LPN to BSN: Steps to Upgrade Your Nursing Qualification

By Sarah Collins

03/8/2022



Key Takeaways

  • LPN-to-BSN bridge programs are an excellent way for licensed practical nurses to enjoy better career prospects, higher salaries, and more specialized roles.
  • When considering an LPN to BSN program, nursing students should consider accreditation, program cost, completion time, and online or in-person options.
  • Upon completing an LPN to BSN program, all students must pass the NCLEX-RN to become licensed registered nurses.

Are you interested in upgrading your LPN to BSN? You’re not alone here!

Securing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is a common objective among licensed practical nurses, and for good reasons.

A BSN opens up a world of new opportunities, including higher salaries, increased career prospects, and improved specialization ability.

This guide walks you through the whole LPN to BSN process, covering essentials like the standard curriculum, choosing the ideal program, admissions requirements, and how to gain your license through the NCLEX-RN.

Ready to go? Let’s get started!

Who Is an LPN?

Licensed practical nurses (or licensed vocational nurses) administer basic medical care to patients under the direction of RNs and doctors. These tasks include checking vital signs, cleaning medical equipment, ordering medical equipment, and giving medication.

LPNs work in medical facilities, from hospitals to home healthcare agencies. They earn an average annual salary of $48,820, although this figure differs according to state, experience, and shift type.

Who Is a BSN?

BSNs describe nurses with a four-year undergraduate degree. Considered an entry-level degree, it opens the door to pursue different specializations, such as labor & delivery, surgical, and orthopedic.

These nurses may work in various settings, ranging from hospitals and pharmacies to government agencies and doctor’s offices.

Nowadays, employers prioritize BSNs due to their statistically lower patient mortality rates, fewer clinical errors, and better patient outcomes than their LPN and ADN counterparts.

How Much Do BSNs Earn?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that registered nurses earn a median annual wage of $75,330 (2020). However, BSNs that have ascended to management or training roles can expect to see yearly salaries of $90,000 or greater.

Note these figures are flexible according to location, specialized niche, experience, and health setting. For example, state, local, and private hospitals BSNs can expect to see higher salaries than BSNs working in nursing and residential care facilities.

What Are the Benefits of Obtaining a BSN Degree?

Licensed practical nurses can expect four significant benefits upon acquiring their BSN degrees. These are:

High Salaries. Verified stats by the Bureau of Labor Statistics report that BSNs earn an average hourly salary of $36.22 versus $23.47 for registered nurses. Consequently, BSNs may earn $30,000 more annually than licensed practical nurses (LPNs).

Favorable Jobs Outlook. Registered nursing is one of the most in-demand fields in America. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that roughly 3.4MM registered nurses will be employed by 2030, representing a 9% annual growth rate from 3.0MM in 2020. Thanks to the growing number of baby boomers exiting the workforce and the constant need for medical care.

Improved Care Quality. Seeking higher education in the form of a BSN pays dividends well beyond a respectable salary and prestige. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), BSNs experience a lower rate of readmission, fewer clinical errors, and lower patient mortality rates than RNs.

Movement into Different Specializations. BSNs can expand their horizons by exploring different specializations and certifications. For example, the Medical-Surgical Nurse Certification Board (MSNCB) and American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offer certifications for medical-surgical expertise, instant grounds for a salary bump.

Leadership Roles. Outside of the day-to-day, BSNs also have the opportunity to move into leadership, education, and administrative roles. Many of these include nurse unit managing positions, which are constantly in high demand.

Is There a Unique Law on BSN Acquisition in New York?

Yes. In New York, obtaining a BSN degree is not a benefit as much as a requirement. In 2017, New York passed the “BSN in 10” law, requiring all licensed nurses to obtain a bachelor’s degree within ten years of receiving their RN license.

What Are the Downsides of Earning a BSN Degree?

There are virtually no downsides outside of the initial commitment. BSNs require a 3 to 4-year program length, higher cost of education, and more demanding overall obligation than LPNs. Don’t forget roughly 700 to 800 clinical hours to complete throughout the program.

