BSN to MSN Degree Programs

Most students in Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs possess four year degree in the field and are fully registered nurses (RN). The mission of most BSN to MSN programs is to prepare registered nurses for advanced clinical nursing practice and/or teaching and research. Most MSN programs will take from one and a half to two years to complete during which students will specialize in a particular area of nursing.

Some students pursue a joint or dual MSN-MBA degree, or in such areas as business administration, public administration, or hospital administration.

However, the BSN to MSN designation is not used often for nursing schools. Most schools opt instead to use the “RN to MSN”, or “Master’s of Science in Nursing” designations for the title of their program. Because BSN’s by default hold an RN license, they would fit under the RN to MSN program.

Below are a few featured MSN programs that you can directly get in touch with, or you can learn more about the RN to MSN program and the Master’s in Nursing program. You can also find featured programs on those pages as well. Read on for more info on the BSN to MSN distinction.

MSN Programs by State

Below you can click on the name of your state to see nursing schools offering MSN programs in that state.

BSN to MSN Program Admission Requirements

Admission to MSN programs tends to be somewhat selective and applicants need to meet certain minimum requirements for entry. These requirements typically include graduation from a BSN program that has received accreditation from either the National League of Nursing Accreditation Commission (NLNAC) or Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE),  Both agencies have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as official accreditation bodies for nursing education. For those students who will be enrolled in a nurse anesthesia BSN to MSN program, the school may have also received accreditation from the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (CANAEP). For those students participating in a nurse midwifery program, their school may have additional accreditation by the American College of Nurse-Midwives Division of Accreditation.

For a listing of accredited BSN to MSN programs in your area contact your state board of nursing Contact information may be found on the Web site of the National Council for State Boards of Nursing (

Aside from accreditation, admission requirements also include acceptable years work experience, (depending on specialty area (e.g. one year for nurse practitioner programs and up to three for clinical nurse specialists.). Applicants will also need to submit letters of recommendation from former professors or current supervisors and may be required to submit a statement of intent. GRE scores are often waived for registered nurses.  As each school has its own requirements, be sure to check with the admissions office of each program before applying.

BSN to MSN Program Curriculum

BSN to MSN programs focus on building upon the advanced clinical nursing skills established within the bachelor’s programs, as well providing a foundation in management principles and research methodology. Typical generalist coursework may include::

  • Nursing Informatics (storing patient data electronically)
  • Health Assessment and Treatment Planning
  • Research Methodology in Nursing
  • Leadership and Management Principles in Nursing
  • Health Policy and Planning
  • Current issues in Healthcare Technology
  • Community Health /Public Nursing
  • Advanced Clinical Practice
  • Global Issues in Nursing Leadership
  • Instructional Methodologies in Nursing
  • Testing Assessment and Evaluation

As noted, the above list includes generalist courses taken by all MSN students regardless of specialty. Coursework will diverge depending on your concentration. Areas of concentration include:

  • Advanced Practice Nurse (APN)
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Medical-surgical nurse
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Practitioner (NP–general)
  • Geriatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Oncology Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Researcher

Certification in any of the above areas requires satisfactorily passing a comprehensive examination, along with specific years experience in the area.

Career Options and Salary Differentials

Upon graduation from a BSN to MSN program, you will be eligible to work as an advanced practice nurse in a variety of settings to include medical and surgical hospitals, rehabilitation hospitals, outpatient clinics, surgery centers, nursing homes, home health agencies.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS), the anticipated rate of growth for advanced nurses is approximately 30 percent from now until 2018. This represents an exceptionally strong rate of growth, far outstripping the rate for most other occupational categories.

As per the BLS, the current median annual salaries for registered nurses was $62,450. At the same time, those nurses with a masters’ degree, could earn much more. For example, a Nurse Anesthetist could earn a median salary of $155,989 and a Nurse Practitioner may earn a salary of $89,845. Keep in mind that these are median figures and factors that influence numbers include geographic location, number of years experience, as well a specialty area.

BSN to MSN Programs – Selected Reviews

Medical University of South Carolina

The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) College of Nursing offers an accelerated BSN – MSN program.  The program is designed to take up to three years to complete.  The length of time will depend on the program selected.  The BSN – MSN program allows students to begin taking graduate courses during their last semester of the BSN program.  This helps to reduce the amount of time it will take to graduate.  The MSN portion of the program may be completed either full or part time.  Students must complete the BSN portion with at least a 3.0 GPA and must pass the NCLEX exam in order to continue with the MSN portion of the program. The MSN portion begins each fall semester.

