The need for more quality, trained healthcare professionals is affecting Illinois. When nurses are in short supply, patient-to-nurse ratios are higher, patient care suffers, errors are more likely, and nurses are more prone to burnout. To get ahead of the shortage, earnings and job growth potential for nurses in Illinois are at the highest levels they’ve been in a very long time. And that’s why now may be the best time to launch or advance your career in nursing. But first, you’re going to need a degree.
This guide shows you how both current and prospective nursing professionals can benefit from earning a nursing master’s degree from one of the many high-quality, fully accredited MSN programs in Illinois. Keep reading for advice on finding the right program for you, and it highlights some of the best Illinois BSN to MSN programs available.
|#||School Name||Type||Tuition||Online Programs||More Details||School Information||Online Students||Academic Counseling||Career Placement||Students w/Institutional Aid||Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry||Accreditation|
|1||University of St FrancisJoliet, IL||Private not-for-profit||$$||2||
The University of St. Francis offers a high-quality master of science in nursing. In this 2-year program, students take a few foundational courses in nursing and specialize in one area. Concentration options include nurse administration, nurse education, family practice, and psychiatric-mental health. There's also an option to become a nurse practitioner, should students choose the mental health or family practice specializations. Because most students are nurses working full-time, some coursework is offered virtually.
Master of Science in Nursing, Nurse Administrator
|2||Saint Xavier UniversityChicago, IL||Private not-for-profit||$$||2||
Licensed nurses who want to continue their education should consider the MSN program from Saint Xavier University. This degree was designed to be balanced with a full-time nursing job, so some courses are offered online. For specializations with clinicals, the school works with students to fit them around students' nursing shifts. Specialization options include clinical leadership, nurse education, and family practice. With the family practice option, students are prepared to become licensed nurse practitioners.
Master of Science in Nursing
|3||Olivet Nazarene UniversityBourbonnais, IL||Private not-for-profit||$$||1||
Olivet Nazarene University hosts a MSN program that's designed for licensed nurses. The MSN program builds off BSN coursework and allows students the chance to specialize in one area of nursing. Concentration areas include transformational leadership, family practice, and nursing education. If a student chooses family practice, they can become a licensed nurse practitioner. Successful applicants should already have their BSN, though the school does offer a pre-MSN program for students who don't yet have their BSN.
Master of Science in Nursing
|4||Chamberlain University-IllinoisAddison, IL||Private for-profit||$$||1||
Chamberlain University in Illinois offers a robust MSN program. Designed for licensed nurses who already have their BSN, this program dives into one area of specialization, chosen by the student. Available concentrations include healthcare policy, nurse education, nurse executive, nursing informatics, and population health. Chamberlain also has MSN programs that prepare students to be a family nurse practitioner, an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, or a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner. NP concentrations also include some in-person clinical hours.
Master of Science in Nursing
Accredited MSN Programs in Illinois
To help you learn what to look for in a school, we’ve surveyed MSN programs in Illinois and identified three of the most popular. Here are the in-person and online RN to MSN programs in Illinois that stand out for the 2023-2024 school year.
Academic options and study flexibility are key features of the Master of Science in Nursing program at McKendree University. The curriculum combines higher-level practice with coursework in three areas of emphasis: nursing education, nursing management/administration, or population health. The program culminates with completing a practicum/scholarly project that includes 150 hours of experiential learning in your chosen area of emphasis. All coursework is delivered 100% online in an asynchronous format, allowing students to access and complete their studies at any time. Both full-time (five semesters) and part-time (10 semesters) formats are available.
Another standout feature of McKendree’s online MSN program is its price. The current tuition rate is $495 per credit, making it one of the most affordable nursing master’s programs in Illinois. In addition, a full range of scholarships, tuition discounts, employer tuition reimbursements, and other financial aid opportunities are available.
As a traditional BSN to MSN program in Illinois, admission requires a previously earned BSN from a regionally accredited institution and a current, unencumbered RN license.
