ASN Vs. BSN: Which Degree Should You Earn? (2023)

Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect our editors' opinions or evaluations.

Many prospective nurses find themselves deciding between pursuing a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and an associate of science in nursing (ASN)—also called an associate degree in nursing, or an ADN. Both degrees prepare you to become a registered nurse (RN) and meet the requirements for RN licensure—so which one is right for you?

Each degree has its benefits and potential drawbacks, and for many, the choice comes down to their resources and personal career goals. Follow along as we compare ASN vs. BSN programs, including the pros and cons of each.


Southern New Hampshire University

Take the next step in your health career with a program from Southern New Hampshire University.

(Video) ASN v. BSN| Which Degree Should You Get?

Learn More


An ADN and a BSN are both undergraduate nursing degrees. Generally speaking, associate degrees take about two years to earn, while bachelor’s degrees take four years to complete. Read on to learn more about each degree.

What Is an ADN?

ADN programs build basic nursing skills through classroom learning and hands-on clinical training. As an ADN student, you may encounter courses such as microbiology, health assessment and lifespan development, though exact course offerings vary by program.

You can earn an ADN in two years through an institutionally accredited community college. If you plan to become an RN, your ADN program should also hold programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or your state’s accrediting agency for nursing programs, if applicable.

An ADN program requires approximately 70 credits to complete. It prepares you to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which all prospective registered nurses must pass before applying for state licensure. As an RN-ADN, you can find employment in a traditional hospital system as a community health nurse, an outpatient care nurse or a similar role requiring entry-level nursing skills.

Pros and Cons of Earning an ADN

You may pursue an ADN if you’re looking for a shorter program than a BSN, which can take four years to earn. An ADN enables you to enter the nursing field quickly to start earning a salary and gaining practical nursing experience.

ADN programs are also less competitive and expensive than BSN programs. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that tuition and fees at a public, in-state two-year college cost an average of just $3,501 per year.

On the other hand, ADN programs are not as in-depth or holistic as BSN degrees. ADN students learn basic clinical nursing skills, while BSN students have more time to absorb management, research and higher-level clinical skills. Plus, hospitals with Magnet status—which the American Nurses Credentialing Center confers to denote high-performing hospitals—typically prefer to hire nurses with a BSN.

What Is a BSN?

A BSN is a rigorous, four-year university program that involves intensive clinical training. BSN students spend 300 to 700 hours in various clinical settings and learn leadership skills that prepare them for advanced roles and degrees.

BSN course offerings vary but can include subjects like foundations of professional nursing, health equity, care coordination and case management, and informatics, patient safety and quality improvement. Most BSN programs require 120 or more credits to graduate.

(Video) ADN vs BSN Nursing Degree's | PROS & CONS

Pros and Cons of Earning a BSN

BSN programs take longer to complete than ADNs, meaning BSN students may not enter the workforce as quickly as they would with just an associate degree. BSN programs can also be significantly more expensive, and you may need to take out student loans to cover the cost of tuition. According to the NCES, tuition and fees at a public, in-state four-year university cost $9,375 per year on average—nearly three times that of a two-year school.

Regarding career outlook, however, many say the pros of earning a BSN outweigh the initial cons. The depth of study required by a BSN program better qualifies students to take on complex nursing tasks.

BSN students are also more likely to pass the NCLEX on their first try: In 2022, 82.32% of bachelor’s graduates passed, versus 77.91% of associate graduates, according to data from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

A BSN degree can propel students into positions with more responsibility and set them up to specialize their careers and earn certifications in particular areas of nursing, such as gerontology or maternal health. BSN graduates are also prepared to pursue master’s or doctoral degrees.

Finally, nurses who hold a BSN earn higher salaries than their ADN counterparts, which can make up for the difference in tuition over time. Payscale reports that BSN graduates earn an average annual salary of about $91,000, versus approximately $74,000 for ADN degree holders.

Do You Need a BSN to Become an RN?

In short, you do not need a BSN to become an RN, but you should examine the state of nursing in the U.S. before you choose which degree to pursue.

