy a lucrative career as a registered nurse. However, there are some significant advantages involved in pursuing a BSN over an ADN.

• Highly-skilled RNs are in demand all over the country, and employers prefer to hire candidates who have more education and experience.
• When competing for jobs with others, your BSN degree will give you a significant advantage over those who have only ADN degrees.
• RNs with BSN degrees tend to earn between $2,910 and $8,910 more each year depending on the state of employment than their counterparts with ADNs.
• A BSN provides you with more in-depth knowledge, which can help you feel more comfortable and confident when starting your career.

Which Types of Schools Offer This Program?

BSN programs are available at a variety of schools across the country, but the very best programs are offered by four-year state colleges and universities. Unlike ADN programs, most technical, community, and vocational colleges will not offer a BSN.

Why Is It Important That the BSN Program of My Choice Is Approved by State Board of Nursing/Regulatory Body (BON/RB)

When you select your BSN program, you must be certain that the program is approved by your state’s board of nursing or regulatory body. In order to qualify for the NCLEX-RN examination in all 50 states, you must be able to show that you completed an approved program.

BSN Accreditation

Aside from being approved by your state’s board of nursing or regulatory body, you should also ensure the BSN program you choose is accredited. Accreditation is not legally required, and you can sit for the NCLEX-RN examination if you choose an unaccredited school, but employers often make hiring decisions based on education – especially for entry-level positions. When you graduate from an accredited program, you prove that you have been educated by a college that meets or exceeds the accredited organization’s high standards in teaching.

A. Who Accredits BSN Programs?

There are currently two organizations that accredit BSN programs in the country.

Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN):

The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, or ACEN, is recognized by the United States Department of Education as a specialized accreditor. It sets high standards for nursing education and only accredits programs that meet or exceed those standards.

Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE):

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, or CCNE, only accredits baccalaureate programs, graduate programs, and residency programs in nursing. The CCNE only identifies programs with effective educational practices, and their goal is to contribute to the improvement of the public’s health through high quality education.

B. Benefits of Attending an Accredited Program?

Although it is possible to become a successful RN without participating in a program accredited by the ACEN or CCNE, there are benefits in doing so. Remember that many federal and state grants and loans are only available to students who will participate in accredited programs. If you choose to pursue a graduate degree later to become a nursing educator or specialist, your credits may not transfer to the school of your choice. Finally, today’s employers hire only the best and most highly qualified RNs, and attending an accredited program proves to your employer that you received the best possible education.

C. How to Check if the Program of My Choice is Accredited?

If you are curious as to whether a program you are considering is accredited, you can find search tools through both the ACEN and the CCNE.

D. What if the Program of My Choice is Not Accredited?

If you discover that the program you are considering is not accredited by either of the two organizations listed above, it is in your best interest to search for a program that is accredited. You must attend a school approved by your state’s regulatory body or nursing board in order to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam, and many states decide which programs to approve based on their accreditation. What’s more, states often decide to disapprove nursing programs who are not accredited, and if this happens while you are earning your degree, you will be ineligible to sit for the licensing exam.

How Many Schools in The United States are Currently Offering Accredited BSN Programs?

State ACNE CCNE Total
Alabama 3 10 13
Alaska 1 1 2
Arizona 1 5 6
Arkansas 5 7 12
California 2 28 30
Colorado 5 7 12
Connecticut 1 7 8
Delaware 2 1 3
District Of Columbia 1 4 5
Florida 17 17 34
Georgia 13 18 31
Hawaii 1 4 5
Idaho 1 4 5
Illinois 5 24 29
Indiana 7 16 23
Iowa 1 14 15
Kansas 1 12 13
Kentucky 5 13 18
Louisiana 4 8 12
Maine 2 5 7
Maryland 1 9 10
Massachusetts 4 14 18
Michigan 3 19 22
Minnesota 1 15 16
Mississippi 1 7 8
Missouri 4 19 23
Montana 2 1 3
Nebraska 4 5 9
Nevada 2 4 6
New Hampshire 2 6 8
New Jersey 3 13 16
New Mexico 2 2 4
New York 14 31 45
North Carolina 4 13 17
North Dakota 3 3 6
Ohio 5 28 33
Oklahoma 9 5 14
Oregon 1 5 6
Pennsylvania 13 31 44
Rhode Island 1 3 4
South Carolina 3 7 10
South Dakota 1 7 8
Tennessee 7 18 25
Texas 9 34 43
Utah 4 5 9
Vermont 1 4 5
Virginia 2 18 20
Washington 1 7 8
West Virginia 4 5 9
Wisconsin 1 18 19
Wyoming 1 1 2
Total 191 562 753

15 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing a BSN Program

Now that you have decided to pursue a BSN degree to start your exciting career as an RN, you should ask the following questions to help you narrow down the programs and choose the one best suited for your needs.

