Degrees

How to Go From RN to MSN

Are you a Registered Nurse (RN) looking to advance your career with a Master of Science in Nursing degree? It’s easier than you think! There are programs available for RNs with ADNs or BSNs, and even non-RNs with Bachelor’s degrees in another field.

RN to MSN programs are bridge programs for registered nurses that do not have bachelor’s of science in nursing, but want to go straight into a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) program or complete their MSN and BSN at the same time.

These are accelerated programs so that RNs don’t have to take the time to complete their BSN and MSN programs separately. This is especially good for RNs who know they want to become advanced practice registered nurses and want to get there as quickly as possible. 

Earning your MSN opens a ton of doors for nurses. Some of the options for MSN nurses include:


Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Nurse Practitioners (NP) can serve as primary or specialty care providers and typically focus their care on a specific population, such as families, children, or the elderly. Nurse Practitioners have more authority than Registered Nurses and in certain states, even have full-practice authority. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average nurse practitioner’s salary was $125,900 as of May 2022.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

CRNAs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who administer anesthesia and other medications. They’re also the highest-paid nurses, earning a median annual salary of $203,090, according to the BLS. But as noted above, in 2025 they will be required to have their doctorate degree. 

Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

Certified Nurse-Midwives provide health care and wellness care to women, which may include family planning, gynecological checkups, prenatal care, and helping mothers give birth. Although their approach is somewhat different, CNMs in many ways offer similar care to that of an OB/GYN doctor. According to the BLS, CNMs earn, on average, an annual salary of $120,880 as of May 2022.

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

Clinical nurse specialists are advanced practice registered nurses who’ve obtained advanced degrees (a master’s degree at minimum) and training in a specialized area of nursing practice. According to Salary.com, as of September 2022, they earn an average annual wage of $122,704.

Nurse Administrator

Nurse Administrators are typically advanced practice registered nurses who’ve earned at least a master’s degree. They manage and oversee the nursing staff in a healthcare facility. ZipRecruiter reports this specialty earns a median salary of $86,307. 

Nurse Educator

Nurse Educators are MSN-prepared nurses who work in academia. They develop coursework curriculum, teach courses, evaluate educational programs, oversee clinical rotations, and conduct research. According to the BLS, the median annual salary as of October 2023 was $86,755 for nurse educators in post-secondary universities. 

Show Me RN-to-MSN Programs


MSNs are not one size fits all. There are actually a lot of options for nurses, and the best option for you will depend on where you’re starting out. Below are 3 ways to earn your MSN, depending on your starting point.

1. How to Get Your MSN if You Have a Bachelor’s Degree in a Different Field

Known as a direct-entry Master of Science in Nursing MSN, this type of program is designed for people who are interested in getting their MSN but have a Bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing. 

Basic requirements: You’ll need a Bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field, and potentially your GRE.

2. How to Get Your MSN if You Have an ADN or Diploma RN

If you have your Associate’s Degree in Nursing, or if you have a diploma RN, you have a couple of different options. Your first is the traditional route, earning your BSN and then applying to an MSN program. But as we mentioned, there are faster options available where RNs can earn both their BSN and MSN at the same time, known as RN-to-MSN bridge programs. These typically allow RNs to earn their MSN about a year sooner than the traditional route.

See also  MSN vs. DNP - Which is Better?

Basic requirements: You’ll need an RN or nursing diploma and an active nursing license. 

3. How to Get Your MSN If You’re Currently Working on Your BSN

If you earned or are earning a joint RN/BSN degree, you could continue directly into a BSN to MSN program, or choose to work with your undergraduate degree while pursuing your MSN. 

Basic requirements: You’ll need to either have a BSN or be currently enrolled in a BSN program as a full-time student.


The key difference you should be aware of when choosing an online program for your MSN degree is that with an online degree, you may never actually meet any of your classmates or instructors in person, depending on the specific path you decide to take with your MSN degree.

If you choose an MSN for managerial purposes, for instance, it’s entirely possible that the degree can be done entirely online. If you choose to specialize as a Nurse Practitioner, however, there will be hands-on instruction and clinical hours required in addition to your online coursework.

Most online programs for RN-MSN degrees work as hybrid programs, which means most of your courses will be in an online format, while the clinical portions will take place in person. Some programs have different sites for the clinical programs and some schools even allow students to customize their clinicals for even more convenience, such as finding a local office or clinic to work in.

But online programs may not be right for every student. Online programs are a popular option for nurses who are trying to go to school while working, live in areas that are not near a school that carries an MSN degree program, or just need some more flexibility because of their family/life obligations.


1.) Messiah University, Mechanicsburg, PA  

Messiah University is a private Christian university located in Pennsylvania. The university offers an online RN to MSN option for nurses with an ADN.

  • Admissions: Applications are accepted twice a year for fall and summer sessions. 

  • Program Length: 32 to 39 credits (depending on the program.) Courses are offered online in 8-week and 12-week sessions. 

