10 Best Online RN to MSN Programs

12 Min Read Published April 29, 2024
10 Best Online RN to MSN Programs

Online RN to MSN programs are an excellent option for working nurses seeking to advance their education. Graduates can become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) or non-clinical specialists like educators and administrators. 

With several ways to earn an RN to MSN degree online, choosing the right program can be stressful. So, we've curated a list of the ten best online RN to MSN programs nationwide. Read on to learn more about these programs, including tuition prices, program length, degree options, and more.

Popular Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University

GCU's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

What Are Online RN to MSN Programs?

RN to MSN programs are for registered nurses (RNs) with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). Also called ADN to MSN online programs, these courses bridge associate's and master's nursing education.

Although students will cover the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) curriculum, they will not earn a BSN. Instead, they'll continue directly into the MSN program.

After completing their accredited RN to MSN program online, students will be eligible to sit for their APRN boards and certification or start another advanced career.

Top Online RN to MSN Programs

Every online RN-to-MSN program has benefits and features. This list includes the top online MSN bridge programs for ADN nurses.

Our ranking methodology considered the following factors:

  • Accessibility and affordability
  • Accreditation
  • Program length
  • The program’s educational preparation
  • Admission requirements
  • Additional accolades that the program has received
Tuition Per Credit
Graduate: $990, Undergrad: $915
Accreditation
 CCNE
School Type
Private
Program Length
9 Semesters

Gonzaga University is one of several RN to MSN online schools offering a non-clinical MSN. Students in this program earn a Master of Nursing Leadership in Healthcare in just nine semesters.

Courses are entirely online, except for clinical rotations and a two-day on-campus immersion. Students must complete 45 MSN credits and 135 clinical hours for the bridge program. They'll complete an additional 180 clinical hours for the MSN in leadership.

  • Location: Spokane, WA
  • Contact Information:
    • Phone: (866) 380-5323
    • Email: gradadmissions@gonzaga.edu

Popular Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University

GCU's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Tuition Per Semester
Graduate:$4,685, Undergrad: $4,795
Accreditation
CCNE
School Type
Private
Program Length
32 credits

WGU's online RN to MSN nursing education program prepares students to teach the next generation of nurses. While nursing education is currently the most popular concentration, students have other options.

After completing the BSN courses, they may choose other MSN specializations, such as leadership, management, or nursing informatics.

  • Location: Salt Lake City, UT
  • Contact Information:
    • Phone: (801) 274-3280

>> Explore WGU’s Online MSN Program*

Tuition Per Credit
$728
Accreditation
CCNE
School Type
Private
Program Length
44 months

Wilkes offers three RN to MSN online programs for ADN nurses interested in becoming nurse practitioners (NPs). Students can choose between family, adult-gerontology primary care, and psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner concentrations.

The program is entirely online, but students must complete clinicals and residencies in person at a pre-approved clinical site.

  • Location: Wilkes-Barre, PA
  • Contact Information:
    • Phone: (888) 413-5633
    • Email: admissions@onlinenursingdegrees.wilkes.edu

>> Explore Wilke’s University’s Online MSN Program

Tuition Per Credit
$100
Accreditation
CCNE
School Type
Private
Program Length
3 years 

Baker University offers a nursing education and nursing leadership online RN to MSN program. Although the program is remarkably cheap, it still provides a high-quality education. Baker's curriculum eliminates repetitive coursework, allowing students to graduate faster than other programs.

The same faculty that teaches BU's traditional MSN program also teaches the online ADN to MSN courses. Classes begin in January and August, and students can complete coursework from anywhere in the country.

  • Location: Topeka, KS
  • Contact Information:
    • Phone: (785) 354-5873
    • Email: marlene.eicher@bakerU.edu
Total Tuition 
$30,309
Accreditation
CCNE
School Type
Public
Program Length
24 months 

ADN-RNs interested in earning an MSN will find William Paterson University an exceptional, affordable, and fast-paced program. WPU offers nursing administration, education, and family and adult-gerontology nurse practitioner concentrations. Students attend 100% online courses except for their in-person clinical rotations.

  • Location: Wayne, NJ
  • Contact Information:
    • Phone: (888) 360-5358
Tuition Per Credit
$617
Accreditation
CCNE
School Type
Private
Program Length
24 months 

South University offers several RN to MSN online programs in various specializations. Students can choose between Family Nurse Practitioner, Nursing Informatics, Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Administration, and Nursing Education. 

While most of these programs are entirely online, each has a few on-campus components. Fortunately, South University has numerous campuses, making the in-person requirements more accessible to non-local students.

  • Location: Richmond, VA
  • Contact Information:
    • Phone: (855) 884-2408

>> Explore South University’s Online MSN Program

Tuition Per Credit
Graduate: $695, Undergrad: $390
Accreditation
CCNE
School Type
Private
Program Length
3.5 years

Sacred Heart stands out among other RN to MSN online programs because students can earn two degrees. Unlike other MSN bridge programs, students at SHU can also earn a BSN. Four courses from the BSN apply to the MSN, and the university will accept up to 90 transfer credits.

