ADN vs. BSN – The Big Debate


Obtaining your BSN will open many doors for you in your nursing career. A BSN makes nurses more desirable to employers who may want to hire someone who has advanced education. Most nurses after they have worked the floors for many years get burnt out and need a slower pace or feel they need a change. With a BSN, you can move into management. Management is highly recognized and can lead to a large pay increase. You earn respect from employees and learn to be a leader.

An ADN teaches the nursing student fundamental and basics of nursing. Those include creating care plans and performing everyday nursing skills. With a BSN, the nurse has to think more outside the box, with creditable research, leadership, theory, and public health, which will, in turn, make the nurse more of a critical thinker, which will carry over into her practice. Therefore, patients will be safer. As a nurse with a BSN, you will become a critical thinker advancing you in everyday nursing tasks and avoiding deadly errors.

Ideally, going to school immediately for a BSN is smart. Though, a lot of adult learners want to make a little money first. The advice for that learner is to never stop. Once the nurse starts their role, they will get comfortable and it my take years to open a textbook again. Do not be the nurse who always says they will be going back to school, jump in!

You mean I will not have a job?

There was a huge shortage of nurses years ago, but now, it has been less and less of a demand. Nurses aren’t needed as much, therefore the BSN is preferred. It is becoming more of the trend to have a BSN to be considered for any position, especially teaching, specialties, and school nurses. If you have a long time until retirement, many institutions are requiring BSNs to practice in the future.

In the future, too, the nurses who obtain an ADN know what is forthcoming and already will graduate or will be in the process of completing their BSN. Furthermore, being stuck in an ADN position may be comfortable now, but the future is coming and the BSN will be a necessity for many jobs. Across the United States, hospitals strive to become Magnet status, which does not hire ADN nurses.

The Magnet Recognition Program recognizes healthcare organizations for quality patient care, nursing excellence and innovations in professional nursing practice. Consumers rely on Magnet designation as the ultimate credential for high quality nursing. Developed by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), Magnet is the leading source of successful nursing practices and strategies worldwide. Many hospitals want this because it will show that their patients will receive the best possible care.

The Benefits of the BSN

Most schools require a BSN to obtain an MSN. MSN is required for any nurse practitioner. If you have higher goals, a BSN is the way to start achieving those goals. Obtaining your BSN is a stepping stone to many opportunities! Management is the first opportunity many nurses think of and therefore obtain their higher degree. Outside of management a lot of insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and research jobs come open to BSN graduates. Another opportunity that a nurse with an ADN can not touch is being a clinical instructor for your local college. Those opportunities are great for extra money.

Money is always a motivator. The pay increase for a BSN versus an ADN is not too spectacular, unless you move up the ladder in your company. Those nurses with BSNs in management will make more money just because they are in a management role. As for a staff nurse though, BSNs and ADN graduates are comparable usually. The pay increase will ultimately be the decision mainly of your employer.

Four year degree nurses are looked at differently than two year degree nurses. They are held to a much higher standard in society. Most patients would prefer the nurse who had to learn for an extra two years. Outside of just patients, telling the general public that you have a Bachelor’s degree shows intelligence among the average individual.

Overall, the benefits to obtaining a BSN are spectacular. You will hear from nurses that it is not worth it. It is not true. Obtaining a BSN is going to guarantee you a job and most of all job security. Everyone has a family, bills, and personal issues to attend to, that’s why we work. Let your career take care of you with a little work on your part, you can be done quickly or as slow as you want.

ADN vs. BSN by the numbers

Length 2 to 3 years
(about 70 credit hours)
4 to 5 years
(about 120 credit hours)
State Approved programs 1275 777
The total number of approved programs is based on our database. the actual number of approved programs is obviously different but you can see the difference
Cost of education
  • Denver School of Nursing ($42,527)
  • Columbia Basin College ($52,800)
  • Bevill State Community College ($10,080*)
  • Denver School of Nursing($86,089)
  • South University ($104,920)
  • Auburn University($69,584)
  • The University of Alabama($100,824)
Education cost varies based on the type of school you go to, weather you are an in-state/out-of-state student, etc. the above numbers are based on published tuition costs on each university/college website in 2013
Degree advancement options RN to BSN, RN to MSN BSN to MSN, BSN to PhD/DNP
Janine Kelbach

Janine Kelbach

Janine Kelbach is a Registered Nurse. She has been an RN for 7 years and has been in OB a total of 11 years. High Risk Labor and Delivery is her certification (RNC), but she works as an assistant manager in a Labor, Delivery, Recovery, and Postpartum (LDRP) unit. A small amount of her responsibilities are to train new nurses, triage and telephone triage patients, deliver patients, scrub in the operating room, and assist in the special care nursery.
Janine Kelbach

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    Yeah, not so much.