Northern Illinois University
The Master of Science in Nursing program at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb is another great MSN program in Illinois featuring online coursework and full-time and part-time study options. Students choose between two specializations. One option is the 50-credit family nurse practitioner (FNP) specialization, which prepares you for FNP national certification and advanced nursing roles. The curriculum combines 100% online coursework, three in-person internships (adult, women’s health, and pediatrics) at program-approved clinical sites, and a capstone project. The second option, the 41-credit nurse education specialization, prepares you to serve as an educator in a healthcare facility and associate and bachelor’s degree nursing programs. The nurse education curriculum also features online coursework and three internships (clinical, direct care, and classroom settings).
Admission into this traditional BSN to MSN program in Illinois requires a current RN licensure, a previously earned BSN degree, and nursing practice experience (minimum of 2,000 hours in a specialty area for nursing education students). The current per-credit tuition rates for Northern Illinois’s MSN program are $503.60 for graduate students and $743.60 for FNP students. Students start in the fall or spring.
Elmhurst University is a private, United Church of Christ-affiliated institution located about 20 miles east of Chicago. Elmhurst’s Master of Science in Nursing offers traditional MSN and RN-to-MSN courses and three specialization options: clinical nurse leader, nurse administrator, and nurse educator. Elmhurst’s MSN program is campus-based, meaning that students attend classes on campus except for some online components in the nurse administrator specialization. In addition, all MSN students complete face-to-face practicums in their specializations. The program is designed to be met with two years of full-time study (RN-to-BSN students must complete additional prerequisite courses), although part-time study can be accommodated. The current tuition rate for MSN students is $780 per semester hour. The program begins in the fall.
Elmhurst also offers an MSN/MBA dual degree in which graduates of the MSN program may continue their studies to earn their Master of Business Administration by completing a one-year, part-time curriculum consisting of six business courses.
Key Benefits of Earning an MSN Degree in Illinois
You’ll enjoy a number of benefits by completing an MSN program at an Illinois college or university. For example, current RNs and those with no nursing experience can give themselves a leg up on graduates with only a nursing diploma, associate degree, or BSN by gaining the leadership and specialization skills only available with an MSN degree. On the other hand, students with a BSN will find earning their MSN practically mandatory for any substantial career advancement. Here’s a look at three of the biggest advantages of choosing an MSN program in Illinois:
Not surprisingly, registered nurses with an MSN enjoy higher salaries than their counterparts with only a nursing diploma, associate degree in nursing, or BSN. According to Payscale.com, the average annual base salary for MSN holders in the United States is $96,000, compared to $89,000 for those with only a BSN. The salary gap gets bigger when you look at specific job titles. For example, the current annual median salary for registered nurses in the U.S. is $69,000. In contrast, salaries for common MSN-related occupations are substantially higher—$79,000 for nurse educators, $90,000 for nursing managers, and $101,000 for nurse practitioners.
More and Better Opportunities
There’s a trend in the nursing profession of considering the BSN degree the bare minimum for nurses looking toward a long-term career in the profession. That means earning an MSN—with the high level of nursing knowledge and skills it provides—is quickly becoming mandatory for all RNs interested in career advancement into specialized practice and leadership positions.
Job satisfaction is an essential but often overlooked element when considering a college degree (or career, for that matter). Earning your MSN from a program in Illinois can provide you with a higher level of career fulfillment and job satisfaction in several ways. For example, the advanced skills you’ll gain—especially in a specialized area of nursing practice—offer MSN grads the chance to take on more challenging and engaging professional practice. You’ll also enjoy a greater sense of accomplishment and self-confidence, as well as the heightened respect of your colleagues.
Program Checklist: Qualities to Look for in an MSN Program in Illinois
You’ll want your Illinois MSN program to have several other important characteristics, along with the format and specialization choices you’re after. Here’s our list of the three most important ones:
Types of MSN Programs in Illinois
FAQs About MSN Programs in Illinois
What Can You Do with an MSN in Illinois?
