The Best RN to MSN Programs Online

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Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Whether you’re looking to get your pre-licensure degree or taking the next step in your career, the education you need could be more affordable than you think. Find the right nursing program for you.

RN-to-MSN online programs prepare registered nurses (RNs) to become highly-trained nurse practitioners (NPs) through an accelerated format. RNs can earn their master of science in nursing (MSN) in 2-3 years through bachelor of science (BSN) and MSN coursework and in-person practicum experiences. Typical curricula explores evidence-based practice and statistics at the BSN level, as well as advanced pathophysiology and health assessment at the MSN level. Coursework may be delivered asynchronously or synchronously, depending upon the program

Most graduates work as NPs within a specialty area, such as adult-gerontology, family practice, mental health/psychiatric, pediatrics, or women’s health. As highly-paid advanced practice nurses, NPs earn a median annual base salary of $110,000 for full-time work. With nearly 70% of NPs providing primary care, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job openings to increase by 24,200 from 2019-29, particularly in inner cities and rural areas.

Read on for our rankings of the top online RN-to-MSN programs.

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.

Featured Online Programs

The Top RN to MSN Programs

Rank School Location
1 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
2 Gonzaga University Spokane, WA
3 Ohio University Athens, OH
4 University of Arkansas Fayetteville, AR
5 The University of West Florida Pensacola, FL
6 Michigan State University East Lansing, MI
7 Florida Atlantic University Boca Raton, FL
8 DePaul University Chicago, IL
9 Appalachian State University Boone, NC
10 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
Read about our ranking methodology here.

Best Online RN-to-MSN Programs

  1. University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Based in Orlando, UCF offers an online MSN degree comprising 31-36 credits. Online courses at the university may include both synchronous streaming lectures or asynchronous requirements.

    Students may choose between three tracks:

    • Nursing Leadership and Management
    • Nurse Educator
    • Nursing and Healthcare Simulation

    The nursing and healthcare simulation track equips degree-seekers to lead healthcare simulation programs, which teach students how to carry out clinical skills in controlled environments. The nursing leadership track prepares students for management positions in healthcare, while the nurse educator track prepares MSN candidates to work in teaching positions.

    • Program(s): Master of Science in Nursing
    • Campus: Orlando, Florida
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $327.32/credit for Florida residents; $1,152.72/credit for out-of-state residents
    • Admission Requirements: Associate or bachelor's degree in nursing from an accredited institution; RN licensure
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 91.67%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: Varies depending on concentration
    • On-Campus Requirements: No
    • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
  2. Gonzaga University
    Location

    Spokane, WA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The online RN-to-MSN degree at Gonzaga is a bridge program that offers graduate-level preparation courses in addition to MSN courses. The program offers students a nursing leadership in healthcare track, which prepares graduates for management-level positions in the nursing industry.

    Degree-seekers must complete 15 undergraduate and 30 graduate credits. The curriculum includes 180 hours in the undergraduate community health practicum course and 360 practicum hours at the graduate level. A nursing leadership in healthcare practicum includes a two-day immersion experience on campus. Many MSN candidates work while pursuing this degree.

    • Program(s): RN-to-MSN
    • Campus: Spokane, Washington
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $965/credit
    • Admission Requirements: Accredited ADN; RN licensure
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.44%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: About 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes
    • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
  3. Ohio University
    Location

    Athens, OH

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    OU offers an online MSN degree for registered nurses. The degree includes both asynchronous and synchronous course components, and some concentrations require on-campus visits.

    The program includes five MSN tracks:

    • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care
    • Family Nurse Practitioner
    • Nurse Educator
    • Nurse Leader
    • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

    Students can also earn master's certificates in all of the above concentrations.

    The number of required credits varies based on the specialization. Most tracks take at least two years to complete, and students may need to participate in 400-650 clinical hours. They may also need to participate in 2-4 in-person intensives, wherein they practice their skills on campus.