Research published in the the journalHealth Affairs shows that hospital settings employing larger proportions of highly educated nurses have better patient outcomes. As the nursing field evolves in response to this type of research, a BSN can make it easier for RNs to land jobs and advance their careers.

In late 2010, the National Academy of Medicine called for 80% of RNs to hold BSN degrees by 2020. The U.S. didn’t quite hit this goal, but in 2020, more than 65% of nurses held a bachelor’s degree, according to NCSBN’s National Nursing Workforce Survey.

According to a survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 27.7% of hospitals and other healthcare employers require new hires to hold a bachelor’s degree, and 71.7% strongly prefer it.

RN-to-BSN Bridge Programs

If you became an RN with only an ADN, you can still return to school for a BSN degree. RN-to-BSN bridge programs simplify and expedite this process. These bridge programs, which are growing in popularity, allow licensed RNs to bypass many typical BSN program prerequisites and complete their BSN degrees in one to two years instead of four. You can also pursue RN-to-MSN or BSN-to-MSN bridge programs if you want to earn a master’s in nursing.

(Video) ADN vs BSN nursing degrees | pros & cons | which is better ?

Common Careers for ADN Graduates

Registered Nurse

Median Annual Salary: $77,600
Required Education: ADN/ASN or BSN, based on employer preference
Job Description: A registered nurse can hold either an ADN or a BSN. An RN uses clinical skills to provide a high standard of care to patients in various hospital and clinic settings. Daily duties of an RN can include:

  • Monitoring patient needs
  • Coordinating care with doctors and other hospital staff
  • Updating patient charts and administering medication

Nurse Manager

Average Annual Salary: Around $92,000
Required Education: ADN/ASN or BSN, based on employer preference
Job Description: Working as a nurse manager shifts your focus from patients to your fellow nurses. Nurses on the hospital or clinic floor report to nurse managers, who create schedules and help mediate disagreements. Nursing managers must have at least five years of experience as floor nurses before transitioning to more managerial and administrative duties.

Nurse Case Manager

Average Annual Salary: Around $77,000
Required Education: ADN/ASN or BSN, based on employer preference
Job Description: Nurse case managers move from acute patient care, or caring for a patient during a specific treatment or following an operation, to creating holistic recovery plans. A nurse case manager’s duties may include helping someone recover from or learn to cope with a life-changing injury or new diagnosis. Many RNs become case managers to specialize in a particular type of patient or a specific condition to provide more comprehensive care.

Common Careers for BSN Graduates

Clinical Nurse Manager

Average Annual Salary: Around $86,600
Required Education: BSN
Job Description: A clinical nurse manager implements new or changing regulations, policies and initiatives. A clinical nurse manager may undertake recruiting, budgeting and training tasks to ensure nurses can provide top-quality patient care. Clinical nurse managers must be detail-oriented and able to collaborate with other clinical managers, doctors and hospital staff.

Nurse Educator

Median Annual Salary: $77,440
Required Education: MSN or doctorate in nursing
Job Description: Policies, treatments and systems in healthcare shift on a near-constant basis. In response, nurse educators ensure that all nurses and staff who work with patients stay updated and on top of their continuing education by providing regular opportunities for learning and evaluation.

Nurse educators also oversee new nurses in hospital settings, create continuing education materials and help implement policies. Beyond hospitals, nurse educators work in higher education and various healthcare-adjacent organizations.

Nursing Director

Average Annual Salary: Around $95,600
Required Education: BSN
Job Description: Nursing directors undertake extra responsibilities to ensure a unit (e.g., psychiatric or maternity), department (e.g., outpatient, inpatient or radiology) or group of departments operates efficiently. A nursing director’s duties may include:

  • Creating business plans and multi-year goals
  • Overseeing policy, procedures and regulatory compliance
  • Advocating for nursing staff and providing mentorship
  • Leading nurses and nurse managers



Southern New Hampshire University

Take the next step in your health career with a program from Southern New Hampshire University.

Learn More

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About ASN vs. BSN Degrees

Is an ASN the same as an RN?

