A Guide to Online RN to BSN Programs
As a working nurse, you might already know the importance of holding a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Not only does a BSN open up more job opportunities, it can also qualify you for supervisory roles and higher pay. Or you may want to earn the degree to become a better nurse or check a life goal off your list.
If you got your start in nursing through a diploma or associate degree program, chances are you're balancing a full-time job, family, and community activities. Education may seem daunting, if not impossible. An online RN to BSN program could be your route to earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
This guide answers questions you may have as you explore RN to BSN programs. Use these links to skip to your area of interest.
What Is an RN to BSN Program?
RN to BSN stands for Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing. An RN to BSN program is ideal for licensed registered nurses (RNs) with a two-year associate degree or diploma in nursing who want to complete the requirements for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
RN to BSN programs are sometimes called 'bridge programs' because they offer ADN nurses a 'bridge' or 'path' to a BSN degree, enabling them to build on their existing experience and coursework to earn the BSN degree.
Credits earned in an associate degree program are typically considered for admission into an RN to BSN program.
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette requires 28 associate degree nursing credits and an active RN license for admittance to its online RN to BSN program. How old your credit hours are does not matter. This is welcome news for nurses who want to return to school for a BSN degree but wonder if their prior education will count.
There is no expiration date on previously-earned credits for the UL Lafayette online RN to BSN program.
The UL Lafayette RN to BSN online program is also ideal for working RNs because the clinical requirements are flexible. The program consists of a core nursing curriculum of nine courses. Co-requisite courses in a range of subjects including statistics, history and English literature are available to students who need credit hours in these subjects to meet the requirements for a BSN.
Co-requisites are different from pre-requisites because they can be completed at the same time as your nursing courses – you don't need to have them completed prior to enrollment.
Why Should I Earn a BSN Degree?
Earning a BSN benefits nurses in a number of ways:
You are academically prepared for a broader range of nursing positions with a BSN degree than with an associate degree alone.
RN to BSN programs help nurses acquire knowledge and develop skills in a number of areas, including health assessment, genetics, leadership and evidence-based practice. By adding these skills, you'll be prepared and more employable for a wider range of jobs.
A BSN degree helps with career advancement.
Completing a BSN program hones your critical thinking and your decision-making abilities, both important skills if you'd like to take on leadership roles in nursing.
"Since I've earned my BSN degree, I've moved from a staff level nurse to a supervisor over a large med-surg unit, managing 35 employees, plus day-to-day operations, understanding finance and holding meetings, doing PowerPoints — everything you do a little bit of in the program, I've used almost daily." – Constance Primeaux, online RN to BSN graduate in Louisiana
Employers are showing a strong preference for BSN program graduates.
Data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing show that 86.3 percent of employers strongly prefer BSN-prepared nurses, and 49 percent of hospitals and other healthcare facilities require a BSN degree for entry level positions. Some facilities will hire RNs with associate degrees on the condition that they earn their BSN degree within a specified time frame. In fact, this is now the law in New York; ADN nurses must earn a BSN within 10 years of earning their RN license in order to continue practicing, according to a state law passed in late 2017.
With the nursing shortage today and a higher demand for nurses, really, across the nation, ... when I come across a nurse with a bachelor's in nursing, I feel like I've hit a gold mine. They bring a level of experience, expertise, [and] critical thinking to the table that cannot be replaced. They're invaluable to the nursing profession.
Just looking into some of the nursing job prospects online and in the hospital, the bachelor's degree is very desirable … in some cases, mandatory.
My employer requires all employees to have their bachelor's degree in nursing within five years of employment.
You can become a better nurse.
If you're passionate about nursing, you care about the work you do and you want to excel at it. By completing an RN to BSN program, you'll add skills that help you:
- Perform better health assessments so you can fine-tune the care you provide.
- Think critically so you can ask the right questions to arrive at correct answers and make decisions based on the latest evidence and best practices.
