The Best RN-to-MSN Programs in Illinois

February 21, 2022 , Updated on August 8, 2022 · 6 Min Read

Illinois is home to several quality nursing programs so read on to learn more about nursing salaries, degree requirements, and licensing options in the state.

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The Best RN-to-MSN Programs in Illinois
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If you want a high-quality RN-to-MSN program, Illinois offers several programs to help meet your goals. Illinois is home to some of the best hospitals and health systems in the nation.

There are RN-to-MSN programs in Chicago as well as schools downstate, if you prefer smaller cities. Keep reading for the best RN-to-MSN programs in Illinois and how to apply and pay for this exciting new step in your career.

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best RN-to-MSN programs in Illinois, making it easier to find a program that works for you. Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including: Academic quality, affordability, reputation, and program offerings.

Keep reading to learn more about the best RN-to-MSN programs in Illinois, or go straight to our list of the best RN-to-MSN programs in Illinois.

What Can You Do With an MSN?

If you want a higher salary, more professional autonomy, or to diagnose conditions and prescribe for patients, an MSN degree will prepare you to work as a nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, nurse administrator, nurse educator, or clinical nurse specialist.

While Illinois is a restricted-practice state (NPs must work under a physician's supervision or in collaboration with a physician), you may still enjoy more autonomy, and often a six-figure salary.

The standard pathway to an MSN is a BSN-to-MSN, but if you have an ADN degree and experience, there are RN-to-MSN programs in Chicago and downstate. With an RN-to-MSN program, you can earn an MSN in three years, without having to earn a BSN first.

msn Required

Advanced Nurse Practitioner

Most earn their MSN to pursue careers as nurse practitioners, especially family nurse practitioners. Other NP options include adult-geriatric care, pediatric care, psychiatric-mental healthcare, or neonatal care. Adult and pediatric care offer acute and primary care options.
msn or dnp Required

Nurse Consultant

Nurse consultants work in healthcare and in other settings that call for their nursing expertise, such as law, insurance, pharmaceuticals, and government.

Many nurse consultants work for law firms, serving as experts on best and standard nursing practice in cases of misconduct or medical errors. They may also work as expert witnesses during lawsuits.

msn or dnp Required

Research Nurse

Research nurses are experts in nursing and in research functions such as statistics, literature reviews, and writing for professional publications.

Research nurses focus on improving nursing or patient outcomes for academic employers, research companies, or for healthcare firms or publishers. Research nurses who work in academia also teach.

*SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Payscale

Featured Online MSN Programs

What To Look For in an RN-to-MSN Program

When weighing your RN-to-MSN options in Illinois, consider program quality and reputation, costs (tuition and other fees and any incidental expenses), class size, and clinical placement logistics. There are also personal preferences, such as school size, culture, and private versus public.

1. Admission Requirements

You want a program that will challenge but not overwhelm you. Admission requirements indicate the program's culture, your classmates' backgrounds, and how demanding a school is.

2. Program Curriculum

Unlike undergraduate programs, MSN programs specialize from the start. If you know what kind of program you want, this narrows down your MSN Illinois choices.If you're unsure, a school that offers multiple NP specialties will make switching easier.

3. Clinical Experience

Consider the logistics of clinical placement. If you are in an RN-to-MSN Chicago program, you will have more clinical placement options than in smaller cities with fewer provider types.

4. Accreditation

Accreditation is the most important indicator of program quality. This guide lists only accredited schools, so you can review these MSN Illinois options with confidence.

5. Program Length

Most programs take approximately three years. Some offer part-time options or other accommodations for working students. During longer programs, you may take fewer classes at a time.

6. School NCLEX Pass Rate

While the NCLEX-RN pass rate will not directly affect you, thos pass rates strongly indicate a school's quality and reputation. For large RN-to-MSN Chicago programs or major schools, the pass rate is a better indicator than at a small school, where one or two students can skew the numbers.

7. School Graduation Rate

The graduation rate, especially combined with the board exam pass rate, tells you how successful students are. Again, smaller schools may have more inconsistent results, especially during COVID, when students might have paused studies.