1. Is the program approved by the State Board of Nursing/Regulatory Body (BON/RB)?

You cannot sit for the NCLEX-RN licensure examination, which is required for employment in all 50 states, unless you complete a program approved by your state’s board of nursing or regulatory body.

2. Is the program accredited by ACEN/CCNE?

There are significant risks involved in attending unaccredited programs. You may not be able to get loans or grants, you may not be able to transfer credits if you pursue a graduate program down the road, and it is possible that the school could lose its state nursing board or regulatory body approval during your four-year education, making you unable to sit for the licensure exam and unable to transfer your earned credits to an accredited school.

3. Is the school offering this program regionally or nationally accredited?

Aside from state approval and CCNE or ACEN accreditation, a new national accrediting body called the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (NLN-CNEA) is also beneficial. Washington State has created new national standards for nursing programs that must go into effect by 2020, and this new accrediting body will be responsible for recognizing the programs that meet those standards.

4. Is the program Full-Time or Part-Time?

Though most of the BSN programs you will find across the country are full-time programs, these can be very difficult for someone who is already working full time. You may be able to find part-time programs or even night programs near you.

5. What is the mode of instruction?

All state-approved and ACEN or CCNE accredited BSN programs should offer mixed modes of instruction. For example, over the course of four years, you should receive your education in classrooms, in laboratories, in simulated healthcare environments, and in actual healthcare environments such as hospitals and nursing homes.

6. What is the academic background of the faculty teaching the program?

A BSN degree is only as good as the professors, nurses, and other professionals who provide the education, so it is important for you to learn more about the school’s faculty and their education. Ideally, your professors and teachers should have graduate degrees along with experience as a registered nurse in the healthcare industry.

7. How much does the program cost from beginning to end?

Though grants, loans, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid are available, it is important to understand how much you will need to pay for the BSN program from start to finish. This includes not only the cost of tuition, but also living expenses (if you will stay on campus), books, uniforms, medical supplies, application fees, testing fees, licensing fees, and more.

8. Am I eligible for financial aid and/or scholarships?

Determining whether you are eligible for financial aid and scholarships requires filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. This will ultimately determine what sort of assistance you can receive. Some schools offer their own scholarships and financial aid, and if you are curious about these, talk to the nursing program’s admissions department for information.

9. What is the curriculum of the program Like?

The core courses required to complete a BSN program do not vary much from school to school or from state to state. However, some schools do things a little differently than others. Some schools may present curriculum in a different way, and some may even present it in a different order. Most BSN programs’ websites provide access to an annual or semester-based syllabus that will provide you with a list of courses in the correct order.

10. Is the school responsible to set up clinical training or do I need to do it myself?

Clinicals are required to pass BSN programs as they provide you with hands-on opportunities to put the knowledge and skills you learn in the classroom to the test. Some schools have their own university hospitals, and they will schedule your clinical rotation there. Other schools partner with various healthcare facilities in the area and require you to set up your own clinical training schedule. It is important to ask this question, so you will understand how and when to schedule your clinicals.

11. Will the program prepare me to pass NCLEX-RN?

Of all the questions you can ask of a BSN program, this is the most important one. After all, the program has two goals – to provide you with the knowledge and skills required to become a successful RN, and to prepare you to sit for and successfully pass the NCLEX-RN.

12. What is the NCLEX-RN pass rate of the school?

This is an important measure of a BSN program’s overall quality. Understanding how many of the program’s graduates ultimately pass the NCLEX-RN examination effectively tells you how well that school prepares students for their licensure exams and careers.

13. What is the most recent graduation rate of the program?

By taking a look at the number of students who successfully graduate from BSN programs, you can get a better idea of the overall quality of the education – and in some cases, even its difficulty. If students struggle due to poor teaching practices, they may drop out of the program. Generally, the higher the graduation rate, the better the program.

14. Does the school offer job placement services?

Though BSN graduates are in high demand nationwide, you can benefit from job placement services offered by your school. These services make it easier for you to get an entry-level job in the facility of your choice, and they can also help match you with the right employer based on your strengths.

15. What is the most recent employment rate of the program?

Finally, asking about the employment rate for the most recent graduating class can help you better understand how the school’s BSN graduates perform in the real world. The higher the number, the more successful that school’s graduates are.