- Add evidence-based practice to your toolkit so you can provide research-supported recommendations to your peers, colleagues, and administrators.
These skills will give you confidence in your practice and make you more valuable to your current and future employers.
[At UL Lafayette], I learned critical thinking skills, clinical skills -- the program definitely prepared me for not only my experience as a staff-level nurse in the emergency department, but also prepared me for my experience in my leadership role today.
You can pursue advanced degrees.
Executive-level leadership roles in nursing and nurse educator positions typically require a Master of Science in Nursing or a doctoral degree. You'll need a BSN degree for admission into graduate nursing programs, so think of the BSN as a necessary first step in your career progression.
"You can't go on to an advanced degree or get into administration with anything less than a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing." – Julie St. Martin, Clinical Education Manager, University Hospital and Clinics at Lafayette General Health
"One of the things we [at UL Lafayette] are very passionate about is encouraging our graduates of our BSN program to achieve the next degree, the master's degree, and eventually the doctoral degree. We provide those skills, that knowledge that content that really prepares them to move on to graduate school, if that is part of their own professional goals." – Dr. Lisa Broussard, RN, DNS, CNE, Associate Dean, College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions
The degree will help me in multiple other ways if I end up going the practitioner route or into management.
What Is the Job Outlook for Nursing Graduates?
Nurses are in demand in Louisiana as they are all across the United States.
Some Louisiana hospitals are offering incentives to recruit nurses, including sign-on bonuses and multi-year employment contracts, according to Louisiana State Nurses Association President Georgia Johnson in a 2018 nursing shortage article.
The nursing shortage nationwide is compounded by nurse retirements, as well as an increase in the aging population and in the number of people eligible for healthcare.
Given the shortage, RNs are likely to find work with or without a BSN. While an associate degree may provide the clinical skills for an entry level nursing job, nurses aiming for the next level in expertise and, potentially, salary, should seriously consider furthering their education and obtaining a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
What Employers Are Saying...
"There is a dire nursing shortage right now. So we are fortunate and blessed that we have three very strong registered nursing programs in the Acadiana community. What is unique to UL [Lafayette] is that UL Lafayette has the bachelor's program that can take any of those students as well and give them the additional education they need so that they can further their career and continue to grow." – Caroline Marceaux, RN, MSN, Chief Nursing Officer, Acadia General Hospital (Crowley campus of Lafayette General Health)
"Getting your BSN means three things: Options. Options. Options. You can go anywhere. You will never be unemployed. ... A Registered Nurse [to] Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing opens you up to a whole world of experiences." – Julie St. Martin, Clinical Education Manager, University Hospital and Clinics at Lafayette General Health
"At my facility, I absolutely encourage every nurse to pursue a BSN. ... Clinically, skills can be learned in two years, but as far as for developing professionally, the additional two to three years of training is monumental in opening up bigger opportunities. And if one chooses to be in a leadership position, a BSN is the minimal level entry." – Sharon Gates, RN, Chief Nursing Officer, Women's & Children's Hospital, Lafayette
The BSN provides you with so many professional opportunities including the ability to implement evidence-based practice into the hospital setting and improve patient outcomes. We also provide courses in leadership that will help you move up in the hospital setting if that's what you choose to do.
Will I Make More Money With a BSN?
PayScale estimates that BSN-prepared RNs with the title "Registered Nurse" earn $62,886 year on average – about $3K more per year than those prepared at the associate degree level ($59,344 a year), according to January 2019 data. BSN-prepared nurses as a whole, with any job title, earn an average of $79,000 per year. Keep in mind that these figures are based on data aggregates, and a number of factors, including a nurse's job title, certifications, specialization, experience and geographic location will affect salary.
Learn more about our RN to BSN online program!
Why Choose an Accredited Program for Your BSN?
Checking a program's accreditation is a way to ensure you will receive a quality degree when you graduate. To receive accreditation, nursing degree programs go through a voluntary review process by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). A seal of approval from either accrediting body provides assurance of a nursing program's quality.
