Hero Image The Top 25 Affordable Online RN-to-BSN Programs of 2021

The Top 25 Affordable Online RN-to-BSN Programs of 2021

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Affordable Online RN-to-BSN Programs

All states require nurses to pass a licensure exam either as a registered nurse (RN) or a licensed practical nurse (LPN) to practice. This guide focuses on the RN role, specifically the academic requirements to earn the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree.

Many RNs begin their nursing careers after completing a two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN). The National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) accepts ADN- and BSN-trained test applicants.

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Schools typically develop RN-to-BSN programs to meet the academic and training needs of ADN-trained RNs and graduates of non-nursing bachelor’s programs who wish to transition to a nursing career. Most RN-to-BSN enrollees graduate from the program after 18-24 months. The precise length of time required to complete the program depends on various factors, including learners’ enrollment status, online or onsite delivery, and students’ academic background.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), BSN-trained RNs earned a median salary of $73,300 in 2019. In addition, the BLS projects a faster-than-average 7% growth rate for RNs from 2019 to 2029. Nurses who complete an RN-to-BSN program enter a professional arena with plenty of financial and professional opportunities.

What Can I Do With a BSN Degree?

Most ADN programs prepare graduates to sit for the NCLEX-RN. They focus on nursing skill acquisition and typically offer classes with direct practice applications. A BSN program also prepares graduates for the NCLEX-RN and includes practiced-focused coursework. However, a BSN program often provides a broader educational perspective by offering interdisciplinary classes, leadership courses, and research opportunities. Most BSN programs prepare graduates for nursing practice as well as postgraduate study.

As the complexity of the U.S. healthcare system continues to increase, nurses enjoy an expanded role in direct patient care and the delivery of services in a variety of medical settings. Additionally, as healthcare increasingly emphasizes preventive and primary care, nurses need well-developed assessment and diagnostic skills. A well-crafted BSN program enables students to develop these critical skills in today’s healthcare environment.

Accreditation for a RN-to-BSN Degree

Many postsecondary institutions in the United States regularly complete a voluntary accreditation process in which a recognized accreditor evaluates the quality and rigor of their academic programs. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) act as overseers of the accreditation process.

Most nonprofit, degree-centered schools seek regional accreditation, while for-profit vocational and sectarian institutions often seek national accreditation. Regional accrediting bodies often adhere to more rigorous criteria. However, ED and CHEA recognize the validity of both types of accreditation, assuring students of the quality of their education.

Some accrediting bodies evaluate specific programs rather than entire institutions. In the nursing field, ED and CHEA recognize the authority of two accreditors: the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.


Question Answer
How long does it take to go from RN to BSN? Most RN-to-BSN programs take 18-24 months to complete. However, several factors affect the length of time it takes to complete an RN-to-BSN program, including enrollment status, program delivery mode, and course availability.
What classes are needed to go from RN-to-BSN? RN-to-BSN curriculums vary among schools. However, many include classes in leadership, research and writing, and interdisciplinary electives from fields like psychology and sociology.
What is the yearly salary for an RN? According to the BLS, BSN-trained RNs earned a median annual salary of $73,000 in 2019.
What does a BSN allow you to do? A BSN typically qualifies degree-holders for leadership positions that often come with an increased salary. Most postgraduate nursing programs also require the degree.

What Are the Requirements for a RN-to-BSN Degree?

Eligible applicants for an RN-to-BSN program hold a valid and unencumbered RN license. Many programs also require the completion of general education courses and prerequisite coursework in microbiology, anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and introductory statistics. Eligible applicants with an ADN or a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field hold their degree from an accredited institution.

Graduation requirements vary among schools. However, most RN-to-BSN programs require degree candidates to complete a capstone project or pass a comprehensive exam. Schools also often require enrollees to maintain a minimum GPA throughout the RN-to-BSN program.

Courses in a RN-to-BSN Program

Courses for RN-to-BSN programs cover a variety of subjects. Each school follows a curriculum that supports specific academic goals. In addition, programs that offer concentrations often include specialized classes that other schools do not typically offer.

Most RN-to-BSN programs offer similar foundation classes that give students the chance to develop the skills and knowledge needed to begin their nursing practice. See below for five common classes in RN-to-BSN programs.

  • Issues and Trends in Nursing

    Enrollees examine several factors that impact the quality and delivery of health services in the United States, including current legislation, technology, and various socioeconomic aspects. Based on their workplace experiences, students explore possible solutions to challenges such as the nursing shortage, diversity in the field, and financing. Often among the first required courses in an RN-to-BSN program, this class gives enrollees broad insight into the nursing profession.

