Should I Enroll into Nursing School Offering a BSN or an Associate’s Degree?

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As more hospitals aspire to qualify as “Magnet-Recognized Organizations,” there is a greater demand for Registered Nurses to have a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing.

Many RN’s have had to return to school and acquire their Bachelor’s degree against their will. Some institutions have told nurses, “No Bachelor’s in the Next 2 years, equals No Job -period!”

“The Magnet Recognition Program recognizes health care organizations for quality patient care, nursing excellence and innovations in professional nursing practice.” Read more about this from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

 

How do all these changes affect you?

Are you an LPN who wants to advance and get your RN? Should you get an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree? If you get an Associate’s degree today, will you get a job in a hospital?

The way I look at it is, there is really no right or wrong answer. Otherwise, they would have shut down all the Associate Nursing Programs offered by Community Colleges.

-Right?

It all depends on what you personally want to do with your nursing career.

Everybody is in a different situation. Some cities still have a great shortage of nurses and are just happy to get any nurse, be it LPN, RN, BSN or MSN.

Other places have very few health care organizations and will have the privilege of being very selective and choosy. They will demand and require the most highly educated nurses. It’s all boils down to economics, the great equation of “Supply and Demand.”

However, we cannot ignore the trends of the nursing profession. The more educated a nurse is today, the more desirable and marketable she or he certainly will be.

There are definitely more job opportunities for highly educated nurses. You can find colleges to enroll and more information here.

 

Older Experienced Nurses

A lot of nurses over 55 years of age do not see the financial benefit of going back to school and getting new loans. Their children are in college, and they are dealing with that expense at the moment. They have to face the dilemma of losing their hospital job in the near future or get a job with fewer benefits and less pay.

It certainly is a challenging time for nurses in America, so if you plan to migrate, please keep this in mind.

I like to tell young nurses (under 30 years) “-just get your Bachelors degree and avoid all the future complications.” Things are easier when you are young and have fewer commitments.

But this advice is not applicable to everyone because people are at different seasons in their lives. If you are in a dilemma and would like to discuss your situation with me, you can book a one-on-one consulting session. Send me an email, and we can explore your options and unique situation.

 

This post was written as part of the Nurse Blog Carnival. More posts on this topic can be found at The Days When I’m Not A Nurse. Find out how to participate.

 

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Comments

  1. You have provided great information on how to think about this in a very gentle way. Thank you for this post. Deciding on a education is such a personal decision, and the threat of loosing a job is very real for some. You have provided a wonderful way to think about it.

    • Joyce says:

      Lorie. The threat is real and I know some nurses who have lost their jobs.
      -And yes, ultimately it really is a personal decision.

  2. I work in the operating room and we have nursing assistants and scrub techs who often are looking to become RNs. I also happen to work for an institution that pays for education. I always suggest they tackle the BSN, even if it is a slow process because someone else will pay for it as long as you are working there. It helps alleviate the cost problem and I have found the nurses already in the department are more than willing to help the nursing students with any course with which they might be having trouble. Great article from many different perspectives.

    • Joyce says:

      Jennifer. What a privilege these nurses have to work in an institution that can pay for their studies. Not many institutions can do that. Most will offer a 2,000 dollar one-time check to help with text books. Others have nothing to offer. I’m happy you encourage them to take advantage of this offer.

  3. Thank you so much for the gentle, yet concise discussion. We certainly are in a time of change and with change comes growing pains. I think your point is well made that each person need to individualize their goals. Most of the anger I see stems from nurses who are content with their current positions as retirement looms near. They don’t want to go back to school and take on more debt as they ride the wave toward retirement. Their value can not be minimized, nor should they be threatened with no job. We have to be reasonable and make smart changes! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on a sensitive topic!

    • Joyce says:

      Thanks Joan, We really are in a period of change, and it is truly challenging. You are right about making smart changes in regard to where we see ourselves in the coming future.

  4. Great post Joyce. Deciding on the degree program, of course, is an individual decision, and finances often play a major role when selecting a program.

    As a second degree nurse, I actually looked into getting an Associate’s degree before deciding on the Bachelor’s, but the community colleges were so impacted in the L.A. area with wait lists of 2-3 years, it made the decision easier to do an accelerated BSN program.

    I do think Associate degree programs serve a great purpose, however. There are many students who may not have the opportunity to attend a 4 year university for a variety of reasons, including scheduling, grades, costs, other obligations… so obtaining a degree at a community college is often a great option.

    • Joyce says:

      A wait list of 3 years! I can’t imagine. I guess in some areas the demand is really high. -And you are right. There really are many reasons why students may not attend a 4 year degree from the get-go. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Thanks, Joyce, for offering a respectful and balanced piece on a topic that so easily, and often, ignites anger and conflict among nurses.

    • Joyce says:

      Thanks Greg. And you are right. It becomes sensitive when experience is ignored. All nurses contribute something special to the medical field. All nurses are Awesome. From the Nurse Assistant -to the PHD Nurse. All are Awesome.

  6. This topic is always a source of debate. I am thankful I was able to be Registered Nurse through an Associate of Science in Nursing, first. I feel was greatly prepared for my new role in the clinical setting as a graduate registered nurse at 18 years of age. I do have to say that as a profession if we want to be on par with other professionals, perhaps we have to raise the bar, so to say, who require a Baccalaureate degree to enter their profession. However, with the continued growing need for nurses I don’t see this changing. Furthermore, it would have to be a requirement through each state board of nursing for licensure.

    Dr. Linda Aiken from University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing has done extraordinary research on this topic which indicated patients of BSN prepared nurses had decreased mortality rates in comparison to nurses without a BSN. Reading her research is fascinating and is an excellent resource for anyone desiring to know research findings on this topic.

  7. So true that pursuing higher education is a personal choice. It depends on your family situation, and finances.

    • Joyce says:

      True Beth. Finances play a huge part in the decision.Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Everyone gets caught up in the rush to do a certain nursing program because they are pushed down that path. I think you are right on in suggesting that everyone should evaluate the best decision and path for themselves. There are certainly more career opportunity available to nurses with BSN and higher, informatics, for example, being one of them.

    • Joyce says:

      Opportunity is the word of the day. I absolutely agree with you. At the end of the day, we want to be happy we made the best decision for ourselves. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Joyce, this is great info, but what I like most about this piece is your respectful tone. As an RN for over 25 years, I’ve heard so many debates and often tension-filled discussions about the topic. I agree that in general the nursing profession needs to move towards increasing educational requirements. However, I think the more we can do it respctfully the better. There are plenty of LPNs who have amazing skills, experience, and judgement whom I’ve relied on over the years.

    • Joyce says:

      So true Beth.
      People tend to undervalue experience. Your nursing skill at the end of the day improves with experience. And I agree with you, LPN’s offer a lot of value to the medical profession.

  10. Great post! While nursing organizations and Magnet hospitals like to push for the BSN at least here in America… I think you have some very valid points. Depending on your career goals and age …. higher education could potentially be a waste of money for people who do not plan to use their advanced degrees. Student loan debt and college tuition prices are out of control, making that choice a critical personal and financial decision. However, as you point out – the more education a nurse has the better your traditional nursing career options will be. But, as time passes and research continues to emerge associating patient outcomes with increased nurse education- the push for education will continue to grow.

    • Joyce says:

      You sum it very well.
      Tuition prices are a challenge, nurses need to plan well as they advance their education.
      Some will need to take a few courses at a time -so it fits their budget. Thanks for sharing Erica.