BSN, RN, and LPN – Nursing Degrees Explained

You want to become a nurse, but what’s a BSN compared to an LPN, and how do you know what’s right for you?  We asked Westminster College biology professor Dr. Mike Amspoker to explain the differences among licenses, degree titles, and nursing programs.

A registered nurse (RN) is the title of the license you earn, which is obtained by graduating from an accredited nursing program and earning either an Associate’s Degree (ADN) or a Bachelor’s Degree (BSN).

No matter which program you go through, you learn all the essential skills of the nursing profession that make you eligible for licensure as a Registered Nurse. The BSN is the higher of the three paths mentioned above, giving you about 4 years of education as opposed to 2-3. You have a more well-rounded liberal arts education, as well as a more thorough nursing education based on extensive theory, care models, research, and training in leadership and management that you do not receive in such depth and breadth in an ADN or Diploma program.

A BSN RN is more likely in the long run to get promoted into supervisory positions, administrative positions, case management, etc. You also need to hold a Bachelor’s degree to go on to graduate school if you choose to become something like a Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist, or a Nursing Educator, for example.

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) go to school for 1-2 years to get their license. If you want to get started and working quickly, this is the fastest and shortest nursing degree.  Technically, LPNs don’t receive a degree; they receive a license. A lot of people get an LPN, then bridge to getting an RN or BSN afterwards. That way, they can start working earlier.  On the job, the main difference between LPNs and RNs is something called the scope of practice.

The scope of practice means what tasks a health care worker is qualified to do. On the most basic level, the scope of practice means the level of responsibility you are accountable for.  For example, hanging blood, transcribing orders from doctors, and working in specialty units are often outside the LPN scope of practice, but inside an RN scope of practice. Scope of Practice is determined by the state you live in and varies from area to area. In general, though, LPNs have a narrower scope of practice.

Westminster College offers a dual-degree nursing program in partnership with the Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College (GSON) in St. Louis, a world-class teaching and research campus which was named the best nursing school in the country for men in 2013.  Students participating in the program get a well-rounded liberal arts education and earn an accelerated BSN within 5 years.

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This is the editorial account for Westminster College news team. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or comments.

2 Responses

  1. Tina says:

    You have written a great article to explain the difference between RN education and LPN education and how to bridge from LPN to RN. Very informative and to the point! Thanks for sharing it with us.

    I have a question about your LPN program. Is your LPN program approved by the state of nursing board? If yes, I would like to add your school to my website. So my readers can visit your school website if they are interested in your program.