For many nurses, advancing from clinical care to a role more focused on leadership and management may be an important career goal. Nurses who have completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program may find the degree is the first step toward achieving that objective.

Why Is a BSN Important for Nurse Leaders?

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) strongly encourages nurses to pursue BSN degrees in order to expand their scope of practice in an increasingly complex healthcare system. The BSN program curriculum is designed to promote professional development, critical thinking skills, and collaborative abilities, and it includes courses related to nursing leadership as well as healthcare policies and resource management. The online RN to BSN program at Nevada State College also incorporates coursework in research, statistics, and informatics to increase the technical capabilities that may be helpful in acquiring leadership positions.

Chikita Brown Mann, a nurse from Powder Springs, Georgia, has found that her BSN coursework laid the foundation for success in her current role in case management supervision. “Components of the curriculum for my BSN included health policy and finance, inter-professional communication and collaboration, and the importance of systems leadership,” said Brown Mann. “These three classes assisted me in learning how to interact with not just patients, but other healthcare disciplines, upper management in hospitals, and corporate healthcare settings.” The new skills have also helped Brown Mann complete her daily job responsibilities including hiring and preparing new case managers, performing monthly and annual quality audits, and creating continuing education presentations for case managers.

What Leadership Skills Does a BSN Offer?

BSN programs not only teach the theories behind nursing leadership, they may also relay vital skills to students interested in those roles. From the ability to communicate clearly and confidently in high-pressure situations to satisfactorily handling disputes for all parties involved, the expertise gained from an RN to BSN program can be instrumental in making a successful transition to leadership.

For Brown Mann, the courses have helped strengthen skills and characteristics that may not always come naturally to nurses. “[I gained] leadership skills with emphasis on delegating and progressing from being a peer to leader,” said Brown Mann. She also honed her conflict resolution skills and learned to advocate for the profession, her employees, and her patients.

Do Employers Prefer a BSN for Nurse Leaders?

Because of the progressive and complex nature of the healthcare system, many employers may strongly prefer or require nurse management candidates to hold a BSN. “Most employers prefer BSN-prepared nurses as they feel the latter are better prepared for clinical decision-making and understand healthcare economics [such as the] costs of having full-time versus part-time staff and being cognizant of the appropriate use of supplies,” said Brown Mann.

Additional AACN research indicates that approximately 47 percent of hospitals and other healthcare settings require new hires to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing and more than 83 percent of employers express a strong preference for BSN-prepared candidates. While this data reflects the hiring preferences for nurses in general, those interested in leadership roles can likely expect to be held to the same educational standard, if not higher.

Beyond just leadership roles, the BSN may expand the type of employment opportunities available to nurses. “The BSN degree also provides opportunities to expand into corporate healthcare, [including] case management, nurse informaticist, healthcare educator, and clinical equipment sales rep [as well as] academia [roles such as] adjunct professor and academic nurse writer,” said Brown Mann.

Transitioning to Leadership

Given that nearly half of hospitals and other healthcare settings require nurses to hold a BSN at a minimum, those considering future leadership or management roles may find that earning the degree provides key advantages. The BSN coursework not only introduces students to leadership theories and healthcare polices, but also strengthens skills such as inter-professional communication and collaboration, conflict management, and advocacy to prepare nurses for effective leadership.

Learn more about the Nevada State online RN to BSN program.


Brown Mann, C. (2017, June 20). Email interview.

AACN: Employment of New Nurse Graduates and Employer Preferences for Baccalaureate-Prepared Nurses

AACN: The Impact of Education on Nursing Practice