What is a Bridge MSN and Why Should You Consider It?


A bridge MSN, sometimes known as an RN-MSN, is a very popular course. It gives existing nurses a chance to fast-track their careers, increase earning potential, open up new opportunities, and learn a lot more about the healthcare field. But what is a bridge MSN exactly, who is it for, and how could it benefit you? Let’s take a look.

What is a Bridge MSN?

A bridge MSN, or RN-MSN, is a pathway for nurses looking to advance their careers by gaining a Master of Science in Nursing degree (an MSN). It’s a program that gives registered nurses (RN’s) a chance to learn advanced nursing skills, more about healthcare management, and sometimes, more specialist skills in different areas of nursing.

It’s specifically for RN’s who do not hold a bachelor degree in nursing but are looking to progress in their chosen career, giving them a way to pick up their BSN on the way to gaining their master’s degree, instead of taking two separate courses, over a much longer period.

Who is a Bridge MSN For?

A bridge program is for any nurse looking to progress or seeking a new challenge in the workplace. The bridge MSN usually appeals to nurses looking to step up the career ladder, people coming into nursing from other professions, who have previously unused nursing qualifications, and nurses looking to sidestep into a specialty, such as mental health nursing or midwifery.

How Can You Study for a Bridge MSN?

Before applying for an MSN program you’ll usually need to be a registered nurse holding an associate degree, or an equally weighted diploma from an accredited source. You’ll also need references and a current nursing license.

If you have the qualifications that you need, many schools now offer the chance to study for a bridge MSN online, instead of in school. But there’ll still be clinical hours (usually around 200) as well as coursework and exams.

A Chance to Become a Higher-Level Nurse

Perhaps the main reason that people study an RN-MSN is for the chance to be a higher-level nurse. This can have two main advantages.

More Responsibility

First, nurses with higher-level qualifications can take on more responsibility. This could be clinical, or managerial.

Nurses with more qualifications, such as nurse practitioners can treat a variety of patients, and even prescribe medications, which an RN cannot.

This extra responsibility comes with more respect in the workplace, but it also means that your days are more varied and interesting, and your work more fulfilling.

Increased Earning Potential

Of course, becoming a higher-level nurse with greater responsibilities and more demands on your time also means that you’ll have far greater earning potential. A nurse practitioner can earn a lot more than an RN, and specialist nurses even more than that.

The average NP earns between $91,000 and $105,000 a year, and significantly more in some states and specialties.

The Opportunity to Specialize

Being a nurse is incredibly fulfilling. But sometimes we want more. We want to focus our efforts or learn specialist skills.

An RN to MSN can set you on the path to specialization. Instead of becoming a nurse practitioner, with a broad field of interest and skill set, you could go on to be a mental health nurse, midwife, administrative manager, pediatric nurse, oncology nurse, or even run your own practice, among other things.

Specialization can set you apart, help you to find a career that you love, and increase your earning potential even more.

Greater Future Prospects

You might not want to specialize, or even progress right now, but achieving your MSN means that you’ll have greater options in the future.


Holding an MSN means that whenever you are ready, you can look to move into other areas of healthcare, or to further your career as a nurse. The experience that you gain studying and working as an RN would even mean that if you wanted to leave healthcare entirely, you’d have transferable skills and knowledge to give you a head start on a career change.


An MSN can also open the door to further education. You might decide that you want to study for a PhD or other higher education course. You could go back to school and study to be a doctor or a psychiatrist. Continued education means that even if you wanted to enter a totally different area of study, you can prove that you’ve got what it takes to learn, and your application has a much greater chance of being accepted.

You’ll Learn More About Healthcare Management and Research

As an RN, your experience in healthcare management and medical research might be fairly limited. It’s not something that you worry about in your day-to-day job, and you might not have studied these areas while training to be a nurse in the first place.

While studying an RN-MSN bridge course, you’ll learn a lot more about management, administration, and medical research. This knowledge will help you in your role as an NP, or your chosen specialism, and could even give you the knowledge and skills that you need to pursue research or management as a career if you ever wanted to.

You Can Often Learn While You Work

A big problem with training courses, especially time-consuming ones like a master’s degree, is that we can’t afford to take time away from work to study for them. Once you’ve entered the working world, your responsibilities grow, and as much as you’d love to go back to school, for most of us this just isn’t financially viable.

Away from financial concerns, there’s also the worry that it would be hard to get back into work if you took an extended break to study. The good news is many RN-MSN programs make allowances for you to study while you work.

This isn’t true of all institutions, but the growing availability of online and part-time study programs has made it more likely. Check with the schools that you are looking at before you apply.

Reduced Costs

Traditionally, if you wanted to gain a master’s degree in any field, you’d first have to study for and be awarded your bachelor’s degree. This can take years, cost a fortune, and mean delaying your ability to start earning money.

By studying a bridge program like this, you get the chance to qualify for your BSN, while working towards your MSN. You don’t have to waste time doing both courses and paying for two degrees.

It’s a Great Time to Become a Nurse

This is a fantastic time to become a nurse.

Nursing was a popular career for the baby boomer generation. But the advancement of women’s rights and the progression of females in the workplace has meant that nursing hasn’t been as popular a career choice in future generations.

The recent retirement of the boomer generation has meant that this issue has needed to be addressed. There are more openings for new nurses than ever, more establishments are looking to employ senior nurses, specialist nurses, and nurse practitioners. Nurses are being given greater responsibilities, there’s a greater investment in training and development, and healthcare settings are looking after their nurses better than ever.

If you are already an RN, all these positives mean that it’s also a great time to progress. There are more doors open for you than there would have been for previous generations of nurses, and advancements in healthcare are coming thick and fast, giving you an excellent opportunity to become a valued part of the changing face of healthcare.

Careers After a Bridge Program

One of the most common questions nurses ask when looking at a bridge program is, “what can I do with it?” While some nurses study to fulfil a thirst for knowledge, most look to take on a new role within healthcare. Here’s a look at some of the careers that you could peruse after the completion of your bridge program, and the different RN-MSN concentrations you’d need to study to get there.

Nurse Practitioner

The RN-MSN-NP is one of the most popular concentrations within the MSN bridge program. Nurse practitioners are becoming more popular and are more in demand in the workplace. Most family practices now employ at least one NP with the ability to see patients, diagnose illnesses and prescribe treatments.

Nurse Educator

The role of a nurse educator is to prepare the next generation of nurses for work in the field. Nurse educators often work as nurses, as well as training and educating new nurses. In the nurse educator concentration, you’ll learn how to prepare lesson plans, teach courses, and oversee clinical practices and training. Nurse educators can work in clinical settings, but also educational establishments.

Administration or Management

Some students go on to pursue the MSN and a Master of Business Administration at the same time, in a dual degree. This gives them chance to learn more about management, business, and administration, and would be ideal for a future role in healthcare administration or management. This dual program would be ideal for someone who one day hopes to run their own practice.

There are many benefits to a bridge MSN program, but perhaps the greatest is that it gives you options and helps you to find a career that you love.


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