The Best RN to MSN Programs (With No BSN Requirements)

July 20, 2020 | Staff Writers

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Registered nurses (RNs) work with other healthcare providers to assess patients, administer testing and medication, and advise about further treatment and homecare. RNs often specialize in one or more patient populations, such as family practice with patients of all ages, cardiovascular with patients who have heart issues, critical care in intensive-care units, and neonatal care for newborns.

RNs interested in a master of science in nursing (MSN) can bypass the usual gateway — a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) — through RN-to-MSN bridge programs. The rankings on this page list the best RN-to-MSN programs to help you select the ideal school for your goals and schedule. Top RN-to-master’s programs hold accreditation, which indicates that the curriculum meets the standards required for licensing and certification.

The Best RN-to-MSN Programs (With No BSN Requirements) 2020

Rank School Location
1 University of St Francis Joliet, IL
2 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
3 Regis University Denver, CO
4 Lewis University Romeoville, IL
5 Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health Omaha, NE
6 Union University Jackson, TN
7 University of Arizona Tucson, AZ
8 Queens University of Charlotte Charlotte, NC
9 Quinnipiac University Hamden, CT
10 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
Read about our ranking methodology here.

What to Expect From an RN-to-MSN Bridge Program

RNs wishing to advance their career by the most efficient path can proceed directly to an MSN program, as long as they meet the qualifications for admission. These include a nursing credential from an accredited program, practicing as a licensed RN, and program-specific prerequisites. A student can complete an RN-to-MSN bridge program about a year sooner than earning a BSN and MSN separately.

Course content explores evidence-based practices, healthcare technologies, and health promotion and risk reduction. Students can log their clinical hours at their current places of employment or elsewhere, conditioned on program approval. The program may permit applying past RN hours toward their degree requirements.

Accredited programs include the requisite internship and practicum hours for state licensure as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), along with certification as a specialist, such as nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, or psychiatric nurse practitioner. Students should check with their state boards for specific requirements.

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Career Outlook for Registered Nurses with an MSN

MSNs typically lead to careers within three categories of APRNs: nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), APRNs earn more than $40,000 per year than RNs. BLS data also indicates employment growth projections for APRNs (26% from 2018-28) totaling more than twice that of RNs (12%) in the same period.

APRNs function as primary care providers. Depending on the state, APRNs work independently or under collaboration agreements with physicians. Their specialties dictate their patient populations, which may include family practice, geriatrics, oncology, and pediatrics.

The top industries that employ APRNs include hospitals, outpatient care centers, and physician’s and other healthcare provider’s offices. Salaries range from a median of $105,030 for nurse midwives to $174,790 for nurse anesthetists. The 26% projected job growth for APRNs far exceeds that of all other occupations.

MSN degree-holders should find the most opportunities and highest pay in California, Minnesota, New York, and Texas.

Best RN-to-MSN Programs (With No BSN Requirements) 2020

  1. University of St Francis

    Joliet, IL

    USF is a Catholic university located in Joliet, Illinois. USF's RN-to-MSN programs make it easy for candidates to tailor their studies to their particular interests and career goals. The program's flexible online format offers the convenience nurses need to continue working as they satisfy their degree requirements. Nursing students can also focus their degree on the following specialization areas:

    • Psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner
    • Nursing education
    • Nursing administration
    • Family nurse practitioner

    Degree-seekers pursuing the family nurse practitioner track build specialized skills and knowledge as they prepare to provide nursing care for individuals across the lifespan. The nursing education track prepares students to instruct nurses in clinical and educational settings, while learners in the nursing administration program build their administrative and leadership skills. The psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner track offers care strategies for individuals suffering with mental illnesses and disorders.

    All programs are open to distance learners in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, New Mexico, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

  2. Drexel University

    Philadelphia, PA

    Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Drexel offers one of the best RN-to-MSN programs in the nation. The program allows RNs with a bachelor's degree in a discipline other than nursing to earn an MSN in an accelerated format. Holding accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, this rigorous program allows students to tailor their degree to their professional goals and personal interests by pursuing one of the following concentrations:

    • Clinical nurse leader
    • Leadership in health systems management
    • Nursing education
    • Quality, safety, and risk management in healthcare

    The core curriculum explores topics such as health prevention, disease management, health promotion, and pharmacogenomics. Candidates also complete a 4.5-credit bridge course in genetics and genomics.

    Over the course of the program, learners must participate in synchronous online lectures requiring them to be online at certain times of day to complete lessons and assignments in real time.

