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2024’s Best RN to MSN Programs in Pennsylvania (Online & Campus)

Discover the top three in-state schools where Pennsylvania nurses can earn their MSNs without returning for their BSN first. Check out the school profiles and get answers to commonly asked questions in this guide.

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WRITTEN BY: Kaylee Thornhill
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REVIEWED BY: Edumed Editing Staff

Last Updated: 09/06/2023

Editorial Values and Practices

The state of Pennsylvania granted nurse practitioners full practice authority for the first time in 2022. This major step toward addressing healthcare challenges in the state allows NPs to practice without doctor oversight after three years of collaborative practice. Combined with the rocketing growth of nurse practitioners, this path to full practice authority means it’s a great time for Pennsylvania nurses to pursue advanced practice degrees.

This guide highlights the best RN to MSN programs in Pennsylvania, allowing you to enter straight into an MSN degree program without earning your bachelor’s first. It also shows you how these programs work, potential earnings, and the career outlook for MSN holders in Pennsylvania. See who tops the list of the best RN to MSN programs in Pennsylvania for 2024.

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About the ranking

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Base Methodology for EduMed’s Best Online College Rankings for the ’23-’24 school year.

One: Create list of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on data pulled from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which was self-reported by the schools themselves.

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least 1 online component in a program within the ranking-subject area.

Two: Assign Weighting

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of metrics, which were all self-reported by the schools themselves to the U.S. Department of Education and IPEDS.

The metrics are listed below in order of most- to least-heavily weighted.

Online Programs – Number of online programs in the relevant subject area.

Online Student % – Number of total students who are enrolled in at least 1 distance-learning course in the relevant subject area.

Tuition – The average in-state tuition for undergraduate students studying full-time, as self-reported by the school.

Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.

Career Placement Services – Existence of this service on campus or online.

Student/Faculty Ratio

About Our DataEduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2023

# 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 La Salle UniversityPhiladelphia, PA Private not-for-profit $ 2

La Salle University offers a robust RN to MSN bridge program. It's designed for registered nurses who have an undergraduate degree in a field other than nursing. By the end of the programs, students will have completed all requirements for the MSN and a BSN. For added flexibility, some courses are offered online. Weekend and evening courses are also available. Successful applicants should have completed certain undergraduate science courses, such as anatomy.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Nursing, RN to MSN Bridge

  • Credits: 30-60
  • Length: About 2-3 years
  • Cost: $930/credit
  • Mode: Hybrid
  • Accreditation: CCNE
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
12/1
Online
Student %
70%
2 Wilkes UniversityWilkes-Barre, PA Private not-for-profit $$$$ 1

Licensed RNs who want to get their BSN and MSN on an accelerated timeline should consider the program from Wilkes University. In this program, students take courses needed for both degrees. They also have the option to complete a master's concentration. Specialization areas include family practice, adult/gerontology, and mental health. All three prepare students to become licensed nurse practitioners. Since most students work full-time as a nurse while getting their degree, all lectures are offered online. Clinical requirements must be completed in-person.

Program Highlights:

Master of Science in Nursing, RN to MSN

  • Credits: 17-19 courses
  • Length: 2.5-3 years
  • Cost: $728/credit
  • Mode: Hybrid
  • Accreditation: CCNE
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Student/
Faculty Ratio
13/1
Online
Student %
94%

School Spotlights: Popular RN to MSN Programs in Pennsylvania

If you want to earn your master’s but don’t have your BSN, the three Pennsylvania schools below allow you to get an MSN without first earning a BSN. These profiles highlight why these schools are excellent choices based on quality educational outcomes, affordability, and flexibility. You’ll also find admission requirements and price points to help launch yourself into your school search.

Bloomsburg University

Bloomsburg University offers a four-year online RN-BSN-MSN program that allows students to complete two degrees in four years when enrolled full-time. Students complete a total of 93 credits: 39 for the BSN and 54 for the MSN. Bloomsburg’s RN-BSN-MSN program offers a wide variety of specializations, including adult gerontology, primary care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, public health nursing, and nursing administration. The program is offered both online and in a hybrid format, and all students must attend on-campus clinicals. All courses are offered in person at both the Bloomsburg and Dixon Center campuses. Applicants need at least an ADN, an unencumbered Pennsylvania nursing license, and an undergraduate 3.0 GPA. Tuition costs $322/credit hour for undergraduate courses and $516/credit hour for graduate courses. Affordability, academic and clinical excellence, and flexibility make Bloomsburg University a top pick for RN to MSN programs in Pennsylvania.