Students can choose from three specializations: nursing education, management and executive leadership, and clinical nurse leadership.

  • Location: Fairfield, CT
  • Contact Information:
    • Phone: (877) 791-7181

>> Explore Sacred Heart University’s Online MSN Program*

Total Tuition
$14,601.40
Accreditation
ACEN
School Type
Private
Program Length
24 - 36 months

The nursing education online ADN to MSN bridge at NSU combines online coursework with in-person clinicals. By pursuing Northeastern State's RN-MSN instead of first earning a BSN, students can save 19-24 credit hours.

The RN to MSN bridge program at NSU requires 41-47 credit hours. The program includes 9-15 hours of RN to BSN coursework, 20 hours of MSN core classes, and 12 hours of MSN in nursing education credits.

  • Location: Tahlequah, OK
  • Contact Information:
    • Phone: (844) 351-6656
Tuition Per Credit
Resident: $873, Nonresident: $1,549 
Accreditation
CCNE
School Type
Public
Program Length
24 months

The University of Maryland offers one of the top nursing programs in the country. Its RN to MSN online program is equally noteworthy and worth considering for prospective students. The university also offers specializations in community/public health, health services and leadership management, and nursing informatics.

Online RN to MSN students can attend the program full or part-time, and the coursework is mostly online. However, they must take some courses in person at the Universities at Shady Grove.

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Contact Information:
    • Phone: (410) 706-0501
    • Email: admissions.nursing@umaryland.edu
Tuition Per Credit
$735
Accreditation
CCNE
School Type
Private
Program Length
20 - 28 months

Herzing University offers eight online RN-MSN specializations; each concentration includes in-person clinicals, and the university guarantees clinical placement.

Specializations:

  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Nursing Education
  • Nursing Leadership and Administration

Additional Information:

  • Location: Multiple locations
  • Contact Information:
    • Phone: (800) 596 - 0724

>> Explore Herzing University’s Online MSN Program

About Online RN to MSN Programs

How Do Online RN to MSN Programs Work?

RN to MSN online programs allow nurses to bypass earning a BSN before an MSN. These programs offer several specialization options, including nurse practitioner, clinical nurse leader, nursing informatics, and more.

You'll attend ADN to MSN bridge classes in a specific sequence, beginning with bridging your bachelor's education. Then, you'll complete MSN core coursework and specialization classes.

While most coursework is online, RN to MSN programs include clinical experiences, which will vary depending on the specialization. The number of hours will also vary. Additionally, some programs and specializations require in-person campus competencies.

What Are the Prerequisites for RN to MSN Online Programs?

Prerequisites will vary for each program, but most programs will require the following:

  • Active, unencumbered RN license 
  • ADN from an accredited program
  • Application fee
  • Background check
  • Physical requirements
  • Personal interview
  • Letter(s) of recommendation
  • Minimum GPA of 2.5 in coursework
  • All transcripts

How Long Are RN to MSN Online Programs?

On average, it takes two to four years to go from RN to MSN online. However, program length will depend on the school, specialization, previous education, and full or part-time student status. 

Some universities accept transfer credits or award credits based on bedside experience, but this does vary. Consider speaking with an admissions counselor and program representative to determine the exact program timeline during the application process.

What Are Accelerated RN to MSN Programs?

Accelerated paths are the shortest RN to MSN online programs. They allow ADN-trained RNs to take courses related to a graduate degree directly. These programs enable RNs to pursue APRN and non-clinical MSN degrees on an accelerated timeline.

Pros & Cons of Online RN to MSN Programs

Pros

  • Affordability
  • Flexibility
  • Convenience 
  • Increased access to programs
  • Increased autonomy
  • Self-paced learning
  • Diverse course offerings
  • Access to online digital resources

Cons

  • Lack of face-to-face interaction
  • Familiarity with online learning platforms and technology
  • Self-discipline
  • Reduced interaction with faculty
  • Finding clinical placements
  • Intensity and program expectations

Popular Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University

GCU's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Is an RN to MSN Online Program Right for You?

Whether an RN-to-MSN program is a good idea depends on your goals and limitations. Each program has different tuition costs, lengths, specializations, and prerequisites, so finding the right program varies from person to person. 

If you're debating between programs, seeking an admissions counselor or program representative can help you determine which is best for you.

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Kathleen Gaines
MSN, RN, BA, CBC
Kathleen Gaines
News and Education Editor

Kathleen Gaines (nee Colduvell) is a nationally published writer turned Pediatric ICU nurse from Philadelphia with over 13 years of ICU experience. She has an extensive ICU background having formerly worked in the CICU and NICU at several major hospitals in the Philadelphia region. After earning her MSN in Education from Loyola University of New Orleans, she currently also teaches for several prominent Universities making sure the next generation is ready for the bedside. As a certified breastfeeding counselor and trauma certified nurse, she is always ready for the next nursing challenge.

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