MSN degrees are about moving you up the nursing career ladder into advanced practice, education, and leadership positions. Some of the most popular job titles for graduates of Illinois MSN programs include:
- Nursing Administration and Leadership: chief nursing officer, clinical nurse manager, director of nursing, nurse administrator, nurse executive, nursing supervisor
- Nursing Education: clinical director of education, nurse educator, nurse instructor
- Nursing Forensics: correctional nurse specialist, forensic clinical nurse specialist, forensic nurse investigator, forensic psychiatric nurse, legal nurse consultant, nurse coroner forensic investigator
- Nursing Informatics: clinical informatics analyst, clinical informatics nurse, health IT security and privacy specialist, nursing informatics specialist
- Nursing Practice: adult gerontology nurse practitioner (acute and primary), clinical nurse specialist, family nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, pediatric nurse practitioner, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, public health nurse
Graduates of MSN programs in Illinois also may continue their studies to earn their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or PhD in nursing degree.
How Long Does It Take To Earn an MSN in Illinois?
Program lengths for MSN programs in Illinois vary substantially based primarily on program type, specialization, and whether the student chooses full-time or part-time study. Here are some general time estimates for different types of MSN programs in Illinois:
- Traditional MSN: Two to four years
- Accelerated MSN: One year to 18 months
- RN to MSN: Two to four years
- Direct Entry: Three to five years
It’s important to understand that the above figures are broad estimates and that each MSN program has its own schedule. Be sure you have a clear idea of the specific schedule requirements and time limits set by the program you’re considering before you enroll.
How Much Does an MSN Program in Illinois Cost?
The costs of MSN programs in Illinois vary substantially depending on several factors, the most common of which are:
- Public vs. Private: Private colleges tend to charge higher (sometimes significantly higher) tuition rates than public colleges. There are exceptions, however, and sometimes financial aid packages make up the difference.
- Illinois vs. Out-of-State Residency: Illinois public nursing schools often charge higher (again, sometimes substantially higher) tuition rates to non-Illinois residents. There’s a trend, though, to charge the same tuition rate to all students regardless of residency, especially in online programs.
- Total Credit Hours: Certain program types, like direct entry MSN programs in Illinois, require completion of a greater number of credit hours than, for example, traditional MSN programs and, therefore, are more expensive.
To give you an idea of the wide range of tuition rates, below are the current rates for three MSN programs in Illinois that feature either fully online or hybrid formats. Keep in mind that these rates don’t include additional program fees and other costs (books, uniforms, supplies, etc.) that will be part of your program’s total price tag.
Governors State University
Total Credits: 42-47 (depending on concentration)
$353/credit (Illinois and Indiana residents); $706/credit (out-of-state residents)
Total Credits: 74
Trinity College of Nursing & Health Sciences
Total Credits: 36
What Are the Admissions Requirements for MSN Nursing Programs in Illinois?
The admissions requirements for MSN programs in Illinois vary primarily by program type. Here’s a look at the major requirements for admission into the most common MSN types:
- Traditional MSN and Accelerated MSN: RN licensure, BSN, and nursing practice experience (amount varies by program)
- RN to MSN: RN licensure, nursing associate degree or diploma, and nursing practice experience (amount varies by program). Some programs also require a non-nursing bachelor’s degree.
- Direct Entry MSN: Non-nursing bachelor’s degree
Common application materials include a current résumé, letters of recommendation, personal statement/statement of purpose, criminal background check, drug screening, immunization status, and health history. Remember, however, that every MSN program in Illinois has its own specific admission requirements, so be sure you clearly understand the exact requirements for each program you’re considering before starting the application process.
Where Can I Find Financial Aid to Help Pay For My MSN Program in Illinois?
Qualifying students in properly accredited MSN programs in Illinois (including all of the programs mentioned in this guide) are eligible for a wide variety of financial aid opportunities, including scholarships and grants, assistantships and fellowships, employer tuition reimbursement programs, veterans’ benefits, and student loans. A great place to start your MSN funding search is at the financial aid offices at the nursing schools you’re considering. Two other great starting points are:
- Health Resources & Services Administration–Funding: Website with links to federal nursing grants, scholarships, loans, and loan repayment programs.
- Illinois Nursing Workforce Center–Financial Aid, Scholarships, and Grants: Includes links to dozens of quality federal, state, and other financial aid opportunities for Illinois nursing students, including an excellent list of scholarships, many exclusive to in-state students. Two additional Illinois state nurse-specific education resources to check out:
- Illinois Student Assistance Commission: Nurse Education Scholarship Program
- Illinois Board of Higher Education: Nursing School Grant Program
Inside Look at Online MSN Programs in Illinois
Distance learning promises—and, for the most part, delivers—a tremendous amount of study convenience and flexibility to students in online MSN programs in Illinois. It’s important to understand that what constitutes an “online MSN program” varies from program to program.
