The Best RN-to-MSN Programs Online of 2022

February 21, 2022 , Updated on April 27, 2022 · 6 Min Read

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?

The Best RN-to-MSN Programs Online of 2022
Credit: Cavan Images / Cavan / Getty Images

Registered nurses (RNs) interested in career advancement, more autonomy, and higher pay can take a more efficient route to earning a master of science in nursing (MSN) by enrolling in an RN-to-MSN program. RN-to-MSN bridge programs let candidates with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) earn both a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and an MSN in a shorter time frame.

Often available online, RN-to-MSN programs offer flexibility, convenience, and sometimes, lower tuition rates than traditional, in-person programs.

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best RN-to-MSN 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, or go straight to our list of the best RN-to-MSN programs.

What Can You Do With a Masters in Nursing (MSN)?

An MSN degree qualifies graduates for advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) roles, along with positions in nurse leadership and education. An MSN curriculum usually features specialization areas, such as family nursing practice, pediatrics, and nurse midwifery.

According to PayScale data from October 2021, MSN-holders earn an average annual salary of $97,000 -- much more than the average ADN-level salary of $72,000 a year.

Three of the most lucrative, popular, and rewarding APRN careers involve caring for families, children and teens, and pregnant women.

msn Required

Family Nurse Practitioner

FNPs provide adults and children of all ages with primary and preventative care, including health assessments, education, and treatment. FNPs work in hospitals, physicians' offices, and clinics. They earn an average annual salary of $107,000 and can expect a projected 52% employment rise from 2020-30.
Salary $107,000*
Job Outlook 52% increase from 2020-2030
Learn More About Family Nurse Practitioners
msn or dnp Required

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

PNPs care for infants, children, adolescents, and teens, and often subspecialize in areas like acute care and mental health. They work on pediatric healthcare teams in physicians' offices, hospitals, and outpatient care centers. Their average annual salary totals $108,500, and the projected job growth rate for PNPs during 2020-30 is 52%.
Salary $108,500*
Job Outlook 52% increase from 2020-2030
Learn More About Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
msn or dnp Required

Certified Nurse Midwife

CNMs focus on maternity care, including family planning, gynecological care, delivery, and postnatal care. They may also assist with surgical procedures like cesarean sections. CNMs work in hospitals, community clinics, and birthing centers, and earn an average salary of $111,130 a year. Jobs for CNMs are projected to increase by 11% through 2030.
Salary $111,130*
Job Outlook 11% increase from 2020-2030
Learn More About Certified Nurse Midwives
*SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019 AANP National Nurse Practitioner Sample Survey

What to Look For in an Online RN to MSN Program

As you research RN-to-MSN online programs, pay attention to factors like admission criteria and curriculum details. This will help you apply to programs that align with your academic background and career goals.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements indicate your likelihood of being admitted to a program, how competitive the program is, the school's academic expectations for its RN-to-MSN online program, and the background of your potential peers.

Program Curriculum

A curriculum should fit your career goals, whether it includes a specialized track that may lead to certification, a nurse leadership position, or another objective. Course descriptions and options can also reflect an RN-to-MSN program's expectations.

Clinical Experience

If you live far from a school's campus or in an area with few healthcare providers, you may want to contact the school to see how distance learners can fulfill their clinical requirements. All students will want to consider how clinical hours may be distributed and the effect it may have on other responsibilities.

Accreditation

Accreditation ensures that a school meets objective standards for academic quality and ethical practices. Many employers and doctoral programs do not hire graduates from schools that are not accredited.

School Graduation Rate

The graduation rate demonstrates that a program's teachers are effective and its students are satisfied. While some candidates leave a program for entirely personal reasons, a high overall dropout rate can be a warning sign.

Online Learning Format and Requirements

Consider how a program's online learning format and its requirements will fit your needs and other responsibilities. Does the amount of structure work for your learning style and any current job or personal responsibilities? Would attending synchronous (real time) classes present challenges?


Applying to an Online RN to MSN Program

To apply to an RN-to-MSN online program, you will need your transcripts (most schools accept unofficial copies for applications), contact information for at least two references, and a personal statement or essay on why you want to earn the degree.

