The Best RN-to-MSN Programs of 2022

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Updated November 21, 2022

Online RN-to-MSN programs can trim years off the time needed to earn an advanced nursing degree. This guide explains how and helps you decide if an RN-to-MSN program is right for you.
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Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

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Earning a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) may seem like an insurmountable obstacle for registered nurses (RN). However, online RN-to-MSN programs offer nurses the flexibility to pursue a graduate degree while working. These bridge programs also cost less than earning a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and MSN separately.

Learn more about the best online RN-to-MSN programs and what to consider when choosing one that is right for you.

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best ADN-to-MSN (RN to NP) 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.

Featured Online NP Programs

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

When determining the best RN-to-MSN program, it is crucial to choose the right fit. By researching factors such as admission requirements, curriculum, and accreditation, you can find the program appropriate for your academic and professional goals.

1. Admission Requirements

Reviewing the admission requirements provides insight into whether or not you qualify for the program. Although many institutions have similar entrance criteria, you do not want to waste time applying for a program for which you are not qualified. If you feel passionate about a program whose prerequisites you do not meet, consider completing those before applying.

2. Specializations

As an MSN student, you will need to select a specialization. Therefore, you want to make sure the program offers the one you are interested in completing. For those who are unsure of their specialization area, many programs offer the ability for their students to explore their options when starting the program.

3. Program Curriculum

Checking a program’s curriculum will help you determine if the material covered is appropriate for your academic and professional goals. Although many courses will be similar from one institution to the next, some may offer different academic opportunities, such as specific electives, that may be important to your academic growth.

4. Clinical Experience

Every MSN program will require practicum or clinical hours. With online master’s programs, many schools expect their students to find this experience on their own. It is important to make sure you can complete your clinical experience based on the guidelines provided by the school.

5. Accreditation

Enrolling in an accredited program benefits you and your current or future employer. Accreditation indicates that the school meets educational standards. Programs that are not accredited may limit a student’s professional opportunities and earning potential, as most employers look for graduates from accredited programs.

6. Program Length

The program length for an RN-to-MSN program is typically similar between institutions. However, the time it takes to complete varies depending on your enrollment (full-time vs. part-time) and whether or not you work while attending class.

7. School Graduation Rate

Most post-secondary schools base their graduation rates on four-year, undergraduate programs. However, these numbers still provide insight into the success of the institution. A school’s undergraduate graduation rate offers insight into the institution as a whole, indicating if it can successfully prepare their students in a set amount of time.

8. Online Learning Format and Requirements

Programs may offer courses synchronously (real-time), asynchronously (on your own time), or a combination of the two. They may also include in-person requirements, such as labs or lectures. Knowing a program’s format helps you understand if it works for you and your schedule.

Why Is RN-to-MSN Program Accreditation Important?

Attending anaccredited program provides the following advantages:

  • Accreditation proves the program meets quality standards. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing only provide accreditation to programs that appropriately prepare students for their role as nurses.
  • Doctoral programs expect applicants to hold a degree from an accredited institution.
  • Students in unaccredited programs may not be eligible for federal financial aid.
  • Accredited programs may not accept transfer credits from an unaccredited one.
  • Employers prefer to hire graduates with a degree from an accredited program.

Learn More About the Best RN-to-MSN Programs & Schools

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

#1 The Best RN-to-MSN Programs of 2022

University of Central Florida

  • Orlando, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Description:
UCF's RN-to-MSN online program requires 31-36 credits. Designed for current nurses ready to take on leadership roles, this program provides three career tracks. Learners can choose from nursing leadership, nurse educator, and nursing and healthcare simulation.
Details:

  • Program(s): MSN - nursing leadership and management; MSN - nurse educator; MSN - nursing and healthcare simulation
  • Campus: Orlando, FL
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $327 per credit for in-state learners; $1,152 per credit for out-of-state learners
  • Admission Requirements: BSN or bachelor's in another field with prerequisite courses; current RN license; undergraduate statistics course
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.6%
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $91,360
Average Tuition
In-state
$4,478
Out-of-state
$19,810
Retention Rate
92%
Admission Rate
45%
Students Enrolled
71,881
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
96% 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 of 2022

Johns Hopkins University

  • Baltimore, MD
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Description:

Johns Hopkins offers an RN-to-MSN program that prepares practicing nurses for leadership positions in healthcare organizations. Learners complete 35 credits and 504 clinical hours. Students can add an MBA by enrolling in an additional 30 credits.

Details:

  • Program: RN to MSN
  • Campus: Baltimore, MD
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $1,790 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN; a minimum 3.0 GPA; current RN license; undergraduate statistics course with a "B" or better
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 18 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.5%
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $95,360
Average Tuition
In-state
$54,160
Out-of-state
$54,160
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
11%
Students Enrolled
28,890
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
88% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#3 The Best RN-to-MSN Programs of 2022

Georgetown University

  • Washington, DC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Description:

Georgetown offers four RN-to-MSN online programs to help nurses advance their careers. These programs include face-to-face classes, online coursework, and in-person clinical hours. Georgetown pairs students with clinical sites and preceptors.

