Best Online RN-to-MSN Programs 2021

Best Online RN-to-MSN Programs 2021

Nurses interested in advancing their career can earn an RN-to-MSN online. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, nearly 90% of nurse practitioners hold a certification in primary care, and nearly 83% of practitioners accept clients with Medicare. Furthermore, graduates enter a rapidly expanding field. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects a 45% increase in job outlook for nurse practitioners from 2019-29.

Online MSN programs offer more flexibility than on-campus programs. Universities often provide asynchronous courses that allow students to complete assignments on their own time and continue working throughout the program. Online students engage with professors and peers through discussion board posts and projects. The best RN-to-MSN programs also include fieldwork experiences.

Online MSN programs typically comprise 72 credits, including foundational courses, leadership and ethics, clinical management, and specialization coursework. Graduates often pursue leadership roles as nurse practitioners or midwives while others enter academia.

View ranking methodology here.

Applying to an Online RN-to-MSN Program

Students should note that requirements vary by school. Colleges and universities typically require applicants to hold a BSN. However, bridge programs accept students with an associate degree from a school accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Bridge programs build on existing knowledge in the field, allowing students to earn their degree faster, which can also reduce overall school costs.

Schools may also require one to two years of professional experience. Other requirements often include a minimum 3.0 GPA, professional resume, GRE scores, and a statement of purpose. Students should hold an unencumbered license in the state they plan to practice in. RN-to-MSN programs may also require criminal background checks.

Top Online Programs

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take to complete an online RN-to-MSN program?

    While requirements vary by school, students can typically earn an online RN-to-MSN degree in 36 months. However, accelerated programs may only require two years. Students should also note that factors, such as specialty coursework, field experience, and enrollment status can influence the length of programs.

  • What is accreditation and why is it important?

    Colleges and universities create programs with accrediting bodies in mind. Accreditation processes help determine if programs meet the standards of quality required in a field. Primary accrediting bodies in nursing include the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. Students should also consider accrediting bodies within their speciality area.

  • Is an online RN-to-MSN program as highly regarded as an in-person program?

    Nursing students can receive the same high-quality education online or in person. In fact, students often prefer online programs because they provide flexibility, allowing students to continue working while earning their degree. Students should only consider accredited programs to ensure they qualify for licensure.

  • What can I do with an MSN?

    An MSN leads to multiple career paths. Programs typically offer specializations that allow students to become experts in a niche area of nursing, such as family nurse practitioning or women’s health nurse practitioning. These roles typically include leadership responsibilities. However, some professionals also choose to enter academia.

The Best Online RN-to-MSN Programs for 2021

  1. University of Central Florida

    Orlando, FL



    Based in Orlando, UCF operates as a public university with about 72,000 students. The nursing MSN program at UCF offers several emphasis tracks: leadership and management, nurse educator, and the nursing and health care simulation. The MSN degree program requires independent scholarly work on an evidence-based nursing project and an evidence-based scholarly clinical paper. UCF's nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

    Students may be able to apply the degree to state-specific licenses but should check with local regulatory bodies for further information regarding the UCF program. Undergraduate statistics, nursing research, dimensions of professional nursing practice, and public health nursing must all be completed prior to applying to the program.

    Tuition is $370 per credit hour for in-state enrollment and $1,195 for out-of-state, and the program may be completed 100% online with some restrictions based on class or professor.

  2. Johns Hopkins University

    Baltimore, MD



    Located in Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins University's School of Nursing offers an online master of science in nursing. Using an interdisciplinary approach, the program allows students who already hold a nursing degree to explore the MSN healthcare organizational leadership or MSN healthcare leadership MBA dual degree. Students must hold a 3.0 GPA from an accredited institution as well as their nursing license and a BSN.

    Tuition for both MSN tracks at Johns Hopkins is $1,738 per credit hour. The MSN healthcare organizational leadership requires 35 credits and 504 clinical hours, while the MSN healthcare leadership MBA dual degree requires 65 credits and 504 clinical hours. Both programs situate the curriculum in evidence-based practice focusing on management and administration as well as information technology, health policy, and case and population management.

    Scholarships and grants are available for eligible students.

  3. Appalachian State University

    Boone, NC



    A public university based in Boone, North Carolina, Appalachian offers an online master of science in nursing program with an emphasis in nursing education. Graduates of the MSN program who choose the nursing education concentration may take the Certified Nurse Educator exam upon graduation, positioning students for success in the workforce.

    Applicants for Appalachian's MSN program must hold a BSN or hold a bachelor's degree alongside nursing diploma programs, a 3.0 minimum GPA, and GRE or MAT scores from the past five years. Additionally, applicants must hold a North Carolina nursing license prior to beginning the program and possess one year of nursing experience.

    The program requires 39 credits and completion may occur within 24 months of part-time study.

