shutterstock 249028858Regardless of the program you might choose and the path you take to get there, individuals interested in becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) must satisfy the requirements for Professional Nursing Practice as outlined by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. In addition to these curriculum (course and clinical) requirements, students must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) exam or have a current RN licensure that is unencumbered.

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

A BSN is the most commonly acquired degree for most nurses with the interest of pursuing an MSN/FNP degree. The courses offered through BSN programs are designed to prepare students for a nursing position with more responsibilities, supervisory roles, and higher salaries. The course of study for a BSN is usually a four-year program that includes both liberal arts and core courses related to your specific major in nursing.

The fact that you have a BSN gives you an advantage over other nurses seeking additional education. There are far more options available for BSN-prepared nurses, and many more colleges and universities offer programs designed for nurses that have already achieved a bachelor’s degree. The courses taken while enrolled in a BSN program fulfill the prerequisites necessary for admission into any MSN program, including specialties like FNP.

The other advantage you have is that many MSN programs will allow students that already have a BSN to complete their degrees online. This will enable you to continue working, study in your spare time, and earn a degree at your own pace. Many of these online degrees can be completed in less than two years and tend to be less expensive than campus-based programs.

Accelerated Programs for Non-Nursing Degrees

Many colleges and universities are recognizing the need to offer alternative learning opportunities for adult learns. This began with the option to take night (evening) classes after work. Now there is a movement to provide students with the opportunity to use their bachelor’s degree in a different area of study and apply those credits toward an advanced degree in nursing. This type of bridge program allows students to enter a master’s degree program without having a nursing degree or license. These accelerated programs are designed for people who would like to earn their MSN without the need to obtain an additional bachelor’s degree (BSN) before admission.

These bachelor’s to MSN-FNP programs can be a time and money saver when compared to earning a second bachelor’s degree in nursing before entering an MSN program. Many of the schools will waive the general education courses that students completed during their non-nursing education. These courses include ones such as humanities, history, language, and other general education requirements.

However, students are expected to fulfill specific prerequisite courses in Biology, Chemistry, and Mathematics. Additionally, some programs have students complete specific undergraduate-level bridge courses before they begin their master’s program. This is where a BS degree in science or math is beneficial. Not only for the earned credits but the knowledge that comes from this type of study that can be applied to coursework necessary to complete a BS to MSN/FNP program.

Bridge Programs without a BSN

Individuals that are currently licensed as a nurse and received their education through a two-year nursing degree program can typically earn a degree in as little as three years through an RN to MSN bridge program. These programs appeal to nurses that have earned a degree and have work experience. Many schools offer an accelerated program to earn a master’s degree, which allows nurses to advance their careers quickly. The advantage of this type of program is that it can be completed without the need to earn a separate bachelor’s degrees.

Throughout this type of program, students complete advanced courses in nursing, satisfy the clinical hour requirements, and can choose a specialty within the nursing field. Students who are enrolled in RN to MSN programs typically complete course requirements for their BSN first, and then progress to master’s level courses. However, with some RN to MSN programs, students may have terms in which they take both undergraduate and graduate courses simultaneously.

Some online RN to MSN/FPN programs are available for students that want the flexibility to continue working while completing a master’s degree. These programs give students the option to meet the clinical requirements at their current workplace. Although these programs are not as common, they are known for their strong, academically rigorous options for ADN-prepared nurses.

Most of these programs require a current RN license, a minimum number of hours of clinical experience, and letters of recommendation from nursing supervisors to be considered for admission. In addition, some RN-to-MSN programs may also require a minimum GPA from previous studies and specific GRE scores. Whatever your course of study, you can be assured that a higher degree is an investment in yourself and your future.

Tracy Everhart

Master of Science (M.S.), Complementary Alternative Medicine| American College of Healthcare Sciences

Master of Science (M.S.), Nursing| Yale University

Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Microbiology| Hampshire College

November 2019

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