Applying to an RN-to-MSN Program

After identifying the most promising RN-to-MSN programs in Illinois, start applying. Give yourself time and get a trusted mentor's advice, especially if they are a recent graduate of the school.

Warn your references to expect contact from the school. It may also be helpful to have another person review your application before you submit it.

Admission Materials

Current and unencumbered RN license, undergraduate transcripts (schools may accept unofficial copies for the application and require an official copy later), two or three references, an application with an essay or personal statement, and a resume/CV

GPA Requirement

Most RN-to-MSN programs in Illinois require a 3.0 GPA. If your GPA is borderline, talk to an admission counselor; an exceptional work history or other qualification may outweigh your GPA.

Other Requirement

Almost all schools require at least one year of experience as an RN, especially for RN-to-MSN programs, which involve considerable on-the-job learning.

Why Is RN-to-MSN Program Accreditation Important?

During program accreditation, representatives from an accrediting organization review all factors of a program that affect quality, from the equipment in the laboratories to the background of the teachers, to the number of journals in the library. This website lists only accredited programs because:

  • Accreditation measures the quality of a program.
  • States do not license and boards do not accept applications from graduates of unaccredited programs.
  • Unaccredited school credits almost never transfer to accredited programs.
  • Employers rarely even consider graduates of unaccredited programs.
  • Unaccredited programs are an unnecessary risk of your time and money.

Paying for RN-to-MSN Programs in Illinois

With an MSN, you are likely to earn considerably more than an RN. Even so, paying for nursing school is not cheap, even for in-state public options. Consider the tuition and fees, length, whether you can work while studying. Determine how many hours you can work, and whether you may have any expenses for attending clinicals or on-campus requirements.

Fortunately, you have several financial aid options. In addition to your school's financial aid programs, you can look for scholarships and grants from government agencies, nonprofits and nursing associations, and corporations.

Because of the demand for NPs, there are several federal programs that will provide full scholarships or full loan forgiveness in exchange for working in an underserved area, in the military, or for the Indian Health Service after graduation.

Learn More About the Best RN-to-MSN Programs Schools in Illinois

#1

Saint Anthony College of Nursing

School Information
Location Rockford, Illinois
Admission Rate 100%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission

Degree-seekers should consider Saint Anthony College of Nursing if they have a bachelor's degree in nursing and want to pursue an affordable master's degree. The MSN program at the Rockford, Illinois-based college enrolls students considering higher-level roles in their field. Various financial aid programs make this degree more affordable.

Students can expect to pay $17,712 per year in graduate tuition if they live in Illinois. Loans are another popular option among 75% of enrollees.

What students receive for their investment is preparation for more advanced jobs in nursing than a bachelor's program typically allows. The degree provides graduates with a great credential for leadership roles. Graduates may also pursue a doctorate in their field.

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#2

Bradley University

School Information
Location Peoria, Illinois
Admission Rate 70%
Graduation Rate 77%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 31% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Master's degree-seekers looking for a nursing program should consider Bradley University. The family nurse practitioner MSN program attracts students because of a top-ranked curriculum offered on the institution's Peoria, Illinois, campus. The school manages a strong graduate program that includes 34 master's degrees.

Applicants with a bachelor's degree in nursing or a related field should explore this curriculum, but other qualified degree-seekers should apply. Enrollees receive training in advanced nursing concepts and enhance their knowledge with research opportunities. A master’s degree qualifies graduates for career advancement and also paves the way for a doctoral program.

Attending the program costs an average of $16,380 for learners from Illinois or other states. Financial aid options include grants and scholarships. Another option is to take out a loan, which is how a lot of students afford their education.

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#3

Loyola University Chicago

School Information
Location Chicago, Illinois
Admission Rate 67%
Graduation Rate 74%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 15% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

At Loyola University Chicago, the nursing program provides a rigorous curriculum that prepares enrollees for career advancement. The Chicago, Illinois-based institution offers a highly ranked MSN program, among the best in the nation. The school heavily invests in graduate education, which includes 119 master's degrees.

The program typically admits chosen applicants with a bachelor's degree in nursing or a related field, but students with other relevant qualifications may apply. The master of science in nursing program provides enrollees with advanced career preparation that includes some research expertise. While no degree is recession-proof, people with more qualifications tend to do better during an economic downturn.