No; an ASN or ADN is an associate degree conferred to students upon program completion. The RN designation is a license earned by passing the NCLEX and meeting other state licensure requirements. RNs can hold either an ADN or a BSN degree.

Does an ADN make the same as a BSN?

No, an ADN does not make the same salary as a BSN. Nurses with BSN degrees typically earn higher wages than those with only ADNs. Hospitals prefer BSN graduates, and nurses with BSNs have more opportunities to advance their careers.

(Video) ADN vs BSN PROGRAM| What I choose | Cost of nursing programs | which degree is right for you?


Is it better to get your ASN or BSN? ›

A BSN is a higher educational credential than an ASN and requires approximately four years to complete. BSN programs cover the same material as an ASN curriculum, but with greater depth and added training in leadership, case management, information management and more.

Is it worth getting an ASN? ›

You can earn an associate degree and become a licensed RN in about 2 years. You can gain essential work experience in the field sooner than others. You can also start building connections in nursing, and with patients, sooner. You can save money by earning an associate, rather than a four-year degree.

Are BSN programs harder than ADN? ›

ADN programs are also generally easier to get into than BSN programs and they are not as costly. There are many advantages to both ADNs and BSNs. To help decide which program might be right for you, consider cost, program length, salary potential, and career advancement opportunities.

Do I have to get my ASN before my BSN? ›

Some nurses choose an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) due to the shorter duration while others go for a BSN degree straight away. With a BSN, you can take on more responsibilities sooner. But how can you earn your BSN without an ADN? All you need is your high school diploma or your GED.

Is it worth it to get a BSN in nursing? ›

Nurses with bachelor's degrees are prepared to perform more multifaceted tasks and are given more autonomy on the job than nurses who hold associate degrees. In fact, research shows that BSN-educated nurses have a higher earning potential over time.

Are BSN nurses safer than ADN nurses? ›

Over the past two decades, a substantial body of research in the U.S. and abroad has documented that hospitals with a higher proportion of registered nurses with a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) experience significantly fewer deaths, have shorter hospital stays and fewer readmissions, and have lower Medicare ...

What is the highest paid ASN nurse? ›

ASN Nurse Salary in California
Annual SalaryMonthly Pay
Top Earners$123,872$10,322
75th Percentile$91,557$7,629
25th Percentile$62,670$5,222

What are the benefits of using an ASN? ›

ASN-based shipping and receiving practices assist businesses and buyers with quick and accurate loading and unloading of shipment, never forgetting the efficient sorting and management of inventory. ASN-based shipping rectifies loopholes like human-errors like confusing variants of similarly titled items.

What are the benefits of an ASN? ›

Benefits of ASN

It assists with faster, more accurate receiving and re-directing of goods, mitigates risks and, ultimately, helps you to deliver 'On Time In Full' (OTIF). It also provides the basic foundation upon which a modern, flexible, responsive and efficient supply chain can be built.

What is the hardest nursing major? ›

Pharmacology, or the study of medication, can seem scary because of the sheer scope of the course. "It becomes one of the hardest classes for nursing students due to the depth and amount of knowledge needed," says Megan Lynch, RN and instructor at Pima Community College.

Who has the easiest BSN program? ›

15 Easiest BSN Programs to Get Into – 2023
  • RN-to-BSN Capella University. ...
  • BS - Nursing (Registered Nurse - R.N. to B.S.N.) Grand Canyon University. ...
  • BS in Nursing (RN to BSN) Louisiana State University Alexandria. ...
  • BS in Nursing Bay Path University.

What is the hardest year of a nursing degree? ›

It is said that up to 90% of what you do on the job after graduation was not learned while in nursing school. I'm not convinced the learning curve is that high, but there is a lot of on-the-job training required. Nursing is a complex profession.

Do you take Nclex after ASN? ›

Both BSN and ADN degrees prepare students to take the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) open_in_new to become registered nurses. The NCLEX exam does not differ for those on the BSN or ADN educational path. Last updated January 2022.

