The Best RN-to-MSN (With No BSN Requirements) in 2021

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Registered nurses (RNs) who wish to further their careers have a variety of options for getting the necessary education to do so. One option is an RN-to-master of science in nursing (MSN) program, a bridge program that allows those with active nursing licenses to pursue an MSN without first earning a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). This helps them qualify for certification as an advanced practice nurse sooner, while also positioning them for other advanced positions. This guide gives you all the details about top bridge programs, from admission requirements to what to expect and how to pay for them.

RN-to-MSN (With No BSN Requirements) Overview



We use our data-driven methodology to rank the best RN-to-MSN (With No BSN Requirements), 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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Best 10 RN-to-MSN (With No BSN Requirements) in 2021

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 opens doors to more advanced practice positions for nurses, as well as opportunities in research, education, and administration. MSN programs prepare nurses with more advanced training in a specialized area, such as pediatrics or adult-gerontology, and earning the degree qualifies nurses for national advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) certification. Nurses with master’s degrees also typically have more autonomy in their practice.

Nurses with an MSN can work in any healthcare setting, such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, public health agencies, schools, and (depending on state regulations) in private practice. Most earn significantly more than their colleagues with a bachelor’s or an associate degree; the median salary for an advanced practice nurse or nurse practitioner is $117,670, compared to the median of $75,330 for RNs. MSN-level nurses include these types of roles:

msn or dnp Required
High Demand

Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners are APRNs who provide primary and specialty care services, including disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, for a specific population. They can prescribe medication, order and interpret tests, and consult with other providers. Additional APRN professions include nurse anesthetists who administer anesthesia and certified nurse midwives who provide women’s healthcare and obstetrics services.
Salary $92,790-$127,030*
Job Outlook 52% increase from 2019-2029
Learn More About Nurse Practitioners

msn or dnp Required

Nurse Educator

Nurse educators are responsible for educating the next generation of nurses, either in a classroom or clinical environment. They may work in a healthcare setting, providing training and professional development, or in a college or technical school. Research and curriculum development also fall under the umbrella of nursing education.
Salary $74,470*
Job Outlook 9% increase from 2019-2029
Learn More About Nurse Educators

bsn Required
High Demand

Nurse Administrator

Nurse administrators typically oversee and manage nursing staff in a healthcare facility. This leadership role may include developing and implementing policies, budgeting, strategic planning, and human resources management.
Salary $118,800*
Job Outlook 32% increase from 2019-2029
Learn More About Nurse Administrators

*SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What to Look For in an RN-to-MSN (With No BSN Requirements) Program

Choosing an RN-to-MSN program is a personal decision. Certain metrics can provide an objective baseline for comparing programs. Comparing programs in terms of their academic rigor, requirements for admission and completion, and outcomes can help you identify the best fit for your needs. More specifically, you might consider the following factors.

Admission Requirements
These are the minimum qualifications you need to apply, including nursing license status, work experience, essay and recommendation requirements, and test scores. Checking the requirements ensures you are eligible for the program and shows how to become eligible.
Program Curriculum
To get the most from an MSN program, the curriculum should match your career goals and provide the training and education you need to achieve them. Look at individual course requirements, program tracks, and the availability of your desired specialization.
Clinical Experience
Many MSN programs require clinical rotations as part of the curriculum; an in-person clinical rotation is a requirement for online programs to be accredited. Some schools require students to complete their clinical hours in specific facilities, while others allow students to work in a facility of their choice close to home. Consider how the clinical requirements will coincide with your other responsibilities or employment.
Accreditation
Nurses must graduate from an accredited nursing program to qualify for certification exams and licensure. Accreditation ensures that the program adheres to the standards and expectations of state licensing boards, so choosing a school accredited in your state is vital to your career.
School NCLEX Pass Rate
All nursing programs prepare nurses for the NCLEX-RN exam for licensure with varying degrees of success. The higher the pass rate, the better prepared students are to take the test and deliver high-quality patient care. While the NCLEX-RN is most relevant to those pursuing an RN license, it remains a good indicator of the nursing program’s quality, even for advanced nursing programs.