Can I Work While Being Enrolled in This Program?

Most BSN programs are full-time programs, and this can make it difficult to work, attend classes, do your clinical rotation, and still find time to study. Though it is possible, you may find it difficult at times, and your work or education may suffer. It is best to work only part time or go to school only part time in this case.

What Are the Program Start Dates?

Nursing schools typically offer BSN program start dates once or twice during the year. Schools with a single start date typically begin in the spring or fall, and for programs that offer two start dates, there is one in the spring and one in the fall. In some cases, schools may offer summer start dates, but this is rare and usually only found in schools that offer tri-semester programs.

List of the Most Common BSN Entrance Exams

SAT Test:

The Scholastic Aptitude Exam, or SAT, measures your readiness for college courses. Many BSN programs will require a specific minimum SAT score for entry.

ACT Test:

Some schools will require you to take the American College Test, or ACT, prior to admission in lieu of the SAT. It is another standardized college readiness test, and you may be required to obtain a minimum score to enter a program.


This is a placement exam that you may take after acceptance into a nursing program. It helps your school’s staff place you in the right general education courses to fulfill your needs and put you on the path to BSN completion.

Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS):

The TEAS exam is becoming more popular nationwide, and many of today’s best nursing programs require their applicants to provide their scores. Like the SAT and ACT exam, it is standardized and shows your readiness for college-level education.

HESI Admission Assessment Exam:

HESI stands for Health Education Systems Incorporated, and its exam is used to help predict your readiness to take the NCLEX-RN examination. Not all schools offer it.

RN Pre-Admission Exam (PAX):

Finally, the PAX exam, or the RN Pre-Admission exam, is one that some schools may utilize during their admissions process. It is most common among schools that require you to complete two years of general education before applying to their nursing programs, and it measures your readiness to excel in core nursing courses.

Do I require any Prerequisite Courses to get into BSN?

BSN program prerequisites vary. For programs that offer acceptance into the entire four-year program after high school, you will need to provide a high school diploma and meet all the other admission requirements. If you must apply to the BSN program after the first two years of general education, prerequisites vary from school to school. However, these schools will ensure that you take all your prerequisite courses – things like Introduction to Psychology, Biology, and Anatomy – during the first two years of college.

What Are the Admission Requirements for BSN?

Bachelor of science in nursing programs are competitive, and this means that schools and universities often have strict requirements for admission. Though all schools are different, the following represent common requirements:

• A high school diploma and transcripts;
• A cumulative high school GPA of 2.5 to 3.0
• Completion of prerequisite high school courses like nutrition, algebra, statistics, chemistry, and biology
• Proof of minimum required scores on exams like the ACT, TEAS, or SAT
• An assessment of your physical health
• CPR certification
• Recent drug screen
• Criminal background check

Tips for Getting Admitted into This Program?

Though being accepted into a BSN program may seem like a challenge, especially if it is a highly competitive nursing program with limited space, there are things you can do to improve your chances of acceptance.

Community Service and Volunteering:

Community service and volunteer work show that you are dedicated to helping others – a huge factor in becoming a successful RN.

Good High School GPA:

A good high school GPA (3.5 or above) shows that you are academically prepared for more rigorous college courses and that you have a solid work and study ethic.

Start Early:

It is best to start applying to nursing programs early on in your senior year of high school. Though your results will ultimately depend on whether or not you graduate, your GPA, and other factors, submitting applications early will yield better results.

Do Your Research:

Figure out which schools you will want to attend after high school, then spend some time researching them and their admissions requirements. The more you know about the requirements, the better off you will be.

Apply to More Than One School:

Putting your eggs in one basket, so to speak, can be detrimental to your education. Apply to at least three or four different nursing programs. Even if you are accepted to all of them, there is no penalty for turning them down.

Entrance Exam:

Determine which entrance exams you will need to take in order to get into the school of your choice, do some research on the best study tips, and commit yourself to obtaining the highest possible scores.

Admission Interview:

You will likely be interviewed at some point between submitting your application and being accepted. If this is the case, treat it like a job interview. Dress nicely, shake hands, maintain eye contact, and answer questions succinctly and truthfully.

Your Essay:

You may also need to write an essay in order to be accepted into the nursing program of your choice. If this is the case, do some research on the topic provided, and if no topic is provided, choose something related to modern healthcare. Take your time writing, do plenty of research, and triple-check your essay for errors before submitting it.

