Best 12 Cheapest RN to MSN Online Programs in 2021

March 23, 2021 | Staff Writers

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Many nurse professionals who hold a valid Registered Nursing license (RN) eventually choose to refine their nursing skills by furthering their education. This is often accomplished by earning a Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN). When enrolled in an RN to MSN degree program, nursing students who have yet to complete a baccalaureate degree, will complete academic requirements at the bachelor’s level which can then be partially applied to some of the MSN degree requirements. In as few as 36 months, nursing professionals can complete the degree requirements for both a BSN & an MSN degree.

Because many of these RN to MSN degree programs are now offered online, nursing professionals can now receive specialized training in the nursing concentration of their choice, from a program that allows them to design a study schedule to meet the student’s time availability – even while maintaining a full-time job and other life commitments.

Students who have a serious interest in earning their MSN will find program options available from many quality higher education institutions that often provide access to some of the marketplace’s cheapest programs. Campus-based and online RN to MSN programs often provide significant savings for students in terms of time and money because most programs allow students to apply these earned credits to both degrees, thereby reducing the total mandated credits.

Most RN to MSN degree programs, including the online programs, provide nurse professional with the education and opportunities to –

  • Build advanced skills for health assessments.
  • Enhance their clinical experiences.
  • Expand their training to include more specialized training in the student’s MSN concentration, if any.

A nurse professional with an RN license will have already completed either an Associate Degree in Nursing or RN-diploma program, which generally translates to the completion of about 60 credits units.

For decades, the nursing industry advocates have been pushing for an industry-wide initiative to require RNs to complete a minimum of a BSN within a set time after the nurse professional has passed the NCLEX-RN exam. Earning an MSN degree from one of the RN to MSN online programs will help further a nurse’s professional responsibilities and help improve and increase the nurse’s compensation.   

Further, according to BLS.gov, the median yearly annual salary for nursing professionals who hold a Registered Nursing License was $73,300 per year (or $35.24 per hour) during May 2019. However, more advanced nursing professionals, those with a minimum of a master’s degree in nursing, have a median yearly annual salary of $115,800 per year (or $55.67 per hour).

So, if an anticipated salary increase of approximately 58% (comparing the median salaries of BSNs to MSNs) is not enough to entice every RN to consider earning a graduate nursing degree (MSN), the statisticians at the BLS also predict a job growth for advanced practice Registered Nurses to be 45% over the next decade – about ten times the national average!

The following ranked list offers a selection of the cheapest RN to MSN online programs available in the education marketplace. Note: however, each school determines the criteria set forth to meet the program’s requirements based on relevant state regulations and each school’s objectives.

Best 12 of the Cheapest RN To MSN Online Programs

1. Utah Valley University (UVU – Orem)

Utah Valley University (UVU – Orem) offers an RN to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) bridge program for nurse professionals who have already earned their nursing baccalaureate degree but want to further their career opportunities through additional education. In addition, Utah Valley University’s requires students to complete a project or thesis to meet program requirements.

  • Total Program Tuition Fees – $ 9,928 (Utah Residents)
  • Program Length – 34 credit hours.
  • Accreditation – NWCCU & ACEN

2. The University of Central Florida (UCF)

The Nursing College at the University of Central Florida (UCF) offers an RN to (MSN) degree program that offers academic nursing tracks in leadership, education, or healthcare simulation. The University of Central Florida’s RN to MSN online can be complete in four to seven semesters, depending on the student’s time commitments.

  • Total Program Tuition Fees – $ 10,127 to $11,772 (Florida Residents and Ono-residents)
  • Program Length – 31 to 36 credit hours.
  • Accreditation – SACSCOC & CCNE

3. Marshall University (MU – West Virginia)

Marshall University (MU – West Virginia) offers an RN to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program that provides two academic tracks in nursing administration or nursing education. Graduates from Marshall University’s cheapest RN to MSN have an impressive pass rate for the Family Nurse Practitioner certification exam of 100%!

  • Total Program Tuition Fees – $ 15,021 (West Virginia Residents)
  • Program Length– 36 credit hours.
  • Accreditation – HLC & CCNE

4. The University of Texas (UT Rio Grande Valley)

The University of Texas (UT Rio Grande Valley) offers RNs who hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing the opportunity to complete an MSN (with an academic emphasis in education) in only one year. Additionally, students enrolled in the University of Texas’s RN to MSN online must complete a capstone project in addition to classes that include advanced nursing informatics, leadership, policy & population health, and theoretical foundations in nursing, among others.

  • Total Program Tuition Fees – $ 16,000 (Texas Residents)
  • Program Length– 36 credit hours.
  • Accreditation – SACSCOC & CCNE

5. Lamar University (LU – Texas)

Lamar University offers two of the RN to MSN programs in the Lone Star State. Lamar University’s RN to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree programs offer a track in nursing education or nursing administration that students can complete in as little as three years.

