Bridge Programs From RN-to-BSN
Online RN-to-BSN programs help registered nurses advance their careers. These bridge programs build off of the knowledge and skills gained during a nursing associate or diploma program, allowing students to graduate with a bachelor's degree in just two years.
RNs enjoy strong job prospects. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for nurses are projected to grow 7% between 2019 and 2029. These professionals made median annual salaries of $73,300 in 2019, with the top 10% of earners making more than $110,000 during that period.
Earning an RN-to-BSN online gives students the flexibility to balance their studies with professional and personal obligations. Online learning also allows students to attend the top RN-to-BSN programs in the country without relocating. This guide ranks the best online RN-to-BSN programs to help students find the right programs for their needs.
Featured Online RN-to-BSN Schools
What Is an RN-to-BSN Program?
Online RN-to-BSN programs allow students with a nursing associate degree or diploma to earn a bachelor's degree in 1-2 years of additional study. Students in these programs commonly possess several years of nursing experience. They frequently continue working while enrolled, and many programs accommodate working students through flexible learning formats and schedules.
RN-to-BSN students gain leadership and management skills, advanced research competencies, and knowledge of best practices and emerging trends in nursing.
Choosing an Online RN-to-BSN Program
When researching RN-to-BSN programs, students should consider factors like cost, transfer policies, and on-campus requirements. We cover several important considerations for prospective students below.
- Program Cost: Public schools typically cost less than private schools, and in-state students often receive a tuition discount. However, some programs allow all online students to pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency.
- Transfer Policies: Many programs offer transfer credit for prior academic work, professional experience, and military training. Programs with generous transfer policies can help students save time and money on a degree.
- School Size and Type: A school's size and type can affect the learning experience. For instance, small schools often offer more individualized attention than larger schools, while large schools provide more program options than small schools.
- Program Length: Most RN-to-BSN programs take around two years to complete, but some programs offer accelerated timelines.
- On-Campus Requirements: Some online RN-to-BSN programs have on-campus requirements. Students should ensure they can meet these requirements before committing to a program.
- Thesis, Fellowship, and Work Requirements: Programs may require a thesis or internship, both of which require a significant time investment. Students should choose a program that has requirements aligned with their career goals.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online RN-to-BSN Program?
Many RN-to-BSN programs offer electives and concentrations that allow students to specialize their knowledge and tailor the degree to their career goals. The following sections cover common courses and concentrations found in these programs and explore the importance of attending an accredited program.
Online RN-to-BSN Program Curriculum
- Anatomy and Physiology: This course examines the structures and functions of the human body. Students learn how different bodily systems — such as the digestive, cardiovascular, muscular, and skeletal systems — work together. Learners also study how abnormal functions can help nurses identify health issues.
- Applied Healthcare Statistics: This course teaches students how to analyze and apply patient data to improve health outcomes. Students gain knowledge and skills in analyzing and synthesizing raw data, identifying how data informs nursing policy, and conducting statistical research.
- Human Growth and Development: This foundational course examines how humans develop throughout the lifespan. Learners study research on human growth with respect to biological, emotional, intellectual, and social development.
- Clinical Microbiology: his class covers how microorganisms function and contribute to disease, using epidemiological, immunological, and pathological lenses to examine how disease progress. Through lab requirements, students build knowledge and skills in areas like aseptic techniques, antibiotic susceptibility, and characteristics of bacteria.
- Health Assessment: In this course, students learn how to detect illnesses and improve the overall delivery of healthcare and nursing services. Learners review a variety of health assessment models and gain skills and knowledge in physical assessments and evidence-based wellness frameworks.
Students earning an RN-to-BSN online can often pursue concentrations that allow them to specialize their skills. We cover several common nursing concentrations below.
Gerontology focuses on delivering care for elderly patients. Common class topics include coordinated care of the elderly, theoretical foundations of geriatric care, advanced health assessments for aging populations, and gerontology healthcare policy.
Orthopedic RNs provide care to patients with musculoskeletal diseases and injuries, including osteoporosis, arthritis, and fractured and broken bones. Topics include musculoskeletal specialty synthesis, clotting disorders, and orthopedics pain management.