Why is ADN better than BSN? ›

A BSN degree is a bachelor's degree, typically a four-year program, that is a step higher than an ADN degree. Registered nurses with this degree not only go to school longer, but they also gain a more in-depth education compared to those with an ADN degree.

Do ADN and BSN take the same Nclex? ›

After earning their degree, BSN graduates are required to pass the same NCLEX-RN test taken by ADN candidates. As a result of the additional education, BSN-RNs are otherwise better positioned for certain nursing specialties, career advancement opportunities, and better pay.

Why do hospitals prefer BSN nurses? ›

Many hospitals favor hiring nurses with a BSN because they can reach the IOM's recommendation without losing ADNs who are close to retirement age. If hospitals do hire nurses with an associate degree, they may require them to complete a BSN program within two to five years.

What percentage of nurses have a bachelor degree? ›

In April 2023, results from the 2022 National Nursing Workforce Survey show that the percentage of RNs with a BSN or higher degree in the US workforce exceeded 70% for the first time (71.7%). Most nurses now enter the workforce with a BSN or entry-level master's degree (51.5%).

Why is it important to have a bachelor degree in nursing? ›

BSN nurses can enjoy career advancement, a greater knowledge of nursing, and readiness for graduate study or advanced practice nursing. Nurses who hold a BSN can provide higher-quality patient care and qualify for positions with more responsibility and leadership roles.

What is the hardest nursing certification to get? ›

Emergency nursing is considered one of the most difficult fields of nursing, and certification in this specialty is highly desirable.

What can a BSN do that an RN Cannot? ›

“As a BSN, you have more opportunities than your RN counterparts. You can step up to a leadership position, move into nursing education, work in public health and focus on health education within the community, or even go on to pursue a nurse practitioner or nurse administrator degree,” Christman said.

What percentage of nurses have ADN? ›

Abstract. Roughly 40% of the nearly 3 million registered nurses (RNs) in the United States have an associate's degree (ADN) as their highest level of nursing education.

What type of nurse is most in demand? ›

BSN-prepared nurses are the most sought-after RNs in the job market and can advance to leadership and management roles more quickly than the ASN nurse.
2. Registered nurse (RN)
EducationASN (required) or BSN (recommended)
CertificationsMust pass the NCLEX-RN exam
1 more row

How much does an ASN earn in the US? ›

ASN Nurse Salary
Annual SalaryMonthly Pay
Top Earners$126,500$10,541
75th Percentile$93,500$7,791
25th Percentile$64,000$5,333

What is the easiest floor to work on as a nurse? ›

Many will argue that med-surg work is the heart of nursing and provides new grads with the foundational skills they will need to move on to other specialties later, if they so choose. And frankly, the easiest and fastest way to get a job as a new grad is to go to a med/surg floor.

Who needs an ASN? ›

Network operators need Autonomous System Numbers (ASNs) to control routing within their networks and to exchange routing information with other Internet Service Providers (ISPs). There are two different formats to represent ASNs: 2-byte and 4-byte. A 2-byte ASN is a 16-bit number.

Who uses ASN? ›

EDI 856, also known as an Advance Shipping Notice or ASN, is an important, and frequently used EDI transaction among suppliers, distributors, manufacturers, and retailers.

Is ASN unique? ›

Autonomous System Number (ASN) is a globally unique identifier that defines a group of one or more IP prefixes run by one or more network operators that maintain a single, clearly-defined routing policy.

Is an ASN the same as an RN? ›

An ASN is a type of degree that can lead to a career as an RN. You have many options to choose from to become an RN but getting your ASN is a great way to get your career started.

How many ASNs are there? ›

ASN - Autonomous System Numbers

The AS is assigned a globally unique 16 digit identification number一known as the autonomous system number or ASN一by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). Autonomous systems numbered one to 64511 are available by IANA for global use.

What is the difference between ADN and ASN nursing? ›

The Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) degree often involves more clinical work than ADN and AAS. But the coursework is similar to other associate's degree programs in nursing. For example, the ASN degree program at Broward College includes many clinical hours and covers critical nursing skills.

