Best RN-to-MSN Programs (With No BSN Requirements) 2020

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Nurse practitioners (NPs) provide primary, acute, and specialty care in physicians’ offices, hospitals, and outpatient clinics, among other settings. Currently, over 290,000 NPs hold licensure in the United States.

The demand for NPs has expanded dramatically as the nation copes with a looming physician shortage, increased reliance on team-based primary care, and the medical needs of a growing elderly population. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 45% increase in NP positions between 2019-2029, making it a promising field for current and prospective NPs.

NPs, as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), must have a valid RN license and a master of science in nursing (MSN). RNs without a bachelor’s degree may qualify for admission to RN-to-MSN bridge programs, allowing them to reach their career goals quickly.

Depending on the program, students may need up to three years to complete all requirements. Online RN-to-MSN programs provide nurses with the flexibility to pursue their degree part-time while employed, often offering asynchronous coursework or hybrid program formats that fit working schedules. We’ve used our methodology to rank the best RN-to-MSN programs, making it easier for you to find a program that works for you.

The Best RN-to-MSN Programs (With No BSN Requirements) 2020

Rank School Location
1 University of St Francis Joliet, IL
2 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
3 Regis University Denver, CO
4 Lewis University Romeoville, IL
5 Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health Omaha, NE
6 Union University Jackson, TN
7 University of Arizona Tucson, AZ
8 Queens University of Charlotte Charlotte, NC
9 Quinnipiac University Hamden, CT
10 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
Read about our ranking methodology here.
Advertisement 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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Best RN-to-MSN Programs (With No BSN Requirements) 2020

  1. University of St Francis

    Joliet, IL

    USF is a Catholic university located in Joliet, Illinois. USF's RN-to-MSN programs make it easy for candidates to tailor their studies to their particular interests and career goals. The program's flexible online format offers the convenience nurses need to continue working as they satisfy their degree requirements. Nursing students can also focus their degree on the following specialization areas:

    • Psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner
    • Nursing education
    • Nursing administration
    • Family nurse practitioner

    Degree-seekers pursuing the family nurse practitioner track build specialized skills and knowledge as they prepare to provide nursing care for individuals across the lifespan. The nursing education track prepares students to instruct nurses in clinical and educational settings, while learners in the nursing administration program build their administrative and leadership skills. The psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner track offers care strategies for individuals suffering with mental illnesses and disorders.

    All programs are open to distance learners in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, New Mexico, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

  2. Drexel University

    Philadelphia, PA

    Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Drexel offers one of the best RN-to-MSN programs in the nation. The program allows RNs with a bachelor's degree in a discipline other than nursing to earn an MSN in an accelerated format. Holding accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, this rigorous program allows students to tailor their degree to their professional goals and personal interests by pursuing one of the following concentrations:

    • Clinical nurse leader
    • Leadership in health systems management
    • Nursing education
    • Quality, safety, and risk management in healthcare

    The core curriculum explores topics such as health prevention, disease management, health promotion, and pharmacogenomics. Candidates also complete a 4.5-credit bridge course in genetics and genomics.

    Over the course of the program, learners must participate in synchronous online lectures requiring them to be online at certain times of day to complete lessons and assignments in real time.

  3. Regis University

    Denver, CO

    Regis offers one of the top RN-to-MSN programs for working RNs. The unique program allows degree-seekers to complete four graduate-level courses during the BSN portion of the curriculum, gaining a head start on their MSN requirements. Once learners complete the BSN component, they can transition to the program's MSN portion with ease.

    The leadership in healthcare systems curriculum includes coursework in financial management, leadership development, and understanding the current economic and legal requirements and industry trends. Along with required coursework, learners must complete a 210-hour practicum.

    The program's flexible format allows learners to log on and complete their coursework at any time of the day, from any location. All classes last for eight weeks and do not require any on-campus visits. Most learners complete their degree within 27 months.

  4. Lewis University

    Romeoville, IL

    Featuring one of the nation's best RN-to-MSN programs, Lewis teaches students to execute and design complex healthcare strategies. The rigorous curriculum serves RNs who want to expedite their master's degree and advance their nursing careers.

    The program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Learners can also pursue a specialization opportunity within the program, tailoring their degree to align with their career goals and personal interests. Specialization options include:

    • Nursing education
    • Healthcare systems leadership
    • Adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner
    • Adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioner
    • Family nurse practitioner
    • Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
    • School nurse

    Lewis offers competitive tuition rates and multiple financial aid opportunities. Lewis alumni can also pursue the Frequent Flyer Scholarship, which grants a 20% tuition scholarship for graduate students who have previously earned a prior bachelor's degree at the university.

  5. Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health

    Omaha, NE

    NMC's specialized RN-to-MSN programs prepare learners for their specific nursing career pathways. Depending on their particular career goals and interests, nursing students can pursue nurse educator, executive, or informatics concentrations.

    Learners enrolled in the nurse educator pathway can earn their degree within 30 months. This track caters to busy RNs who are passionate about learning, working with students, teaching, and nursing. The executive track prepares nurses to pursue senior leadership and management positions within healthcare systems and organizations.

    NMC also offers the only MSN degree in the region to feature a nursing informatics track. Candidates complete 200 clinical hours in addition to 36 credit hours. Learners pursuing the informatics pathway can complete the program in just 21 months.

    Along with affordable, per-credit tuition rates, the college offers a variety of scholarships, grants, and other funding opportunities.

