Can You Earn an MSN Online in 1 Year?

Accelerated online MSN programs can help you earn an advanced nursing credential in as little as one year. Learn how to fast track your master’s in nursing with online learning and see which programs could be right for you.

Written By

Shannon Lee

- Bio

Shannon Lee has been a freelance writer, editor, and novelist for over 25 years. Her work has appeared on Fox Business, Forbes, MSN, Bob Vila, Modernize, Nashville Scene, MoneyGeek, MVP Parent, and many other outlets; her writing on home improvement led to an editorial position with The Spruce in 2021. She's written extensively on higher education, relationships, and the intersection of technology, health, and medicine. When she's not freelancing, Shannon also writes fiction novels.

last updated

04/22/2022

For RN’s wanting to take their education to the next level or current nursing students wanting to complete a master’s degree before entering the workforce, a 1-year MSN program might be the next step. An accelerated program is made possible when you take the maximum number of credits (15-18) per semester, have all of your pre-requisites done in a previous degree program, or, you have relevant professional experience that can be factored into your admissions. With these elements in place along with the ability to dedicate a significant amount of time to school, it is possible to complete an MSN program in 1 year.

The added flexibility of taking online classes can speed up the process as well. With many schools offering accelerated programs online, it’s never been easier to obtain an advanced nursing degree. In this guide we will outline several of the 1-year accelerated MSN programs as well as programs that fall into the 1-2 year timeline. We will also outline costs, admissions requirements and degree tracks so that you can make an informed decision about which program is right for you.

Spring Hill College’s 1-Year Online MSN Program

Spring Hill College’s Online MSN Program is one of the few accelerated online Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs designed to complete in just one year. An accelerated graduation timeline is possible through flexible transfer credit options, which means incoming students can reduce the total number of academic credits they need to complete the program. In addition, the one-year online MSN degree specializations have limited clinical requirements. The curriculum includes experiential learning and a practicum at the end of the coursework. To graduate in just 12 months, students must attend full-time.

Besides an accelerated online MSN program, another benefit to attending Spring Hill College is the variety of learning options available, including three the MSN specializations outlined below.

The Clinical Nurse Leader track consists of 36 credit hours and prepares students to pass the CNL certification exam and pursue a career in nursing management. Courses include:

  • Clinical Outcomes Management
  • Theoretical Foundations for Leadership
  • Academic Clinical Residency

The Executive Leadership track also consists of 36 credits. The coursework prepares students to take leadership positions in healthcare settings. Courses include:

  • Organizational Behavior
  • Theoretical Foundations for Leadership
  • Quality and Safety in Health Care

The Nursing Education track requires 36 credits. Upon completion, students will be ready to teach the next generation of nurses and healthcare professionals. Graduates of the Nurse Education track will also be prepped to take and pass the nurse educatory certification exam. Courses include:

  • Development of Nursing Curricula
  • Instructional Strategies
  • Concepts and Theories of Nursing Education

All of these tracks have a tuition rate of $399 per credit and offer 100% of the coursework online. Any in-person requirements relate to experiential learning and the practicum at the end of the program. To be accepted into any of the one-year online MSN programs at Spring Hill College, gather and submit the following with your admissions application:

  • All official college transcripts showing a minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Three references
  • A resume that shows at least one year of clinical experience
  • Proof of an active RN license in good standing
  • A 500-word essay

Wilmington University’s Online MSN Options

Students looking to earn their MSN degree in just one year should strongly consider Wilmington University’s MSN in Nursing Leadership program. This accelerated online MSN program is fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and consists of 12 courses and 36 credits. Unlike other one-year online MSN programs that give students just one or two specializations to choose from, students in this program choose from four:

Admission requirements for the program include:

  • Educator This concentration is designed for nurse educators and prospective nurse educators looking to obtain the necessary skills and knowledge to teach future nurses.
  • Legal Nurse Consultant This curriculum merges a nursing professional’s clinical knowledge with healthcare operations and policies to ensure that medical services are in line with legal requirements and nursing best practices.
  • Public Health This concentration teaches foundational public health concepts to nurses looking to expand their horizons. Courses cover topics such as epidemiology and community health planning.
  • Executive Students learn about personnel management, healthcare policy, and the business aspects of operating a hospital or medical system.

