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What’s the Difference Between a Diploma in Nursing and a BSN Degree?

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If you are interested in the field of nursing, you have options when it comes to the kind of degree you can earn. The more education you receive, the more career opportunities you will have and the more money you will earn. An RN nursing diploma is a good place to start your nursing career, but RNs who go on to earn BSN degrees have both more career choices and command higher salaries.

While there are many RN to BSN programs, it’s important to find one that fits your schedule and budget as well as meeting your career goals. Sacred Heart University’s accredited online RN to BSN program is designed with both cost and flexibility in mind and will kick-start your nursing career.

Required Credentials for Each Option

With so many different designations, it’s important to know the difference between the credentials required for RNs and those required to earn a BSN degree—and what each can do for you.

What’s a Nursing Diploma?

To become a registered nurse, you must complete an accredited training program that may or may not include an associate’s degree (ADN). You must also have passed the National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s National Council Licensure Examination.

What’s a BSN?

A BSN, or bachelor of science in nursing, requires completion of a four-year program unless you have earned your RN first, in which case you may be able to earn your bachelor’s in only two years.1

It can take as little as one year to receive your RN diploma, so that’s a faster option for those looking to take a fast track to a nursing career. However, RNs have limited career advancement opportunities and they earn less than nurses with BSN degrees. For students who need to work full-time while earning their BSN degree online, however, it can make sense to earn an RN nursing diploma as a steppingstone to a BSN degree. RNs who work while pursuing their BSN degrees online are able to gain hands-on experience while at the same time continuing their education. This is also a good way to make sure nursing is the right career fit for you before you decide to commit to a longer BSN program.2

Job Duties of RNs and Nurses With BSNs

RNs perform basic nursing duties. These can include recording patient symptoms, operating simple medical equipment and educating patients about diseases and illness. You’ll also work closely with doctors and other nurses on patient care.

Once you’ve earned a BSN, you’ll find that you have more responsibilities. This, of course, also means that you’ll have more options for jobs, from being an educator to specializing in a certain disease or working with a specific age or cultural demographic.

Having a BSN also lays the foundation for taking your career to the next level if you decide that’s what you’d like to do. In addition, holding a BSN prepares you for earning a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree. The MSN degree opens the door to such diverse and high-paying nursing jobs as nurse practitioner or clinical nurse.2

Income Potential for RNs and BSNs

Your level of education is reflected in the amount of money you’ll be able to earn. According to, nurses with only an RN nursing diploma earned an average salary of $59,109,3 while nurses with a BSN degree typically command salaries starting at more than $68,000.4

Whichever path you take, you’ll find a field filled with opportunities that are only expected to grow. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that, through 2022, nursing jobs will grow by a whopping 19 percent.

To learn more about Sacred Heart’s accredited online RN to BSN degree program, request more information or call 877-791-7181 to speak to a program manager.



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