  • Track Offered: Nursing Education and Nursing Administration

  • Location: 100% online, with full- or part-time availability. 

  • Program Cost: $710/credit hour

  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

  • College of Nursing – Contact Phone Number: 717-766-2511

  • College of Nursing – Contact Email Address: onlineinfo@messiah.edu

2.) University of West Florida, Pensacola, FL

The University of West Florida allows nurses to earn their BSN on their way to earning their MSN. In completing the BSN program, students earn 12 credit hours at the undergraduate rate, which are applied toward their MSN. This program builds on the student’s previous nursing training and experience for continued success.

  • Admissions: Application deadlines are in January, March, and May

  • Program Length: Two to four years

  • Track Offered: Nursing Education

  • Location: 100% online, with full- or part-time availability. 

  • Program Cost: 

  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

  • College of Nursing – Contact Phone Number: 850.473.7756

  • College of Nursing – Contact Email Address: cohnursing@uwf.edu

3.) Liberty University*, Lynchburg, VA

Liberty University’s* RN to BSN to MSN Nurse Educator degree is an accelerated program that saves time. 100% online, this program allows students to focus on their current career while advancing their education.

  • Admissions: Applications are accepted twice a year for fall and summer sessions. 

  • Program Length: 39-Credit Hours. Courses are offered online in 8-week sessions and the program typically takes a year and a half to complete. 

  • Track Offered: Nursing Education 

  • Location: 100% online, with full- or part-time availability. 

  • Program Cost: $11,880 ($330 per credit hour) including lab fees and additional University associated costs.

  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

  • College of Nursing – Contact Phone Number: 800-424-9595

  • College of Nursing – Contact Email Address: luograd@liberty.edu

4.) William Paterson University, Wayne, New Jersey

Designed to be flexible for working RNs, William Paterson University’s MSN programs allow students flexibility in their education. These programs are 100% online and require no in-person visits to the campus.

  • Admissions: Applications are accepted on rolling admission with six start dates throughout the year. 

  • Program Length: 53 to 65-Credit Hours depending on program track. 

  • Track Offered: Nursing Education, Nursing Administration, Family Nurse Practitioner, and Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

  • Location: 100% online, with full- or part-time availability. 

  • Program Cost: $24,825 – $35,539 (depending on the program) including lab fees and additional University associated costs.

  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

  • Contact Phone Number: 973-720-2000

See also  Master’s in Forensic Nursing Guide

5.) Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT

Sacred Heart helps students earn their BSN and MSN in an accelerated, online program. Students can transfer up to 90 credits earned at a previous institution toward their degrees.

  • Admissions: Applications are accepted on rolling admission with six start dates throughout the year. 

  • Program Length: 24 to 27 Credit Hours depending on program track and transfer credits. (About 3.5 years).

  • Track Offered: Clinical Nurse Leader, Nursing Education, and Nursing Management and Executive Leadership

  • Location: 100% online, with full- or part-time availability. 

  • Program Cost: $28,380–$30,465 ($695 per credit hour), including lab fees and additional University associated costs.

  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

  • College of Nursing – Contact Phone Number: 877-791-7181

6.) Capella University* – Sponsored

Capella University lets students reach their advanced nursing career goals faster with their FlexPath program. Students work at their own pace, determined by their own schedules and needs. 

  • Admissions: Rolling admissions

  • Program Length: 54-66 quarter credit hours, depending on specialization

  • Track Offered: Care Coordination, Nursing Education, Nursing Informatics, and Nursing Leadership and Administration

  • Location: Online, with full- or part-time availability

  • Program Cost: $2,850 per 12-week billing session (FlexPath); $450 per credit (GuidedPath)

  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

  • Contact Phone Number: 866.933.5901

7.) Southern New Hampshire University*, Manchester, NH

The SNHU RN-to-MSN online program pathway* lets students take advanced placement (AP) courses during their BSN and use them to waive one course for certain MSN tracks. This allows RNs to transition from a BSN to MSN faster.

  • Admissions: Rolling admissions

  • Program Length: 33-Credit Hours depending on the program track

  • Track Offered: Nursing Education and Population Healthcare

  • Location: 100% online, with full- or part-time availability. 

  • Program Cost: $960/credit hour

  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

  • College of Nursing – Contact Phone Number: 888.387.0861

  • College of Nursing – Contact Email Address: nursing@snhu.edu

8.) Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, NJ

For registered nurses with an ADN and who have passed the NCLEX- RN, Fairleigh Dickinson University will award up to 84 credits toward an accelerated RN to MSN degree. Students earn an MSN upon completing course requirements; however, they do not receive a BSN. 

  • Admissions: Applications are accepted on rolling admission with six start dates throughout the year. 

  • Program Length: 62 to 64 credit hours depending on the program track. Typically takes up to four years to complete. Courses are 8 weeks in length. 

