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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 6% between 2022 and 2032. These professionals made median annual salaries of $81,220, with the top 10% of earners making more than $129,400 a year.
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: $81,220
|Projected Job Growth: 6%
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.
Medical and Health Services Managers
|Median Salary: $104,830
|Projected Job Growth: 28%
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.
|Median Salary: $125,900
|Projected Job Growth: 38%
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
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.
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