  • Information Management and Patient Care Technology

    Students learn how to use technology to enhance nursing practice not only in terms of direct patient care, but also in collecting, storing, and managing patient information. Learners also examine legal and ethical issues concerning patient confidentiality. The course teaches enrollees how to implement system safeguards and effective administrative techniques to promote patient safety and improve the quality of care.

  • Evidence-Based Practice

    Students learn how to use evidence in the clinical decision-making process to create and maintain a safe healthcare environment. The course familiarizes students with clinical guidelines to help them enhance the quality and delivery of health services and identify improvement areas. The course teaches students how to apply and synthesize various quality-enhancing concepts to promote positive changes in nursing practice in a variety of healthcare settings.

  • Advanced Physiology and Pathophysiology

    Enrollees study the body’s different systems, including the pulmonary, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular systems. Learners begin by studying common diseases and conditions often seen in primary care. The course familiarizes students with advanced pathophysiological concepts. They study system interactions and learn what causes diseases and how to mitigate, prevent, and reverse their impact on the human body.

  • Health Assessment

    Students learn basic skills such as gathering patient data, constructing an accurate health history, and developing an effective remediation plan. Enrollees develop their interviewing and observational skills to elicit relevant information from patients. They also become familiar with assessment tools and techniques that help them gather, manage, and correlate several data points with the view toward making accurate and timely health assessments.

Certifications and Licensure for RN-to-BSN Students

All states require nurses to earn licensure before practicing. Certification indicates that the holder possesses specialized skills or knowledge in a specific nursing field. Certain nursing fields prefer candidates to earn certification in their specific practice arena. See below for three certifications nurses can pursue.

AIDS Certified Registered Nurse

The HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board administers the ACRN credential for RNs with at least two years of clinical experience in the HIV/AIDS nursing field. Before sitting for the exam, applicants first secure the board’s approval of their testing eligibility. The computer-based test consists of 250 multiple-choice questions covering topics such as epidemiology and prevention, ethical and legal issues, and psychosocial factors. The ACRN credential requires renewal every four years.

Certified Pediatric Nurse

The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board administers the CPN credential. Applicants need a minimum of 1,800 clinical hours in the pediatric nursing field completed within two years of applying for certification. The board also accepts applications from nurses with 3,000 hours of pediatric experience within five years from the date of application (with 1,000 hours completed within two years of applying for the exam). The test consists of 175 multiple-choice questions and requires renewal every four years.

Oncology Certified Nurse

Eligible applicants must have completed at least 2,000 hours in the adult oncology nursing practice field within four years of applying for certification. Eligible applicants also must have completed 10 contact hours or more of continuing education units in oncology. The multiple-choice exam covers topics such as treatment modalities, palliative care, and symptom management. The credential requires renewal every four years.

Professional Organizations for RN-to-BSN Students

Nurses find peer support and keep up with the latest research findings through professional nursing associations. Many organizations also provide mentorship and collaboration opportunities, online job banks, and continuing education options. See below for some professional nursing associations that provide a variety of services and benefits to members.

  • National Student Nurses' Association NSNA offers several membership benefits including career planning and development support, networking opportunities, and NCLEX-RN guides for members taking the exam for the first time. The organization also administers scholarship programs and maintains a database of accredited nursing schools and programs throughout the country.

  • American Nurses Association One of the nation's oldest and largest professional nursing organizations, ANA offers free career development resources, continuing education courses, and discounts on publications and certification programs. The organization also provides members with access to the latest research findings, job opportunities, and webinars on salient topics in the nursing field.

  • Emergency Nurses Association ENA counts over 42,000 members throughout the U.S. and all over the world. Members benefit from regional, national, and global networking opportunities in addition to free continuing education courses and various clinical resources. ENA maintains a members-only active job board, offers several training videos and podcasts, and gives members access to advocacy and volunteer opportunities.

  • American Association of Critical-Care Nurses AACN members enjoy access to several online resources including current information on critical care certification, continuing education opportunities, and a career center with nationwide job openings. The organization also offers several professional development scholarships and produces a webinar series that counts as continuing education contact hours.

Scholarships for RN-to-BSN Students

Most colleges and universities with BSN programs offer scholarship opportunities to their students. However, many nursing enrollees find assistance from other sources as well, including private organizations and healthcare companies. Some scholarship programs target specific nursing student populations, such as male nurses or learners beginning a second career in the field. See below for five scholarships available for nursing students.

