Affordable Online RN-to-MSN Programs 2020

By Rachel Schneider



Registered nurses (RNs) who do not have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and want to earn a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree can take an RN-to-MSN online program to accelerate their studies. These bridge programs allow nursing students to complete their MSN degrees in less time than earning a BSN and MSN separately, and help learners gain employment as nurse practitioners (NP) or certified registered nurse anesthetists.

NPs, also known as advanced practice registered nurses, take on more responsibilities than RNs, including diagnosing health problems, prescribing medicines and treatments, and ordering diagnostic tests. They also frequently work in roles of leadership or management above other nursing staff.

NPs can work with patients of every age, but they typically specialize in a particular medical area (e.g., cardiothoracics, obstetrics) or specific population (e.g., geriatrics, women). Pursuing an online RN-to-MSN program allows working nurses to further their education while maintaining full-time employment.

This ranking presents degree-seekers with affordable programs, which can help them avoid exorbitant student loan debt. Lastly, learners should find accredited online RN-to-MSN programs, as this helps ensure they can transfer credits, seek licensure and certification, and qualify for employment. View our ranking methodology before checking out the most affordable RN-to-MSN online programs.

Top 10 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 Northwest Christian University Eugene, OR
10 Robert Morris University Moon Township, PA
Read about our ranking methodology here.

What to Expect From a Online RN-to-MSN Program

Online RN-to-MSN programs build on the foundational knowledge gained in an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN.) These programs explore topics such as community health and population-focused nursing, advanced professional roles and values, nursing care across the lifespan, and advanced health assessments for patients and populations.

The length of time it takes to graduate depends on each student's past educational experience. Those who possess an ADN typically need four years, while those who already have a bachelor's degree usually need two years to graduate. Outside of coursework, each learner must also complete a clinical practicum comprising 500-1,000 hours. To practice as an NP, graduates must meet all requirements laid out by their state board of nursing. This typically includes passage of certification and licensure exams.

Career Outlook for Nurse Practitioners

NPs fill vital roles in hospitals and clinics, physician's offices, assisted living and long-term care facilities, and inpatient and outpatient programs. They may also work for other state-run facilities, including prisons. They can provide nursing services to individuals of every age but most concentrate on a particular population.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that NPs earned an annual median wage of $115,800 in 2019, with those working at hospitals earning the most and those working in education earning the least. NPs in the top 10% of earners took home a median salary of $184,180 in the same time frame. The BLS projects that roles for these professionals will grow by 26% from 2018-2028, which is substantially higher than the national average for all occupations. Reasons for growth include increased access to preventative care and a growing elderly population.

Affordable Online RN-to-MSN Programs 2020

University of St. Francis

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.

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Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing and Allied Health

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.

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Gardner-Webb University

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.

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Spring Arbor University

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.

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Chatham University

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.

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University of Arizona

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.

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Jacksonville University

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.

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Tennessee Technological University

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.

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Northwest Christian University

NCU 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.

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Robert Morris University

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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Thomas Edison State University

The RN-to-BSN/MSN degree at TESU caters to experienced registered nurses who want to earn a quality education through a flexible and convenient format. Students enjoy rolling admissions, allowing them to begin their program during the time of year that works best for their schedule. The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Degree-seekers complete self-paced schedules with no time limit for degree completion. As long as enrollees complete at least three credits during each 12-month period of enrollment, they can finish their degrees at their own pace. Learners can achieve maximum credit for prior learning, enabling them to save both money and time.

The rigorous program requires degree-seekers to complete an additional 27 credits of coursework beyond the 120 credits of bachelor's classes. Once students satisfy the credit requirements, they earn both a bachelor and master of science degrees in nursing, which prepare them for lucrative career opportunities as nurse administrators, nurse educators, and nursing informatics specialists.

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Lamar University

Degree-seekers interested in online RN-to-MSN programs can enroll in a flexible, convenient program at Lamar University. The affordable program allows degree-seekers to graduate in as little as 36 months, paying a total program cost of around $17,400. The rigorous curriculum prepares students for upper-management and leadership roles across healthcare settings.

Learners must complete 58 credit hours of coursework, taking nine fewer credit hours in the bridge program than they would if they earned BSN and MSN degrees separately. Students can choose from education or administration tracks. The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing-accredited program also allows students to pay their tuition by the course. The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

The advanced program features multiple start dates throughout the year, allowing degree-seekers to enroll at a time that is most convenient for them.

Each candidate must submit an online application and provide transcripts from an associate degree or diploma in nursing program demonstrating a 3.0 GPA. Prospective students also need active RN licenses.

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Drexel University

Drexel's online RN-to-MSN program is a bridge program that serves students who hold BSNs or bachelor's degrees in non-nursing fields. Learners must complete a synchronous bridge course in the MSN advanced role track.

The rigorous program features accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and tracks in nurse leadership; leadership in health systems management; nursing education; and quality, safety, and risk management in healthcare. During the program, learners explore topics in genomics, pharmacogenomics, genetics, and healthcare. Degree-seekers enjoy affordable tuition rates of $997 per credit.

