What is the Difference Between ADN and BSN Nursing?

Written by St. Andrews

Choosing a career in nursing is a wise decision for anyone wanting a long-lasting and fulfilling career. Nurses are the backbone of the medical field and often have the most contact with patients. Having a strong desire to help others as well as interest in medicine is why many students choose to nurse and pursue a BSN nursing degree.

There are many options and pathways to becoming a nurse. In your own experience at the doctor’s office or another medical facility, you may have noticed a difference in employee name tags. There are some name tags that may read as Jane Doe BSN, RN (Bachelor of Science of Nursing), or Jane Doe, ADN, RN (Associate Degree in Nursing). 

It is obvious that both of the tags refer to Registered Nurses and that one has a bachelor’s degree and the other has an associate degree. However, there are other distinct differences between these two-degree levels. Learn more about these two nursing degree options and how St. Andrews University can help you reach your goals in becoming a bachelor’s prepared Registered Nurse.

Nursing Definitions Overview

With so many abbreviations, it can be hard to keep all the titles straight when it comes to nursing.

RN Definition

An RN is defined as a Registered Nurse who has passed the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) and has received their nursing license. Some RNs earn their Associate Degree in nursing (ADN) and then take the NCLEX exam, while others have earned their Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN) and then take and pass the NCLEX exam. 

Registered Nurses have a great deal of flexibility in choosing where they would like to work, such as a doctor’s office, pediatrics, intensive care unit, surgical centers, operating rooms, insurance offices, schools, universities, telehealth and many other various opportunities. 


A Diploma nurse program is generally 18-32 months in length and is offered by a hospital. The nursing curriculum includes classroom and clinical experiences for patients across the lifespan in hospital, long term care, and community settings. The program prepares a minimal competent independent diploma level nursing practitioner for these settings, however, nurses graduating from this program will receive a diploma and not a degree.


The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is defined as a person that has earned a 2-year degree in nursing from an accredited college or technical program. Once they have finished the degree, the person must successfully pass the NCLEX exam. A two-year degree is the minimum degree level education required to become licensed as a Registered Nurse (RN).  

BSN Definition

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN ) is defined as a nurse that has received a bachelor’s degree of science in nursing from an accredited university. These nurses have taken four years of college-level classes to earn their degrees and are often sought by employers. However, graduating with a BSN does not make them an RN. Graduates still must take and pass the NCLEX after graduation to earn an RN title. Once the exam is taken, nurses can have both the RN and BSN designation. 

Main Differences Between an ADN and BSN-Prepared RN

As mentioned, there are many pathways to becoming a nurse and helping patients with the care they need. While each of these options allow you to serve others as a Registered Nurse, it is good to know what other differences there are between these levels of education. 

This blog will focus on the differences between the ADN and the BSN-prepared nurses.

A nurse in purple scrubs carries books while earning a BSN degree

Job Opportunities

While there are many job opportunities for both ADN and BSN-prepared Registered Nurses, many hospitals and other specialty areas prefer hiring nurses with a BSN nursing degree. In fact, the Institute of Medicine recommended that 80% of nurses hold a BSN degree to keep up with the field’s growing complexity. It is often easier to find a job with a BSN, as graduates have the extra education and experience that many medical facilities require. This gives nurses more options in terms of choosing an employer in the area that they want as well. 

Earning a BSN degree also gives nurses the opportunity to advance their education with a master’s degree. Some nurses choose to expand their education to become a Nurse Educator, Nurse Anesthetist, or a Nurse Practitioner. Some Registered Nurses go even further by pursuing a doctorate degree in nursing or other related fields of studies. 

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), “BSN nurses are prized for their skills in critical thinking, leadership, case management, and health promotion, and for their ability to practice across a variety of inpatient and outpatient settings.

Potential Growth

A BSN nursing degree also gives experienced nurses the chance to take on higher-level positions and responsibilities. Leadership and administrative roles are often accessible to nurses with a BSN degree. This opens the door to more opportunities and job growth over the course of a long career in nursing.

Salary Differences

Pay and overall salary packages vary greatly depending on the facility, location, and experience of the nurse. However, most Registered Nurses with only an Associate’s degree earn less than those with a BSN degree. RNs with a two-year degree often make an average salary of $60,000-$70,000 per year, while RNs with a BSN make an average of $84,378 per year due to extra responsibilities with their added education.

Job Growth

Nurses continue to be in high demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the need for Registered Nurses will grow 12% through 2028, which is much faster than other occupations. One of the great things about becoming a nurse is that every community, town, and city needs help in the medical field. No matter where you live or may move to in the future, it should be possible to find a job that fits your skills as a nurse. In fact, the flexibility and scheduling options available in many nursing positions help cater to older adults with families.

BSN Nursing Education at St. Andrews University

Due to the 2001 Institute of Medicine’s report, Crossing the Quality Chasm and other similar reports medical providers, healthcare practitioners, employers and universities have recognized the need to increase the minimal level of education required to enter into the field of nursing. 

Therefore, St. Andrews University has created a new BSN program to help bridge the quality chasm and improve patient outcomes and prepare graduates to excel in their academic preparedness and career as a bachelor’s prepared Registered Nurse.  

Two Degree Stages of Education

Like many four-year degrees, the BSN at St. Andrews is divided into two phases. 

Phase one helps students expand their critical thinking and knowledge with science, liberal arts, and exploratory nursing classes to help you prepare for Phase two. Phase one is approximately 3 semesters in length (1.5 years). 

Phase two involves upper-level nursing classes explicitly designed to “Educate, Motivate, and Innovate.” SAU’s BSN program is passionate about providing a foundational nursing education that will motivate its graduates to develop innovative evidenced-based healthcare strategies that will transform the delivery of healthcare services to clients in diverse communities and clinical settings. Phase two is approximately 5 semesters (2.5 years). 

Transfer Credits Accepted

St. Andrews understands that many nursing students may have already completed some lower-level classes at another regionally accredited college or university. It is possible to transfer credits to count towards the BSN degree at St. Andrews. There are some St Andrews General Education (SAGE) classes that are unique to students at St Andrews University and must be completed at SAU. 

St. Andrews understands the value of offering this BSN program to help bridge the quality chasm for our community and the people that our graduates will serve. Our caring, highly educated, and clinically prepared  professors and staff understand the value of producing quality prepared graduates. 

We believe in providing an excellent education to every nursing student who walks through our doors. Not only will a BSN degree help graduates enter a career that is in high demand, it will also provide them with the opportunity to fulfill future goals. 

To learn more about this exciting new program at St. Andrews, contact our admissions office today! We look forward to helping you achieve your goals as a BSN-prepared Registered Nurse!