Typical Course Outline of a BSN Program

An overview of the kinds of courses that must typically be completed in a BSN program, including medical terminology, health assessment, and microbiology.
Typical Course Outline of a BSN Program

A lot of education and training are needed to become a registered nurse (RN). There are also multiple ways to get there. The four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN, route is by far the most popular. Increasingly, top employers are strictly hiring RNs who hold BSNs as opposed to ADNs, or associate degrees in nursing. Although more work is involved in completing a BSN program, the resulting opportunities tend to be far better. What kinds of courses must you complete to earn a BSN? Get an idea below.

About BSN Programs

A bachelor of science in nursing is a four-year degree that is granted by colleges and universities. Oftentimes, they are offered by nursing schools within these institutions. No two BSN programs are exactly alike, but due to licensing regulations, certain topics are covered across all of them. Before enrolling in a BSN program, ask for a copy of the curriculum to gain a more specific idea about what to expect. In the meantime, brush up on the most common courses that are required in BSN programs.

General Education Requirements for BSN Programs

Because BSN programs are four-year programs that are typically offered by nursing schools within liberal arts colleges, most of them have a year or two worth of general education requirements. These are the undergraduate courses that most students at the school must complete to obtain a bachelor's degree of any kind. Typical general education courses for a BSN program include subjects like English literature and composition; mathematics; social studies; and history. Please note that if you hold a bachelor's degree in another subject, you may be able to complete an accelerated BSN program to earn your BSN more quickly.

Typical Nursing Courses in BSN Programs

Once your general education requirements are out of the way, you will progress into the nursing-related subjects. Naturally, these are particularly important, as they prepare you for taking and passing the NCLEX-RN. Keep in mind that in addition to the types of courses that are highlighted below, you will have to complete clinical training at a local healthcare facility at some point as well. You may be assigned a location, or you may be asked to find your own training opportunity.

Some of the most common courses that are required during a typical BSN program include:

Anatomy and Physiology

Sometimes called human anatomy and physiology and occasionally split into separate courses, anatomy and physiology is one of the most basic courses that an aspiring RN must complete on their way to earning a BSN. You will learn to identify various parts of the body and how they work together and relate to one another.


Nurses must learn how things work on a microscopic level in the human body to better understand how diseases and medications work. Therefore, during your BSN program, you will be required to complete a certain number of credits of microbiology. This subject involves both math and chemistry, so it tends to be challenging for many. However, everything is related back to nursing, so you learn how to apply what you have learned in the real world.


Although nurses don't prescribe medication, they do administer it. It is crucial for RNs to have a clear understanding of today's most popular medications, including how they work and whether they cause any side effects. This course will introduce you to the most commonly prescribed medications, and you will learn which side effects are associated with ease. You will also learn the standard dose range for each medication so that in the future, you will know whether or not a given dose makes sense. This knowledge helps you better perform your job and allows you to educate your patients too.

Nursing Theory

Even if you have worked as an LPN or CNA before, nothing is quite like working as a registered nurse. Regardless of your previous experience, you are in for some pretty big surprises after starting this career. Nursing theory attempts to prepare new RNs for the rigors of the occupation, including teaching how to deal with unpleasant patients; how to avoid burnout from too much stress; and how to maintain your knowledge and education to provide the best services possible.

Health Assessment

Without a doubt, health assessment is among the most crucial courses that must be completed by aspiring RNs in BSN programs. As the name implies, this course is all about learning how to properly assess the health of patients. This includes learning how to take vitals, how to complete charts, and how to monitor and assess changes to a patient's vitals. Since nurses are typically the first line of defense, they must be able to quickly and effectively assess the condition of any patient who crosses their path. Upon completing this requirement, which includes lab experiences, you should feel confident and comfortable about performing health assessments.

Medical Terminology

Whether you have dabbled in the healthcare field already or are completely new to it, you're sure to be thrown for a loop by many of the medical terms that you hear being bandied about. To communicate effectively with doctors, nurses need to understand basic medical terminology. This is also an important part of communicating effectively with patients, as skilled RNs should know how to translate medical terms into simple language for them. Many nursing students dread medical terminology courses, but most agree that they are also absolutely vital.

To earn your BSN, you will have to complete a certain number of credit hours of clinical training as well. Your program may assign you someplace, or you may have to line up training experiences yourself. Once your coursework and clinical training are complete, you can take your final exam and earn your BSN.

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