Online RN to MSN Programs

For registered nurses (RNs) looking to move into leadership or advanced practice nursing, a master’s degree may be the way to go. Learn about RN to MSN programs, and see if an online or blended program might work for you.

As with most professionals, moving up the career ladder for a registered nurse almost always means heading back to school to get an advanced degree. Often, that’s a Master of Science in Nursing. An MSN degree is the gateway to positions in management, education, and advanced practice, and can also mean a substantial boost in salary. According to job market compensation website PayScale, for example, the current average annual salary for RN’s in the United States is $63,000, while the average annual salary of individuals who hold a MSN degree currently stands at $92,000.

But what about the RN who doesn’t hold the bachelor’s degree that’s often a prerequisite to admission into an MSN program? Fortunately, today there are now many high-quality, fully-accredited online RN to MSN programs that offer qualified candidates nurses a way to skip the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and go directly to earning their MSN. These online “bridge” programs are designed with the working RN in mind, offering practical curriculums, flexible study schedules, and faster completion times than traditional MSN programs. Keep reading to learn all you need to know about earning your MSN degree through an online RN to MSN bridge program.

The Best Online RN to MSN Programs in 2019

The best online RN to MSN degree program for you will be whichever one best suits your life. Consider your family obligations, work schedule, career goals, and study preferences. There are a number of additional factors that any program you consider should satisfy: affordability, curriculum comprehensiveness, proper accreditation, and more. We’ve surveyed the wide range of online RN to MSN programs out there to bring you our list of the best of 2019. We have provided detailed profiles of each school’s program to give you a solid grasp of what they offer and help you decide which one you want to look into further. (Read how we chose our schools >>)

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To make our best-in-class list, schools were required to have:

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education
  • Programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • RN to MSN program(s) offered at least partially online

School Metrics Explained

  • Cost: Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Financial Aid: Percentage of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant or scholarship aid.

About Our Data

EduMed’s college lists use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: May 2019

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School Name Location School Type Cost Online Programs Financial Aid School Information
Grand Canyon University Phoenix, AZ Private not-for-profit $$$$ 1 69%

Grand Canyon University offers a range of online RN to MSN bridge program options to nurses currently holding a non-BSN bachelor’s degree. Students who successfully complete the bridge program are then eligible to enroll in the corresponding online MSN degree program. All online MSN degree programs feature fully-online coursework and an in-person practicum capstone experience that can normally be completed in the student’s local area.

There are currently seven online RN to MSN options available: Acute Care Nurse Practitioner – Adult Gerontology, Family Nurse Practitioner, Health Informatics, Leadership in Health Care Systems, Nursing Education, MBA/MSN (dual degree) Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems, and Public Health Nursing. Five of the options feature 100% online coursework. The Acute Care Nurse Practitioner: Adult Gerontology and Family Nurse Practitioner options, however, include an on-campus course attendance component, and are therefore limited to Arizona and New Mexico residents only. Bridge programs require completion of 18 credit hours. Credit hours for MSN degrees vary by specific program, but range from 36 to 66.

In addition to their non-BSN bachelor’s degree, all applicants must possess a current, unencumbered RN license or ARNP certification (from a state where the ARPN is an upgrade to an RN license). Applicants must additionally show proof of a minimum of two years experience as an RN within the last two years in their chosen area of specialization.

GCU’s nursing programs are accredited by the CCNE.

University of Arizona Tucson, AZ Public $$$$ 1 68%

University of Arizona’s fully-online RN to MSN in Clinical Systems Leadership degree prepares graduates to take on a wide range of nursing leadership and specialized knowledge job positions, such as clinical systems manager, nurse administrator, nurse educator, and infection control manager. Students admitted to this ADN to MSN program will complete 11 courses and should expect to devote a minimum of 24 months of study to earn their degree. Students may begin their courses of study at the beginning of any term (fall, spring, or summer). Each course is 7-weeks in length, with the exception of the semester-long capstone project. Students typically take two courses per term, but have the option of taking fewer courses depending on their individual schedules. The program is presented 100% online, with no clinical component and no on-campus visit requirements of any kind.

Along with an RN license and foundational degree (with minimum 3.0 GPA), the program requires two full years of RN work experience for admission.

UA’s MSN in Clinical Systems Leadership is accredited by the CCNE and the Arizona State Board of Nursing.

George Washington University Washington, DC Private not-for-profit $$$$ 3 65%

The School of Nursing at this university is home to an RN to MSN program that allows both experienced nurses and those currently completing an ADN degree to pursue both a BSN and MSN through a single online program. Students choose from three concentrations: Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, and Nurse-Midwifery. Program prerequisites and course requirements vary by concentration, but each is designed to be completed in three years of part-time study. Students are awarded both BSN and MSN degrees upon completion of the entire program.

The bulk of coursework is completed online. However, students are required to participate in some on-campus courses and events, as well as a clinical experience at a GW-approved location in the student’s local area. The clinical experience requirement for the Nurse-Midwifery concentration is managed by the faculty and staff at Shenandoah University, which may require the student to travel to complete this.

