Top 15: Some of the Shortest RN to MSN Online Programs for 2024

As healthcare needs have changed and nursing shortages have emerged, colleges and universities have made it a top priority to develop ways for a future registered nurse (RN) to gain advanced academic credentials. RN-to-MSN online programs are key to making this happen because they allow current RNs to earn an advanced degree in half the time that it would take to complete separate bachelor’s and master’s programs. If you never attended a bachelor’s program or have a degree in an unrelated field, the shortest RN to MSN online programs can help you grow your nursing career.

Overview of RN-to-MSN Programs

Earning a master’s degree in nursing allows you to develop advanced skills, deepen your knowledge of a specialization, and explore new opportunities. For many nurses, the time required to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree is a major obstacle, and an RN to MSN program is a logical solution.

Purpose of RN-to-MSN Programs

Many advanced nursing roles, including management positions and nurse practitioners, require a master’s degree. An RN who hasn’t earned a bachelor’s degree could spend six years or longer completing undergraduate and graduate programs

RN to MSN programs bridge the gap and allow nursing professionals to gain their advanced degrees in less time. In most of these programs, students complete their bachelor’s and master’s degrees simultaneously, potentially shortening their graduation timeframe by years.

Unique Characteristics

Many colleges and universities offer MSN degrees, but RN to MSN online programs have specific features that you won’t find elsewhere. These include:

  • Accelerated learning structures: The curriculum of an RN to MSN program typically includes a few essential bachelor’s level courses and major-specific graduate courses, and some provide self-paced formats.
  • Specialized tracks: These programs often allow students to pursue a degree concentration, such as nursing education, family nurse practitioner, and adult-gerontology primary care.
  • Online flexibility: You can participate in an online program from any location, and the option for asynchronous courses makes it possible to build your own schedule.

These elements of RN to MSN programs make them especially appealing to nurses who are currently employed. Rather than putting their careers on hold while they develop their skills and knowledge, they can continue working and take classes in their downtime.

Shorter RN to MSN vs. Traditional RN to MSN

When considering advancing your nursing career, the length of the program is a significant factor. Registered Nurses (RNs) looking to obtain a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) have a variety of program lengths to choose from, ranging from traditional RN to MSN programs to accelerated or shorter alternatives. Understanding the differences between these pathways is crucial for making an informed decision that aligns with your professional goals and personal circumstances.

How Fast Can I Graduate from the Shortest RN to MSN Programs?

The duration of the shortest RN to MSN online programs can vary, but many are designed to be completed in as little as 18 to 24 months. These accelerated programs are tailored for RNs who can commit to a more intensive study schedule and wish to fast-track their transition into advanced practice roles or leadership positions within the nursing field.

These shorter programs often utilize a combination of advanced standing for experienced nurses, year-round courses, and condensed scheduling to reduce the time to graduation compared to traditional programs, which typically take about three years to complete. This expedited route is ideal for motivated individuals who are ready to progress quickly in their careers and can manage the demands of an accelerated learning pace.

Types of Accelerated RN to MSN Programs

Accelerated RN to MSN programs are designed to help registered nurses advance their education and careers more quickly than traditional programs. These programs come in various formats to accommodate different educational backgrounds and career goals. Here are some of the key types of accelerated RN to MSN programs:

RN to BSN to MSN

This pathway is designed for RNs who have either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a diploma and wish to earn both a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). The program sequentially awards a BSN followed by an MSN. This route is beneficial for those who want a comprehensive educational path that provides a solid foundation in nursing practice and leadership, along with advanced expertise in specialized areas.

RN to MSN (No BSN Awarded)

Some accelerated programs offer an RN to MSN track without awarding a BSN degree in the process. This option is tailored for nurses who aim to move directly towards obtaining their master’s degree, bypassing the bachelor’s degree but receiving equivalent training and credits. It’s an ideal choice for RNs who are looking to expedite their education and quickly step into advanced practice roles or administrative positions.

Self-Paced RN to MSN

Self-paced RN to MSN programs offer maximum flexibility, allowing students to progress through coursework at their own speed. This type of program is best suited for working professionals who need to balance their studies with other responsibilities, such as work or family. The self-paced format helps students manage their learning environment and timelines, potentially accelerating their graduation based on their personal commitment and pace of learning.

Each of these accelerated RN to MSN program types is designed to cater to the specific needs and situations of various nursing professionals, making advanced education more accessible and tailored to individual career trajectories.

Specializations in RN to MSN Programs

RN to MSN programs offer a variety of specializations, allowing nurses to focus their studies on specific areas of interest and meet the growing demands of healthcare. Specializing during the MSN program enables nurses to advance their expertise and open doors to more targeted career opportunities. Here are some of the most common specializations available in RN to MSN programs:

Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

One of the most popular specializations, the Family Nurse Practitioner track prepares nurses to provide comprehensive healthcare to patients across the lifespan, from pediatrics to geriatrics. FNPs often work in community health centers, private practices, and clinics, where they perform tasks similar to those of physicians, such as diagnosing conditions, prescribing medication, and managing patient care.

Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL)

The Clinical Nurse Leader specialization is designed for nurses who want to improve patient care outcomes and streamline healthcare delivery. CNLs are trained to oversee the integration of care for a specific set of patients. They assess risk, develop quality improvement strategies, and implement evidence-based solutions to enhance patient safety and treatment effectiveness.

Nurse Educator

Nurse Educators play a crucial role in the advancement of nursing as a field. This specialization prepares RNs to teach future nurses in academic settings or provide continuing education in clinical environments. Nurse Educators develop curricula, teach courses, and guide less experienced nurses by sharing their knowledge and skills.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)

This specialization focuses on the mental health care of individuals, families, and groups. Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners assess and diagnose mental health problems, provide therapy, and prescribe medications as needed. PMHNPs work in a variety of settings, including mental health clinics, hospitals, and private practices.

