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The Best ADN-to-MSN (RN-to-NP) Bridge Programs 2024

NurseJournal Staff
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Updated January 19, 2024
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Advancing from registered nurse to nurse practitioner means a higher salary, more autonomy, and even better career prospects. Find the right RN-to-NP bridge program for you.
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Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

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Bridge programs allow nurses to earn a more advanced degree on an accelerated timeline. Those with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) can enroll in a bridge program to earn their master’s degree in nursing (MSN).

ADN-to-MSN bridge programs let you become a licensed nurse practitioner (NP) in less time than earning your bachelor’s degree first.

This guide explores the best ADN-to-MSN (RN-to-NP) programs and what to consider when choosing the right one for you.

Featured Online MSN Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, and availability of financial aid by contacting the universities below.

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The Best ADN-to-MSN (RN-to-NP) Bridge Programs

#1 The Best ADN-to-MSN (RN-to-NP) Bridge Programs 2024

Carlow University

  • Location-markerPittsburgh, PA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$31,458
  • Out-of-state$31,458
  • Retention Rate76%
  • Acceptance Rate92%
  • Students Enrolled1,984
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment87%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 The Best ADN-to-MSN (RN-to-NP) Bridge Programs 2024

Texas A & M University-Corpus Christi

  • Location-markerCorpus Christi, TX
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$4,913
  • Out-of-state$15,299
  • Retention Rate55%
  • Acceptance Rate91%
  • Students Enrolled10,762
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment59%
  • AccreditationYes

Why Is ADN-to-MSN (RN-to-NP) Bridge Program Accreditation Important?

Choosing to attend a school with an accredited program provides the following advantages:

  • Accreditation indicates the program meets quality standards. The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and/or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education only provide accreditation to programs that can appropriately prepare students for their role as nurses.
  • Credits earned in unaccredited programs may not transfer to accredited ones.
  • Students who attend unaccredited programs may be ineligible to receive federal financial aid.
  • Most employers prefer to hire graduates of accredited programs.

How Online ADN-to-MSN (RN-to-NP) Bridge Programs Work

Online ADN-to-MSN bridge programs provide various benefits to nurses looking to earn their MSNs without enrolling in an in-person program. When deciding between an in-person vs. online program, consider the format that works best for you.

Programs may offer a variety of learning formats, including online discussion groups, asynchronous and synchronous learning, video lectures, podcasts, and digital tools that connect students with their instructors.

While many online programs allow you to attend classes from the comfort of your home, you need to complete your clinical experience in person. Since nurses enrolled in an ADN-to-MSN program have their RN license, some schools require them to find their own clinical site.

Applying to an ADN-to-MSN (RN-to-NP) Bridge Program

Before applying to an ADN-to-MSN program, determine if you meet the conditions for acceptance. While specific prerequisites may vary from one institution to the next, many programs accept applicants who fulfill the same general requirements.

  • chevron-right

    Admission Materials

    Applicants need an unencumbered RN license and an ADN from an accredited program.
  • chevron-right

    GPA Requirement

    General admission materials include your resume, transcripts from your ADN program, and letters of recommendation.
  • chevron-right

    Other Requirement

    3.0 GPA or higher

Paying for ADN-to-MSN (RN-to-NP) Bridge Programs

Program cost plays a significant role in choosing an ADN-to-MSN bridge program. Students who enroll in an online program can often avoid the costs associated with on-campus programs (e.g., room and board, transportation fees, etc.).

Tuition can also vary based on school reputation, public or private institution status, program length, and full- or part-time enrollment.

Financial aid can lower costs or help pay for your nursing program. You can apply for scholarships, loans, and/or grants to help reduce out-of-pocket expenses.

Scholarships and grants often provide funds based on merit, need, or academic performance. Loans consist of borrowed money you must pay back upon program completion.

Using Our Rankings: What to Look for in an ADN-to-MSN (RN-to-NP) Bridge Program

When looking to enroll in an ADN-to-MSN bridge program, pay close attention to components, such as a program’s prerequisites, curriculum, accreditation, and length to make sure it fits your academic and professional goals.

