RN to MSN Bridge Programs
An associate degree or diploma in nursing is the credential that can launch your nursing career. If you’re currently an associate-level nurse, however, you may be ready to advance your skills and earn a degree that can propel your career even further. RN to MSN bridge programs are special, accelerated degrees that can help you earn a graduate degree at an accelerated pace.
How Does an RN to MSN Program Work?
RN to MSN programs are designed for associate-level nurses with professional experience. They usually require one year of professional work; some programs allow students to submit an essay on nursing topics in lieu of this experience. Bridge programs also generally require that nurses transfer in 60 credits of general education and nursing work. Applicants are required to have completed foundational courses in physical sciences, math, social sciences, and humanities.
After meeting the prerequisite requirements and enrolling, students take a short number of credits of bachelor’s degree bridge work; this is generally between 15 and 25 credit hours. Students are often required to maintain a GPA of 2.5 or 3.0 during this bachelor’s work in order to advance to the master’s portion of the program.
After successfully finishing the bridge program, students then begin the master’s-level coursework. The master’s portion of the degree generally takes two to three years to complete. Students begin by taking general advanced courses, such as health assessment, professional practice, and community health. Many programs require students to focus in a particular specialty area after completing these general classes. Many specializations are available, such as acute care, gerontology, emergency care, women’s health, or midwifery.
Is a Bridge Program Right for Me?
Consider the following issues when deciding if the bridge program could be a good move for your career:
- Do I have the experience? Do you feel grounded enough in regular nursing skills to move on to advanced topics? Do you understand the difference between regular and advanced nursing care?
- Do I have the drive? Bridge programs are intensive and demanding. You’ll be pushed to complete coursework in a rapid time frame with a high level of academic achievement.
- Do I know what professional area I want to enter? Most RN to MSN bridge programs are clinical degrees that prepare nurses for advanced practice. Applicants should feel strongly about the advanced practice area they want to work in before they apply.
- Do I have the time? If you’re continuing to work while you attend school part time, you’ll need to work hard to meet all the obligations in your life. Many programs discourage students from working while enrolled in the degree.
Why Should I Earn a Master’s Degree Through a Bridge Program?
A master’s degree is a lot of work. So why go through the pains of completing a bridge program?
- Career Advancement: Nurses with master’s degrees may move into nursing management or supervisory roles. Depending on the type of nursing specialization you complete, you may be able to run your own practice. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be high demand for advance practice nurses in coming years.
- Better Pay: Nurses with advanced degrees earn more money.
- More Autonomy: Advanced practice nurses have more autonomy in the way they can treat patients and the type of care they’re allowed to provide. In many states, clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners provide primary care that blends the skills of nursing and medicine.
- Specialization: If your passion is in a particular clinical area, you’ll need an advanced credential before you can specialize and follow your passion.
- Stronger Skills: An MSN degree will help you advance your skills in patient assessment and clinical care.
- ^Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Accessed February 20, 2013. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm#tab-6