Nurse Administrator

Nurse Administrators are prepared to take on leadership roles within healthcare institutions. This specialization focuses on healthcare administration, including management of nursing staff, budgeting, policy making, and strategic planning. Nurse Administrators ensure that healthcare organizations operate efficiently and deliver high-quality care.

These specializations reflect the diverse roles that advanced practice nurses can assume within the healthcare system, each offering a unique set of skills and knowledge tailored to specific healthcare needs and patient populations.

Importance of Earning a Nursing Degree

Many job opportunities in healthcare are only open to candidates with graduate degrees. Nurses with advanced training have expanded responsibilities, such as diagnosing and treating illnesses, supervising nursing teams, and managing nursing departments. They also play a vital role in underserved communities, providing care to vulnerable patients with limited access to medical facilities.

Continuing your education is also beneficial to your personal career progression. By completing a master’s program, you can focus on an area that you feel especially passionate about, such as pediatrics, cancer treatment, or psychiatric health. You may also earn a higher salary and have the chance to advance into a leadership position.

Evaluating the Top RN-to-MSN Online Programs

When it comes to advancing your nursing career, various factors come into play in choosing the right RN to MSN online program. The list of programs featured in this article was curated based on a holistic set of criteria, aimed to provide a well-rounded view rather than focusing solely on one aspect such as program duration.

We considered several factors to ensure that we present options that could cater to different individual needs and preferences. These factors include the duration of the program, the quality of instruction based on faculty credentials and program accreditation, availability of online course options for added flexibility, cost of the program, and its popularity among students.

It’s important to note that the programs listed are not necessarily the “fastest” or “shortest” options available. While program duration is a significant factor, it should not be the sole criterion for your decision-making. Quality of education, flexibility, and overall fit for your career goals are equally, if not more, important. Therefore, we recommend considering all these aspects when evaluating which program suits your individual needs best.

Top 15 Shortest RN-to-MSN Online Programs

Capella University: RN to MSN Nursing Education Program

Capella University offers a dynamic RN to MSN Nursing Education program designed for registered nurses aiming to advance their careers by moving into educational roles. This program is ideal for nurses who are passionate about teaching and influencing the next generation of nursing professionals. Here are some key highlights of the program:

  • Accreditation: The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), ensuring it meets high standards of nursing education.
  • Program Design: Tailored for active RNs with an associate’s degree, this pathway streamlines the transition to earning a Master of Science in Nursing. It is structured to fulfill the educational requirements necessary for obtaining the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) credential from the National League for Nursing (NLN).
  • Curriculum: The curriculum includes bridge courses to cover foundational knowledge, core MSN courses, and specialized courses focused on nursing education. It emphasizes NLN Competencies for Nursing Education and integrates AACN standards, preparing students to teach in various settings, including hospital-based schools and online programs.
  • Learning Formats: Students can choose between self-guided learning and structured formats, allowing flexibility to accommodate different learning styles and schedules.
  • Practicum Experience: The program includes an integrated capstone and practicum, which provides hands-on experience in real-world settings. Students collaborate with healthcare organizations to address and solve practical challenges.
  • Professional Partnerships: Capella boasts partnerships with over 600 healthcare employers, ranging from leading hospital systems to insurance providers, enhancing job prospects and networking opportunities for graduates.

This comprehensive program is designed not only to equip nurses with the necessary skills to transition into educators but also to impact the field of nursing education significantly through innovative teaching methods and clinical training.

Chamberlain University: RN to MSN Program Options

Chamberlain University offers extensive options for RNs looking to advance their education through their RN to MSN programs. Designed for flexibility and comprehensiveness, these programs cater to various professional needs and schedules. Here are the key highlights of the RN to MSN pathways available at Chamberlain:

  • Accreditation: Fully accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), ensuring the program meets high standards of educational quality.
  • Program Options:
    • RN-BSN to MSN: Ideal for RNs who want to earn both their BSN and MSN sequentially. This option allows students to apply for the MSN program while still completing their BSN, offering a streamlined pathway to advanced nursing qualifications.
    • Accelerated RN to MSN: For RNs who wish to fast-track their education directly to an MSN, bypassing the BSN. This option is suitable for those with higher academic standings and can be completed in less than four semesters.
    • Accelerated RN to MSN with Clinical Nurse Leadership: Adds specialized coursework in Clinical Nurse Leadership, preparing graduates for roles that combine direct patient care with strategic leadership responsibilities.
  • Specialty Tracks: Offers nine specialty tracks including Family Nurse Practitioner, allowing for tailored education based on career goals.
  • Flexible Scheduling: Classes are available every eight weeks, with options for full-time or part-time enrollment, accommodating both busy professionals and those preferring a slower pace.
  • Curriculum: Engages students with a blend of theoretical and experiential learning, emphasizing real-world application in courses like Communication & Collaboration for Advanced Nursing Practice, Leadership & Management Within Complex Healthcare Systems, and addressing global health disparities.
  • Experiential Learning: Includes practical on-site practicums and activities, enhancing the learning experience by applying classroom knowledge in real healthcare settings.
  • Structured Flexibility: Features structured yet flexible coursework deadlines, which helps in managing both personal and professional life while pursuing higher education.

Chamberlain University’s RN to MSN program stands out for its integrative design and multiple pathways, which provide limitless ways to advance nursing education and career. Whether aiming for dual degrees in a cost-effective manner or accelerating directly to an MSN, Chamberlain accommodates a diverse range of professional aspirations and schedules.

