The Best RN-to-MSN Programs (No BSN Required)

by

Updated January 5, 2023

check mark Reviewed by

Our Integrity Network

NurseJournal.org is committed to delivering content that is objective and actionable. To that end, we have built a network of industry professionals across higher education to review our content and ensure we are providing the most helpful information to our readers.

Drawing on their firsthand industry expertise, our Integrity Network members serve as an additional step in our editing process, helping us confirm our content is accurate and up to date. These contributors:

  • Suggest changes to inaccurate or misleading information.
  • Provide specific, corrective feedback.
  • Identify critical information that writers may have missed.

Integrity Network members typically work full time in their industry profession and review content for NurseJournal.org as a side project. All Integrity Network members are paid members of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.

Explore our full list of Integrity Network members.

An advanced degree in medicine can open doors to various professional opportunities. Review a breakdown of how to earn an MSN without first needing a BSN.
mini logo
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.

Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Credit: sturti / E+ / Getty Images

If you are an experienced registered nurse (RN) with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) and want to earn a master of science in nursing (MSN), an ADN-to-MSN program can be a strong choice.

Enrolling in an ADN-to-MSN program (also known as RN-to-MSN) lets you apply your experience and finish your degree faster than if you went back to school for a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).

Learn more below about the best ADN-to-MSN programs for your needs, interests, and background.

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best ADN-to-MSN bridge 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, and program offerings.




Keep reading to learn more about the key factors to consider when choosing a program or go straight to our ranking of the best RN-to-MSN Programs.

Why Is RN-to-MSN Program Accreditation Important?

Accreditation is the most important quality criterion for an RN-to-MSN nursing program. Accreditation means that a group of independent professionals has reviewed the program and determined that graduates who can pass the board examinations are prepared to practice safely.

This guide lists only accredited programs. Attending an unaccredited program is an unnecessary risk of your time and money.

While an unaccredited program may look easier or cheaper, employers will consider graduates from only accredited programs. Credits from unaccredited programs almost never transfer to an accredited program, so it's more efficient to join an accredited program from the start.

Featured Online RN to MSN Programs

Learn More About the Best RN-to-MSN Programs

See our methodology to learn more about how we create our rankings.

#1 The Best RN-to-MSN Programs (No BSN Required)

Vanderbilt University

  • Nashville, TN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Vanderbilt's RN-to-MSN program prepares students for advanced-practice specialties in 14 areas. Applicants with a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing major must complete 11 credits in natural science prerequisites. The program uses a hybrid format. Students attend some in-person classes with online components scheduled in concentrated blocks.

  • Program: MSN
  • Campus: Nashville, TN
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $1,793 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree from an accredited university; associate degree in nursing or a diploma in nursing from an accredited program; current RN license; minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 2 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
Average Tuition
In-state
$50,800
Out-of-state
$50,800
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
9%
Students Enrolled
13,131
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#2 The Best RN-to-MSN Programs (No BSN Required)

Yale University

  • New Haven, CT
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Yale's RN-to-MSN program prepares students for advanced practitioner and nursing leadership roles. The curriculum offers seven specialties. Learners can enroll full time or part time. ​​In their final year, enrollees can pursue one of four clinical concentrations that lead to certification. These include diabetes care, oncology, gender and sexuality health justice, and research.

  • Program: RN-to-MSN program
  • Campus: New Haven, CT
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $47,114 per year
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree from an accredited university; associate degree in nursing or a diploma in nursing from an accredited program; current RN license; minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 2 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
Average Tuition
In-state
$55,500
Out-of-state
$55,500
Retention Rate
99%
Admission Rate
6%
Students Enrolled
13,609
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
0% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

#3 The Best RN-to-MSN Programs (No BSN Required)

University of Virginia-Main Campus

  • Charlottesville, VA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

One of the nation's top-ranked nursing schools, UVA offers an RN-to-CNL program for nurses interested in healthcare administration, nursing leadership, and policy. This accelerated part-time program requires 43 credits. Learners complete courses over two semesters. In their final semester, students complete a practicum followed by a clinical nurse leader (CNL) residency.

  • Program: RN-to-CNL program
  • Campus: Charlottesville, VA
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $871 per credit for Virginia residents; $1,432 for out-of-state-students
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree from an accredited university; associate degree in nursing or a diploma in nursing from an accredited program; current RN license; minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 2 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $93,178 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$14,970
Out-of-state
$47,833
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
24%
Students Enrolled
25,012
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#4 The Best RN-to-MSN Programs (No BSN Required)

Johns Hopkins University

  • Baltimore, MD
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Johns Hopkins offers an accelerated MSN program that emphasizes leadership and global impact. Applicants with a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field must take 17-21 prerequisite credits. Enrollees can complete prerequisites fully online. The curriculum covers topics such as pathophysiology, child health, and leadership for professional nursing.

