Best Online LPN-to-RN Bridge Programs
LPN to RN bridge programs prepare licensed practice nurses (LPNs) for careers as registered nurses (RNs). Find out what online LPN to RN programs consist of, how long they take, and what to expect after graduation.
Top Online LPN-RN Bridge Programs
Factors such as cost, program length, flexibility and residency requirements should be considered when selecting the best online LPN to RN bridge programs. Discussed below are 5 of the top schools that offer programs online.
1. Indiana State University
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)||% Receiving Financial Aid||NCLEX Pass Rate (2018)|
|Terre Haute, IN||$9,090||93%||89.3%|
Indiana State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), and its nursing program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). The online LPN/LVN to BSN program is open to licensed practical and vocational nurses and prepares students for licensure as registered nurses. The program consists of 76 to 77 credit hours, which are composed of online coursework and practicum experiences near students. Students can also transfer in previous credit hours that apply to the program.
2. North Dakota State University-Main Campus
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)||% Receiving Financial Aid||NCLEX Pass Rate (2017)|
North Dakota State University offers a primarily online LPN to BSN program that is open to LPNs and LVNs who have an associate's degree, certificate or diploma in nursing. The 2-year program consists of 120 credit hours and allows students to transfer in 40 to 60 credits of their prior coursework. Students complete clinical requirements near the areas of Fargo and Moorhead and attend occasional on-campus learning sessions. The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and its LPN to BSN program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
3. Kent State University at Kent
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)||% Receiving Financial Aid||NCLEX Pass Rate (Average)|
Kent State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and the nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The LPN to BSN program is divided into two parts, segments 1 and 2, and enables students to complete clinical requirements at various locations in Ohio. Segment 1 takes around 2 years and consists of foundational and introductory nursing courses that are mostly available online. Segment 2 takes 15 to 18 months and consists of major nursing courses offered as weekend and other cohorts.
4. University of Arkansas
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)||% Receiving Financial Aid||NCLEX Pass Rate|
The University of Arkansas offers a fully online LPN to BSN program that allows students to complete their clinical practice hours at sites that are in their geographic areas. Students can complete the program in 2 to 3 years through 8-week didactic courses and 16-week practicum classes. The total program consists of 120 credit hours, but students may be able to waive a number of credits depending on student prerequisites. The school has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission since 1924, and its nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
5. Western Kentucky University
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)||% Receiving Financial Aid||NCLEX Pass Rate (2018)|
|Bowling Green, KY||$10,512||96%||90% (ADN program)|
Western Kentucky University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and offers nursing programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The school's LPN to ASN program can be completed mostly online in three semesters, with on-site meetings held once per week. The program runs in a cohort, meaning that students take the specific courses offered each semester in order.
Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions. All table data is provided by the National Center for Education Statistics.
Benefits of Online LPN to RN Programs
There are many benefits to completing an LPN to RN program, including obtaining licensure and practice as a registered nurse rather than a practical or vocational nurse. Other benefits are listed below.
Licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses work under the supervision of registered nurses, completing basic medical care services and tasks. These duties include updating patient records, changing bandages and checking blood pressure. Registered nurses, on the other hand, work directly with physicians and other providers to give services to patients. RN duties can include administering treatments and medications, operating medical equipment and providing patient education.
LPNs and LVNs had a median annual salary of $46,420 in 2018 while RNs earned $71,730 that same year. The highest earnings of both nurse categories in 2018 were for those working in government: LPNs/LVNs made a median of $48,050 and RNs working in government made $78,390. Completing an LPN to RN bridge program could potentially pay for itself within the first year.
Better Job Outlook
LPNs and LVNs are expected to see an 11% increase in jobs from 2018 to 2028 as the need for healthcare providers continues to increase. Job opportunities for LPNs/LVNs are expected to grow the most in medically-underserved and rural areas. Registered nurses are expected to see a slightly higher job growth of 12% between the same decade. RN positions are expected to grow most in outpatient centers, rehabilitation providers and other physicians' offices.
How to Choose an Online LPN to RN Bridge Program
When reviewing schools for an online LPN to RN bridge program, there are several factors that you should consider and compare.
All LPN to RN programs require clinical practice hours, and some also require on-campus learning. Programs that only require students to attend clinical practice (with all coursework online) may require students to complete those hours at pre-approved locations near the school or at locations near the students. It's imperative to ask your school about its required residency components, and if those can be completed in your geographic area.
The cost of an online LPN to RN bridge program varies by school and student. Most schools separate costs into tuition and other fees, but some schools combine these costs into one flat rate. Ask your schools about all applicable costs associated with your program choices.
Depending on your schedule, you may specifically need a part-time or full-time option. While some schools allow students to take courses at their desired pace, many schools offer programs as only part-time or full-time, with some programs running in a cohort (meaning you progress through the program in a group).
You should look for both institutional accreditation and programmatic accreditation. One is necessary for financial aid and the other may be required in order for you to qualify for licensure as a registered nurse. See the accreditation section below for more information.
Overview of Online LPN to RN Programs
Online LPN to RN programs typically lead to either an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree. These programs consist of online coursework with clinical practice hours completed at school-approved facilities. Some programs require students to attend campus-learning sessions as little as once per program or as frequently as once per week.
LPN to RN programs require students to have a valid LPN or LVN license. Students typically need to have a specific GPA from their LPN/LVN coursework, such as 2.75 or 3.0, and may also need to have a certain amount of work experience (such as 1 year). Because of the nature of the clinical practicum, students may also need to submit a background check as well as immunization records as part of their application and admission process.
The length of an online LPN/LVN to RN program depends on the course load that students take as well as the degree that they are working toward. Students pursuing an LPN to RN associate's degree program can usually finish in 1.5 years of full-time study while students in a bachelor's LPN to RN program often finish in around 3 years of full-time study. Students may be able to decrease their program length if they have additional course credits or significant work experience.