  6. Union University

    Jackson, TN

    Union maintains four campuses across Tennessee, but learners seeking one of the best RN-to-MSN programs available can earn their degree online in an accelerated format. Union's distance education program also allows degree-seekers to pursue a specialization in areas such as:

    • Administration
    • Eduction
    • Nurse practitioner (family and family psychiatric/mental health)

    The rigorous curriculum prepares students to take on specialized leadership roles in the nursing field. Degree-seekers explore advanced nursing practices and theories in their nursing subfield as they analyze related problems and integrate concepts in spiritual care and bioethics. Graduates go on to pursue careers in a variety of healthcare settings or enroll in doctoral nursing programs.

    The cohort-based program begins in August of each year. Candidates begin and end their studies alongside the same group of students. Online classes are held each Thursday, with learners completing clinical hours during the remaining weekdays. Most students remain employed throughout the program.

  7. University of Arizona

    Tucson, AZ

    The University of Arizona's nursing college offers a flexible RN-to-MSN program designed to fit RNs' busy schedules. Program graduates earn their master of science in nursing degree in clinical nurse leadership. Learners may enter the program with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). ADN-holders complete 44 course credits, while individuals with a BSN complete 31 credits.

    Holding accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the program's patient-focused curriculum is designed for working nurses who want to continue with their current professional roles while they earn their master's degree. Learners focus on specialized topics during their degree including evidence-based practice improvement, nurse leadership, quality and safety, and systems management.

    The program features three start dates throughout the year, and candidates may enroll on a full- or part-time basis. Applicants do not need to provide standardized scores with their admissions materials.

  8. Queens University of Charlotte

    Charlotte, NC

    North Carolina-based Queens offers a 37-credit RN-to-MSN program that can be completed in about two years. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education-accredited program is open to applicants who hold an RN license and an ADN, a BSN, or a bachelor's degree in another discipline.

    Candidates can select from a variety of concentrations, including:

    • Nurse educator
    • Nurse administrator
    • Clinical nurse leader
    • Nursing informatics

    All distance learners complete six core courses on nursing theory, policy, knowledge resources, and related topics. The rest of the program allows students to explore their chosen concentration through both online coursework and an arranged clinical component. Most courses are 8 or 16 weeks long, and full-time students typically graduate in about two years.

    Prospective students must submit an application, provide official transcripts, and hold an undergraduate degree. GRE scores are not required for admission.

  9. Quinnipiac University

    Hamden, CT

    Quinnipiac is a liberal arts university with three campuses across Connecticut. The institution's RN-to-MSN in operational leadership helps meet the growing demand for nurses with advanced skills, providing candidates with the competencies and knowledge they need to assume leadership roles across healthcare settings.

    The accelerated, 140-credit curriculum can be completed entirely online, and students may transfer in up to 90 credits of eligible coursework. Candidates who begin the program with fewer than 90 transfer credits must complete a series of core courses before beginning MSN coursework. The program culminates in a 240-hour practice-based capstone.

    Learners can earn their BSN in as little as one year and complete their master's degree in one additional year. Prospective students must provide two letters of recommendation, a current resume, transcripts, a personal statement, and proof of active RN licensure.

  10. University of Central Florida

    Orlando, FL

    Designed for BSN-holders interested in leadership roles, UCF's RN-to-MSN program features three tracks: nursing leadership and management, nursing and healthcare simulation, and nurse educator. Each track consists of 31-36 credit hours.

    Throughout the program, degree-seekers develop leadership, teaching, and management strategies for improving healthcare quality as they learn to become advocates for patient safety. Coursework emphasizes evidence-based practices and critical thinking skills, preparing students to influence public and health policy. Graduates can pursue careers as nurse administrators, nurse educators, healthcare administrators, and nursing managers.

    Licensed RNs who hold an associate of science in nursing, a non-nursing bachelor's degree, or completed a diploma nursing program can apply to the MSN program after satisfying course prerequisites. Prospective students must reside in Florida or a National Council of State Boards of Nursing licensing compact member state.

Applying to an RN-to-MSN Programs

RN-to-MSN bridge programs are specifically designed for practicing nurses, enabling nursing professionals to enter the nurse practitioner field more quickly and affordably than the traditional pathway of first earning a bachelor’s degree before obtaining a master’s degree. Program requirements vary by school, and depend on the number of bridge credits accepted. MSN bridge programs work with nurses who have an associate degree in nursing, nurses who hold a nursing diploma, and students with a bachelor’s in a non-nursing field.

Applicants must possess a valid RN license, submit official transcripts from previous college courses, and document an overall 3.0 GPA. Many schools require GRE scores. Most applications ask for letters of recommendation, a resume describing relevant work experience in nursing, and a statement of purpose. Once accepted, MSN candidates must complete a criminal background check.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to complete an RN-to-MSN program?

Students can expect to finish a traditional RN-to-MSN bridge program within three years, completing between 120-150 credits. Some schools offer accelerated options that may take as little as 18 months. NP specializations require different clinical hours, and may lengthen the time needed to finish. Part-time learners, and those enrolled in online programs, can take up to four years to complete all degree requirements.

What is accreditation and why is it important?

MSN degree-seekers should only enroll in programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Accreditation ensures that the degree meets national academic standards, qualifies students for federal financial aid, and assures prospective employers that nursing graduates possess the skills and training needed to practice.

How much can I make with an MSN?

NP salaries depend on the type of employer, the location, and the practice specialty. Psychiatric, neonatal, pediatric, and gerontological specialties rank among the top-paying practice areas for MSN graduates. According to the BLS, nurse practitioners make a mean annual average salary of $111,840, with the top earners making well over $150,000 a year. California, the highest paying state for NPs, offers an annual mean salary of $138,000.

What can I do with an MSN?

NPs typically find employment in direct care clinical practice or indirect care settings in administrative roles. MSN graduates may also become nurse educators, often continuing on to earn a doctor of nursing degree. In general, APRNs enjoy more career possibilities and higher salaries than RNs with an associate degree or BSN.