  • Program: MSN (entry into nursing) program
  • Campus: Baltimore, MD
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $1,790 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree from an accredited university in a non-nursing major; minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 5 semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.5% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $95,359 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$55,350
Out-of-state
$55,350
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
11%
Students Enrolled
27,079
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#5 The Best RN-to-MSN Programs (No BSN Required)

University of Central Florida

  • Orlando, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

UCF's RN-to-MSN program is designed for licensed RNs with non-nursing bachelor degrees. The program runs fully online and features three tracks. These include nursing and healthcare simulation, nurse educator, and nursing leadership and management. Enrollees complete nine credits in upper-division nursing prerequisites before moving into graduate-level coursework. This program requires 31-36 credits, including clinical hours.

  • Program: RN-to-MSN program
  • Campus: Orlando, FL
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $370 per credit for Florida residents; $1,194 per credit for out-of-state students
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's degree from an accredited university; associate degree in nursing or a diploma in nursing from an accredited program; current RN license
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 5 semesters
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.6% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $91,363 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$4,478
Out-of-state
$19,810
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
44%
Students Enrolled
69,402
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
59% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#6 The Best RN-to-MSN Programs (No BSN Required)

California State University-Fullerton

  • Fullerton, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

One of 23 schools in the California State University system, CSUF offers an MSN in nursing leadership. The program runs fully online. However, enrollees must complete an in-person clinical practicum. Applicants with a non-nursing degree must pass a prerequisite course in community health nursing. They need a grade of "C" or better.

  • Program: MSN in nursing leadership
  • Campus: Fullerton, CA
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $2,082 for 6 credits or less; $3,588 for over 6 credits
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's in nursing or a related field from an accredited university; current RN license; at least one year of full-time nursing experience; minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 2 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.6% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $114,595 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
53%
Students Enrolled
40,445
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
38% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#7 The Best RN-to-MSN Programs (No BSN Required)

California State University-Long Beach

  • Long Beach, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

CSULB's master's-level nursing programs train learners for careers as nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse educators. Graduates may also work as nurse executives or leaders in public health nursing. Students pursuing an RN-to-MSN degree can choose from several nurse practitioner specialties. They can also choose a concentration in nursing and health systems executive management.

  • Program: MSN
  • Campus: Long Beach, CA
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $2,082 for 6 credits or less; $3,588 for over 6 credits
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's from an accredited university in nursing or a related field; current RN license; minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 2 years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 99.3% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $118,210 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Retention Rate
87%
Admission Rate
39%
Students Enrolled
38,674
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#8 The Best RN-to-MSN Programs (No BSN Required)

University of Rochester

  • Rochester, NY
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Rochester's accelerated RN-to-BS-to-MS program includes both online and in-person evening classes. Consistently ranked among the top nursing schools, Rochester boasts a 100% employment rate for its master's students within a year of graduation. RNs interested in careers as nurse educators, clinical nurse leaders, and healthcare systems leaders may apply.

  • Program: RN-to-BS-to-MS program
  • Campus: Rochester, NY
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $1,640 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: Associate degree in nursing or a diploma in nursing from an accredited program; current RN license; minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Two years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 95% first-time pass rate
Average Tuition
In-state
$55,040
Out-of-state
$55,040
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
30%
Students Enrolled
12,233
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
7% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#9 The Best RN-to-MSN Programs (No BSN Required)

Northeastern University

  • Boston, MA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Northeastern offers a family nurse practitioner MS that admits RNs with at least one year of nursing experience. Students can enroll full time or part time. The 58-credit program uses a hybrid course delivery format. Online learners must attend on-campus meetings twice each semester.

  • Program: Family nurse practitioner MS
  • Campus: Boston, MA
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $1,685 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's from an accredited university in a non-nursing field with approval; current RN license; at least one year of full-time nursing experience; minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Two years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 85% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $110,878 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$52,420
Out-of-state
$52,420
Retention Rate
99%
Admission Rate
18%
Students Enrolled
22,207
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

#10 The Best RN-to-MSN Programs (No BSN Required)

San Diego State University

  • San Diego, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

SDSU's master of science in nursing requires a minimum of 36 credits. Learners can enroll full time or part time. RNs with a non-nursing bachelor's degree must enroll in designated courses to fulfill upper-division prerequisites. They can then advance to graduate-level courses.

  • Program: MSN
  • Campus: San Diego, CA
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $3,071 for 6 credits or less; $4,577 for over 6 credits
  • Admission Requirements: Bachelor's from an accredited university in a non-nursing field with approval; current RN license; minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Minimum Time Commitment: Two years
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93.9% first-time pass rate
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $104,192 for master's graduates, according to College Scorecard
Average Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
34%
Students Enrolled
35,544
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Using Our Rankings: What to Look For in an RN-to-MSN Program

The right RN-to-MSN program depends on your career goals, background, financial position, geographic location, and learning style, as well as the program itself.

Program considerations include admission requirements, academic reputation, available specializations, and class format. While there are grants, loans, and scholarships, you still want the best value for your investment of time and money.

1. Admission Requirements

Admission requirements tell you how likely you are to gain acceptance into a program. They also indicate what the school culture values and what your classmates will be like.

