Best Affordable Online RN to MSN Programs

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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.

Registered nurses (RNs) can improve their job prospects and salary potential by earning a master of science in nursing (MSN). Nurses with an MSN specialize in an area of nursing, expand their knowledge and skills, and take greater responsibility when delivering patient care. Increased demand for healthcare services as the population ages translates to strong growth potential in the nursing field, which currently faces a shortage of qualified workers.

The job and salary opportunities for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) appears especially promising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 15% job growth for RNs between 2016 and 2026 and 31% job growth for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners over that same period.

Prospective students can find many accredited RN-to-MSN programs online. Earning an MSN online as opposed to on campus presents many advantages — especially for working RNs — including increased flexibility, convenience, and affordability.

Top Affordable Online RN-to-MSN Programs

Rank School Location
1 University of St Francis Joliet, IL
2 Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health Omaha, NE
3 Gardner-Webb University Boiling Springs, NC
4 Spring Arbor University Spring Arbor, MI
5 Chatham University Pittsburgh, PA
6 University of Arizona Tucson, AZ
7 Jacksonville University Jacksonville, FL
8 Tennessee Technological University Cookeville, TN
9 Bushnell University Eugene, OR
10 Robert Morris University Moon Township, PA
Advertisement 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

Program Rankings

  1. University of St Francis

    Joliet, IL

    USF offers one of the best online RN-to-MSN programs in the nation. Its flexible, rigorous curriculum allows learners to earn two degrees at once through a convenient, part-time format. An enrollee typically takes about 15 months to earn a bachelor's degree and an additional two years to satisfy the requirements for their master's degree.

    Degree-seekers can enroll in an online degree-completion program or an on-campus bridge program with Joliet Junior College. The degree-completion option features an entirely online format and allows degree-seekers to focus on evidence-based nursing practice and research.

    Coursework addresses current nursing topics, including informatics, environment, and health policy. Nursing courses emphasize real-world scenarios and experiences to prepare students for lucrative careers in settings such as hospitals, primary care clinics, and hospice care facilities. The esteemed program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  2. Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health

    Omaha, NE

    NMC operates one of the best online RN-to-MSN programs for nursing students in the country. Degree-seekers can pursue a nurse educator track, an executive track, or an informatics option. Enrollees can complete their coursework entirely online, enjoying flexible formats that allow them to continue working as they earn their degrees.

    Students in the nurse educator track can complete their program in as little as 30 months. The program prepares degree-seekers to teach nursing students in clinical and educational settings. The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

    Learners pursuing the executive track develop the skills and knowledge needed to pursue careers as nurse executives and leaders. The informatics track -- the only MSN degree with a nursing informatics track in the region -- allows learners to earn their degrees in just 21 months.

  3. Gardner-Webb University

    Boiling Springs, NC

    With one of the best online RN-to-MSN programs, Gardner-Webb features flexible opportunities for experienced nurses who hold associate degrees in nursing to earn bachelor and master of science in nursing degrees simultaneously.

    Degree-seekers can complete their BSN requirements within 15 months and spend an additional two years earning MSN degrees. Learners complete their coursework online, satisfying the required clinical hours at local, school-approved sites. While the BSN program does not include clinical requirements, MSN students must complete clinical hours.

    Nursing students can consider concentration opportunities in adult-gerontology primary care, nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, and nurse midwifery.

    Students who pursue concentrations can tailor their program to align with their interests and career goals. Each applicant must hold an associate degree in nursing with a 3.0 minimum GPA from an accredited college or university. A prospective student should also hold an RN license and CPR certification. The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  4. Spring Arbor University

    Spring Arbor, MI

    SAU offers one of the best online RN-to-MSN programs in the country. The rigorous program, accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, is ideal for working nurses and remains rooted in Christian-centered philosophies.

    Focusing on one course at a time, full-time students spend between 15-20 hours on their coursework each week. Learners complete most of their coursework through an asynchronous format, rather than adhering to mandatory login times. Degree-seekers also enjoy a week off in between their classes, taking seven weeks to complete a course.

    Students graduate prepared to pursue licensure in their chosen nursing specialty. Enrollees enjoy access to student success coaches who help them grow professionally, spiritually, and personally.

  5. Chatham University

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Chatham's highly ranked online RN-to-MSN program includes the educator track, which prepares nurses to serve as instructors in clinical and academic settings. While learners focus on their bachelor's degree courses, they cultivate clinical management and decision-making skills.

    During the MSN part of the program, students focus on building leadership skills to work as educators and leaders in many different healthcare settings Chatham features rolling admissions, which allow degree-seekers to begin the program in multiple start dates throughout the year. Each learner must complete 47 credits of coursework and a total of 260 experiential practice hours.