  3. Regis University

    Denver, CO

    Regis offers one of the top RN-to-MSN programs for working RNs. The unique program allows degree-seekers to complete four graduate-level courses during the BSN portion of the curriculum, gaining a head start on their MSN requirements. Once learners complete the BSN component, they can transition to the program's MSN portion with ease.

    The leadership in healthcare systems curriculum includes coursework in financial management, leadership development, and understanding the current economic and legal requirements and industry trends. Along with required coursework, learners must complete a 210-hour practicum.

    The program's flexible format allows learners to log on and complete their coursework at any time of the day, from any location. All classes last for eight weeks and do not require any on-campus visits. Most learners complete their degree within 27 months.

  4. Lewis University

    Romeoville, IL

    Featuring one of the nation's best RN-to-MSN programs, Lewis teaches students to execute and design complex healthcare strategies. The rigorous curriculum serves RNs who want to expedite their master's degree and advance their nursing careers.

    The program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Learners can also pursue a specialization opportunity within the program, tailoring their degree to align with their career goals and personal interests. Specialization options include:

    • Nursing education
    • Healthcare systems leadership
    • Adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner
    • Adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioner
    • Family nurse practitioner
    • Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
    • School nurse

    Lewis offers competitive tuition rates and multiple financial aid opportunities. Lewis alumni can also pursue the Frequent Flyer Scholarship, which grants a 20% tuition scholarship for graduate students who have previously earned a prior bachelor's degree at the university.

  5. Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health

    Omaha, NE

    NMC's specialized RN-to-MSN programs prepare learners for their specific nursing career pathways. Depending on their particular career goals and interests, nursing students can pursue nurse educator, executive, or informatics concentrations.

    Learners enrolled in the nurse educator pathway can earn their degree within 30 months. This track caters to busy RNs who are passionate about learning, working with students, teaching, and nursing. The executive track prepares nurses to pursue senior leadership and management positions within healthcare systems and organizations.

    NMC also offers the only MSN degree in the region to feature a nursing informatics track. Candidates complete 200 clinical hours in addition to 36 credit hours. Learners pursuing the informatics pathway can complete the program in just 21 months.

    Along with affordable, per-credit tuition rates, the college offers a variety of scholarships, grants, and other funding opportunities.

  6. Union University

    Jackson, TN

    Union maintains four campuses across Tennessee, but learners seeking one of the best RN-to-MSN programs available can earn their degree online in an accelerated format. Union's distance education program also allows degree-seekers to pursue a specialization in areas such as:

    • Administration
    • Eduction
    • Nurse practitioner (family and family psychiatric/mental health)

    The rigorous curriculum prepares students to take on specialized leadership roles in the nursing field. Degree-seekers explore advanced nursing practices and theories in their nursing subfield as they analyze related problems and integrate concepts in spiritual care and bioethics. Graduates go on to pursue careers in a variety of healthcare settings or enroll in doctoral nursing programs.

    The cohort-based program begins in August of each year. Candidates begin and end their studies alongside the same group of students. Online classes are held each Thursday, with learners completing clinical hours during the remaining weekdays. Most students remain employed throughout the program.

  7. University of Arizona

    Tucson, AZ

    The University of Arizona's nursing college offers a flexible RN-to-MSN program designed to fit RNs' busy schedules. Program graduates earn their master of science in nursing degree in clinical nurse leadership. Learners may enter the program with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). ADN-holders complete 44 course credits, while individuals with a BSN complete 31 credits.

    Holding accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the program's patient-focused curriculum is designed for working nurses who want to continue with their current professional roles while they earn their master's degree. Learners focus on specialized topics during their degree including evidence-based practice improvement, nurse leadership, quality and safety, and systems management.

    The program features three start dates throughout the year, and candidates may enroll on a full- or part-time basis. Applicants do not need to provide standardized scores with their admissions materials.

  8. Queens University of Charlotte

    Charlotte, NC

    North Carolina-based Queens offers a 37-credit RN-to-MSN program that can be completed in about two years. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education-accredited program is open to applicants who hold an RN license and an ADN, a BSN, or a bachelor's degree in another discipline.

    Candidates can select from a variety of concentrations, including:

    • Nurse educator
    • Nurse administrator
    • Clinical nurse leader
    • Nursing informatics

    All distance learners complete six core courses on nursing theory, policy, knowledge resources, and related topics. The rest of the program allows students to explore their chosen concentration through both online coursework and an arranged clinical component. Most courses are 8 or 16 weeks long, and full-time students typically graduate in about two years.

    Prospective students must submit an application, provide official transcripts, and hold an undergraduate degree. GRE scores are not required for admission.