Details:

  • Program(s): MSN - adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner; MSN - family nurse practitioner; MSN - nurse-midwifery/women's health nurse practitioner; MSN - women's health nurse practitioner
  • Campus: Washington, D.C.
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $2,278 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN; minimum 3.0 GPA; undergraduate statistics course with a "C" or better; current RN license
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 23-27 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $100,880
Average Tuition
In-state
$57,384
Out-of-state
$57,384
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
17%
Students Enrolled
19,371
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#4 The Best RN-to-MSN Programs of 2022

University of Southern California

  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Description:

Students can enroll in USC's RN-to-MSN online programs full time or part time. Learners take courses such as pathophysiology, pharmacology, and research methods. Online students complete clinical components locally. Graduates qualify to sit for the Family Nurse Practitioner exam.

Details:

  • Program: MSN
  • Campus: Los Angeles, CA
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $1,995 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN or MSN; minimum 3.0 GPA; undergraduate statistics course with a "C" or better; current RN license
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 21 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
Average Tuition
In-state
$59,260
Out-of-state
$59,260
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
16%
Students Enrolled
46,287
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
89% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#5 The Best RN-to-MSN Programs of 2022

The University of West Florida

  • Pensacola, FL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Description:

UWF offers an accelerated RN-to-MSN online program. Enrollees complete 59 credits over 3-4 years. Twenty of those credits are part of the BSN program. Each course lasts 8-16 weeks. MSN students can pursue one of two 16-credit specialty tracks. UWF offers options similar to other RN-to-MSN online programs, including nursing education and nurse executive.

Details:

  • Program(s): MSN - nursing education; MSN - nurse executive
  • Campus: Pensacola, FL
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $425 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: ADN; minimum 3.25 GPA; undergraduate statistics course with a "C" or better; current RN license; criminal background check
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 36 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 91.5%
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $58,450
Average Tuition
In-state
$3,735
Out-of-state
$16,004
Retention Rate
84%
Admission Rate
58%
Students Enrolled
13,061
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
97% 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 of 2022

Ohio State University-Main Campus

  • Columbus, OH
  • 4 years
  • Campus

Description:

Ohio State offers an RN-to-MSN online program with four specializations. Learners complete courses in innovation leadership and quality improvement and informatics. Like many RN-to-MSN programs, Ohio State requires applicants to hold a BSN.

Details:

  • Program(s): MSN - family nurse practitioner; MSN - neonatal nurse practitioner; MSN - clinical nurse leader; MSN - psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
  • Campus: Columbus, OH
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $15,560 per year
  • Admission Requirements: BSN; 3.0 GPA; current RN license
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 30 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $89,090
Average Tuition
In-state
$10,615
Out-of-state
$32,599
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
68%
Students Enrolled
61,369
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
94% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#7 The Best RN-to-MSN Programs of 2022

Western Governors University

  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • 4 years
  • Online

Description:

WGU's evidence-based RN-to-MSN online program prepares learners to work as nurse educators. Students can earn both a BSN and an MSN. BSN coursework focuses on modern nursing practice. MSN coursework covers healthcare access, quality, and costs for diverse populations.

Details:

  • Program: RN to MSN
  • Campus: Salt Lake City, UT
  • Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $3,475 per six-month term
  • Admission Requirements: ADN or diploma in nursing; current RN license; criminal background check
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 42 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 96.7%
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $86,990
Average Tuition
In-state
$6,380
Out-of-state
$6,380
Retention Rate
75%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
147,866
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

#8 The Best RN-to-MSN Programs of 2022

Appalachian State University

  • Boone, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Description:

Appalachian offers an RN-to-MSN online program that prepares future nurse educators to work in colleges or hospital nursing programs. Students take 39 credits online along with a field practicum. Like many RN-to-MSN programs, Appalachian's program includes courses in contemporary nursing issues and pathophysiology. Enrollees can complete an optional thesis or research project.

Details:

  • Program: MSN - nurse educator
  • Campus: Boone, NC
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $304 per credit for in-state learners; $1,138 per credit for out-of-state learners
  • Admission Requirements: BSN or ADN with a bachelor's in another field; minimum 3.5 GPA or 3.0 with GRE scores; undergraduate courses in statistics and research; current RN license; one year or more of nursing experience
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100%
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $56,420
Average Tuition
In-state
$4,242
Out-of-state
$19,049
Retention Rate
86%
Admission Rate
80%
Students Enrolled
20,023
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
95% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#9 The Best RN-to-MSN Programs of 2022

Michigan State University

  • East Lansing, MI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Description:

MSU offers an online MSN that trains adult-gerontology clinical nurse specialists. This 54-credit program includes courses such as pathophysiology and wellness promotion. RNs learn how to address the healthcare needs of diverse populations.

Details:

  • Program: RN to MSN
  • Campus: East Lansing, MI
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $838 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN; a minimum 3.0 GPA in the last half of the program; statistics course with a minimum 3.0; current RN license
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93%
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $96,180
Average Tuition
In-state
$15,555
Out-of-state
$40,384
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
76%
Students Enrolled
49,695
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#10 The Best RN-to-MSN Programs of 2022

California State University-Chico

  • Chico, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Description:

Chico State's RN-to-MSN online program is geared for nurses practicing in rural areas. Like many RN-to-MSN programs, this 30-credit program prepares future nurse leaders and nurse educators. Courses emphasize technology, research, and health systems. Enrollees complete a practicum. Chico State accepts applications from Oct. 1 to May 1.

