RN-MSN Program Information Guide

Being a registered nurse requires a two year associate’s degree, diploma, or a full four year bachelor’s degree, but those credentials can only take you so far in the rapidly growing field of nursing. More and more employers are reaching out to nurses and nurse practitioners with a Master of Science in Nursing to fill leadership positions and even provide primary care. RN-MSN degree programs help bridge that gap, potentially unlocking new career opportunities and allowing more freedom for a nurse to work with the type of patients or maladies he or she is most interested in.

Most Popular RN-MSN Degree Programs

Registered nurses looking for career advancement and higher salaries would do well to look into earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. An RN to MSN specifically is a degree designed for registered nurses who may or may not have already completed a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN). Upon completion of an RN-MSN degree program, one will be educationally prepared to become a clinical nurse specialist or nurse practitioner. Below are online schools offering masters in nursing degrees.

Grand Canyon University
RN to MSN: Education
RN to MSN: Leadership
Grand Canyon University - Grand Canyon University offers an RN to MSN in Nursing Education and an RN to MSN in Leadership in Healthcare Systems. GCU has an exceptional record of students passing the NCLEX-RN examination, and graduates are frequently recruited by health care facilities. The RN to MSN in Leadership in Healthcare Systems uniquely combines graduate nursing core courses and courses taken with the MS in Leadership program, emphasizing communication skills.
Kaplan University
Kaplan University - Kaplan University's RN to MSN program allows students to complete their bachelor's degrees and MSN together, with the MSN program in a condensed format. In addition to learning everything from basic to advanced nursing practices, students can opt to get MSNs in Nurse Administration or Nurse Education if they want to pursue management or teaching positions. A DNP program is also available.
Walden University
Informatics (RN to MSN)
Education (RN to MSN)
Leadership/Management (RN to MSN)
Walden University - Walden University has specialized RN to MSN programs in Informatics, Education, and Leadership & Management. The RN to MSN in Informatics program combines nursing with computer science to help nurses use technology effectively to improve patient care. RN to MSN in Education incorporates teaching skills to the advanced nursing program. The RN to MSN in Leadership & Management prepares nurses for advanced careers and entry into management level positions.
Chamberlain College of Nursing
Chamberlain College of Nursing - Chamberlain College of Nursing makes the RN to MSN simple by offering two tracks: the Educator Track and the Executive Track. Courses are offered online and include classes on informatics, leadership, assessment and evaluation, managerial communication, as well as advanced nursing practices.

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What RN to MSN degrees and specializations are available?

RN to MSN programs set students down an accelerated course to earn their degrees faster since RNs already possess a background in the field. The end result is a master of science in nursing, and like other MSN degrees, RN to MSN options offer many of same specializations including:

Learn About RN to MSN Programs

RN to MSN is a registered nurse to a Master’s of Science in Nursing program. This program allows certified nurses to work toward a master’s degree and build on their education and experience. This leap greatly increases a nurse’s pay and career opportunities. It is one of the most common online programs for the medical field, as online programs allow a nurse to continue working while attending school part time. Prior to online programs, the RN to MSN program was already a very common program in nursing and often called a bridge program since it serves as the “bridge” between being an RN and obtaining an MSN to advance a nursing career.

What Can I Do with a Master’s of Science in Nursing?

This master’s degree allows a nurse to become an expert in his or her chosen medical field within the industry. As opposed to working with general care patients, the nurse is able to work in psychiatry, gynecology, or cardiology, improving their skills and giving them more responsibility. You are working at an advanced level as a nurse, should you work in a specialist’s office or at a hospital within a designated department. This master’s degree also allows a nurse to work as an administrator, in information systems, or as a nurse educator. Because many nurses experience burnout due to long hours and a high stress environment, an RN to MSN bridge program allows you to put your experience and knowledge to use, while taking your career in a new path. This is the ideal step for nurses who have several years of work experience and want to stay in the medical field, but would like to change their daily work environment.

What is an RN to MSN bridge program?

The RN to MSN bridge program was developed to help a nurse obtain a Master’s of Science in Nursing in a shorter amount of time than those who are not practicing nurses. These programs are often referred to as fast track programs or RN to MSN pathway programs; the purpose of these types of programs is to allow a nurse to continue working while obtaining a master’s degree. One thing to note is that some bridge programs are only offered to those who have a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Not all nurses have a bachelor’s degree; therefore, you may not qualify for a bridge or fast track program.

