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Best 14 RN to MSN Programs in 2021

March 23, 2021 | Staff Writers

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Registered nurses who want to further their nursing careers typically choose to enroll in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program (BSN) if they have previously earned their Registered Nursing (RN) license by completing an appropriately-approved diploma program.

But what if an RN has an educational objective of earning their Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN)? Are there RN to MSN programs available in the education marketplace that bridges both a BSN and MSN degree for those who hold valid, unencumbered registered nursing licenses?

Earned nursing credits – from a program that has been accredited ACEN or CCNE, are generally applied towards the admission requirements of available RN to MSN. Programs are recognized as ‘completion’ programs, as they are designed to offer working nurse professionals the chance to further their education while maintaining a full-time job. 

Programs offer nursing professionals a viable pathway to complete the educational requirements of both a BSN and MSN degree – often in as few as two to three years, with the exact time required to complete the degree based on the student’s time commitment, previous work and education experiences, and the school’s program choices.

In addition, it is worthy to notate that, according to BLS.gov, the median annual income for those who hold a Registered Nursing License was $73,300 each year (which translates to $35.24 per hour) during May 2019. However, nursing professionals who hold more advanced degrees – a minimum of a graduate degree in nursing, have a median annual income of $115,800 per year (which translates to $55.67 per hour). Quick math reveals that nursing professionals with at least a master’s degree earn approximately 58% more than nursing professionals who hold just a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Best 14 RN to MSN Programs

1. The University of Central Florida (UCF – Florida)

The Nursing College at the University of Central Florida offers one of Florida’s best programs, according to US News & World Report. UCF’s RN to MSN degree offers three academic specialties – Leadership and Management, Nurse Educator, or Health Care Simulation. These three RN to MSN degree options are all available entirely online, with tuition fees equal for in-state and out-of-state resident students.

  • Total Program Tuition Fees – $ 288 .16 per credit unit for all students.
  • Program Length – 36 credit units (Leadership), 31 credit units (Healthcare Simulation), 35 credit units (Educator).
  • Accreditation – SACSCOC & CCNE

2. The University of Saint Thomas (UST – Texas)

The University of St. Thomas offers one of the Lone Star State’s best hybrid RN to MSN with its RN to MSN degree that offers coursework online, with labs and clinical rotations offered at the Universty of Saint Thomas’s state-of-the-art center on its Houston campus. Students enrolled in the University of Saint Thomas’s RN to Master of Science in Nursing degree program can opt for an academic emphasis in nursing leadership, nursing education, or healthcare simulation.

  • Tuition Fees – $ 300.00 per credit hour.
  • Program Length –  46 credit units (Nursing Leadership), 52 credit units (Nursing Education or healthcare Simulation).
  • Accreditation – SACSCOC & CCNE

3. American College of Education (ACE – Indiana)

American College of Education offers one of Indiana’s programs that can be completed in only 2.5 years, exclusively online. Classes for the American College of Education’s RN to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program includes health assessment, community health & vulnerable populations, informatics, health promotion, and nursing leadership, to name a few.

  • Tuition Fees – $ 359.55 per credit unit.
  • Program Length –  55 credit units.
  • Accreditation – HLC & CCNE

4. Clarkson College (CC – Nebraska)

Clarkson College offers several academic tracks for its best RN to MSN available in Nebraska. Clarkson College’s RN to MSN available academic specialties include health care administration, family nurse practitioner, adult gerontology, mental health, or nurse educator. The student’s chosen Master of Science in Nursing specialty determines exact education pathways. Full-time students enrolled in Clarkson University’s MSN degree in about 2.5 years.

  • Tuition Fees – $ 589.67 per credit unit.
  • Program Length –  70 credit units.
  • Accreditation – HLC & ACEN & COA

5. George Mason University (GMU – Virginia)

George Mason University offers one of Virginia’s best with its RN to Master of Science in Nursing Degree program that requires students to complete a bridge course – Community Health and Epidemiology prior to deciding which of the MSN specialties in which to enroll. The available chosen Master of Science in Nursing academic tracks include advanced clinical nursing, primary care FNP, nursing administration, nursing education, or adult gerontology in primary care.

  • Tuition Fees – $ 599.75 per credit unit for Virginia residents. Or $850.00 per credit unit for Online FNP.
  • Program Length – 39 to 49 credit units.
  • Accreditation – SACSCOC & CCNE

6. Jacksonville University (JU – Florida)

Jacksonville University offers a CCNE – accredited RN to MSN degree program that is available online or campus-based. Jacksonville University’s RN to MSN are offered as part-time or full-time programs, which provide an academic path that allows working nurses to complete their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing simultaneously. Full-time students can complete the coursework in as few as 1.5 years. Specializations for this MSN degree include leadership in healthcare, informatics, or nurse educator.

  • Tuition Fees – $ 650.00 per credit unit.
  • Program Length –  53 nursing credit units.
  • Accreditation – SACSCOC & CCNE

7. The University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC – Mississippi)

The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s  Nursing School offers a variety of academic track options for its RN to MSN programs. Nursing professionals who wish to advanced nurse practitioners can specialize in mental health, family adult-acute, or adult-gerontology primary care. Additionally, students enrolled in UMMC’s RN to chosen Master of Science in Nursing program may also opt for a nurse educator or health care administrator track.