Drexel University: Accelerated RN to MSN Nursing Program

Drexel University offers a comprehensive and accelerated RN to MSN program, designed specifically for registered nurses who already hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. This program is well-suited for individuals looking to swiftly transition into advanced nursing roles. Below are the key components and features of the program:

  • Program Design: The Dual Accelerated RN-BSN-MSN pathway allows second-degree nurses to quickly move through a BSN and into an MSN program. The curriculum includes 15 undergraduate bridge credits that prepare students for graduate-level coursework.
  • Accreditation and Recognition: The program is consistently ranked among the best online Master’s in Nursing Programs by U.S. News & World Report, ensuring a high-quality education that meets rigorous academic standards.
  • Specialized Tracks: Students can choose from several MSN concentrations according to their career goals:
    • Nursing Education (46 credits)
    • Nursing Leadership in Health Systems Management (45 credits)
    • Public Health Nursing (45 credits)
    • Quality, Safety, and Risk Management (46 credits)
  • Curriculum Focus: Emphasizes evidence-based practice, clinical decision-making, and the integration of technology in healthcare. The program prepares students to design and manage care effectively at both the individual and system levels.
  • Practicum Experiences: Integrated practicum opportunities allow students to apply advanced nursing skills in real-world settings, enhancing their competencies in their chosen advanced role.
  • Graduate Outcomes: Upon completion, graduates are prepared to take on leadership roles in various healthcare settings, practice within legal and ethical frameworks, demonstrate advanced clinical decision-making skills, and contribute to the advancement of nursing and healthcare through research and policy development.
  • Program Length: Most students are able to complete their BSN and MSN in about three years, with the BSN awarded concurrently at the completion of the MSN.
  • Flexible Learning Options: The program is offered entirely online, providing flexibility for working professionals to advance their education without disrupting their current employment.

Drexel University’s program is designed to streamline the educational pathway for nurses who are eager to expand their knowledge and leadership skills in the nursing field. This accelerated RN to MSN program is an excellent choice for those aiming to quickly advance their careers while obtaining a solid foundation in specialized areas of nursing practice.

Duke University: Master of Science in Nursing Program

Duke University offers a highly flexible and comprehensive Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program, accommodating a variety of professional aspirations through its advanced practice and non-clinical majors. Here are the primary aspects of Duke’s MSN program that prospective students should consider:

  • Accreditation: The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), ensuring it adheres to the highest standards of nursing education.
  • Program Format: While Duke offers its nursing master’s programs primarily online, they uniquely incorporate required on-campus intensive sessions. These sessions, held once every semester for two to five days, are crucial for hands-on activities, simulations, and direct interaction with faculty and experts.
  • Majors and Specializations:
    • Clinical Majors include:
      • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (Acute and Primary Care)
      • Family Nurse Practitioner
      • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
      • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (Acute and Primary Care)
      • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
      • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
    • Non-Clinical Majors such as Health Informatics, Nursing and Healthcare Leadership, and Nursing Education.
    • Specialties like Cardiology, Endocrinology, HIV, Oncology, Orthopedics, Palliative Care, Pediatric Behavioral and Mental Health, and Veterans Health Care are available within certain majors.
  • Clinical Core and Residency: Each major requires the completion of 11 credit hours of clinical core courses, culminating in a final clinical residency. This residency is mentored by experienced clinicians in the student’s area of specialization, providing real-world experience and preparation for certification exams.
  • Certification Readiness: Upon graduation, students are eligible to sit for certification examinations, as the clinical experiences meet or exceed the requirements of national credentialing organizations including the AANPCP, AACN, ANCC, NCC, and PNCB.
  • Program Length and Requirements: The program can be completed in about two years for most students, with the total credit hours required for completion varying by major, ranging from 42 to 49 credit hours.
  • Admission Requirements: Unlike many other RN to MSN programs, Duke requires applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in any field, not necessarily nursing, provided they have an associate’s degree in nursing.

Duke University’s MSN program stands out for its rigorous academic framework, diverse specialties, and the unique blend of online and on-campus learning environments. It is designed for nurses seeking advanced clinical roles or leadership positions in a variety of healthcare settings.

Georgetown University: RN-to-MSN Program

Georgetown University provides a flexible and comprehensive RN-to-MSN program that combines online learning with essential on-campus components, making it suitable for students nationwide. Here’s an overview of what the program offers:

  • Program Format: Georgetown’s RN-to-MSN program is offered in a distance-learning format, allowing students to access coursework from any location. This format has been successfully implemented since 2011, ensuring students receive an accredited, mission-driven education tailored to online learners.
  • Interactive Curriculum: The curriculum is delivered through a state-of-the-art platform that supports the unique needs of online students. It is designed to be innovative and highly interactive, focusing on both theoretical knowledge and practical skills.
  • Specializations Available:
    • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
    • Family Nurse Practitioner
    • Nurse-Midwifery/Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
    • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Hands-on Learning Components:
    • Clinical Placement: Students engage in comprehensive clinical placements throughout the program, working under the supervision of experienced clinical preceptors to gain real-world experience.
    • Objective Clinical Intensives (OCIs): These are held in the Washington, D.C., metro area and involve academic visits where students collaborate with peers, participate in high-fidelity simulations, and refine their skills in common clinical procedures and examinations.
  • Program Flexibility: Completion times vary depending on the student’s pace, with options for credit transfers available based on prior educational experiences.
  • Targeted Outcomes: Georgetown’s program is designed to prepare nurses to deliver high-quality care in their communities, developing morally reflective healthcare leaders and scholars who are equipped to handle complex clinical and ethical challenges.

Georgetown University’s RN-to-MSN program is ideal for nurses seeking advanced education in specialty areas while benefiting from the flexibility of online learning combined with the rigor of on-campus intensive sessions.

