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CNA to RN Bridge Programs- Requirements, Coursework and Program Cost

Registered nurses (RNs) are in high demand, with an estimated 12% employment growth from 2018 to 2028. Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) are already a step ahead in filling that need; CNAs can obtain their RN license quicker than other students by completing a CNA-to-RN program. Graduates of the program can experience increased job security, open up additional employment opportunities, and enjoy a higher salary.

CNAs vs. RNs

A CNA’s skill set is largely transferable to a job as an RN, making the CNA-to-RN program a logical career step. One of the main differences between CNAs and RNs is the amount of autonomy they each possess. Generally, RNs have more autonomy to do their jobs compared to CNAs. RNs also pursue more leadership roles, or specializations within the nursing profession. They supervise the work of CNAs and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), as well as working as managers of nursing units.

How CNA-to-RN Programs Work

CNA-to-RN programs allow nursing assistants to pick up where they left off in their nurse training — instead of having to repeat unnecessary courses. This is why they are often called “bridge” programs — they connect CNAs directly with the more advanced training and certification prep required of RNs. Schools and universities across the U.S. offer full- and part-time CNA-to-RN programs. A traditional RN program takes about 2 years to complete, but CNAs can complete a bridge program within 1 to 1½ years.

If you are currently working as a CNA in the healthcare field, you can opt for an online program that allows you to maximize your time and income. Each program helps you enhance your nursing skills and open doors to new opportunities in the healthcare field.

CNA-to-RN Program Entry Requirements

Entry requirements for CNA-to-RN programs are generally as follows:

  • Must be 18 years old;
  • Have a high school diploma, or GED;
  • Possess excellent communication skills;
  • Submit a criminal background check;
  • Have completed an accredited CNA program;
  • Have a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 2.0 or higher;
  • Be currently working as a CNA.

CNA-to-RN Coursework and Clinical Hours

Like CNA coursework, RN courses generally focus on subjects such as physiology, anatomy, chemistry, psychology, microbiology, nutrition, and nursing theory and practice. Some examples of classes include leadership management, population health, women and infant health, and nursing fundamentals. The degree also requires basic courses in the humanities, English, and math.

In addition to coursework, students are expected to complete clinical and lab hours.

CNA-to-RN Testing

After receiving an accredited degree, graduates sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Graduates must pass the exam, submit a background test, and be fingerprinted in order to receive licensure.

A mandatory exam for nurses, the NCLEX ensures that only qualified individuals begin practice. The NCLEX is organized by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and uses computerized adaptive testing (CAT). Practice test questions are available online to allow prospective nurses to prepare before sitting the exam.

CNA-to-RN Program Cost

The cost of a CNA-to-RN program depends on the institution/college you attend. Programs may range anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 annually. Generally, it will cost less if you obtain your degree from a community college. Private schools or universities tend to cost more.

Grants and scholarships are available to those who need them.

Career Outlook

Becoming an RN allows for a plethora of opportunities in a variety of settings. Besides taking a job in a hospital, RNs can pursue positions working in forensic teams, as volunteers abroad, or in psychiatric facilities.

Below are a few settings where RNs can find work:

  • Hospitals;
  • NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit);
  • Trauma Centers;
  • Emergency Rooms;
  • Flights and Transportation;
  • Burn Centers;
  • Forensics;
  • Psychiatric Care;
  • Missionary Work;
  • Travel and Volunteer Work;
  • Labor and Obstetrics;
  • Correctional Facilities.

Salary and Benefit Outlook

The difference in salary between CNAs and RNs is substantial. As of 2016, CNAs earned an average salary of $26,590 per year. RNs, on the other hand, earned an average salary of $73,300 per year — as of 2019.

With there being a variety of nursing professions to choose from, salaries can range depending on your position, location, experience, and expertise.

In addition to an often lucrative salary, RNs usually receive comprehensive medical and dental plans, retirement plans, sick and vacation time, overtime pay, continued-education assistance, tuition reimbursement, and student loan forgiveness, among other benefits.