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Phoenix Forward

Rx for a nursing career in the future?
A four-year degree

You find them in coffee shops across the country — students in medical scrubs whose noses are buried in textbooks thicker than an engine block. They’re often nursing students preparing for the culmination of years of nursing classes: the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX®). Stricter industry requirements, however, could have nursing students studying toward a different goal: a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

According to a recently published report by Apollo Research Institute, our nation’s health care system needs an additional 1 million nurses. Of that number, 80 percent should possess a BSN by the year 2020 in order to better meet the needs of an aging patient population, according to the Institute of Medicine.

Caroline Molina-Ray, PhD, executive director of research and publications at Apollo Research Institute, says that as the population becomes older and increasingly diverse, nurses working in short-staffed hospitals will need critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork and communication skills to meet these patients’ needs.

An associate degree doesn’t always give nursing students the chance to take the liberal studies courses that teach these skills. “Nurses will need more sophisticated technology skills to use electronic health records and other medical equipment,” Molina-Ray says.

Earning a BSN requires a financial commitment — as well as a lot of time — but it could pay off in the end:

Nursing jobs of the future

NCLEX is a registered trademark of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing Inc.

Registered nurses: How important could a BSN be tomorrow?

  • 50% currently have a BSN
  • 80% may need one by the year 2020

Salaries: BSN vs. high school diploma

  • $39,490 - Average salary of people in health care fields
  • $25,964 - Average salary of people with high school diplomas

Demand for health care professionals

  • 26% - The average rate of growth for health care jobs over the next 10 years

Career options: Associate vs. bachelor's degree

Nurses with associate degrees can pursue:

  • Entry-level positions

Nurses with bachelor's degrees can pursue roles in:

  • Supervision
  • Research
  • Education
  • Administration
  • Business
  • Technology
  • Specialized nursing (pediatric, geriatric, etc.)