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RN vs. BSN: What is ‘BSN in 10’?

Higher Education Articles October 23, 2013

Registered nurses typically possess one of two degrees: an associate’s degree in nursing or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. While an associate’s degree requires only two years of study, a bachelor’s degree usually requires four years of full-time schooling. There are advantages and disadvantages to each degree, but recently proposed legislation, known as BSN in 10, may add to the appeal of continuing education.

About BSN in 10

“BSN in 10” is an initiative brought about by leaders in the nursing field in hopes of encouraging advanced education among registered nurses. If the legislation passes, nurses would be required to obtain their bachelor of nursing degrees within ten years of becoming licensed. This new law would not apply to nurses who were already licensed before the law was enacted.

Reasons for the Law

Though both an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree can prepare a nursing professional for a career as a registered nurse, there are clear advantages to obtaining an advanced degree. Nurses with advanced degrees have spent more time studying healthcare and, as a result, are better prepared for the complex situations they will face in the field.

Likewise, the coursework included in bachelors of nursing programs is more rigorous and focuses more on leadership, healthcare policy, communication skills and problem solving. In fact, studies have shown that nurses, with advanced degrees, are more effective in the field, and often contribute to better patient outcomes.


If the law is enacted, it will change the way professionals prepare for careers in nursing. Considering individuals planning to enter the nursing field will know that they need an advanced degree, they may choose to enroll in accelerated RN-to-BSN programs instead of obtaining an associate’s degree. The existence of the law may also prompt nurses who can’t immediately obtain a BSN degree to pursue one as quickly as possible after entering the field.

Since all nurses will eventually be required to obtain a BSN degree, more employers may begin offering incentives to nurses who have advanced degrees already or make a commitment to pursue one. Likewise, nurses without an advanced degree may seek out employers who offer incentives for continuing education, such as tuition reimbursement.

RN vs. BSN: The Future

At the time of publication, it isn’t clear when or if legislation requiring nurses to obtain a BSN degree will be passed in all states. It is likely that some states will pass legislation more quickly than others. However, it is wise for students, planning to work as registered nurses, to consider obtaining an advanced degree on their own. While an associate’s degree may be sufficient for licensure, advanced degrees offer undeniable benefits for nursing professionals.

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