Robert Morris University

Robert Morris University’s flexibility and affordability make its fully online RN to MSN program another one of the best RN to MSN programs in Pennsylvania specifically designed for students with ADNs who want advanced nursing degrees. The school prides itself on providing the individualized attention of a small school and the educational opportunities of a comprehensive research university. Students receive 42 credit hours for having a nursing license, and RMU will transfer up to 90 credits (including the 42 for the RN license). After completing the remaining courses to earn a bachelor’s, students then complete 37 credits of MSN coursework. The entire program takes about three years, and tuition is $645/credit for undergraduate courses and $705/credit for graduate courses. Robert Morris University requires that applicants have ADNs, an unencumbered nursing license, and a GPA of 2.5 in nursing coursework. Upon completing their accelerated BSNs, students can select an MSN specialty in nursing education or nursing leadership.

Chatham University

Chatham University’s RN-MSN Educator Track awards both a BSN and an MSN with a specialty in nursing education. Forty-seven credit hours comprise the two degrees, and students typically complete them both in two to three years. Two primary focuses of the MSN Educator degree are managerial training and clinical decision-making skills to prepare graduates for work in a variety of settings as nursing leaders and teachers. Courses are asynchronous and online except for clinical hours. In addition to a current nursing license, students also need 3.0 GPAs and ADNs. Chatham’s program offers rolling admissions with multiple start dates per year, and tuition costs range from $479 to $822 per credit.

FAQs About Pennsylvania RN to MSN Programs

What Can You Do with an MSN in Pennsylvania?

An MSN opens career paths as nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, clinical nurse specialists, nurse educators, forensic nurses, nursing administrators, and in nursing informatics. Working as a nurse practitioner, the fastest-growing occupation in the U.S., allows you to treat patients directly and take on leadership roles in patient care. The University of Scranton and Harrisburg University of Science and Technology both offer health informatics programs that earn you a master’s degree. To be a nurse anesthetist, however, you must now complete a DNP program. Many Pennsylvania schools now offer this degree, and some schools even offer bridge programs so students can go straight into their nurse anesthesia program. The University of Pennsylvania’s DNP Nurse Anesthesia program, La Salle University’s DNP Anesthesia program, and the University of Scranton’s Nurse Anesthesia DNP are examples of such programs.

Will I Earn My Bachelor’s Degree During My RN to MSN Program?

The programs featured above all award a BSN as well as an MSN, but some schools do not confer a bachelor’s degree along with an MSN since programs for those with bachelor’s degrees in another subject often skip over the BSN. For example, the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences offers this type of program. Others, like the University of Pennsylvania, offer an accelerated BSN to MSN program for those with a bachelor’s in another field. Other programs, like the one at Wilkes University, offer a pass-through program for nurses holding an ADN that only awards a master’s degree. Still another variant is the University of Pittsburgh RN Options program that offers BSN students early admission into its MSN and DNP programs.

How Will an RN to MSN Program in Pennsylvania Prepare Me for More Opportunities?

MSN programs heavily emphasize leadership and evidence-based practice and are concerned with improving patient outcomes. NP programs build on your RN experience in taking charge of patient care and equip you for leadership in health assessment and diagnostic testing. Coursework, like Bloomsburg’s course plan for family nurse practitioners, often emphasizes diagnostics and care across the lifespan. Programs in administration and education study big-picture aspects of healthcare and focus on policy and technology management. Chatham University’s educator track coursework, for example, emphasizes not only leadership but also communication and curriculum design.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an RN to MSN Program in Pennsylvania?

The average RN to MSN program takes two years, but nurses without BSNs may take three or four years. The best RN to MSN programs in Pennsylvania highlighted above can be completed in three to four years of full-time enrollment. Other examples include Pennsylvania Health and Science University at three years, the University of Pittsburgh at four years, and Wilkes University at two years. The number of transfer credits also affects the length of your program, so talk to an admissions counselor to get a better idea of how long it will take you in a specific program. The chart below should help you get an idea of what’s normal.

SchoolApproximate RN to MSN Completion Time
Bloomsburg UniversityFour years
Robert Morris UniversityThree years
Chatham UniversityThree years
Pennsylvania Health and Science UniversityThree years
University of PittsburghFour years
Wilkes UniversityTwo years

How Affordable are RN to MSN Programs in Pennsylvania?

MSN degrees usually cost at least $40,000 in tuition. Many schools, such as the University of Pennsylvania and Penn State, are more expensive. Online and accelerated options can help reduce costs by avoiding on-campus living expenses and additional student fees and allowing you to finish your degree more quickly. The Pennsylvania RN to MSN programs highlighted below give you an idea of the range of tuition costs for MSN programs in Pennsylvania.

Is There Financial Aid Available for Pennsylvania RN to MSN Students?

