Table of Contents

Registered Nurses (RNs) typically provide and coordinate patient care, work closely with doctors to coordinate such care, educate patients about their conditions and effective treatment for those conditions and try to ensure patient comfort. Primary RN duties usually involve the following tasks:

  • Developing strategies for more effective communication with patients and fellow practitioners
  • Analyzing ways in which health policy affects healthcare delivery
  • Applying techniques of cultural and interpersonal literacy to provide patient-centered care
  • Integrating knowledge of leadership and management concepts with practical experience
  • Learning to identify, manage and resolve potential legal or ethical issues in nursing

But RNs also do more than care for patients. They are also called upon to educate the public about health related matters and to train and mentor incoming health care professionals.

Expected RN-to-BSN coursework

RN to BSN programsThe exact curriculum students must complete depends on the institution and the student's level of prior education, but there are certain core subject matter courses that are common among many RN-to-BSN programs:

  • Nursing research
  • Nursing leadership
  • Developmental psychology
  • Community health
  • Life sciences
  • Professional communication
  • Cultural diversity in healthcare
  • Chronic disease management
  • Health law and ethics

Students who earn associate degrees while studying to become registered nurses may have a more comprehensive background in general education courses and therefore require fewer credit hours to complete RN-to-BSN programs. Certain nursing programs may be available part-time or online to better accommodate a nurse's busy working schedule.

The RN-to-BSN process

RNs typically complete either a bachelor's of science degree in nursing or an associate's degree in nursing. Nurses also must be certified to provide health care by passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses exam (NCLEX-RN).

Practicing nurses who want to earn an RN-to-BSN degree have a wide variety of options. If you are interested in an RN-to-BSN program and you are already a practicing RN, many of the requirements may be completed online and some programs offer fully online options.

Alternate degree paths and advantages of a master's degree in nursing

While obtaining the education necessary for an advanced nursing degree such as a master's degree in nursing (MSN) may seem rigorous, the effort can pay off. Since earning an advanced degree online has become more widely available, a student may be able to continue working full-time while also pursuing an advanced nursing degree.

An advanced degree further expands the range of potential career paths an individual can pursue upon graduation. Not only can APRNs call upon additional education to treat patients, they are also well-positioned for administrative, faculty, community outreach and other leadership opportunities.

Many practicing nurses who pursue an MSN degree already hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). There are some programs, however, that allow a BSN and an MSN to be pursued at the same time. Students can also choose to study for a joint degree in nursing and a related field such as public health or hospital administration.

RN-to-BSN salary and career outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment of registered nurses is expected to increase by 19 percent between 2012 and 2022, leading to more than half a million new jobs in the field. Furthermore, jobs for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are projected to increase by 31 percent, translating to a raw increase of nearly 200,000 new jobs by 2022.

Based on BLS numbers, RNs found the highest levels of employment in the following industries:

IndustryEmploymentPercent of Industry Employment
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals1,553,08029.46%
Offices of Physicians178,8107.39%
Home Health Care Services166,91013.77%
Nursing Care/Skilled Nursing Facilities142,4908.60%
Outpatient Care Centers102,41015.24%


"Johns Hopkins Online Nursing Options," Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. August 22, 2014, http://nursing.jhu.edu/academics/programs/online/

"The School of Nursing," Kaplan University. August 22, 2014, http://go.kaplanuniversity.edu/index.aspx?experience=original_standard_nursing&tags=nursing&source=430103&ve=61340

"RN to BSN Online Degree Completion Program," Drexel University Online. August 22, 2104. http://www.drexel.com/online-degrees/nursing-degrees/rn-bsn/index.aspx

"Registered Nurses," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm

"29-1141 Registered Nurses," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 13, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm

"Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics , www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm

"29-1151 Nurse Anesthetists," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 13, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291151.htm

"29-1161 Nurse Midwives," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 13, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291161.htm

"Physician Assistants," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, , www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physician-assistants.htm

"29-1171 Nurse Practitioners," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 13, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291171.htm

Pursue your RN to BSN: BS in Nursing Bridge Program major today…