Each candidate must provide a completed application, official transcripts demonstrating a 3.0 minimum GPA, and proof of an active RN license. Prospective students can also provide two letters of recommendation.

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Roberts Wesleyan College

Students can enroll in one of the best online RN-to-MSN programs at Roberts. A candidate with a bachelor's degree in a discipline other than nursing or an associate degree in nursing can enroll in the entirely online program if they currently maintain employment for 20 hours each week as an RN. The flexible program allows each degree-seeker to earn both a bachelor and a master of science in nursing at the same time.

During the MSN portion of the program, learners can focus on nursing leadership and administration or nursing education, tailoring their degree to align with their interests and career goals. Learners typically satisfy their program requirements within 29 months, completing 56 credits of coursework.

The rigorous program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and allows students to focus on one course at a time, following a cohort format that helps learners establish solid professional networks.

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University of Rochester

The online RN-to-MSN program at Rochester prepares nurses to deliver quality healthcare and improve access to care across healthcare settings. The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

The accelerated, flexible program provides students with access to experienced instructors who have backgrounds as researchers and clinicians. Throughout their coursework, learners focus on real-world applications of industry best practices. Degree-seekers can complete all of their clinical experience at the university's medical center.

Nursing students can tailor their degrees to their career goals and interests by pursuing specialties in adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, family psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, clinical nurse leader, and more.

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Quinnipiac University

Learners who want to pursue affordable RN-to-MSN online programs can enroll at Quinnipiac. The RN-to-MSN in operational leadership program allows students to earn their degrees through an accelerated, fully online format. Learners can transfer in up to 90 credits of eligible coursework. The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Degree-seekers can earn their BSNs in one year, followed by MSN degrees in as little as one additional year. The rigorous program, ideal for registered nurses looking to advance professionally, comprises 140 credits of coursework. Transfer students can enter the program with 68-90 credits.

The curriculum focuses on specialized topics, including research and evidence-based nursing practice, nursing science and information literacy, and community and public health nursing. Each candidate must complete an admissions application and pay the associated fee, along with submitting two letters of recommendation, proof of an active RN license, a current resume, and official transcripts.

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University of Hawai'i at Mānoa

UH Mānoa offers one of the best online RN-to-MSN programs in the country. Enrollees can select from three pathway options. RNs with bachelor's degrees in nursing can enroll, along with RNs who possess associate degrees in nursing with non-nursing bachelor's degrees. Non-nurses with a non-nursing bachelor's degree can follow the graduate entry program in nursing format.

Degree-seekers complete their coursework online and satisfy their fieldwork requirements in their local communities. Along with required coursework, each learner must complete a capstone project within their local community.The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Each student must satisfy between 30-39 credits of coursework, which they can complete in one year if they enroll full-time or two-years if they pursue part-time enrollment. Each applicant must hold a nursing degree with a 3.0 minimum GPA from an accredited college or university, along with an active RN license.

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University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

UW-Oshkosh provides nursing students with access to one of the best online RN-to-MSN programs available. The university features a fast track that allows each learner to earn two degrees at the same time sooner and at a lower cost than if they pursued the BSN and MSN degree individually.

Degree-seekers can select nurse educator or clinical nurse leader tracks. Students who enroll full-time typically earn their BSNs and MSNs within four years. The curriculum allows students to explore topics such as healthcare systems policy and advocacy, pharmacotherapeutics for advanced nursing roles, and advanced health assessment.

To complete the program, each student must maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher while earning a "C" or higher in all undergraduate courses and a "B" or higher in all graduate courses. Graduate tuition rates apply to any graduate elective courses taken during the last semester of the bachelor's component. The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

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University of San Francisco

Students can experience one of the top RN-to-MSN online programs in the country at USF. Registered nurses who already hold associate or bachelor's degrees can enroll in the program to advance their career opportunities within the healthcare field. Each enrollee must complete 35 credits of coursework if they already hold a BSN and 46 credits if they hold an associate degree.

The unique program features a comprehensive schedule of online or in-person instruction and evidence-based quality-improvement practicum courses. Students can earn their degrees through a fully online format or a hybrid option, where they attend one evening in-person course each week.

Online students complete their coursework through an asynchronous format, allowing them to work at any time and from any location. Each enrollee must satisfy 400 practicum hours at an approved site. Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the rigorous program also boasts approval from the California State Board of Registered Nursing.

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Southern New Hampshire University

SNHU offers one of the top RN-to-MSN online programs for registered nurses interested in advancing their education through an accelerated format. The affordable program features tuition rates of $320 per credit during the bachelor's portion of the degree and $627 per credit for the master's component.

A degree-seeker can transfer up to 90 credits, and they receive 45 credits for holding an unencumbered RN license. Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the program enables learners to save on time and tuition as they fulfill the requirements to pursue more advanced nursing careers.

Applicants interested in the RN-to-MSN option begin their enrollment in the RN-to-BSN program, where they need to each maintain a 3.5 GPA. Degree-seekers explore specialized course topics, including pathophysiology for nurses, healthcare management and finance, and community and population health.

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