ADN to BSN Information Guide

An ADN is an associate’s degree in nursing. A BSN is a bachelor’s degree in nursing. When you put the two together, the result is a unique program of study known as the ADN to BSN. ADN to BSN programs are also called “bridge” or “fast-track” programs. A bridge and/or fast-track designation refers to a higher education program designed to help students obtain additional certification at a faster rate, allowing existing nurses to enhance their qualifications in about two years. Another benefit is the flexibility and versatility these programs often provide. Students can take classes online, either full-time or part-time.

Top Online ADN to BSN Schools

Nurses with associate's degrees in nursing (ADN) looking to advance their careers and earn higher salaries can often find opportunities to do so by going back to school for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Our featured school, The College Network, is one of the few schools offering an accredited online ADN to BSN program.

Featured Program

The College Network >> The College Network makes Back to School easier with 30 FREE credits for nurses with their active RN license. RN (ADN) nurses can earn their BSN degree in half the time and cost of traditional programs with Local Clinicals and No Waiting List from one of our NLNAC/CCNE accredited partner universities. LPN to RN/BSN, Diploma RN to BSN, RN to MSN, and MSN in education or management programs are also available.

For even more ADN to BSN degrees, click here...

What is an ADN to BSN program?

Nurses, or RNs, who have already obtained an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) and who wish to continue their nursing education can go back to school for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.

A two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN) is the most common initial nursing education. It’s a two-year college degree, although many ADN programs have many prerequisite and co-requisite courses that ultimately stretch out the degree acquiring process to about 3 years or greater.

Bachelor of science in nursing degrees are usually a four-year degree that automatically prepare nurses for graduate-level education, as BSN’s are an academic degree that focus on research and nursing theory rather than practical job training. Through an ADN to BSN program, a registered nurse with an associate’s degree can receive a BSN in a shorter amount of time, or receive one while continuing to work as a registered nurse.

ADN to BSN programs are designed for registered nurses who have already obtained an ADN and who want to advance in their careers and receive a higher income by going back to school for a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. Students who are a good fit for an ADN to BSN program are those who wish to develop stronger clinical reasoning and analytical skills to advance their careers. RN to BSN programs build on initial nursing preparation with course work to enhance professional development, prepare for a broader scope of practice, and provide a better understanding of the cultural, political, economic, and social issues that affect patients and influence care delivery. Completion of a BSN degree is the gateway to graduate-level education as well as advanced practice nursing roles. Most hospitals prefer students who have a BSN degree to an ADN degree. BSN nurses are eligible for higher positions and earn higher salaries. A survey in 2006 showed that BSN certified nurses were at higher managerial positions and earned a mean salary of $75,017 while ADN certified nurses had an income of $70,804.

ADN to BSN programs are usually flexible, with part-time or full-time enrollment, so you can accommodate your working nurse schedule while obtaining a BSN degree. Sometimes graduate coursework may be taken in the final semester of the ADN-BSN program and reserved for a graduate degree. If you are an RN looking to complete your bachelor’s, you should contact several Universities of interest to learn more about your choices, as there are many different RN to BSN online options. It would be wise for you to not limit yourself to only one or two programs, but to consider many programs while gathering information. Below are common bridge programs in nursing:

What are the prerequisites for admittance to an ADN to BSN program?

Every university has their own unique AND to BSN program with different prerequisites for admittance, therefore it’s extremely important to contact the individual universities you’re intending to apply to in order to find out the classes you need ahead of time. Typically though, an ADN-BSN program has a minimum of around 54 prerequisite credit hours, around 35 credit-by-exam credit hours or field of study transfer credit, and around 33 upper-division credit hours. Prerequisites can be taken at a university or community college. They can also be taken through correspondence, extension, or distance education with prior approval. Credit-by-exam and transfer credit are also usually available for previous nursing coursework. There are accelerated BSN programs, which complete in about 18 to 21 months. These programs though require you to have a large number of previous credits, a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and are highly competitive.

In general, nursing prerequisite courses include:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Mathematics
  • Microbiology
  • Nutrition
  • Pharmacology
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology

Usually there are a liberal arts component of prerequisite courses, which may include the following classes:

  • English
  • Government
  • History
  • Psychology
  • Growth and Development
  • Statistics
  • Fine Arts/Humanities
  • Foreign Language

Upper-division prerequisite nursing classes may include, but are not limited to:

  • Ethics of Health Care
  • Women’s Reproductive Health
  • Genetics
  • Global Health
  • Leadership and Management
  • Nursing Research
  • Public Health Nursing
  • Specialized topics in Nursing

Although each school is different, a number of the ADN to BSN prerequisites are common to many ADN programs. These prerequisites may be transferred into the school through the completion of Advanced Placement (AP) or College Level Examination Placement (CLEP) tests. Up to 21 prerequisite credit hours can be earned by having satisfactory scores on the AP or CLEP exams.

Additionally, there are often credit-by-exam courses. This is where credit for previous enrollment in nursing courses can be earned through the National League of Nursing (NLN) Acceleration Challenge Examinations (ACE II), otherwise known as Mobility Exams. Usually up to 35 credit hours can be earned through having satisfactory scores on the NLN Mobility Exams.

How to choose which ADN to BSN program is right for you?

The best way to find out if an online ADN-BSN program will meet your goal is to simply contact the schools you’re interested in to find out what they offer. Many programs will have similarities, but there will also be differences, which is why it’s important to contact the institutions you’re interested in so you can compare the programs details. There are many factors that will possibly be important to you:

  • How much the program costs
  • If you’ll be in need of financial aid
  • How long the program will take you
  • How many classes you will need to complete
  • When you need to go/have those classes
  • How much flexibility is involved with the coursework
  • Whether it’s a progressive or traditional program
  • What your short-term and long-term career goals are

Online courses may include a fast track plan that will allow you to earn your BSN in less than two years. Web based courses typically also have more flexibility built in as opposed to campus course work and classes. No one can determine the right program for you other than yourself. Consider talking with other students or graduates of different online programs to find out what to expect and what the difference may be between your choices.

Are there grants or loans available for an ADN to BSN program?

Through the U.S. government there is a Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program for eligible (US national, citizen, or licensed nurse or nurse anesthetist, who works or worked as a health care professional, is currently employed (full-time) and has student loan debt) students. This program is to assist in the recruitment and retention of professional nurses wanting to provide health care to underserved populations. This program provides nurses with substantial assistance to repay educational loans in exchange for service in eligible facilities, which are usually areas very short on nurses. There are different levels of qualification for the Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program: For two years of service they will pay 60% of total qualifying loan balance; For three years of service they will pay 85% of total qualifying loan balance. If a person working two years decides to continue their contract into a third year, the Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program will pay an additional 25% of the qualifying loan balance.

Other Financial Aid Resources for Nursing Education

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has a website with numerous offerings of grants, scholarships, and loans that are granted to ADN students going back to school for their BSN degree. A few possibilities include:

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