Get Strong Recommendation Letters:

Recommendation letters can come from teachers or other high school staff, so be sure that you ask your teachers to provide them. Chances are good that they have written recommendations in the past, but on the off chance they haven’t, do some research into what makes a solid letter.

How Long Will It Take to Complete the BSN Program?

Traditional BSN programs across the country take four years to complete. You may be able to find fast-track programs that allow you to graduate in three years, or you may find part-time programs that take up to five years to complete.

How Much Will My BSN Program Cost?

The costs associated with completing all four years of your BSN program will vary greatly from school to school and from state to state. The most expensive schools are private institutions, and in this case, you will pay anywhere from $16,710 to $201,610 for your education. Public schools offer the most affordable education with costs for the program ranging from $8,590 to $112,890.

Total Cost of Attendance
Type of Nursing School Total Cost
Public $8,590 - $112,890
Private $16,710 - $201,610

Breakdown of Costs

Determining the overall cost of your BSN program requires you to consider more than just tuition. You will need to pay application fees, buy books, purchase uniforms, and even buy medical supplies. You may also need to buy insurance, pay for medical exams and immunizations, CPR certification courses, and licensing costs.

A. Tuition:

Tuition is undoubtedly the biggest expense associated with your bachelor of science in nursing program. Tuition costs anywhere from $3,320 to $188,920 based on the type of school you attend and its location. Federal grants, loans, and scholarships exist to help you cover some or all of these costs. For financial assistance, be sure to fill out the FAFSA well in advance of the program start date.

Type of Nursing School Tuition Cost
Public $3,320 - $100,200
Private $11,440 - $188,920

A. Books & Supplies:

Books and medical supplies are another factor to consider, and while some grants and loans can be used to purchase these, this is not always the case. The table below breaks down the average cost of supplies and books you will need over the course of your BSN program.

Type Cost
Nursing Books $3,500 - $8,500
Bandage Scissors $5 - $10
Blood Pressure Cuff Kit $30 - <>
Calculator $10 - $25
Lab Coat $35 - $45
Nursing Graduation Pin $35 - $100
Pen Light $5
Shoes $50 - $100
Stethoscope $25 - $120
Uniforms $200 - $310
Wrist Watch with Second Hand $20 - $120
Total Cost $3,915 - $9,400

C. Fees:

Fees associated with obtaining your BSN will vary, as well. You may need to pay for things like your TEAS test and your background check, and you may also need to pay for an official transcript. The table below breaks down the common requirements and their associated costs.

Type Cost
TEAS Test $60
Application Fee $25 - $100
CPR Certification $35 - $122
Criminal Background check $45 - $100
Drug Screen $35 - $55
Fingerprints $30 - $60
Graduation Fee $50 - $250
Graduation Photograph $25
Lab Kit $50 - $135
Nursing Laboratory Fee $240 - $850
Official Transcript Fee $5 - $20
Total Cost $600 - $1,777

D. Insurance and Medical:

Many states will require you to carry liability and malpractice insurance before working with patients, and things like medical exams and immunizations are mandatory in all 50 states. The costs associated with these are shown in the table below.

Type Cost
Liability Insurance $36 - $64
Malpractice Insurance $20 - $40
Health Screening & Immunizations $400 - $1200
Total Cost $456 - $1,304

E. Exam & Licensure Fees:

Finally, it is important to factor in the cost of applying for your license and taking the NCLEX-RN licensure examination.

Type Cost
Liability Insurance $100 - $300
NCLEX Exam Fee $200
Total Cost $300 - $500

How to Pay for BSN Education?

College is an expensive endeavor, and a four-year nursing program along with the fees and supplies is no exception. There are a few different ways to get help paying for the program, however.

Federal Aid:

Federal aid is available for students who demonstrate financial need. To apply, you can fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) but be sure to do so well before your program starts.


Loans are available to BSN students through the federal government or from private lenders. To apply for federal loans, visit the federal student loan website facilitated by the US Department of Education.


Scholarships are widely available from nursing programs themselves, high schools, major companies, local businesses, and much, much more. Talk to your high school counselor about scholarship options that might be available to you, and feel free to contact your nursing school’s admissions department to find out about those opportunities, as well.

What is the Typical Coursework of a BSN Program?

English Composition:

You will learn both reading comprehension and professional writing skills in the English language.


This is the study of life, including plants and animals, from the cellular level to the community level. Biology also studies biodiversity, ecosystems, and more.


Chemistry teaches you the fundamentals of elements and how they react or interact and shows you how to determine the properties of substances and objects.