Details:

  • Program: MSN - nurse educator; MSN - nursing leadership
  • Campus: Chico, CA
  • Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Tuition: $525 per credit
  • Admission Requirements: BSN with a minimum 3.0 GPA in the last 60 units of work; an undergraduate statistics course with a "B" or better; a current California RN license
  • Minimum Time Commitment: 30 months
  • On-Campus Requirements: No
  • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.3%
  • Median Earnings Two Years After Graduation: $95,800
Average Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
Retention Rate
83%
Admission Rate
90%
Students Enrolled
16,746
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

How Online RN-to-MSN Programs Work

When compared to in-person programs, you can typically complete RN-to MSN programs entirely online with little to no campus visits, providing you with optimal flexibility. However, not everyone prefers to complete everything remotely. If you are looking for on-campus opportunities, some programs offer options for on-site learning. These opportunities allow you to develop relationships with other nursing students and instructors.

Online courses are either offered synchronously, asynchronously, or as a combination of the two. Synchronous learning happens in real-time with students and instructors connecting live. Asynchronous learning happens on the student's own time, usually through taped lectures, podcasts, and other online tools. Regardless of the program, you must complete clinical experiences in person.

Applying to an RN-to-MSN Program

Before applying to an RN-to-MSN program, your first step is to make sure you meet application requirements. While specific prerequisites may vary, many programs accept applicants who meet the following general requirements:

1. Admission Requirements

Applicants must hold an unrestricted and unencumbered RN license and have an ADN from an accredited hospital-based program. Some also require previously completed coursework in microbiology, anatomy, chemistry, and statistics, among others.

2. Admission Materials

General admission materials include transcripts from your ADN program, letters of recommendation, a resume, and a personal essay.

3. GPA Requirement

3.0 GPA or higher

Paying for RN-to-MSN Programs

Choosing the right program can often come down to cost. Students who enroll in an online program often avoid certain costs associated with on-campus ones. The cost of operating buildings, maintaining on-site faculty and staff, providing health-related services, etc. are often included in the cost of tuition for on-campus students. However, online programs minimize these added costs, allowing them to offer lower tuition rates.

Even without these costs, attending an online program can still be financially problematic. Luckily, there are financial aid options available to students who need help paying for their program. Applying for scholarships, grants, and/or loans can help reduce out-of-pocket expenses. Loans consist of borrowed money that must be paid back upon completion of the program, while scholarships and grants provide funds based on merit, need, or academic performance.

What Can You Do After an RN-to-MSN?

After you finish yourRN-to-MSN program, you may choose to continue working as an RN or nurse leader and pursue higher salaries and levels of responsibility. Those interested in becoming nurse practitioners (NPs) must pass a national board certification exam to earn an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) license.

NPs' autonomy differs depending on the state in which they practice. Full-practice states allow NPs to prescribe medication and controlled substances without physician oversight. Reduced practice states allow them to prescribe certain medications under the supervision of a physician. Restricted practice states require NPs to work entirely under a physician's supervision.

While all NPs share similar responsibilities, such as evaluating patients, ordering and interpreting diagnostics screenings, and diagnosing and treating chronic and acute conditions, their specific roles change based on their specialization. Specializations include education, anesthesia, pediatrics, gerontology, and mental health.

Three popular specialties after earning an RN-to-MSN include:

  • Nurse Practitioner: NPs can fill a wide range of roles in primary, chronic, acute, and specialty care. They use their clinical knowledge and experience to diagnose, treat, and help prevent diseases and other medical conditions.

    Median Salary: $120,680
    Job Outlook (2020-2030): +22.5%

  • Nurse Educator: Nurse educators are responsible for developing, teaching, and evaluating courses and programs that educate future nurses. They can either teach general courses or focus on specific specialization areas.

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

  • Certified Nurse Midwife: Certified nurse midwives provide essential services including gynecological exams, wellness education, family planning, and prenatal care. They also assist pregnant individuals during and after childbirth.

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

Frequently Asked Questions About RN-to-MSN


What percentage of nurses have an MSN?

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 17.1% of nurses have an MSN, while 45.2% have a bachelor's and 1.2% have a doctorate.

Can you earn an MSN online?

Yes, you can earn an MSN online. However, some online programs may involve on-campus requirements, such as attending lectures, meeting with instructors, or completing labs. All online MSN programs also require students to complete their clinical experience in person.

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

RN-to-MSN programs typically take 30-36 months to complete. Program length can vary depending on whether you enroll part time or full time.

Can I skip my BSN and get my MSN?

Yes, you can earn an MSN without completing a BSN program. Available options include bridge and accelerated programs. Bridge programs allow nurses with a diploma or ADN to earn their MSN in less time than it would take to earn their BSN first. Accelerated programs allow individuals with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees to enroll in an MSN program.


Page Last Reviewed: October 9, 2022

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


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