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RN to BSN or RN to MSN: How to Decide which Degree Is Right for You

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), both RN to BSN and RN to MSN bridge programs “help to further your knowledge and provide you with a solid foundation to catapult your nursing career to new heights.” As a prospective student, however, you must choose whether to pursue an RN to BSN program or RN to MSN program.

RN to BSN Programs

For those who graduated with a diploma or an ADN, an RN to BSN program will teach you to develop stronger analytical and clinical reasoning skills, and to build on what you have already learned in your previous programs and academic work. Many hospitals and other medical institutions and facilities now require that the majority of their nurses have, at minimum, a BSN, and the number of these organizations is increasing.

The length of RN to BSN programs varies between one and two years: the type of program, the school’s requirements, your time constraints and your achievement in previous academic settings all determine this time period. RN to BSN programs prepare you for a broader scope of practice, and they focus on economic, social, cultural and political issues that affect patients and their families.

From 2013 to 2014, the number of nurses in RN to BSN programs increased by more than 10 percent for the twelfth year.

RN to MSN Bridge Programs

According to the AACN, an RN to MSN bridge program provides “sophisticated concepts in an accelerated curriculum” that prepares nurses for a variety of nursing career options. These options include nurse educator, administrator, researcher, nurse executive and policy consultant. Completing an RN to MSN bridge program also prepares nurses for certification in specialties such as nurse midwife, clinical specialist, nurse practitioner and nurse anesthetist.

Some prospective students worry that an RN to MSN bridge program will lack baccalaureate content, but the early stages of the programs do include this content.

An RN to MSN bridge program typically takes about three years. This varies from one student to another, depending on time constraints, academic skill and time management. Completing an RN to MSN bridge program can also be a first step toward participation in a doctoral program.

An accelerated RN to MSN bridge program costs less than completing BSN and MSN programs individually.

RN to BSN and RN to MSN programs vary from school to school in several aspects, and it is up to prospective students to choose which program best fits their lives. But either way, completing a degree program creates additional career options and opportunities for the registered nurse.

Learn more about the UT Arlington online nursing degree programs.


American Association of Colleges of Nursing. “Degree completion programs for registered nurses: RN to master’s degree and RN to baccalaureate programs,”

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