First, online MSN programs in Illinois are described as either fully or partially online. Fully online (or 100% online) programs are those with coursework accessed and completed entirely online. Some components, most often class sessions, may be asynchronous (accessed at any time) or synchronous (requiring students to log on and attend sessions via live stream at specifically scheduled dates and times). Be careful, however. Programs touted as fully online often include hands-on labs or other elements that must be attended in person, typically on the school’s campus.
Partially online (often called hybrid or blended) programs include both online course elements (assignments, readings, tests, etc.) and all or some class sessions on campus. Class sessions for on-campus and synchronous online programs may be scheduled during weekdays, evenings, or weekends. Evening and weekend classes are common for part-time programs designed to accommodate working students with full-time jobs.
Finally, whether on-campus or online, all MSN programs in Illinois include practicums or capstone projects with substantial in-person clinical practice, classroom observations (for nurse educator students), or other face-to-face experiential learning requirements.
Standout Online MSN Programs in Illinois
Illinois State University
Illinois State University (ISU), a public university in the central Illinois community of Normal, offers one of the most affordable online MSN programs. The only problem may be finding it. To do so, you’ll have to look at ISU’s BSN to DNP program, where the MSN program is embedded as a step along the way. To earn their nursing master’s, students apply to the BSN to DNP program and, once enrolled, may elect to complete only the MSN course requirements and end their studies at that point.
MSN-seeking students choose between two specialized course sequences: FNP or nursing leadership & management. The 15-month, part-time nursing leadership & management track features fully online coursework combined with a 180-clock-hour in-person Leadership Synthesis Experience. The hybrid-formatted FNP track combines online and on-campus classes with 240 clock hours of in-person clinicals. Both five-semester full-time and eight-semester part-time options are available.
The current per-credit tuition rate for the program is $414.69 for residents of Illinois and contiguous states (Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin), making it one of the most affordable Illinois-based MSN programs available. Residents from other states pay $861.35 per credit.
Do Employers in Illinois Accept Graduates from Online MSN Programs?
It’s difficult to believe that any reputable employer of nursing professionals would have reservations about hiring someone because their MSN degree was earned online. Almost all employers understand that fully accredited online MSN programs are commonplace and provide students with the same high-quality academics and clinical skills as their traditional on-campus counterparts. In short, for the vast majority of employers, the fact that you earn your MSN online is a nonissue.
Job Outlook & Salary Details for MSN Nurses in Illinois
As we mentioned in the introduction, now may be as good a time as ever to obtain your MSN degree because of the major shortage of nursing professionals impacting Illinois and the nation. The questions and answers below will give you a more detailed idea of what you might expect in terms of earnings and employment opportunities once you have your MSN.
Are MSN Nurses in High Demand in Illinois?
When it comes to employment in Illinois for MSN degree holders, the term “high demand” is an understatement. To illustrate the point, consider these statistics for nurse practitioners, one of the most popular jobs for MSN grads: According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected job growth for nurse practitioners in the U.S. between 2021 and 2031 is a whopping 45.7%. That makes it the single fastest-growing occupation in the nation. In comparison, the projected job growth for all occupations combined during the same period is 5.3%. And similar data for nurse practitioners shows Illinois falling closely in line with the nation as a whole, with a projected job growth of 43.6% (2020-2030).
How Much Do MSN Nurses Make in Illinois?
As mentioned, MSN degree holders are in high demand in various occupations in Illinois and throughout the U.S. To give you an idea of what you might expect to earn, here are the most current (May 2021) mean salary figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for three MSN nursing occupations in Illinois:
- Nurse anesthetist: $250,280
- Nurse midwife: $115,690
- Nurse practitioner: $120,470
Bear in mind that occupations like the ones above may require additional education, training, certification and/or licensure beyond the MSN degree.
What you actually earn in your Illinois job as an MSN degree holder will, of course, depend on a number of factors, such as your specific employer, geographic location, and years of experience in the occupation.