    • Program(s): Master of Science in Nursing
    • Campus: Athens, Ohio
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $601/credit for Ohio residents; $620/credit for nonresidents; $668/credit for Ohio residents on the FNP track; $687/credit for nonresidents on the FNP track
    • Admission Requirements: BSN with minimum 3.0 GPA; active RN licensure; at least two years of nursing work experience
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 80%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: Yes, except for the nurse leader track
    • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
  4. University of Arkansas
    Location

    Fayetteville, AR

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The online MSN at the U of A allows distance learners to enroll full or part time, and asynchronous courses enable degree-seekers to log on and complete coursework at their own convenience. Students can choose the nurse educator concentration or identify their own area of focus throughout the program. Distance learners must also engage in supervised practical experience in addition to completing their theoretical coursework.

    Students can choose a thesis or non-thesis option; thesis students carry out their own research, while non-thesis students participate in an independent study course. All degree-seekers must complete a scholarly project to meet a comprehensive exam requirement.

    • Program(s): Master of Science in Nursing
    • Campus: Fayetteville, Arkansas
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $574/credit
    • Admission Requirements: BSN with minimum 3.0 GPA in the last 60 credits; active RN licensure; GRE scores
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 81.6%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 21 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: No
    • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
  5. The University of West Florida
    Location

    Pensacola, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Students at UWF can complete this RN-to-MSN online. The program allows registered nurses with associate degrees to earn their bachelor's and master's in nursing at the same time. The 59-credit degree typically lasts 3-4 years.

    About 20 credits of the degree comprise undergraduate coursework, while the rest covers crossover-level and master's-level nursing. Courses last eight weeks and cover topics like evidence-based nursing practice and public health promotion.

    Degree-seekers may choose between two tracks: nursing education and nurse executive. For both concentrations, students must participate in 360 clinical hours. They must also complete an evidence-based project under the guidance of a faculty member.

    • Program(s): RN-to-MSN
    • Campus: Pensacola, Florida
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $282/credit for BSN courses; $425/credit for MSN courses; about $20,503 overall
    • Admission Requirements: ADN with minimum 3.25 GPA; statistics course with a minimum grade of C; active RN licensure
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 91.45%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 36 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: No
    • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
  6. Michigan State University
    Location

    East Lansing, MI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    This online MSN program at MSU prepares students to become adult gerontology clinical nurse specialists. The full program comprises 54 credits of coursework including supervised clinical practice. Although the program focuses on adult gerontology, degree-seekers also learn about nursing leadership and education.


    Distance learners pursue this degree entirely through online coursework. Courses include health informatics, clinical epidemiology for healthcare practice, and advanced pathophysiology. Graduates of the program qualify to take the Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist certification exam.

    • Program(s): Master of Science in Nursing - Adult Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist
    • Campus: East Lansing, Michigan
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $43,551 in total
    • Admission Requirements: BSN with a minimum 3.0 GPA; current RN licensure
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 93%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: No
    • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
  7. Florida Atlantic University
    Location

    Boca Raton, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    FAU offers an online master's in nursing with several different emphasis areas for RNs looking for a specialization. The program's tracks include:

    • Adult/Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
    • Clinical Nurse Leader
    • Family Nurse Practitioner
    • Advanced Holistic Nursing
    • Nursing Administration and Financial Leadership
    • Nurse Educator
    • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

    The requirements for each track vary. Students must complete 33-39 credits. Most of the concentrations also integrate clinical hours into the curriculum. Degree-seekers may choose part- or full-time enrollment and can also participate in core classes through distance learning or on the university's Boca Raton campus.

    • Program(s): Master of Science in Nursing
    • Campus: Boca Raton, Florida
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $372/credit for Florida residents; $1,027/credit for nonresidents
    • Admission Requirements: BSN degree; active RN licensure
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 92%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: Varies, depending on the concentration
    • On-Campus Requirements: Optional
    • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
  8. DePaul University
    Location

    Chicago, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    DePaul offers an online RN-to-MSN lasting 2-4 years, depending on whether students enroll part or full time. Incoming students can enter the program with an ADN or BSN.

    Degree-seekers can specialize in four different tracks:

    • Adult-Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
    • Family Nurse Practitioner
    • Nursing Administration
    • Nursing Education

    For each concentration, students must complete a capstone course and clinical practicum experience. Adult-gerontology and family nurse practitioner students must complete 600 clinical hours; nursing education students participate in 225 clinical hours; and nursing administration students fulfill a 105-hour practicum.

