For many working professionals, fitting a four-year degree into a busy work and home schedule simply isn't an option. While nurses are currently one of the most overworked and underpaid professions, there is a simple way to advance your career with a bachelor’s degree by only committing a maximum of two years of education through an RN to BSN degree program. Ready to enroll? Learn what it takes to enter an RN to BSN bridge program and what you’ll be required to complete for this accelerated degree.

What is an RN to BSN?

An RN to BSN is an accelerated bridge program designed for practicing nurses with an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or nursing diploma to receive their bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN) faster than through a traditional 4-year program. The program works with the nurse's current credentials, such as an ADN, nursing license, and experience in the field, to deliver the coursework in a shorter amount of time. Where an entry-level nursing student will need to take introductory classes, a nurse who is already licensed with experience in the field will already be familiar with these concepts.

Who Needs an RN to BSN?

Registered nurses who enroll in an RN to BSN program typically do so because they're seeking a more refined education, career advancement, and expanded opportunities in their fields. For some, to be able to put their BSN on their resume is reason enough to enroll. For others, a BSN is a stepping stone for their master's or doctorate degree and licensure as a nurse practitioner or other advanced-practice RN role.

RN to BSN Curriculum

Because an RN to BSN can range drastically in length based on how many credits you can transfer, your RN to BSN curriculum will likely look very different compared to your colleagues. RN to BSN students may take a combination of general education credits, core courses, electives, and practicum or internship hours. The total number of required credits can range from 60 to 180 credit hours. Here's a sample curriculum:

Semester 1Introduction to Nursing Theory and Practice3
 Health Assessment and Promotion4
 Nursing Ethics and Professionalism3
 General Education Elective3
Semester 2Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice3
 Community Health Nursing4
 General Education Elective3
Semester 3Leadership and Management in Nursing3
 Nursing Informatics3
 Nursing Care of Diverse Populations4
 General Education Elective3
Semester 4Capstone4
 Collaborative Healthcare3

RN to BSN Education Requirements

The specific admission and education requirements for an RN to BSN program can vary depending on the institution offering the program and any prior education or experience the student may have. However, here are some general requirements typically expected for admission to an RN to BSN program:

  • Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Diploma in Nursing: Most RN to BSN programs require applicants to have already completed an ADN or nursing diploma program.
  • Active RN License: Applicants must hold a current, unencumbered RN license in the state where they plan to complete their clinical requirements. This ensures that students are legally eligible to practice nursing and participate in clinical experiences in their BSN program.
  • Minimum GPA: Many RN to BSN programs require applicants to have a minimum grade point average (GPA) in their previous nursing coursework and any prerequisite courses. The minimum GPA requirement can vary depending on the program but is often around 2.5 to 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Some RN to BSN programs may require applicants to submit letters of recommendation from academic or professional references who can speak to the applicant’s qualifications and potential for success in the program.
  • Criminal Background Check: Most RN to BSN programs require applicants to submit a criminal background check that includes local, statewide, and federal screening. Drug testing may also be included in the requirement.

RN to BSN Accreditation

One of the most important things to remember as you apply to RN to BSN programs is to ensure each is accredited before submitting your application. The primary accrediting body for RN to BSN programs and other types of nursing programs is the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

If an RN to BSN program is not accredited, it generally means that the program is not approved by the state board. As a result, it may not fulfill admission requirements when it comes time to apply to graduate programs. It may also leave you ineligible for certain jobs and professional certifications.

Advantages of Earning an RN to BSN

The obvious and most common advantage associated with an RN to BSN is the ability to receive a higher-level degree in less time. This saves you time as a busy registered nurse, likely working 40 hours a week or more, but it also saves you money!

On average, a four-year BSN degree could cost you $80,000 or more. However, with an RN to BSN, you'll likely only be enrolled for a year or two, saving 25% to 50% of your tuition.

Apart from the distinct advantages you could gain with an RN to BSN versus a traditional BSN, having a bachelor's degree in nursing alone has plenty of advantages, from more positions on the job market to earning more pay in your current role. More hospital systems and healthcare employers have preferred or required hiring BSN-educated RNs in recent years. In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states you could make as much as $132,680 per year with your new BSN. You'll also have more job security with an expected 6% job market growth in the next ten years. Lastly, you'll benefit from being more knowledgeable and experienced as a nurse, which makes navigating challenges at work much more manageable.

Career Paths for RN to BSN

The possibilities are nearly limitless once you decide to get your BSN. Here are just a few popular career options that students choose upon graduation:

  • Direct Patient Care: BSN-prepared nurses can work directly with patients in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities. They may serve as staff nurses or charge nurses, providing hands-on care while taking on leadership roles.
  • Leadership and Management: With a BSN and some experience, nurses can pursue leadership and management positions within healthcare organizations. They may become nurse managers or supervisors responsible for overseeing nursing staff, coordinating patient care, and managing unit operations.
  • Public Health Nursing: BSN-prepared nurses can work in public health settings, promoting health and wellness, conducting community outreach, and addressing public health concerns. They may work for government agencies, community health centers, or nonprofit organizations, focusing on population-based interventions to improve public health outcomes.
  • School Nursing: BSN-educated nurses may choose to work as school nurses in educational settings. They provide student healthcare services, help manage chronic conditions, and participate in health education. School nurses play a crucial role in ensuring the health and safety of students in K-12 schools and college campuses.


Can I work while pursuing an RN to BSN program?

Yes, many RN to BSN programs offer flexible scheduling options, including part-time and online formats, allowing students to continue working while completing their degree.

How long does it take to complete an RN to BSN program?

The duration varies but typically ranges from 12 to 24 months for full-time students. Part-time options are also available, which may extend the program’s duration. With enough available transfer credits, some RN to BSN programs allow students to complete in less than a year.

Will I need to complete clinical hours in an RN to BSN program?

Clinical requirements vary by program, but most RN to BSN programs require between 30 and 100 clinical practice hours. Some RN to BSN programs include direct patient-care clinical components, while others focus more on theory and leadership skills. Online programs may offer virtual clinical experiences, or students may arrange for preceptors in their local area. During the clinical placement or internship, students work under the guidance of experienced nursing professionals, participating in patient care, healthcare management, and interdisciplinary collaboration.