UL Lafayette's BSN program meets the CCNE's rigorous standards. Accreditation is not a one-time seal of approval. Accrediting bodies monitor compliance through periodic reviews of a school's nursing programs.
Hiring managers know that accredited programs follow established standards for nursing education, so they can hire graduates of accredited programs with confidence.
Moreover, master's and doctoral programs in nursing will not admit graduates from programs that lack accreditation — something to think about if your long-term plans include graduate school.
Does My Associate Degree Program Have to Be Accredited?
ACEN accreditation is a requirement for admission into the UL Lafayette online RN to BSN program.
To review ACEN accreditation for your previous school, Search ACEN Accredited Nursing Programs. Select your state from the drop-down menu and click on the "Search" button. If your ADN school was ACEN-accredited after you graduated, contact the Nurse Administrator listed for your school to explore your options.
How Much Do RN to BSN Programs Cost?
Tuition costs for RN to BSN programs can vary based on a number of factors. A degree from a private university is likely to cost more than one from a state school, and for-profit programs tend to be more expensive than those offered by not-for-profit universities.
At $9,500 for the nine courses in the nursing core curriculum, the tuition cost for the UL Lafayette online RN to BSN program is among the most affordable in the country. Students pay by the course, which enables most to enroll in the program without taking out a loan.
"There are no hidden fees and no hidden costs associated with our quality program."– Dr. Melinda Oberleitner, DNS, RN, Dean, College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions
It's at a price point that's very competitive for any other place that I've looked at.
The cost of books for the UL Lafayette online RN to BSN nursing core curriculum is roughly $440 — books can change, so the actual cost will vary. The Ragin' Cajuns Store provides nursing students with the books they'll need for the program.
Students who need general education courses to meet the requirements for a BSN degree can enroll in those courses through UL Lafayette for a low per credit hour rate – see current tuition rates here.
The HRSA's NURSE Corps Scholarship Program requires a commitment to work at a Critical Shortage Facility (CSF) after graduation in exchange for funding.
Be sure to check with your employer's Human Resources department for any tuition benefits offered to employees. Even if the full cost of tuition isn't covered, a reimbursement in any amount leaves money in your pocket. Many hospitals and healthcare organizations, especially those requiring ADN nurses to earn a BSN degree, offer tuition reimbursement. Some Louisiana hospitals that offer tuition assistance include Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of the Lake, Rapides Regional Medical Center, Ochsner and Allen Parish Hospital.
How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online RN to BSN Program?
You can complete the nursing courses in about a year by taking two to three courses during each term. However, how fast you complete a program is up to you. If you prefer a more relaxed pace, you can enroll in one course at a time.
Most online RN to BSN programs can be completed in two to three years at most, even for nurses who need to take several general education courses.
The nursing curriculum in the UL Lafayette online RN to BSN program can be completed in as few as 12 months. Most courses are 8 weeks in length.
Most students who have all of their general education courses can complete the program in 12 months. However, if you still have general education courses that you need, it may take a little longer. ... Most of our students will complete the program within three years even if they need a lot of general education courses.
Can I Transfer Credits?
Yes, you can transfer general education credits, even for courses you have taken in the past. At UL Lafayette, there is no expiration date on previous credits. This means you will not have to retake college chemistry, for example, even if it has been a while since you completed the course.
"Any classes that you need, with the exception of maybe two or three, are offered online at UL, so you are able to complete any general education courses that you have not taken elsewhere. ... All of those classes are online. You won't have to come to campus to take any of the classes." – Apryl Roussell, BGS, Academic Advisor, UL Lafayette RN to BSN program
What Support Is There for Military Members and Veterans?
Medics with an RN license must have a bachelor's degree to advance to the role of military nurse. This requirement motivates some military personnel to pursue the BSN degree. There are funding sources available for anyone interested in pursuing this degree option.
If you are a spouse or dependent child of a military member, you may be able to draw on their unused GI benefits through the GI Bill Transfer Program.
