BSN vs MSN is a big debate among those who wish to enter the field of nursing and make a career out of it.
The good news is, if you’re not sure whether a BSN is enough or whether you should go for an MSN, we have compiled some valuable information below to help you make your choice. So let’s dive right in, shall we?
What Is a BSN?
A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a type of degree in nursing that provides the opportunity to work as a registered nurse or study towards becoming a nurse practitioner.
This qualification is the minimum education requirement stipulated by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). Those who have a BSN degree can work directly with patients in a variety of nursing fields.
BSN Salaries and Job Outlook
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The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the field of registered nursing to grow by 19 percent between now and 2022. Credentialed nurses earn a salary of between $42,343 and $81,768.
With the demand for bachelor’s degrees increasing steadily, now is the best time to enter a nursing degree program. Besides becoming an RN, or nurse anesthetist, you could also work as a public health nurse.
What Is an MSN?
A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree is a level above BSN. At this stage, you can specialize. By enrolling in an RN to MSN program, you can advance from a registered nurse to a nurse educator or physician.
Obtaining a master’s degree can help you excel in the field of medicine, as most employers are eager to hire nurses with an MSN.
MSN Salaries and Job Outlook
An MSN enables you to take on more responsibilities in your nursing career, which ultimately translates to a higher salary. Nurses with an MSN can earn a salary between $65,281 and $195,743.
The exact figure will depend on the employer and the country where you work, as well as which specialization you choose.
MSN vs BSN: The Most Important Differences and Similarities
Both BSN and MSN are good career pathways, but they are far from identical. The most important differences and similarities between the two degrees are as follows.
The two degree programs come with different advancement opportunities. An MSN is more advanced, earns a higher salary, and is qualified for a greater number of roles. Careers in nursing administration, for example, are open to RNs with an MSN.
The BSN career path, meanwhile, prepares you for entry-level nursing jobs. Chances are you won’t earn as much or have as many job opportunities with a BSN as you would with an MSN.
Once you have a BSN in hand, you will have to study for a couple more years to complete your MSN. If you’re not keen on spending the extra years, be aware that some schools do offer accelerated MSN programs.
Full-time nursing students can get their BSN in four years, and their MSN in another two. It takes approximately six years to get this level of specialization.
In a BSN or RN program, you will take general courses in anatomy, physiology, statistics, microbiology, biomedical science, nursing research, theory, nutrition, pharmacology, assessments, and psychology.
The course load for an MSN degree is more specialized. Depending on your specialization, your advanced courses might include public health, evidence-based nursing, biostatistics, epidemiology, healthcare systems, or healthcare policies.
MSNs and BSNs share basic responsibilities like working closely with patients, helping to treat illnesses, and monitoring health.
Similarity: Career Options
Both the MSN and the BSN have many career options available to them.
With a BSN, for instance, you can gain further certifications and specialize in things like orthopedics, pediatrics, or neonatal care.
MSNs can pursue various careers such as Nurse Practitioner (NP), Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), or Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM).
Similarity: Continuous Professional Development
Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is a necessity across the healthcare industry. As times change, so does the knowledge. Whether you have a BSN or an MSN, you are expected to keep your knowledge fresh by taking online courses and going for additional training.
BSN vs MSN: Requirements
Both accelerated BSN (ABSN) and direct-entry MSN programs make use of previous education. You can earn a degree in half the time the traditional route takes. Let’s take a closer look at the requirements for each.
- Proof of high school diploma or GED, with a minimum GPA of 3.0
- SAT or ACT scores, along with the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS)
- Letters of recommendation
- Work experience
- Minimum of 3.0 GPA in your bachelor’s degree
- Non-nursing degree from an accredited institution
- Minimum of C grade on all prerequisite coursework
BSN vs MSN: Exam and Cost
The cost of a BSN vs MSN depends on the school’s location, whether it’s a private or public institution, and whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state student. We look at the costs below.
Keep in mind that there are plenty of ways to qualify for financial aid. Due to the high demand for nurses and medical professionals, you can find many scholarships, including scholarships specifically for women.
How Much Does a BSN Cost?
The cost of a BSN is between $72,000 and $104,000 on average.
How Much Does an MSN Cost?
Obtaining an MSN will cost you anywhere between $35,000 to $60,000 in yearly tuition, depending on the specialization.
Steps to Taking the NCLEX-RN and Getting Licenced
To become a licensed nurse in the United States, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Here’s how to do it.
- Complete an accredited nursing program
- Apply for a license with your state board
- Register for the NCLEX-RN exam
- Take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam
- Complete any additional state requirements and get licensed
Benefits of BSN vs MSN: Pros and Cons
Even after researching how to become a registered nurse, it can still be confusing to choose between a BSN and an MSN. We break down the pros and cons of both degrees below.
- Credibility. Nurses who have completed a BSN are better prepared to handle patients than their uncredentialed peers.
- Stability. The obvious reason most students seek the highest accreditation is to beat the competition and earn a higher salary. A BSN gives you that option.
- Job prospects. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, over one million nurses are due to retire by 2030. This means the demand for nurses continues. Having a degree behind your name will move you up the list.
- Time Commitment. A 4-year BSN program will take time and effort. Be prepared to put in every effort to achieve the best grades on the exams. Sometimes you may need to balance studying with your home life or social life.
- Middling Salaries. Some workplaces may not pay you the high salary you expect, and others won’t reimburse you if you want to go back to school.
- Costs. Because it takes more time than an MSN, a BSN degree will cost you more. If you’re not careful, you could end up in pretty serious debt.
- Higher Salary. It goes without saying, but an MSN will net you a higher salary on the job market than a BSN.
- More Opportunities. You will have a wider selection of specializations and more places to work.
- Better education. With more knowledge under your belt, you may even have the option to open your own practice or work in research and development. You can change things for the better by helping to improve medications and practices.
- Costs. Similar to every other advanced degree, an MSN is expensive. You may have to take out a student loan or apply for a grant.
- Time-Consuming. Sometimes you won’t have a social life. You will have to put in a lot of hours, both in the classroom and in the clinic.
- Competition. Another disadvantage is that MSN programs are competitive. Unless you have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, your chances of getting in may be slim.
Should You Get a BSN or MSN?
So, should you get a BSN or an MSN? To know which degree is right for you is never an easy decision. All the information above should make it easier for you to weigh your options.
There are also a few different ways to combine RN, BSN, and MSN training. You could go straight from a BSN into an MSN, but some nurses decide to skip the BSN altogether. To figure out whether that’s an option for you, you’ll have to do some more research on the RN to BSN vs RN to MSN question.
In the meantime, we recommend practicing some nursing interview questions to see how close you are to landing your dream job.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.