Bridge Your Career: RN-to-BSN Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This program welcomes applicants enrolled in an accredited RN-to-BSN program with a 3.5 GPA or higher. Freshman applicants use their high school GPA. Applicants submit an essay (500-1,000 words) addressing the topic in the application.
Amount: $500

FHE Health “Hope for Healing” Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This program accepts applications from BSN and MSN students. Eligible applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA and a declared academic focus in psychiatric nursing, addiction medicine, or mental and behavioral health. Eligible applicants with no college credits show a high school GPA of 3.5 or higher.
Amount: $5,000

The Foundation of the National Student Nurses’ Association Career Mobility Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This funding opportunity accepts applications from students currently enrolled in an accredited nursing program (including an RN-to-BSN program). Eligible applicants show enrollment in at least six credits per semester. In addition, applicants show proof of financial need and involvement in nursing organizations or community health projects and activities.
Amount: Up to $7,500

Madeline Pickett (Halbert) Cogswell Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Administered by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), this program accepts applications from students pursuing a nursing degree at an accredited institution. Applicants show proof of DAR membership or relationship to a DAR member in good standing.
Amount: $2,500

Nurses Make a Difference Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Eligible applicants show proof of enrollment in an accredited undergraduate nursing program with a 3.0 GPA or higher. High school graduates accepted to a nursing program can also apply. Applicants submit an essay (200-300 words) on the given topic at the time of application.
Amount: $1,000

Affordable Online RN-to-BSN Programs 2021

  1. CUNY Lehman College

    Bronx, NY



    Lehman College is part of the 25-campus City University of New York system. Lehman offers a fully online RN-to-BSN degree that provides full-time and part-time enrollment options. Students must transfer a significant number of credits or an associate degree in nursing into the 37.5-credit program.

    The program develops proficiencies in areas such as clinical decision-making, professional nursing practice, and professional nursing management. The curriculum also explores trends and issues in nursing and healthcare. Graduates can provide competent and compassionate care to patients. Lehman lauds one of the nation's most affordable RN-to-BSN programs. Admission requires at least 60 credits, a minimum 2.5 GPA, and unencumbered registered nurse licensure in New York.

  2. Oklahoma State University

    Stillwater, OK



    Founded in 1890, OSU is a five-campus college with a main campus in Stillwater. The RN-to-BSN program enrolls nurses pursuing career advancement rooted in evidence-based nursing practice. Nurses can complete the fully online degree full time or part time. The curriculum requires 30-35 credits and explores concepts such as epidemiology, health issues in gerontology, global and public health, and leadership and management in nursing.

    During a capstone, registered nurses (RNs) engage in community activities that promote health and wellness. Enrollees receive 30 credits for an associate degree or diploma in nursing and RN licensure. Students without enough credit must complete general education and other missing prerequisites on campus or online.

    In-state students pay the most affordable tuition. All students benefit from transfer scholarship opportunities. Admission requires an associate degree or diploma in nursing, a minimum 2.5 GPA, and an unrestricted RN license.

  3. Florida Gateway College

    Lake City, FL



    FGC offers affordable and rigorous programs such as the online RN-to-BSN program. The degree prepares nurses for administrative and leadership roles. The program features 10 upper-division courses, totaling 31 credits.

    Coursework covers topics such as pharmacology, nursing in diverse cultures, nursing research and informatics, and healthcare policy and economics. Nursing assessment and community health courses require virtual simulations. Registered nurses (RNs) complete 90 hours of clinical and lab experience.

    FGC maintains transfer agreements with local colleges, and RNs receive 40 credits for associate degree in nursing (ADN) coursework. Students pay competitive tuition. Admission requires unrestricted RN licensure in Florida, an ADN, and a minimum 2.5 GPA.

  4. Dickinson State University

    Dickinson, ND



    Located on a hilltop campus in North Dakota, DSU offers select online programs such as the degree-completion RN-to-BSN program. The program enrolls registered nurses (RNs) with an associate degree or diploma in nursing. Nurses without an associate degree may need to take additional courses.

    The 32-credit, two-year program explores topics such as health assessment, community health, and nursing role transition. One course focuses exclusively on the use of evidence-based research in professional nursing. RNs apply lessons learned during a clinical practicum focused on cultivating leadership experience. During a three-part capstone, RNs develop a portfolio of their accomplishments in areas such as quality improvement, safety, informatics, and evidence-based practice.

    DSU offers competitive distance education tuition and comprehensive financial aid. Admission requires RN licensure, a minimum cumulative 2.5 GPA, and an associate degree or diploma in nursing.

  5. Texas A & M University-Central Texas

    Killeen, TX



    A&M—Central Texas ranks as the state's second most affordable public college. The fully online RN-to-BSN program comprises 30 credits and covers health assessment, professional role transitions, and pathophysiology for the registered nurse (RN). Enrollees learn to care for various populations, such as the elderly and individuals and families.

