The Top RN-to-MSN Bridge Programs 2021

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Registered nurse-to-master of science in nursing (RN-to-MSN) bridge programs offer RNs without a bachelor’s in nursing the opportunity to enter a master’s program. Additionally, the bridge option for those holding an associate degree in nursing (ADN) can prepare ADN-holders to become advanced practice nurses or to seek advancement in their current nursing role.

RN-to-MSN Bridge Program Overview



We use our data-driven methodology to rank the top direct-entry master’s in nursing programs, making it easier for you to find a program that works for you. Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including academic quality, affordability, reputation, program offerings, and online flexibility.

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Top 10 RN-to-MSN Bridge Programs in 2021

Rank School Location
1 Brigham Young University Provo, UT
2 California State University-Long Beach Long Beach, CA
3 San Diego State University San Diego, CA
4 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
5 Northeastern University Boston, MA
6 University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA
7 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
8 Auburn University Auburn, AL
9 California State University-Fullerton Fullerton, CA
10 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN

Keep reading to find out more about job opportunities and information on how to apply to an online MSN program, or click here to learn more about the best online master’s in nursing programs on our list.

Advertisement NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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What Can You Do With an MSN?

An MSN is required for many of the highest paying nurse jobs, including advanced practice nurse jobs. But MSN programs are also stepping stones to other nursing jobs where employers give preference to those with MSNs.

msn or dnp Required

Nurse Educator

Nurse educators ensure that new nurses receive necessary training, help experienced nurses develop continuing education plans, and develop curricula for staff nurses.
Salary $74,470*
Job Outlook 9% growth from 2019-29
Learn More About Nurse Educators

msn Required

Clinical Research Nurse

Clinical research nurses care for patients participating in research trials, lead patient experience planning, and monitor patients’ health to track results and ensure patient safety.
Salary $71,709*
Job Outlook 10% increase over the next 10 years

msn Required
High Demand

Advanced Practice Nurse

Advanced practice nurses act as family nurse practitioners (or other specialty), nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, or clinical nurse specialists. Each advanced practice role can specialize further in areas such as women’s health and pediatrics.
Salary $115,800*
Job Outlook 45% growth from 2019-2029
Learn More About Advanced Practice Nurses

*SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale

What to Look For in an ADN-to-MSN Bridge Program

Picking and attending the right RN-to-MSN program is a major investment of time and money. You should consider how well the school meets your needs as a student and your career goals, weighed against cost and time requirements.

Admission Requirements
Admission requirements tell you how likely you are to be admitted and also indicate how academically demanding an RN-to-MSN program might be for prospective students.
Program Curriculum
The program curriculum tells you what topics the different classes cover. If you are not sure what you want to do with your MSN, you may want a broader curriculum with more electives while you explore your options.
Clinical Experience
Consider the number of clinical hours the program requires and when they occur during the school year. If you live in a rural area with few healthcare facilities, you may want to make sure your school can help arrange local placements.
Accreditation
Accreditation is an RN-to-MSN program’s seal of quality for both students and future employers. An unaccredited program may waste your time and money and leave you nothing to show for it.
School NCLEX Pass Rate
The school NCLEX pass rate tells you how many of the school’s graduates passed the NCLEX examination. A high pass rate is good, but a high pass rate combined with a high dropout rate can be a warning sign. While the NCLEX-RN prepares students to be RNs, the pass rate can still be relevant in considering a nursing program’s overall quality, including its advanced degree programs.

Applying to an ADN-to-MSN Bridge Program

To apply to an RN-to-MSN program, you will need copies of your transcripts (most schools accept unofficial copies for application but require official transcripts afterward), contact information for at least two professional and/or academic references, and a current and unencumbered RN license.

Admission Requirements
Schools typically ask for an essay or personal statement, at least two professional or academic references (preferably from a supervisor or teacher), academic transcript(s), a current RN license, and at least 1-3 years of work experience.
Program Length
Most RN-to-MSN programs take 30-36 months. This depends on your schedule, whether you have any other college credits that can transfer, and the individual program.
Clinical Requirements
Clinical hour requirements vary based on the program and specialty. Most schools help with but do not guarantee clinical placement in your community. You may want to check to see if they have placed students near you.
GPA Requirement
Most RN-to-MSN programs require or strongly prefer at least a 3.0 GPA. Some schools require at least a 3.25 GPA. However, strong test scores, successful work history, and an otherwise compelling application can sometimes offset a low GPA.

