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Which RN Education Path is Right for Me?

May 2, 2018
Posted by: David Sands

RN Degree Options

Choosing a career as a registered nurse (RN) is often a rewarding decision. Not only is the RN field in high demand – it’s excepted to grow by 16 percent by 2026, which is faster than average – but it’s also a fulfilling career.1 Nurses are highly trained professionals who often work in hospitals, administering different kinds of specialized health care to patients from all walks of life.

However, if you’re just embarking on your nursing journey, you may have some questions about becoming an RN, specifically the required academic background employers are looking for in a new hire.

What Are the Requirements?

It’s recommended you obtain an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN), Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) by attending either a two- or four-year academic institution or vocational school. These degree programs qualify you for the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN), which you must pass to earn your RN license.

Earning any of the above listed degrees requires completing a course program that typically involves internships, classroom study and clinical rotations. It’s important to note that each program has perquisites that vary depending on the school and program you’re applying to. Prerequisites usually include a high school diploma or equivalent. They might also include:

  • Completion of specific coursework (biology, math, chemistry, etc.)
  • Passing an aptitude test
  • Maintaining a certain GPA
  • Passing a background test
  • An associate’s degree or number of college credits (for BSN students)

Remember that these items may be different depending on the state and school you choose to attend, so it’s best to do your research before you begin the application process.

Which Degree is Right for You?

What is the difference between the degree programs and which one is a good fit for you? Here’s an overview of each program to help you make the decision.

ASN/ADN

Both the ASN and ADN can be earned at a community college, four-year university or vocational school. Coursework for either degree program includes nursing pharmacology, anatomy, microbiology, nursing fundamentals and introduction to psychology, in addition to some humanities and communications courses. Students also complete clinicals rotations and participate in internships while focusing on technical skills and hands-on training.

Advantages

If you’re looking to jump into the field and earn a living quickly, earning your ASN or ADN may be the route to take. Most students finish their degree in two years or less, and they can begin working in a professional medical clinic while earning a respectable salary shortly after.

You also have the option of going back to school and enrolling in an ADN to BSN program in the future when you have more time and money, if those are factors in your decision. University of Maine at Fort Kent even has an RN to BSN program designed for people who are currently licensed registered nurses seeking to earn their BSN.

Disadvantages

The primary disadvantage to earning an ASN or ADN instead of a BSN is there’s a cap on your career opportunities. While many ASN/ADN nurses can jump into a career providing bedside care in a hospital, they will not be able to move into a specialty field or administrative position that requires a BSN.

Don’t forget to consider salary. The average salary for a person with an ASN in Maine is around $52,300, while a nurse with a BSN earns an estimated $72,600 on average.2

BSN

Much of the same coursework, hands-on training and clinical rotations required for an ASN/ADN degree are rolled into a BSN program. In addition to two-year-level introductory courses and technical skills training, BSN students also receive a liberal arts and theory-based education focusing on disease management, research and leadership skills. Students can earn their ASN/ADN at a two-year or vocational school, but they must finish at a four-year university to complete their BSN.

Advantages

Having a broader education and more career opportunities at a higher salary are a few of the advantages to earning a BSN. In addition to expanded career options such as surgical, pediatric, ICU or hospice nursing, you may also become a clinical nurse manager, research nurse or a nurse that specializes in information technology. You may find that you prefer a leadership or educational role in health care, and a BSN is the best way to find that opportunity.

Those who have already earned an undergraduate degree can enroll in an accelerated BSN program. The accelerated BSN program at University of Maine at Fort Kent only takes 14 months!

Disadvantages

As mentioned previously, earning a BSN requires four years of school, and that may not be for everyone, especially those who need to start earning more money sooner. Plus, two extra years of school means you will be paying more for tuition as well. Keep in mind, you can first earn your ASN/ADN at a two-year institution at a reduced rate before transferring to a university to complete your BSN.

Consider the Traditional BSN Offered at University of Maine at Fort Kent

While there isn’t a wrong choice, earning your BSN from a fully-accredited college such as University of Maine at Fort Kent will set you up for future success with any nursing practice you choose. Prospective students can choose from the traditional BSN, accelerated BSN or online RN to BSN, which is designed for ASN/ADN holders to earn their BSN.

If you’re interested in kick-starting your RN career, visit our nursing page to view program requirements and details, apply online or give our admissions office a call at (207) 834-7600.

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1 https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm

2 https://www.bsnedu.org/maine-salary/