Which nursing is the most stressful? ›

The most stressful nursing jobs include ICU nurse, ER nurse, and NICU nurse. In these roles, nurses work in an intense environment with high stakes. They manage emergency situations and care for critically ill patients. Other stressful nursing jobs include OR nursing, oncology nursing, and psychiatric nursing.

What is the highest GPA for nursing? ›

After acceptance into the nursing program, each student must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for coursework in the nursing major to remain in the nursing program.

What is the lowest BSN salary? ›

Median annual salary for nurses with a BSN degree
  • 10th Percentile: $59,450.
  • 25th Percentile: $61,790.
  • 75th Percentile: $97,580.
  • 90th Percentile: $120,250.
  • Projected job growth: 6.2%

Can I be an no directly after BSN? ›

BSN to NP Programs

One of the most common options, a BSN-NP program takes you from a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) directly into a master's NP program. Some students choose to enroll directly from their BSN undergraduate program or work in a clinical setting before advancing their education.

What is the fastest BSN program? ›

Best Accelerated BSN (ABSN) Programs 2023
  • 1.) University of Pennsylvania.
  • 2.) Duke University.
  • 3.) Villanova University.
  • 4.) Northeastern University.
  • 5.) Loyola University Chicago.
  • 6.) Clemson University.
  • 7.) George Washington University.
  • 8.) Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Mar 20, 2023

What is the failure rate for nursing degrees? ›

Roughly 18 percent of students in Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs. About 60 percent of students in Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs.

What is the toughest bachelors degree? ›

Top 15 Hardest College Majors Table of Contents
  • Chemistry.
  • Environmental Economics and Policy.
  • Environmental Earth Science.
  • American Studies.
  • Nuclear Engineering.
  • Energy Engineering.
  • Astrophysics.
  • Applied Mathematics.
Mar 16, 2023

Which state is the hardest to become a nurse? ›

  • MAINE. ...
  • ALASKA. ...
  • Georgia. ...
  • Alabama. ...
  • Hawaii. ...
  • South Carolina. ...
  • Kentucky. ...
  • Summary. There are a few cases when temporary licenses can be obtained through the state board of nursing.

Is an ASN the same as an LPN? ›

Nursing associate degrees prepare nursing students to become registered nurses. On the other hand, licensed practical nurse programs prepare nursing students to become licensed practical nurses. Both LPN and associate degree programs unlock several career opportunities in the nursing field.

Do you take NCLEX twice for ADN and BSN? ›

The main test that nurses take is the NCLEX, but you do not need to take it more than once after passing. Though there are no other required exams, you may want to take some of the certification exams available.

How many times can you take the NCLEX? ›

If you happen not to pass the exam, you can retake it after 45 days. And if you are wondering how often you can take the NCLEX, the NCSBN retake policy allows for a retake eight times a year, ensuring 45 exam-free days between each test.

Is ASN better than ADN? ›

The main difference between ADN and ASN degrees is ASN programs put a bigger focus on clinical practice. The courses for ASN programs are similar to ADN programs, but often have more clinical hour requirements.

How hard is the Nclex exam? ›

NCLEX Pass Rates

The second-attempt pass rate for domestically-educated students taking the test was 45.56%. These results demonstrate that it is a pretty difficult test. The questions are designed to test your critical thinking, knowledge of the nursing process, and assessment skills.

Should I pursue ADN or BSN? ›

Both ADN and BSN degrees prepare nurses for entry-level roles. However, a BSN degree is designed to offer more career opportunities for upward mobility, and that comes with a bigger paycheck. The starting salary for a registered nurse with a BSN can be, at the beginning, similar to what an ADN nurse earns.

Is BSN harder than ADN? ›

ADN programs are also generally easier to get into than BSN programs and they are not as costly. There are many advantages to both ADNs and BSNs. To help decide which program might be right for you, consider cost, program length, salary potential, and career advancement opportunities.

Does taking the NCLEX make you an RN? ›

NCLEX, which stands for National Council Licensure Examination, refers generally to one of the two standardized tests nurses need to pass in order to become either a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a registered nurse (RN).