Admission requirements include an associate degree in nursing (ADN) from a properly-accredited institution (earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA), and a current, unencumbered RN license. Students currently enrolled in an ADN program may be admitted, but study in the program is conditional on ADN degree completion and obtaining an RN license. Applicants must also complete a series of general education and health-related prerequisite courses.

GW’s nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Its BSN program is approved by the Virginia Board of Nursing, and MSN program by the Washington, D.C. Board of Nursing.

Clarkson College Omaha, NE Private not-for-profit $$$$ 1 62%

Clarkson College’s RN to MSN program offers current registered nurses with an associate degree in nursing or nursing diploma the opportunity to earn select graduate-level course credits while enrolled in the school’s RN to BSN program. Once the program is completed, students transition into a customized MSN degree plan (choosing from among four specialty areas) in which the previously-earned graduate-level credits are applied.

This extremely flexible program features online study, and requires only one visit to campus for Nursing Education and Nursing Health Care Administration majors, or up to four campus visits for Family Nurse Practitioner and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner majors. In-person service courses and practicums are required in the school’s MSN degree programs. Both full-time and part-time study options are available.

Tuition costs as of summer 2019 are $598 per credit hour. Additional fees and costs apply. Along with the school’s regional accreditation, CC’s RN to MSN program is fully accredited by the ACEN and approved by the Nebraska State Board of Nursing.

Drexel University Philadelphia, PA Private not-for-profit $$$$ 6 80%

Drexel University offers a variety of options for those who want to enhance their nursing career, including its online dual-accelerated RN-BSN-MSN program. This program is designed for RNs who hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. Students take three bridge courses before transferring into the MSN program. Once enrolled in the MSN program, students can specialize in one of six areas: Clinical Nurse Leader, Clinical Trials Research, Nursing Education, Nursing Innovation, Nursing Leadership in Health Systems Management, and Quality, Safety, and Risk Management. Students will be awarded their BSN degree alongside their MSN at the completion of the entire program.

Requirements to apply include an unrestricted U.S. RN license, a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college, at least a 3.0 GPA on all previous coursework or a 3.25 or above on coursework on the last 60 credits earned. Other requirements include two professional letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and professional resume.

Costs for undergraduate bridge courses were listed at $775 per credit as of June 2019. Graduate-level tuition varies by specializations – students are advised to check the Drexel University website for details.

Felician University Lodi, NJ Private not-for-profit $$$$ 3 85%

Felician University’s RN to MSN Online Fast-Track program allows registered nurses to earn an MSN degree more quickly and at less expense than programs requiring a previously-earned BSN degree.  The program is offered fully online with three track options: Nursing Administration (29 months), Family Nurse Practitioner (45 months), and Adult/Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (45 months). Program lengths are estimates, and all degree requirements must be met within a maximum of seven years.

Didactic coursework is presented online, but students are required to attend in-person practicums during the undergraduate portion of the curriculum. In-person attendance is also required on specified dates during the graduate portion of the curriculum for group labs and clinical hours.

Admission into the program requires an associate degree or diploma in nursing earned with a minimum GPA of 3.0, 33 credits in liberal arts or science courses, also earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA, and current RN license. Licensure in New Jersey is required for the Family Nurse Practitioner and Adult/Gerontology Nurse Practitioner tracks. Licensure from a state other than New Jersey for those enrolled in the Nurse Administration track is evaluated on an individual basis.

Tuition costs as of the 2019-2020 academic year are $850 per credit. Additional fees apply. Felician University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The RN to MSN program is additionally accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and approved by the New Jersey Board of Nursing.

Ferris State University Big Rapids, MI Public $$$$ 1 67%

This RN to MSN Online program provides students who are currently employed as RNs the opportunity to earn both their BSN and MSN degrees through a combination of the school’s RN to BSN Online and MSN Online programs. Students first apply to and complete all general education and RN to BSN bridge coursework (with a minimum 3.0 GPA). Students then apply to the online MSN program during the last semester of their RN to BSN bridge coursework.

MSN program students may select from among 3 specializations: Nursing Education, Nursing Administration, and Nursing Informatics. All didactic coursework is completed online. However, 2 in-person practicums are required which can be completed at the student’s current place of employment. Additional components, such as a mandatory orientation at the beginning of the program, may also require in-person attendance. Both full-time and part-time study options are available.

As of the summer of 2019, tuition costs for U.S. and Canadian students are $435 per credit hour for undergraduate courses and $610 per credit hour for graduate-level courses. Additional fees apply. FSU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and its nursing programs are accredited by the ACEN.

Florida National University Hialeah, FL Private for-profit $$$$ 3 81%

Florida National University’s RN to MSN (MSN Track) program is designed for nurses who have previously earned a BSN degree, and for foreign-educated doctors who currently hold a nursing license. Earning the MSN through this program requires completion of 40 credits of nursing core courses followed by completion of all coursework for 1 of 3 concentrations: Nurse Educator (27 credits), Nurse Leadership/Management (18 credits), or Family Nurse Practitioner (27 credits). The Nurse Educator and Nurse Leadership/Management concentrations can be completed entirely online. The Family Nurse Practitioner concentration is offered in a hybrid format that requires attendance on the FNU’s Hialeah, Florida campus.