    A course on community health explores the role of the RN in disease prevention, health promotion, and the management of chronic health problems. The school's guaranteed tuition, scholarships, and the bachelor's bonus tuition cap program make the program an affordable option.

    Admission requires RN licensure in Texas or a compact state. Pre-licensure students can enroll in this RN-to-BSN program one semester before taking the National Council Licensure Examination.

  6. California State University-Stanislaus

    Turlock, CA



    Stan State offers multiple pathways to earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), including an online RN-to-BSN track. Students must complete 26 units of the program's 120 units at Stan State. The major explores concepts such as pathophysiology, advanced health assessment, transcultural nursing care, and community health nursing. Registered nurses (RNs) cultivate their roles as leaders as they explore leadership theories, management, and organizational decision-making.

    Faculty teach RNs how to evaluate research findings and apply it in their nursing practice. An optional clinical practicum allows learners to design an experience that focuses on the professional nurse role in a variety of clinical settings. All enrollees complete a community health nursing practicum that focuses on population-based healthcare.

    Stan State offers competitive tuition and about 140 scholarships for gifted students. Admission requires a nursing diploma or associate degree, RN licensure in California, and at least 60 bachelor's-level transferable units.

  7. Eastern Florida State College

    Cocoa, FL



    EFSC hosts about 15,000 students annually. The school's fully online RN-to-BSN program offers working nurses an affordable and accessible way to advance their education and careers. The nursing school builds on prior education by awarding registered nurses (RNs) 60 credits for an associate degree. The rest of the 120-credit curriculum consists of general education, major, and elective courses.

    The major explores concepts such as advanced health assessment, leadership and management in healthcare, and applications in evidence-based practice. A course on gerontology and end-of-life care examines the impact of the aging process on individuals, families, and the community. RNs culminate the program with a community-centered project that integrates principles learned. Alternatively, they may complete a study-abroad experience that builds nursing expertise in a global context.

    Residents pay the most affordable tuition. Admission requires an associate degree in nursing (ADN), or near completion of the ADN, and an unencumbered Florida RN license.

  8. Indiana University-Northwest

    Gary, IN



    One of Indiana University's seven regional campuses, IU Northwest administers 70 programs. The flexible online RN-to-BSN program enrolls learners on a full- or part-time basis and offers three degree-completion timeframes: 12, 18, or 24 months. Registered nurses (RNs) acquire the advanced skills needed for professional nursing practice in diverse settings. They begin the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) major with coursework that explores health policy, data analysis, and communication for healthcare professionals.

    Advanced coursework develops enrollees' proficiencies in areas such as nursing management and nursing research. Students can use elective credits to explore topics like genetics and genomics and new innovations in health and healthcare. RNs can also pursue a nursing specialty such as gerontological nursing.

    Distance learners pay competitive tuition, with out-of-state students paying modestly more than their in-state peers. Admission requires an associate degree or diploma in nursing, a minimum cumulative 2.5 GPA, and unencumbered RN licensure in the state where the RN practices.

  9. Texas A & M International University

    Laredo, TX



    Part of the prestigious Texas A&M system, TAMIU administers online programs in select fields, including nursing. The RN-to-BSN program offers nurses an accelerated and affordable degree plan that they can complete in 12 months. The fully online curriculum prepares students for diverse professional nursing roles. The number of credits needed to graduate varies depending on prior college credit.

    All RN-to-BSN students complete 32 credits of upper-division nursing coursework that explores topics such as health assessment, nursing research, and community nursing. Didactic and clinical coursework develops nurses' leadership and managerial skills with an emphasis on the nurse leader role. All enrollees explore healthcare within a global context, delving into the factors that impact health and healthcare delivery. Registered nurses (RNs) also participate in a 126-hour embedded practicum that gives them hands-on experience in a healthcare setting.

    In-state students pay competitive tuition. Admission requires a minimum cumulative 2.5 GPA and an unencumbered RN license in Texas.

  10. St Petersburg College

    Clearwater, FL



    A leader in online education in Florida, SPC offers an RN-to-BSN program that builds on nurses' education and experience. Full-time students can complete the degree in just three semesters. The bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program's 32 credits explore concepts such as pathophysiology, informatics and clinical reasoning, and health assessment and physical appraisal.

    Nurses use eight elective credits to acquire specialized skills in areas such as end-of-life care and gerontological nursing. All participants complete a practicum. Registered nurses (RNs) can complete the practicums at an approved local agency. In addition to competitive tuition rates, SPC offers interest-free tuition payment plans.

    Admission requires an associate degree or diploma in nursing and an unencumbered RN license.

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