  • Beth

    Very offensive to think that ASN are not critical thinkers and not as good as BSN. I have BSN and MSN prepared nurses asking me what to do in critical situations in the ER. Patients care about your skill set and how compassionate you are not what letters are after your name. This mentality is what is destroying the nursing profession. One degree is not better or safer then another. The safety factor is in the willingness to learn and the mentorship the new grads are provided. It all comes down to the support of a new nurse in their first year.

    • Stacy Awesome

      I am laughing at that nonsense. She is basically calling ADN nurses dumb, while struggling to form complete sentences.

    • S

      You can be critical thinkers but by definition, you aren’t as trained. You did 2 years at community college vs 4 years ago university and you’ve only done basic nursing skills vs science.

      • BxGirlBlazin

        You’re wrong. The clinical and pathology components are the same. The BSN people are taking more college courses that don’t pertain to nursing. If you want to learn skills, become an LPN. RNs are not skill based. Also, not all four year schools are universities. Some are colleges. You are proving my point that BSN nurses are truly ruining a lot of what nursing has to offer.

      • BxGirlBlazin

        Judging from your run on sentences and terrible grammar, you must be right.

      • Twinkle

        I did 2 years in nursing school and 4 years of prerequisites. The credit units I have are close to that of a 4 year degree. I work with ADN and BSN nurses. The ADN nurses are better at the bedside.

    • Randy Lopez

      It is normal to have that reaction. I have had LPNs argue their skill set because it was a means of validation. However, many studies demonstrate the advantages of BSN over ADN. It is unfortunate that the author says that ADNs are not critical thinkers, but the fact is that BSN nurses have advance skills compared to ADN. The diligence and tenacity that is needed to obtain a BSN degree is a feat in and of itself. It isn’t rocket science but it is more advanced than ADN nursing. I wouldn’t call an ADN nurse dumb. I was one too. I saw the reality of trends in practice and felt that the BSN would be invaluable. Of course, experience is everything and there are many very good ADNs and LPNs. But rather than argue how there is no difference, go back to school and obtain your BSN and see if you feel the same upon completion.

      • BxGirlBlazin

        I went to BSN school online. The courses in management and community health were interesting but not essential in nursing school.

        New graduates as ADNs are better nurses than BSN ones. It’s fact.

      • Tima Brown

        I agree ! I didn’t learn enough to make that big of a difference in BEDSIDE nursing ! They want BSN nurses at the bedside but the BSN program teaches community health and Management of other employees not patients! I work in a hospital. Supposedly, it supposed to help me to be a better bedside nurse! I’m a RN if it’s such a big difference why is there still ONE NCLEX! All prudent RN’s critically think on a daily basis ! We have ALL learned the same skills for a hospital! I just want that question answered. If the NCLEX is a measurement or the basic skill set and safety to become a RN , why if a BSN nurse if statistically safer and leads to better patient outcomes to the point where they won’t hire a ADN , why hasn’t the governing body made 2 separate NCLEX?? Probably because is all marketing charge more for the higher degree nurses …. I’ll wait

    • BxGirlBlazin

      You are absolutely right!

  • Brandie

    I am currently exploring the option of getting my nursing degree after I finish my BA in psychology. I already have my Associates in Science but I thought to become an RN you had to have your BSN. But I guess they aren’t the same thing. I am glad I am finding this out now vs later. I think that after reading this I will stick to pursing my BSN over the ADN.
    Thank you

    • Karalea Fried

      Since you already have your BSN in psychology I think there is some sort of fast track BSN program you can take. Look into that and it will save you time!!!

    • Karalea Fried

      I meant bachelors in psychology. Tired!
      Look into BSN fast track since you will have a bachelors degree!

  • Rikki

    I have an Associate Degree in Nursing. I have been told all of my career that I do not have the credentials to meet my goals.

    I am highly trained, have excellent critical thinking skills and leadership skills. I work at a corporate level as a senior director in the field of Care Management. I lead MSNs. I have learned that you are only limited by your mindset.

  • Drew

    I’m one of those anachronisms, a Diploma RN. I graduated in one of the last Diploma programs in the country in 2007. We are not ADN or BSN, we are a different creature altogether, oh wait! I have an RN after my name also. A program completely based in the hospital from day one.

    This whole discussion about BSN vs ADN is tiresome, insulting and Magnet status is simply a boondoggle to make the ANA money and create a false tier system and bragging rights for wealthy healthcare systems. Been through magnet twice. Magnet is one of the reasons that the ADN RN is now considered “less than” the BSN. Magnet stipulates a certain percentage of BSN’s for each Magnet designated institution. The Educational system also benefits greatly from the rush to BSN,MSN and the great and mighty Nursing PHD. We also see the denigration of women in the rush to elevate advanced nursing degrees. You may ask why this is true? Nursing has been and continues to be a female dominated position. The ANA has bought into the rationale that nurses (read women) are somehow less if they work at the bedside. So the result is a rush to push RN’s into advanced degree programs so as to increase self esteem and make nursing more powerful and enrich advanced degree programs. In the end what this has done is relegate the bedside nurse to a position of less importance. Another result is the rush of young eager BSN’s and accelerated MSN’s to nursing who soon find out that working the bedside is not glamorous and is hard work. Thus the migration of said young nurses w/ advanced degrees to management and non-clinical positions. If you see where I am going here you will realize that we will never be able to do without the folks working in the trenches. Who are those folks? The ADN and even some of us last remaining RN Diploma nurses. We can’t move into management in Magnet Institutions. So the ANA is creating a class system within nursing. Welcome to the new age of tiered nursing, brought to you by the ANA and the great new Magnet world!