    Distance learners who begin the program with an ADN take 26 credits that count toward a bachelor's in nursing and take the remainder of the credits at the master's level.

    • Program(s): RN-to-MS in Nursing
    • Campus: Chicago, Illinois
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $735/credit
    • Admission Requirements: ADN or BSN with minimum 2.75 GPA; statistics course with a minimum grade of C; active RN licensure
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 91%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: No
    • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
  9. Appalachian State University
    Location

    Boone, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    At App State, the online MSN degree concentrates on preparing students for roles as nurse educators. Distance learners take 39 credits of coursework in total.

    Specialization courses cover topics like educational theories and instructional strategies for nursing and informatics. MSN candidates participate in two practicum courses, including one general advanced clinical and one nursing education practicum. Degree-seekers may complete a thesis or research project. In addition, all students must complete a comprehensive assessment comprising an oral defense of their project or research project presentation.

    • Program(s): Master of Science in Nursing
    • Campus: Boone, North Carolina
    • Type: Public
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $266/credit for North Carolina residents; $925/credit for nonresidents
    • Admission Requirements: BSN with minimum 3.5 GPA, OR BSN with minimum 3.0 GPA + GRE or MAT scores; active RN licensure; one year of nursing experience
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 100%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 24 months
    • On-Campus Requirements: No
    • School site: Tuition | Financial aid
  10. Johns Hopkins University
    Location

    Baltimore, MD

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    At JHU, online MSN students may pursue two options: an MSN with a healthcare organizational leadership track or a dual MBA/MSN with the leadership concentration.

    The MSN degree requires 35 credits, while the MSN/MBA dual degree comprises 65 credits. Both programs require students to complete 504 clinical hours. The MSN degree follows a strict curriculum plan, while the MSN/MBA program allows students to choose from a variety of business electives.

    Degree-seekers can enroll either part or full time. They may also choose to participate in some on-campus opportunities, although they complete the majority of their coursework online.

    • Program(s): Master of Science in Nursing
    • Campus: Baltimore, Maryland
    • Type: Private
    • Accreditation(s): Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
    • Tuition: $48,872 per year for healthcare organizational leadership track; $56,032 per year for organizational leadership/MBA dual degree
    • Admission Requirements: BSN with minimum 3.0 GPA; active RN licensure
    • School NCLEX-RN Pass Rate: 97.49%
    • Minimum Time Commitment: 21 months for MSN degree; 36 months for MSN/MBA dual degree
    • On-Campus Requirements: Optional
    • School site: Tuition | Financial aid

Applying to an Online RN-to-MSN Program

Typical prerequisites for RN-to-MSN online programs include a current RN license and an associate degree or diploma in nursing. Applicants must also submit transcripts, 2-3 recommendation letters, resumes, and a personal statement that outlines their past experience, future career goals, and reasons for pursuing an MSN.

Some programs additionally require GRE scores, a minimum GPA of at least 3.0, and a year or two of clinical nursing experience.

Admission does not require a BSN, as students complete coursework needed for their BSN prior to beginning their MSN core requirements and specialty area training. RN-to-MSN bridge programs typically take less time to complete than do separate BSNs and MSNs.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

    RN-to-MSN online programs take 2-3 years to complete, depending on whether students enroll full- or part-time, their chosen specialty, and whether they can transfer applicable credits toward their BSN or MSN degrees. These accelerated bridge programs prepare graduates to become advanced practice nurses within a shorter time frame.

  • What is accreditation and why is it important?

    Licensure boards generally require candidates to hold a nursing degree from an accredited program. RN-to-MSN students should ensure they attend schools credentialed by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Accreditation also signifies to potential employers that a program meets stringent educational standards.

  • Is an online RN-to-MSN program as highly regarded as an in-person program?

    As long as an online RN-to-MSN program holds accreditation from the CCNE or ACEN, the degree is valued just as highly as an on-campus program. Clinical hours must be completed in person, whether students study through distance or traditional learning. Each program listed in this guide holds CCNE or ACEN accreditation.

  • What can I do with an MSN?

    An MSN paves the way for graduates to pursue licensing as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). Most APRNs work as NPs in a variety of specialty areas providing primary care to specific patient populations. However, APRNs also include certified registered nurse anesthetists, certified nurse midwives, and clinical nurse specialists.