Best Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
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Updated July 16, 2024
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Online learning also allows students to attend the top online RN-to-BSN programs in the country without relocating.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Bridge Programs From RN-to-BSN

Most registered nurses (RN) hold a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. In fact, as of 2022, about 72% of RNs held a BSN degree or higher, according to data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

With this statistic in mind, it should come as no surprise that many employers opt for BSN-trained nurses. About 28% of employers require a BSN, while 72% prefer BSN training, AACN data showed.

Online RN-to-BSN bridge programs help nurses advance their careers. Bridge programs build on the knowledge and skills gained during an associate degree or nursing diploma program, allowing nurses to complete a bachelor’s degree in two years or less.

Earning your BSN online helps you balance your academic, professional, and personal lives. This guide ranks the best online RN-to-BSN programs so you find the right program for your needs. We also offer detailed overviews of program requirements and a career and salary outlook.

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What Is an RN-to-BSN Program?

An online RN-to-BSN program typically takes 1-2 years. During this time, nursing students expand their skills in areas including health assessment, community health, and evidence-based practice. Learners also learn about leadership and management skills, advanced research competencies, and emerging trends and practices in nursing.

Earning a BSN can mean higher earning potential, more job opportunities, and a broader scope of practice. According to 2024 Payscale data, nurses with a BSN earn a median pay of $95,000, compared to a median pay of $77,000 for nurses with an associate degree.

Choosing an Online RN-to-BSN Program

Many top-ranked nursing schools offer online RN-to-BSN programs. Which program is the best fit for you? Consider the following factors during your search.

  • Cost: Keeping the cost of your BSN low can mean a higher return on investment. When comparing programs, factor in the total program cost, including fees and other expenses.
  • Length: Most RN-to-BSN programs take around two years to complete, but some programs offer accelerated timelines depending on your transfer credits.
  • Transfer Policies: In most cases, RNs receive credit for prior education and experience. You can save time and money by carefully reviewing each program’s policies to ensure you’re maximizing your transfer credits.
  • On-Campus Requirements: Some online RN-to-BSN programs have on-campus or in-person requirements, which can include an internship or practicum. Other programs offer a fully online format that incorporates virtual labs and simulations.
  • Accreditation: Always choose an accredited nursing school for your BSN. An accredited nursing degree meets the requirements for licensure and graduate school. Plus, employers want to hire nurses with an accredited degree.

What Can I Expect From an Online RN-to-BSN Program?

During an RN-to-BSN program, you’ll take courses in population health, nursing research, health assessment, and nursing leadership. These courses emphasize the communication and leadership roles required for BSN-educated nurses. While each program sets its own curriculum, many offer the following courses:

  • Advanced Health Assessment: Building on the skills of an RN, this course expands health assessment training to include physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Learners review a variety of health assessment models and gain skills and knowledge in assessment techniques and evidence-based wellness frameworks.
  • Community and Population Health: Strengthen health promotion and disease prevention abilities with a focus on population health. Topics include program planning, environmental health, and public health. Nursing students also examine social determinants of health and interventions that target healthcare inequities. 
  • Nursing Research: Learners evaluate the latest nursing research while learning how to design research plans to address critical issues in nursing practice and patient care outcomes. RNs also learn how to apply research through evidence-based practice.
  • BSN Capstone: Capstone courses integrate the knowledge and skills gained throughout the program through a collaborative, innovative project. Learners may propose a quality improvement plan that draws on their clinical expertise and nursing informatics. Nursing students work closely with faculty to complete the capstone project.

Most online RN-to-BSN programs also incorporate a practicum or field experience to strengthen nursing skills. For example, nursing students may complete a community health practicum in their local area, working with their program to identify an appropriate site and preceptor. Other programs use virtual or digital clinicals which do not require in-person work. 

Nursing Concentrations

After earning a BSN, nurses can pursue certifications to demonstrate specialized expertise and pursue advanced roles. Here are some of the most common nursing certifications:

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.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification: Successful candidates need two years of full-time nursing 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 advanced practice nurses with at least 1,750 hours of acute/critical care nursing practice can apply for this credential. 