Admission requirements include a BSN degree earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA (foreign transcripts are evaluated individually). Students with an undergraduate GPA below 3.0 may still be admitted, but must submit a GMAT score of 400 or higher, or GRE composite score of 150 (or 900) or higher. Applicants must also possess an unrestricted United States-issued RN license. Out-of-state applicants must additionally be eligible for endorsement by the Florida Board of Nursing.

Tuition costs for this program (as of summer 2019) are $675 per credit hour. Additional fees apply. FNU is regionally accredited by the SACSCOC, and its nursing programs are accredited by the CCNE.

Gonzaga University Spokane, WA Private not-for-profit $$$$ 1 49%

Jesuit-affiliated Gonzaga University’s RN to MSN in Nursing Leadership in Healthcare allows registered nurses with an associate degree in nursing to earn their MSN degree through flexible and convenient online study. All coursework is offered in an asynchronous online format. However, 360 in-person practicum hours must additionally be completed at a location in the student’s home area. There is an additional mandatory 2-day on-campus immersion component during the final practicum course.  Successful completion of the program results in the awarding of a MSN degree. There is no step out available for a BSN degree. Please note that the RN to MSN program is available only for the Nursing Leadership in Healthcare track option. The average completion time for this 45-credit program is 3 years (9 semesters), but students must complete the program within 5 years of starting their master’s-level courses.

Admission requirements include an unencumbered RN license and associate’s degree in nursing earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA (or acceptable explanation for lower GPA). Applicants must also submit, among other things, a statement of purpose, 2 letters of recommendation, and current resume or professional CV. Tuition costs (as of summer 2019) are $ 955 per credit ($815 per credit for bridge coursework.) Additional fees apply. A 10% discount is available for veterans, and for active duty military members and their spouses.

Gonzaga University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). Its nursing programs are additionally accredited by the CCNE.

Lamar University Beaumont, TX Public $$$$ 2 59%

Lamar University’s RN to MSN program prepares students for leadership and upper-management professional positions in a wide range of health care settings. There are 2 specialization tracks available: Education and Administration. All didactic coursework is completed fully online. However, students are required to complete in-person preceptor supervised practicum experiences at a location in the student’s geographic area. Each track requires completion of 58 credit hours and is designed to be fully completed in as little as 36 months. Students who complete the entire RN to MSN program are awarded both BSN and MSN degrees.

Admission into LU’s RN to MSN program requires a nursing diploma or associate’s degree earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA. An applicant with a GPA of 2.75 to 2.99 may still be admitted upon submission of an acceptable MAT test score. Applicants must also possess a current unencumbered state-issued RN license.

Total program tuition cost as of summer 2019 is $17,418. Additional fees apply. Lamar University is a member of the Texas State University System, and regionally accredited by the SACSCOC. LU’s nursing program is additionally accredited by the ACEN.

Liberty University Lynchburg, VA Private not-for-profit $$$$ 3 84%

Students automatically receive 39 credit hours for their previous RN work experience when enrolled in Liberty University’s online RN to BSN to MSN accelerated degree program. They may also transfer in up to 75 credit hours for previously-completed college coursework, allowing them to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing in as little as 24 months. Both full-time and part-time study options are available.

RN to BSN to MSN program students are required to select from among three specializations: Nursing Administrator, Nursing Educator, and Nursing Informatics. All didactic coursework is presented in a fully-online format. However, students are required to complete four in-person practicums (50 clinical hours each) through their place of employment. Those individuals preferring an on-campus experience have the option of attending up to 3 courses (Health Assessment, Nursing Concepts, and Advanced Concepts of Nursing Practice) on the LU campus.

Admissions requirements include a current RN license, and either a nursing diploma or associate degree from a properly-accredited institution. As of the summer of 2019, tuition costs for this program are $330 per credit hour. Additional fees apply.  Liberty University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), and its nursing degree programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL Private not-for-profit $$$$ 3 86%

The Ron and Kathy Assaf College of Nursing at Nova Southeastern University provides flexible programs that lead registered nurses to the MSN degree. Students can opt for one of three tracks: Executive Nurse Leadership, Nursing Education, or Nursing Informatics. Each program requires 15 semester hours of foundational nursing education courses, all of which are taken online, as well as an additional 21 hours of courses devoted to the concentration. Of those 21 hours, three of them are focused on the practicum, which can be completed either online with NSU faculty or through a local setting approved by the school.

To be considered for these programs, students must have a bachelor’s degree as well as an active registered nursing license. Those who hold a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing must complete the bridge course, Transition to Advanced Nursing Practice, before they can begin work in the program. As of the 2019-2020 school year, tuition rates for the MSN nursing programs ran $692.00 per credit hour.