Grand Canyon University: MSN Bridge Pathway in Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems

Grand Canyon University (GCU) offers a specialized bridge pathway through its College of Nursing and Health Care Professions designed for registered nurses (RNs) who hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. This pathway is specifically tailored to prepare students for leadership roles within healthcare systems. Here’s what prospective students need to know:

  • Program Overview: The MSN Bridge Pathway focuses on Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems and is aimed at facilitating the transition to graduate-level nursing studies. This pathway is particularly suitable for RNs looking to ascend to managerial or executive positions in healthcare.
  • Curriculum Highlights:
    • Foundational Nursing Courses: Includes coursework from the BSN curriculum such as Dynamics of Nursing Practice, Health Assessment, and Pathophysiology.
    • Leadership-Specific Studies: Focuses on Applied Statistics, Nursing Research, and Concepts in Community or Public Health, which are critical for leadership and administrative roles.
    • Practicum Experience: Incorporates a practicum that allows students to work closely with a preceptor to connect theoretical knowledge with practical leadership skills in real-world settings.
  • Program Format and Duration: The bridge pathway is offered online, enabling students to complete their studies flexibly within five weeks per course. This format is ideal for working professionals seeking to advance their education without interrupting their careers.
  • Advancement to MSN: Upon completion of the bridge courses, students are prepared to enter the MSN program with a focus on leadership in healthcare systems. This pathway effectively equips students with both the theoretical and practical knowledge needed for higher-level responsibilities in healthcare settings.
  • Admission Requirements: Applicants must be licensed RNs in the U.S. with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. Meeting GCU’s graduate admissions criteria is also required to enroll in this pathway.
  • Professional Preparation: Graduates of the MSN Bridge Pathway are well-prepared to take on leadership roles across various healthcare environments, equipped with the skills to manage complex health systems, lead diverse teams, and implement effective health policies.

Grand Canyon University’s RN to MSN Bridge Pathway is an excellent option for nurses seeking to leverage their existing degree towards obtaining advanced qualifications in nursing leadership, paving the way for significant career advancement in health care management and leadership.

Indiana Wesleyan University: ASN to MSN Program

Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) offers a unique ASN to MSN program designed for registered nurses who hold an Associate of Science in Nursing and wish to advance directly to a master’s degree without obtaining a bachelor’s degree first. This program is structured to provide a streamlined educational pathway with multiple specialization options. Here are the key features of the program:

  • Program Specializations:
    • Health Systems Leadership
    • Nursing Education
    • Primary Care Nursing with a Family Nurse Practitioner specialization
    • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Flexible and Accelerated Format:
    • The program involves completing 19 credits of undergraduate bridge coursework followed by a seamless transition into the MSN program.
    • Entirely online, with blended onsite options available at regional IWU education centers or at healthcare organization sites, subject to availability.
    • Multiple start dates throughout the year, accommodating various scheduling needs.
  • Clinical and Practical Experience:
    • Includes a hands-on practicum which can be completed locally, allowing students to apply their learning in practical settings within their community.
    • The practicum is customized to each student’s location and professional goals.
  • Professional Alignment and Certification:
    • The curriculum is aligned with professional certification standards, preparing graduates to sit for relevant exams such as ANCC and AANP for nurse practitioners, NLN for nurse educators, and ANCC for nurse executives.
    • Specialties like Life Coaching are supported through ICF certification pathways.
  • Program Credentials and Recognition:
    • Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and meets state nursing regulations.
    • Ranked highly for its value and quality of online education, including a top placement for “Best Bang for the Buck” in the Midwest and high rankings in Christian Colleges and Universities.
  • Supportive and Personalized Learning Environment:
    • Dedicated faculty mentors and engaged learning experience.
    • Holistic, faith-integrated program designed to support students both personally and professionally.
    • Textbooks are automatically delivered to students’ homes, ensuring materials are available on time.
  • Career Advancement Opportunities:
    • Designed for career progression, offering increased earning potential, expanded scope of practice, and preparation for leadership roles and research.
    • IWU graduates reportedly earn 58% higher income than the national median ten years post-graduation.

Indiana Wesleyan University’s ASN to MSN program stands out for its comprehensive approach, enabling nurses to efficiently advance their education and careers while continuing to work and serve in their local communities. This program is ideal for RNs eager to take on greater responsibilities in healthcare leadership, education, or advanced clinical practice.

Loyola University New Orleans: Accelerated RN to MSN Program

Loyola University New Orleans offers a dynamic Accelerated RN to MSN program through its College of Nursing and Health, designed for nurses who wish to fast-track their education towards specialized roles in healthcare. Here’s a detailed look at this program’s offerings:

  • Program Design: This Accelerated RN to MSN program, also known as the “MSN Bridge” program, is tailored for individuals who have an associate degree in nursing and a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. The program provides a unique pathway by granting a BSN equivalency, recognized by the Louisiana State Board of Nursing, allowing students to bypass the traditional BSN and move directly into the MSN coursework.
  • Specialization in Family Nurse Practitioner:
    • Credit and Clinical Requirements: The family nurse practitioner track requires the completion of 48 credit hours along with 720 supervised practicum hours, providing comprehensive training in primary care.
    • Curriculum: The curriculum is delivered entirely online, designed to educate nurses to provide effective, cost-efficient care, and to take on leadership roles. It’s structured to ensure students are ready to meet the complex demands of today’s healthcare environment.
  • Accreditation: The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), ensuring it meets high educational standards necessary for producing competent nurse practitioners.
  • Program Outcomes: Loyola boasts a 100% pass rate for graduates taking ANCC Certifications and AANP Master’s degrees, reflecting the high quality and effectiveness of the program in preparing graduates for their certification exams.
  • Career Advancement: With projections showing a 16-31% growth in nursing demand, Loyola’s MSN program is positioned to help graduates advance in their careers, especially in specialized roles like family nurse practitioners.
  • Flexible Learning Environment: The online format is designed for working professionals, offering flexibility to complete courses at a pace that suits their schedule while continuing to work.

Loyola University New Orleans’ Accelerated RN to MSN program is an excellent choice for registered nurses looking to expedite their education and step into advanced practice roles, particularly in family healthcare. The program not only accelerates the pathway to obtaining an MSN but also ensures that graduates are well-prepared to lead and innovate in various healthcare settings.

Maryville University: RN-to-MSN Online Program

Maryville University offers a flexible and comprehensive RN-to-MSN online program designed to cater to various nursing career paths with five specialized nurse practitioner concentrations. Here are the key aspects of the program:

  • Program Overview: Designed for online delivery, Maryville’s RN-to-MSN program allows for flexibility in completion time, accommodating both part-time and full-time students. The program aims to transform experienced nurses into leaders in the healthcare system.
  • Concentrations Offered: Students can choose from five advanced nurse practitioner concentrations:
    • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP)
    • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP)
    • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
    • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)
    • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
  • Program Length and Tuition: The program can be completed in 20 to 32 months, depending on the chosen pace of study, with total tuition ranging from $35,383 to $43,150.
  • Accreditation: The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), ensuring it meets rigorous academic and professional standards.
  • Program Benefits:
    • Flexible Learning: Access coursework 100% online with no required campus visits, allowing students to balance their studies with personal and professional commitments.
    • Clinical Placements: Complete clinical requirements locally in your preferred setting, facilitating hands-on experience in a convenient location.
    • No Waitlist: Once accepted, students can start the program without delay, a significant advantage for career progression.
  • Career Advancement: Graduates of the program are prepared for roles such as nurse managers, clinical nurse leaders, and nurse practitioners, with potential salary increases as outlined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The demand for nurse practitioners is expected to grow significantly, reflecting the need for advanced practice nurses across various healthcare settings.
  • Educational Support and Resources: Maryville provides extensive support to its students through engaged faculty mentors, automatic textbook delivery, and a student-centered support system designed to foster success in the program.

Maryville University’s RN-to-MSN online program is an excellent choice for registered nurses looking to advance their careers, offering a variety of specializations that align with the evolving needs of the healthcare industry. This program not only prepares nurses for advanced practice roles but also equips them with the leadership skills necessary to influence and improve healthcare delivery.

Regis University: RN to MSN Program – Leadership in Health Care Systems

Regis University offers an integrated RN to MSN program focused on Leadership in Health Care Systems, designed for registered nurses aiming to expedite their education through a streamlined pathway. This program is structured to allow students to earn both a BSN and an MS in Nursing within three years. Here are the critical details about this comprehensive program:

  • Program Structure: Students begin by completing their BSN requirements, including undergraduate nursing coursework. They then transition seamlessly into the MSN portion, focusing on leadership in health care systems. The program is designed to integrate four graduate-level courses during the BSN phase, providing a significant head start on the MSN curriculum.
  • Credits and Duration:
    • Total Credit Hours: 135, including core studies and nursing-specific coursework.
    • Credits for RN License: 33 credit hours are awarded for holding an RN license, under the provisions of the Colorado Articulation Model.
    • Program Length: The program is structured to be completed in as few as 9 semesters, thanks to the efficient course sequencing and credit allocation.
  • Delivery Mode:
    • Both BSN and MSN courses are offered in fully online formats or through web-based classrooms that may include synchronous components, providing flexibility to accommodate working professionals.
  • Accreditation: The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), ensuring that it meets high standards for nursing education and is recognized nationally.
  • Advantages of the Program:
    • Efficiency: By integrating BSN and MSN studies and allowing for the transfer of 33 credits for RN licensure, Regis University enables students to complete their advanced education more quickly.
    • Flexibility: The option to study entirely online allows students to manage their studies alongside professional and personal commitments.
    • Leadership Focus: The MSN component emphasizes leadership in health care systems, preparing graduates for advanced roles in management, policy-making, and healthcare administration.

Regis University’s RN to MSN program in Leadership in Health Care Systems is ideal for nurses seeking to rapidly advance their careers while gaining expertise in leadership and management within healthcare settings. This program not only accelerates educational achievements but also enhances career prospects in leadership roles across the healthcare industry.

Sacred Heart University: RN-to-MSN Online Program

Sacred Heart University offers a comprehensive and accelerated RN-to-MSN program that enables registered nurses to earn both their BSN and MSN degrees in one continuous pathway. This program is designed for efficiency and flexibility, catering to working professionals who want to advance their careers without pausing their current employment. Here are the key features of the program:

  • Program Design and Duration: The program is structured to be completed in 3.5 years, integrating BSN and MSN coursework to streamline the educational journey. Students can transfer up to 90 credits from previous academic programs, significantly reducing the total number of required courses and time to completion.
  • Specializations Offered: Sacred Heart provides three MSN specializations to align with various career goals:
    • Nursing Education
    • Nursing Management & Executive Leadership
    • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Accreditation: Both the BSN and MSN components are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), ensuring the program meets high standards for nursing education.
  • Program Benefits:
    • No On-Campus Visits Required: The entire program is delivered online, offering greater flexibility for students to manage their studies alongside their professional responsibilities.
    • Complete Clinicals Locally: Practical requirements can be fulfilled close to home, allowing students to apply new skills in familiar settings and networks.
    • Cost Efficiency: The program is structured to be more affordable, potentially saving up to $8,000 in tuition compared to separate BSN and MSN programs. Additionally, four courses from the BSN curriculum apply directly to the MSN, further reducing the overall course load and cost.
  • Flexible Start Dates: With six start dates per year, students can begin the program at a time that best fits their schedule, ensuring they can balance educational pursuits with personal and professional obligations.
  • Curriculum Highlights:
    • The Human Journey: Students engage with Sacred Heart University’s signature core curriculum, exploring themes of human existence through literature, philosophy, religion, and sociology.
    • Reduced Course Load: The program requires completing 8–9 MSN courses, depending on the specialization chosen, which is fewer than the typical 12 required by most MSN programs.
  • Professional and Personal Development: Led by full-time expert nurses, the program not only enhances clinical and leadership skills but also fosters a deep understanding of holistic patient care and ethical nursing practice.

Sacred Heart University’s RN-to-MSN program is ideal for nurses seeking to accelerate their education and advance into higher-paying positions while gaining a broad, humanistic perspective on healthcare. This dual degree pathway allows for a seamless transition between undergraduate and graduate studies, equipping graduates with the expertise needed to lead and innovate in today’s dynamic healthcare environments.

South University: RN-to-MSN Program with Family Nurse Practitioner Specialization

South University offers a robust RN-to-MSN online program focused on preparing students for advanced roles as Family Nurse Practitioners. This program is designed for registered nurses looking to elevate their practice across various aspects of patient care. Here are the essential details about this specialized program:

  • Program Specialization: The RN-to-MSN program at South University is tailored specifically for the Family Nurse Practitioner role, emphasizing comprehensive care for patients throughout their lifespan.
  • Credit Transfer and Program Duration: Students have the opportunity to transfer up to 90 credit hours from prior academic programs, significantly shortening the time required to complete the degree. Most students are able to finish the program in approximately three years.
  • Clinical Requirements: The program includes 750 clinical hours, which are integral for students to apply their learned skills in real-world settings, enhancing their clinical judgment, critical thinking, and leadership capabilities.
  • Accreditation: The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), ensuring it meets the rigorous standards necessary for a high-quality nursing education.
  • Curriculum: The curriculum aligns with the Core Competencies for Family Nurse Practitioners as defined by the National Organization for Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) and incorporates key elements from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Master’s Essentials. This comprehensive approach covers preventive care, health promotion, and the diagnosis and management of common health issues across all developmental stages.
  • Certification Preparation: Upon completion, graduates are well-prepared to sit for certification examinations offered by national certifying bodies such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), enhancing their qualifications for practice as Family Nurse Practitioners.
  • Program Outcomes: Graduates of South University’s RN-to-MSN program are equipped with enhanced skills in clinical judgment, communication, and leadership, preparing them for effective and compassionate community-based care.

South University’s RN-to-MSN program with a Family Nurse Practitioner specialization provides an excellent pathway for registered nurses to advance their careers by developing specialized skills and knowledge required for high-level nursing roles in diverse healthcare settings.

University of Cincinnati: RN-to-MSN Online Program

The University of Cincinnati offers a comprehensive RN-to-MSN online program designed for registered nurses aiming to further their education and advance their careers. The program features a flexible completion timeframe and allows students to tailor their education to specific career goals through various nursing concentrations. Here are the detailed aspects of the program:

  • Program Flexibility: The University of Cincinnati’s RN-to-MSN program is structured to accommodate working professionals by offering a flexible timeline for completion. This allows students to balance their studies with personal and professional commitments effectively.
  • Concentrations Offered: The program provides multiple nursing concentrations, enabling students to specialize in areas that align with their career aspirations. This specialization is crucial for nurses looking to advance into roles that require specific expertise.
  • Credit Transfer Policy: Recognizing the diverse educational backgrounds of its students, the University offers a generous credit transfer policy. This policy is designed to acknowledge previous academic achievements and reduce the time and cost required to complete the MSN degree.
  • Academic and Clinical Opportunities: As part of the region’s only Academic Health Center, the program offers unique academic and clinical opportunities that extend beyond traditional classroom learning. Students benefit from:
    • Interdisciplinary collaboration within the Academic Health Center, involving UC’s colleges of nursing, allied health, medicine, and pharmacy.
    • A variety of clinical experiences at top local healthcare facilities, including a level I trauma center and a high-risk obstetric unit, many of which are within walking distance.
    • Simulated patient care experiences that prepare students for independent practice.
    • Technology-enhanced learning environments and small class sizes which foster a more personalized and effective educational experience.
  • Built-in Licensure Preparation: The program includes built-in preparation for the NCLEX nurse licensure exam, ensuring that graduates are well-prepared to become licensed registered nurses upon completion of their studies.
  • Further Education Opportunities: Graduates of the Accelerated Direct-Entry MSN program are also well-prepared to continue their education and pursue advanced practice roles, such as nurse practitioners, due to the comprehensive foundational and specialized knowledge acquired during the program.

The University of Cincinnati’s RN-to-MSN program is ideal for individuals seeking to transform their nursing careers through advanced education that is both accessible and aligned with the highest professional standards. This program equips nurses with the skills needed to excel in diverse healthcare settings and provides a strong foundation for continued professional growth and specialization.

Walden University: RN-to-MSN Online Program

Walden University offers a flexible and comprehensive RN-to-MSN program designed for registered nurses looking to advance their careers by specializing in one of several key areas of nursing. The program is tailored to accommodate both experienced professionals and those entering from different fields, providing robust educational pathways in various specializations.

  • Program Specializations: Walden offers a diverse range of MSN specializations to align with different career goals and areas of interest within the nursing field:
    • Nursing Education
    • Nurse Executive
    • Nursing Informatics
    • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
    • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
    • Family Nurse Practitioner
    • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (Primary Care)
    • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
    • Public Health Nursing
  • Learning Formats: Walden’s MSN program is available in two primary formats, catering to different learning styles and schedules:
    • Tempo Learning®: A self-paced, competency-based format that allows students to progress at their own speed, with the possibility of completing the program in as few as 14 months. This format is ideal for self-motivated learners with strong time management skills.
    • Course-Based: A structured, faculty-guided path that provides a traditional academic schedule with set deadlines, suitable for those who prefer a more predictable study plan.
  • Practicum Support: The program includes personalized practicum support through the Walden Practicum Pledge™, which ensures students secure a practicum site and preceptor, essential for hands-on learning and application of theoretical knowledge.
  • Accreditation: The MSN program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), ensuring it meets high standards for nursing education.
  • Program Cost and Duration: The cost and duration of the program vary depending on the chosen specialization and learning format. Specializations available under the Tempo Learning option can be completed for as low as $13,000 and in about 14 months.
  • Educational Outcomes: Walden’s MSN program is designed to build critical reasoning and clinical judgment skills, preparing graduates to lead and innovate in their nursing practices and contribute to a more equitable healthcare system.
  • Partnerships and Opportunities: Walden partners with over 650 health systems, schools, and professional organizations, enhancing networking opportunities and practical experiences for students.

Walden University’s RN-to-MSN program offers a dynamic and tailored education pathway for nurses aiming to expand their skills, advance their careers, and achieve leadership roles in various healthcare settings. With its flexible learning options and strong support systems, the program is well-suited to meet the needs of today’s nursing professionals.

Western Governors University: RN to MSN Program

Western Governors University (WGU) offers a comprehensive and streamlined RN to MSN program designed for registered nurses looking to expand their roles into nurse education, leadership and management, or nursing informatics. This program is particularly suitable for those seeking to influence healthcare delivery and outcomes through advanced practice and leadership. Here’s what makes the program stand out:

  • Specialization Options: WGU provides three MSN specializations:
    • Nursing Education
    • Leadership and Management
    • Nursing Informatics
  • Program Structure and Duration: The RN to MSN program allows for the transfer of up to 90 credits, significantly reducing the duration of the course. Most students complete the program in about 42 months, thanks to WGU’s competency-based learning model, which lets students progress through coursework as soon as they demonstrate mastery of the material.
  • Competency-Based Education: This innovative learning model is designed for adult learners who have experience in the nursing field, allowing them to move more quickly through material they already know. This not only accelerates the learning process but also makes it more cost-effective.
  • Cost and Flexibility: Tuition is charged per six-month term rather than per credit, which can significantly lower the overall cost if students are able to accelerate their progress. The flat-rate tuition per term is $4,685, providing a predictable cost structure and the potential for substantial savings.
  • Clinical Practice and Certifications: The program includes essential clinical practice experiences, which are integral for students to demonstrate advanced nursing practice competence. Additionally, students in the Nursing Education track have the opportunity to earn the NAHQ (National Association for Healthcare Quality) HQ Principles certificate, enhancing their qualifications before graduation.
  • Credentialing Milestones: As part of the bridge program, students earn a post-baccalaureate certificate after completing undergraduate coursework and five graduate-level courses. This certificate is an excellent addition to a résumé, showcasing advanced educational achievements to potential or current employers even before the full MSN is completed.
  • Accreditation: The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), ensuring it meets rigorous educational standards for nursing education.

WGU’s RN to MSN program is ideal for nurses aiming to accelerate their education and career without pausing their professional life. It offers flexibility, affordability, and a strong focus on applying theoretical knowledge through practical experiences, preparing graduates for significant roles in nursing education, leadership, and informatics.

What to Consider When Comparing Programs

Choosing the right RN to MSN program involves careful consideration of various factors that can affect your educational experience and future career. Here are key aspects to evaluate when comparing accelerated RN to MSN programs:


Ensure that the program is accredited by a recognized accrediting body such as the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Accreditation confirms that the program meets high standards of quality, is recognized by employers, and qualifies graduates for licensure examinations and certifications.

Program Length and Format

Consider how the length of the program aligns with your career goals and personal commitments. Program formats can vary significantly, from traditional, semester-based schedules to accelerated, self-paced, or part-time options. Understanding the timeline and the workload is crucial for managing your studies alongside other responsibilities.

Specializations Offered

Determine if the program offers specializations that align with your career interests. Whether you’re interested in becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner, a Nurse Educator, or a Clinical Nurse Leader, make sure the program provides a pathway that matches your professional aspirations.

Clinical Requirements

Clinical hours are a critical component of any RN to MSN program. Check how many clinical hours are required and how they are integrated into the program. Consider whether you’ll need to complete these hours locally or if the program assists with placements in diverse healthcare settings.

Faculty Expertise

The quality of the faculty can greatly influence your learning experience. Research the instructors’ credentials, their areas of expertise, and their involvement in the nursing field. Faculty who are active in their specialties can provide valuable insights and networking opportunities.

Student Support and Resources

Look into the support services available to online students, including academic advising, technical support, career services, and mental health resources. A program that offers robust support can enhance your academic success and overall well-being during your studies.

Cost and Financial Aid

Finally, consider the total cost of the program, including tuition, fees, and any additional expenses for books or materials. Investigate financial aid options such as scholarships, grants, and loan programs specifically available for nursing students.

By carefully evaluating each of these factors, you can select an RN to MSN program that best fits your needs and supports your long-term career goals in nursing.

Career Growth Opportunities Post-MSN

Earning a master’s degree in nursing can open doors to professional roles that you didn’t qualify for in the past. You might pursue a position in management, specialized care, or research. Popular positions for post-MSN nurses include:

  • Nurse practitioner
  • Nursing educator
  • Nurse anesthetist
  • Nurse midwife
  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Nurse manager
  • Health informatics nurse

These roles require knowledge and skills that most bachelor’s programs don’t provide.

BLS Insights: Salaries and Job Outlook

The pay and job growth for MSN degree holders are highly competitive, significantly outpacing those of RNs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners as of 2023 is $129,480. This is substantially higher than the median annual wage for registered nurses, which is $86,070.

From 2022 to 2032, the BLS projects that these roles will have a growth rate of 38%, which is much faster than the 3% rate for all occupations. This translates to around 29,200 job openings each year for advanced nursing professionals.

Advantages of Online RN-to-MSN Programs

RNs have a lot of options when it comes to furthering their education. They’re often drawn to RN-to-MSN programs because of the personal, financial, and academic benefits they offer.

Flexibility and Convenience

Earning a master’s degree is time-consuming, making it difficult for some students to pursue their educational and professional goals. Online RN-to-MSN programs make it easier for you to fit your coursework around your other obligations. Whether you’re a working parent with an overloaded schedule or a nurse pulling double shifts to make ends meet, you can complete online classwork during lunch breaks and before you go to bed.


No matter what school you attend, college tuition is usually expensive. Completing an RN to MSN program reduces costs because you can earn your degree in a much shorter time frame. In addition, you can avoid paying for housing and fees by enrolling in an online program.

Diverse Course Selection

Online RN-to-MSN programs offer a wide array of specializations and courses. When you take classes online, you can choose the program with the courses you prefer, regardless of whether it’s located nearby or across the country.


Nursing programs offered online are highly accessible to people of all backgrounds. A nurse with a learning disability can use transcripts and assistive devices to enhance their learning experience. Likewise, an aspiring nurse practitioner with a limited budget can take classes without taking on excessive debt or requesting time off work.

Financial Aspects: From Tuition to Additional Costs

Budget is a serious concern for many RNs hoping to enhance their careers. The exact cost of your degree differs based on the program you attend, but you can plan to pay for tuition, fees, and materials, at a minimum.

Tuition and Fees

Colleges generally charge tuition for online students by credit hour. Some have higher rates for out-of-state students, while others charge the same tuition regardless of your location. In addition to tuition, you may also have to pay fees for electronic access and student services.

Other Costs

You can also expect to spend money on books and course materials, but renting them may help limit the expense. Classes with lab components often have extra fees. If you attend a program with an on-campus residency or practicum requirement, you may have to pay for travel and housing during those experiences.

Diving into the RN-to-MSN Curriculum

The classes you take during an RN-to-MSN program depend on the school you attend and the major or concentration you choose. Many colleges incorporate a blend of general and targeted bachelor’s and master’s level courses.

Core Courses

RN-to-MSN online programs generally have core courses that all students have to take, such as:

  • Healthcare informatics
  • Basic research and evidence-based practice
  • Health assessment
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Advanced nursing practice

These classes will help you build a solid foundation for a variety of potential careers.

Elective Courses

Many programs also offer students the chance to take elective courses in subjects that they find most interesting. Electives usually focus on specialized areas of the field, such as:

  • Clinical work
  • Women’s health
  • Global health disparities
  • Anesthesiology
  • Midwifery

Taking elective classes helps you tailor your education to your professional goals and become better prepared for your preferred roles.

Gearing Up: Admission Requirements

Your chances of gaining admission to an RN-to-MSN program will be higher if you know what to expect. Every college has a distinct set of criteria, but some requirements are common across programs.

Academic Qualifications

Before enrolling in an RN-to-MSN program, you’ll most likely need a minimum of an associate degree in nursing. Some schools also require a bachelor’s degree, but it may not have to be in nursing. Applicants with unrelated degrees often take a few prerequisite courses prior to beginning their master’s programs.

Standardized Test Scores

Some schools only admit students with minimum scores on standardized tests, such as the GRE. In those cases, your scores should be current, and you’ll need to have an official copy of your test results sent to the admissions office.

Accreditation: Ensuring Quality in Nursing Education

When you compare RN to MSN programs, accreditation is one of the most vital issues to consider. Attending a program without accreditation could ultimately be a waste of your time and money.

The Importance of Accreditation

To earn accreditation status, colleges must undergo a thorough evaluation and prove that they have met high standards. Accrediting bodies assess the program’s curriculum, outcomes, and faculty. Attending an accredited program helps ensure that you receive a quality education with the most up-to-date information in the field. As a result, many employers and PhD programs only accept master’s degrees from accredited schools.

Accreditation is also important if you plan to continue your education beyond your master’s degree. It’s easier to transfer credits from an accredited institution, which helps you avoid repeating courses that you’ve already taken at a different school.

Recognized Accrediting Bodies for Nursing

Nursing programs can seek accreditation from regional or national accrediting bodies. However, they also often seek accreditation from organizations that exclusively evaluate programs within a particular industry or discipline.

For nursing programs, the primary accrediting bodies are the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Completing an ACEN or CCNE-accredited MSN program is a requirement for many advanced nursing jobs.

Financial Support: Scholarships and Aid for Aspiring Nurses

Concerns about money shouldn’t deter you from getting ahead in your career. You can likely avoid paying for your college degree out-of-pocket by exploring different financial aid programs.

Scholarships Tailored for Nursing Students

Many organizations offer scholarships specifically for students pursuing degrees in nursing. Possible scholarships you might apply for include:

  • Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation and Procter & Gamble Endowed Scholarship
  • Nursing Economic$ Foundation Scholarships
  • Nurse I Am Scholarship

Some scholarship programs have specific requirements in terms of major, school, and location. Look closely at the requirements before you submit your materials.

Financial Aid Options

For many students, the first step to securing financial aid is filing a FAFSA, which determines whether you’re eligible for federal loans or grants. Some state governments also offer separate aid to qualifying students enrolled in local programs. Practicing RNs may be eligible to receive financial support from their employers. Organizations often provide tuition reimbursement or assistance to students who want to earn an advanced degree. Your supervisor or human resources department should have information about available aid and whether your preferred degree program qualifies.

Application Tips and Key Deadlines

Applying for financial aid will go much more smoothly if you’re prepared. Follow these tips to simplify the process:

  • Provide official documentation: When you apply to a scholarship or financial aid program, you may need to provide official documents, such as your RN license or transcripts. Keep these documents on hand when you apply, and be ready to request official copies from the organization that issued them.
  • Write compelling scholarship essays: A strong personal statement can help you stand out from other applicants to a scholarship program, while a poorly written essay might indicate that you’re not committed to your education. Ask someone to read through your essay and identify errors or confusing statements so that you can correct them before you submit it.
  • Pay attention to deadlines: Financial aid deadlines are often much earlier than when you’ll begin attending school, and applying early might earn you priority consideration. For example, the FAFSA application is usually open through the spring, but many students opt to apply in the fall.

Keep in mind that you’re unlikely to get a positive response from every financial aid program. Seeking funding from multiple sources is a good way to ensure that you get at least some of the funding you need.

RN-to-MSN Programs: Answering Common Questions (FAQ)

Can you get an MSN without a bachelor’s degree?

Yes, you can earn a master’s degree in nursing without a bachelor’s degree. In some programs, you can earn your BSN and MSN at the same time, while in others you can skip the BSN and move directly to the master’s degree.

How long does it take to finish an RN-to-MSN program?

Although the length varies depending on your specialization, most RN-to-MSN programs require two to four years of study. If you have transfer credits, you may finish earlier.

Are there any fully online RN-to-MSN programs?

Yes, some schools offer RN-to-MSN programs that you can complete entirely online. You’ll take classes, participate in discussions, and submit classwork through a learning management platform. Some programs with clinical or practicum requirements allow you to complete them in your local area.

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