Nursing is a rewarding and fulfilling career that requires a solid educational foundation. Commonly, people decide to go for nursing right after high school, while others experience a change of heart after completing their bachelor’s.
If you have a deep interest in caring for others and looking to adopt nursing as a career, you should know whether to go for a BSN and what to expect in an ABSN. In this article, we will explore the differences between the two programs to help you make an informed decision about your career in nursing.
1. Program Length and Format
Although both cater to nursing, BSN and ABSN programs have different program lengths and course designs. If you are a high school graduate with no prior experience in college, signing up for a traditional BSN is your best bet. These programs usually involve four years of full-time study and include general education courses, nursing fundamentals, theory courses, nursing management, and leadership and informatics in nursing.
In an ABSN, you can expect to spend 11 to 18 months in the program. However, some programs can take two years. This period is comparatively faster as compared to spending four years obtaining an average BSN degree. It is an on-campus semester system with credit hours and a daily schedule that varies from program to program.
Course requirements and the format also vary depending on the program. Generally, ABSN programs offer courses in health assessment and health promotion across lifespan, introduction to nursing research, and community and public health nursing. Select a program that suits your timeline and caters to your requirements.
2. Career Opportunities After Your Degree
A traditional BSN does not differ much from an ABSN regarding career opportunities when becoming an RN. However, BSN programs typically provide a more comprehensive nursing education that includes a broader range of nursing topics. This makes the graduate better suited for various nursing roles and specialties.
On the other hand, ABSN programs are designed to provide a more specific and accelerated path that limits options for specialization immediately after graduation. However, opting for specialization in a postgraduate nursing program can help solve this issue.
You’ll have various options after pursuing both BSN and ABSN. These include hospital settings, in-home hospice care, private nursing, clinics, and schools. Both BSN and ABSN graduates can choose to become registered nurses (RN) with a median annual salary of $77,600. RNs provide medical care, support, and advice to patients in clinical settings of hospitals, doctor’s offices, and senior living facilities. It is to be noted that a BSN degree is highly recommended but not essential to become an RN.
Only BSN graduates have options beyond becoming bedside nurses. These include becoming a Nurse Educator, Health Policy Nurse, Nurse Recruiter, Nurse Manager, Administrator, and Nurse Informaticist.
ABSN graduates can opt for Critical Care Nurse, with an average annual salary of around $75,000. They have to deal with patients placed in intensive care settings of hospital wards. The second option can be becoming an Emergency Room Nurse, with an average annual salary of around $68,000. The duties include delivering babies, prepartum, peripartum, and postpartum care. Becoming a Flight Nurse and Forensic Nurse is also among the career opportunities for ABSN grads.
It must be noted that these are not firm rules, and there may be exceptions or overlaps in career options available to both BSN and ABSN graduates. The specific job requirements depend on your employer and the state where you plan to work.
3. Target Audience and Prerequisites
Another critical difference between the two programs is the target audience. BSN programs are curated explicitly for high school graduates or individuals without bachelor’s degrees. So, these programs provide comprehensive nursing and general education. ABSN, on the other hand, is for people who have already completed their bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field and are looking to transition into the nursing field quickly.
The prerequisites for enrolling in both programs vary significantly from each other as well. BSN programs generally require high school graduates to complete general education requirements in science, math, and English. On the contrary, ABSN graduates must have a bachelor’s and complete specific prerequisite courses in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and other sciences. These courses are completed before starting the ABSN, allowing students to develop the foundational knowledge necessary for nursing coursework.
4. Costs and Financial Aid
Costs and financial aid are critical to accepting or rejecting a program; and the costs of BSN and ABSN programs vary significantly. A four-year BSN program at a public school can range from $40,000 to $80,000 while going to a private school can cost between $60,000 to $120,000. The costs can substantially increase for an out-of-state student.
ABSN programs typically cost between $30,000 to $90,000, depending on the program and location. These tuition fees do not include lodging, boarding, supplies, textbooks, and clinical fees. Consider everything and come up with a whole sum to decide if the program works for you.
However, before rejecting a good program, try looking for financial aid and scholarship programs that help you fund your education. You can even email the program directors to help you with the process.
Selecting the right program that caters to your needs can indeed be overwhelming, but the right amount of research and listing your requirements can help you choose a program that fits your demands. Be sure to consider the aspects of program length and format, career opportunities, prerequisites, and cost and financial aid. Evaluating different programs and finding one that aligns with your goals and needs will provide you with the quality education that prepares you for a rewarding career in nursing.