Acute care nurses deliver emergency and ambulatory care to patients. Learners in these courses gain knowledge and skills in areas like health assessments and clinical diagnoses, psychological and physiological impacts, and short-term care management.
Primary care nurses deliver care to patients throughout the lifespan, focusing on overall patient health and wellness. They typically do not treat acute or emergency issues. Common courses include health promotion, clinical practice in ambulatory care, and perspectives on aging.
Pediatric nurses provide care to patients from birth through early adulthood. Common classes include pediatric pharmacology, acute and chronic pediatric care, and health promotion within pediatric patients.
How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online RN-to-BSN Program?
Most online RN-to-BSN programs take two years to complete, but students can often pursue accelerated or part-time options as well. Students with abundant personal and professional obligations may benefit from the lower course load of a part-time program, while learners seeking to complete the degree as quickly as possible benefit from accelerated programs.
An online RN-to-BSN program's delivery format can also impact the length of a degree. For example, programs with asynchronous courses allow students to access course materials and lectures on their own schedule, while synchronous programs require students to log in at specific times.
Accreditation for Online RN-to-BSN Programs
When researching prospective programs, students should look for accreditation status. Accreditation indicates that a school meets high standards with respect to faculty qualifications, academic rigor, and student learning outcomes. Only students at accredited schools qualify for federal financial aid, and many schools only accept degrees and credits from accredited institutions. Additionally, nurses need an accredited degree to qualify for professional credentials.
Schools may receive regional or national accreditation, with regional accreditation generally considered the more prestigious of the two. Programs within a school may also receive accreditation. For example, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing accredit nursing programs.
Students can verify a school's accreditation status through the Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs provided by the U.S. Department of Education.
Certifications allow nurses to demonstrate specialized expertise and compete for advanced roles. We cover several common nursing certifications below.
Oncology Certified Nurse
Candidates for this credential need at least two years of RN experience, at least 2,000 hours of oncology nursing practice, and a minimum of 10 hours of oncology nursing continuing education. They must also pass a three-hour, 165-question exam.
Certified Emergency Nurse
Candidates for this credential need at least two years of relevant experience. They must also pass the certification exam, which comprises 175 peer-reviewed questions and must be taken at an approved Pearson Professional Center.
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification
Candidates need two years of full-time RN experience, 2,000 hours of psychiatric-mental health clinical practice, and 30 hours of psychiatric-mental health continuing education credits. They must also pass a three-hour, 150-question exam.
Critical Care Registered Nurse
RNs and APRNs with at least 1,750 hours of acute/critical care nursing practice can apply for this credential. Candidates can use the CCRN exam handbook to prepare for the qualifying exam.
Pediatric Nursing Certification
Candidates for this credential need at least two years of full-time RN experience, 2,000 hours of clinical pediatric nursing practice, and 30 continuing education credits in pediatric nursing. The exam comprises 50 questions and takes three hours to complete.
Graduates with a BSN qualify for a variety of fulfilling careers. We cover several common careers for graduates below; however, some positions may require additional education or certification.
|Median Salary: $73,300
||Projected Job Growth: 7%
Registered nurses work on the frontlines of patient care. They assess patient conditions, record medical histories, observe symptoms, and report their findings. They also complete care plans, collaborate with doctors, teach patients and families how to manage an illness or injury, and perform diagnostic tests. All RNs need at least a nursing diploma and a state license to practice.
These professionals work in healthcare administration. They oversee healthcare facilities or departments, which involves setting departmental goals, managing staff, overseeing budgets, and creating staff schedules. Medical and health services managers typically need at least a bachelor's degree. They do not need licensure unless they are working at a nursing home.
Nurse practitioners, also known as advanced practice registered nurses, provide advanced nursing services. They may diagnose health problems, analyze test results, prescribe medications and treatments, and conduct research. These professionals also often oversee staff. NPs need at least a master's degree and an active, unencumbered RN license.
The Best Online RN-to-BSN Programs
University of Florida-Online
Established in 1853, UF moved to its Gainesville location in 1906. Students pursuing medical careers benefit from the only U.S. university with six health-related colleges on one campus.