While many students complete their courses online, in-person and hybrid learning are options as well. The hybrid format allows you to complete your coursework both online and on campus. For this accelerated MSN program, courses are in seven-week blocks. Classes have a base tuition rate of $500 per credit. This rate drops to $300 per credit for eligible members of the U.S. armed forces.

Getting your MSN degree may be just one step in your continued learning in the nursing field. Many graduates go on to earn a doctorate or another graduate degree or certificate. With Wilmington University’s Dual-Credit Advantage Program, you can apply your electives to another graduate certificate or to your next degree.

To apply for admission into the MSN in Nursing Leadership program, you must:

  • Complete the graduate application and submit a $35 application fee
  • Show proof of a current RN license in good standing
  • Submit official undergraduate transcripts that show completion of a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited program with at least a “C” grade in an undergraduate statistics course
  • Register for MSN 6500 (Leadership Roles in Advanced Nursing Practice)

Liberty University’s 18-Month Online MSN

Liberty University’s Master of Science in Nursing program meets the needs of nursing students looking for an accelerated online MSN program. Courses last eight weeks and are fully online; they don’t require any on-campus visits. The curriculum consists of 36 credits and is offered in an accelerated format, making it possible to graduate in 18 months to two years. Students who earn their MSN degree with another degree (dual-degree track) usually graduate in just 30 months. Liberty University’s online MSN program is fully accredited by the CCNE.

The accelerated online MSN program at Liberty University offers seven concentrations:

  • Community Health The curriculum helps students examine and analyze the health needs of a community and ways to improve a local population’s overall health. While all coursework can be completed online, students will need to complete an in-person practicum.
  • Health Policy This concentration is best for nurses interested in making a difference in healthcare through government action. Courses teach concepts and principles necessary to understand government functions and how to communicate effectively with community and corporate leaders.
  • Nurse Educator As its name implies, this concentration is for students looking to enhance or start their career in nursing education. Courses cover curriculum design, clinical practice, and research.
  • Nursing Administration The focus of this academic track is to train future leaders of hospitals and other healthcare providers. Classes include Organizational Design and Structure, Systems Management and Leadership for Nurse Leaders, and Health Policy and Ethics.
  • Nursing Informatics Students learn how the fields of clinical nursing and information sciences intersect to improve patient care. Coursework includes Biostatistics, Principles of Epidemiology, and Nursing Informatics Capstone.
  • Dual Degree Options Students combine their MSN degree with a Master of Business Administration or Master of Science in Healthcare Administration. An additional degree adds about one year to the total length of the accelerated online MSN program.

To apply for admission to Liberty University’s MSN program, you must provide:

  • An application and application fee
  • Official transcripts from any coursework completed at a post-secondary institution
  • Proof of a current RN license in good standing
  • Proof of at least one year of clinical experience working as a registered nurse
  • One reference
  • A personal statement

Capella University’s 13-Month Online MSN

Capella University’s Master of Science in Nursing Program is accredited by the CCNE and offers one of the fastest pathways to getting an online MSN degree. With the help of FlexPath, students can graduate in just 13 months and for under $15,000. The exact length depends on your chosen specialization, the number of transfer credits accepted by Capella University, and the speed with which you complete your coursework for this accelerated online MSN program.

