ADN vs BSN Which Nursing Degree Is Right For You?

A career in nursing has plenty of benefits associated with it. In fact, it’s one of the careers where demand far outstrips supply. The average staff nurse takes home $50,000 on an annual basis. The higher the specialty, the fatter the paycheck. Before you jump into the nursing waters, you may want to know that there are 2 ships you can use to get your degree and reach your destination. One’s the Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN) and the other is the Bachelor Degree in Nursing (BSN).




ADN vs BSN: What’s the Difference?

An ADN will equip you with the basics and fundamentals of nursing. It requires 2 years in class hours and clinicals. Most ADNs are on offer in local community and technical colleges. There are over 1200 state approved programs to choose from. As soon as you’re done with the required learning hours, you are required to sit a National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) exam. This will get you licensed in your state, and kick start your career.

It’s the shorter program, so no surprise that many RNs go for it. As such, you’ll find admission to be quite competitive. As rewarding as the ADN is, it does put a cap on your abilities in the nursing practice. That’s why most ADN nurses who want to get into specialties and senior nursing roles are required to go get the bachelor’s degree.




A BSN promises to open more doors in your nursing career. But it’s more work. It requires a 4-year education and clinical experience from an accredited university. Competition for this programs is stiffer due to the fewer available slots. There are only about 750 state approved programs to choose from. After you’re accepted, you’ll be taken through 2 in-class training years, and 2 clinical training years in a local hospital. Two additional years of school calls for a greater investment in both your time and money. And just like the ADN, you’ll need to take a final test in order to get a license to practice. However, unlike the ADN, there’s no cap to your job titles. You can do anything from switching between specialties, becoming an advance nursing specialist, to moving into management without being required to go back to school

Core Program Courses

Both the ADN and BSN require a proficiency in college level Mathematics and English. That being said, the core courses in the ADN program include:

  • Two levels of anatomy with labs
  • Psychology and mental health
  • Nursing fundamentals and concepts
  • Microbiology
  • Pharmacology Cultural awareness
  • Adult medical and surgical
  • Pediatric nursing
  • One year of supervised clinical field practice

BSN is literally a liberal arts degree. As such, its coursework is more extensive. It does require prerequisites such as psychology, biology and anatomy. Courses in the BSN program include:

  • Psychology or sociology courses
  • Humanities
  • Close to 20 semester hours of electives
  • Nursing classes (just as those of the ADN program) but more in-depth (like more lab work and such)
  • Nursing courses expanding into theory, patient care for differing populations and nursing research
  • Up to 2 years of supervised clinical practice

Picking a Program

When selecting an ADN program, ensure that it’s state-approved. In addition, check out the track record of student’s acing the NCLEX. Programs costs vary, but generally public vocational schools will cost less than their private counterparts.

The same goes for the BSN schools. Ensure that the program is accredited, state-approved and has an impressive track record.

With an ADN, you will get a 2 year head start over a BSN. But the tide shifts when it comes to advancing your career. The BSN will cost you more but take you further. Regardless of which path you choose, rest assured there’s a great demand for nurses out there.

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