RN to MSN Program Licensure and Accreditation: What You Need to Know

RN to MSN nursing programs allow you to earn your bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in one program, all without repeating the classes you already took as part of your RN associate’s degree or diploma program. Not all colleges are equal though, especially if you’re considering attending school online. Without going to a college that is properly accredited, you could find yourself in a situation where you aren’t able to get your license! Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about accreditation so that doesn’t happen to you.

What is Accreditation and Why does it Matter?

As colleges started popping up around the United States, people realized that education at one school could be vastly different from education at another school. While this isn’t necessarily a problem – every student learns differently – it can be trouble if schools aren’t held to the same standards. Accreditation ensures that colleges are offering comparable programs. You might find schools with different teaching styles/methods and different extracurricular options, but schools that are accredited all cover the same material so that when you graduate, your degree ensures that you are ready to take on a nursing job.

Who Accredits Colleges?

The government actually doesn’t accredit colleges, but they do provide a list of legitimate accrediting agencies. If you attend nursing school, you want to look for a school that is accredited by at least two sources. First, the college as a whole should be nationally or regionally accredited. In the United States, there are five nationally recognized accrediting organizations:

  • The Distance Education and Training Council
  • The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools
  • The Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology
  • The Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training
  • The Council on Occupational Education

There are also a number of regional accrediting organizations that are also legitimate and cover schools in a certain area of the United States.

Second, your nursing program needs to be accredited by either the National League of Nursing Accreditation Commission (NLNAC) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) – or both! Additionally, if you go to school to be a nurse anesthetist, your program has to be accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs. If you go to school to be a nurse midwife, your program has to be accredited by the American College of Nurse-Midwives Division of Accreditation. Otherwise, your program will likely not be recognized by your state’s nurse licensing program.

Accreditation of Online Colleges

Because online colleges offer a flexible scheduling option to earn your degree in an RN to MSN program, this is an option you might want to consider. Today’s online schools can be just good as traditional colleges, though you will have to look for a college that offers a partnership program with a local hospital or other facility so you can get clinical hours as well. Online colleges can definitely be accredited, though it is common to find unaccredited programs online as well.

Diploma Mills

Accreditation is not just a way for the state to ensure that you’re getting the proper education – it is also important to you as a student so that you don’t get scammed. Although less common than they used to be, diploma mills and other scams still exist, especially online. Diploma mills are colleges that give you a diploma in exchange for money – but you aren’t required to attend classes (or the classes you do attend could be extremely easy, taught by educators who are not nurses themselves, or otherwise not up to par with the education you’d receive at a real school.

Make sure you double-check a program’s accreditation claims. Because it is so easy to create a website that looks official, some scammers in the past have claimed to be accredited, only to disappear with your money a few weeks later. If a school claims to be accredited, check with that accrediting agency to be sure.

Not every unaccredited program is a scam. Some aren’t simply because the accreditation process is difficult for non-traditional schools or brand new programs. Unaccredited programs can be helpful if you want extra education to go along with your accredited program or simply want a taste of what advanced nursing is like.

Getting Your Nursing License

Going through an accredited nursing program is just part of what it takes to get your advanced nursing license after completing an RN to MSN program. Every state’s requirements are different, but you also need clinical hours (i.e., real world experience) as well as a passing score on your state’s nursing exam for advanced practice nurses. Many states also require you to complete continuing education programs so that you have a certain number of educational credits every year or two.

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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