    Combining the requirements of both BSN and MSN degrees allows degree-seekers to take advantage of lower program costs and shortened program lengths. The specialized curriculum explores curriculum design and evaluation in nursing education, teaching strategies and information technology for the nurse educator, and responsibilities of the nurse educator.

    The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  6. University of Arizona

    Tucson, AZ

    UArizona offers one of the best online RN-to-MSN programs for busy nursing students. The flexible format allows degree-seekers to continue working while pursuing their degrees. The generalist master of science in nursing degree in clinical systems leadership boasts accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

    Each candidate must hold an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor of science in nursing. The streamlined curriculum allows degree-seekers to complete their degrees in the same time or less than some traditional bachelor's programs. During the rigorous curriculum, learners focus on evidence-based practice improvement, nurse leadership, systems management, and healthcare technology.

    The affordable program features tuition rates of $680 per unit. All students must complete their FAFSA during the application process. Admitted candidates enjoy access to scholarship opportunities through the university's unique database. Prospective students must complete an admissions application and provide official transcripts to qualify.

  7. Jacksonville University

    Jacksonville, FL

    Students who want to enroll in one of the best online RN-to-MSN programs in the nation should consider pursuing their degree at JU. The Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Science, Keigwin School of Nursing offers an entirely online using program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

    Graduates can pursue careers as clinical nurse educators, nurse informatics specialists, or nurse leaders. The innovative degree allows learners to earn their bachelor and master of science in nursing degrees simultaneously. Dual-degree enrollees complete between 141-144 total credits of coursework and waive nine bachelor's credits in the process.

    A candidate can earn 30 credits for holding their RN license and enroll part time or full time, depending on their scheduling needs. The program offers manageable eight-week course sessions and asynchronous learning, allowing students added flexibility in completing their coursework.

  8. Tennessee Technological University

    Cookeville, TN

    Tennessee Tech administers an affordable RN-to-MSN online program that is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The rigorous program can be completed entirely online. Learners must complete 49 credit hours of coursework and can satisfy their program requirements within 2.5-3 years of study by completing two courses each semester.

    In-state learners pay a tuition of about $724 per credit, while out-of-state students pay around $981 per credit hour. Coursework explores healthcare of communities, advanced pharmacology, and advanced pathophysiology.

    Each candidate must hold an unencumbered RN license, an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor's degree in nursing with a 3.0 minimum GPA, and complete a statistics course. During the admissions process, each applicant must provide a completed application, a copy of their RN license, state-issued ID, a statement of purpose, a resume, transcripts, and three letters of recommendation.

  9. Bushnell University

    Eugene, OR

    BU offers one of the most affordable RN-to-MSN online programs in the nation. The program allows a registered nurse to complete a bachelor's and master's degree in nursing simultaneously in less time and at a lower cost than earning each degree separately. Once students complete nine bachelor's-level courses, they can begin with their master's-level coursework.

    Learners can complete their degrees entirely online to maintain a balance between their life, work, and education. The program features an asynchronous format, which offers students added flexibility in completing their classes. Learners can consider multiple start dates each year, beginning their program at a time that is most convenient for them.

    The unique program serves students who currently hold RN licenses and bachelor's degrees in disciplines other than nursing. The entirely online program features a supportive academic environment that puts students first and provides degree-seekers with access to project-based experiences they can complete within their local communities.

    The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

  10. Robert Morris University

    Moon Township, PA

    RMU offers one of the top RN-to-MSN online programs and prepares learners to pursue roles as nurse educators in community, clinical, and academic settings. After completing the program, each degree-seeker earns a bachelor and a master of science in nursing with an emphasis on leadership or nursing education.

    The rigorous program caters to students who hold associate degrees or diplomas in nursing and want to advance in the healthcare field. The program, with accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, allows students to complete both of their degrees one year sooner than if they pursued the programs separately.

    The specialized curriculum explores nursing research, health policy and economics, and health promotion and assessment. Each prospective student must hold an active RN license, provide a current resume, along with official transcripts from an accredited nursing program with a 2.5 minimum GPA, and any other post-high school transcripts.

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Featured Online Programs

RN to MSN Online Programs: An Overview

This guide covers what to expect from the best online RN-to-MSN programs, including admission requirements, program length, concentration options, and sample coursework. Students should consider these factors when researching potential RN-to-MSN programs to ensure the program they select aligns with their goals, interests, lifestyle, and budget. Specific requirements and curriculum offerings vary by program.

Admission Requirements

All accredited MSN programs require applicants to demonstrate proof of RN licensure. To receive an RN license, nurses must graduate from a diploma-based nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination. Most RN-to-MSN programs require applicants to hold an associate or bachelor’s degree — earned with a minimum 2.5 GPA — and submit letters of recommendation. Common prerequisite courses include anatomy, biology, statistics, and chemistry. Some schools require GRE scores. International learners from non-English-speaking countries must often submit Test of English as a Foreign Language scores.