  9. Quinnipiac University

    Hamden, CT

    Quinnipiac is a liberal arts university with three campuses across Connecticut. The institution's RN-to-MSN in operational leadership helps meet the growing demand for nurses with advanced skills, providing candidates with the competencies and knowledge they need to assume leadership roles across healthcare settings.

    The accelerated, 140-credit curriculum can be completed entirely online, and students may transfer in up to 90 credits of eligible coursework. Candidates who begin the program with fewer than 90 transfer credits must complete a series of core courses before beginning MSN coursework. The program culminates in a 240-hour practice-based capstone.

    Learners can earn their BSN in as little as one year and complete their master's degree in one additional year. Prospective students must provide two letters of recommendation, a current resume, transcripts, a personal statement, and proof of active RN licensure.

  10. University of Central Florida

    Orlando, FL

    Designed for BSN-holders interested in leadership roles, UCF's RN-to-MSN program features three tracks: nursing leadership and management, nursing and healthcare simulation, and nurse educator. Each track consists of 31-36 credit hours.

    Throughout the program, degree-seekers develop leadership, teaching, and management strategies for improving healthcare quality as they learn to become advocates for patient safety. Coursework emphasizes evidence-based practices and critical thinking skills, preparing students to influence public and health policy. Graduates can pursue careers as nurse administrators, nurse educators, healthcare administrators, and nursing managers.

    Licensed RNs who hold an associate of science in nursing, a non-nursing bachelor's degree, or completed a diploma nursing program can apply to the MSN program after satisfying course prerequisites. Prospective students must reside in Florida or a National Council of State Boards of Nursing licensing compact member state.

  11. Jacksonville University

    Jacksonville, FL

    JU's Keigwin School of Nursing offers an online RN-to-MSN program that holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Designed for working nurses, the flexible program is ideal for individuals who wish to become clinical nurse educators, nurse leaders, and nurse informatics specialists.

    Presented in an asynchronous format, the accelerated program allows degree-seekers to earn their BSN and MSN simultaneously. Nine credits are waived from the program's BSN component, requiring learners to complete between 141-144 total credits. Students can pursue full-time or part-time enrollment depending on their scheduling needs.

    Learners can earn 30 credits toward their RN license and fulfill mandatory practice components at local institutions. The program features six yearly start dates and eight-week courses.

    Applicants must hold an active RN license. Prospective students should also submit their official transcripts, a resume, a statement of purpose, and three letters of recommendation. Individuals with a GPA over 3.0 do not need to provide GRE scores.

  12. Robert Morris University

    Moon Township, PA

    Pittsburgh-based RMU is a small, research-focused institution that emphasizes internships and hands-on learning for all students. The university's RN-to-MSN program offers a fast track to advanced nursing roles, including positions as nurse educators in community, clinical, and academic settings.

    Intended for students who hold a diploma or ADN, the program holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The rigorous curriculum requires distance learners to complete 12 credits of graduate-level coursework during the program's bachelor's-level component. Candidates explore topics such as nursing research, health promotion and assessment, and health policy and economics through simulations and traditional coursework.

    Applicants must hold a 2.5 minimum GPA and an unencumbered RN license, and provide a completed online application, transcripts, and a current resume.

  13. Spring Arbor University

    Spring Arbor, MI

    Established in the late 19th century, this Michigan-based institution offers a variety of distance education programs through its SAU Online division. Rooted in Christian philosophies, SAU's online RN-to-MSN programs hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

    The university offers three pathways for MSN-seekers: a nurse practitioner track, an MSN-Ed track, and an MSN-MBA option. All three accelerated bridge programs prepare candidates to sit for national certification exams.

    The programs follow a 7-1-7 model. All courses last seven weeks and feature a one-week break in between each course. Learners can complete one course at a time and can continue working as they earn their degree.

    Prospective students must hold an ADN or ASN, but do not need to submit GRE or GMAT scores. Learners also enjoy access to student success coaches who support them throughout the duration of the program.

  14. University of Rochester

    Rochester, NY

    Rochester's School of Nursing offers an RN-to-MSN program that combines evening in-person sessions and online classes to provide an accelerated, flexible path to a master's degree.

    Nursing students can focus their program on a particular specialty of nursing that aligns with their career goals and personal interests. Program options include:

    • Healthcare organization management and leadership
    • Clinical nurse leader
    • Nursing education
    • Pediatric nurse practitioner/neonatal nurse practitioner
    • Pediatric nurse practitioner
    • Family psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
    • Family nurse practitioner
    • Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner
    • Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner

    All programs include a clinical component. Preceptors are available to help learners arrange clinical placements in appropriate settings.