Resurrection University Chicago, IL Private not-for-profit $$$$ 1 58%

Catholic-affiliated Resurrection University’s RN to MSN program allows registered nurses with either a nursing diploma or associate degree the ability to earn both their BSN and MSN degrees through one convenient hybrid-format program. The program is made up by two major components, the first consisting of 7 undergraduate-level courses leading to the awarding of the BSN degree. Students who complete this first component with a 3.0 or better GPA may matriculate into the MSN program (second component) in which they will choose from among 3 specialization options: Nurse Educator, Nurse Practitioner (Family or Adult Gerontological), and Health Systems Leadership. The entire RN to MSN program typically requires 4 years of study to complete. Students have the ability to opt out of the program’s MSN component and terminate their studies with a BSN degree.

Admission requirements for RU’s RN to MSN program include graduation from a NLNAC/ACEN-accredited IDFPR approved nursing program (diploma or associate degree), and a current unencumbered RN license from Illinois or the state in which the student resides.

Tuition costs for this program as of the summer 2019 are $884 per credit hour. RU’s BSN and MSN degrees are accredited by the CCNE, and the university is institutionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Sacred Heart University Fairfield, CT Private not-for-profit $$$$ 3 89%

Students who have earned their diploma or associate degree to work as a registered nurse can earn their MSN through the RN to Bachelor to Master of Science in Nursing program at Sacred Heart University. This combination of bachelor’s and master’s degree allows students to take only eight or nine MSN classes instead of the usual 12, and the master’s courses can be taken at the undergraduate tuition rate, making the bottom line easier to handle. Up to 90 credits of previous work might be eligible for transfer into this CCNE-accredited program.

The program also offers three specializations that can help boost the career of a master’s level registered nurse. The Clinical Nurse Leader track requires 348 hours of clinical practicum work, the Nursing Management and Executive Leadership option requires only 120 hours of practicum, and the Nursing Education track requires 180 practicum hours. Graduates of the Nursing Education track are eligible to sit for the National League of Nursing (NLN) Nurse Educator Certification Exam.

Admission requirements for this program include a current, unencumbered RN license, an associate degree or diploma in nursing, a GPA of 3.0 or higher, a resume, statement of professional goals, two letters of recommendation, and a background check. For the 2019-2020 academic year, tuition for the RN to BSN program is $590 per credit hour.

South University–Savannah Online Savannah, GA Private for-profit $$$$ 5 71%

Students enrolled in South University’s RN to MSN online program can choose from among 5 specialization options: Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Administrator, Nurse Educator, and Nursing Informatics. All specializations are presented with fully-online coursework. An in-person practicum experience that can be completed at the student’s current place of employment is also required. SU’s online classes mimic their on-campus counterparts, featuring small class sizes and individualized attention. Online courses start every 2 weeks throughout the year.

Admission requirements for any of the RN to MSN online specialization tracks include a previously-earned nursing diploma or associate degree in nursing earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA, an unencumbered RN license, 3 references, a current resume, and an essay describing the applicant’s career goals. Tuitions costs for this program are $199 per quarter credit hour for undergraduate-level classes and $500 per quarter credit hour for graduate-level classes. Additional fees apply.

South University is institutionally accredited by the SACSCOC, and its nursing degrees are accredited by the CCNE.

Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH Private not-for-profit $$$$ 3 50%

Southern New Hampshire University’s RN to MSN Online Accelerated Nursing Option combines the school’s RN to BSN and online MSN programs, allowing students to save up to 20 weeks of study and more than $3,700 in tuition costs when compared to the programs taken separately. Students initially apply to SNHU’s RN to BSN program and complete two graduate-level courses within that program that can then be applied to the online MSN degree program.

Admission into the RN to BSN program requires a nursing diploma or associate degree in nursing earned with a minimum cumulative 2.5 GPA, and an unencumbered RN license. Students applying within 3 months of graduating from their diploma or associate degree programs may be admitted into the RN to BSN program, but must provide evidence of their RN license within 3 months of admission. Upon graduation from the RN to BSN program (with minimum 3.5 GPA) students continue their studies in the online MSN program, choosing from among 3 specialization tracks: Clinical Nurse Leader, Nurse Educator, and the MSN general program.

Tuition costs as of summer 2019 are $320 per credit hour for all undergraduate courses and $627 per credit hour for graduate-level courses. Additional fees apply. SNHU is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE). Its nursing programs are additionally accredited by the CCNE.

Stevenson University Stevenson, MD Private not-for-profit $$$$ 1 84%

Stevenson University’s RN to MS in Nursing program is designed to offer convenience and flexibility in study to the working RN professional. The program requires completion of 120 credits of coursework, but students holding an unencumbered Maryland or compact state RN license are automatically awarded 30 upper-division nursing credits upon enrollment. Additionally, students may transfer in up to 70 previously-earned community college credits, or up to 90 credits previously earned from a 4-year institution.

SU offers three RN to MSN concentrations: Nursing Leadership/Management, Nursing Education, and Population-Based Care Coordination. Students may choose between fully-online and online/on-campus hybrid classes. Hybrid classes are offered at community colleges, higher education centers, and select hospitals throughout Maryland. Students must also complete an in-person 45-clinical hour community healthcare experience.

Admission requirements include a current unencumbered RN license and minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA on all past academic work. Tuitions costs for this program as of the summer of 2019 are $495 per credit. There are no additional fees. SU also offers a discounted partnership tuition rate of $396 for students and employees of certain schools and organizations.