However, the difference in salaries and job responsibilities are well worth it to most nursing students. In addition, two extra years of intensive study could lead to a lifetime of newly discovered opportunities not available with basic RN licensure.

What’s the Difference Between an LPN and an RN?

LPNs and RNs have different job responsibilities. For starters, LPNs perform basic nursing tasks under the tutelage of an RN, limited to monitoring patient vital signs, sanitizing wounds, maintaining records, and feeding/dressing patients. They may also administer medication to patients.

On the other hand, RNs play a more prominent role with more challenging tasks, such as performing diagnostic tests, managing patient care plans, operating medical equipment, and working alongside doctors and APRNs to manage caseloads.

Salaries and specializations are other areas of difference between LPNs and RNs. RNs can specialize in nephrology to labor and delivery areas, whereas LPNs cannot. Also, the salary outlook for RNs over LPNs is substantial, with RNs typically enjoying average salaries of roughly $30,000 more a year. Of course, this is subject to change depending on the state and specializations.

Lastly, the RN curriculum is much more rigorous. For example, LPN training programs usually cover basic biology, psychology, and human development, whereas RN degree programs focus on informatics, management, leadership, and other advanced subjects.

What’s the Difference Between an ADN, BSN, and MSN?

ADNs (Associate of Science in Nursing) is a 2-year degree program, and a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) is a 4-year degree program.

An MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) adds up to two years on top of a BSN program and prepares you for higher-level nursing jobs, most earning above $100,000 a year. Job titles associated with MSNs include nurse anesthetists, mental health nurse practitioners, and general nurse practitioners.

What Is the Process for an LPN to Be a BSN?

LPNs can become BSNs through LPN-to-BSN bridge programs. These programs put LPNs on the fast track to a BSN degree by applying previous credits towards their BSN acquisition.

Therefore, such applicants earn BSNs faster than traditional RN to BSN programs by forgoing the need to gain an RN license first.

For example, LPN-to-BSN bridge programs award credits for each exam already taken, cutting down the number of credits needed for a bachelor’s degree.

Consider an LPN-to-BSN bridge if you’d prefer a quicker and more flexible program.

What Are the Admission Requirements for an LPN-to-BSN Bridge Program?

All LPN-to-BSN bridge programs require all or most of the following criteria.

  • LPN license
  • Several years of LPN work experience
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Professional letters of recommendations
  • Admissions essay and in-person interview

Note admission requirements differ from one LPN-to-BSN bridge program to the next. For example, one LPN-to-BSN bridge program may ask for a minimum 2.5 GPA, whereas other LPN-to-BSN bridge programs can ask for a 3.0 GPA.

How Much Does a BSN Program Cost?

BSN program costs vary considerably, depending on your school’s location, type of nursing school (public or private), area cost of living, and specialization/s.

On average, BSN students pay between $7,00 to $10,000 for tuition. Outside of tuition, students also cover room & board (optional), books, supplies, and miscellaneous fees, such as test and enrollment fees.

How Much Do LPN-to-BSN Bridge Programs Cost?

LPN-to-BSN bridge programs vary significantly in terms of cost due to the credit type, location, and the total number of credits taken to complete your degree. Expect a bachelor’s degree tuition to fall north of $20,000, although that easily doubles at private institutions. Other miscellaneous fees also apply, including background checking, uniforms, lab fees, and supplies.

If your employee hospital or health clinic offers a tuition reimbursement program, we recommend applying. This aid could save you hundreds of thousands towards the cost of your nursing education.

How Many Years of Schooling Is Required for an LPN to Become a BSN?

LPN-to-BSN bridge programs take up to three years to complete, depending on the school, course, and the number of credits transferred from your LPN.

For example, South Puget Sound, Washington-based Saint Martin’s University’s LPN to BSN program takes two years, with one semester or 15 credits credited to your LPN license. The schedule comprises one day a week and one day of clinics a week, mixing online and offline instruction. Note the NLN CNEA accredits the university.

