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

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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) 2021

Read about our ranking methodology here.
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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Best RN-to-MSN Programs (With No BSN Requirements) 2021

  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

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.