    Eligible applicants must hold a diploma or associate degree in nursing, along with an active RN license, CPR certification, and clinical experience. Prospective students should provide official transcripts demonstrating a 3.0 minimum GPA, a professional goal statement, a resume, a writing sample, and two letters of recommendation.

  15. Thomas Edison State University

    Trenton, NJ

    TESU is a New Jersey institution dedicated to making higher education accessible to working professionals. Many of the university's degree and certificate programs are available entirely online, including an RN-to-MSN program for experienced RNs. The flexible, self-paced program features rolling admissions dates, allowing students to enroll any day of the year.

    While degree-seekers do not have a time limit to complete their degree, they must complete at least three credits during each 12-month period. Students can also gain credit for previous learning experiences, allowing them to earn their degree in less time and at a lower cost. The advanced curriculum only requires students to complete an additional 27 credits beyond the requirements for the bachelor's program.

    Applicants should hold an RN license and a nursing diploma or ADN. Prospective students should provide their official transcripts. TESU nursing students can take advantage of a variety of major-specific scholarship and grant opportunities.

  16. Gardner-Webb University

    Boiling Springs, NC

    Gardner-Webb is a Christian liberal arts university located in Boiling Springs, North Carolina.The school's online RN-to-MSN program makes it easy for both new and experienced nurses who hold an ADN or ASN to earn a master's degree in an accelerated format.

    The part-time program allows learners to earn their degree in 15 months, with an additional two years to satisfy the master's program requirements. Candidates can choose from a variety of concentrations, including:

    • Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner
    • Family nurse practitioner
    • Nurse-midwifery

    Students satisfy their required clinical hours locally, at a university-approved site during the master's portion of the program. Clinical requirements vary by concentration.

    Applicants must hold an ADN from an accredited institution with a 3.0 minimum GPA and a current, active RN license. Prospective students should satisfy prerequisite coursework and provide a copy of current CPR certification before enrolling in classes.

  17. Chatham University

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Chatham's rigorous RN-to-MSN program instills the high-level skills and knowledge candidates need to pursue advanced nursing positions. The program features an educator track for students interested in teaching nursing professionals in clinical and academic settings, and holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

    Bachelor's-level coursework cultivates clinical decision-making and management skills, while the program's MSN component builds competencies in leadership and management. Students learn to become effective educators and leaders in a variety of healthcare settings. In total, degree-seekers must complete 47 course credits and 260 experiential practice hours.

    The program features rolling admissions and multiple start dates throughout the year. Prospective students should provide official transcripts demonstrating a GPA of 3.0 or higher, proof of an active, unencumbered RN license, a current resume, and an essay. Each year, Chatham grants eight scholarships for eligible nursing students.

  18. University of San Francisco

    San Francisco, CA

    USF's School of Nursing and Health Professions offers an RN-to-BSN for RNs who hold either an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor's degree in nursing. ADN-holders must complete 46 credits, while individuals with a bachelor's degree complete a 35-credit curriculum. Most degree-seekers graduate in around two years.

    The program is available in a hybrid format, which consists of online modules and weekly evening classes at USF's Pleasanton campus, and an asynchronous online format. While curriculum requirements and prerequisites vary according to the student's educational background, all degree-seekers must complete 400 practicum hours. Core courses address topics in systems management, healthcare informatics, and pathophysiology and pharmacology.

    The program is approved by the California State Board of Registered Nursing and accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Admissions requirements depend on the prospective student's degree at the time of application.

  19. University of Hawaii at Manoa

    Honolulu, HI

    UH's RN-to-MSN program offers a unique emphasis on population health in Hawaii and the Pacific region. The university is also home to Ike Ao Pono, a historic program serving Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Native American nursing students through advocacy and education.

    The program's three pathways make it possible for RNs who hold a BSN, RNs with an associate degree in nursing or a non-nursing bachelor's degree, and non-nurses with a non-nursing bachelor's degree to complete their MSN in just one year of full-time study. Part-time learners typically graduate in two years.

    The curriculum consists of 30-39 credits, including a field-based capstone component. Distance learners can complete all fieldwork within their local communities.

    Candidates learn to communicate effectively, using technology to support health services delivery. Students also learn how to work as part of a healthcare team, practice client-focused care, and demonstrate clinical judgment through healthcare delivery.

  20. Tennessee Technological University

    Cookeville, TN

    Popularly known as Tech, this Cookeville institution serves a student body of around 10,000 individuals through nine colleges and schools. Tech's Whitson-Hester School of Nursing offers a 49-credit RN to MSN program that allows RNs who hold an associate or bachelor's degree in nursing to earn their master's degree entirely online. Most candidates can graduate in 8-9 semesters of study, or 2.5-3 years.