Stevenson University is institutionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Its nursing programs are accredited by the CCNE.

The University of Texas at Arlington Arlington, TX Public $$$$ 3 54%

Texas Arlington’s RN to MSN accelerated degree program is designed to save students time and money when compared to completing its RN to BSN and MSN programs separately. There are 3 specialization tracks available: Nurse Administrator, Nurse Educator, and Family Nurse Practitioner. The Nurse Administrator and Nurse Educator tracks each require completion of 68 to 71 credit hours, and each program can be fully completed in as few as 36 months. The Family Nurse Practitioner track requires completion of 75 credit hours, and can be completed in as few as 42 months. All didactic coursework is presented 100% online, and all required in-person clinical hours may be completed in the student’s geographical area.

Admissions requirements include a nursing diploma or associate degree in nursing earned with a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA, and an unencumbered active RN license. Nurse Administrator and Nurse Educator track students must additionally provide evidence of at least 2 years of related RN work experience.

Tuition costs for this program as of summer 2019 are $168 per credit hour or $19,500 total (including tuition discounts). Some students may be required to complete additional non-nursing courses which could increase total cost. Additional fees apply. The University of Texas Arlington is regionally accredited by the SACSCOC, and its nursing program is accredited by the CCNE.

Trinity Washington University Washington, DC Private not-for-profit $$$$ 1 88%

Roman Catholic-affiliated Trinity Washington University’s RN to MSN program allows registered nurses with either a nursing diploma or associate degree to earn both their BSN and MSN degrees through a single two-part program. In the first part, students complete a BSN curriculum that includes nine course credits which are then applied to the MSN curriculum (the second part of the program.) Please note that the BSN portion of the program is not available online.

MSN students choose between two concentration tracks: Nurse Administration and Nurse Educator. MSN courses are delivered in an online/in-person hybrid format that includes Friday face-to-face on-campus sessions. Students must additionally complete an in-person practicum experience. The BSN curriculum is designed to be completed in one year of study, while the MSN curriculum may be completed within six semesters. Both full-time and part-time study is available for the MSN portion of the program. The BSN degree is awarded following successful completion of all BSN curriculum requirements. Students may step out of the process between the BSN and MSN portions of the program, but must return to earn their MSN within two years.

Program tuition costs are $12,110 per semester for full-time students and $755 per credit for part-time students. Trinity Washington University is institutionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and its nursing program is accredited by the CCNE.

University of Mary Bismarck, ND Private not-for-profit $$$$ 1 80%

The Catholic-affiliated University of Mary has designed its Nursing Leadership & Management MSN (Diploma/ADN to MSN) online degree program with the working RN in mind, incorporating program flexibility that allows courses to be completed on both full-time and part-time schedules. The program provides students with a strong background in healthcare business concepts with an emphasis on leadership. The curriculum combines online didactic coursework with in-person practical leadership experiences within a healthcare organization. Average program completion time is 20 months, resulting in the awarding of the MSN degree only. The BSN is not awarded.

Admission requirements for this program include: a nursing diploma or associate degree in nursing from a properly-accredited institution earned with a GPA of 2.75 or higher, current unencumbered RN license, a goal statement, current professional resume, and 2 letters of recommendation. There are no GRE or other course prerequisites. However, there are certain graduation course requirements that must be met either through transfer course equivalents or additional coursework that is integrated into the student’s study program.

Prospective students are advised to contact the university of current tuition costs. The University of Mary is institutionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and its nursing program is accredited by the CCNE.

University of Missouri-Columbia Columbia, MO Public $$$$ 1 59%

Course delivery for this University of Missouri-Columbia RN to MSN program with Nurse Educator Emphasis is primarily online, but one or two student visits to campus are required. Both full-time and part-time study options are available. Students pursuing 2 courses each semester can expect to complete the program in four years. Program graduates are awarded both BSN and MSN degrees, and are eligible to receive certification as a nurse educator by the National League for Nursing.

Admission requirements for this program include a nursing diploma or associate degree earned with a 3.0 or better GPA, and current RN licensure. Applicants whose native language is not English must also submit a TOEFL (minimum 80 score) or IELTS (minimum 6.5 score.) The estimated full cost of the RN to MSN program is $26,291.96 ($469.50 tuition and fees per credit hour.) Out-of-state students incur an additional nonresident fee of $81.78. However, actual program cost may vary depending on factors such as the individual student’s academic progress, specific choice of courses, and number of credits transferred into the program. Tuition discounts are available to qualifying community college graduates, veterans, and active military and their dependents.

The University of Missouri is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and its nursing program is accredited by the CCNE.

University of North Alabama Florence, AL Public $$$$ 1 69%

The University of North Alabama’s RN to MSN program is actually a BSN program with an RN to MSN concentration option. Students in the program earn only their BSN degree, completing 9 credit hours of graduate coursework that can be applied to their MSN degree program in the process. UNA’s online MSN program is separate from this, and must be applied to separately after earning the BSN degree. All coursework in the RN to MSN program is delivered 100% online in an asynchronous format. However, students must complete an in-person clinical observation experience at an approved location in their own geographical area. Full-time and part-time study options are available.

