The Top 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.

For many registered nurses (RNs), becoming a nurse practitioner (NP) can be a fulfilling next step in their career.

These advanced practice nurses take on more responsibilities than their RN peers, meeting with patients independently and, in some states, prescribing medication. NP jobs also earn higher salaries; while RNs earned a mean annual income of $77,460 in May 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), NPs made a mean wage of $111,840 — a 44% higher salary. Additionally, the BLS projects that the number of RNs could increase by 7% from 2019 to 2029, while the NP profession is projected to grow by 45%.

Aspiring NPs need a master of science in nursing (MSN) to qualify for licensure. Many colleges offer RN-to-MSN bridge programs for nurses with an associate degree rather than a bachelor’s degree. These programs include both bachelor’s and master’s-level courses, and they typically last 3-3.5 years. Plus, working nurses can take advantage of RN-to-MSN online programs, which offer students the flexibility to study around their schedule.

This guide lists some of the most affordable online RN-to-MSN programs below.

The Top 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 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

Applying to an RN-to-MSN Program

Online RN-to-MSN programs typically set the same admission requirements as on-campus programs, with the addition of access to a reliable internet connection. General prerequisites for this program include an associate degree and RN licensure. Schools require prospective students to meet a minimum grade point average (GPA) as well, which can range from 2.5-3.5. Because these programs include rigorous requirements, applicants should be prepared with competitive undergraduate GPAs.

Often RN-to-MSN programs require applicants to possess some nursing experience, although the minimum number of years varies. Prospective students may need to submit Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or Miller Analogies Test (MAT) scores, although these programs generally place more emphasis on work experience than test scores. Admission requirements may also include professional and academic recommendation letters and a personal essay or statement of intent.

The Best Online RN-to-MSN Programs

  1. University of St Francis
    Location

    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
    Location

    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
    Location

    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
    Location

    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
    Location

    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
    Location

    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
    Location

    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
    Location

    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
    Location

    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
    Location

    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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do I need to have a bachelor's degree in nursing to get into an MSN bridge program?

    No, you do not need a bachelor’s degree. In fact, MSN bridge programs are specifically designed for RNs who hold an associate degree. These programs offer courses that students would typically take during a bachelor’s degree in order to transition to master’s-level curriculum. Because of this, MSN bridge programs typically last longer than a traditional two-year master’s degree.

  • What is accreditation and why is it important?

    The accreditation process ensures students receive an education that properly prepares them for their future career. Agencies give out accreditation status to schools and programs that offer a high quality education; because of this, state regulatory boards require candidates to have accredited degrees to qualify for licensure. Nursing students should look for RN-to-MSN programs accredited by agencies like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

  • What labs and clinicals are required for an RN-to-MSN bridge program?

    Each RN-to-MSN program sets its own requirements for clinicals and labs, usually depending on state licensure standards. These experiences help students gain hands-on knowledge within their field. Degree seekers complete these experiences at local hospitals or healthcare facilities. Very often, schools allow students in bridge programs to fulfill their required hours at their current or previous place of work.

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

    As long as an online RN-to-MSN program possesses accreditation, it holds the same value as a traditional, in-person program. Pursuing an RN-to-MSN online does not affect a student’s ability to qualify for state licensure.