Admission Requirements

Reviewing a program’s admission requirements before applying is crucial in determining whether you meet the prerequisites for acceptance.


Specializations

NP programs require students to select a specialty or focus, so confirm that the specialization you have chosen is available through the school.


Program Curriculum

Being familiar with a school’s curriculum can help you identify the program’s subject matter. You can then choose a program with either a broad curriculum to help you explore your options or one with a specific focus.


Clinical Experience

Identify clinical experience requirements, such as when you need to complete your hours, available locations, and how long the clinicals last.


Accreditation

Accreditation indicates that a program successfully prepares students for a career in nursing. Most employers only hire graduates from accredited programs.


Program Length

It can take 24-36 months of full-time study to complete an ADN-to-MSN bridge program. However, graduation timelines may vary according to the student’s enrollment status and the program’s structure.


School NCLEX Pass Rate

While applicants of ADN-to-MSN bridge programs have already passed the NCLEX, identifying the school’s pass rate still offers insight into its ability to prepare its students, showcasing the strength of the program overall.


School Graduation Rate

A school’s graduation rate demonstrates the percentage of students who not only complete their program but finish it on time. A low graduation rate may indicate a lack of academic support or a poorly organized program.


Online Learning Format and Requirements

Online programs often provide more flexibility than their in-person counterparts by offering synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous formats. Other programs may provide a hybrid option, which comprises online and in-person courses. The best format depends on your needs and preferred learning style.

What Can You Do With a Degree from an ADN-to-MSN Program?

After completing an ADN-to-MSN program, you must pass a national board certification exam based on your chosen specialty to become a licensed NP. Specializations include areas, such as family, adult gerontology, and psychiatric mental health.

While all NPs share similar responsibilities, such as evaluating patients, ordering and interpreting diagnostics screenings, and diagnosing/treating chronic and acute conditions, their autonomy differs among states, especially in prescribing medication.

NPs in full-practice states can prescribe medication and controlled substances without physician oversight. Those in reduced-practice states can prescribe certain medications under the supervision of a physician. NPs in restricted-practice states work entirely under a physician’s supervision.

Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

FNPs provide primary care to patients of all ages. Their responsibilities include performing physical exams, providing preventative care, and conducting check-ups. As of 2023, ZipRecruiter reports median annual salaries of $127,980 for FNPs.

Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP)

AGNPs focus on treating adult and older populations by providing care for either acute or chronic conditions. Acute-care AGNPs treat patients with brief but severe medical issues, whereas chronic-care AGNPs treat patients with long-term conditions. As of 2023, ZipRecruiter reports median annual salaries of $128,440 for AGNPs.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)

PMHNPs assess, diagnose, and treat people, families, or groups living with mental health conditions. They often work in psychiatric facilities, substance use programs, and outpatient clinics. As of 2023, ZipRecruiter reports median annual salaries of $98,309 for PMHNPs.

Explore types of specialty practice areas in our nurse practitioner specialties guide.

Frequently Asked Questions About ADN-to-MSN (RN-to-NP) Bridge

Full-time students enrolled in an ADN-to-MSN bridge program can graduate in as little as 24-36 months. However, the length can vary depending on the specific institution or if the program is part time.

Some ADN-to-MSN programs award students a BSN once the specific requirements have been met. Others may provide both a BSN and MSN upon completion of the program in its entirety.

Nursing bridge programs allow nurses to earn their master’s in as little as half the time it would take to earn an MSN traditionally. The shorter length of the program and the ability for students to work while pursuing their degree helps make this route more affordable.

While bridge programs are shorter, they still cover the same material provided in traditional BSN and MSN programs. Therefore, some students may struggle with the fast-paced nature of the coursework.

Nurses with an MSN benefit from a higher earning potential and increased employment opportunities when compared to RNs with an ADN or BSN alone. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, RNs earn an average yearly salary of $81,220, with a 6% projected increase in employment, while NPs earn $125,900, with a 38% projected increase in employment.

Related Pages

Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by NurseJournal. Page last reviewed on October 10, 2022.