Nursing Bridge Programs Overview

Ann Feeney
Updated October 24, 2023
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Nursing bridge programs let working nurses earn higher degrees faster. Break down the advantages of nursing bridge programs and find out what to expect.
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Nursing bridge programs follow accelerated schedules designed for working professionals, helping you advance your nursing career. Discover the different types of nursing bridge programs for different nursing career goals and backgrounds. Explore whether a nursing bridge program can help you fulfill your professional goals.

What is a Nursing Bridge Program?

Nursing bridge programs are educational programs designed for working professionals. They build on your previous education and your experience to advance you to the next level of professional education and nursing roles.

Nursing bridge programs can take you from a paramedic or licensed practical nurse (LPN) role to an registered nurse (RN) role. You can also advance to another degree level, such as from a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) to a master of science in nursing (MSN).

Nursing bridge programs often follow an accelerated pace, so you can finish your degree faster than a traditional degree program. Other benefits include:

  • Accelerated pathway to another degree and potential professional advancement
  • Course schedules designed for working professionals
  • Potential for employer tuition reimbursement, often in exchange for a work commitment after graduation
  • Networking opportunities with other nursing professionals and professors

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Types of Nursing Bridge Programs

Some of the most common nursing bridge programs include:

Paramedic-to-RN Program

These nursing bridge programs take advantage of your background as a paramedic to prepare you for a career as a registered nurse (RN). These programs typically take nine months to two years, depending on whether you are pursuing an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). Either degree will prepare you to take the NCLEX-RN examination and become an RN.

Who is it for?
Paramedics who want to become a registered nurse.

Estimated increase in average salary

LPN-to-RN Program

An LPN-to-RN bridge program prepares you to transition from a licensed practical nurse (LPN) position to an RN position. Like the paramedic-to-RN nursing bridge program, it can lead to either an ADN or a BSN degree. The ADN option typically takes one to two years and a BSN option typically takes two years, depending on the pace. Students must complete the NCLEX-RN certification exam to obtain licensure. Typically, RNs earn much more and have more professional autonomy than LPNs, one reason why this nursing bridge program is so popular.

Who is it for?
LPN/LVNs who want to become a registered nurse with an ADN or BSN.

Estimated increase in average salary

LPN-to-BSN Program

LPN-to-BSN nursing bridge programs take you to the equivalent of a four-year nursing degree, typically within 1-2 years. While you can become an RN with an ADN degree, having a BSN can make you more competitive in the job market. It also prepares you to enter a master’s or doctoral program and become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). As with an LPN-to-RN program, students must pass the NCLEX-RN to obtain licensure.

Who is it for?
LPN/LVNs who want to become a registered nurse with a BSN.

Estimated increase in average salary

RN-to-BSN Program

An RN-to-BSN nursing bridge program, also known as a nursing completion program, does not take you to another license level, unlike other bridge programs. Instead, it takes you from an ADN to a BSN and prepares you to earn a master’s or doctoral degree. This is one of the most popular nursing bridge programs, and is available at a range of schools. These programs typically take approximately one year to complete, depending on the pace. Because students will already have their RN licensure, there is no need to complete an additional certification exam.

Who is it for?
RNs with an ADN who want to earn their BSN.

Estimated increase in average salary

RN-to-MSN Program

An RN-to-MSN nursing bridge program prepares graduates to become APRNs, nurse administrators, or other higher-level roles in nursing. With an MSN, you can become a nurse educator, nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, or clinical nurse specialist. These nursing bridge programs can take 1-2 years to complete, depending on the pace. Students should expect to complete a specialty certification exam to obtain their APRN license.

Who is it for?
RNs with an ADN or BSN who want to earn their MSN.

Estimated increase in average salary

BSN-to-DNP Program

The doctor of nursing practice (DNP) is the terminal degree in practical nursing, meaning that it is the highest degree that you can complete. A DNP can prepare you to become a nurse anesthetist, the highest-paid nursing specialty, teach in a college or university, or lead a team or department. A BSN-to-DNP nursing bridge program typically takes four years. Students can expect to complete a specialty certification exam to obtain their APRN license.

Who is it for?
RNs with their BSN who want to earn a DNP.

Estimated increase in average salary

Accelerated BSN (ABSN) Programs

While not technically a nursing bridge program, an accelerated BSN is an excellent option for anyone looking to enter nursing as a second career. Accelerated BSN programs leverage your non-nursing bachelor’s degree towards a BSN in less time compared to a traditional BSN. Programs can take between 12-18 months to complete and students will conclude the program by taking the NCLEX-RN to earn their RN license.

Who is it for?
Individuals who have earned a bachelor’s in a non-nursing field who want to earn a BSN.

Estimated increase in average salary

Careers With a Degree from a Nursing Bridge Program

A nursing bridge program can dramatically increase your earnings and career options. Many nursing bridge programs can also help you advance professionally by increasing your scope of practice.

For example, in many states, APRNs can own and manage their own practices, something that RNs and paramedics are not authorized to do. A nursing bridge program can also help you pursue a higher salary or more autonomy without significantly interrupting your career.

Nursing Careers and Salaries With a Nursing Bridge Program
Bridge ProgramNursing RoleAverage Annual Salary
Paramedic-to-RNRegistered Nurse$76,000
LPN-to-RN ProgramRegistered Nurse$76,000
RN-to-BSN ProgramRegistered Nurse$92,000
RN-to-MSNAdvanced Practice Registered Nurse$102,000
BSN-to-DNPAdvanced Practice Registered Nurse$112,000
Source: Payscale, October 2023

How Do Online Nursing Bridge Programs Work?

Online nursing bridge programs deliver coursework online, either synchronously (all students attend live classes and discussions at the same time) or asynchronously (students view recorded lectures on their own schedules). You must complete your required clinical hours in person. Nursing bridge programs may provide a clinical placement, support for finding one, or require you to arrange your own.

Some online nursing bridge programs may have required on-campus onboarding or lab sessions. These are typically brief, but be sure to find out if your program has any in-person requirements that would be difficult for you to attend.

Frequently Asked Questions About Nursing Bridge Programs

How long does it take to complete a BSN or an MSN bridge program?

The pace of the program and your current degree determine how long it takes to complete a BSN or MSN nursing bridge program. An RN-to-BSN program may take 1-2 years, while an RN-to-MSN program may take 2-3 years.

Is a BSN required for admission to an MSN program?

A BSN is not required for admission to an RN-to-MSN nursing bridge program, though it is required for a traditional MSN program. An RN-to-MSN nursing bridge program allows you to go directly from an ADN to an MSN degree by completing BSN coursework while pursuing your advanced degree.

Can I transfer credit hours from another university into a BSN or an MSN bridge program?

Each nursing bridge program has its own credit transfer policies. But in general, most universities allow you to transfer some credits into a BSN or MSN bridge program. Check with the program you are interested in to see what credits will transfer and if there are any transfer limits.

How many nursing bridge programs are available?

According to the AACN Member Program Directory, there are:

  • 135 LPN-to-BSN programs
  • 670 RN-to-BSN programs
  • 185 RN-to-MSN programs
  • 296 BSN-to-DNP programs

Page last reviewed on October 10, 2023

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