The School of Nursing offers an online bachelor of science in nursing. Students analyze processes leading to health care policy change and prepare for leadership roles in wellness promotion, illness prevention, and high-quality treatment.
Applicant requirements include an associate degree in nursing, 2.8 GPA, and active Florida RN license or eNLC.
Florida International University
Founded in 1965 as a public research institution, Miami-based FIU offers remote learning to 40,000 students annually.
FIU offers an online bachelor of science in nursing program. Registered nurses help bolster their evidence-based practices and future marketability through four levels of study covering community and global health.
Any of three yearly enrollments require a 2.75 GPA from an accredited ASN or diploma nursing program.
Penn State World Campus
University Park, PA
Penn State, established in 1855, launched its world campus in 1998, accommodating 20,000 distance learners annually.
The bachelor of science in nursing offers three optional specialized certificates: nursing management, nursing informatics, and nursing forensics. Students fulfill clinical requirements from home or through the accelerated RN-to-BSN format.
Penn State requires all students to have an RN license.
Southern New Hampshire University
Manchester-based SNHU is a private, non-profit institution established in 1932, specializing in distance learning with a primarily remote student body.
The transfer-friendly bachelor of science in nursing (RN-to-BSN) program features a capstone with 90 hours of practicum experience. Students earn credit for an RN license and benefit from academic and career support.
Requirements include an associate degree in nursing or an earned diploma with a minimum 2.5 GPA.
University of Wisconsi – Stevens Point
Stevens Point, WI
A public institution founded in 1894, the UW-Stevens Point expanded in 2018 with campuses in Wausau and Marshfield.
Through the School of Health Sciences and Wellness, registered nurses pursue a bachelor of science in nursing through an RN-to-BSN completion program. Students complete nine core classes and a capstone through a hybrid or online curriculum, enriching clinical and leadership expertise.
Admission requirements include Wisconsin residency and state RN licensure. Applicants also need an associate or diploma degree from an accredited nursing program, with a cumulative 2.5 GPA.
Northwestern State University of Louisiana
Established in 1884 as the Louisiana State Normal School, NSU introduced the state's first nursing degree program.
NSU offers an online registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing completion program. Distance learning extends to remote theory and clinical requirements.
Tuition covers the required 30 hours of nursing coursework. Requirements for applicants include GRE and transcripts.
University of Louisiana at Monroe
Founded in 1931 and previously known as Northeast Louisiana University, ULM is a public institution with 9,000 students annually.
The ULM accelerated online RN-to-BSN program offers five eight-week courses, designed for completion in 14 months. A curriculum covering management, research, and public health culminates in an experiential capstone.
Admission requirements include an active RN license, minimum 2.0 GPA from an accredited program, and official transcripts.
The University of West Florida
Part of the state university system since 1963, UWF sits on 1,600 acres just north of downtown Pensacola.
An accelerated bachelor of science in nursing degree allows working nurses options for career advancement in just 12 months with leadership, ethics, and pharmacology principles. Distance learning covers the core curriculum, with clinical practice in students' local communities.
Applicant requirements include an associate of science in nursing degree, an overall 2.75 GPA, home state RN license, the completion of STA 2023: Elements of Statistics with a grade 'C' or higher, and no more than 12 hours of non-major coursework outstanding.
Nicholls State University
Nicholls averages just over 6,000 students annually, with 100% of nursing school graduates employed or in grad school.
Nicholls Online offers working health care professionals an online bachelor of science in nursing degree, leadership-based curriculum. Graduates prepare for provider and manager roles with critical thinking skills, nursing informatics, and evidence-based patient-centered care.
Admission requirements include completion of a state licensing board-approved and nationally accredited program and unencumbered Louisiana RN licensure. Students must maintain a minimum grade of C and 2.0 cumulative GPA in all required curriculum courses.
University of North Dakota
Founded in 1883, UND provides the only school of medicine in the state.
UND offers an online bachelor of science in nursing degree program, focusing on expanding comprehensive care practices, collaborating with interdisciplinary health teams, and promoting patient advocacy. Live online classes, combined with a library of lectures and course materials plus the opportunity to complete clinical hours where you live, facilitate completion in 1-2 years.