Mathematics courses may include college algebra, statistics, and others that will help you measure dosages and perform other tasks throughout your career.


Learning about human moods and behaviors, as well as how these can influence diagnoses and treatments, is vital for RNs.


Statistics courses are especially beneficial for community health nurses; understanding how one factor relates to another is important for diagnoses and other community medical needs.

Arts and Humanities:

Arts and humanities encompasses a number of different elective courses from which you can choose. These provide RNs with a well-rounded education that can serve them well for a lifetime.

Human Anatomy:

You will learn about the human body and its various parts and systems, including the names of bones, muscles, and organs and how they all work together in sickness and in health.

Human Physiology:

This is the basic study of cells, tissues, and bodily systems and how disease can affect them.


The study of biology at the microscopic level gives RNs vital knowledge about how viruses, bacteria, fungi, and even cancers work in the body.


Many diseases and disorders can be managed via nutrition, so RNs must learn about how food is broken down and used by the body.


This is the study of problems, both general and fundamental. This is useful to RNs and can teach valuable critical thinking skills.


This is the study of the chaos created in the body or mind by a disease or an injury. Understanding how disease and injury affects the body is necessary for becoming an effective RN.


Pharmacology is the study of drugs and other agents commonly used as treatments, the way they interact with the body, viruses, bacteria, fungi, or cancers, and how they interact with each other.

Cultures and Civilizations:

Learning more about cultures and civilizations can help nurses better understand the links between communities and disease or disease prevention.

Nursing Leadership:

This course provides information about leadership roles within the nursing field and how to lead others to provide excellent patient care.


Communications gives RNs essential knowledge and fundamental skills for communicating with others in many different ways. This is a vital skill in the healthcare industry as RNs are often the first line of information for patients and their families, and they must convey accurate information to other members of the healthcare team.

Nursing Research:

Nursing research is a field dedicated to researching and testing new methods in nursing care.

Human Development:

Learning how the human body and mind develops from fetus to death is important for providing patient care.

Health Assessment:

You will learn how to assess a patient’s health rapidly and accurately based on signs, symptoms, questions, observations, and physical examination.


You will learn about the variety of social dynamics found in communities and relationships, including families, marriages, parent/child relationships, romantic relationships, and more.

Nursing Care of the Adult:

Learning how to care for adults in a healthcare setting is critical to an RN’s success.

Pediatric Nursing:

You will learn how to care for children, from infancy until early adulthood, and how their bodies and minds differ from those of adults.

Maternal-Newborn Nursing:

You will learn about pregnancy, childbirth, and postnatal care in order to provide the best possible outcomes for expectant mothers and their families.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing:

Learning more about mental illness and how it affects patients both physically and mentally is important for diagnosing and treating patients.

Community & Public Health Nursing:

Studying public and community health helps RNs better understand social dynamics and how they can influence the spread of disease.


Finally, a practicum is a hands-on opportunity to put the information learned in all the aforementioned courses to the test. Also called “clinicals”, they are required for finishing your program.

Clinical Training - A Vital Part of Your BSN Curriculum

Clinical training is hands-on experience in a medical facility that gives you the opportunity to put your skills and knowledge to the test with real patients.

What is Clinical Training?

A clinical practicum is a hands-on training opportunity during which you will work with patients in hospitals, clinics, and other real-world settings. You will be supervised by an RN, physician, or other member of a healthcare team as you provide varying levels of care to these patients. This is beneficial in that it gives you the opportunity to put what you learn in the classroom to the test and receive important feedback from more experienced healthcare providers.

How Many Clinical Hours are Required?

Requirements vary by state, but on average, you will need 200 hours of clinicals to complete your BSN.

Where Will I do my Clinical Training?

If you attend a university with an associated hospital, you will likely do your clinicals there. Otherwise, your school partners with one or more nearby medical facilities – such as nursing homes and hospitals – where you can do your clinical rotation.

Will I be Paid?

Clinicals are considered part of your education and you will not be paid for the hours you put in.

Does Clinical Training Count as Work Experience?

A clinical practicum is a required part of your BSN program, and while it does not count as work experience as far as prospective employers are concerned, it does serve as valuable personal experience when you enter the workforce.

How Hard Is It to Complete This Program?

If you are feeling anxiety about the BSN program being lengthy or difficult, you are not alone. The program should challenge you, but as long as you are willing to spend ample time studying, pay attention during lectures, and apply yourself during labs, simulations, and clinicals, you will graduate the program with flying colors. Be sure to take care of yourself and ask for help from your teachers if you find yourself struggling.