The courses in online LPN to RN programs can vary, but typically include several of the courses that are listed below.
- Leadership in Nursing - explores leadership roles in nursing and key characteristics needed to effectively lead and improve healthcare.
- Adult Health - provides an overview of common illnesses and treatments for adult and aging patients as well as approaches to health promotion.
- Pharmacology - students learn the major classes of pharmaceuticals as well as their uses, limitations and regulations.
- Children's Health - explores development and health of children, as well as age-specific illnesses and approaches to care.
- Community Health - provides an overview of practices and policies for nurses serving diverse groups of patients in health care.
- Healthcare Policy - students learn the policies that affect nursing practice as well as the history and structure of the healthcare system.
- Human Development - explores characteristics and principles of human development through life cycles with consideration of patient characteristics and lifestyle.
Clinical Practice Requirements
Online LPN to RN programs require students to complete clinical practice hours. These hours may be included in several courses, occurring each semester through the LPN to RN program, or they may be featured specifically as clinical courses. Although the specific number of hours vary by program and student experience, students may be required to complete around 250 hours of practice. These hours consist of supervised practice of learned objectives, working with various populations in different healthcare settings. Some schools allow students to complete their hours in a school-approved location near them, sometimes at their current place of employment, and other schools require students to complete their clinical practice hours at pre-approved sites near the school.
Why Accreditation Matters for Online LPN to RN Programs
Online LPN to RN students typically need to attend an accredited institution and graduate from an accredited program. Attending an accredited institution is mandatory for qualifying for financial aid, and also shows that a school meets specific third-party quality criteria. Graduating from a program with supplemental, programmatic, accreditation is often preferred or required in order to qualify for RN licensure.
Online LPN to RN Programs: Cost and Aid
The cost of an online LPN to RN program depends on specific school and program fees as well as the student. There are also a large variety of financial aid options available to defray costs.
The main cost in online LPN to RN programs is tuition, which can vary from $200 per credit hour to $1,000 or more. Most schools offer a discounted tuition rate for in-state students, and some schools include other applicable costs in the tuition rate (reflected as a flat-rate cost). In general, students will have a tuition fee per credit hour or per semester as well as several other fees, such as course fees and technology fees. Students should also consider out-of-pocket program costs that include maintaining internet access and acquiring a personal computer (when necessary).
Online LPN to RN students are eligible for several types of financial aid including student loans, work study programs and scholarships. Students should first fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which shows several types of financial aid that they can qualify for.
- Student Loans: Student loans can be obtained through private or government lenders, although government loans offer better interest rates and repayment plans. Students who pursue qualifying careers (such as work in public service) may qualify for federal loan forgiveness. In addition, some employers offer loan repayment incentives to new and qualifying current employees.
- Work Study: Work study programs allow students to earn all or part of their program costs by working part time while in school. Work study programs are offered by many employers and schools, and may enable students to work in a field that is applicable to their program.
- Scholarships: There are a multitude of scholarships available to students based on various factors, including program, ethnicity and academic performance. Some scholarships available specifically to nursing students are:
- Hurst Reviews/AACN Nursing Scholarship - $2,500 awarded twice per year to students in professional nursing programs.
- Geraldine 'Polly' Bednash Scholarship - $5,000 is awarded four times per year to students enrolled in baccalaureate or graduate nursing programs.
- Nurses Educational Funds Scholarship - 22 scholarships of varying amounts are available to students in qualifying accredited nursing programs.
- National Student Nurses' Association Scholarship - Over $330,000 is awarded each year to students enrolled in their first nursing degree program.
- Greta James Memorial Scholarship - $500 is awarded to four nursing students who are selected by nursing peers after answering two essay questions.
What to Expect After Graduating from an Online LPN to RN Program
Upon graduation, you should possess the necessary skills to provide adaptive and quality patient care in a variety of settings. You will have the understanding of what characteristics create strong leadership and collaborative abilities. If your program meets state criteria, you can apply to take your state's NCLEX-RN.
Depending on your employer, you may also need to obtain supplemental certification in areas such as basic life support and CPR. Also, it can be beneficial for nurses to obtain supplemental certification in one or more specific areas to show their expertise.
Registered Nurses: Salary and Outlook
Graduates of LPN to RN programs who have passed their NCLEX exam can work as registered nurses in various settings. Those working in some settings (such as hospitals) may need to have earned a bachelor's degree rather than an associate's degree. Registered nurses may choose to work with specific groups of patients in fields such as addiction, neonatology and pediatrics. Registered nurses had a median annual salary of $71,730 in 2018, and the field is expected to grow by 12% from 2018 to 2028.
Career Advancement for Registered Nurses
Registered nurses may choose to pursue roles in academia, advanced practice or administration. Nurses who have qualifying experience can become medical and health services managers. Nurses who return to school and earn a master's degree can pursue advanced practice nursing positions, such as nurse practitioner, or roles as postsecondary teachers.
|Job Title||Median Annual Salary (2018)||Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)|
|Medical and Health Services Managers||$99,730||18%|
|Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners||$113,930||26%|
Salary and outlook data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Professional Resources for Registered Nurses
There are a variety of resources and organizations available to registered nurses, several of which are listed below.
- American Psychiatric Nurses Association - APNA has over 11,000 members and provides various resources and networking opportunities to members, with a focus on mental healthcare services.
- National Student Nurses' Association - NSNA promotes the success of nursing students, offering mentorship and development to over 60,000 members.
- National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners - This organization, known as NAPNAP, promotes the healthcare quality for pediatric patients and has over 9,000 members.
- Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association - This group focuses on the healthcare of adult and aging populations, and has more than 3,700 members.