  • Tuition Fees – $ 764.00 per credit unit.
  • Program Length –  52 to 64 credits units depending on exact study path and academic nursing track.
  • Accreditation – SACSCOC & ACEN & CCNE

8. La Salle University (LU – Pennsylvania)

La Salle University’s Nursing & Health Sciences School offers an RN to Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN) bridge program that includes several pre-requisite classes that can be completed online or through transfer credits if eligible. La Salle University’s RN to MSN include ten nurse specialty tracks that include adult gerontology, nurse administration, nurse anesthetists, public health, and family primary care, plus a number of dual degrees, among others.

  • Tuition Fees – $ 845.00 per credit unit.
  • Program Length –  34 to 59 credit units, depending on the exact study track and academic specialty.
  • Accreditation – NWCCU & CCNE

9. Shenandoah University (SU – Virginia)

Shenandoah University offers several of Virginia’s best programs, which provides nursing professionals a viable pathway to earn a Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN) even if they do not currently hold a baccalaureate degree in nursing. Shenandoah University’s RN to chosen Master of Science in Nursing programs offer three academic tracks, nurse midwifery, mental health nurse practitioner, or family nurse practitioner.

  • Tuition Fees – $ 905.00 per credit unit.
  • Program Length –  49 credit units (Nurse-Midwife), 44 credit units (Family Nurse Practitioner), 46 credit units (Mental health Nurse Practitioner).
  • Accreditation – SACSCOC & ACEN & CCNE

10. Gonzaga University (GU – Washington)

Gonzaga University offers a bridge-transition program designed specifically for RN’s, with an associate degree an academic path to earn a Master of Science in Nursing degree in an accelerated format. Gonzaga University’s RN to MSN programs offer students an opportunity to further their career as a medical director, a clinical nurse leader, or an executive administrator, among others.  This limited-hybrid RN to Master of Science in Nursing program requires 180 graduate clinical hours  (plus 135 clinical bridge hours) across nine semesters includes one on-campus immersion for two days.

  • Tuition Fees – $ 954.00 per graduate credit.
  • Program Length –  45 credit units.
  • Accreditation – NWCCU & CCNE

11. Marquette University (MU – Wisconsin)

Marquette University offers one of the state’s programs that can be completed in less than 24 months. Students enrolled in Marquette University’s RN to Master of Science in Nursing degree program complete coursework online, clinical rotations, and labs on campus, which includes approximately 1,000 clinical rotation hours in facilities in southern Wisconsin or the northern parts of Illinois.

  • Tuition Fees – $ 1,170.00 per credit unit.
  • Program Length – 51 credit units.
  • Accreditation – HLC & ACEN

12. Seton Hall University (SHU – New Jersey)

The Nursing College at Seton Hall University offers nursing professionals who hold an associate nursing degree an opportunity to enroll in a bridge program in pursuit of a Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN). Seton Hall University’s RN to MSN are available online and recognized among the nation’s best by US News and World Report. Seton Hall University’s MSN program offers two tracks – nurse administrator or nurse practitioner.

  • Tuition Fees – $ 1,336.00 per credit unit.
  • Program Length –  51 credit units.
  • Accreditation – MSCHE &  & CCNE

13. Northeastern University (NU – Massachusetts)

The Bouve Health Sciences College at Northeastern University offers one of the best programs in the New England region. Northeastern University’s full-time RN to MSN degree requires a time commitment of two years and offers experiential learning opportunities at world-class healthcare facilities like Boston Children’s Hospital, Tufts Medical Center, and Mass General Hospital, to name a few.

  • Tuition Fees – $ 1,622.00 per credit unit.
  • Program Length – 58 credit units.
  • Accreditation – NECHE & CCNE

14. Vanderbilt University (VU – Tennessee)

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (SON) offers a wide variety of programs in a number of academic specialties from one of the most decorated nursing schools in the southern US. Vanderbilt University’s graduate degree options include adult gerontology (acute or primary), neonatal NP, emergency NP, information, health care leadership, nurse midwifery, pediatric NP, women’s health, mental health NP, or a number of dual degree options.

  • Tuition Fees – $ 1,716.00 per credit unit.
  • Program Length –  36 – 55 credit units., depending on study path and academic specialty.
  • Accreditation – SACSCOC & CCNE

Our Ranking Methodology

The selected programs noted above were chosen to represent a cross-section of available programs across the country that are provided for full-time or part-time students, while others are offered on-campus, online, or as a hybrid-delivered degree program.

Each of the RN to MSN programs included in the analysis above is regionally accredited and has also received specialized accreditation from either ACEN or CCNE– the most prolific and popular of nursing accreditation agencies.

In preparation for this analysis, each program’s relevant costs and academic aspects were matched and compared, with tuition costs representing the latest available tuition fees for either the school year of 2020/2021 or 2019/2020. This data was extracted from the available information listed on the USDE’s College Scorecard, the National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) website, or the RN to MSN programmatic website or catalog entry.

The most affordable of these are listed first and generally include state-funded programs.

Students should also consider each program’s required credit units (and noted for each school) as this requirement will dictate the total cost and time required to complete the MSN degree program.

Have you noticed information in the above school rankings in need of an update?

Please contact BestValueSchools.org if there is information needing an update regarding the program/school data used in this analysis and final rankings.

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