    The curriculum consists of core coursework, advanced practice courses, bridge courses, and clinicals. Throughout the program, learners explore specialized topics such as advanced nursing research, healthcare of communities, and advanced pathophysiology.

    Applicants must hold an unencumbered RN license, along with an associate degree or bachelor's degree in nursing with a 3.0 minimum GPA. Prospective students must provide a letter of intent, a current resume, official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, and a copy of their state-issued ID.

  21. Roberts Wesleyan College

    Rochester, NY

    Roberts is a Christian liberal arts institution with about 1,100 students. The college offers more than 80 academic programs, including an RN-to-MSN program for candidates with a bachelor's degree in a discipline other than nursing or an associate degree in nursing. To enroll in the online program, students must work as an RN for at least 20 hours each week.

    The program allows degree-seekers to earn both a BSN and a master's degree in nursing education or nursing leadership and administration simultaneously. Students benefit from a modular format that allows them to focus on one course at a time and graduate in as few as 29 months. Learners complete the 56-credit program as part of a cohort, beginning and ending their degree with the same group of students.

    Prospective students must hold a degree or nursing diploma from an accredited institution and an active RN license. Applicants are expected to provide an admissions essay, a current resume, and two professional and academic recommendations.

  22. Northwest Christian University

    Eugene, OR

    Located in Eugene, Oregon, NCU boasts a long history of providing the region with quality nursing education programs and healthcare. In 1908, the university opened the Pacific Christian Hospital, now known as PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center. Today, NCU offers a variety of nursing degrees, including an online RN-to-MSN program.

    Once degree-seekers complete nine bachelor's-level courses, they can transition into the master's component of their program. During the master's-level portion of the curriculum, candidates may pursue a concentration in either nursing education or nurse leadership in health systems. Students who select the nurse leadership in health systems concentration complete 30 credit hours and complete the program in about 18 months, while learners enrolled in the 36-credit nursing education track graduate in around 24 months.

    NCU's generous credit transfer policies allow applicants to transfer in up to 94 credits toward their degree. The university also provides free transcript evaluation services, and students may test out of certain general education courses.

  23. Lamar University

    Beaumont, TX

    Located in Beaumont, LU is a member of the Texas State University System and serves more than 15,000 students each year. The university offers over 139 degrees and certificates, including a 58-credit RN-to-MSN program for RNs interested in leadership and upper management roles. Learners can fulfill the accelerated program's requirements in as few as 36 months.

    The core curriculum explores advanced nursing issues, including healthcare policy and finance, theoretical foundations, and strategic management. Students may also pursue a concentration in either administration or education. Both tracks culminate in a two-part preceptored practicum.

    Applicants must hold an ADN or nursing diploma from a regionally accredited institution and a current RN license. Prospective students should also submit their official transcripts demonstrating a GPA of 3.0 or higher. The university offers a variety of need-, merit-, and major-based scholarships, including funding opportunities for nursing students.

  24. Southern New Hampshire University

    Manchester, NH

    SNHU began offering flexible, professionally-focused degrees in 1932 and founded its distance learning division in 1995. Today, SNHU students can pursue more than 200 degrees entirely online, including an accelerated RN-to-MSN. The program allows learners to transfer in up to 90 credits of coursework, including 45 credits for an unencumbered RN license.

    Boasting specialized accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the 120-credit program features clinical nurse leader and nurse educator concentrations. All distance students explore evidence-based practices as they learn to develop disease prevention strategies, formulate budgets, and create community-focused health education plans. Candidates may also pursue NIH and CITI certifications.

    After submitting an online application, prospective students complete the rest of the admissions process with the help of a dedicated counselor. SNHU offers generous financial aid packages for eligible applicants, along with additional discounts for full- and part-time military personnel and their spouses.

  25. University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

    Oshkosh, WI

    RNs enrolled in UW Oshkosh's RN-to-MSN program enjoy full support from the university's College of Nursing staff. Candidates work closely with graduate advisors to arrange clinical experiences and progress through the program smoothly. Students can pursue one of two academic plans, earning their degree in either four or five years.

    Degree-seekers can tailor the curriculum to align with their personal interests or career goals by selecting a nurse educator or clinical nurse leader emphasis. Core courses address topics such as community health nursing, clinical prevention and population health, and healthcare informatics.

    Learners experience different course progression depending on their area of emphasis and any previously-completed coursework. All degree-seekers begin the program by completing bachelor's-level coursework before beginning the degree's master's component.

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