Why Is ADN-to-MSN Bridge Program Accreditation Important?

Graduating from an accredited program can be valuable for the following reasons:

  • An accredited program’s curriculum has been shown to teach best practices for nursing care and related responsibilities.
  • Accreditation is an objective measure of quality, overseen by experts.
  • Employers and higher education institutions strongly prefer graduates of accredited programs. Some employers may not hire graduates of unaccredited RN-to-MSN bridge programs.
  • Federal financial aid is generally available only to students at accredited programs.
  • Accredited programs have better-placed alumni networks.

Who Accredits RN-to-MSN Bridge Programs?

Programs and institutions are accredited by different accreditation bodies. The following are key accrediting bodies for nursing programs and institutions:

How Do I Know an ADN-to-MSN Bridge Program Is Accredited?

Accredited schools and programs list their credentials on their websites. Check to see that the RN-to-MSN program has been accredited by one of the above agencies or check the websites above for their list of accredited schools and programs. If the school’s website hides or is unclear about its accreditation status, this may be a warning sign. Please note that all the schools listed on this page or elsewhere on NurseJournal.org are accredited.

Paying for RN-to-MSN Bridge Programs

Tuition is the most expensive part of an RN-to-MSN program, but as you consider your budget, be sure to include whether or not you can work while attending school, whether there are any travel expenses either for on-campus programs or clinical hours, and your future earning ability with your degree.

Options for financial aid include:

  • Scholarships or loans from the school
  • Foundation grants or scholarships
  • Government grants or loans
  • Work-study programs, if you are not working
  • Tuition assistance from some healthcare employers

Learn More About the Top RN-to-MSN Bridge Programs and Schools

  1. Brigham Young University
    Location

    Provo, UT

    Emphasizing health promotion and maintenance, BYUs graduate FNP program is one of the best RN-to-MSN bridge programs in the nation. Approved by the Utah State Board of Nursing, the rigorous curriculum focuses on improving access to healthcare for all populations. Degree-seekers enjoy access to the universitys research center where they can use software that supports statistical quantitative data analyses and management, and a variety of other resources.

    Learners explore the different healthcare settings family nurse practitioners can work in, such as hospitals, schools, and patients homes, focusing on how aspects of care can differ depending on the situation and setting. BYUs nursing college requires enrollees to travel for clinical experiences in urban and rural Utah.

    • Program: Master of Science Family Nurse Practitioner
    • Campus: Provo, Utah
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $792 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelors degree in nursing from a nationally accredited program; active RN license; 3.0 minimum GPA; three letters of recommendation; statement of purpose; GRE scores
    • Minimum Time Commitment: N/A
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.75%
    • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
  2. California State University-Long Beach
    Location

    Long Beach, CA

    With a student population of nearly 40,000, CSULB includes eight colleges and offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs across disciplines. The health and human services college features one of the nation's best RN-to-MSN bridge programs, designed to prepare degree-seekers to pursue roles as nursing managers or nurse practitioners.

    Degree-seekers enjoy the opportunity to enroll in elective courses from any of the universitys departments and utilize unique resources including an on-site learning center with simulation labs, counseling support groups, a complete nursing library with computer resources, and social organizations.

    • Program: Master of Science in Nursing
    • Campus: Long Beach, California
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $2,082 per credit for residents; $2,478 for nonresidents
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelors degree in nursing; active RN license; 3.0 minimum GPA; curriculum vitae or resume; personal statement
    • Minimum Time Commitment: N/A
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 99.25%
    • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
  3. San Diego State University
    Location

    San Diego, CA

    Designed to prepare registered nurses to assume advanced roles as nurse educators, clinicians, researchers, and leaders across patient populations and settings, SDSUs MSN option offers concentrations in advanced practice nursing of adults and the elderly or nursing leadership in healthcare systems.

    Registered nurses can transfer up to 12 semester units from an accredited nursing school as long as the course was completed less than seven years before the date of transfer. Learners can choose between a two-year program format or a three-year format.