Acceptance requires an associate degree and a current, unencumbered RN license.
Cabarrus College of Health Sciences
Cabarrus College began as a small nursing school. Now, its seven current medical disciplines benefit from an immersive campus location at Atrium Health Cabarrus.
The bachelor of science in nursing degree administers online through five-week sessions. A community assessment activity combines with web-based studies in research, community health, and leadership.
Candidates take advantage of a fast-track application process and an 18-month program with fall or spring admission.
Requirements include an active North Carolina RN license, minimum 2.5 GPA in post-secondary coursework, and official transcripts and professional references.
Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences
Founded as a nursing school in 1903, PA College enrolls 1,700 students annually.
PA College offers a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), boasting a 100% job placement record. Online coursework includes a minimum of eight hours weekly as a volunteer or employee in a health care setting.
Students without an RN license must secure and maintain one for the RN-to-BSN program duration within the first year.
Fort Hays State University
Established in 1902, FHSU sits on 200 acres adjacent to the Hays business district.
Registered nurses applying to the department of nursing RN-to-BSN program can complete the degree in just three semesters if full-time. A significant part of the curriculum includes clinical practicum experiences, also facilitated through distance learning.
Applicants must gain acceptance to FHSU with a minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA from previous coursework. The BSN program requires an active RN license, maintained throughout the program. FHSU does not accept nursing applications from Alabama, Tennessee, and Washington.
Missouri State University – Springfield
Founded in 1905, Missouri State sits on 225 acres in Springfield, accommodating over 23,000 students annually.
The School of Nursing addresses community care, health assessment, and leadership and management for registered nurses interested in career advancement through a bachelor of science in nursing degree completion. Students can go from RN to BSN in as little as 12 months through a web-based curriculum focused on evidence-based practice.
Program requirements include a current unencumbered RN license and 2.50 GPA.
Mount Carmel College of Nursing
Founded in 1901, MCCN is a private, specialized Catholic college with a student-centered philosophy. A 30-student maximum in online undergraduate courses facilitates a low student-faculty ratio, allowing for individual support and guidance.
MCCN offers registered nurses an online RN-MSN completion program with Quality Matters certification. The curriculum covers leadership and nursing in the community, with a capstone experience.
Admission requires an unencumbered state license. Applicants with ACEN accredited pre-licensure nursing programs receive priority acceptance.
University of North Alabama
The state's oldest four-year public institution, UNA began as LaGrange College in 1830. The nursing education program launched in 1973.
Approved by the Alabama Board of Nursing, the RN-to-BSN Online program allows students to complete general education and professional coursework simultaneously. Dedicated nursing components extend to leadership and management, physical assessment online, and diversity in patented centered care.
Requirements include official transcripts, an associate in nursing degree, and an RN license. The online program excludes clinical components fulfilled locally.
Southeast Missouri State University
Cape Girardeau, MO
Southeast Missouri State University, a public institution, offers 200 areas of study to more than 10,000 enrolled students.
The online bachelor of science in nursing (RN-to-BSN) degree program accepts RNs in Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, or Arkansas. Students choose from four-, eight-, or 16-week courses to complete six required nursing classes.
In addition to a residency in the above states, candidates must complete course prerequisites, possess a current valid U.S. nursing and professional CPR licensure, professional liability insurance, and a 2.5 GPA.
Founded in 1969, CSU occupies 192 acres in the south metro Atlanta area.
Through the university's RN-to-BSN degree-completion track, registered nurses benefit from open enrollment and online coursework. An integral component of the program revolves around a 90-hour practicum under the guidance of a faculty facilitator.
Applicant requirements include HLTH3200-Pathophysiology for RNs and a nursing license issued in the U.S. An optional RN-MSN program enables students to complete both BSN and MSN simultaneously.
The University of Texas of the Permian Basin
A public university in Odessa, UTPB opened its doors in 1973.
The School of Nursing offers an online bachelor of science in nursing degree, an integral step for RNs focused on leadership roles in patient care, including meeting multicultural patients' needs. All coursework is online except for any required campus visits and three clinical courses completed in the student's community.
