RN to BSN Majors Guide

The RN (Registered Nurse) to BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) degree is designed for registered nurses who wish to obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing. The typical student in an RN to BSN program is a registered nurse employed full or part-time. Because the majority of the students in these healthcare and medical degree programs are working professionals, most RN to BSN programs are very flexible and offer courses during the day, at night, and on weekends. Online RN to BSN programs have become popular among busy nurses who have the clinical experience they need for a BSN; they learn advanced theory and administrative skills online.

BSN graduates work in hospitals, nursing homes, physicians’ offices, and other healthcare settings. They may work as staff nurses, head nurses, department chiefs, and administrative managers. In many cases, BSN graduates move on to MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) programs. The higher your degree, the more career opportunities are typically available.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2014, the outlook for careers in registered nursing is excellent. Employment is expected to grow 19 percent between 2012 and 2022, faster than the national average, particularly for those RNs who have a BSN degree. Hospitals and physicians’ offices often offer signing bonuses and inflated salaries to these high-achieving nurses.

Career Education in Nursing: RN to BSN Degree

RN to BSN programs are available at nursing schools, four-year colleges, community and technical schools, and even online. To enter an RN to BSN program, students must be licensed Registered Nurses. They should have completed some college, including anatomy and physiology, laboratory chemistry, and English courses.

RN to BSN programs are usually a good way for RNs to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree. These programs take between one and two years to complete, depending on the amount of education completed prior to the BSN program. Campus-based RN to BSN programs may offer courses in the evenings and weekends to accommodate working students’ busy schedules. Online RN to BSN degree programs are another option that can help RNs earn their education without giving up their careers.

Courses common to these programs include information on disease prevention, management theory, ethics, leadership, and healthcare policies. Most RN to BSN programs focus heavily on management and leadership training. Fieldwork usually is required for graduation; online students either attend a residency or work with their school to arrange practice locally.

What Can You Do With an RN to BSN Degree?

Many BSN grads choose to stay in staff nursing, but seek greater responsibility within their organizations. Others may choose to seek a nursing position that requires the BSN. The following are just a few of the positions that typically are available to RNs who obtain a BSN degree.

School Nurses

School nurses promote healthy habits and safety to students in public and private schools. They assess and treat students with injuries and health problems, compile student health records, and present health programs to students and faculty.

School nurses often are responsible for administering medication to children during school hours. The school nurse is responsible for making sure that the medication is taken correctly and that it is stored in a safe location. They are responsible for obtaining immunization records and other pertinent medical information from parents before the child begins school and throughout her school career. Communication between parents and school nurses is essential to keeping these records accurate.

The best school nurses are responsible individuals who care about children and their health. They are detail-oriented, and manage administrative tasks well. They often present health-related programs to students and teachers, and are able to make them interesting by using a variety of methods and materials.

The school principal typically supervises the school nurse. School nurses are usually required to hold a BSN degree and have experience with pediatric or community health. They often follow the traditional school calendar and work a nine-month schedule. Three months off in the summer allows time for continuing education, short-term employment, or leisure activities.

Operating Room Nurses

Operating room (OR) nurses care for patients before, during, and after surgery. They talk with the patient before surgery and explain the procedure, answer the patient’s questions, and listen to his concerns.

OR nurses help other healthcare professionals maintain a sterile environment before, during, and after the procedure. During the procedure, they may be responsible for handing instruments to the surgeon. On occasion, the operating room nurse may be responsible for assisting the surgeon with the procedure by helping control bleeding or closing wounds with sutures.

Successful operating room nurses are quick thinkers. They are responsible and sensible. They can communicate ideas and thoughts effectively and work with many types of people.

Hospital operating rooms, ambulatory surgical centers, clinics, and physicians’ offices all may employ the services of an OR nurse; they typically prefer BSN degrees, but do not always require them. Experience in emergency room or critical care is helpful for obtaining employment as an operating room nurse.

Jobs for OR nurses are expected to grow faster than average over the next 10 years as the Baby Boomers grow older. The number of operating procedures is expected to rise along with the aging population, requiring more surgeons and operating room nurses to accommodate this increase.

Pediatric Nurses

Pediatric nurses help healthy and sick children, from newborns to adolescents. They work in a variety of locations, including private practices, hospitals, clinics, and schools. They work closely with physicians and other healthcare staff to supply proper medical care and treatment to their young patients. They must be able to work well as part of a healthcare team, but also be able to work independently with little supervision.

Pediatric nurses often work with healthy children who are visiting the physician for routine check-ups. They take measurements, including height and weight, and record information about the patient relevant to medical history and general health. Pediatric nurses may also do developmental screenings for children who are at risk for developmental delays and disabilities.

In other settings, a pediatric nurse may educate children and families on disease prevention, medical conditions, or management of physical and mental disabilities. Pediatric nurses sometimes specialize in one area, such as adolescents or infants. Specializing in children with disabilities is also common.

Most employers prefer that pediatric nurses have a BSN. Certification is available to pediatric nurses through many sources. Most commonly, pediatric nurses obtain either a Certified Pediatric Nurse or a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner certification. With proper education and experience, many pediatric nurses advance to management or administrative positions.