Emory School of Nursing
Emory School of Nursing offers a wide variety of nursing degree programs for both undergraduate and graduate degrees.  The BSN to MSN segue is a way for those with nursing backgrounds to reduce the time necessary to complete the program to achieve a degree.  The BSN to MSN program begins during the undergraduate studies.  Coursework in the MSN program can be started before the BSN is completed. During the last two years of the BSN program nursing students will practice nursing in both classroom and clinical settings.  Students apply and are accepted to both the BSN and MSN programs simultaneously to provide a seamless course of study.  There are two parts of the program.  The BSN portion is completed in four semesters and upon graduation nurses are prepared to take the NCLEX exam.  Part two is the graduate portion where students choose a graduate specialty.  Students must apply and be accepted to the program.

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing
Vanderbilt University School of Nursing is located in Nashville, Tennessee.  VU offers nursing programs including both undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as bridge programs.  There are programs that allow flexible ways to study and earn the MSN degree.  VU offers multiple entry options that allow nurses and non-nurses to enter the MSN program.  The MSN program offers advanced practice specialties that suit every need.  Students receive courses in a variety of formats including both on-campus and distance learning options.  The school offers state-of-the-art nursing technology that supports the learning environment.

Drexel University
The Division of Graduate Nursing at Drexel University offers the BSN to MSN early assurance option.  This accelerated career entry (ACE) program allows students enrolled in the BSN program the ability to take MSN courses as well.  This specialty track gives students in their fourth year access to MSN classes.  This effectively shortens the timeframe necessary to complete the MSN.  The program is very competitive and only the top students academically will be considered for entry into the program. Drexel University is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Villanova University
Villanova University College of Nursing offers a BSN to MSN gateway program for registered nurses.  The program allows nursing students with clinical experience and licensing the ability to transition to the MSN degree.  The curriculum provides students with flexible scheduling and credits for prior experience and education.  Students can begin taking MSN level courses while in their final year of the BSN program. The MSN degree will take between 4 and 7 semesters to complete, depending on the course load taken each term.

Online BSN to MSN Programs

Online BSN to MSN degrees are plentiful, but which program is best suited for your needs? If you’ve already worked hard to obtain your Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing, chances are you’re a fairly ambitious person. You’re also likely extremely busy, leaving little time for sitting in classrooms. Online BSN to MSN programs allow you to take courses anywhere you can find an Internet connection. Whether that means squeezing class time in during lunch breaks or working at night while the rest of the family is watching TV, you get to choose.

Having a BSN degree should allow you to get through the MSN program fairly quickly. Definitely more quickly than students who go straight to a master’s degree through an online program. Most colleges will offer you several choices of an emphasis, so take those choices into consideration while choosing between colleges. If your goal is to eventually become an educator, find a program with a nursing education emphasis, and if you would prefer to specialize in an area where you’ll become an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN), doing duties traditionally performed by doctors, find a school that offers more of a clinical emphasis.

Since you already have your bachelor’s degree and, presumably, your Registered Nurse (RN) license, you should be able to find online BSN to MSN programs that will allow you to take classes completely online. Individual programs will vary, but expect to take several years to complete your master’s degree if you’re working full-time.

Online BSN to MSN Programs for Consideration

The University of North Carolina’s online MSN degree program will take about eight semesters to complete, assuming you’re attending part-time. This program requires 38 hours of coursework with 500 hours of required clinical experience. You must have your RN license to qualify for this program, as well as good test scores and an acceptable GPA. 3.0 in your last degree is preferred. The college has a distance learning program that will allow you to attend online classes wherever you live.

Offering six sessions per year, Benedictine University requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college, as well as a 3.0 GPA, for admission. If your GPA falls slightly below that, you might still be admitted, depending on other conditions on your application. With a requirement of 36 credit hours and no residency requirements, you can get your MSN quickly through this school.

Saint Xavier University in Chicago, Illinois, is winner of several awards, including a designation as a Center of Excellence by the National League for Nursing. Saint Xavier’s online Master of Science in Nursing degree program has two tracks: executive leadership and clinical leadership.

With three Master of Science tracks, Nova Southeastern University allows you to complete your master’s degree requirements in approximately 36 semester hours. Those hours include six hours of an online nursing practicum, pairing you with a mentor to oversee your learning experience. Available tracks include education, health systems leadership, and family nurse practitioner.

Saint Joseph’s College Online has an online Master of Science in Nursing with three tracks: administration, education, and family nurse practitioner. You will complete 42-48 course hours, depending on the track you choose, to get your degree and you will perform clinical hours in a facility in your own town. To get into the program, you’ll be required to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college and an RN license.