You can take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and become an RN without having a BSN degree, though if this is the route you intend to take, there are some things that would definitely be advisable to keep in mind. Taking a moment to compare and contrast the potential certification and career paths of an RN with or without a BSN will be useful for having the most realistic idea of what your best prospects are after completing your education, passing your exam and becoming officially registered.

Pre-exam Coursework

The differences between what an RN with a BSN and an RN without a BSN are qualified for are largely related to the nature of their education before taking the NCLEX-RN. In order to become eligible to take the exam, you’ll have to complete a certain number of years of specially-targeted educational courses and training. The extent of your training will depend on whether you’ve been enrolled in a BSN program or an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) program.

With the exception of circumstances that either extend or prolong it, a BSN program is designed to be completed in 4 years at an accredited university or college. By comparison, an ASN is earned in 2 years.

As the typical BSN program is twice as long and generally more specialized than the standard ASN program, those who earn a BSN are often considered by employers to have a more thorough and expansive education in nursing – for this reason, the opportunities afforded to nurses with a BSN tend to be broader than those without a BSN.

Similarities and Differences in Opportunities

Both an RN with a BSN and an RN without one will be, at the very least, qualified to occupy entry-level nursing positions. It is entirely possible for any RN to advance their position by merit of work experience alone, but beyond that, a BSN will enable potential access to certain advanced nursing positions that nurses without one typically won’t be seen as qualified for.

With a BSN, an RN is in the position of furthering their education with a postgraduate degree. By acquiring a doctorate or master’s, an RN becomes eligible to apply for a number of higher-practice nursing roles that call for higher level specialization and experience than general management positions.

One of the advanced practice positions that opens up with a postgraduate nursing degree is midwifery. Nurse midwives attend just about 8 percent of all births in the United states. Prior to birthing, midwives can also provide gynecological care.

An RN with a BSN might also further their education to become a clinical nurse specialist. As a clinical nurse specialist, you’ll be certified to manage other nursing staff, perform administrative work, and treat specific illnesses.

In addition to midwifery and clinical specialization, a nurse with a BSN and a doctorate/master’s can become a nurse practitioner. The role and daily responsibilities of a nurse practitioner, which can include providing patients with primary health care, are comparable to that of a similarly specialized doctor.

While a BSN isn’t necessary to have a career in nursing, it opens the door to several advanced practice positions. The question of whether or not you should earn a BSN to become a nurse will depend on whether or not you aspire to specialize in something that can only be done at the advanced practice level.

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