Medical Assistant to RN - What Does it Take?

RN Certificate

I received an email this week asking about what's involved in transitioning from Medical Assistant to RN (Registered Nurse).

Because this question and others like it keep coming up, I'm going to address the following questions:

Can a medical assistant become a RN?

A medical assistant can so the same thing that anyone else can do, which is to study and then sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

The three main ways you can study to become an RN are:

  1. Diploma in Nursing - this is available through hospital schools of nursing however it's a less common path than studying for an Associate Degree or Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
  2. Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) - just like an Associate Degree in Medical Assisting this is a 2 year course. You can study at a hospital school or a community college.
  3. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BS/BSN) - this is a four year degree which you can take at a university or a community college.

How to go from medical assistant to registered nurse?

If you're like the majority of medical assistants and you don't already have a Graduate degree, then you'll need to take one of the types of programs listed above.

However, graduate courses are also available to those who qualify including MSN (Masters Degree of Nursing), PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) and DNP (Doctor of Nursing) - once you've completed your program you will still need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam to gain licensure.

Is there a medical assistant to registered nurse bridge program?

Basically the answer is no. Some programs may allow you credit for some of the subjects you've already studied depending on the type of MA degree or certificate you have and how long ago you were awarded it, however there are no formal MA to RN bridge programs similar to ones going from an LPN to RN.

Should I look for a RN program which will credit me for the MA subjects I've already studied?

Although you may be able to find a nursing school that will provide you with transfer credits, it is generally not advisable to do this. It may seem like a good idea, however you will find that if you do get credit, say for phlebotomy, that you may not have learnt the same techniques that your classmates are learning, and as a result you may struggle with clinical assessment on any subjects you've essentially 'skipped over'.


Although your studies and experience as an MA won't provide you with many transfer credit options when studying to become an RN, you will find many aspects of your RN program much easier to come to grips with than your fellow nursing classmates.

You will already be comfortable in a clinical setting, and you will already have some understanding of areas like basic procedures and medical terminology, and as a result you will find some of the subjects will be much easier for you to study than they will be for your fellow students who have no formal training to begin with.

If you're interested in learning more about becoming a nurse, then you will find a wealth of resources at the American Nurses Association website.