What Is a BSN Degree and What Can You Do With It?

Young boy using a stethoscope to listen to a male nurse's heartbeat in a doctor's office

Nurses are some of the heroes of the healthcare field. From advocating for patients to being at the forefront of the shifting paradigm in healthcare, nursing professionals can make all the difference in the midst of any vulnerable health situation. If you're working in the field and want to take your role to the next level, consider starting an online degree program in nursing - you'll be able to maintain work and family responsibilities and create an academic schedule that works around your life. Here's why it's worth thinking about:

A Rapidly Expanding Field 

With more than 3.1 million registered nurses in the U.S., nursing is the nation's largest profession in the healthcare field, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). It's also a field that has opportunities for personal and professional growth, and isn't limited by regional boundaries. You can have a successful career as a nurse in healthcare organizations nationwide, which allows you the ability to move to new areas if the need arises. It is truly a profession with no boundaries. 

Nursing opportunities continue to grow. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for registered nurses are expected to increase at a rate of 15% by 2026, a faster than average job growth compared to the projections for other professions during this same period, which nets out at nearly a half-million new jobs. In addition, the nursing workforce is aging and rapidly approaching retirement age, creating a replacement need of more than a half-million registered nurses. Combining replacement needs and growth, this means over 400,000 new nurses are needed by 2026, according to BLS. 

Educational Opportunities in Nursing 

Although there are several traditional educational options for those interested in becoming a nurse, a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) is becoming a minimum requirement for both nurses entering the field and those who have been working as registered nurses for many years. In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published "The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health," in which it was recommended that 80% of RNs achieve their BSN by 2020. This recommendation prompted RNs across the country, most which has been in the field for many years, to return to school, and online options have become critical. 

Nurses who enter the online RN to BSN program are more than just students. They are viewed as respected colleagues who bring their own unique views and experiences about nursing to the program. Nursing students are valued contributors in both their own education and those of their classmates. 

Registered nurse Susan Hobson is one of those students. Hobson is earning an online RN to BSN to advance her already established position in the field. An intensive care nurse at Mercy Medical Center in Redding, Ca., Hobson decided to earn a BSN online to grow her career and increase her professional opportunities. She enrolled in SNHU's program and is now in her second semester. A strong proponent of the online RN to BSN program, she regularly recommends it to others in her field. 

"I actually wish I had done this years ago, " Hobson said. "The field is getting more competitive." 

Hobson said that the flexibility of an online program has allowed her to continue working while simultaneously furthering her education. It's one of the main reasons that many practicing nurses choose to do degree programs online. 

The Advantages of an Online Program 

When you enroll in an online nursing degree program, your education is acquired based on the demands of your pre-existing schedule. Nursing programs were designed by nurses for nurses and our faculty understand that you have other commitments, be it family obligations or work demands. By taking online courses, you can earn your degree at a pace that allows you to manage all of your responsibilities while still prioritizing your academic success. 

This flexibility is particularly beneficial to working nurses. Hobson is a perfect example. In addition to being a student and nurse, Hobson trains search and rescue dogs and regularly participates in rescue missions across the country. But despite the pressing demands on her schedule from her various endeavors, the university has worked with her to make her pursuit of a BSN a reality. 

I need to be able to take certain times of the year off to maintain my credentialing and be available for search and rescue," Hobson said. "I recommend the program almost on a weekly basis at work because SNHU is so flexible. I talk about it all the time." 

The SNHU Difference 

When it comes to online nursing programs, you have a number of choices. However, the university sets itself apart by its dedication to helping students succeed. From day one, you'll be assigned an advisor who will help you identify and achieve your education goals. When you're part of the community, you'll never be left on your own to navigate your degree program. 

Hobson said that she was impressed when her advisor called her during the first week of her online RN to BSN program just to check in and see how everything was going. 

"It's fabulous that they're in New Hampshire, but they're truly available to you. They really did what they said they were going to do," Hobson said. "The help that they promised has been there. It really is amazing to me." 

Additionally, both the Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), so as a graduate, you're assured that you've received a quality education respected by potential employers. 

A Schedule that Fits into Your Life

As an online student, there is no average day in the life, because every day is catered to your life and needs. You can divide your week between school, work and social activities in the way that works best for you. This is especially the case when you enroll in an online RN to BSN program. Hobson said that her average work day is spent largely on the job, where she'll put in 12-hour shifts. Despite the long hours, she'll check Blackboard, the online learning resource used, for any class announcements to make sure that she stays on track with her assignments. On days that she doesn't have to go into work, she's able to dedicate more time to her studies. 

"On my day off, I'll take a big chunk of my day for concentrated studying," Hobson said. "I'll do short two to three hour snippets and get a lot done." If she knows that she has a paper due or an exam coming up, Hobson said that she'll try to arrange her schedule in advance to best accommodate her work and study needs. The courses have allowed her to juggle her schedule in a way that gives attention to both her professional and academic pursuits. 

Job Opportunities with a Nursing Degree 

When you've finished your degree program, you'll be equipped with the skills that you need for a successful career in the nursing field. And as the statistics from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and BLS suggest, the opportunities within the field are continuing to grow, providing jobs for post-licensure graduates and potential advancements for those already in an established career. 

If you are currently a registered nurse, a BSN or Master of Science in nursing will allow you greater freedom and flexibility in your career growth and opportunities. A degree can help open doors to advancement that an RN license alone may not be able to do. And because an increasing number of facilities are looking to hire nurses with BSN degrees, completing that program will broaden your pool of potential places of employment. An online RN to BSN program or an MSN program will allow you to advance your career while still dedicating yourself to your current position. 

Do you want to learn more about how a bachelor's degree can help you move forward in your nursing career? See how the online nursing programs can be tailored to fit into your existing schedule. Whether you're just starting your nursing career or are an established health professional, SNHU will work with your unique needs to guide you on the road to success.

Marcy Vadurro is a marketing professional within nursing and health professions in higher education.


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