Nursing offers a rewarding career and, thanks to numerous licensing options, new nurses can enter their field quickly. Many technical and vocational schools provide one-year programs that lead to a licensed practical nurse (LPN) diploma. LPNs work under the supervision of a registered nurse. They administer medication and monitor patient health and may supervise nursing assistants. To qualify for supervisory positions or step into critical care roles, nurses need additional education and training.
Earning a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) opens the door to higher-paying jobs and new career paths. As healthcare continues to advance, demand for highly qualified nurses with the leadership and critical-thinking skills gained in a BSN program increases. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 15% increase in employment through 2026, with jobs fueled by an aging population and greater emphasis on outpatient care. Many schools have established LPN-to-BSN bridge programs that streamline the process and grant licensed LPNs credit for the nursing skills and knowledge that they developed while on the job.
Best Online LPN to BSN Programs
#1 Indiana State University
Established in 1865, Indiana State University hosts more than 100 undergraduate majors, 75 graduate degrees, and 70 online programs. Its baccalaureate nursing completion program offers an online LPN-to-BSN track in a fully distance learning format. The 120-credit program does not require any campus residency; it also allows students to complete the 495 required clinical hours close to home.
The full-time program requires six semesters and may be completed in 2-3 years, depending on transfer credits and the number of courses taken each term. Students may also choose a part-time path to degree completion that requires nine semesters. Graduates of the LPN-to-BSN online program are eligible to apply for the National Council Licensure Examination through the Indiana Board of Nursing to become registered nurses. Applicants must be graduates of a state-accredited practical nursing program and hold a 2.75 GPA in nursing prerequisites. Applicants must also complete an online admissions test.
- Campus: Terre Haute, Indiana
- Type: Public
- Accreditation: ACEN
- Tuition: Varies, please inquire
- Minimum time commitment: Varies, please inquire
- Degree requirements: LPN/LVN license, IT course, CPR, medical check, liability insurance, transcript
- Programs: LPN/LVN to BSN
- Request Information Direct: Indiana State University
#2 North Dakota State University
With a main campus in Fargo, North Dakota State University features over 25 online and blended learning programs. Its school of nursing offers an online LPN-to-BSN track, designed for practical nurses who want to complete a bachelor’s of science degree to become registered nurses. The track requires six semesters and a total of 120 credits. Students complete most of the degree online, but some courses require occasional on-campus attendance and clinical work in the Fargo/Moorhead community, usually in the summer months. Most students take 6-9 credits per semester.
The first step for admission requires successful completion of the nursing placement examination. Applicants must possess a diploma in nursing and hold 60 or more hours of college credits, an associate of applied science degree, or an associate of arts or science degree. The program also requires a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.75 and a 3.0 GPA in nursing courses.
- Campus: Fargo, North Dakota – Online
- Type: Public
- Accreditation: CCNE
- Tuition: $3,822.96 for 12 credits
- Minimum time commitment: 122 credits
- Degree requirements: Associate’s degree, or 66 completed college credits, LPN, prerequisite courses, GPA of 3.0 recommended
- Programs: LPN to Bachelor of Science Nursing Option
- Request Information Direct: North Dakota State University
#3 The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center College of Nursing
Established in 1911, the University of Oklahoma hosts the state’s largest nursing program. The school of nursing offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs at its Oklahoma City, Lawton, and Tulsa locations and through distance learning. The LPN-to-BSN online program, designed for licensed practical nurses seeking a bachelor’s degree for RN licensure, features a hybrid delivery format. In addition to online coursework, students must attend monthly in-person classes on Saturdays and complete their clinical rotations at sites in Oklahoma. Clinical courses require weekday attendance.
The nursing curriculum consists of 60 credits, including 30 credits earned through advanced standing examination and 30 credits through enrollment in program coursework. Students may opt for part- or full-time schedules, beginning their coursework in fall or spring terms. Applicants to the program must successfully complete the National League for Nursing entrance exam and provide documentation of one year or 1,000 hours of LPN work experience.