Applying to an RN-to-MSN (With No BSN Requirements) Program

RN-to-MSN programs are bridge programs that allow RNs who do not have bachelor’s degrees to begin working on a graduate degree and a bachelor’s at the same time. With that in mind, applicants must have a background in nursing with a valid nursing license in the state where they wish to complete their practicum hours and meet the following requirements.

  • Admission Requirements: Associate degree or diploma in nursing; active RN license; recommendations; personal statement or essay.
  • Program Length: 2-3 years
  • Clinical Requirements: Typically 1-2 years of nursing experience
  • GPA Requirement: Typically 2.5 or above
  • Other Requirements: Some programs require GRE scores, criminal background checks, or personal interviews.

Why Is Program Accreditation Important?

Choosing an accredited school for your RN-to-MSN is important for your education and career prospects for several reasons:

  • Some states only license nurses who graduate from accredited programs.
  • Accreditation ensures your education meets quality standards.
  • Credits earned at unaccredited schools may not transfer if you decide to change programs.
  • Employers may not hire nurses who graduate from unaccredited programs.
  • An MSN from an accredited program is a requirement for applying to doctor of nursing practice programs.
  • You may not be eligible for federal financial aid if you attend a nonaccredited school.

Who Accredits RN-to-MSN (With No BSN Requirements) Programs?

How Do I Know an RN-to-MSN (With No BSN Requirements) Is Accredited?

You can confirm an RN-to-MSN program’s accreditation by checking with the specific accrediting organizations. All of the accrediting bodies listed above maintain up-to-date lists of approved programs. Nursing programs will also detail their accreditation status and which organization granted it on their website or program information page.

Any program listed on this page, or any NurseJournal.org list or page, is accredited.

Paying for RN-to-MSN (With No BSN Requirements) Programs

Paying for any graduate program is always a concern, and multiple factors can influence the affordability for you. Costs for RN-to-MSN programs vary considerably based on the number of credits required, whether you qualify for in-state tuition at public universities, and whether you can continue to work while attending classes.

Tuition is not the only expense to consider. Some schools have a residency requirement as well, which can add to your expenses even if it is just for a few weeks. Books, supplies, and lab fees can also increase your bill.

There are many financial aid options available at this level, though. Student loans are available, but you can also qualify for scholarships and grants from schools, private organizations, and businesses. Many employers also offer tuition assistance or tuition reimbursement programs for qualified employees, which can significantly reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

Learn More About the Top RN-to-MSN (With No BSN Requirements) Programs and Schools

  1. Northeastern University
    Location

    Boston, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Developed for RNs seeking to enter family nurse practitioner roles, this master of science in nursing program offered by Northeastern University's Bouvé College of Health Science uses a hybrid course delivery format. Though much of the program is completed online, learners must attend on-campus sessions twice each semester.

    Admission to the program requires at least one year of full-time nursing experience. Although designed as a BSN-to-MSN degree, the program may admit students who hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field.

    Both full- and part-time plans of study require completion of 47 credits, including 720 total clinical hours. The curriculum emphasizes evidence-based healthcare and the application of information technologies to meet the needs of individuals, families, and communities across diverse cultural and practice settings.

    • Program: Family nurse practitioner master of science in nursing
    • Campus: Boston, Massachusetts
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $1,622 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Active RN license, BSN from an accredited school or non-nursing bachelor's degree
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  2. University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    UCF administers over 90 master's programs, including a master of science in nursing for RNs who have completed an associate degree in nursing or a nursing diploma and hold a bachelor's in a non-nursing field. Students admitted to the program must take nine credits in upper-division undergraduate prerequisites before pursuing graduate coursework in nursing. Applicants must take an undergraduate statistics course, if not already completed during their bachelor's degree.

    The MSN features three options: the nursing and healthcare simulation, nurse educator, and nursing leadership and management tracks, requiring 31-36 credits. Students may complete all requirements entirely online, except for certain elective options and prerequisites.