Students can expect to pay $18,594 in graduate tuition, regardless of residency. Grants and scholarships can help lower this cost. Another option is to take out a loan, which is how a lot of students afford their education.

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#4

Millikin University

School Information
Location Decatur, Illinois
Admission Rate 71%
Graduation Rate 59%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 19% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Millikin University, a private college, is located in Decatur, Illinois. Learners with a bachelor's degree can pursue one of four master's programs. These on-campus programs feature advanced skill training and faculty committed to student success.

The master's entry into nursing practice program is an especially attractive option for people interested in the nursing field. Coursework emphasizes the theoretical and practical skills required for roles in management and research. Learners take courses covering a variety of topics in the field.

Once they receive admission, enrollees pay $22,960 a year whether they live in the state or out of state. About 100% of the school’s learners use loans, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid to fund their education. One factor that attracts people to this college is that about 59% of enrollees finish their programs once they start.

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#5

Elmhurst College

School Information
Location Elmhurst, Illinois
Admission Rate 68%
Graduation Rate 70%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 20% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Master's degree students looking for a nursing program should consider Elmhurst College. Degree-seekers receive a rigorous education in the master's entry in nursing practice program rated among the best in the nation and delivered on the Elmhurst, Illinois, campus. The school excels at graduate education, offering about 21 master's programs.

A bachelor's degree in nursing or a related field is required to apply, but applicants with other qualifications should also consider this program. Enrollees in the master's entry in nursing practice program receive advanced knowledge and training in their field. Graduates leave the program qualified for career advancement and leadership positions.

Attending the program costs an average of $31,667 for learners from Illinois or other states. Financial aid options include grants and scholarships. Prospective students can also explore federal or private loans as a means to afford their education.

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#6

Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing

School Information
Location Peoria, Illinois
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing offers a master of science in nursing program for degree-seekers with a bachelor's degree in nursing. Enrollees receive advanced training that equips them for higher pay and more career opportunities in the nursing field. One key benefit of this degree is the advanced preparation for jobs in management and leadership.

The private school, located in Peoria, Illinois, is recognized for a strong graduate program. Graduate students pursuing the MSN benefit from strong academic instruction and access to resources that enhance student success.

The advanced concepts that enrollees learn can often be supplemented with elective credits. The school provides resources like tutoring and financial aid opportunities to help learners complete the program.

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#7

Saint Xavier University

School Information
Location Chicago, Illinois
Admission Rate 73%
Graduation Rate 56%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 49% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Affordable top-ranked degrees are one feature that sets Saint Xavier University apart from many other institutions. The master of science in nursing program at the Chicago, Illinois-based college enrolls students considering higher-level roles in their field. Financial aid helps make this degree within reach of those who need assistance funding their education.

Illinois students pay about $16,000 per year in graduate tuition. About 100% of degree-seekers use grants, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid to lower the costs. Loans are also available to help pay for all or part of the degree, with about 80% of enrollees taking them out in some amount.

A master of science in nursing can open doors to more advanced careers than a bachelor’s. Degree-completers qualify for a variety of positions in management and other areas. Some graduates will choose to continue their education with a doctorate or other terminal degree.

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Best Illinois Nurse Practitioner Programs

#1

DePaul University

School Information
Location Chicago, Illinois
Admission Rate 68%
Graduation Rate 74%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

DePaul University specializes in providing degree-seekers with an affordable top-notch education in a variety of disciplines. The RN-to-MSN in nursing program, delivered on campus in Chicago, Illinois, emphasizes high-level academics and practical experience. Various financial aid programs make this degree more affordable.

The graduate tuition for Illinois students is about $19,584 per year. About 98% of degree-seekers lower the cost of tuition by using scholarships and other forms of financial aid. School data show that about 54% of enrollees choose to take out loans to help fund their program.

Job candidates with a master’s degree in nursing may receive access to more well-paying jobs and career advancement. Once they complete the degree, graduates can pursue high-level positions such as research or managerial roles. A terminal degree like a doctorate is one avenue that graduates may pursue.