    • Program: Master of Science in Nursing
    • Campus: San Diego, California
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $511 per unit
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelors degree in nursing from an accredited program; 3.0 minimum GPA; GRE scores; active RN license
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93.91%
    • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
  4. Johns Hopkins University
    Location

    Baltimore, MD

    Located in Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins is a private research university that offers a variety of innovative programs across undergraduate and graduate levels. Learners interested in advanced practice nursing opportunities can enroll in the RN-to-MSN bridge program.

    Students with a bachelor's degree or entry-level master's degree in nursing who hold an active RN license can pursue the MSN healthcare organizational leadership or MSN healthcare organizational leadership/MBA dual degree, depending on their specific career goals. Johns Hopkins also offers an MSN (entry into nursing) option for non-nursing bachelor's degree holders, which prepares them to become registered nurses.

    • Program: Master of Science in Nursing Healthcare Organizational Leadership; Master of Science in Nursing Healthcare Organizational Leadership/Master of Business Administration
    • Campus: Baltimore, Maryland
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $1,738 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor of science in nursing from an accredited institution; minimum 3.0 GPA; three letters of recommendation; goal statement; current resume or curriculum vitae; valid RN license
    • Minimum Time Commitment: N/A
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.49%
    • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
  5. Northeastern University
    Location

    Boston, MA

    Northeastern boasts a vast global network, placing students in learning opportunities across nearly 150 different countries. Degree-seekers at Northeastern can explore an array of undergraduate and graduate opportunities including the RN-to-NP program.


    Offered through an innovative hybrid format, the MSN programs allow learners to focus on their desired area of advanced nursing; available specializations include adult-gerontology primary care, adult-gerontology acute care, family primary care, neonatal, pediatric acute and primary care, and psychiatric mental health.

    Most courses feature an online format which include live sessions. Students participate in on-campus requirements twice each semester. Graduates leave their programs prepared to sit for national certification exams.

    • Program: Master of Science in Nursing Adult-Gerontology Primary Care; Master of Science in Nursing Adult-Gerontology Acute Care; Master of Science in Nursing Family Primary Care; Master of Science in Nursing Neonatal; Master of Science in Nursing Pediatric Acute and Primary Care; Master of Science in Nursing Psychiatric Mental Health
    • Campus: Boston, Massachusetts
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $1,622 per credit hour
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree in nursing from an accredited program; 3.0 minimum GPA; three letters of recommendation; curriculum vitae; valid RN license; minimum of one year of full-time nursing experience; statement of purpose; personal interview
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100%
    • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
  6. University of Virginia
    Location

    Charlottesville, VA

    Charlottesville-based UVA offers innovative opportunities for registered nurses who want to prepare for advanced practice nursing roles. UVA's RN-to-NP program allows learners to specialize in a plethora of areas: adult-gerontology acute care clinical nurse specialist, adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, neonatal nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner - acute care, pediatric nurse practitioner - primary care, and psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner.

    Nursing students can also consider the clinical nurse leader program, offered in two formats: a direct-entry program or a program designed for registered nurses. Upon completing their MSN in any of the NP specialization options, nurses can sit for their national certification exams.

    • Program: MSN Adult-Gerontology Acute Care CNS; MSN in Nursing Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP; MSN in Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner; MSN in Nursing Neonatal Nurse Practitioner; MSN in Nursing Pediatric NP; MSN in Nursing Acute Care; MSN in Nursing Pediatric NP - Primary Care; MSN in Nursing Psychiatric-Mental Health NP
    • Campus: Charlottesville, Virginia
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $18,520 per year for residents; $30,240 per year for nonresidents
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree in nursing from a nationally accredited institution; 3.0 minimum GPA; active RN license; three letters of recommendation; resume or curriculum vitae
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: N/A
    • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
  7. University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Designed for registered nurses interested in expanding their professional opportunities, UCF's RN-to-MSN bridge program offers three program tracks, allowing learners to tailor their degree to fit their goals and interests. MSN tracks include nursing and healthcare simulation, nurse educator, and nursing leadership and management.

    UCF admits RNs who hold a diploma in nursing, ASN, or BSN. Credit requirements vary depending on which track learners pursue. Nursing leadership and management students must complete 36 credit hours of coursework, while nurse educator students satisfy 35 credit hours, and family nurse and healthcare simulation learners need to complete 31 credit hours to graduate.

