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At my age, what would be the advantage of going into a BSN program rather than an associate’s degree program?

Wednesday April 24, 2013
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Dear Donna,

I am 46 years old and have a BA in social science. I am pursuing my dream of becoming a nurse and will be taking prerequisites for admission to the RN program at a community college. I don't want to be in my 60s and not be able to find a job because I don’t have a BSN. At my age, what would be the advantage of going into a BSN program rather than an associate’s degree program?

46-year-old Student Nurse

Dear Donna replies:

Dear 46-year-old Student Nurse,

Today's healthcare environment is more complex than ever. Still entry to practice educational standards for nurses has not kept pace with other healthcare professionals, such as pharmacists and physical therapists, who now need doctoral degrees to practice. Additionally, a growing body of research shows that when more bedside nurses have BSNs, patient outcomes are better. A bachelor's degree has become a minimum standard for almost any profession.

More and more hospitals and other employers are now requiring that their nurses have a minimum of a BSN degree. By the time you graduate from either program, that requirement will be even stronger. Since all of us are living and working longer, you certainly want to prepare yourself well for the future.

Some nurses currently in practice may tell you to get the ADN now and work as an RN while you pursue the BSN. That advice was once good for some nurses, but is no longer practical since your employment opportunities will be restricted, severely in some cases, with only an ADN.

I would say go directly for the BSN, or even an MSN/BSN combo, since you already have a BA in another major. Many BSN programs have a waiting list of several years. So if that is not possible for any reason, then do what you have to do to become an RN and find any employment you can — understanding what you'll be up against — as long as you immediately pursue the BSN afterward.

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://Events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.