Online RN to MSN Programs
Online RN to MSN bridge programs are special degrees that can help registered nurses (RN) with an associate degree earn a graduate degree at an accelerated pace. After meeting the prerequisite requirements and enrolling, students take a small number of credits of bachelor’s degree bridge work; this is generally between 15 and 25 credit hours. Students are often required to maintain a GPA of at least 2.5 or 3.0 during this bachelor’s work in order to advance to the master’s portion of the program.
The master’s portion of the degree generally takes two to three years to complete. Students begin by taking general advanced courses, such as health assessment, professional practice, and community health. Many programs require students to focus in a particular specialty area after completing these general classes. Many specializations are available, such as acute care, gerontology, emergency care, women’s health, or midwifery.
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||Recommend Rate|
|# 1||Purdue University Global||$11,414||62% (265 reviews)|
|# 2||Southern New Hampshire University Online||$11,286||63% (384 reviews)|
|# 3||Walden University||Not Provided||49% (559 reviews)|
|# 4||University of Alabama at Birmingham||$18,540||100% (1 review)|
|# 5||Western Governors University||$7,790||73% (682 reviews)|
|# 6||Spring Arbor University Online||$7,757||0% (1 review)|
|# 7||Michigan State University||$35,628||100% (1 review)|
|# 8||South University Online||$15,078||40% (62 reviews)|
|# 9||Carson-Newman University||$8,980||0% (1 review)|
|# 10||West Coast University||$10,999||17% (6 reviews)|
|# 11||Lamar University||$15,644||50% (14 reviews)|
|# 12||Grantham University||$4,080||57% (86 reviews)|
|# 13||Wilkes University||$25,968||Add Review|
|# 14||Jacksonville University||$14,274||88% (8 reviews)|
|# 15||Nova Southeastern University||$20,620||71% (7 reviews)|
|# 16||Saint Xavier University||$16,450||Add Review|
|# 17||The University of Texas at Arlington||$20,770||38% (21 reviews)|
|# 18||Regis University||$13,177||37% (19 reviews)|
|# 19||Concordia University - Wisconsin||$10,848||67% (3 reviews)|
|# 20||Olivet Nazarene University||$11,980||19% (26 reviews)|
|# 21||California State University-Chico||$18,546||Add Review|
|# 22||University of Massachusetts-Boston||$35,287||50% (2 reviews)|
|# 23||Wilson College||$9,000||Add Review|
|# 24||Gonzaga University||$17,045||100% (3 reviews)|
|# 25||American Public University System||$6,600||71% (167 reviews)|
What is an Online RN to MSN Degree?
Nurses with MSNs typically have more career opportunities and higher salaries than undergraduate level nurses. Online RN to MSN programs prepare nurses to take on more clinical responsibility, such as those that train nurse practitioners (NPs) and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs). All clinical MSN programs are specialized, meaning they focus on specific aspects of patient care, such as mental health, primary care, acute care, emergency care, or women’s health. NPs and other advanced practice nurses are then licensed in these areas by passing specialty-specific board exams. MSN programs that are not intended for direct patient care include nurse education, nursing informatics, and nursing leadership. Nurses in these roles contribute to patient care on the systems level, rather than through individual patient contact.
How to Choose an Online RN to MSN Program
There are several factors that RN to MSN applicants consider when choosing an online program. First, applicants should ensure the curriculum is accredited by either the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Because each school offers a different range of specialties, the prudent applicant reviews these offerings before applying to be sure their preference is availale. Information about cost, financial aid, licensure board pass rates, clinical hours, research focus, post graduate employment rates, and faculty is often readily accessible as well.
Applicants need to review each program’s prerequisites to see if they qualify. Programs may require a minimum GPA, standardized testing such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and nursing experience for admission. In addition, there are multiple earning formats and scheduling options for graduate nursing students. There are online, in-person, and hybrid programs, each of which vary in the schedule flexibility they allow for coursework. All clinical and some non-clinical MSN programs require clinical on-site training, which students may arrange themselves at local sites, or which may be dictated by the school.
Online RN to MSN Curriculum
Each online RN to MSN curriculum varies depending on the specialty chosen, but there are foundational concepts that each program covers. MSN curricula teach advanced nursing practice and theories, including nursing informatics, research, best practice, pharmacology, pathophysiology, advanced health assessment, and leadership.
Online RN to MSN programs may also offer tracks in specific specialties. These are focus areas concerned with a variety of patient care aspects. As both MSN curriculum and licensing credentials are specialty-specific, this choice has a significant impact on post-graduate career course. These are common MSN specialties:
- Clinical nurse specialist
- Family nurse practitioner
- Nurse anesthetist
- Neonatal and pediatric nurse practitioner
- Acute care nurse practitioner
- Psychiatric nurse practitioner
How Long is an Online RN to MSN Program?
Most online RN to MSN programs take three years to complete.
What Can You Do with an Online Master’s in Nursing?
There is a wide range of career trajectories that an MSN graduate can pursue. Graduate-level nurses have a broader scope of practice, greater opportunity, higher salaries, and more responsibility than associate- and bachelor-level nurses. These are different roles graduate nurses can fill:
Following are different roles graduate nurses can fill:
- Advanced nurse practitioner: Acts as an advanced practitioner, overseeing care for a variety of patient populations
- Clinical nurse specialist: Serves as a clinical expert and support for nurses; verifies use of best, evidence-based practice
- Nurse administrator: Manages a team of nurses; directs patient care initiatives on a systems level; oversees nursing quality
- Research nurse: Conducts and disseminates the most up-to-date research to inform patience care practices
- Nurse educator: Works in an academic or clinical setting as a professor or expert nursing resource
Within all of these roles, MSN graduates can be found in hospitals, extended care facilities, academic settings, clinics, research labs, and their own private practices, among others.
Salaries for employees with an MSN degree vary based on the graduate’s specialty and geographic area. According to PayScale, median pay for hourly employees who hold an MSN is $43 an hour, while the median annual salary for someone with an MSN is $92,000. Since an MSN is an advanced degree, it has one of the highest salary averages of all nursing degrees. States vary greatly in terms of compensation for nurses, as do geographic contexts, such as roles in urban versus rural settings. Income for MSN graduates is dependent on role as well; nurse educators generally have a lower salary than nurse anesthetists, for example.