    Appalachian State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

  4. Florida Atlantic University

    Boca Raton, FL



    Florida Atlantic University offers the master of science in nursing program through the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing. Students may pursue core courses online or face-to-face and enroll full or part time in the Boca Raton-based school.

    With FAU's seven possible concentrations in the curriculum, once students complete core online coursework they may choose a specialty in the nursing field. Some concentration tracks include advanced holistic nursing, adult and gerontology nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, or nursing administration and financial leadership. The program enhances a practitioner's ability to impact the health and wellness of patients and clients.

    FAU faculty specializes in many healthcare topics such as healthy aging across the lifespan, health equity, holistic health, and transforming healthcare environments. These different faculty areas of expertise allow students more learning possibilities and opportunities for research.

    Students may apply for financial aid and scholarships as available.

  5. California State University-Chico

    Chico, CA



    Chico State's master of science in nursing online program, developed to meet the needs of nurses in rural regions, offers two options, alternating each year: nurse educator and nursing leadership. The program emphasizes nursing research, health care organizational systems, technology, and advanced nursing roles.

    Chico State MSN applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA in the last 60 hours of nursing coursework, a California license to practice as a registered nurse, and a passing grade in statistics within the past five years.

    Graduates of the program complete 30 units and the coursework takes five semesters to complete.

  6. Michigan State University

    East Lansing, MI



    Michigan State University, a public school in East Lansing, Michigan, offers a hybrid online and face-to-face master of science in nurse practitioner program that combines online learning, clinical simulations, and face-to-face classroom and clinical practice experiences.

    MSU applicants must possess a bachelor's degree in nursing, hold a current unrestricted license to practice nursing as a registered nurse in the state in which they are living, and a 3.0 GPA from undergraduate work. Core courses include scientific foundations for the advanced practice nurse, health policy and advocacy, patient safety, quality improvement, and quality management in healthcare.

    Full-time students complete the MSU program in two years and part-time students complete it in three years. They attend core courses online with a clinical component on campus, usually 4-5 days per semester. On-campus work involves lectures, simulation labs, examinations, and group work.

    Michigan State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

  7. Western Carolina University

    Cullowhee, NC



    Based in Cullowhee, North Carolina, Western Carolina University offers three distinct master of science in nursing programs. WCU's programs include an MSN family nurse practitioner, MSN nurse educator, and MSN nursing leadership.

    WCU's family nurse practitioner MSN takes 24 months to complete, and features both a fully online program and a hybrid program, which gives students the ability to take all classes online, with one in-person class a week.

    The Western Carolina nurse educator MSN degree takes 18 months to complete and prepares students for careers as an academic, staff, or patient educator and requires the completion of comprehensive exams.

    The nursing leadership program takes 18 months to complete and offers all courses online, while practicum placements may be completed in the students' community, focusing on underserved and diverse populations.

    All three programs require a BSN with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and an up-to-date nursing license for the state in which the student plans to practice.

  8. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

    Tallahassee, FL



    Based in Tallahassee, FAMU's master of science degree with an emphasis in adult gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP) program is available online or on-site. Students pursuing the online program choose from part- or full-time enrollment. The curriculum includes 42 credits in courses such as professional role development, advanced pharmacology, advanced pathophysiology, and special issues across the adult lifespan.

    Graduates of FAMU's nursing program complete their studies in five semesters when pursuing full-time coursework.

    Eligibility requirements include a bachelor's degree in nursing, a valid nursing license, and an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above. Students also pass a physical examination and hold Identification of a qualified available clinical preceptor.

  9. University of Arkansas

    Fayetteville, AR



    Located in Fayetteville and founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas enrolls more than 27,000 annually. U of A's online master of science in nursing program, housed in the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing, provides students the opportunity to complete their studies quickly in only four semesters and one summer.

    Student focus on evidence-based practice through problem identification and the critique of research findings as well as leadership, ethics, and accessibility in health care. Each candidate for U of A's MSN degree must successfully complete a scholarly project to meet comprehensive written exam requirements. Enrollees may apply for loans and scholarships with the support of student services.

  10. Georgia Southern University

    Statesboro, GA



    A public university based in Statesboro, Georgia Southern offers students the opportunity to pursue an online master of science in nursing degree with an emphasis in nursing education. Graduates of the program hold expertise in curriculum design and development, teaching methodologies, educational needs assessment, and learner-centered theories and methods for nurses and healthcare. Students gain advanced understanding and knowledge of the nursing discipline and practice as well as obtain pedagogical skills.

    Georgia Southern's MSN program, designed to be completed in two years, requires 36 credits, including 320 applied clinical hours.

    Admissions requirements include a minimum GPA of 3.0, current Georgia RN license, and American Heart Association Level C certification. Georgia Southern's master of science in nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

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