Table of Contents
- Types of Online RN-to-MSN Family Nurse Practitioner Programs
- Advantages to Online Bridge Programs
- Licensure Requirements
- Careers for Family Nurse Practitioners
- Additional Online FNP Degrees
Registered nurses (RNs) looking to earn their bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and master of science in nursing degrees (MSN) together through one accelerated program can pursue RN-to-BSN programs. These bridge programs generally require less time than pursuing each degree individually, as they enable students to take fewer classes, often at an accelerated rate.
Accredited online RN-to-MSN programs with a specialization in family nurse practitioner (FNP) generally comprise undergraduate and graduate-level courses. Most students find these programs demanding, due to their accelerated, concentrated nature.
Featured Online Programs (RN License Required)
Types of Online RN-to-MSN Family Nurse Practitioner Programs
Degree-seekers interested in nursing bridge programs can explore many program options, depending on their previous educational backgrounds. A learner can consider an RN-to-MSN program if they hold an associate degree in nursing (ADN), a diploma in nursing, or a bachelor's degree in a discipline other than nursing.
Depending on the type of bridge program, applicants can expect to encounter different admission requirements, including varying criteria for GPA, prerequisites, and professional experience. Learners should review their program's specific requirements before applying.
RN-to-MSN Programs - ADN Required
Students can typically complete an RN-to-MSN program that requires an ADN in about three years of full-time study. Applicants to these programs must provide their associate degree transcripts. Some institutions require prospective students to meet a minimum GPA requirement, often between 2.75 and 3.0.
RN-to-MSN Programs - ADN or Diploma in Nursing Required
An interested individual who possesses an ADN or diploma in nursing may need to complete additional classes in an RN-to-MSN program. Admission requirements for these learners include 1-2 years of RN experience and a minimum GPA, which varies depending on the institution.
RN-to-MSN Programs - Non-Nursing Bachelor’s Degree Required
RN-to-MSN applicants who possess non-nursing bachelor's degrees can often begin their master's-level coursework sooner than traditional RN-to-MSN students. Applicants at this level should demonstrate specific prerequisite coursework in areas such as psychology, human anatomy, and statistics.
Online RN-to-MSN FNP Program Curriculum
Online RN-to-MSN FNP students do not need to complete as many credits as earning BSNs and MSNs individually. RN-to-MSN programs often waive certain general education courses unrelated to nursing, such as English classes, humanities electives, and history electives. Many online RN-to-MSN FNP programs also allow students to transfer credits from their ADNs or diplomas in nursing.
In online RN-to-MSN programs, students generally complete their BSN coursework before starting the graduate-level portions of their curriculum. However, some RN-to-MSN enrollees take both undergraduate and graduate-level courses in the same term.
Some online RN-to-MSN programs may permit students to earn BSNs if they have completed the required courses and decide to leave the program before completing the MSN. For students worried about completing the entire program, we recommend speaking with an admissions advisor to see if their program offers this option.
Clinical Hours and Campus Visits for Online RN-to-MSN-FRN Programs
All accredited online FNP programs, including RN-to-MSN FNP online programs, require a specific number of clinical hours. Clinical hours make up the time a student spends in a medical setting, such as a hospital or private clinic, performing actual nursing tasks under the supervision of professionals in the medical field that guide students through their nursing responsibilities and monitor their progress.
Clinical hours allow nursing students to apply the knowledge they gain in the classroom to actual patient scenarios. An online RN-to-MSN program typically requires 750-765 clinical hours, though this number may vary depending on the program.
Each nursing student must complete their clinical hours at a prearranged medical site and connect with an official preceptor before beginning their clinical internship. Some online RN-to-MSN FNP programs match students to local sites with approved preceptors, while other programs require students to find a local site and preceptor on their own, but provide support services for students during their search.
Depending on their program, nursing specialization, and region of residence, nursing students can complete their clinical hours in several medical settings, including community health centers, hospitals, private clinics, volunteer clinics, and wellness centers.
Along with completing clinical hours at local health facilities, almost all online FNP programs require students to make a limited number of visits to campus during the program. These campus visits, or "on-campus intensives," typically consist of in-person lectures, discussions, and activities with program instructors and fellow students. These intensives range from part of a day to several days in duration.
Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Online Instruction
Students just beginning to research online nursing programs should note that online RN-to-MSN FNP programs typically use synchronous instruction, asynchronous instruction, or a combination of both. Synchronous instruction involves students and instructors meeting at specific times to participate in lectures and discussions, often requiring the use of a webcam, and generally provide a more realistic "classroom" feel.
Asynchronous classes typically allow students to access pre-recorded lectures and course materials on their own time. This delivery method does not require students to meet at set times to attend lectures or interact in real-time with instructors and classmates. However, students in programs that use asynchronous instruction must still complete assignments and exams by specific deadlines.
All online degree programs, including online RN-to-MSN programs, require discipline from students to keep up with lectures and coursework. While the online format offers added flexibility for students, online nursing programs are just as academically rigorous and time-intensive as campus-based nursing programs.
Full-Time vs. Part-Time RN-to-MSN Programs
Schools generally offer online RN-to-MSN FNP programs in full-time and part-time formats. In full-time RN-to-MSN programs, students take more courses each term and thus earn their two degrees in less time. Conversely, part-time programs take longer to complete, but offer students more flexibility in their schedule, as part-time curricula typically feature fewer courses each term.
Choosing a full- or a part-time online FNP program largely depends on professional, personal, and extracurricular commitments. Most schools that offer full-time, online RN-to-MSN programs do not recommend that students work full-time while pursuing their degrees. Those who need to continue working full time may prefer part-time programs.
Full-time, online RN-to-MSN programs typically take 24-28 months to complete, while part-time, online RN-to-MSN programs generally take 30-36 months. The overall time it takes to complete an online RN-to-MSN FNP program varies by school and depends on several factors, including the program's curriculum, the number of transferable academic credits an enrollee has completed before enrollment, and the program's required clinical hours.
Advantages to Online Bridge Programs
Nursing students can explore many formats to earn their degrees, including online, hybrid, accelerated, and bridge programs. Degree-seekers who enroll in bridge programs enjoy several unique benefits that they would not experience in traditional formats.
Learners pursuing RN-to-FNP programs can earn their graduate degrees at an accelerated pace. These bridge programs allow enrollees to earn their master's degrees without needing to separately pursue bachelor's degrees. Online RN-to-MSN FNP programs expose each learner to components of the field they would have learned in a bachelor's program before transitioning into the advanced topics of a master's curriculum.
After graduates earn their RN-to-MSN FNP degrees, they must achieve national certification from an accredited certifying body. Nurses who earn credentials demonstrate their competencies and abilities in their specific discipline. Licensing candidates should determine which nurse practitioner (NP) certification board to pursue.
Depending on the certification board, candidates may need to satisfy different criteria and requirements. An eligible applicant should hold a master's degree in nursing and often must complete a specific amount of professional experience. Candidates also need to complete and pass their licensing exams before they can earn their credentials.
Careers for Family Nurse Practitioners
Graduates of RN-to-MSN FNP programs can pursue careers as family nurse practitioners. These professionals work with diverse populations, focusing on health promotion and disease prevention. Providing healthcare to patients across the lifespan as advanced practice registered nurses, these NPs maintain patient records, develop treatment plans, order and perform diagnostic tests, and treat both chronic and acute illnesses.
While FNPs focus on a broad scope during their practice, they can also earn additional certifications in areas such as pain management, diabetes, or obesity. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners provides professionals with a list of NP certification boards and a list of programs in the discipline, helping candidates guide their search for the right career path.