Are Scholarships or Grants Awarded for LPN to BSN Students?

Yes, there are many scholarships available for LPN to BSN students. They could pay out anywhere from $100 to the total cost of tuition. Some include the Caroline E. Holt Nursing Scholarship, After College/AACN Scholarship Fund, and the Kay F. Fullwood Northeast Florida Geriatric Nursing Scholarship Fund.

Remember, scholarships and grants have different eligibility requirements. For example, some may only require the essential condition of participating in an accredited nursing program. In contrast, others may need you to focus on a specialization (e.g., geriatrics), be an active member of an organization (e.g., NADONA/LTC members), or be interested in environmental or occupational health.

To jumpstart the process of applying for a scholarship or grant, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a nationally recognized form schools refer to determine the amount of free aid awarded for each student.

How Many Clinical Hours Does a Standard LPN-to-BSN Bridge Program Require?

The number of clinical hours a typical LPN-to-BSN bridge program requires depends on the school. However, expect clinical requirements to fall in the 700 to 800-hour range. Remember, each state determines the minimum number of clinical hours needed to adhere to the board of nursing licensing requirements.

What Are the Advantages of Online LPN to BSN Bridge Programs?

Online LPN to BSN bridge programs foster learning for students with conflicting schedules or other commitments.

They are also often less expensive than in-person programs, with many programs charging less than $300 per credit.

Note online LPN to BSN bridge programs are just as rigorous as on-site programs, although the afforded flexibility helps to lessen the demands.

How to Choose the Right BSN Program for You

Here are our top recommendations for selecting an LPN to BSN bridge program.

Accreditation. Arguably the most important criteria, it’s essential that the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) accredit a program before your registration. Unaccredited courses may discount your effort in school and disqualify you from taking the NCLEX-RN.

The US Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) ‘s database is a comprehensive resource to verify the status of any program.

Program Cost. LPN to BSN bridge program costs vary significantly due to the state, school, online versus in-person, or residency status. Usually, tuition ranges from $10,000 to $20,000 and may or may not include lab fees, room/board, and other incidentals.

Student-to-Faculty Ratio. The lower the student-to-faculty ratio, the higher the personalized attention you can expect to get. Some students excel in smaller group settings over larger group settings, so keeping your preferred learning style in mind is essential.

All in all, pursuing the LPN to BSN track pays significant dividends as it pertains to jobs outlook, salary bumps, increased job responsibilities, and freedom to move into different areas of specializations. If you are an LPN looking to obtain a BSN degree, there are many in-person and online LPN to BSN bridge programs that will put you on the fast track to success.

What Is the NCLEX-RN?

The NCLEX-RN is a mandatory test for people who want to acquire their registered nurse license. As such, LPN to BSN graduates must sit for this exam for their certification.

In the NCLEX-RN, all topics treated during nursing school are covered, including but not limited to health promotion, maintenance, psychological integrity, and physiological integrity.

Note the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) organizes the NCLEX.

How Is the NCLEX-RN Formatted?

The NCLEX-RN is an adaptive computer test that adjusts the difficulty level of each question based on the number of correctly or incorrectly answered questions. It has a minimum of 75 questions and a maximum of 265 questions, consisting of multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, drag & drop, and other formats.

What Does the NCLEX-RN Cover?

The NCLEX-RN exam consists of eight key categories, each centered around an aspect of care. Here is a breakdown of the categories by percentages.

  • 20% Management of Care
  • 15% Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies
  • 14% Physiological Adaptation
  • 12% Safety and Infection Control
  • 12% Reduction of Risk Potential
  • 9% Health Promotion and Maintenance
  • 9% Psychosocial Integrity
  • 9% Basic Care and Comfort

How much does the NCLEX cost?

Candidates in the US may expect to shell out $200 to Pearson Vue, the national administrator for NCLEX exams at the test level.

Other NCLEX costs depend on your location, as each has its licensing fee and temporary/permanent license costs.

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