  • Admission Requirements: Most RN-to-MSN online programs expect applicants to provide an essay describing your goals, at least two professional or academic references, an active and unencumbered RN license, and 1-3 years of clinical experience as an RN.
  • Program Length: RN-to-MSN programs usually last for 30-36 months, depending on the specialty. You may be able to graduate sooner if you hold transferable credits from another accredited bachelor's or master's program.
  • Clinical Requirements: The number of required clinical hours varies between programs. Schools may help with, but do not guarantee, placement in your community. If you live far from campus or in an area with few healthcare facilities, you may want to see if the school has placed students in your region before applying.
  • GPA Requirement: Most RN-to-MSN online programs request at least a 3.0 GPA, and some require or strongly prefer a GPA of 3.25 or higher. However, strong work experience or references may make up for a borderline GPA. You can also explain extenuating circumstances in your application.

Featured Online MSN Programs

Why is RN to MSN Online Program Accreditation Important?

Because accreditation is important, schools and programs will proudly state their accreditation status; usually on the school or program's home page or a prominent navigation link.

Accreditation is important for both online and on-campus programs, and a lack of accreditation information can be a warning sign. Check the accrediting agencies' websites listed above to search their lists of accredited programs. Please note that all programs listed here or elsewhere on NurseJournal.org are accredited.

Some of the most important reasons students should seek accredited programs include:

  • Accreditation requires regular and rigorous review of programs' academic and clinical content.
  • Some schools may not accept transfer credits from unaccredited programs.
  • Some graduate nursing programs may not admit applicants with degrees from unaccredited undergraduate programs.
  • Many public and private funding organizations require financial aid recipients to attend accredited nursing schools.
  • Graduates of accredited degree programs generally enjoy greater job prospects, and some employers prefer to hire graduates who have attended accredited programs.
  • Most state nursing boards require credentials from accredited nursing programs.
  • APRN certification organizations typically require a master's or doctoral degree from an accredited program.

Paying for an Online RN to MSN Programs

While students can save money by earning an RN-to-MSN online, certain factors can affect distance learners' educational costs. These include available transfer credits, additional charges like technology fees, and enrollment status. You should also determine if a program charges in-state or out-of-state tuition for online courses and whether you plan to work while earning a degree.

Candidates pursuing an RN-to-MSN online qualify for the same financial aid resources as on-campus learners. Funding sources include federal and private loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study opportunities.

Financial aid is available for nursing students at all levels, in addition to specific populations like minorities and adult learners. Candidates should also explore repayment and loan forgiveness programs, along with employer reimbursement opportunities.

Learn More About the Top RN to MSN Online Programs and Schools

  1. University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Tuition

    $11617

    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
  2. Johns Hopkins University
    Location

    Baltimore, MD

    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
  3. Georgetown University
    Location

    Washington, DC

    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
  4. University of Southern California
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    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
  5. The University of West Florida
    Location

    Pensacola, FL

    Tuition

    $7515

    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
  6. Ohio State University-Main Campus
    Location

    Columbus, OH

    Tuition

    $18706

    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
  7. Western Governors University
    Location

    Salt Lake City, UT

    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
  8. Appalachian State University
    Location

    Boone, NC

    Tuition

    $10525

    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
  9. Michigan State University
    Location

    East Lansing, MI

    Tuition

    $16579

    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
  10. California State University-Chico
    Location

    Chico, CA

    Tuition

    $14843

    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

Frequently Asked Questions About Online RN-to-MSN Programs


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

While the average RN-to-MSN program spans 2-3 years, completion times depend on factors like number of transferable credits, full- or part-time enrollment, and whether a program offers accelerated options like asynchronous, self-paced learning. Students who work full time while studying or have other obligations may take longer to graduate.

Can you go straight from RN to NP?

RN-to-MSN bridge programs let ADN-holders complete a BSN and an MSN at the same time. Traditional MSN programs require a BSN for admittance, but ADN-holders with transferable credits can streamline their path to an MSN.

Can you get your MSN without a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN)?

RN-to-MSN programs don't eliminate the need to earn a BSN. Instead, an RN-to-MSN bridge program combines BSN and MSN curricula, letting qualified students avoid completing a four-year BSN program before spending 2-3 additional years earning their MSN.

Do MSN get paid more than BSN?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, career options available to MSN-holders, such as NP, CNM, and nurse anesthetist, pay a median annual salary of $117,670. MSNs lead to potential earnings that far outpace the median RN salary of $75,330 a year.

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