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#2

Loyola University Chicago

School Information
Location Chicago, Illinois
Admission Rate 67%
Graduation Rate 74%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 15% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Loyola University Chicago’s RN-to-MSN program is attractive to prospective students with a bachelor's degree in nursing who want to advance their education and career. The program offers a rigorous curriculum that many learners value for the potential return on investment after they graduate, like more jobs and higher pay. Graduates can use the master’s degree to pursue careers in areas like management, development, and research.

The private school manages a strong graduate program on the Chicago, Illinois, campus. The academic catalog here includes the RN-to-MSN program from a graduate school offering 119 master's degrees. Enrollees benefit from strong academic instruction and access to resources that enhance student success.

The institution admits applicants at a rate of about 67%, but graduate programs can have rates that vary. The advanced curriculum may allow students to use elective credits for more specialized training. Students have access to many services that can help them in their academic studies, and this includes career services and professional development opportunities.

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#3

North Park University

School Information
Location Chicago, Illinois
Admission Rate 48%
Graduation Rate 62%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 20% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Family nurse practitioner majors might want to consider North Park University’s MSN program, delivered on campus. Learners apply to this program to expand their knowledge of nursing and gain skills that will help them pursue next-level career opportunities. A respected master’s degree can open doors to careers in management, development, and research.

The school is a private institution located in Chicago, Illinois. The top-ranked MSN in family nurse practitioner is among 18 different master's degrees offered here. Degree-seekers can add research experience and faculty mentorship to their graduate school experience.

The institution’s data show an overall acceptance rate of 48%, and this may vary across graduate programs. Career preparation involves advanced training for specialized jobs. In addition to resources like tutoring and career advising, students have access to a very helpful financial aid department.

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#4

St. John's College of Nursing

School Information
Location Springfield, Illinois
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

St. John's College of Nursing, a private college, is located in Springfield, Illinois. The institution’s two master's programs enroll learners seeking to advance their education and careers. Key features of these programs include rigorous and accredited curricula, and highly qualified faculty instructors who teach them.

There are many other reasons people interested in becoming a family nurse practitioner should consider applying to the school's family nurse practitioner MSN program. Graduates leave the program equipped for a variety of high-level jobs that may include managerial positions. Degree-seekers explore a variety of topics and concepts in the field, and may have the opportunity to customize the degree with electives.

Residents of Illinois and other states pay $16,488 per year.

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#5

Resurrection University

School Information
Location Chicago, Illinois
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Resurrection University attracts learners with a family nurse practitioner master's degree, preparing them for enhanced career opportunities. The school offers top-ranked degrees among four master's programs. The family nurse practitioner program is ideal for nursing students seeking an on-campus experience.

The master's is taught by qualified professors who can serve as mentors. The curriculum covers high-level concepts while giving learners practical experience that might include research opportunities. This education prepares degree-seekers to pursue advanced careers in nursing, or to go on to terminal degree programs.

School information shows a tuition rate of $16,398 per year for residents of Illinois and those who live in other states. Financial aid opportunities like scholarships, grants, and loans can help learners reduce their tuition bill. Enrollees benefit from the college’s investment in support services like tutoring and degree planning to help degree-seekers succeed academically.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Illinois RN-to-MSN Programs


Is RN to MSN worth it?

Whether pursuing an MSN is worth it to you is a personal decision. Those with MSNs earn more, and have more professional autonomy. In Illinois, an NP makes an average $120,470 and an RN makes an average $78,260 annually, according to the BLS.

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

Most RN-to-MSN bridge programs in Illinois take approximately three years, depending on how many classes you take at a time and how long the classes are. Most programs assume that students are working on at least a part-time basis.

What's the highest paid type of nurse in Illinois?

The highest-paid nurses in Illinois are nurse anesthetists. The average annual nurse anesthetist salary is $250,280, more than twice the average NP salary of $120,470, and three times the average RN salary ($78,260), according to the BLS.

Can I get my MSN Right after my BSN?

Most schools require or strongly prefer at least one or two years of experience, but some let students go right from a BSN to an MSN program. Real-life work experience helps both you and the school decide the best MSN specialty for you.


Related MSN Resources

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