Program Length

Program length varies based on a student’s enrollment status. Full-time learners can sometimes graduate from accelerated RN-to-MSN online programs in 1.5 years, but most programs take at least two years to complete. Part-time students can graduate in 3-4 years.

Time to graduation also varies depending on the program format. Asynchronous programs allow students to complete coursework at their own pace. Alternatively, cohort-based programs require learners to complete exams and submit assignments according to a paced, predetermined schedule.

Concentrations Offered for an Online MSN Degree

Most RN-to-MSN programs offer advanced practice nursing concentrations. Concentrations differ by school, but some common concentrations include the three described below.

  • Certified Nurse Midwife

    A certified nurse midwife concentration prepares students to deliver babies and provide prenatal and postpartum care to patients. Nurse midwives educate patients about pregnancy, labor and delivery, and postpartum issues like breastfeeding.

  • Family Nurse Practitioner

    A family nurse practitioner concentration teaches students to provide primary care to children and adults. They can work in private practice, hospitals, and community health centers. They often work closely with physicians and other healthcare workers. These nurses often focus on preventative care and health education.

  • Nurse Anesthetist

    This concentration teaches students how to monitor and manage anesthesia. Nurse anesthetists remain with patients who receive general or local anesthesia throughout a treatment or procedure to monitor reactions. They may also provide other pain management and emergency services to patients.

Sample Coursework

The following list outlines a few common classes in RN-to-MSN programs, although students should keep in mind that coursework varies by school and concentration.

  • Advanced Pharmacology
    This course explores the interactions between drugs and organ systems, examining current issues in toxicology and pharmacology. Research topics may include pharmacokinetics, receptor mechanisms, and drug metabolism and distribution. Students study major classes of drugs and the risks and benefits of using them to treat patients.
  • Research for Evidence-Based Practice
    This class examines the role of research in evidence-based nursing practice and teaching. Students learn about the research process, including how to ask a clinical question and assess and analyze evidence. They also learn to translate research into clinical practice. Other covered issues include research utilization models and synthesis of evidence.
  • Nursing Ethics
    Students learn about ethical issues related to the healthcare field, with an emphasis on nursing. The course focuses on the application of nursing ethics to specific patients, institutions, and providers. Students analyze different healthcare scenarios using ethical principles and reasoning.
  • Primary Care of Women and Children
    Designed for students who plan to provide primary care to children and/or women, this class introduces common indicators of wellness and illness in these populations. It also explores pediatric and midwifery career paths.
  • Applied Clinical Genetics and Genomics
    Learners explore the latest research and basic foundations of genetic science and molecular concepts, learning to incorporate a genetics focus into their nursing practice. Coursework explores topics like ethical implications of genetic information, taking a patient’s genetic history, and common genetic tests.

Internship Component

To graduate from an online RN-to-MSN program, you must complete a practicum in a hospital or clinic with a recognized preceptor. While some schools provide clinical placement specialists, many online students need to complete some independent research to find a registered preceptor. A practicum gives you hands-on experience with diagnostic assessment, healthcare implementation, and outpatient rehabilitation programs.

Certifications and Licenses This Program Prepares For

RN-to-MSN programs prepare graduates to work as licensed APRNs in roles like certified nurse midwife, family nurse practitioner, and acute care nurse practitioner. APRNs must hold an RN license in their state, pass a national certification exam, and possess a master’s degree. Each state sets its own APRN licensing requirements, so graduates should refer to their state board of nursing for more information.

  • Certified Nurse Midwife

    The American Midwifery Certification Board offers the CNM certification, which qualifies recipients to work as certified nurse midwives. CNMs must recertify every five years. Applicants must pass a computer-based, 175-question exam in nurse-midwifery / midwifery. To take the test, individuals must hold a master’s degree from a nurse-midwifery/midwifery program that holds accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education.

  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

    The National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists offers the CRNA credential. Applicants must pass the national certification exam for nurse anesthetists and recertify every four years.

  • Primary Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

    The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board offers this credential. Applicants must pass the Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care exam. To take the test, individuals must hold a current RN license and a master’s in nursing with a concentration in pediatric primary care.

Accreditation for Online RN to MSN Programs

No matter which nursing specialty you pursue, you must consider a program’s accreditation. An accredited degree verifies the quality of your education to potential employers and schools. Furthermore, you cannot sit for state licensure exams without an accredited degree.