Admission into the program requires an ADN degree from an accredited community college and unencumbered RN license. Current tuition costs (as of summer 2019) are $277 per credit hour for undergraduate courses and $326 per credit hour for graduate-level courses. Additional online fees ($225 for 3 credit hour courses, $300 for 4 credit hour courses, and $365 for 6 credit hour courses) apply. Tuition and fees are the same for both Alabama and out-of-state residents.

The University of North Alabama is regionally accredited by the SACSCOC, and its nursing program is accredited by the CCNE.

University of San Francisco San Francisco, CA Private not-for-profit $$$$ 1 68%

The RN-to-MSN degree program available through the School of Nursing and Health Professions at University of San Francisco is for those who hold either an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing. Those who hold a BSN will need to complete 35 credits; those with an ADN need 46 credits. The fully asynchronous program can be completed in as little as two years, provided students take classes year-round. Course modules and video content are delivered through Canvas, and each student is assigned an academic advisor who can help them navigate everything from the delivery system to the course order.

Practicum hours can be completed at a location convenient to the student’s location; the school will often help facilitate finding a proper location. The program is accredited by CCNE and the California State Board of Registered Nursing. Keep in mind that as of 2019, only students in Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington are eligible for this online program. Admission is based on an overall assessment of previous college-level study. In 2019, students pay $1,430 per unit for tuition.

Walden University Minneapolis, MN Private for-profit $$$$ 8 39%

Walden University’s online RN to MSN program distinguishes itself from similar programs in 2 ways. First, WU offers 8 specialization tracks: Public Health Nursing, Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Executive, Nursing Education, Nursing Informatics, Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner. Didactic coursework is offered entirely online. However, students must complete an in-person practicum at a clinical site in their local area. The total number of required clinical hours varies by track.

The program’s second distinguishing factor is that it not only admits students with nursing diplomas and associate degrees, it also accepts applicants who hold bachelor’s degrees other than a BSN.  All applicants must possess a current RN license, and nurse practitioner track students must also demonstrate 2 years of full-time or part-time RN work experience.

Total program costs (as of summer 2019) vary significantly by specialization ($57,100 for the Psychiatric-Mental Health NP track, $53,550 for the other NP tracks, and $35,320 for the non-NP tracks.) Total costs, however, can be substantially reduced with transferred-in previously-earned credits and through other WU savings programs.

Walden University is institutionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Its nursing programs are further accredited by the CCNE.

West Coast University-Orange County Anaheim, CA Private for-profit $$$$ 5 14%

West Coast University offers 5 RN to MSN specialization tracks: Advanced Generalist, Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Educator, Nursing Informatics, and Leadership in Nursing. The program features fully-online coursework. Students are, however, required to complete an in-person practicum experience, which can be completed at a facility in the student’s local area. Programs are designed to be completed in as little as 24 months (40 months for the Family Nurse Practitioner track) with full-time study. Part-time study is also an option.

Admission requirements include a U.S. issued RN license current at the time of admission or in place prior to the start of the third trimester of the program. Applicants must also possess either a nursing diploma or associated degree in nursing earned with a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA. Applicants with a 2.7 to 2.99 GPA may still be admitted, but must earn a 3.0 GPA or better within the first 3 courses of the program.

The estimated total program cost as of summer 2019 is $53,370 for the Family Nurse Practitioner track, and $34,535 for each of the other tracks. These estimates include 42 credits awarded for possession of a current RN license and 42 transfer credits for non-nursing college coursework. Substantial discounts for veterans and active military members and their families are available. West Coast University is institutionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) and its RN to MSN programs are additionally accredited by the CCNE.

Western Governors University Salt Lake City, UT Private not-for-profit $$$$ 3 32%

Western Governors University’s RN to MSN degree program employs a competency-based learning system in which students progress through courses by demonstrating mastery of the subject whether learned through course study or work experience. All didactic coursework is performed 100% online. However, in-person field experiences which can be completed through the student’s current place of employment are also required. Students choose from among 3 specialization options: Education, Leadership and Management, and Nurse Informatics.

Admission into the program requires either an associate’s degree in nursing or nursing diploma. Applicants must also possess an unencumbered RN license and be actively employed as a registered nurse at both the time of application and enrollment. Applicants must additionally submit a current professional resume.

Program costs for WGU’s RN to MSN program are calculated by semester. The semester cost (tuition, fees, and resources) as of the summer 2019 is $3,545. Western Governors University is regionally accredited by the NWCCU. Its nursing programs are additionally accredited by the CCNE.

Online RN to MSN Program Details

There are a lot of questions that need answering before settling on the right online RN to MSN program. Consider asking the following questions. After reading through them, you can find answers below. We’ll break down the many components that make up an online RN to MSN program.

  • What subjects are covered in the curriculum, and what specializations are offered?
  • Are all of my courses available online, and how does online study work?
  • Is there a required in-person clinical experience, and can I complete it in my hometown?
  • Are there separate bridge and degree programs, or are the bridge elements incorporated into the actual MSN degree program?
  • How long will it take to earn my degree?
  • How much is this all going to cost me?