Can I Specialize in a Particular Area of Nursing?

BSN programs do not provide any specific education that may lead to a specialization, but they do give you a wealth of general knowledge that you can use to go to work in a variety of specialists’ offices. Many RNs graduate with BSN degrees and go to work for obstetricians, pediatricians, and even cardiac specialists. They learn the ins and outs of the specialty through many years on the job.

What Will I Learn During My BSN?

Your BSN degree will provide you with a variety of skills, knowledge, and abilities that will serve you well throughout your career as a registered nurse.


Over the course of four years, you will develop a variety of communication, quick-thinking, and decision-making skills. You will also hone your ability to communicate in writing, how to treat patients with dignity and care, and how to perform various medical procedures in a wide range of settings. BSN programs will also give you the skills you need to play an important part of patients’ healthcare teams, allowing you to assist with diagnosing, treating, and educating patients and their families.


BSN programs provide a vast amount of knowledge over the course of four years. General knowledge courses give you mathematics, science, reading, and writing skills that are requirements in the healthcare field. Core nursing classes give you the knowledge you need to provide adequate healthcare, including things like pharmacology, dosage calculation, signs and symptoms of diseases, mental health, and much more.


You will have numerous new abilities after completing your BSN. You will be able to read a physician’s orders, measure and administer medication, take detailed patient histories, take accurate vital signs, perform basic medical examinations, triage patients, develop care plans, and work closely with other members of a patient’s healthcare team to provide the best possible treatment.

The Final Step - How to Get My Nursing License?

Every state in the US requires an RN to have an active license in order to work with patients. Of course, the first step in obtaining licensure involves completing a bachelor of science in nursing program that has been approved by your state’s regulatory body or nursing board. Afterward, there are several other steps involved in obtaining your license.

Apply for a RN license:

Because all states are different, visit the regulatory body or board of nursing corresponding to the state in which you want to work. This is where you will find detailed information that will help you apply for your license.

Take NCLEX-RN Examination:

The NCLEX-RN licensure examination is provided by the National Council of the State Boards of Nursing. The exam is administered by Pearson VUE. After submitting your application for licensure to the state nursing board, you will visit the Pearson VUE website to register for the exam, and you will need to pay the $200 non-refundable registration fee at this time.

The exam itself is multiple-choice, and to pass, you must answer 75 questions out of a total of 265 correctly. Answering fewer than 75 questions correctly out of 265 or answering fewer than 75 questions correctly before the allotted time is up will result in a fail. If you fail on your first attempt, your Candidate Performance Report lists where you excelled and where you didn’t, and this can benefit you on subsequent attempts. The number of attempts you can take at passing – and the amount of time between those attempts – is determined by your state nursing board or regulatory body.

Maintaining My License:

Different states have different rules for maintaining your nursing license. Most RNs will simply reapply for licensure prior to the expiration date of their current licenses. For example, in Indiana, RNs must renew their licensure every two years, but in California, nurses can simply pay a fee to extend their licensure for eight years. During this time, RNs must work a specific number of hours or obtain a specific number of CE credits, which is again dependent on the state.

Advanced Education After BSN - What Are My Options?

Once you have obtained your BSN degree, you can continue on to work as a registered nurse, or you can continue your education with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), a PhD, or another advanced degree. These require more schooling, but the prestige and pay are well worth the time and effort for successful students.

Master of Science in Nursing

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree provides you with many different career opportunities than a BSN. With an MSN degree, you can become a nursing educator or go into management positions. You can also pursue any of the following career paths:

Nurse Practitioner (NP):

A nurse practitioner (NP) performs duties above and beyond that of a registered nurse, including seeing and treating patients without the direct supervision of a doctor. The scope of practice for an NP varies from state to state.

Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA):

A certified nurse anesthetist, or CRNA, is an advanced practice nurse who can provide anesthesia in a variety of surgical, emergency, and obstetric settings. These individuals play important roles in the healthcare workforce.

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS):

A clinical nurse specialist is an individual who has advanced knowledge on very specific conditions, populations, general health problems, or treatment options. Some may work in oncology, others may work in obstetrics, and some may work with patients who have certain types of wounds, for example.

Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM):

A certified nurse midwife (CNM) is also known as a midwife. These individuals are often called upon to assist women with pregnancy, labor, and childbirth, but in recent years, they have also been more involved with other gynecological care, as well.