- Campus: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – Online
- Type: Public
- Accreditation: ACEN
- Tuition: $137.60 per credit hour for Oklahoma residents, $563.40 per credit hour for non residents
- Minimum time commitment: Between 9 months and 2 years
- Degree requirements: GPA of 2.5 minimum, prerequisite courses, NLN examination, one year employment, valid Oklahoma LPN license
- Programs: Licensed practical nurse to BSN
- Request Information Direct: University of Oklahoma
#4 Presentation College
Presentation College, in Aberdeen, South Dakota, is an independent Catholic educational institution offering accredited nursing programs since 1968. The LPN-to-BSN online program prepares LPNs seeking bachelor’s of science degrees to take the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses. The online program delivers courses in an asynchronous format, offering students convenient 24-hour web access. Presentation College boasts that, unlike other LPN-BSN programs, students gain hands-on training throughout the program by completing theory and clinical courses simultaneously. The program arranges clinical partnerships that allow students to complete their clinical rotations close to home.
Applicants to the program must hold an active, unencumbered LPN license and a degree from a two-year, state-approved practical nursing program with a minimum 2.7 GPA They must also document 1,000 hours of LPN work experience, complete all prerequisite courses and the National League for Nursing tests, provide two professional character references, and pass a criminal background screening.
- Campus: Aberdeen, South Dakota
- Type: Private
- Accreditation: ACEN
- Tuition: Varies, please inquire
- Minimum time commitment: 4 to 6 semesters
- Degree requirements: Valid LPN license
- Programs: LPN to BSN
- Request Information Direct: Presentation College
LPN-to-BSN Online Programs: An Overview
LPN-to-BSN online programs offer a bridge between the two levels of nursing licenses. These accelerated programs reward LPNs for the skills that they refined on the job and provide flexible scheduling so students can continue to work while earning their degrees. Qualifications, curriculum, and on-campus requirements vary from school to school and state to state.
Admission Requirements for an Online LPN-to-BSN Program
Admission to online LPN-to-BSN programs often requires applying to both the university and school of nursing. Candidates must complete a general education core of English, history, and math classes. Bridge programs also require a one-year minimum of work experience and a valid nursing license. Many students find the nursing school admissions process to be competitive, with minimum GPA requirements varying from school to school. Applicants may also need to take the National League for Nursing Acceleration Challenge exams, which verify nursing knowledge and provide up to 30 credits towards nursing school requirements. Recommendations from supervisors, nurse mentors, or colleagues enhance an application.
How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online LPN-to-BSN Program?
Before the development of the bridge programs, LPNs began by earning an associate degree and then transferred to a bachelor’s program. Students on this path needed at least three years to complete the program. The accelerated LPN-to-BSN online programs offer a faster route to graduation and licensure by considering the skills gained while working as an LPN. Most programs require about two years for full-time students. Part-time students may need four years or more, depending on the number of classes they can complete each semester.
Some schools offer a cohort learning system where students move through the courses together. These programs provide the chance to form strong personal and professional relationships. However, in limiting the number of classes completed each term, cohort programs do not allow students to accelerate their degree progress. Many schools may offer accelerated class formats, with seven- or eight-week terms provided year-round.
Concentrations Offered for an Online BSN Degree
A mental health concentration prepares nurses to work with individuals experiencing behavioral disorders, cognitive disorders, or recovery from substance abuse addiction. Nurses may work under the direction of nurse practitioners or psychiatrists. They may find work in rehabilitation centers, mental health outpatient treatment facilities, psychiatric hospitals, or hospitals.
Careers this concentration prepares for: Mental Health Nurse, Rehabilitation Nurse, Addiction Nurse
Pediatric nurses work with children from birth through teenage years. They may further specialize in a specific type of nursing, such as oncology or anesthesia. Pediatric nurses serve in physician offices, hospitals, or other medical facility serving children. Nurses working with children need not only superb nursing skills but also the ability to communicate with patients and their parents.
Careers this concentration prepares for: Pediatric Nurse, Pediatric Oncology Nurse
This nursing specialty includes providing medical care to aging adults. Nurses may assist with physical care planning or psychological care. Nurses must communicate with their patients and their primary caregivers, teaching them about medication or how to manage chronic conditions. They may work in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, or assisted living facilities.
Careers this concentration prepares for: Geriatric Nurse, Rehabilitation Nurse
Example Courses for Online LPN-to-BSN Students
- Nursing Leadership: This course covers the role of nurses in healthcare delivery, including working with physicians, leading other nurses, and managing nursing assistants. Students gain an understanding of legal and ethical issues in nursing and develop the necessary skills for managing their staff effectively, such as budgeting, quality improvement, and staffing.
- Community Health Nursing: With a focus on the principles of community and public health, including the assessment of community health delivery services, outreach and health education, and disease management, students evaluate health policy and plan nursing interventions. In community nursing, health professionals use research-based strategies to reduce health risk for specific populations and diverse communities.
