Ultimate Guide To Getting Your BSN: Bridges, Transfers, Programs, and More

Guide to BSN Degrees

So you’ve decided you want to get your BSN (Bachelors in Nursing). How will you get it? What path will you take? What paths are available? We’ll walk through all the possibilities, whether you’re starting from high school or starting a second career.

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Overview

There are 5 ways that you can end up with that Bachelors Degree in Nursing:

  • LPN to ADN(RN) to BSN
  • ADN(RN) to BSN (skipping the LPN)
  • LPN to BSN (skipping the ADN)
  • Straight to BSN from scratch
  • Bachelor’s Degree in another field to BSN (Second-Degree BSN)

Before We Start…

Do you know why you want to get your BSN? Most people want it because they want to advance their nursing careers, get management positions, or have a specific specialty in mind and want to be more competitive in that job market. These are all very good reasons.

Do you know the disadvantages of getting your BSN? There are a few, the biggest of which are cost and time.

If you’re not sure yet what the differences between all the nursing degrees are, or you’d like to explore advantages and disadvantages of each, you might want to read CNA, LPN, RN, ADN, BSN. Which Nursing Degree is Right for You? first. I’m going to be using the acronyms LPN, ADN, and BSN quite a lot in this article, so it’d be a good idea to freshen your mind if you’re not sure what they are.

Okay! Let’s get started. I’m going to try to be as realistic as possible with these numbers. It’s often hard to tell how long something really takes to complete. Schools and websites often want to paint you a rosy picture, but people often overlook how long prerequisites and transfers really take.

LPN to ADN to BSN

This route is like taking stepping stones toward getting your bachelor’s degree. The upside to this is you can ‘earn while you learn.’ The downside with many transitions is that it takes longer, gives you the chance to quit or get distracted, and also might cost more.

How Long Will It Realistically Take?

  • + 0.5 Years if it’s been a while since you graduated from high school and have no prior college experience. You’ll probably need to spend a semester doing basics like English 101, basic Math, or basic Sciences.
  • + 1.5 Years to get your LPN. This is an average that includes your prerequisites. Most
    LPN programs are about a year long (two semesters), with half a year (one semester) for prerequisites like Anatomy and Physiology.
  • + 0.5 Years to bridge into the ADN program. This is time you’ll be preparing for the NCLEX, getting your application together, and other miscellaneous tasks. While it is possible to immediately bridge into your next program, it oftentimes is delayed. It’s often easy to want to take a break between degrees, get a LPN job, or run into some hiccup. This is just to illustrate the extra effort that is required to bridge between two programs.
  • + 1-2 Years to get your RN. This also depends on your school and how much credit they give you for already completing an LPN program. You will seldom see any bridge program shorter than one year and longer than two.
  • + 0.5 Years to bridge to BSN. At this point, many people decide to get a job as an RN and hold off on the BSN until later. You might feel the need to take a break from school as well (trust me, it’s a pretty strong urge). If not, you’ll still need to bridge over to a new program, match its prerequisites, and other requirements depending on the school.
  • + 1-2 to get your BSN. Finally! You have your BSN. Whether you do it online of on a campus, these programs usually take at least a year.

Total: 4.5 – 7 Years. Seems like a lot, doesn’t it? It is. Bridging programs can be time-consuming, and getting your degrees step by step opens up the temptation to take breaks. If anyone has gone from LPN to ADN to BSN in less than 5 years, share below! I’d really like to know about it. You would definitely be in the minority. The truth is, it’s all too easy for this process to take longer than it needs to.

ADN to BSN

This route skips the LPN program. Instead, you start out getting your RN, then get your BSN.

How Long Will It Realistically Take?

  • + 0.5 Years if it’s been a while since you graduated from high school and have no prior college experience. You’ll probably need to spend a semester doing basics like English 101, basic Math, or basic Sciences.
  • + 1-2 Years to get your RN. Accelerated programs can be as short as a year, while the traditional RN program usually is two years.
  • + 0.5 Years to bridge to BSN. At this point, many people decide to get a job as an RN and hold off on the BSN until later. You might feel the need to take a break from school as well (trust me, it’s a pretty strong urge). If not, you’ll still need to bridge over to a new program, match its prerequisites, and other requirements depending on the school.
  • + 1-2 to get your BSN. Finally! You have your BSN. Whether you do it online of on a campus, these programs usually take at least a year. Accelerated programs may be as short as a year, but most are 2 years.

Total: 3-5 Years. That sounds more reasonable. If you’re really quick and take a lot of accelerated programs, it’s possible (but not probable) to do it in 3 years. Most likely it will take you 4-5 years if you waste no time in transition.

LPN to BSN

This route is similar, but instead of skipping the LPN program, you instead start out getting your LPN, then jump to your BSN (skipping ADN).

Total: 3-5 Years. The result is that it takes about the same amount of time as the previous route. You would just have to join a different program.

Straight to BSN from Scratch (AKA ‘Traditional BSN’)

This is straightforward and simple. You have no prior degree, and you go to a four-year university to get your BSN degree. This is common for those graduating from high school or those who haven’t started any college yet.

Most of these programs take place at 4-year Universities. It’s really divided into two steps: you first get your Associate’s Degree (AKA ‘General education’ or ‘Undergraduate’s Degree’), then apply into their nursing program. You don’t always have to do your general education at the University. Many people opt to do that at a community college, which saves money, then transfer to a university nursing program.

How Long Will It Realistically Take?

  • + 2 Years to get your undergraduate degree.
  • + 2 Years to complete the nursing program.

Total: 4 Years. Pretty simple, because there are no true transfers. You can probably speed this up by either graduating high school with college credits (speeding up your undergraduate degree) or taking an accelerated BSN program. There are programs out there that will give you your BSN in about a year and a half.

Bachelor’s Degree in another field to BSN (Second-Degree BSN)

It’s really common for people to want to switch careers into nursing, but still want to leverage previous degrees they’ve earned. The good news is: you can!

However, most schools will want you to complete health/biology-related prerequisites before you even enter the program.

How Long Will It Realistically Take?

  • + 0.5 Years to complete prerequisites. Typically, these might include Anatomy, Physiology, Microbiology, and Statistics.
  • + 1.5 – 2 Years to get your BSN.

Total: 2.5 Years. Your previous bachelor’s degree pretty much transfers its undergraduate credits, and all that’s left is to complete the core nursing classes. The downside is that most programs will want you to take quite a few prerequisites before letting you into the second-degree program.

Conclusion

There you have it. That should cover about 95% of the routes people take to end up with a Bachelors in Nursing! If you took or heard of a different route, comment below, and I’ll update the post to reflect it.

As an added note, I’ve not discussed the financial costs of these different routes in this post. If you’d like me to update each route with a rough cost estimate, leave a comment below and I’ll get right on it. I understand that time and cost are two of the biggest factors when planning your education. This post, Nursing School: Community College or University?, is a good resource too.

As always, feel free to ask questions. I answer every comment!

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