ADN to MSN Bridge Programs

Registered nurses with associate degrees who wish to advance into leadership roles can complete ADN-to-MSN bridge programs. Learn more about these programs in this article.
Take your nursing career to new heights with an ADN-to-MSN program.

If you became a registered nurse by earning your associate degree in nursing, or ADN, you may be ready to progress more in your career. Many nurses with ADNs go on to earn their bachelor’s degrees through bridge programs. Those who plan to eventually move into leadership roles or to become nurse practitioners, however, must earn their master's degrees. While you can certainly earn your BSN first and your master of science in nursing, or MSN, later, the right bridge program lets you kill two birds with one stone so that you can finish your studies faster. Learn more about ADN to MSN bridge programs, including how they work and general requirements, by reading on below.

What Are ADN-to-MSN Bridge Programs?

As you may have guessed from the name, an ADN to MSN bridge program bridges the gap in knowledge between what is required to earn an associate degree in nursing and what is required to earn a master of science in nursing. Such programs take your prior education and work experiences into consideration, and such experiences often translate into credits that can be applied toward your advanced degree. Such programs typically take 60 to 70 credit hours to complete. Those who enroll on a full-time basis usually finish within four years while those who enroll on a part-time basis usually finish in four to six years.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for most ADN to MSN bridge programs are very strict. Space is usually very limited. First, you need to have earned an associate degree in nursing from an accredited school. You must be able to demonstrate that you maintained a strong academic record during that time. Most programs require incoming students to have at least one year of clinical, or work, experience. You can expect to sit for an interview and to provide at least three letters of recommendation.

Prerequisites for ADN-to-MSN Bridge Programs

In most cases, the prerequisite courses that must be completed before enrolling in an ADN to MSN bridge program are virtually identical to the ones that you completed to qualify for your ADN training program, so basically you are already all set. However, contact any program that you are considering early on to make sure. If you are missing one or more required courses, you will have to complete them before you are considered for admission.

Clinical Specialties

An important part of completing an ADN to MSN bridge program is selecting your area of specialty. Near the start of your training, you will have to declare your area of clinical focus. MSN degree programs are most popularly completed by nurses who want to become nurse practitioners. There are many sub-specializations within the nurse practitioner field, including psychiatry, women's health, primary care, and family. Many MSN programs also allow you to focus on health policy, administration, nursing education, and other specializations. The area of focus that you choose will determine which courses you must complete later.


During the initial phase of your ADN to MSN bridge program, you will complete a number of bridge courses that are designed to bring you up to the bachelor’s degree level. During this phase, you can expect to complete a variety of courses, including communication, nursing theory, statistics, community health, and leadership.

Once those are out of the way, you will progress into completing courses that focus on your area of specialization. For example, if you choose a nurse practitioner psychiatry specialization, you can expect to complete courses such as neurobiology, theory of personality, group dynamics, and more.

Tips for Choosing the Right ADN-to-MSN Bridge Program

When looking for an ADN to MSN bridge program, the first step is to decide whether to do it online or on campus. The former is advantageous because it gives you a lot more flexibility. Many schools offer accelerated online bridge programs that allow you to complete the work in as little as three years.

Another factor to keep in mind concerns accreditation. It is crucial to choose a program that is accredited by an official accreditation body. Specifically, stick with programs that are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, or CCNE, the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, or ACEN, or both.


Progressing from an associate degree in nursing to a master of science in nursing sounds pretty overwhelming. However, before studying for your master’s degree, you will be completing your BSN through ADN to BSN bridge program in a relatively shorter time. While they still take anywhere from three to six years to complete, ADN to MSN bridge programs are faster, easier ways to make a huge leap forward in your career. Whether completed online or on campus, these programs can make a huge difference.

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