surgical-nurse-gownChoosing a career is half the battle. Now, you need to figure out which path in that career to take, beginning with your education. You know you want to be a nurse, but can’t decide between getting your ADN (Associates Degree in Nursing) or BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing). You can’t wait to begin working as a nurse, but want to set yourself up for a successful and financially secure future. What do you do?

What’s the Difference?

Associate’s Degree Program (ADN)

An Associate’s Degree in Nursing and a passing score on the NCLEX-RN can have you working as a nurse in approximately 2-3.5 years (including time to study for the NCLEX-RN). While the Nursing component of an ADN program, complete with nursing classes and clinical rotations, may only take 21-24 months to complete, some schools may have prerequisite classes like humanities, communications, and the social sciences that need to be taken prior to enrollment in the program, making your education take a little bit longer. Two-year associate degree programs are offered at private vocational schools and community colleges, so that extra time shouldn’t break the bank like it would at a university.

There are definitely benefits to getting your ADN over a BSN. For one, you’ll finish your schooling earlier with an ADN, getting you out on the floor, working with patients, and, more importantly, earning money, sooner. Fewer years of schooling also means spending less on tuition, which is certainly an advantage.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though. An ADN may limit your career options in the long run. While most nursing specialties don’t require a BSN, if you’re looking to earn more long term and possibly take on a management or nurse practitioner role, you will need a higher level of education.

Bachelor’s Degree Program (BSN)

nurse-personality-testA Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Nursing and a passing score on the NCLEX-RN can have you working as a nurse in approximately 4-5.5 years. Four-year nursing programs not only require clinical rotations and nursing classes, but a liberal arts education to supplement and enhance your nursing education. Additional theory-based courses in technology, leadership, and research may be included in BSN programs.

Though it was once the road less traveled, choosing to get a BSN over an ADN has its perks. In addition to getting a more well-rounded education, you can certainly increase your earning potential and open yourself up to a wider range of job opportunities. Specialized areas of nursing, like perioperative, critical care, and health policy, require at least a bachelor’s-level degree. If you plan to become a certified nurse anesthetist or nurse practitioner, specialties that require advanced degrees, having a BSN puts you one step closer to achieving your goal.

In all likelihood, you won’t see the immediate benefit of getting a BSN over an ADN because of the additional time and money spent in school. It’s easy to feel like the costs outweighs the benefits, but many hospitals today are requiring nurses to have a BSN. Investing the time and money earlier on is much easier than having to go back to school for an RN to BSN program because your job requires a BSN. At that point, you may have unrelenting responsibilities like children, work, or a mortgage, which can make school difficult to squeeze in.

How Do You Choose?

With so many options out there, it’s hard to narrow down a school. Maybe you start looking at places with high-employment outlook for nurses or places where you could see yourself settling down. Maybe you have family that lives somewhere far away and you would like to be closer to them. In large, metropolitan areas like Las Vegas, nursing programs are easily accessible and you can expect high-employment outlook, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It is also helpful to figure out what kind of nurse you want to be. Take this five-minute quiz to determine the education level required for the nursing specialty that best suits you.

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