There are three educational options that an individual may pursue in order to qualify for the Registered Nurse exam, a national test known as the NCLEX-RN.  The choices for course of study are a bachelor’s degree in nursing, an associate’s degree, and a diploma program that is usually operated by a teaching hospital.  This article is for the RN who wants to gain a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) and who is interested in all of the educational options. 

According to the Department of Labor, in 2007 there were 709 nursing programs offering bachelor’s degrees.  There were 850 schools offering an associate’s degree in nursing, and only about 70 diploma programs available.  A substantial number of nurses are entering the field with an associate’s degree, which is an efficient method of entering the workforce. 

But the reason that the RN to BSN program is so popular is that an RN without a baccalaureate is going to have trouble progressing to a supervisorial position.  The options for going back to school seem obvious, but there are some facts about each option that you should consider.

You can enroll in a local college.  There are currently about 630 RN to BSN programs in the United States, and many of them feature night classes for nurses who work a day shift. That figure also provides an idea of how popular this academic improvement has become.
You can enroll in an online program.  The big drawback for nursing degrees online has always been the clinical aspect, requiring that student nurses spend many hours working in a hospital or other nursing environment.  There are no clinical requirements for an RN to BSN program, and the online option provides the most flexibility of all the educational choices.
You can blend classroom work with online courses.  More and more schools are offering online courses that are taken in conjunction with some in the classroom.  In adult education or continuing education situations like the RN to BSN, blended programs are especially prevalent in order to provide working students additional flexibility.
You can do this in one year, one and a half years, or two years.  You can fast-track on the RN to BSN program, especially if you are considering continuing on to the MSN option.  Or, you can take two full years, which may result in just a couple of classroom visits per week.
You should look into tuition reimbursement programs.  Because of the nursing shortage employers often provide them, as do some states.  In both instances, the tuition support is in exchange for an agreement to work for the employer for a set period on the one hand,  or work in underserved areas for a set period, in the case of state support.

This country is going to add over a half million nurses to the workforce in the next decade.  A nurse with a BSN is going to be in a position to play a management role as the new generation of RNs comes on the scene. 

Bob Hartzell writes on careers for On the website you can find comprehensive resources on RN to BSN degrees as well as information on educational opportunities for hundreds of other professions.

RN-BSN degree program. ECPI offers a transition program for Registered Nurses to earn their BSN.
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