Comparing ADN and BSN Degrees
HealthSeptember 27, 2018

Comparing ADN and BSN degrees

In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (now known as NASEM - National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine) released a report recommending that 80% of the nursing workforce achieve a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) by the year 2020. And while a growing body of research shows that BSN-prepared nurses help improve patient outcomes while keeping healthcare costs down, many nurses with associate degrees in nursing (ADN) are still employed in facilities across the country.

The IOM’s report, coupled with a growing preference for achieving ANCC Magnet® status, has resulted in a push for nurses to achieve greater levels of educational training. But ADN prepared nurses still skillfully provide valuable services to help patients achieve greater health. So how do you decide whether to return to school for your BSN? Looking at a few of the pros and cons of each degree type can be a good starting point for determining whether you should pursue further education.

Examining the ADN

An associate’s degree in nursing is the traditional benchmark for entry into the nursing profession. After completing this degree, nurses are free to practice in a variety of clinical settings and specialty areas. For some nurses, the ADN offers exactly what they’re looking for without the need for extensive schooling. But this degree type isn’t without it’s draw-backs.

Pros of an ADN

  1. It’s a shorter program. It only takes two years to complete your ADN, helping you get on the floor faster.
  2. It’s cheaper than a BSN. Because school only lasts for two years, you’ll spend less money on your education.
  3. There’s still good earning potential. With time and experience, you can earn as much as a nurse with a BSN.

Cons of an ADN

  1. Career advancement may be limited. Because advanced practice nursing and leadership positions require higher levels of education, your opportunities for advancement as an ADN aren’t as good as for a nurse with a BSN.
  2. Getting a job might be hard. As the complexity of medical care increases, a growing number of healthcare facilities prefer to hire nurses with a BSN as their minimum educational level.
  3. ADN nurses earn less. According to the Nursing2018 Salary and Benefits Report, ADN nurses earn an average of $71,000 each year…while BSN nurses earn around $75,200.

Comparing the BSN

After the Affordable Care Act (ACA), nurses have become responsible for providing high quality patient care in a technically advanced environment to people with increasingly complicated medical problems. As part of the healthcare workforce, nurses are also expected to closely collaborate with physicians, therapists, and other providers to achieve the best patient outcomes possible. In many healthcare facilities, this means nurses must achieve a higher degree of education and training to meet these needs.

Pros of a BSN

  1. Your career can really take off. A BSN offers greater opportunity for professional growth and autonomy, opening up the field of nursing. Completing your BSN makes it easier to obtain a position in nursing leadership, education, or advanced practice.
  2. Employers prefer BSN nurses. According to one survey, a full 49% of hospitals only hire nurses with a minimum BSN degree, while over 86% of employers strongly prefer to hire BSN-educated nurses.
  3. You’ll earn more money. Many healthcare facilities offer bonuses and pay raises to nurses who complete a BSN. Your average yearly salary will be higher than a nurse with an ADN.

Cons of a BSN

  1. It’s a big commitment. A BSN program typically takes four years to complete, and the program is rigorous. You’ll have to balance your work, family life, and relaxation time with your educational commitments. For many, this can be a difficult and frustrating experience.
  2. School costs more. Since you’re in school for a BSN longer, you can expect to pay more for your degree. Tuition, fees, uniforms, and other expenses can all add up quickly.
  3. Some facilities don’t pay more. Even though BSN prepared nurses earn more on average than ADNs, some healthcare facilities offer no financial incentives for going back to school.
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