    • Program: Master of science in nursing
    • Campus: Orlando, Florida
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $370 per credit in-state; $1,194 per credit out-of-state
    • Admission Requirements: Associate degree in nursing or a diploma in nursing and a non-nursing bachelor's degree
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.64%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: Five semesters
    • On-Campus Requirements: No
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  3. California State University-Fresno
    Location

    Fresno, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    One of the 23 campuses that make up the California State University system, Fresno State offers undergraduate and graduate programs in eight accredited colleges and schools. The College of Health and Human Services administers the master of science nurse practitioner/primary care/family option. This MSN curriculum emphasizes primary care nursing practice in rural settings and with clients from diverse cultural backgrounds.

    The 40-credit family nurse practitioner curriculum develops competencies in the essential clinical domains of nursing, including nurse-client relationship, teaching and outcome-based evaluations, management of client health/illness status, promotion of health and human diversity, and management of health care delivery systems.

    • Program: Master of science in nursing-nurse practitioner/primary care/family
    • Campus: Fresno, California
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $2,532 per 0-6 credits; $4,038 per 7+ credits
    • Admission Requirements: Associate degree in nursing or a diploma in nursing and non-nursing bachelor's degree
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 86.5%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: Five semesters
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  4. Johns Hopkins University
    Location

    Baltimore, MD

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Established in 1889 in Baltimore, Maryland, the school of nursing at Johns Hopkins University offers MSN, DNP, Ph.D., and post-degree programs to a diverse student population. The MSN (entry into nursing) program admits students who have earned a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field. In addition to an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university, applicants must complete 17-21 credits in prerequisites, with a grade of "B-" or better.

    This full-time nursing degree differs from traditional nursing education through its emphasis on leadership, global impact, quality and safety, and evidence-based interdisciplinary training.

    Upon completion of the MSN, graduates can directly enter the nursing workforce or continue their studies in an advanced practice nursing specialty or doctoral nursing degree.

    • Program: Master of science in nursing
    • Campus: Baltimore, Maryland
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $1,738 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Non-nursing bachelor's degree
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.49%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: Five semesters
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  5. Columbia University in the City of New York
    Location

    New York, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    For more than a century, Columbia University has been a leader in graduate nursing education. The innovative master's direct entry degree offers a full-time accelerated plan of study for graduates of a non-nursing baccalaureate degree who want to become registered nurses.

    The master's program, which requires 71-74 credits, emphasizes evidence-based practice. The curriculum provides essential skills in basic nursing knowledge and practice expertise. This is followed by graduate-level coursework in global health, advanced pharmacology, advanced pathophysiology, and advanced assessment.

    Students are also required to complete over 1,000 clinical hours in small group settings. This master of science degree in nursing qualifies graduates to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam.

    • Program: Master of science in nursing
    • Campus: New York, New York
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $1,632 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Non-nursing bachelor's degree
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 94.2%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 15 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  6. George Mason University
    Location

    Fairfax, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Established in 1972, Mason has grown into Virginia's largest public university, administering over 200 undergraduate and graduate programs. The master of science in nursing program features an RN-to-MSN pathway designed for registered nurses without a bachelor's degree who complete Mason's nursing core requirements. Applicants to this program must have graduated from an accredited associate or diploma program in nursing, hold a valid RN license, and demonstrate clinical practice experience within the past two years.

    After completing the 15-credit nursing core, students must meet all MSN requirements. The remaining coursework consists of 24-34 credits in one of five concentrations: nursing administration, advanced clinical nursing, nurse education, adult gerontology nurse practitioner, and family nurse practitioner.

    • Program: RN-to-MSN
    • Campus: Fairfax, Virginia
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $600 per credit in-state; $1,488 per credit out-of-state
    • Admission Requirements: Associate degree in nursing or a diploma in nursing
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 95%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 18 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  7. Appalachian State University
    Location

    Boone, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Appalachian State University, one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, enrolls over 20,000 students in 150 undergraduate and graduate programs. The department of nursing offers several fully online nursing degrees, including a master of science with a concentration in nursing education. Designed for students who hold a valid RN license from an accredited associate program or a nursing diploma with a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing, this 39-credit, part-time program, takes two years to complete.

    The curriculum integrates core courses with nursing education classes and requires either a thesis or research project. Distance learners must complete two practicums in the summer semester of each year in clinical practice and nursing education settings.