  • Heather

    I also find it offensive that ADN nurses are thought to be less intelligent and unable to critically think. I have been an ADN nurse for 12 years now. I am a primary nurse for critical care units and have been a trauma life flight nurse for 7 years as well. My patient population consists of adults, pediatrics, neonates, maternal and trauma just to mention a few. I also charge, teach & precept. Now please explain to me how, in your eyes, I am not competent and am unable to critically think?

    • BxGirlBlazin

      DO NOT be offended. I am proud of you.

  • John R

    I agree Magnet is going to ruin nursing. I have my ADN and have trained many BSN nurses in the critical care setting. Magnet will lead to a shortage of nurses. I also wanted to mention that a while back the BSN programs in our area were only passing about 65% for licensure and the ADNs were 96% what’s that all about? ADN programs put people to work without amassing a huge amount of debt. I don’t feel that having my ADN has made me any less of a critical thinker than any BSN.

  • sexisaweapon lewis

    Although I have a MSN, was a very successfull ADN nurse for 20 years before even obtaining my BSN. It is best not to generalize members the nursing community, and let each individual be evaluated on their own merit. Some of the worst nurses I have ever met had BSN’s and MSN’s


  • BxGirlBlazin

    ASN nurses have more hospital experience than BSN nurses. The ADN program brings you to the patients right away. This is why you wanted to be a nurse. As for patients wanting nurses with BSNs, that’s more nonsense. Anyone thinking about being a manager while in nursing school is not a nurse in their heart. For year nursing degrees are nice to have after you start working.

    I had an administrator tell me she was looking for experienced nurses but with BSNs only. “If you only have your ADN, go work in a nursing home”. I told her, nobody I know would ever work here. I’m only here as an agency nurse”.

    This is a classic example of why the bullying, backstabbing, and professionalism will never change. Everyone is lashing out at everyone. Be who you want to be and forget what others think.

  • Nan, RN

    Nurses have done this to themselves in an effort to make themselves feel better, more important. Colleges have promoted this idea in an effort t to make more money. If we could just entice and retain GOOD bedside nurses, no matter their education, we would be better off. I asked a supervisor once why she was so keen on me leaving her department, to go on to get a BSN/Masters. She was dumbfounded but in essence that was what she was asking. The hospital I’m at now lost 14 bedside nurses to their master’s degrees last year. They are no longer nursing at that hospital’s bedside and the kicker is that we paid for them to leave with tuition reimbursement.

    My calling was to bedside nursing. That is where I have been for 30 years and GOD willing I’ll be there another 15. I truly believe that my patients need me. My ER does not need another new grad, ASN, Diploma or BSN. It needs experienced, critical thinking, devoted nurses. Nan, 30yr ASN, RN – ER, Critical Care Transport, Clinical Nurse Educator, PALS instructor – #1 Best Selling Author on Amazon in Western Science Fiction for the novel Post Grid.

    • BxGirlBlazin

      Bravo. You hit the nail right in the head.

  • Heather

    Can someone please explain this to me- how is it equivalent for someone with an unrelated bachelors degree to complete an accelerated BSN degree in less than 2 years, while other BSN’s were RN’s prior? is it really possible to accelerate a year of ASN and a year of BSN ?

  • Megan Worthington

    Stupid as fuck. I know ADNs even LVNs that can run circles around a BSN nurse. The ones I’ve met are terrible and incompetent. Once in a while i encounter a good one. Try as you might the difference between a ADN and BSN is nothing much. It’s all about status and money at this point. Get of your fucking high horse cus there’s no difference. There’s only ONE NCLEX for RNs, BSN or not. Maybe that should tell you something.

  • Sodak Man

    People get so butt hurt they can not see what the author means. Speaking in general, since that is what the author intends, more training equals a safer nursing. To say otherwise is futile. Higher education leads to more knowledge. Higher trained nurses are able to make changes in hospitals that when initiated by an ADN may be ignored. It is not a fair world out there. Take it for what it is. Errors occur in poorly designed health systems. BSN trained nurses have a better chance of making changes and affecting the system to build a better design. They are trained in research, paper writing, management, and exactly how to go about making changes. ADN nurses, like I was, doesn’t mean you make more mistakes. It means you may find yourself in a system that is poorly designed. There is a difference. It is not on the individual level and skill of bedside care. Do not take everything so personally. Sheesh.

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