- Comprehensive Health Assessment: Students learn how to take useful patient histories and perform physical exams, including palpation and inspection. Nurses demonstrate how to take a patient’s vital signs, such as blood pressure, that can provide valuable diagnostic information. This class integrates theoretical knowledge of anatomy and an understanding of cultural or ethnic impacts on health. This class often requires hands-on work in a clinical setting.
- Mental Health Nursing: This course covers interventions used in caring for patients with mental health conditions, including therapeutic communication, maintaining professional relationships, and theories of psychopathology. Students learn to perform mental health evaluations and create care plans for diverse groups. This course often involves hands-on practicums or clinical rotations in various mental health settings.
- Pharmacology: Students learn the properties of medications and their therapeutic qualities as well as contraindications for use. The curriculum includes understanding the use, indications, and side effects of major drugs, as well as discussions about how to determine proper dosage, different ways to administer drugs, and how to recognize toxic reactions.
Hands-on learning comprises an integral part of any nursing education program. LPN-to-BSN online programs meet clinical education requirements through practicums, labs, and internships. Nursing schools can coordinate with healthcare facilities near the student’s home to provide a supervised learning experience. Experienced BSN nurses in a mentoring role, known as “preceptors,” oversee students in a care environment and report on their progress. Some schools may require students to attend on-campus clinical sessions and demonstrate their ability to carry out essential nursing functions.
Certifications and Licenses This Program Prepares For
- Registered Nurse: Each state sets guidelines for nursing licensure, including educational requirements and tests. States must approve a nursing program for graduates to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Nurses must also complete a background check and take any required licensing exams. The licensing exams test an applicant’s knowledge of nursing skills, in addition to professional ethics and legal responsibilities.
- Case Manager: This voluntary professional certification demonstrates a nurse’s understanding of the collaborative care process used in nurse case management. The credentialing exam covers the legal and ethical responsibilities of a case manager as well as how to assess, plan, and implement a care plan and utilize available resources. Applicants must have a valid RN license and two years of nursing experience.
- Certified Addictions Registered Nurse: Offered by the Center for Nursing Education and Testing, this voluntary professional certification prepares nurses to work in addiction treatment facilities. Applicants must have a valid nursing license and a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical experience over the past three years in addiction or related nursing. The designation requires 30 hours of continuing education and expires after four years.
Accreditation for Online LPN-to-BSN Programs
Students should consider nursing schools that meet licensing requirements for their state and that have earned accreditation from a nursing organization. These two separate priorities ensure students receive a quality education that prepares them for the workforce and will allow them to continue their education beyond a bachelor’s degree. Each state’s licensing board determines which nursing schools meet the minimum standards for nursing education. Only students graduating from a recognized school can take the NCLEX exam, which is necessary for obtaining a state nursing license.
Accreditation serves as an independent review of the school’s curriculum, faculty, and resources. Regional accreditation agencies review the entire school while nursing schools often seek specialized accreditation from the Accreditation Committee for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). ACEN accredits all levels of nursing programs, while CCNE only accredits bachelor’s and master’s nursing programs. Many graduate programs require applicants to have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school. Visit the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs, maintained by the U.S. Department of Education, to verify school accreditation.
Job and Salary Outlook
What Can You Do With a BSN Degree?
What Can You Do With a BSN Degree?
Completing an LPN-to-BSN online program allows nurses to take a more significant role in patient healthcare. Also, many employers seek BSN graduates for administrative or management positions or jobs involving critical thinking and analytical abilities, such as case management. Many nurses specialize in care areas, such as pediatrics or oncology. BSNs often find employment with hospitals or other healthcare facilities, private physician offices, government agencies, or private corporations.
Median Annual Salary: $63,162
Registered nurses may work in hospitals, doctors offices, or other medical offices under the direction of a doctor or mid-level medical provider. Duties often include assessing patient health and charting health complaints, treatments, medications, and vital signs.
Median Annual Salary: $70,005
Case managers help patients and their families coordinate care and make use of available community resources. These nurses provide comprehensive information to patients who may be dealing with complex, chronic illnesses or complex care plans.
Median Annual Salary: $82,980
This administrative position supervises patient care in a variety of healthcare facilities. They often implement quality improvement plans, evaluate staff performance, and serve as a liaison between the nursing staff and the physician staff.
Median Annual Salary: $63,736
Emergency room nurses must be prepared to handle any number of health conditions. They assist in triaging patients, implementing testing and treatment plans, and stabilizing patients for further care.
