What Are the 4 Different Ways to Get Your BSN Degree?

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What Are the 4 Different Ways to Get Your BSN Degree? | A Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree is desired by 82.1 percent of healthcare industry employers. The degree is usually meant to prepare students for entry into the nursing profession. However, nurses who are already working can also benefit from going back to school to obtain the degree.

For registered nurses (RNs) and licensed professional nurses (LPNs), there are accelerated paths, such as rn to bsn programs. These paths are known as bridge programs, allowing licensed nurses to test out of some degree requirements. The number of credits licensed RNs have to obtain to get their degrees is reduced as long as they can pass the knowledge and skill exams.

Traditional Degree

Going to school for four years and completing a full BSN program is the conventional way to get a BSN degree. This path involves taking all of the classes and credits required by a college or university. Aspiring nurses who do not already have an undergraduate degree or any nursing experience are best served by the traditional path.

While each college’s program will vary a bit, students are usually required to complete 120 credit hours. The general curriculum can span different subject areas, including statistics, nutrition, and biology. Nursing-specific courses can often cover subjects such as family nursing, medical and surgical care, and nursing management.


The RN-to-BSN route consists of taking some of the courses involved in a traditional BSN program. Since registered nurses already have a nursing license and some degree of practical nursing experience under their belts, they may not benefit from completing 120 credit hours. This is because some of the knowledge and skills would be repetitive or unnecessary for them to learn.

Each RN will go through an accelerated program differently. Each RN will be able to “test out” of taking some courses and earn applicable credits, but it will likely look different for each student. Depending on their area of expertise and experience, some RNs may take clinical exams for public health while others take the exams to test out of psychosocial nursing.


An LPN-to-BSN program is also an accelerated version of the traditional BSN degree. It works similar to the RN-to-BSN path, however, students earn the credits they need for an RN license and a BSN at the same time. The students can still take clinical exams to earn credit hours that count toward their BSN degrees.

Direct Entry

The direct entry route works best for those who have already completed an undergraduate degree or higher. These programs are for professionals who are looking to make the switch to a nursing career. Since they have already completed a bachelor’s degree, they can skip taking or repeating general education credits.

A direct-entry program usually only includes courses related to the nursing profession and knowledge. However, there may be cases where some students need to take some general education courses if they did not complete them in their previous programs. Ultimately, a direct entry program allows people to meet the entry qualifications for a new career in nursing faster.

Depending upon the person’s career and education progress, there are four different ways to obtain a BSN degree. Those without experience or a degree will be best served by the conventional path, while those with some work experience may want to go through a bridge program. Career switchers with education may want to pursue the direct entry route.