BSN Jobs: 9 Specialized Roles for Nurses with Bachelor's Degrees and Beyond
Whether you’re just curious about the nursing field or an established ADN-RN looking to advance your education, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about a recent push for nurses to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). In this article, we’ll help break down what all of the hubbub is about and take a deep dive into BSN jobs to highlight some of the common nursing roles and specialties where employers prefer at least a Bachelor’s degree.
Why earn a BSN?
The Institute of Medicine and the American Nurses Association support a recommendation for 80 percent of nurses to possess a BSN degree (or higher) by 2020. Significant progress has been made toward reaching that goal—as of 2016, 54 percent of employed nurses have at least a BSN.
While there’s currently no federal law stating that all nurses in the U.S. need a BSN, some states, like New York, are pursuing laws that require new nurses to earn a BSN to become licensed. Even if you’re in a state that isn’t actively pursuing this as a change in law, it’s clear that an emphasis is being placed on nurses pursuing education beyond an Associate’s degree, and that there’s a potential for this trend to gain further momentum.
That said, it’s perfectly understandable for a current ADN-RN to be a little unsure whether the time and financial commitments of returning to school to earn a BSN is worth it. Rasmussen University Nursing instructor—and one-time ADN-RN—Holly Mancini says one of the biggest factors is career advancement opportunities.
“I believe the primary motivator for going back to school for a BSN degree is to open doors for new opportunities and responsibilities as an RN,” Mancini says. “BSN nurses are preferred in many healthcare organizations as they are more versatile and can be placed in different roles.”
9 BSN (and beyond) jobs employers are looking to fill
Because there are two paths to earn a registered nursing license, it can get a little tricky determining the educational requirements for some nursing positions. For example, some employers may prefer a new hire to have a BSN but aren’t likely to turn away an ADN with significant experience.
With that in mind, there are still several positions where employers overwhelmingly prefer candidates with a BSN degree or higher. Here’s a quick rundown of a few of these positions:
1. Registered nurse at a hospital
Legal mandate or not, more and more hospitals are already requiring RNs to have a BSN. Hospitals also continue to be the largest employers of nurses. There are pros and cons to working in a hospital, but nurses who do typically tend to work in an area of specialization, such as pediatrics, intensive care or emergency.
So if you’re an aspiring nurse who hopes to work at a hospital, earning a BSN may increase your hiring potential.
2. Clinical nurse specialists
Clinical nurse specialists are a category of advanced nursing professionals who use their specific expertise in an area (i.e., pediatrics, oncology or critical care) to care for patients. Depending on state law, clinical nursing specialists can have an expanded scope of practice and may be able to prescribe drugs and durable medical equipment.
If you have your sights set on eventually landing a clinical nursing specialist role, know that earning a BSN is only the first step. You’ll also need to complete a graduate-level Nursing program to be eligible.
3. Nurse manager
This leadership role in nursing is responsible for the overall operations of a nursing floor or unit. Most nurse managers work their way up from bedside care and then take on additional administrative duties as they reach a management role.
This means nurse managers will need a strong blend of hands-on clinical skills and experience for training and development of staff as well as an ability to manage the “business” side by understanding budgeting, human resources practices and strategic planning principles.
4. Nursing director
The next step up from nurse management is the director of nursing role. This senior-level role places an even greater level of emphasis on the management and administration side of nursing. They are high-level representatives for nurses at hospitals and other healthcare facilities as executive decisions are made.
As you might expect, the bar for qualifying for a nursing director position is high—a BSN with substantial leadership experience is a minimum, and most may prefer nurses with a Master’s degree to help round out their administrative and business proficiency.
5. Nurse educator
As a nurse educator, you typically need to have a degree above the level you are teaching. So in order to teach in a Nursing Diploma program, you would need a Bachelor’s degree. And for those looking to teach BSN nurses, a Master’s of Science in Nursing would be preferred. If you are passionate about the profession, becoming a nurse educator can be an extremely rewarding way to make an impression on the next generation of nurses.
For those who are very passionate about their own nursing career, education can be an excellent opportunity to pass on that passion to inspire the next generation of nurses. There is also currently a major shortage of nursing faculty due to an aging workforce and increased competition with hospitals and other clinical sites, making the role of nurse educators even more critical.
6. Clinical research nurse
Clinical research nurses (CRNs) work with research patients during clinical trials of drugs or other medical treatments. This puts them in an exciting position to see potentially game-changing treatments in their early stages. CRNs are responsible for the patient safety, care coordination and documentation before, during and after any procedures. These specialized registered nurses may work for hospitals, specialized clinics or even pharmaceutical companies.
BSN curriculum provides the foundational knowledge needed to become a CRN, with certification programs available to acquire more specialized skills.
7. Public health nurse
Public health nurses care for entire populations rather than individual patients. Instead of waiting for patients to seek treatment, they go out into communities to advocate for lifestyle improvements and disease prevention. They often work through healthcare programs and government services to educate the community and improve access for individuals.
8. Quality assurance or improvement coordinator
One of the components of the Affordable Care Act is using ratings to improve quality care. Nurses have an interesting perspective on the measurement and analysis of this data because of their knowledge of working with patients. These individuals are responsible for ensuring the nursing staff are in compliance with procedures in place to provide quality care. This is another opportunity for you to make a positive and lasting impact on the industry.
9. Case management nurse
Case management nurses work primarily with patients dealing with long-term health issues like AIDS or cancer. This includes creating care plans designed to help coordinate several treatments across an extended period of time. Responsibilities can range from scheduling surgeries to advising the best course of action for the patient.
Are your sights set on one of these BSN jobs?
The variety of BSN jobs out there is just one of the many reasons nurses should consider earning a Bachelor's degree. If you’re passionate about improving as a nurse while also helping improve the industry at large, it’s time to consider this credential.
Are you already a registered nurse with an Associate’s degree? Learn how you can earn your BSN online in as few as 18 months.*
If you’re not yet working in the nursing field, learn how you can get on the fast-track to earning your BSN.
*Completion time is dependent on credit transfers accepted and courses completed each term.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in November 2013. It has since been updated to reflect information relevant to 2018.