The Department of Education oversees six regional accrediting bodies, including the Higher Learning Commission and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Additionally, specialty accrediting agencies like the American Nursing Association (ANA) may accredit nursing programs. You can check your school’s accreditation status on its website, visit the Department of Education’s database of accredited schools, or go to ANA’s accreditation page.

Job and Salary Outlook

What Can You Do With an MSN Degree?

Earning an MSN opens the door to advanced practice nursing careers that offer better compensation and more responsibility than careers available to RNs without a graduate-level education. RN-to-MSN graduates can pursue roles like family nurse practitioner, certified nurse midwife, and pediatric nurse practitioner. These types of careers offer average salaries between $88,000 and $102,000 per year. Comparatively, general registered nurses make a median annual salary of $71,730.

Nurses who earn an MSN gain advanced nursing skills and may specialize in caring for specific groups of people, such as children, women, or people with psychiatric disorders. They learn to order and evaluate tests, diagnose and treat conditions, and refer patients to specialists.

Family Nurse Practitioner

Family nurse practitioners diagnose and treat children and adults. Sometimes they work in specialized departments, like pediatrics, oncology, or geriatrics. They often work independently and can perform many of the same duties as physicians. They typically focus on preventative care, education, nutrition, and hygiene.

Average Salary: $92,000

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric nurse practitioners support patients with mental illnesses and neurological disorders. They give patients medications and occasionally assist with counseling. They usually work in mental health facilities or units.

Average Salary: $102,000

Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

Acute care nurse practitioners usually specialize in a field like oncology, surgical, or cardiac care. They provide short-term care to patients, assessing patient symptoms, giving medication, and considering treatment outcomes.

Average Salary: $100,000

Pediatrics Nurse Practitioner

Pediatrics nurse practitioners specialize in treating children and adolescents. They usually work closely with pediatricians and focus on preventative care and health education. They conduct regular checkups, prepare children for medical treatments and surgeries, give vaccinations, and provide care for children in hospitals.

Average Salary: $88,000

Certified Nurse Midwife

Certified nurse midwives deliver babies and provide prenatal and postnatal care to patients. They collaborate with gynecologists and obstetricians. They work in hospital settings, private practice, and patients’ homes. They also educate patients on issues like nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Average Salary: $92,000

Financing Your Online RN-to-MSN Program

Prospective learners seeking an advanced practice nursing degree can find some of the cheapest RN-to-MSN online programs by consulting our ranking. Many learners qualify for federal financial aid, including student loans, grants, and work-study programs. Students should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to determine their eligibility.

Students can also take advantage of private scholarships and grants. The following list outlines some scholarship opportunities for students in RN-to-MSN programs. Nursing majors should also research local funding opportunities from nursing associations and health institutions.

Scholarships for RN-to-BSN Students

  • Geraldine “Polly” Bednash Scholarship

    AACN gives out two of these scholarships four times a year to nursing students with a minimum 3.2 GPA. Applicants must be pursuing a BSN or higher and attend an AACN school affiliated with CastleBranch. They must also write a 250-word essay describing their education and career goals.

    See Scholarship

  • Minority Nursing Scholarship offers this scholarship to encourage minorities to earn a graduate degree in nursing. Applicants must submit a 250-word essay. They also need to be a student of color, legal resident of the U.S., 18 years or older, and enrolled full time in a graduate nursing program.

    See Scholarship

  • American Cancer Society Nursing Scholarship

    ACS coordinates this scholarship program for advanced practice nurses studying oncology. Applicants must be pursuing a master of science in cancer nursing or a doctor of nursing practice. Scholarship winners receive the award for two years.

    See Scholarship

  • Scholarship offers a scholarship for part-time or full-time nursing undergraduate or graduate students. Working nurses not in school can also apply for the scholarship. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, set up jobseeker accounts, and complete a registration form.

    See Scholarship

  • RN to BSN/MSN Challenge Scholarship offers a scholarship for registered nurses pursuing a bachelor of science or master of science in nursing. Applicants must be at least 18 years old and hold a minimum 3.5 GPA. They must also submit a 500-700-word essay.

    See Scholarship

Professional Organizations

Professional associations like the ones listed below offer access to networking and continuing education opportunities, job boards, and professional resource centers. Members may also present ongoing research and advocate for nursing issues at annual conferences and meetings.

American Nursing Association

Join your state branch of ANA for access to career development opportunities and breaking news in the field. ANA certifies nurses through the ANCC exam and provides annual state and national networking opportunities for members.

American Association of Nurse Practitioners

AANP provides nurse practitioners nationwide with networking opportunities and publications. The association also hosts job search engines and advance notice job boards.

American College of Nurse-Midwives

This consortium of private practice midwives connects medical professionals with prospective patients. Members can advertise their practice on the Find-A-Midwife search engine and receive copies of the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health.