The RN to MSN Curriculum

In academics, RN to MSN students encounter a curriculum that includes core nursing topics in both theory and practice, as well the subjects of clinical systems and organizations, lab sciences, leadership, and more. Some schools separate bridge and MSN degree coursework into separate programs, while others combine all it into a single curriculum. Also, completion of some programs will result in the award of both BSN and MSN degrees, while others award an MSN only.

Here’s a sample of the types of courses a RN to MSN curriculum is likely to include:

General Education

Most bridge programs include foundational coursework similar to what is typically found in a BSN or other bachelor’s degree program. Part of that coursework is non-nursing general education courses in liberal arts subjects like English, math, and the natural and social sciences. Here are a few examples:

  • English Composition:
    Introduction to college-level writing (grammar, structure, proper style, etc.) and basic research skills.
  • Introduction to Sociology:
    Coverage of foundational topics such as social behavioral norms and their deviations, and social structures such as families, workplaces, schools, and political institutions.
  • U.S. Government:
    Survey of the U.S. Constitution, the structure and function of government branches, policy making, and citizen participation in the political process.

Health Sciences

Coursework in the health sciences covers a broad range of topics, such as anatomy, physiology, psychology, public health, pharmacology, occupational therapy, speech pathology, and many others. Most RN to MSN curriculums include a number of health science courses in areas that directly complement nursing practice.

  • Human Anatomy and Physiology:
    Introduction to the fundamental structures and functions of the human body, including the skeletal, muscular, nervous, and endocrine systems.
  • Microbiology:
    Overview of microbiology concepts, methods, and applications from the clinical perspective, including a discussion of microorganisms and the roles they play in the causes and treatments of diseases.
  • Pharmacology:
    Discussion of the therapeutic and adverse affects of drugs (anesthetics, muscle relaxants, pain medications, psychoactive medications, etc.) on the various systems of the body.

Nursing Theory

Nursing theory concerns the creation and structuring of nursing ideas. Studying these foundational theories helps nurses develop the knowledge and skills required to provide the best care possible for their patients. Included are “grand theories” relating to broad nursing concepts, mid-range (or narrower scope) theories, and nursing practice theories, which apply to specific nursing practice situations.

  • Nutritional Science for Health Professionals:
    Study of the scientific foundation and fundamentals of human nutrition and their relationship to food choices, food safety, health behaviors, public health, and the prevention of chronic disease.
  • Health Assessment:
    A look at the knowledge and skills associated with health promotion, prevention of disease, and the early detection of illness through the comprehensive physical assessment of the patient.
  • Community Health and Population-Focused Nursing:
    Survey of the theories and models of health promotion as they relate to cultures, communities, and other populations.

Professional Nursing & Leadership

One of the major purposes of any MSN degree program is to train students to become effective leaders in their jobs and within their professional communities. Good nursing leaders inspire their peers to work as a team to meet the goal of quality and progressive patient care.

  • Healthcare Business Dynamics:
    The application of business principles and concepts as they relate to patient-centered care across a range of health care settings, including finance, budgeting, organizational structuring, marketing, and cost-benefit analysis.
  • Policy, Politics, and Global Health Trends:
    Overview of the economic, political, and social factors influencing policies that affect acute care settings on the community, national, and global levels.
  • Quality and Safety Management:
    Examination of management strategies and the improvement of processes associated with patient safety and quality outcomes, including program planning, implementation, and evaluation.

Nursing Education

Nursing education courses explore the teaching and learning approaches necessary to design, develop, and assess nursing education programs. An MSN degree is typically a prerequisite for anyone interested in pursuing a career as a nurse educator or any other advanced professional position in nursing.

  • The Role of the Nurse Educator:
    Examination of the teaching, scholarship, and service, as well as the responsibilities of the nurse educator, in the academic and health care environments.
  • Assessment and Evaluation in Nursing Education:
    Investigation of strategies used to assess and evaluate student learning in the classroom, clinical settings, laboratories, online, and other applicable education domains.
  • Emerging Trends and Challenges in Nursing Education:
    Survey and analysis of emerging nursing education trends, technologies, and challenges in the 21st century, and the role of the nurse educator as scholar and policy advocate.

How Does Earning an RN to MSN Work Online?

Here’s a look at the specifics on studying healthcare online:

Coursework
There are two basic course delivery methods: asynchronous and synchronous. Asynchronous classes allow students to access and complete their coursework at any time and at their own pace. Synchronous classes are typically livestreamed and require attendance at a specified time. Most RN to MSN programs offer their online courses asynchronously for the convenience of nurses who work evening and overnight shifts.

There are also two basic course formats: fully-online and hybrid. Fully-online courses are just that, where study is completed 100% online. Hybrid courses are those that include an in-person component, normally on the school’s physical campus. Most RN to MSN programs offer all of their classes fully-online, although some include a small number classes that will require some in-person participation.

Learning Platforms
Most online programs utilize an online learning platform, through which programs deliver course content, tests (reading materials, videos, tutorials, etc.), and facilitate communication between students, instructors, and fellow classmates. Communication methods include email, instant messaging, community chat rooms, webinars, and live cohort sessions. Popular platforms include Blackboard and Brightspace.