Certified Nurse Anesthetists

Certified Nurse Anesthetists (CNAs) are responsible for administering anesthesia to patients. They work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, ambulatory centers, dentists’ offices, plastic surgeons’ offices, and delivery rooms.

CNAs work independently, with little supervision, but communicate with the health care team to discuss patient procedures and status. Prior to surgery, they often talk with the patient about the anesthesia and its effects. they may also be responsible for fitting the patient with equipment to monitor her vital signs.

Certified Nurse Anesthetists must successfully complete a nurse anesthetist program, which commonly requires a BSN. A current nursing license and at least one year of experience as an RN in an acute care setting is also required.

The demand for CNAs is high. Because nurse anesthetists earn less than anesthesiologists, they are often hired instead of anesthesiologists in an attempt to keep healthcare costs low. Nurse anesthetists offer excellent anesthesia services, but at a significantly lower cost to their employers.

Nurse Practitioners

Many registered nurses looking for greater job responsibility become nurse practitioners, who have many of the same responsibilities as physicians but also still perform many of the duties of a registered nurse.

Like a registered nurse, a nurse practitioner may take patients’ medical history, educate patients about health, and administer immunizations. Unlike a registered nurse, however, nurse practitioners can diagnose and treat patients. They are able to prescribe medication and request and interpret diagnostic tests.

Nurse practitioners work in a variety of healthcare settings. They work in physicians’ practices, hospitals, community health centers, schools, and nursing homes. Nurse practitioners often specialize in one area of healthcare such as pediatrics, gerontology, or family healthcare.

Nurse practitioners are required to have a BSN and to complete a nurse practitioner program. Typically, nurses complete their BSN and work as a licensed registered nurse for several years before entering a nurse practitioner program.

Medical and Health Services Managers

Medical and health services managers are responsible for the administrative duties of large and small healthcare facilities and departments. Registered nurses with a BSN degree often qualify for positions in medical and health services management. They become heads of nursing staffs, head operating room nurses, and managers of physicians’ offices.

The duties of a medical and health services manager vary with the position and setting. Head OR nurses, for example, may direct the operations of nursing staff in the operating room. A nurse who advances to become the manager of a physician’s office is responsible for the administrative tasks within that office.

Medical and health services administrators direct staff, develop policies and procedures, and ensure that everyone complies. They typically have extensive experience in the medical profession, and possess at least a bachelor’s degree. Master’s degrees in business or healthcare administration are also common.

Careers in medical and health services administration are expected to grow faster than average in coming years, particularly in physicians’ offices. Opportunities are expected to be best for those with graduate-level education and experience in healthcare.

Nurse Educators

Nurse educators work in a variety of settings, developing, coordinating, and executing educational programs designed to properly train new nurses. They teach these lessons, evaluate students’ knowledge, and document their understanding of the subject matter. They may work in a community college, university, or hospital-based nursing program. In some cases, nurse educators may advise and monitor student nurses in the field.

In addition to classroom duties, many nurse educators have administrative duties and participate in school committees. In higher education settings, such as universities, nurse educators often are required to conduct research applicable to their field and to publish their results. They may also work part-time in clinical settings to maintain their nursing skills.

Nurse educators are typically required to have at least a BSN and significant clinical experience as a nurse. They usually have a current nursing license and must maintain this license while teaching. For positions in colleges and universities, nurse educators may be required to hold a master’s degree or higher.

RN to BSN Certification, Licensure and Associations

In all 50 states, nurses are required to hold a nursing license. Requirements typically include graduation from an approved nursing program and successful completion of a national examination. A Registered Nurse entering a BSN program typically has professional experience and already holds a nursing license.

Nursing licenses must be renewed periodically. Requirements for renewal vary with state licensing boards, but most require the completion of a set number of continuing education credits every one to three years. Additional licensure usually is not required to obtain a specialized nursing position, such as a pediatric or operating room nurse. However, certifications are often available through various organizations.

Certifications (not the same as licenses) are a way to demonstrate knowledge according to a set of standards. They are required for licensure in some states, though not always. Pediatric nurses can earn their certification through several different organizations, including the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, and the National Certification Board of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and Nurses. Most pediatric nurses become either Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (CPNP) or Certified Pediatric Nurses (CPN).

Nurse practitioners can earn certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. They offer seven specializations of certification for nurse practitioners, including:

  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners must be licensed Registered Nurses and must meet any educational requirements set forth by state licensing boards.

Certified nurse anesthetists must be nationally certified. Successful completion of both a nurse anesthetist program and an examination administered by the Council on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists is required for national certification. This certification is recognized by all 50 states.

The examination required by the Council on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists is a multiple-choice examination administered by computer. Candidates are given three hours in which to complete the 160 question exam. Upon successful completion of this exam, the credential Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is bestowed.

Other Associations and Certification Bodies

Article Sources


  1. “Registered Nurses,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses#tab-6
  2. “29-1141 Registered Nurses,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141
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