  • Total Program Tuition Fees – $ 17,574
  • Program Length – 58 credit hours.
  • Accreditation – SACSCOC & ACEN

6. Bushnell University (BU – Oregon)

Bushnell University offers an online RN to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program that offers an academic pathway that includes a BSN and MSN degree in only three years for some students. Bushnell University’s cheapest online programs includes academic tracks in the leadership of health systems or nurse education from the CCNE accredited nursing program. The exact number of credit hours will differ (but be a minimum of 36) and be based on a student’s previous work and education experience.

  • Total Program Tuition Fees – $ 17,820
  • Program Length – 36 credit hours.
  • Accreditation – NWCCU & CCNE

7. The University of Alabama (UA)

The University of Alabama (UA) offers one of the state’s cheapest RN to MSN online programs with an online RN to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program that offers two academic emphases – clinical nurse leadership or case management leadership. The University of Alabama’s RN to BSN/MSN accelerated degree program is designed for experienced registered nurses, ready to take their careers to the next level.

  • Total Program Tuition Fees – $ 18,750 to 21,000
  • Program Length – 50 to 56 credit hours.
  • Accreditation – SACSCOC & CCNE

8. The University of North Alabama  (UNA – Florence)

The University of North Alabama  (UNA – Florence) offers an RN to MSN degree program that can be completed in only three semesters for full-time nursing students. The University of North Alabama’s online programs only requires two residency visits for the Family Nurse Practitioner track.

  • Total Program Tuition Fees – $ 21,700 for nurse educators or $ 24,850 for FNP – For Alabama residents and non-residents. 
  • Program Length – 62 credit hours for an MSN nurse educator, or 71 credit hours for Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP).
  • Accreditation – SACSCOC & CCNE

9. Robert Morris University (RMU – Pennsylvania)

Robert Morris University Nursing, Education & Human Studies School offers an RN to MSN degree program that can be completed entirely through Robert Morris University’s distance learning platform. These cheapest online programs from Robert Morris University include an academic emphasis in nursing leadership or nurse education.

  • Total Program Tuition Fees – $ 23,760
  • Program Length – 37 credit hours.
  • Accreditation – MSCHE & CCNE

10. Thomas Edison State University (TESU – New Jersey)

Thomas Edison State University (TESU) offers an online RN to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree that is also considered among New Jersey’s online. Students enrolled in TESU’s MSN degree program must hold an RN degree and have already completed their BSN degree prior to application. Applicants for this Thomas Edison State University’s graduate degree in nursing may transfer up to twelve credits, if eligible.

  • Total Program Tuition Fees – $ 24,048
  • Program Length – 36 credit hours for nurse educator, informatics, or administration. 
  • Accreditation – MSCHE & CCNE

11. Stony Brook School of Nursing (SUNY – Long Island, New York)

Stony Brook School of Nursing offers an RN to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program that is available to RN licensees who have also completed their bachelor’s degree in nursing. Stony Brook’s includes coursework in chemistry, anatomy, lifespan development, and statistics, among others.

  • Total Program Tuition Fees – $ 26,847 (New York Residents)
  • Program Length – 57 credit hours.
  • Accreditation – MSCHE & CCNE

12. Tennessee Technological University (TTU – Cookeville)

Tennessee Technological University’s Whitson Hester Nursing School offers one of Tennessee’s cheapest RN to MSN online that students can complete in about 2.5 to 3 years, depending on course load. Tennessee Technological University’s RN to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) completion program awards graduates an advanced nursing license degree as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP). Classes include theoretical foundations, health care policy, plus a host of FNP clinical rotations, among others.

  • Total Program Tuition Fees – $ 35,476 (Tennessee Residents)
  • Program Length – 49 credit hours.
  • Accreditation – SACSCOC & CCNE & ACEN

The Ranking Methodology

The online RN to MSN programs noted above represent a cross-section of the available online RN to MSN currently available in the education marketplace. These online RN to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs have been ranked based on their tuition costs, with the most affordable programs listed first.

Each of these graduate bridge-degree programs is both regionally and programmatically accredited (by either CCNE or ACEN); however, most of the cheapest programs (but not all) are offered through state-run, public higher learning institutions. In fact, some of the noted online programs offered by these schools offer tuition fees that are the same for state residents and non-residents.

In preparing this analysis of the cheapest RN to MSN programs, each program’s relevant academic & financial aspects were considered. The tuition fees used in the analysis represent the latest available costs(2020/2021 or 2019/2020) as noted on the Federal Government’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) website or the website managed by each program or school.

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Please contact BestValueSchools.org if you would like us to edit the program/school data analyzed in the above-noted \ final rankings.

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