Designed for busy RNs who need a flexible and affordable program that can be completed at their own pace, UT Permian Basin's online BSN can be completed in as little as one year and will help you lead skillfully and confidently in your current or future professional nursing role.
Graduates further benefit from a nurse manager certificate from Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Honor Society.
Candidate requirements include a current RN license in Texas or other nurse licensure compact, minimum 2.5 GPA, and official transcripts from previous colleges and nursing programs.
Maryville University of Saint Louis
Founded in 1872 and one of the oldest institutions in the region, Maryville's enrollment exceeds 10,000 annually, covering all 50 states.
Maryville offers a bachelor of science in nursing degree through a fully online program for RNs. Participants in the completion program develop practical and analytical nursing skills and prepare for positions including clinical nurse manager and registered nurse supervisor.
Maryville simplifies the application process with no application fees or ACT/SAT scores. Eligibility extends to students with a valid RN license.
Florida Atlantic University
Established in 1961, FAU accommodates more than 30,000 students annually with five satellites and one online campus.
FAU's RN-to-BSN track combines 28 credits from an ACEN-accredited institution with 32 credits earned at FAU. The online curriculum includes the choice of two nursing practice immersion options - a condensed program through an Oklahoma Native American Practicum or 15 weeks in local community sites.
Admission requirements include prerequisite and corequisite courses, an RN associate degree or diploma, and a 2.5 GPA.
Georgia Southern University
A public research facility, Georgia Southern opened its doors in 1906 as a land grant college. It currently enrolls over 26,000 undergraduate and graduate candidates.
Through the Waters College of Health Professions, the bachelor of science in nursing degree program extends to applicants with a registered nursing credential. Completion takes as little as two semesters and eight courses covering complex nursing concepts and research.
Admission requirements include an associate degree or diploma in nursing from an accredited institution, a cumulative GPA of 3.0 in previous coursework, completion of Area A math course, Area D, and Area F, and current Georgia RN licensure.
A private health care institution with roots dating back to the 1800s, St. Luke's College officially took its name in 2001.
St. Luke's College provides RNs with an online alternative to pursue a bachelor of science in nursing degree (BSN). The program covers specialties, including women's health issues, pharmacology for nurses, and nursing care of the older adult.
The RN-to-BSN program requirements include an associate degree or diploma from an accredited registered nurse program and a current unencumbered RN license.
Established in 1903, Minot State University became the third-largest university in North Dakota.
Through Minot State's degree-completion program, current registered nurses pursue a bachelor of science degree in nursing. Online coursework accommodates working healthcare professionals, and Public Health for the Professional Nurse provides one mandatory clinical requirement.
Application requirements include graduation from a board-approved nursing education program and passing the NCLEX-RN. Provisional admission extended to students without the NCLEX-RN, allowing access to limited courses.
Arizona State Universit – Skysong
Founded in 1885 in Tempe, ASU-Skysong now provides online classes for distance learning.
Through the online bachelor of science in nursing program, registered nurses benefit from a 39-credit hour flexible schedule program. Coursework covers innovations in nursing, public and global health, and management.
Candidates must possess an active RN license or pass the NCLEX exam. Transfer students require a 2.5 minimum GPA and C or better in prerequisites. ASU Online also offers a concurrent enrollment program for students to earn an associate degree in nursing.
Online RN to BSN Programs Ranking Guidelines
We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.
Pursuing an RN-to-BSN
What Is an RN-to-BSN Program?
These bridge programs help RNs with a diploma or associate degree earn a bachelor's degree with two years of additional study.
What is the Difference Between RN vs. BSN?
RNs can receive licensure without earning a bachelor's degree, but a bachelor's degree typically gives RNs more career opportunities and higher earning potential.
How Long Are RN-to-BSN Programs?
RN-to-BSN programs typically take two years to complete, though some programs also offer accelerated timelines.
Do RN-to-BSN Programs Require Clinicals?
Many RN-to-BSN programs do not require clinicals, but they may require students to maintain employment as an RN while enrolled.
What Prerequisites Do I Need for an RN-to-BSN Program?
Applicants typically need an active, unencumbered RN license, an accredited nursing associate degree or diploma, and professional experience.