Ph.D. & Advanced Professional Degrees

Advanced and professional degrees give you an even higher level of education than an MSN. When you enter a DNP or PhD program, you can become a fully-educated nurse practitioner or even a doctor. Bear in mind that specializations will require some additional education beyond these, as well.


A BSN to DNP program is designed to bridge the gap between a Bachelor of Nursing degree and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. This advanced degree may be required by some employers seeking nurse practitioners to help round out their practices.

BSN to Ph.D.:

A BSN to PhD program allows you to transfer your credits into a PhD program, which is required for becoming a licensed physician in the US. With a PhD, you can become an internalist, a general practitioner, or a family doctor.

Where Can I Find Employment?

After completing the BSN program and passing the NCLEX-RN, you will officially be a licensed registered nurse ready to enter the workforce. RNs are in demand in a number of healthcare settings, including the following.


Hospitals are the biggest employer of RNs in the nation. If you are employed by a hospital, you may work on the general care floors caring for post-operative and very sick patients, in labor and delivery, or even in the emergency department.

Nursing Care Facilities:

In a nursing care facility, you will care for patients who have been injured or ill and who cannot care for themselves at home. The goal is to nurse patients back to health with round-the-clock care until they can return home.

Doctor’s Offices:

Doctor’s offices are also common places of employment for RNs. Here, your duties may include assisting the doctor with taking histories and vitals and a variety of administrative tasks. You may also assist during minor in-office procedures.

Outpatient Care Centers:

Outpatient care centers include facilities like urgent care centers, dialysis centers, and laboratories. Your duties will vary based on the type of care your center provides, but you will usually work directly with patients according to a doctor’s orders.

Home Healthcare Services:

In home healthcare, you will visit patients’ homes to help with their medical needs, which may range from administering medications to cleaning wounds and more. You may also help perform some basic grooming tasks, including bathing, dressing, brushing teeth, and more.

Colleges & Universities:

Many RNs work in college and university medical centers that treat patients on-campus. If you work for a university with a medical school, you may also serve as a nurse alongside aspiring physicians and residents.

Offices of Other Health Practitioners:

Other health practitioners include podiatrists, ENT specialists, proctologists, gynecologists, pain management specialists, oncologists, and others. You will work directly with patients based on their unique needs to take histories, vitals, assess symptoms, and provide an explanation for treatment.

Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities:

Finally, if you choose to work in a retirement community or assisted living facility, much of your time will be spent with the elderly. These facilities provide round-the-clock care for individuals who can no longer care for themselves due to age, illness, or significant injury.

What Is the Employment Outlook for a BSN Nurse?

As the demand for skilled nurses continues to grow nationwide between now and 2027, employers focused on outstanding patient outcomes will continue to hire only RNs with the best possible education. By 2027, it is estimated that some 1,698,710 RNs with BSN degrees will work across the country, an increase of some 17.82% over the number of RNs in 2017. Each year during that decade, some 102,360 new jobs will become available, which will drive job security for many years to come.

BSN Nurses Employment 10 Year New Jobs Growth Projection (2017-2027) Projected Annual Job Openings (New + Replacement)
2017 2027 Growth in Number Growth in %
1,441,790 1,698,710 256,920 17.82% 102,360
(Source: In-House Research, May 2018)

How Much Will I Earn?

An RN with a BSN degree can earn a wide range of salaries based on factors like his or her area of employment, employer, and experience. Entry-level RNs with this degree earn under $51,250 each year, and they represent the lowest-paid 10%. The highest-paid 10% earn more than $109,580 each year, and these are the most experienced RNs who work in major metropolitan areas and in stressful environments. The average annual salary ranges from $60,360 to $90,490 annually.

Percent of BSN Nurses Hourly Wages Monthly Salary Annual Salary
10% Under $24.64 Under $4,270 Under $51,250
15% $24.64 - $29.02 $4,270 - $5,030 $51,250 - $60,360
25% $29.02 - $35.43 $5,030 - $6,140 $60,360 - $73,690
25% $35.43 - $43.50 $6,140 - $7,540 $73,690 - $90,490
15% $43.50 - $52.68 $7,540 - $9,130 $90,490 - $109,580
10% Above $52.68 Above $9,130 Above $109,580
Average $37.05 $6,420 $77,070
(Source: In-House Research, May 2018)

State Wise BSN Nurse Salary

Your salary as an RN with a BSN will vary tremendously based on your state of employment. The table below shows the average annual wage, salary, and salary range for each of the 50 states.

