CNA to RN Bridge Programs Online | How To Transition In 2024

If you’re a certified nursing assistant looking to advance your career and earn more money, transitioning to a registered nurse is a great choice. While there are no specific CNA to RN bridge programs online, you still have a few excellent options.

Many nursing programs offer pathways that can significantly shorten your journey to becoming an RN, taking into account your existing experience and education as a CNA. 

So, in this article, we explore the different educational tracks you can take to advance your nursing career, why you should, and how to complete your transition in as little time as possible.

What Is A CNA To RN Bridge Program?

A CNA to RN bridge program allows certified nursing assistants to become registered nurses in less time than a direct-entry RN program.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any schools offering this specific type of bridge program. However, many nursing schools do offer pathways that effectively serve as bridge programs for CNAs. 

These learning tracks recognize the valuable experience and foundational knowledge CNAs bring to their nursing education. CNAs can often enroll in ADN or BSN programs with certain advantages, including:

  • Credit Transfer: Some schools allow transfer of credits from CNA training towards the nursing program, reducing the total coursework required.
  • Work Experience For Credit: Other institutions may consider the practical experience of CNAs, potentially accelerating their progression through the program.
  • Competency-Based Credit: Some schools allow you to progress through their nursing programs more quickly if you can pass exams demonstrating your knowledge in certain areas.

It’s important for CNAs interested in these programs to thoroughly research and consult with schools to understand the specific benefits, requirements, and opportunities available to them in transitioning to an RN role.

Types of Online CNA To RN Bridge Programs

There are two different pathways a certified nursing assistant can take to become a registered nurse. We discuss both tracks below.


The first option for a certified nursing assistant to become an RN is to pursue their Associate Degree in Nursing.

Unfortunately, there are no entirely online options to earn your ADN. This is because you must complete clinical experiences and lab simulations in person. However, some programs do allow you to complete most of your coursework virtually.

You can learn more about these virtual coursework degree programs in our guide to two year online RN programs.

One of the main benefits of earning your ADN, as opposed to a BSN, is that these programs take less time to complete. If you enroll full-time, you can typically earn your degree in about two years. However, enrolling part-time may increase your program duration.

Additionally, the ADN pathway tends to cost less money. This is because the degree takes less time to complete, and you usually earn this type of degree at a community college instead of a traditional four-year university.

While both the ADN and BSN adequately prepare you to work as a registered nurse, most top-tier healthcare facilities prefer BSN-educated candidates.

However, if you do opt to earn your Associate Degree in Nursing, you can always choose to enroll in a fully online RN to BSN bridge program later.


Certified nursing assistants can also choose to enroll in a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing program in order to become an RN.

Fortunately, there are lots of online BSN programs that allow you to complete your coursework virtually. However, like the ADN track, you will need to complete clinical experiences in person. 

Luckily, the BSN programs tend to offer more flexibility with clinical experience locations, which could make earning your bachelor’s degree more accessible compared to an associate’s degree.

The main benefit of going straight for your BSN, as opposed to earning your ADN first, is that you’ll be a more desirable candidate for a wider range of jobs. While these programs do take longer, usually about four year of full-time enrollment, you’ll be equipped with:

  • Advanced clinical skills
  • Leadership qualities
  • A deeper knowledge of patient care

Additionally, if you hope to pursue an advanced degree, you’ll be well-prepared to enter a Master’s of Science in Nursing program. Better yet, there are tons of fully online MSN programs to choose from, giving you a lot of flexibility in earning your post-graduate degree.

Why Enroll In CNA To RN Bridge Programs Online?

There are several reasons why you should consider enrolling in a CNA to RN bridge program online. We discuss some of the key reasons to make the transition below.

Earn A Higher Salary

One of the main benefits of transitioning from a CNA to an RN is the increased salary potential. 

According to BLS, the average annual salary for a nursing assistant is $35,740, while they report the average annual salary for an RN is $81,220.

