Medical EducationNursing

What is the Salary Outlook Difference for a BSN vs. RN Career?

2 Mins read
  • Nurses can pursue either a BSN or RN degree, so they should be aware of the salary differences between these options

Nurses proved their importance hundreds of times over during the COVID pandemic, and many young people want to follow in the footsteps of these pandemic heroes. Due to the extenuating circumstances, many nurses also quit during the pandemic, leaving many vacancies in the profession.

With many job opportunities, rewarding work, a variety of nursing specialties, and very competitive salaries, nursing is a great career choice and is expected to be for a long time. The two most popular education “destinations” for nursing students are registered nurse (RN) and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), and understanding the difference between the two should be a very early step in any aspiring nursing student’s journey.

Here is a closer look at the description, some potential jobs, and salaries for both. You should understand the outlook as you pursue a career as a nurse after the pandemic.


RN – The RN after a nurse’s named is given after passing a credential examination. Though RNs sometimes pursued a BSN degree, the major difference between RNs and BSNs is that one is a degree and one is a credential. The RN credential can be achieved without a BSN degree, and with that in mind the RN options for employment are a bit fewer, but an individual can generally get the required education to qualify for RN jobs in 2 or 3 years.

BSN – BSNs are degrees, just like a Bachelor of Science in Computers or something of the like. These degrees don’t legally qualify individuals for any type of nurse work, but they contain the education to prepare RNs, LPNs, and more, and also serve as a requirement for anyone looking to pursue postsecondary education in nursing, for example an MSN or Master’s in Nursing.

Job Options

RN – Registered nurses have a lot of options for both sites of care and types of care, but hospitals are the most common. Ambulance services also employ RNs, as do schools, nursing homes, public health centers and military contractors. Generally, RNs are primary caretakers in a given area of a hospital, but must maintain knowledge across a wide breadth of health subjects, especially those in places like emergency rooms. There are a lot of career options for nurses with different specialties.

BSN – BSN is a degree, so it does not “officially” make anyone a nurse, as the RN credential does. However, the curriculum is very wide and those with BSN degrees can pursue nursing practices like those of RNs, but can also pursue careers in anatomy, pharmacology, reproductive care, or nursing research. Those who wish to pursue higher educations in nursing must follow this path, though it is fairly easy to re-enter nursing school for anyone who may have pursued a two-year degree and entered the workforce for a while.

Salary Outlook

RN – RN salaries fluctuate fairly drastically from locale to locale, but they are generally based on cost of living, and above the median income. In California, RNs average of more than $100,000 per year as of May 2019, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In South Dakota, the average salary is half of that, but, again, cost of living is the reason for these differences, and the jobs are quite similar no matter where they are performed.

BSN – As BSN degrees can lead to such a wide variety of jobs, a “typical” salary is tough to nail down for those with the degree. Jobs they lead to, though, include: transplant nurse, nutritionist, rehab nurse, hospice care specialist, nursing informatics professional, or nurse managers and supervisors, each with different, but very competitive salaries relative to non-healthcare jobs.


The job outlook for both RNs and those who pursue other deviations off the BSN path can pursue their educations very confidently, as even before the pandemic, the fact that baby boomers were entering their 60s also caused for increased healthcare needs. The future is very bright for healthcare professionals, even though the last year has not been.

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About author
Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of Fortune 500 companies within multiple industries including information technology and big data. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers also began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs, with a keen focus on data collection and analysis.
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