  • Track Offered: Family Nurse Practitioner or Nursing Education

  • Location: 100% online, with full- or part-time availability. 

  • Program Cost: $857/credit hour

  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 

  • College of Nursing – Contact Phone Number: 844-251-6557


In addition to increased career opportunities, MSN-prepared nurses also can expect a significant pay bump. U.S. News & World Report found that, on average, an RN with a Master’s degree can expect to earn about $20,000/year more than an RN with a two-year, bachelor’s, or equivalent degree. But the exact salary will vary based on the following: 

  • The specialty 
  • Employment setting
  • Full-time or part-time employment

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the common MSN roles of Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners as having an average salary of $125,900/year or $60.53/hour. 


Although the specific program requirements will vary based on the school and the extra degree you choose, the general requirements to be accepted into an MSN program include: 

  • BSN Degree or an Associate’s Degree in Nursing/Nursing Diploma 
  • Bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field
  • GPA of at least 3.0
  • Completion of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
  • Recommendations from colleagues or professors 
  • Statement of Purpose 
  • CV/Resume 
  • Proof of nursing license 
  • Criminal background check upon acceptance

Some schools may also require a certain amount of time working as an RN, such as one to two years, while others with an RN-MSN track may allow you to proceed directly into the program without any RN work experience. Some schools, for instance, allow RN or BSN students to apply for the MSN program while they are still in school. 

See also  Top PhD in Nursing Programs 2024

Much like an RN or BSN degree, the MSN degree focuses on core foundational classes before moving on to practicum courses. The specifics of the MSN degree will depend on the specialty, but as one example, the Family Nurse Practitioner program from the University of Texas at Austin lists a total of 48 education credit hours and 645 clinical courses to complete the degree. 


The exact classes, curriculum, and clinical hours specifications of an MSN degree will vary based on the specific type of program. When enrolling into an MSN program, students will choose the type of pathway they are interested in, whether that be a Management Track, a Public Health Track, or an Advanced Nursing Position track. 

But, in general, a basic, non-specialty MSN program will have around 72 credit hours, with a course load of classes that may include topics such as: 

  • Foundational courses
  • Biostatistics
  • Health concerns across the lifespan
  • Clinical management
  • Pharmacology & pathophysiology
  • Leadership
  • Ethics
  • Capstone project

There are a variety of things to consider when choosing an RN-to-MSN program — cost, location, online vs in-person, etc. — but the most important is accreditation.  

Why is it important to choose an accredited and credentialed program? 

By choosing an accredited MSN program, you’ll know that it meets the current highest-quality standards for the degree. Accreditation also means that the school may offer qualifications for federal financial aid for you as a student. And it assures future employers you’ve received the highest quality training possible. 

If you know that you want to continue onto a DNP program after your MSN degree, you absolutely must graduate from an accredited MSN program. Unaccredited schools may also not be eligible for federal student aid, so if you know you will need federal aid, you’ll need to choose an accredited school. 

The two main accreditations you should look for in an MSN program are from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).  


As an RN considering an MSN degree, the truth is, only you can answer the question if an MSN degree is right for you and beneficial for your career

Earning your MSN may be the best path for you if you are a nurse who, 

  • Has the desire to gain more knowledge and additional skill sets in a specialty field 
  • Strives to further your career with an advanced degree
  • Plans to move into a clinical specialty role, such as an NP or CNM
  • Wishes to advance into a managerial or leadership role
  • Wants to move on to an academic or research-based setting
  • Simply has the desire to gain increased knowledge with more education

The Benefits of Getting a Master’s Degree in Nursing

Some of the leading benefits of obtaining your MSN degree after your RN include:

  • Access to advancement opportunities. Getting your MSN is the only way to have access to certain advanced specialty careers in nursing, such as becoming a Nurse Practitioner, a Nurse Anesthetist, or a Nurse-Midwife. You’ll also gain deeper knowledge in your chosen field and serve as a mid-level practitioner for your patients. 

  • Salary increase. With advanced skills and education comes a significant increase in salary. The salary range for a nurse with an MSN degree varies from as low as $60K/year for a nurse manager up to $230K/year as a chief nurse anesthetist. For floor nurses, an MSN degree may not significantly increase your paycheck, but for more advanced positions, the degree will coincide with salary increases. 

  • Tuition reimbursement of an MSN. Depending on what field you choose and what policies your current workplace offers, you may be able to receive reimbursement for getting your MSN. 

  • A step towards a more advanced degree. If you would like to pursue further education beyond your MSN, such as your Doctorate in Nursing, you will need your Master’s as one step in the process. 

  • More career opportunities. Earning your MSN opens the door for further career opportunities, such as managing, teaching, or research positions. 

Earning your MSN may be your pathway to gaining valuable knowledge in your field, increasing your salary, and providing valuable opportunities for career advancement.

 

*Indicates an affiliate link. At no additional cost to you, Nurse.org will earn a commission if you click through and use this service.

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button