    • Program: Master of Science in Nursing Healthcare Simulation; Master of Science in Nursing Nurse Educator; Master of Science in Nursing Nursing Leadership
    • Campus: Orlando, Florida
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $370 per credit hour for residents; $1,194 per credit hour for nonresidents
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor of science in nursing from an accredited institution; active RN license; written essay; curriculum vitae; three letters of recommendation
    • Minimum Time Commitment: N/A
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.64%
    • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
  8. Auburn University
    Location

    Auburn, AL

    Auburn's RN-to-MSN bridge program focuses on preparing enrollees to become innovative leaders and educators across advanced practice nursing roles. The MSN offers tracks for primary care nurse practitioners or nurse educators. Learners can also combine both areas of focus in the dual track.

    Nurse educator students satisfy 33 credit hours of coursework while primary care nurse practitioner students must complete a 43-credit hour curriculum. Both concentrations feature the same 24 credit hours of core coursework. The unique hybrid format boasts primarily online coursework with one-to-two on-campus course meetings each semester.

    • Program: Master of Science in Nursing Primary Care Nurse Practitioner; Master of Science in Nursing Nurse Educator
    • Campus: Auburn, Alabama
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $5,898 per semester for residents; $15,978 per semester for nonresidents
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor of science in nursing from an accredited institution; 3.0 minimum GPA; active RN license; three letters of recommendation; curriculum vitae or resume; goal statement
    • Minimum Time Commitment: N/A
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 98.9%
    • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
  9. California State University-Fullerton
    Location

    Fullerton, CA

    Boasting a diverse student population of nearly 41,500 students from 72 different nations, CSUF offers a broad range of undergraduate and graduate opportunities across disciplines. Within the nursing school, enrollees can enroll in the RN-to-MSN bridge program, which prepares graduates for advanced nursing roles. Specialization options for MSN enrollees include leadership, nurse educator, school nursing, and women's healthcare.

    Learners can choose between an online format with minimal in-person requirements or the on-campus option. CSUF does not allow nursing students to combine both formats into a hybrid option. All master's-level nursing students, regardless of specialization, focus on the same rigorous core coursework, covering topics such as theoretical and research perspectives for advanced practice nursing and nursing research.

    • Program: Master of Science in Nursing Leadership; Master of Science in Nursing Nurse Educator; Master of Science in Nursing School Nursing; Master of Science in Nursing Women's Healthcare
    • Campus: Fullerton, California
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $3,588 per semester
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree in nursing from a regionally accredited institution; 3.0 minimum GPA; active RN license; one year of professional nursing experience
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.55%
    • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
  10. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
    Location

    Minneapolis, MN

    Minneapolis-based UMN offers an MSN for students who hold a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing. Designed to include all of the elements learners would focus on during a bachelor's-level nursing program, the unique MSN combines foundational nursing concepts with advanced graduate courses focused on more specialized topics in nursing.

    UMN collaborates with over 250 health and community organizations, focusing on providing students with intensive clinical experiences tailored to meet their specific interests and professional goals. Enrollees complete four consecutive semesters of coursework, including 500 practicum hours, and can earn their degree in 16 months.

    • Program: Master of Science in Nursing
    • Campus: Minneapolis, Minnesota
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $10,100 per semester
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution; 3.0 minimum GPA; GRE scores; admissions essay; curriculum vitae or resume; professional references
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 16 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 95.31%
    • School site: Tuition | Financial aid

RN-to-MSN Bridge Program FAQs


How long is an RN-to-MSN program?

An RN-to-MSN program usually takes 30-36 months, depending on your background and any existing college credits that might apply, whether you attend full time, and the program itself. Most programs allow students up to 48 months.

Can you go straight from an ADN to MSN?

ADN-to-MSN programs are designed to take students from the ADN to an MSN degree. However, many of these RN-to-MSN programs require at least 1-3 years of clinical experience.

Can you get your MSN without a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN)?

RNs who hold an ADN or a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing can get their MSN without first earning a BSN through an RN-to-MSN program.

Is it better to do RN-to-BSN or RN-to-MSN?

Whether it is better for you to do RN-to-BSN or RN-to-MSN depends on your career and personal goals, financial situation, other responsibilities, and many more individual factors. A mentor or admissions counselor can help you make the right decision for you, your goals, and your circumstances.

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