The RN to MSN Timeline

MSN program lengths and course sequences vary depending on many factors, including whether study is full- or part-time, concentration or specialization, and specific course availability. Some programs may additionally award credits for a student’s previous RN work experience. The fact that a program is online can also affect its length. For example, some online programs allow students to complete coursework at an accelerated pace if they choose, compared to traditional class pacing. Students pursuing an online degree without a clinical hours requirement will also be able to complete their programs in less time than a traditional program with a clinical hours requirement.

For an idea of program length, here is a sample timeline for a part-time online RN to MSN (FNP concentration) program:

Term Courses (Credits) Total Credits
Year 1
Summer
Advanced Pathophysiology (4), Contemporary Issues in Professional Nursing (4) 8
Year 1
Fall
Health Assessment (4), Statistics (4) 8
Year 1
Spring
Community Nursing Care (4), Research Methods (3) 7
Year 2
Summer
Management and Leadership (4), Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Health Care System (3) 7
Year 2
Fall
Advance Pharmacology I (3), Health Assessment across the Lifespan (2), Clinical Decision Making I (1), Scholarly Inquiry I (2) 8
Year 2
Spring
Primary Care Nursing I: Childbearing Family (4), Clinical Decision Making II (2), Family Theory: Health and Illness (3), Social Inquiry II (2) 11
Year 3
Summer
Advanced Pharmacology II (2), Primary Care Nursing II (4), Clinical Decision Making III (2), Health Promotion: Global Perspectives (2) 10
Year 3
Fall
Primary Care Nursing IV (4), Clinical Decision Making IV (2), Informatics (3) 9

Please note that lots of online programs feature multiple starting points throughout the year, so course sequences may be interchangeable in relation to season.

RN to MSN Program Admission

Earning an MSN degree through an online RN to MSN program means you must gain acceptance to a program. This can be a concern for those with no prior nursing or other healthcare experience. Though lack of experience can limit program options, it does not eliminate them entirely. While admission requirements vary from school to school, there are a number of general criteria you will be expected to meet regardless of where you apply:

Foundational Credential

By definition, an RN to MSN program does not require applicants to possess a BSN to be admitted. Applicants must, however, hold a properly-accredited foundational post-secondary degree or nursing diploma, earned with a stated minimum GPA. Commonly accepted credentials include an ADN, nursing diploma, or non-nursing bachelor’s degree (most often in another health care or closely-related field). That said, most do not accept a non-nursing bachelor’s degree.

A small number of programs will accept applicants who are currently working on their foundational credentials on the condition that the degree or diploma program is successfully completed prior to commencing coursework in the RN to MSN program.

How to stand out:
Earning your foundational degree or diploma at the top of your class or with honors will likely place you at the top of an admissions committee list.

RN License

Almost all programs require applicants to possess a current and unencumbered RN license, although a few may admit students on the condition that they obtain their license prior to starting their degree studies. Most programs require that the RN license be issued by a U.S. entity. However, some may accept one issued in Canada or another country.

How to stand out:
If your current RN license will soon be up for renewal, be sure to renew it as soon as possible to avoid any chance of it lapsing during the admissions process.

Nursing Experience

The majority of RN to MSN programs require some amount of prior RN work experience, typically between two and five years. A few programs do admit students with no RN experience, but students should expect to obtain a given amount of experience prior to graduation.

How to stand out:
If you are planning on obtaining your MSN in a specific area of specialization, be sure that your RN experience is in the practice of that specialization.

English Proficiency

Proof of English proficiency is additionally required by most programs for international applicants from countries where English is not the official language.

How to stand out:
Applicants who require proof of English proficiency will likely be required to submit passing scores from a designated EP testing service. Be sure to meet your RN to MSN program’s specific test requirements (both types of tests and minimum acceptable test scores) prior to submitting your application.

Other possible admission requirements

Some of the most common additional requirements include a criminal background check, CPR certification, and completion of certain general education and/or health care related college-level coursework.

How Much Does an RN to MSN Program Cost?

Cost is an important factor when considering pursuing any college degree, including an MSN earned through an online RN to MSN program. And, as with any other degree, tuition and fee costs for different programs vary significantly depending on a range of factors: program length, geographic location, school reputation, and whether the school is public or private. Additionally, online programs may be differently than their traditional counterparts.

Below are the current tuition rates for several online RN to MSN programs (as of May 2019):

1 1. Drexel University, RN to MSN Bridge/MSN $968 per credit
2 2. Fort Hays State University, RN to BSN/MSN $218.67 per credit
3 3. Gonzaga University, RN to MSN $955 per credit
4 4. Nebraska Methodist College, RN to MSN Bridge/MSN $308 per credit (bridge courses),
$565 per credit (MSN courses)
5 5. Seton Hall University, RN to MSN Bridge/MSN $1,220 per credit (undergraduate-level courses),
$1,229 per credit (graduate-level courses)

For information on how to pay for your online RN to MSN program, check out the following pages: