The Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree: What you Need to Know

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The Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree: What you Need to Know

Nursing is an enticing career option for many students--and for good reason. Nurses report high career satisfaction, and according to the US Department of Labor, the number of nursing jobs is expected to grow by 15% by the year 2026--more than twice the overall job growth rate.

The two most common ways of becoming a nurse are through two-year associate degree programs, which award an Associate Degree in Nursing, and four year bachelor programs, which award a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. In this post, we will focus on the BSN degree, which tends to provide graduates with higher salaries and more job options.

What does a BSN involve?

In general, a BSN program includes foundational courses in biology, microbiology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, nutrition, psychology, and statistics, along with more specialized courses relating to nursing theory and research, pharmacology (the science of drugs and their impact on living systems), pathophysiology (which focuses on the function and symptoms of diseased organs), and community, family, and geriatric nursing.

In addition, nursing students may have to complete general education courses in subjects such as English and social sciences.

Here are sample schedules for a nursing student at SDSU and at the University of Arizona.

How difficult is it to gain admission into a BSN program?

Nursing programs are highly selective. Admitted freshmen tend to have GPA and test scores above those of the average applicant. At University of Massachusetts Amherst, for example, admitted nursing students have an average GPA of 4.1 and an average SAT score of 1360--numbers that place them in the top 25 percent of all admitted students. What’s more, the acceptance rate for nursing students at UMass Amherst is a mere 12% compared to 59% for the university as a whole. California schools can be especially competitive. The acceptance rate at UC Irvine’s School of Nursing, for example, is 2.5%--a significantly lower figure than the university’s overall acceptance rate of 28.7%.

The average GPA among nursing admits at UC Irvine is 4.24

What do nursing programs look for?

Along with strong grades and standardized test scores, colleges are looking for students who have excelled in their science courses. One year of biology and chemistry are essential, and four total years of science courses are recommended (AP Biology and AP Chemistry are especially helpful). Some nursing programs will also consider prior healthcare experiences (such as volunteering at a hospital).

Finally, you may have to complete a supplemental essay (or essays) relating to your interest in nursing. For example, Texas Christian University asks aspiring nursing students to respond to the following 250 word prompts:

 1) Each of our nursing applicants share a common thread: the sincere desire to help others. With that in mind, we appreciate additional insight. Please describe the moment that nursing became your calling.

 2) How have you prepared, both academically and experientially, for the pursuit of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing?

What is the difference between direct and indirect entry BSN programs?

A direct-entry program accepts students into the nursing program right out of high school. An indirect entry program, on the other hand, requires students to apply to the nursing program during their sophomore year of college. Admission into indirect programs is not guaranteed, and will instead depend on completion of pre-requisite classes, GPA, and--oftentimes--an acceptance score on the Test of Essential Academic Skills, or TEAS (a standardized test designed to assess a student's preparedness entering the health science fields).

How many direct entry nursing programs are there?

While the majority of nursing programs only offer indirect entry, there are approximately 60 direct entry programs nationally (a handful of which are located in California). Your Future Stars counselor can help you identify those that might be a good fit for you.

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