RN to MSN Degree Programs

RN to MSN programs allow registered nurses to apply for entry to master’s study without having a bachelor’s degree. Coursework normally taken within the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program is embedded within the first part of the MSN degree and must be completed satisfactorily before students will be permitted to continue on to graduate study.

Upon graduation, some programs may confer both the BSN and MSN while other programs will grant only the MSN degree.  RN to MSN programs are typically three to four years in length, depending on whether students attend on a full- or part-time basis.

The largest benefit of an RN to MSN program is that students will earn the masters degree at an accelerated pace. The faster pace is due to the possibility of transfer credit for prior science and nursing coursework, as well as for work experience.

Students will also take a larger course load per semester than will students in traditional programs.  Because time really is money, completing your MSN at an accelerated rate means that you will have the opportunity to increase your income in a shorter- time span than traditional students. In some cases, your income could increase by a third or more from what you earn as an RN with a diploma or associates degree.

RN-to-MSN Program Formats

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) as of the Fall last year there were 173 RN to MSN programs with an additional 32 in the planning stages. A good number of these programs are offered online or via a blended program with some coursework completed online and other classes taken on campus.

However, all programs whether distance learning or campus-based, will require that students participate in hands-on clinical training in patient care. According to the AACN, as of the fall last year, there were 95 accredited RN-to-MSN programs offered online.

Accreditation of RN to MSN Programs

It is very important that you attend a program that has received accreditation from one of two oversight agencies: the National League of Nursing Accreditation Commission (NLNAC) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Both agencies have been recognized by the U.S. Department as the official accreditation bodies for nursing education in the United States. You may find a comprehensive listing of accredited nursing programs in all states by visiting the Web site of the National Council for State Boards of Nursing (NCSB.org) or by clicking here nursing schools.

Admission Requirements for RN to MSN Programs

While specific admission requirement do vary among programs below is a listing of typical entrance requirements:

  • Valid and unrestricted  RN License
  • Graduation from a diploma or associate that has received accreditation by the NLNAC or CCNE
  • Satisfactory completion of all Bachelor of Science course prerequisites (typically about 58 to 60 credits consisting of both science and nursing coursework).
  • Cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher in general liberal arts requirements, along with nursing-specific coursework.
  • Official transcripts from all previous study.
  • Two to three letters of recommendation from instructors and/or supervisors
  • Essay of intent/personal goal statement
  • Basic Life Support (BLS) and CPR Certification

RN to MSN Program Curriculum

The bachelor’s portion of the program will include general liberal arts coursework with courses in human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, biochemistry, organic chemistry, clinical pharmacology, as well as foundation nursing coursework such as medical terminology, patient assessment and treatment planning, patient communication, and nursing ethics.

Core coursework within the MSN program will 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

Coursework after completion of the core classes will depend on students’ area of specialization.  Specializations offered by RN to MSN programs include:

  • Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM)
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
  • Certified Registered Nurse-Anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Nurse Practitioner (NP)
  • Advanced Practice Nurse (APN)
  • Nurse Researcher
  • Nurse Educator
  • Nurse Administrator

Most advanced clinical practice areas such as nurse mid-wife or nurse practitioner will require that nurses accrue a certain amount of professional experience and pass a comprehensive examination in order to become certified.

RN to MSN Program Costs

Just as admission requirements vary among programs, so do tuition costs.  Attending a state school will cost about $12,000 for in-state residents and approximately $15,000 for out-of-state students. In contrast, private colleges and universities will cost about $60,000 in tuition costs. However various financial aid programs in the form of grants, scholarships, and loans are available to all students. In addition working nurses may be eligible for tuition assistance from their employers.  When calculating full costs of attendance, remember to account for books, supplies (e.g. uniforms), lab fees, commuting expenses, as well as Internet usage.

Career Options for MSN Degree Holders

Nurses who hold a MSN degree have a great many more career options than do nurses who hold a diploma, associate’s, or even BSN degrees. Most graduates of RN to MSN programs move into advance nurses practice as a nurse anesthetist, nurse mid-wife, clinical nurse specialist, or nurse practitioner. Other graduates pursue a career in nursing administration as Directors of Nursing in various healthcare facilities. Still other graduates purse careers in academia becoming involved in teaching and/or research.  MSN holders practice at a near physician-level with many states now providing master’s prepared nurses with prescriptive authority.

Masters level nurses typically earn some of the highest salaries in the nursing profession. As two examples, a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), perhaps the most highly paid nursing specialty, could earn a median salary of $155,989, while a General Nurse Practitioner may earn upwards of $90,000 or more. It is important to note that these figures are median numbers and actual salaries vary depending on location, years of experience, specialty area, and whether the nurse has received certification in their area of practice.

So as you can see, RN to MSN Programs pay for themselves quite easily after a short while.

List of RN-MSN Programs

Featured Online MSN/RN-MSN Programs

Select RN-MSN Program Reviews

Xavier University
Xavier University is located in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The School of Nursing offers both undergraduate and graduate programs.  The RN to MSN program is designed for nursing students who already have their RN license but wish to continue their education to attain a Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN).  Students admitted to the program must take 18 hours of prerequisite bridge courses.  Applicants must have at least two years of experience as a Registered Nurse.  The program offers a fast track for students who want to attain a MSN degree but have not yet completed their BSN degree.

Emory Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing
Emory Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, located in Atlanta, Georgia, offers a complete education for nurses including the RN to MSN bridge program.  The RN – MSN bridge offers an opportunity for nurses with and associate’s degree and working experience to obtain an MSN.  The program is state and nationally accredited.  It provides RN students the ability to gain college credits for their previous education and work experience.  Students will also be able to take proficiency tests that will provide credit for knowledge.  The program is 17 hours of study.  Students must apply and be accepted to the program which starts in the fall and ends with the spring semester.

DeSales University
The DeSales University Department of Nursing and Health offers both RN to BSN and RN to MSN programs.  The programs are designed to meet the needs of registered nurses with experience and some educational background.  Students will receive credit for arts, sciences, and basic nursing courses that were previously taken.  Additional credit may be given through challenge examinations.  A challenge exam allows students to get credit for their knowledge of nursing and gives them the ability to shave time off of the MSN program.  Classes are offered in a hybrid situation including some courses on-campus and some online.  DeSales University is located in Center Valley, Pennsylvania.  Programs include classroom study and clinical coursework.

Nova Southeastern University
Nova Southeastern University College of Allied Health and Nursing, Nursing Department in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, offers the RN to MSN nursing program.  The program is designed for licensed nurses an accelerated way to achieve a Master degree in nursing.  The program consists of a combination of online courses and on-campus classes.  There are three tracks to earning the MSN.  The program is offered through the Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Miami, Kendall, and Orlando campuses.  RNs will receive 64 credits for their clinical nursing experience.

Marian University
Located in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Marian University offers RN to MSN track for nurses who want to earn an advanced degree.  The program gives RNs with an associate degree in nursing or a nursing diploma the ability to waive some undergraduate requirements of the MSN program.  The streamlined program offers RNs the ability to achieve their MSN in as few as three years. The nursing programs meet the standards of the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).