State Average Hourly Wages Annual Salary Range Average Annual Salary
Alabama $29.32 $44,100 - $81,890 $60,990
Alaska $44.70 $65,550 - $125,490 $92,980
Arizona $38.30 $57,230 - $104,580 $79,670
Arkansas $29.84 $43,930 - $83,140 $62,060
California $52.84 $67,820 - $159,170 $109,900
Colorado $37.06 $56,200 - $102,960 $77,090
Connecticut $40.74 $60,380 - $108,970 $84,730
Delaware $37.13 $57,210 - $103,090 $77,220
District of Columbia $45.11 $60,290 - $135,570 $93,830
Florida $32.84 $49,300 - $88,980 $68,300
Georgia $33.92 $49,180 - $94,140 $70,560
Hawaii $49.71 $66,700 - $133,270 $103,400
Idaho $32.72 $47,650 - $88,350 $68,050
Illinois $36.67 $51,630 - $105,400 $76,270
Indiana $31.48 $45,900 - $86,780 $65,470
Iowa $29.34 $44,630 - $81,290 $61,020
Kansas $30.46 $45,410 - $83,550 $63,360
Kentucky $31.11 $45,840 - $84,540 $64,710
Louisiana $31.82 $45,020 - $88,840 $66,180
Maine $33.56 $49,990 - $93,490 $69,810
Maryland $38.33 $56,950 - $105,620 $79,720
Massachusetts $45.62 $59,460 - $138,650 $94,880
Michigan $35.19 $55,300 - $94,790 $73,200
Minnesota $39.48 $57,100 - $106,950 $82,120
Mississippi $29.44 $43,460 - $82,490 $61,230
Missouri $31.85 $45,250 - $90,970 $66,250
Montana $33.76 $53,490 - $90,610 $70,220
Nebraska $31.58 $47,890 - $84,720 $65,680
Nevada $43.34 $67,790 - $114,190 $90,150
New Hampshire $35.84 $53,900 - $100,720 $74,550
New Jersey $41.51 $62,000 - $111,280 $86,340
New Mexico $35.86 $55,140 - $98,420 $74,580
New York $42.58 $56,900 - $123,660 $88,570
North Carolina $31.63 $46,840 - $86,470 $65,780
North Dakota $32.14 $51,570 - $84,230 $66,850
Ohio $33.22 $52,640 - $88,540 $69,090
Oklahoma $31.15 $46,350 - $83,910 $64,790
Oregon $45.56 $68,510 - $124,780 $94,770
Pennsylvania $35.70 $52,560 - $101,780 $74,260
Rhode Island $39.07 $58,900 - $105,280 $81,260
South Carolina $31.71 $47,030 - $85,510 $65,960
South Dakota $29.07 $44,260 - $81,200 $60,460
Tennessee $30.47 $44,910 - $83,330 $63,380
Texas $36.76 $54,620 - $103,520 $76,470
Utah $31.85 $47,890 - $85,720 $66,240
Vermont $35.52 $54,940 - $100,170 $73,880
Virginia $34.39 $48,000 - $99,600 $71,530
Washington $40.75 $56,690 - $118,460 $84,760
West Virginia $30.68 $44,300 - $84,320 $63,820
Wisconsin $35.39 $55,470 - $96,890 $73,620
Wyoming $32.82 $48,320 - $89,440 $68,260
Puerto Rico $17.24 $25,210 - $50,540 $35,860
Virgin Islands $29.87 $40,100 - $82,740 $62,120
(Source: In-House Research, May 2018)

Can International Students Apply for a BSN Program?

Students from other countries are welcome and often encouraged to apply for bachelor of science in nursing programs in the United States. If you live outside the US and you are interested in earning your BSN and working as an RN here, contact the school you are interested in attending for more information. For the most part, you will need to obtain the necessary visas and approvals to allow you to reside and work in the US before attending the program.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for international students are much the same as they are for American students, but with a few differences. To be admitted into a US nursing program you will need to have:

• A valid JI or F1 visa for studying abroad;
• Transcripts from foreign high school and the equivalent of a US diploma;
• A GPA of 3.0 (or its equivalent);
• The ability to speak and understand English fluently;
• Minimum TEAS, ACT, or SAT scores (or their equivalents);
• A clear criminal history in the US and your home country; and
• The ability to successfully pass a comprehensive drug screening.

How to Find the Best BSN Program Near Me?

If you are ready to find a BSN program, you can use the map below. Simply click on your state to discover the absolute best schools in your local area.

Other Nursing Program Guides
  • What is an ADN Program? - The Complete Guide

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