Some of these programs include a BSN along the way, and are a faster means for nurses to obtain both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Other programs that accept an RN without an undergraduate degree may also grant the nurse an MSN and bypass the bachelor’s degree. This is done by having students pass undergraduate courses, which shows they’re competent in these areas, but a BSN is never issued. Students are fit to practice at the same level and with the same specialized expertise as nurses who have both a BSN and MSN.

What are the prerequisites for entering an RN to MSN bridge program?

The prerequisites for bridge programs are a bachelor’s degree in nursing or working as a certified RN for one or more years. These are the general prerequisites, but they vary greatly from program to program. Some programs are specifically designed for working nurses, while others do not require any field work as a nurse, only a bachelor’s degree in the subject. This allows those with an undergraduate degree to immediately enter an MSN program without work experience. Check with the potential program you’re interested in to better understand what the bridge program requirements are. You can research a few schools and programs to get an idea of what is a good fit. The right program will vary based on what your background in nursing is; if you do not have a bachelor’s degree, you will be asked to complete general undergraduate courses as part of the RN to MSN program.

What is the curriculum for an RN to MSN program?

The curriculum depends on the program and what area the nurse is specializing in. Most MSN programs require a nurse to have a concentrated area of study such as nurse practitioner, education, or family care. Nurses can also concentrate in areas such as management or leadership, if they wish to work in nurse administration or education as opposed to working hands-on with patients. The program includes 250-270 (on average) practical nursing hours, where students are working hands-on in their area of specialization. It is during this time that a nurse learns how to apply the skills and practices learned when working with patients daily. The curriculum changes depending on the program and your selected area of expertise; courses for MSN programs include:

  • Nursing Theory
  • Client Education
  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Diagnostic Reading

What else do I need to know about an RN to MSN program?

When applying to many RN to MSN programs, you may undergo drug testing. Those who fail will not be admitted into the program, regardless of work history or degrees. Some programs will ban you from applying again, but you are free to apply for other RN to MSN programs within your area, state, or online. A criminal history is also conducted for administering licenses and certificates in the medical community. If you are already an RN, you most likely have been through the background check process. If you have a BSN and are looking to apply for an RN to MSN program, know that even those who are admitted to and complete the program are not immediately granted a license. This is mandated by the state, and if you have a criminal record that should be reflected when applying for your medical license. Most states are only concerned with felonies or charges issued within two years prior of applying for the license.

Are there online RN to MSN programs?

Online RN to MSN programs are very common. These programs are convenient for nurses who choose to work full time while obtaining an MSN. Nurses often work 24-hour schedules, and an online program allows them to complete work when they are available. Nurses do not have to attend traditional classes in order to learn and understand material. Instead, this work is done on their own time. There are is still a consistent schedule for an online program, and students are expected to keep up with work regularly in order to be prepared for designated quizzes and exams.

The majority of online RN to MSN programs do not require nurses to hold a BSN. Students are required to be practicing nurses and hold an associate’s degree, but they do not have to have a bachelor’s degree. This allows many nurses to work on their MSN through online programs. Remember you will have to take a certain number of undergraduate hours, and this will add to the time it takes to finish your MSN. Some programs do accept applicants who do not have a BSN, but do hold a bachelor’s degree in another subject; you will have to research each program to understand what they require of applicants.

Do traditional schools offer online RN to MSN programs?

Traditional schools understand students often want the convenience of attending online courses, so many are creating online outlets for various programs. The RN to MSN program is a common online program that some traditional schools with well-established medical schools offer. For these programs, you often are able to take advantage of all student resources at the campus, while conducting classes online. These programs belong to accredited universities and colleges and are ideal for students who have a well-developed program in their area.

It is important to ask questions when researching any online RN to MSN program; not only are you looking for an accredited program, you’re also looking for a program with an experienced staff. Traditional schools with RN to MSN programs that are only one or two years old may be worth looking at after the program has had longer to develop. Often these new programs are still working out the kinks and may have instructors who are teaching via an online medium for the first time.

What are the goals for an RN to MSN program?

The goal is to teach nurses an advanced level of nursing and prepare them for leadership roles, whether in education or the nursing field. The nurse should be able to take on advanced responsibilities, illustrate professional nursing ethics, integrate nursing skills as they relate to the various positions a nurse can have (educator, clinician, or administrative duties), and conduct research to expand nursing knowledge. The healthcare industry is rapidly changing, and nurses with an MSN will be eligible for decision-making positions that can help change health regulations and how patient care is the most effective.

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