LPN To MSN Bridge Programs

female nurseFor LPNs, completing the work necessary to get a Master of Science degree in Nursing can be the ultimate key to both earning power and advanced positions. The job forecast is already promising for LPNs, but adding this degree to their resume gives them more control over their professional and personal future.

Practically speaking, though, there is no such thing as a direct bridge program to go from being an LPN to earning an MSN. For all intents and purposes, nurses wishing to pursue this path must be registered nurses to qualify for an MSN program. In addition, some schools mandate that nurses have a bachelor’s degree, preferably a BSN, to be able to advance and do MSN coursework.

But there are ways to manipulate other LPN bridge programs to get to the MSN goal. One is to take an LPN-to-RN bridge program, or to enroll in an LPN-to-BSN bridge program, then use either of these programs to reach the goal of getting an MSN. The following section examines this option in more detail.

LPN-to-RN Bridge Program

This option is usually a two-year program that allows LPNs to get an associates degree in nursing (ADN), which can be an alternate way to qualify for an RN license. Completing this type of bridge program allows nurses to take the NCLEX-RN and get their RN license.

LPN-to-BSN Bridge Program

This program gives LPNs a slightly better chance to qualify for the MSN because there is more coursework involved that gives them a broader, deeper knowledge base.

Schools tend to look more preferentially at nurses already holding a bachelor’s degree, as do employers. It also provides a better path for specialized nursing work in a specific field, especially when combined with an existing RN license.

Getting the MSN

After completing either of these other two bridge programs, nurses can then go on to enter an MSN bridge program. Expect this program to take 2-3 years to complete, depending on the amount of coursework completed in the initial program.

In addition, a GPA of at least 2.5 is normally required to complete both legs of the LPN-to-MSN bridge program, or a 2.0 (out of a possible 4.0) from previous LPN degree work and other nursing-related education. Schools typically prefer candidates with the higher GPA, but some schools will provisionally admit those with lower grades pending adequate performance in completing coursework.

In addition, most programs require a letter of recommendation and/or character references from a high level source (e.g., a college dean), along with a diploma and transcripts.

Additional information about this process can be found at http://www.licensedpracticalnurse.net/lpn-bridge-programs/lpn-to-msn/


nurse3Much of the coursework required in an MSN bridge program deals with the scientific aspect of nursing, including a more advanced syllabus.

Specializations should be decided at the beginning of the MSN coursework, or shortly thereafter. Possibilities include a family nurse practitioner, pediatric nurses practitioner, nursing entrepreneurship, adult acute care nurse practitioner and adult psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

Other specialties include nursing education, ambulatory care, community health care nursing, nurse midwife and nurse anesthetists.

While there are some variations in coursework depending on the school, an average of 60 graduate -level credit hours is typically required to get the degree. Undergraduate BSN courses are usually completed during the early semesters, and once those requirements have been fulfilled students are able to simultaneously complete both BSN and MSN courses.

In addition, because of the complexity of the coursework and the workload required to earn the degree, most schools and programs offer academic counseling to help meet individual needs, and program experts are usually available to help with this part of the bridge program as well.

One way to shorten the amount of coursework is for nurses to transfer existing credits. In some bridge programs RNs are allowed to transfer up to 60 credits, and others will allow a transfer undergraduate BSN credits based on working experience as an RN.

For foreign candidates who have completed coursework outside the US, transcripts usually must be submitted for evaluation for a service that specializes in this kind of evaluation for the specific school.

All foreign transcripts are normally considered on a course-by-course basis, with slightly different standards applied to undergraduate, graduate and professional work. Letter grades, pass/fail courses and audited and credited courses are also evaluated on an individual basis.

Accreditation and Licensing

Typically, nurses must hold a valid RN license to enter a bridge program leading to an MSN, and some programs mandate that the license be held in the state in which the college or university is located. Some also require RNs to have a year of clinical experience, while others will allow nurses to gain that experience in the program itself.

One universal aspect of the licensing process is passing the NCLEX-RN examination, which is administered by Pearson Vue. A $200 fee is normally required to take the exam, along with an application fee of $50-100, depending on the state. Many states also require a criminal background check that includes fingerprinting to get a license.


In some MSN programs, it may be possible to get educational credit for clinical work, especially if that work is current and ongoing and requires a great deal of knowledge. This possibility varies according to different programs, but its definitely a worthwhile option and should be thoroughly explored by anyone considering this kind of bridge program.

Online Options

One of the advantages of this kind of bridge program is that more schools at the graduate level are open to online coursework, especially during the early stages of the program. Most bridge programs offer evening and weekend classes in addition to online options, and some kind of hybrid coursework combining traditional classes with online offerings.

Examples of bridge classes include Drexel University, Aspen University, Loyola University of New Orleans and Samford University.

A full list of RN-to-MSN options can be found state-by-state at http://www.aacc.nche.edu/Resources/aaccprograms/health/cap/Pages/rn_to_msndegrees.aspx, and other bridge programs can be found by doing an analogous search.

The Accelerated Option

Yet another possibility for those considering this kind of program is the accelerated bridge program.

These programs fast track the educational process, and there are almost 300 accelerated baccalaureate programs and nearly 100 accelerated masters programs available at nursing schools across the country. The number of graduates from these programs is increasing as well, making them an increasingly popular option.

More information about this option can be found at