FlexPath works by having students pay a set tuition rate every 12 weeks. During that timeframe, you can take as many courses as you want. This self-paced learning format makes graduation as quick as possible. But not every MSN student at Capella University needs to use FlexPath. There’s also the Guided Path learning format. With this option, students decide when they take their courses and have weekly deadlines to ensure they’re making consistent progress through the program. Regardless of which path you take; you can choose from the following MSN concentrations:

  • Care Coordination Students learn about the legal, practical, medical, and ethical considerations that go into providing the highest quality medical care in the most efficient manner possible.
  • Nursing Education The curriculum includes both teaching and clinical training to prepare graduates for careers as nurse educators in a variety of settings, including hospital-based nursing schools and online nursing programs. Completing this specialization prepares students to earn the National League for Nursing’s Certified Nurse Educator credential.
  • Nursing Informatics In this specialty, students learn foundational principles of mathematical and analytical science to improve medical care. In addition to learning about these theoretical concepts, students also gain an understanding of how to use this information for departmental and organizational planning and project management.
  • Nursing Leadership and Administration This is the academic path for nurses interested in taking on a managerial or leadership role in their healthcare organization. Courses address topics such as finance, informatics, information technology, and executive leadership.

All of these concentrations are available as a traditional MSN program as well as an RN-to-MSN program. For the traditional route, an incoming student will already have a bachelor’s degree in nursing and will need to complete 54 credits, 12 of which can be satisfied through transfer credits. For those with just a registered nursing license, they’ll need to complete 66 credits, 12 of which can be satisfied through transfer credits. Besides completing the online courses, students also need to complete one or two practicum classes in which they gain hands-on training and experience.

Getting accepted to Capella University’s online MSN program requires you to provide the following:

  • An application fee
  • Official transcripts from post-secondary institutions showing you have a relevant bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Government-issued photo identification

University of North Alabama’s 1-Year MSN Online Program

The University of North Alabama’s online Master of Science in Nursing Program offers an array of flexible learning options. Depending on your academic track, you can graduate in as little as one year or as many as three years. The University of North Alabama offers three tracks, each requiring 36 to 41 credits at a cost of $400 per credit. Full-time students can complete their MSN degree in just one year (although some students take up to two years), while part-time students take 16 to 30 months to earn their degree. In addition to online courses, most students also complete in-person clinicals. The three concentration tracks available in the University of North Alabama accelerated online MSN program include:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner This track usually takes the longest to complete. The curriculum prepares students to provide advanced nursing care to patients of all ages. Graduates are eligible to become nationally certified Family Nurse Practitioners. The clinical requirements must be completed in person, but students can choose their own preceptors and clinical training sites. Students must also attend two on-campus intensives.
  • Leadership To prepare students for a leadership role, the curriculum addresses numerous topics as they relate to the legislative and political process, personnel management, and financial decisions that affect medical services providers. This concentration doesn’t include any on-campus intensives, although students must complete clinicals with an approved preceptor at a clinical site of their choice.
  • Teaching/Learning This academic track is for current nurses looking to switch careers from clinical care to nursing education or those who wish to continue their nursing practice but improve their teaching abilities. Besides learning about teaching concepts, those who enroll in the Teaching/Learning academic track learn how to communicate effectively and teach patients and their fellow nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers. Students can further tailor their learning based on their preferred clinical area, such as adults, women’s health, or pediatrics. As with the other MSN tracks, students complete the clinical requirements at an approved site with an approved preceptor of their choice.

To apply, submit the following information with your admissions application:

  • Official transcripts showing you have a bachelor of science in nursing degree from an accredited nursing program
  • Any other official transcripts from any colleges attended
  • A personal statement listing your professional goals and how enrolling in this program will help meet them
  • Evidence that you have a current RN license in good standing

Applicants looking to enroll in the family nurse practitioner track must also have at least a 3.0 minimum GPA for prior college credit, a resume, and two professional recommendations.

Accreditation for Online MSN Programs

Accreditation is one of the biggest reasons that degrees have a minimum amount of time needed to graduate. These independent bodies require accredited programs to meet certain academic standards. This includes having a curriculum that teaches specific skills and covers a standard set of topics. If a school created a program that didn’t cover the required skills and topics, the school’s accreditation status would be in jeopardy.

When it comes to accredited one-year online MSN programs, prospective students should look out for two things. First, they want the program to be offered by a school that has institutional accreditation. This usually comes from a regional accrediting agency that’s recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Second, they should only enroll in an accelerated online MSN program that has programmatic accreditation. This means the MSN program itself has been accredited. For MSN programs, the primary accrediting agencies are the CCNE and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

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