At UL Lafayette, we are military-friendly and our Office of Veteran Affairs will assist you from the admissions process all the way through graduation.
"Sometimes the process can be quite daunting with the VA, so we help you through the process of applying, getting all the paperwork that you need to get your VA benefits and securing your classes until the tuition money comes in to pay [for] your classes." – Sammi Conner, Director of Veteran Services
The online programs are great for military members who are currently on active duty because they can access from anywhere in the world.
I'm a Busy Nurse/Single Mom/Family Provider.Will I Actually Have Time to Do This?
The self-paced nature of the RN to BSN online program means you can go at a pace that works for you. Because it is 100-percent online, you can access course modules whenever you want.
Working parents tend to study early in the morning or late at night when their children are in bed. They also find small blocks of time — like when the kids are at soccer practice — to post to discussion boards or catch up on required reading.
"For nurses who are working full time and have little kids, it's very doable. I am a living example. I had a two-year-old and a six-month-old and was working full time when I started. It's very, very doable once you start. Go for it!" – Taiye Ajayi
"Definitely smaller, manageable courses than full semester courses helped me to not only fulfill my duties as mom and then also fulfill my duties at work, which I worked a full-time plus schedule, in excess of 48 to 60 hours a week at times." – Constance Primeaux, online RN to BSN graduate
There was no way I could even do a traditional program, to be honest. With my daughter, she stays home with me — so online fit my lifestyle, with working and having a little girl.
Will I Be Able to Fit Schoolwork into My Life?
Online programs are convenient because you can study when it's most convenient for you.
"I can log in and get work done at whatever weird hour works best for me. I work 24-hour shifts in flight, so a normal sleep schedule doesn't exist." – Tracy King, UL Lafayette online RN to BSN student
"I had a high school teenager and two grade school children who definitely needed Mom. ... I found the time for schoolwork in the afternoons, in the evenings. Once I had taken care of the kids, cooked supper, I would sit down with my books. It was a manageable curriculum as in the instructors gave you plenty of time. You knew what was due every week. ... You were very well prepared in the calendars they gave you as to what was expected. And whenever I had time, I definitely worked ahead." – Constance Primeaux, online RN to BSN graduate
"Every seven or eight weeks, you have a course out of the way. It keeps your interest. You get going in a course, then before you know it, it's over with and you move on to the next one. And then build on that one and the next one. It really worked out well." –Kevin Adams, online RN to BSN graduate
Learn more about our RN to BSN online program!
Will What I Learn in the Program Apply to My Work as a Nurse?
Online RN to BSN program curricula are designed around today's healthcare needs.
Graduates of the UL Lafayette online RN to BSN program obtain the knowledge, skills and tools they need to succeed in their healthcare careers.
"NURS 354: Transition to Professional Nursing gave me new perspectives on issues relevant to practicing nurses and the profession, such as improving healthcare through evidence-based research and practice and influencing government policy on healthcare. As nurses we have greater knowledge of what will and what will not work as far as government healthcare policy. We live it daily. These were some eye-opening things that, prior to this class, I had not considered. I hope to take a more active role in these areas now. When I obtain my BSN, it will put me in a better strategic position to do so. The experience of that class was very good. I really enjoyed it." – Mark Hall, UL Lafayette online RN to BSN student
"The NURS 406 course [Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing] taught you how to decipher what evidence was relevant to your research and how to become an authority in a field of study." – Walter Matheny II, UL Lafayette online RN to BSN graduate
Will There Be Interaction with Classmates and Faculty in the Online Program?
At UL Lafayette, yes. You'll be able to interact with nurses from across the country and with the professors teaching your classes. With an online program, there are many ways to share ideas and build relationships.
"It was definitely a support group amongst classmates between the courses where you knew I have so-and-so in this course, this term, and they can give insight on what the topics are." – Constance Primeaux, online RN to BSN graduate
"The academic coaches and teachers have got a lot on their plate, but they're always accessible. They respond quickly. They provide videos and video lectures. They walk you through every step. I'm learning new ways to submit assignments via technology. I had never submitted YouTube assignments before, but they walk you through all of it, and it's really cool." – Tracy King, UL Lafayette online RN to BSN student
"The teachers feel close because they're always communicating with you." – Walter Matheny II, UL Lafayette online RN to BSN graduate
"The teachers did a great job. I felt that they were very invested in my learning." – Walter Matheny II, UL Lafayette online RN to BSN graduate
"I try to look at students' work when they send me an email. I try to make my email reply personable, so that I make a connection with them. It's very important in an online setting to try to make a connection with the student." – Dr. Debra White, UL Lafayette RN to BSN Coordinator and Assistant Professor
If you've been out of school for a while, there's no need to stress about any research that you may need to do for your class. Your distance learning librarian will be there to assist you, almost virtually holding your hand to get the research done that you need for your class. They can assist you in writing citations for your papers, for finding the articles you need for your papers, and any other research you need for your class.
I Got My Associate Degree a While Back. Will the Online Format Work for Me?
Nurses new to online learning find it helpful to start with one or two courses. This gives them the opportunity to become familiar with the online learning environment and test out how they will fit studies into their life.
UL Lafayette offers an orientation for the online RN to BSN program that provides a thorough introduction not only to the learning environment but also to all of the support resources available to students.
"We recognize that some students may be concerned about their ability to work with the technology that is required in an online program. We've built several resources into our program to help allay some of those fears.
"One is, we have an orientation course that takes the student through all of the aspects they're likely to encounter in online education. For example:
- How do I navigate through the learning management system?
- How do I navigate through the library and access the databases in the library?
- What's the best way to contact my instructor or my instructional coach?
- If I need assistance with one of my assignments, how can I best connect with my classmates so that we can perhaps work on an assignment together if that's allowable?
Another aspect that we've been built into the program is something called the student success hub, and that success hub is introduced to the student in the first orientation course. And, they have access to that success hub throughout the course.
Why UL Lafayette?
More than 50 percent of nurses in an online RN-BSN program in Louisiana are enrolled at UL Lafayette.
Chances are, someone in your hospital or healthcare facility has graduated from — or is going through — the UL Lafayette program, and you can talk to them to see if it's the right program for you. You'll be in good company if you decide to enroll.
Complete Your BSN With Fewer Barriers.
No expiration date on transcripts for general education courses.
If you've been out of college for a while, you won't have to retake a chemistry class, for instance, if you have those credits from before.
Don't worry if the school you attended for your associate degree closed. Schools that close provide student transcripts to the U.S. Department of Education or an assigned agency for alumni requests, which provides a way to request the transcripts you will need to be considered for admission.
Choose a Top-Ranked Program.
UL Lafayette's online nursing program is one of the nation's best, ranks 65th in U.S. News & World Report's Best Online Nursing Programs. A top-notch faculty and up-to-date curriculum contribute to its stellar reputation in the healthcare industry.
Nursing in a Disaster for RN to BSN is a course in the UL Lafayette nursing core curriculum. It prepares graduates for challenges unique to Louisiana and neighboring states whose geography makes them disaster-prone.
Gain Insight Into the Future of Nursing.
Another course in the UL Lafayette online RN to BSN curriculum, Trends in Genetics and Genomics, prepares students for ongoing developments in the area of genetics that will impact their nursing practice
Apply What You Learn Before You Graduate
"The professional development aspect of this program is interesting and applicable to my stage in my flight career. I instantly started recognizing some of that terminology and some of the challenges in my workplace, and then I have been applying those theories and practices." – Tracy King, UL Lafayette online RN to BSN student
Our program relates the assignment to the student's work environment. That's what makes the assignments unique. It all has to do with the topic that we're covering, but also how you apply it or how you've come across that in your work of environment.
Learn more about our RN to BSN online program!