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 about three hours to complete.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online RN-to-BSN Program?

Most online RN-to-BSN programs take 1-2 years to complete, a number that is influenced in part by whether students pursue accelerated or part-time options. Students with lots of 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.

Nursing Certifications

After earning a BSN, nurses can pursue certifications to demonstrate specialized expertise and pursue advanced roles. Here are some of the most common nursing certifications:

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.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification: Successful candidates need two years of full-time nursing 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 advanced practice nurses with at least 1,750 hours of acute/critical care nursing practice can apply for this credential.

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 about three hours to complete.

BSN Nursing Careers

A BSN helps nurses move into leadership roles, including as team leader, RN supervisor, or charge nurse. In addition, many nursing specialties prefer to hire RNs with a BSN. Here are a few examples of potential career paths and approximate salaries.

The Best Online RN-to-BSN< Programs

#1 Best Online RN-to-BSN Programs

University of Florida-Online

  • Location-markerGainesville, FL
  • 4 year
  • Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$3,358
  • Out-of-state$15,000
  • Retention Rate91%
  • Acceptance Rate66%
  • Students Enrolled5,168
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment0%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 Best Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Florida International University

  • Location-markerMiami, FL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$6,168
  • Out-of-state$18,566
  • Retention Rate91%
  • Acceptance Rate64%
  • Students Enrolled55,687
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment65%
  • AccreditationYes
#3 Best Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Pennsylvania State University-World Campus

  • Location-markerUniversity Park, PA
  • 4 year
  • Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$13,484
  • Out-of-state$13,484
  • Retention Rate62%
  • Acceptance Rate76%
  • Students Enrolled14,458
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment0%
  • AccreditationYes
#4 Best Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Southern New Hampshire University

  • Location-markerManchester, NH
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$15,000
  • Out-of-state$15,000
  • Retention Rate62%
  • Acceptance Rate92%
  • Students Enrolled145,533
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment96%
  • AccreditationYes
#5 Best Online RN-to-BSN Programs

University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

  • Location-markerStevens Point, WI
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$6,698
  • Out-of-state$15,402
  • Retention Rate75%
  • Acceptance Rate89%
  • Students Enrolled8,018
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment59%
  • AccreditationYes
#6 Best Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Northwestern State University of Louisiana

  • Location-markerNatchitoches, LA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$5,180
  • Out-of-state$15,968
  • Retention Rate61%
  • Acceptance Rate92%
  • Students Enrolled9,389
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment88%
  • AccreditationYes
#7 Best Online RN-to-BSN Programs

University of Louisiana at Monroe

  • Location-markerMonroe, LA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$5,788
  • Out-of-state$17,888
  • Retention Rate69%
  • Acceptance Rate70%
  • Students Enrolled8,718
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment53%
  • AccreditationYes
#8 Best Online RN-to-BSN Programs

The University of West Florida

  • Location-markerPensacola, FL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$3,735
  • Out-of-state$16,004
  • Retention Rate84%
  • Acceptance Rate53%
  • Students Enrolled13,288
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment88%
  • AccreditationYes
#9 Best Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Nicholls State University

  • Location-markerThibodaux, LA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$4,922
  • Out-of-state$6,015
  • Retention Rate70%
  • Acceptance Rate97%
  • Students Enrolled6,225
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment54%
  • AccreditationYes
#10 Best Online RN-to-BSN Programs

University of North Dakota

  • Location-markerGrand Forks, ND
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$8,882
  • Out-of-state$13,324
  • Retention Rate79%
  • Acceptance Rate83%
  • Students Enrolled13,876
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment70%
  • AccreditationYes

Frequently Asked Questions About RN-to-BSN Programs

Most RN-to-BSN programs take 1-2 years, depending on the student’s transfer credits and the program requirements. During that time, nursing students complete coursework in community health, nursing leadership, and evidence-based practice. Programs also incorporate clinical training to prepare graduates for advanced RN roles.

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