Aspiring registered nurses (RNs) contemplating which nursing program to take often ask the question, “Is BSN coursework much more difficult than ADN coursework?” Both programs provide students with the skills and knowledge to not just pass the NCLEX-RN exam but also to seek gainful employment as RNs in a variety of medical settings. Is BSN coursework harder or is it just different? Here are the facts on how the two programs differ and what students can obtain and expect from each program.
Related resource: 15 Most Affordable Best Online RN to BSN Nursing Degree Programs
What is the ADN Program?
The ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing) program is a nursing program that takes two years to complete. ADN programs are usually offered at community colleges and technical schools. In addition to requiring certain prerequisite courses, the ADN student’s curriculum may include nursing courses like these:
• Anatomy and Physiology
• Nursing Care of Adults
• Foundations in Nursing
• Maternal and Child Nursing Care
• Behavioral Health
• Pediatric Nursing
• Basic Nursing Skills
• Obstetric Nursing
• Emergency Care
What is the BSN Program?
The BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) program is a nursing program that takes four years to complete. BSN programs are generally offered at colleges and universities. The BSN student’s curriculum may include nursing courses like these:
• Anatomy and physiology
• Life Span
• Nutrition and Diet
• Nursing Assessment
• Nursing Theory
• Nursing Research
• Community, Family, Geriatric and Psych overviews
Unlike the ADN program, the BSN program also includes a collection of general education courses, which are usually completed in the first two years of the program. General education courses are one of the biggest reasons why the program is four years rather than two.
How Does the Coursework Differ?
All nursing programs include courses like anatomy and physiology; microbiology, psychology, chemistry and the courses listed above. Courses that are required in the BSN program and not the ADN program include English/Composition, Social Sciences, Art, History, Literature and Physical Education. While these courses may not be “harder”, they are the main difference between the two programs.
Another difference is the number of clinicals; BSN students typically put in more clinical hours than ADN students. Both programs include supervised clinical rotations, but BSN students put in more hours and may choose specific nursing areas of specialization.
It’s important to remember that BSN nurses are not better than ADN nurses. They’ve just received a more rounded education and are generally better trained. They’re also qualified for more positions in the nursing profession. BSN programs also require more presentations, projects, and research than what is required in ADN programs.
Career Outlook for Graduates
Regardless of whether the student chooses the BSN or the ADN program, the end result is the candidate becoming an RN upon passing the nursing licensure test. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth of 15 percent for RNs during the 2016-2026 decade. The bureau also reports that RNs earned an average annual wage of $73,550 as of May 2018.
Wages can vary by experience, degree, employer, and location. RNs overall are very much in demand nationwide. However, RNs with a bachelor’s degree typically find more opportunities available to them than an ADN graduate. BSN graduates are more qualified to work in specific areas of specialization and for leadership positions.
Many nursing students choose an ADN program because it allows them to join the workforce in two years rather than four. Becoming an RN from either the BSN or the ADN program is an excellent career move because the graduate can expect many years of rewarding work helping others feel better.