Filling out the FAFSA is the first step to qualifying for financial aid. For financial aid specifically for Pennsylvania residents, consider Pennsylvania State Nurses Association’s Nursing Foundation of Pennsylvania Scholarships and the Nightingale Awards of Pennsylvania, a nonprofit that provides scholarships for Pennsylvania residents pursuing nursing degrees. For general financial aid and more broad scholarship information, check out this financial aid guide and nursing scholarship guide.

What Are the Admission Requirements for RN to MSN Programs in Pennsylvania?

All programs require an unencumbered RN license and an ADN. Some, such as the one at Bloomsburg University, require a Pennsylvania nursing license and are not approved to educate nurses outside the state. Other common requirements include the following:

  • Minimum GPA requirements
  • An essay
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts

While most schools have similar requirements, the process is usually slightly different from one college to another. Chatham University, for example, requires an essay with its initial application. In contrast, Bloomsburg University requires a narrative covering personal and professional goals for your education and career upon completion of BSN coursework.

In Pennsylvania, What Should I Look For in a Quality RN to MSN Program?

Make sure the program is approved by the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing and accredited by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing CCNE or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). NCLEX-RN pass rates are another good indicator of the quality of a program. Even though you already have your nursing license, it’s valuable to see that students who graduate from the undergrad or associate programs at the school do well on their examinations. Looking at the support and resources a school provides for career placements helps determine where graduates work and how satisfied they are with their schooling, another indication of the program’s quality.

Inside Look at Online RN to MSN Degree Programs in Pennsylvania

Online programs in Pennsylvania offer a variety of schedules and formats. Hybrid degrees mix on-campus attendance for certain courses with online coursework. Fully virtual programs can have synchronous and/or asynchronous formats, but they will likely still have in-person requirements for clinical hours. Many Pennsylvania universities offer advanced nursing degrees online to help practicing nurses pursue further education without leaving their jobs. EduMed’s guide to online RN to MSN degrees gives more details about what to expect in an online MSN program.

Can I Earn my MSN in Pennsylvania Completely Online?

Multiple Pennsylvania schools offer completely online coursework. Chatham University’s program, for example, has both online and asynchronous coursework. As with most MSN programs, though, the clinical portions must be completed in person. You can expect to complete clinical experiences at locations that match your specialty, like at a nursing college for those going into nursing education. Request specific information about the synchronicity of classes and clinical placements from the schools you are interested in before committing.

Do Employers in Pennsylvania Hire Graduates from Online RN to MSN Programs?

Because of advances in familiarity and practice of e-learning and the challenges of a global pandemic, hiring officers view online degrees as evidence of time management skills and perseverance. However, they may have questions about your clinical experiences, so be prepared to talk about those experiences in-depth. Also, remember that employers may only know that you completed your degree online if your university is a solely online institution.

Going from Being an RN to an MSN Nurse in Pennsylvania

To apply for an RN-MSN program, you must already have a nursing license. Beyond meeting your university’s admission and graduation requirements, you must also meet a few additional requirements to practice in your chosen specialty.

Nurse practitioners:

  • Master’s degree
  • NP national certifying examination in the chosen specialty
  • Three hours of continuing education on child abuse recognition and reporting
  • Licensing fee

Clinical nurse specialist

  • Master’s degree
  • National certification examination in the chosen specialty
  • Three hours of continuing education on child abuse recognition and reporting
  • Licensing fee
  • 30 hours of continuing education every two years for license renewal

Nurse midwives:

  • Completion of an approved midwifery program
  • Examination from a board-recognized organization
  • Licensing fee
  • License from the state board of medicine
  • 30 hours of continuing education every two years for license renewal

The data below shows your anticipated salaries and employment trends for Pennsylvania nurses with advanced practice degrees. You’ll discover how much Pennsylvania MSNs earn and what the job market looks like for MSN nurses in the state.

How Much Do Pennsylvania RN to MSN Graduates Earn?

Pennsylvania RNs with MSNs make, on average, $98,180, significantly more than the $53,693 that RNs without this advanced degree make. Salary for Pennsylvania nurses holding advanced practice degrees varies depending on specialty, but each MSN field still commands a significant salary. Nurse practitioners, for example, make $84,940 to $165,000 a year and have a median salary of $106,700, while nurse midwives make $79,130 to $136,050 and have a median salary of $116,840. Nurse anesthetists are even higher, making $154,060 to $208,000, with a median salary of $195,910.

What’s the Job Market Like for MSN Nurses in Pennsylvania?

A nurse practitioner is the fastest-growing career in the country and is expected to grow 8.7% in Pennsylvania during the next three years and 32.7% in the next 10 years. Positions for nurse midwives are expected to grow 2.8% in the next three years and 14.3% in the next 10. Earning a DNP in nurse anesthesia also promises to be lucrative, with a long-term growth rate of 14.3%. The job market for MSN and DNP nurses in Pennsylvania, especially in these three areas, certainly has a bright outlook for the near future.