ADN-to-MSN admission requirements may be flexible, depending on the school. If you're unsure, talk to one of the school's admission counselors.

2. Specializations

Unlike undergraduate nursing programs, RN-to-MSN programs prepare students for a particular nursing specialty, such as family practice, nurse midwifery, or nurse education. Demand is high for all of these specialties.

3. Program Curriculum

Another important factor in considering different ADN-to-MSN programs is the curriculum. While most of the content and skills are standard, class structure can indicate what the program values.

4. Clinical Experience

Especially if you are attending an online ADN-to-MSN program, the logistics of clinical placement can be a major factor in your success. Make sure that the schedule and format work with your existing responsibilities and that you can find placement in your community.

5. Accreditation

Accreditation is the most fundamental measurement of a program's quality. To qualify for board certification, you must graduate from an accredited program. All of the programs featured on this site, including ADN-to-MSN programs, are accredited, so you can browse with confidence.

6. Program Length

RN-to-MSN programs vary in length and intensity. Decide on your optimal program pace after reflecting on your other responsibilities.

7. School Graduation Rate

The graduation rate, combined with board examination pass-rate, is an excellent indicator of program quality.

9. Online Learning Format and Requirements

If you plan to attend your ADN-to-MSN program online, make sure that the format works for your learning style and life logistics.

For example, if your schedule is unpredictable, asynchronous classes may be easier. But if you want to participate in live discussion, synchronous classes may be a better match.

How Online RN-to-MSN Programs Work

A growing number of RN-to-MSN programs have online options. These have advantages and disadvantages, depending on your circumstances and needs.

Some online ADN-to-MSN programs require in-person onboarding or have in-person components for some classes, while others offer coursework entirely online.

However, all MSN programs, even virtual ones, require in-person clinical hours. Make sure that you can find placement in your community.

Applying to an RN-to-MSN Program

Give yourself plenty of time to prepare your application. Some ADN-to-MSN programs accept applications throughout the year, while others have a specific application period. Ask a mentor or colleague you trust to review your application to ensure that you've highlighted your strengths effectively.

1. Admission Requirements

ADN degree, current and unencumbered RN license, often at least one year of experience as a full-time RN

2. Admission Materials

Essay or personal statement, copy of your nursing license, confirmation of your malpractice coverage for clinical hours, a transcript for your ADN program, and at least two professional references

3. GPA Requirement

Often at least a 3.0

Paying for RN-to-MSN Programs

Earning an MSN can be an excellent investment in your future, but like other investments, can have a high initial cost.

Most RN-to-MSN students will pay from a mix of savings or current earnings, financial aid from their school, and external loans, scholarships, or grants. Your employer may also have a tuition reimbursement program.

When you estimate costs beyond tuition, consider whether you will need to adjust your work schedule during clinicals or to study for examinations, and any needed travel. Remember to build in for program expenses such as books.

What Can You Do With a Degree from an RN-to-MSN Program?

Most MSN graduates become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), such as nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, or clinical nurse specialists. However, there are other RN-to-MSN specialties, such as nurse educator or nurse administrator programs.

You may also consider earning a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). This is the highest degree in nursing and, as of 2022, the required degree for becoming a nurse anesthetist.

  • Nurse Practitioner

    Nurse practitioners are primary care providers who work in a variety of settings. Depending on the state's practice authority, nurse practitioners may need to work in collaboration with or under the supervision of a physician.

    Median Salary: $120,680
    Job Outlook (2021-2031): +46%

  • Nurse Educator

    Nurse educators teach other nurses, either in an academic nursing program or as a staff member. This occupation requires skills in pedagogy, adult learning, and measuring the results of educational programs.

    Median Salary: $77,440
    Job Outlook (2020-2030): +22.5%

  • Certified Nurse Midwife

    Certified nurse midwives provide care to pregnant people before, during, and after childbirth. These professionals also provide primary care, including gynecological and family planning services.

    Median Salary: $112,830
    Job Outlook (2021-2031): +7%


Frequently Asked Questions About RN-to-MSN Programs


Can you become a nurse practitioner online?

Many schools have online nurse practitioner programs, including ADN-to-MSN programs. However, you will need to complete your clinical hours in person. Make sure that you can find local placement if you plan to attend an online school.

Can you go from ADN to MSN?

Several schools offer ADN-to-MSN programs so you can earn your master's degree without having to complete a BSN. However, these programs are demanding and anticipate that you learned on the job as an RN, so are not just a shortcut.

How long does it take to go from RN to MSN?

Depending on the RN-to-MSN program, it can take two to three years to earn your degree. It can take even longer if you enroll on a part-time basis.

Are nurse practitioners in high demand?

Nurse practitioners are in very high demand. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), between 2021 and 2031, the number of nurse practitioner jobs will increase 46%. Demand is especially high in underserved areas, and you may be eligible for scholarships if you commit to practice in one of these.


Note: The ranking list and school descriptions on this page were created and reviewed independently by our Rankings Team on October 11, 2022.


Related RN-to-MSN Resources

Popular Nursing Resources

Resources and articles written by professionals and other nurses like you.