What is the advantage of having a BSN? ›

What are the advantages of having a BSN? The advantages of having a BSN include bigger paychecks and increased employment opportunities. BSN nurses can enjoy career advancement, a greater knowledge of nursing, and readiness for graduate study or advanced practice nursing.

What is the fastest way to become a nurse in Florida? ›

An associate's degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) are the two most common fast track options. With each of these ways to receive nursing instruction, they require passing the NCLEX licensure examination.

Why do hospitals want BSN nurses? ›

Many hospitals favor hiring nurses with a BSN because they can reach the IOM's recommendation without losing ADNs who are close to retirement age. If hospitals do hire nurses with an associate degree, they may require them to complete a BSN program within two to five years.

Can you take the Nclex with a ASN degree? ›

Students who graduate from accredited ADN, ASN, or AASN programs qualify to take either of the National Council Licensure Examinations (NCLEX) offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

What percentage of nurses are Bachelor's prepared? ›

Currently, only 56 percent of nurses hold degrees at the baccalaureate level and above.

What is the difference between BSN and ASN role? ›

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

A BSN is a higher educational credential than an ASN and requires approximately four years to complete. BSN programs cover the same material as an ASN curriculum, but with greater depth and added training in leadership, case management, information management and more.

Can you do anything with just a BSN? ›

Graduates with a BSN can work as bedside nurses in medical settings, such as hospitals, clinics, and physicians' offices. They can also pursue careers as nurse educators, health policy nurses, nurse recruiters, nurse informaticists, forensic nurses, clinical research nurses, or nurse health coaches.

Why is BSN preferred over ADN? ›

Choosing between an ADN and BSN degree also involves thinking about the kind of nursing career you want to build. A BSN degree provides you with more employment opportunities, as well as a chance to earn a higher salary. With a BSN degree, you will also be able to provide a wider range of healthcare to patients.

Can you take the NCLEX without a BSN? ›

Do you need a nursing degree to take the NCLEX exam? To take the NCLEX-RN, you'll need a four-year nursing degree from an accredited program. To take the NCLEX-PN, you'll need to complete a related diploma program or certificate course.

What's the easiest type of nurse to become? ›

Occupational Health

One of the easiest nursing jobs to get into is in the field of occupational health. Occupational health nurses work in large industries, HMOs, and factories to treat work-related injuries and onsite illnesses.

What is the easiest and fastest nursing degree? ›

An LPN or LVN program usually takes around a year to complete, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). What makes an LPN or LVN preparation program the easiest type of nursing education you can pursue is its focus on training for basic nursing services only and its quick completion time.

What is the shortest program to become a nurse? ›

If you are aiming towards becoming a registered nurse, an associate degree in nursing (ADN) is one of the fastest paths to get there. This undergraduate degree is the minimum educational requirement for becoming a registered nurse and usually takes two to three years depending on the credits.


1. ADN vs BSN | Which Nursing Degree Is Right For You?
(Nurse Liz)
2. Why Earn a BSN Degree vs. an ADN Degree?
(Chamberlain University)
3. ACCELERATED BSN vs ADN | Nursing School With Previous Bachelor’s Degree
(Nurse Liz)
4. BSN vs ADN Nursing Programs | cost, salary difference, duration, challenges | #NursesChat
5. ADN vs BSN | What is the Difference between Associates & Bachelors Degree in Nursing?
6. RN Vs BSN | Which Nursing Degree Is Right For You?
(Natural Nay)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Carlyn Walter

Last Updated: 03/25/2023

Views: 6093

Rating: 5 / 5 (50 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Carlyn Walter

Birthday: 1996-01-03

Address: Suite 452 40815 Denyse Extensions, Sengermouth, OR 42374

Phone: +8501809515404

Job: Manufacturing Technician

Hobby: Table tennis, Archery, Vacation, Metal detecting, Yo-yoing, Crocheting, Creative writing

Introduction: My name is Carlyn Walter, I am a lively, glamorous, healthy, clean, powerful, calm, combative person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.