This difference in income reflects the greater responsibilities, advanced skills, and broader scope of practice that come with being an RN. 

By transitioning to an RN role through an online bridge program, CNAs can invest in a future with greater financial stability and opportunities. They’ll also open themselves up to further salary growth as they gain experience and potentially specialize in high-demand areas of nursing. 

Some may even opt to pursue an advanced degree, like an MSN, allowing them to take on roles like nurse practitioner or nurse educator. The salary potential for these roles is even greater.

Flexible Degree Options

Online CNA to RN bridge programs offer a variety of degree options, catering to the diverse educational needs and career aspirations of CNAs. 

These programs typically provide pathways to both Associate Degree in Nursing and Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees. The flexibility to choose between an ADN and a BSN program allows CNAs to align their education with their long-term career goals. 

ADN programs usually take less time to complete and provide a quicker route to becoming an RN. 

In contrast, BSN programs, while longer, offer a more comprehensive education and can open doors to leadership roles, higher salaries, and specialized nursing positions. 

The online format of these programs means that CNAs can select the program that best fits their current life situation and future aspirations, regardless of their geographic location or work schedule.

Accelerated Advancement

While there aren’t any programs specifically designed to help CNAs transition to RNs, many nursing programs often take into account the prior knowledge and experience of CNAs. This can lead to accelerated advancement in their nursing careers. 

By recognizing the clinical skills and healthcare knowledge that CNAs already possess, some schools potentially grant credit for prior coursework or work experience. 

As a result, CNAs can attain RN licensure more quickly, enabling them to take on higher-level nursing responsibilities sooner. 

This accelerated path is especially beneficial for those looking to make a timely career change or eager to progress in the nursing field without spending more time than necessary in a traditional nursing program. 

Moreover, the quick transition from CNA to RN can lead to earlier career advancements, increased job opportunities, and the ability to make a more significant impact in patient care in a shorter time frame.

How Long Are Online CNA to RN Programs?

The duration of online CNA to RN programs can vary depending on several factors, including:

  • Type of degree pursued (ADN vs BSN)
  • Structure of the program
  • Background of the individual CNA 

Generally, however, an Associate Degree in Nursing program will take one to two years to complete. 

Meanwhile, a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing will take four years to complete. However, this duration may be shortened depending on the number of transferable credits or recognized work experience. This means it’s possible you may be able to earn your BSN in just two to three years. 

If you currently hold a Bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field of study, you may also be eligible to enroll in an accelerated nursing program. This can allow you to earn your BSN in just 12 to 18 months.

Finally, the time it takes to complete your registered nursing program will also depend on whether you are enrolled full-time or part-time. If you opt to enroll part-time, you can expect to take longer to earn your degree.

How To Complete Your CNA To RN Bridge Program Online In Less Time

If you’re looking to transition from CNA to RN as quickly as possible, you may be able to test-out of some college courses. 

Instead of enrolling in traditional, 15-week college courses, you can test out of some general education and prerequisite college classes by taking exams offered by organizations like CLEP, DSST, UExcel.

In fact, with Achieve Test Prep, you’ll be prepared to ace exams in just four to eight short test prep sessions and test out of courses like:

  • Sociology
  • English Composition
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Algebra

Better yet, Achieve also provides a free past college credit analysis. They can help you find a college that allows you to skip redundant classes, saving you time and money in earning your degree.

How To Start Your CNA to RN Bridge Program Online

While there are no online RN bridge programs designed specifically for CNAs, you do have options. 

The first thing you need to decide is whether you want to earn your ADN or BSN. From there, you might consider working with Achieve Test Prep to get a head start on your general education courses and find a college that accepts your prior credits.

Overall, finding a college that accepts test-out exams, as well as prior CNA education credits and work experience, is the quickest and cheapest way to become a registered nurse.

Once you find the right school, you’ll be well on your way to advancing your career and earning a higher salary.

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