Registered Nurses who are interested in earning their Master of Science in Nursing but who have not yet earned a BSN degree may be interested in learning about non-traditional RN to MSN degree programs. While it’s ideal for a nursing professional to complete their undergraduate education as a Nursing major, not all students take this path. It’s not unusual for a student to major in one field and then decides, after all of their studies, to pursue their RN license. This is why there are bridging programs referred to as RN-to-MSN programs.

Not everyone is a good fit for the bridging programs being offered for RNs who would like to pursue their MSN degree. It’s important that prospective graduate students do their research before applying to the wrong graduate schools. Here’s advice on who should enroll in a bridged master’s degree program for Registered Nurses:

The Path Taken to Become an RN

Registered Nurses can pursue all types of different positions without first earning their Master’s degree. Having the license itself qualifies professionals to apply for general RN jobs in a variety of healthcare settings. Just because someone has a license doesn’t mean that they necessarily have earned their Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Applicants are eligible to sit for an NCLEX-RN licensing exam if they have only an Associate’s Degree in Nursing earned at a career-focused college. They may have a Bachelor’s degree in another field, but at a minimum, applicants who want to become an RN must have completed a 21-month ADN program. When RNs decide to go this route, it can create challenges if they would like to pursue an advanced career in nursing later down the line.

Ranking: Top 50 Affordable RN to MSN Online Programs

Pursuing a Career That Requires an MSN

For current RNs who possess an Associate’s of Nursing Degree or a Bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field, it’s important to assess educational attainment options before jumping to earn a graduate degree. While having a Master’s can certainly propel someone career advancement, it’s not always a must in nursing. There are, however, roles where an MSN isn’t just suggested, it is required. Here are some roles when pursuing an MSN is mandatory:

  • Certified Nurse Anesthetist
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Certified Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Educator
  • Nurse Practitioner

Which Path is Best?

There are a few ways that RNs who don’t currently have a BSN can go about earning their MSN. The first option is for applicants with an Associate’s in Nursing to apply for the ADN-to-BSN program. These programs typically only last for 12 months and are designed for RNs who decided not to earn their BSN from the start. Once they hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, they are eligible to enroll in a traditional MSN degree program.

Another option would be for RNs to enter into an RN to MSN program that offers curriculum for students who want to go straight from their ADN to an MSN without taking the BSN pitstop. Typically, these programs take 3 years to complete but they cover all of the curricula that would have been missed in the BSN program within the first year. The remaining 2 years of studies are spent on graduate curriculum.

There are many different paths that nursing professionals can take to advance their education if they didn’t choose the traditional route to earning their degree. Anyone who is an RN but who didn’t earn their BSN initially should consider the costs and benefits of completing an RN-to-MSN program to earn their Master of Science in Nursing degree.