    • Program: Master of science in nursing
    • Campus: Boone, North Carolina
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $237 per credit in-state, $895 per credit out-of-state
    • Admission Requirements: Associate degree in nursing or a diploma in nursing and a non-nursing bachelor's degree
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: No
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  8. California State University-Sacramento
    Location

    Sacramento, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    This hybrid program offered by California State University, Sacramento prepares graduates for professional clinical practice, nursing educator positions, and leadership roles. The predominantly online master of science in nursing provides training in advanced practice nursing to currently employed registered nurses. Applicants must have a valid RN license and an accredited associate degree in nursing or a nursing diploma and a bachelor's in a field related to nursing.

    The 33-credit curriculum begins with core nursing courses in advanced role development, research, organizational and systems leadership, educational program development, and community health and policy. After completing the core, degree-seekers choose from two advanced practice-based concentrations, in the advanced clinical educator role or the school nursing role.

    • Program: Master of science in nursing
    • Campus: Sacramento, California
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $2,082 per 0-6 credits, $3,588 per 7+ credits
    • Admission Requirements: Associate degree in nursing or a diploma in nursing and a non-nursing bachelor's degree in a related field
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 98.53%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  9. Vanderbilt University
    Location

    Nashville, TN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Vanderbilt University, one of the first schools to launch a pre-specialty program that allows students with a non-nursing degree to enter the MSN program without repeating undergraduate classes, offers a flexible accelerated ADN-to-MSN option. Applicants to the two-year program must have an unencumbered RN license and hold either an accredited associate degree in nursing or a nursing diploma.

    Distance learners take courses in a modified learning (block) format. This unique delivery format combines online conferencing, recorded lectures and distributed learning materials, and on-campus courses offered in concentrated blocks of time on campus, up to four times per semester including weekends. Students may find clinical placements in their communities, depending on the availability of an approved agency and preceptor.

    • Program: ADN-to-MSN
    • Campus: Nashville, Tennessee
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $1,716 per credit
    • Admission Requirements: Associate degree in nursing or a diploma in nursing and at least 78 semester hours of college credit
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid
  10. California State University-San Bernardino
    Location

    San Bernardino, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The master of science in nursing at California State University, San Bernardino admits applicants who hold a bachelor of science in nursing or a related field and those with a non-nursing baccalaureate. Enrollees with a non-nursing degree must demonstrate competencies in research, leadership, and community health, verified through coursework, testing, or professional experience.

    This hybrid MSN combines online course delivery with in-person sessions scheduled at either the San Bernardino or the Palm Desert campus. Distance learners must complete courses in advanced nursing roles, theory and research, population health assessment, and program planning/evaluation.

    Students select from one of three specialty areas: advanced community/public health nursing, population health for clinical nurse leaders, and the nurse educator concentration. The MSN requires between 57 and 71 hours, depending on the concentration.

    • Program: Master of science in nursing
    • Campus: San Bernardino, California
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditations: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $2,082 per credit 0-6 credits; $3,588 per 7+ credits
    • Admission Requirements: Bachelor of science in nursing or related fields. Non-nursing bachelor degree-holders must meet competencies in health assessment, research, leadership, and community/public health
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.87%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 30 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School Site: Tuition | Financial aid

RN-to-MSN (With No BSN Requirements) Program FAQs


How long is an RN-to-MSN program?

Program lengths vary but typically require at least 2-3 years to complete with full-time study. Some programs can be completed in as few as 15 months, while others require up to 30 months or five semesters.

What is the fastest way to become a nurse practitioner?

The fastest way for an RN to become a nurse practitioner is via an RN-to-MSN program. These are accelerated programs that allow nurses to earn their BSN while working toward the MSN, shaving about a year off the process.

How much do MSN RNs make?

Pay can vary depending on which MSN track you pursue. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that certain APRNs earn a median salary of $117,670. Some APRNs, such as nurse anesthetists, pay significantly more. Median salaries for nurse anesthetists are around $183,580, while certified nurse midwives earn about $111,130 per year.

Are nurse practitioners in high demand?

Changing demographics and increased demand for healthcare means that nurse practitioners are very much in demand. The BLS projects a 45% increase in growth by 2029, which is much faster than average. As advanced practice nurses are increasingly called upon to deliver primary care services and given more autonomy, expect demand to continue increasing.

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