Median Annual Salary: $67,872
Operating room nurses care for patients before, during, and after surgical procedures by monitoring vital signs and assisting the surgeons. They ensure the operating suite is properly equipped and sterile. After surgery, operating room nurses watch the patient for possible complications and alert physicians to significant changes in health.
Source: PayScale, Nov. 2018
How Much Do BSN Graduates Make?
The average salary commanded by registered nurses often depends on the geographic area where you live. Factors such as competition for employees and the cost of living often push salaries higher. While the mean wages reported below offer an idea of the compensation nurses can expect, note that wages may be lower in more rural areas of these states and vary according to experience.
|State||Hourly Mean Wage||Annual Mean Wage|
|District of Columbia||$43.63||$90,110|
Professional organizations help nurses to meet others in their specialty field and grow a professional network. These connections can help in job searches, with many organizations offering members-only job boards. Nurses must also complete continuing education each year as part of their state licensure. Professional organizations provide informational sessions that meet these requirements. Many organizations also advocate on behalf of nurses regarding laws and policies, provide guidance on educational initiatives, and offer professional recognition programs.
American Nurses Association: The ANA provides professional development and continuing education opportunities such as professional certification. Members enjoy savings on certification and education programs, as well as opportunities to network with nurses across the country. Each state also offers a state affiliate.
Emergency Nurses Association: ENA supports professional education, policy advocacy, and networking for approximately 40,000 members across the country. Members enjoy tools and clinical practice guidelines and the latest news in emergency care and trauma management.
Oncology Nursing Society: The ONS provides information on the latest advances in patient standards of care, such as pain management or oral chemotherapy. Members receive access to continuing education materials focused on oncology practice, including conferences and certifications. ONS also matches members to volunteer opportunities.
Financing Your Online LPN-to-BSN Program
Students in LPN-to-BSN online programs can seek financial assistance through federal financial aid, private scholarships, student loans, or service organization commitments. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) documents income and financial need. Students must complete the FAFSA to receive a Pell Grant or subsidized student loans. Nurses remain in high demand in medically underserved communities, and individuals who work in these areas can qualify for loan forgiveness programs. Many employers offer educational benefits, especially healthcare organizations hoping to recruit and retain highly trained nurses.
Scholarships for LPN to BSN Students
Who Can Apply: This scholarship is open to students seeking undergraduate or graduate nursing degrees, with an emphasis on assisting students intending to become nurse educators, those completing bridge to BSN programs, or students in accelerated nursing programs. Students must be enrolled at an AACN member school. The organization awards four scholarships each year.
Who Can Apply: Students who have volunteered with the American Red Cross may apply for this annual scholarship. The application process includes an essay explaining the applicant’s volunteer experience and how the student will contribute to the nursing profession.
Who Can Apply: The Daughters of the American Revolution award three scholarships to students enrolled in an accredited nursing school. The award considers financial need and applicants must provide a statement of career objectives, as well as letters of recommendation.
Who Can Apply: The National Student Nurses Association Foundation provides scholarships to students in BSN bridge programs and undergraduate nursing schools. Students must be active in community health activities and taking a least six credits each semester. The foundation considers financial need, academic achievement, and involvement in community or student nursing.
Amount: $1,000 to $7,500
Who Can Apply: Students seeking a degree in nursing or another field with a focus on behavioral health or treatment of substance abuse disorders qualify for this scholarship, which includes a personal essay. Open to full-time or part-time students, the selection committee considers academic achievement when awarding the three annual scholarships.
Who Can Apply: Arthur J. Gallagher & Company offer this annual award to students nationwide. Applicants write an essay describing their career goals and also must submit two letters of recommendation. The program considers academic achievement, financial need, and community involvement. Students must be entering the final academic year of their first degree.
Who Can Apply: Students must complete a 500 to 1,500-word essay describing the use of CPR in a life-saving situation. Students should explore their feelings on the possibility of performing CPR, as well as the training and mental preparation they feel necessary. Students may be enrolled in nursing school or other health preparation programs. Scholarship selection rests entirely on the essay entry.
Who Can Apply: Awarded by the Oncology Nursing Society Foundation, the scholarship seeks to support nurses committed to the oncology specialty. Applicants must be entering their final two semesters at an accredited school of nursing. The organization awards scholarships to registered nurses seeking a bachelor’s degree; individuals who completed an undergraduate degree in another field and have returned to nursing school; or individuals without an RN license or another college degree.
Amount: $3,000 to $5,000