10 Top RN to MSN Programs

Top 10 RN to MSN Programs

The top RN to MSN programs are for nurses with an associate degree who wish to advance their careers with a master’s degree in nursing. For many years, nursing has been one of the most in-demand jobs in the country. People who are already in the nursing profession and want to increase their income should consider going back to school.

A nurse can obtain a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) and significantly increase their earning potential. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses with a master’s degree in Nursing earn an average of $40,000 more a year than their counterparts with less education. There are many online and in-person MSN degree programs to choose from, so you simply need to decide which program is right for you.  

How We Ranked The Top 10 RN To MSN Degree Programs

Featured Programs

The Nursing School Hub editors first found accredited programs that offer an RN to MSN degree program. Then we use academic quality, reputation, and cost of tuition to rank the list. We use data from Niche and IPEDS.

1. University of Rochester

The RN to BS to MS Program at the University of Rochester School of Nursing is one of the country’s best RN-MSN programs. Students who hold an associate degree in registered nursing can opt for the bachelor’s degree program. In contrast, students who already have a Bachelor of Nursing degree can further their careers by completing the Master of Nursing program. Students can then choose from one of three educational paths, including Nursing Education, Clinical Nurse Leader, or Leadership in Health Care Systems.

Students at the University of Rochester School of Nursing will complete clinical at the University of Rochester Medical Center or other local facilities. Classes are set up as a blend of online and evening in-class sessions to allow students who work more flexibility. The University of Rochester is a private research university enrolling about 6,800 undergraduates and 5,000 graduate students in Rochester, New York.

Degree: RN to BSN to MSN

Visit the program

2. University of Central Florida

The Master of Science in Nursing at the University of Central Florida online is convenient for registered nurses to further their education and advance their careers while working throughout the program. Depending on their goals, students can enroll in the Nursing Leadership and Management program, Nurse Educator program, or Nursing and Healthcare Simulation program. The Master of Science in Nursing Program has accreditation from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

The University of Central Florida is in the heart of Orlando, Florida. Classes are delivered through the University of Central Florida’s online program. UCF enrolls over 71,000  students each year, with the largest student body of any public university in the United States.

Degree: online RN to MSN

Visit the program

3. University of Pittsburgh

The University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing offers online programs for Registered Nursing to Bachelor of Nursing and the Master of Nursing Program. In addition, an on-site-only program is available for the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program. Students complete their clinical at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center or one of the university’s nationally recognized medical facilities. The programs build upon each student’s nursing skills to take them to new heights in their careers and become leaders in their field.

The University of Pittsburgh is a public university that offers 17 undergraduate and graduate schools and colleges to approximately 28,000 students. In addition, the Pittsburgh-based nursing programs provide classes to those wishing to further their education and advance their careers while working.

Degree: online RN to MSN program

Visit the program

4. Stony Brook University

The Stony Brook School of Nursing offers a Registered Nurse Baccalaureate to Master’s Program through online distance education with some on-site requirements. The Registered Nurse BSN to MSN program helps RNs with an associate’s degree in nursing to obtain their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and to continue their education to the Master’s program in their chosen specialty. The program emphasizes communication, leadership skills, and collaboration in the care of patients, families, and even populations. Students complete clinical experiences in their local area.

Stony Brook University is nestled in the beautiful city of Stony Brook on Long Island in New York City. An internationally recognized research institution, the university is one of four schools part of the New York University System.

Degree: RN to BSN to MSN 

Visit the program

5. Drexel University

Drexel University offers an online accelerated Registered Nursing to Bachelor of Science in Nursing to a Master of Science in Nursing Program. The dual accelerated program is for nurses who have a bachelor’s degree in a field that is not nursing. It is also a program for registered nurses with an associate’s degree-seeking to increase their education level to advance their careers. The online classes allow more flexibility for those who work. In addition, the clinical are held in the local area for students to obtain hands-on experience.

The main campus of Drexel University is in the heart of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1891 by philanthropist and financier Anthony J. Drexel, the university is one of the nation’s premier universities for cooperative education programs. Drexel has been offering degrees in nursing online since 1997 and has one of the most extensive MSN programs in the country. 

Degree: online RN to MSN

Visit the program

6. University of West Florida

The University of West Florida offers an online Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program. The degree allows registered nurses to complete their degrees swiftly and efficiently. This program is for RNs with an associate degree. They can continue their education to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) on their way to completing their master’s degree. With an MSN, nurses can progress to more leadership and administrative-based roles. The program emphasizes critical topics such as health systems leadership and advanced pharmacology. In addition, all the curriculum builds on a student’s previous nursing education and experience. 

The University of West Florida campus is on a 1,600-acre campus in Pensacola. UWF is part of the State University System of Florida. The school offers online and in-person classes in various degree and continuing education programs. School of Nursing at the University of West Florida has some of the most veteran-friendly nursing programs in the country and also boasts some of the highest NCLEX-RN pass rates in Florida.

Degree: Accelerated BSN to MSN

Visit the program

7. University of Mary

The online Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Nursing Leadership and Management Program at the University of Mary is designed for registered nurses with a two-year degree to move into a master’s degree in nursing. The program mixes practice and theory to prepare nurses for leadership programs, such as administrative and management positions. It allows graduates to increase their income potential. In addition, the accelerated and online features of the classes allow students to advance their nursing careers while continuing to work full-time or part-time.

The University of Mary is in Bismarck, North Dakota. The private school first opened in 1959. It offers nearly sixty undergraduate majors and an array of masters and doctoral degrees, including online classes. The nursing program at the University of Mary is well-known as an excellent school. In fact, it boasts 100% pass rates on the NCLEX-RN exam in 2020 and 2021! In addition, the ADN to MSN degree program has accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Degree: ADN-MSN: Nurse Leadership and Management

Visit the program

8. DePaul University

The DePaul University College of Science and Health offers a Master of Science in Nursing program for all registered nurses, whether they have an associate’s degree in nursing or a bachelor’s degree. The program assists students in developing the skills and credentials in taking on leadership roles in the field, such as nurse educator, nurse administrator, adult and gerontology nurse practitioner, or family nurse practitioner. Students who opt for the nurse educator or nurse administrator track will earn a Master of Science in Nursing degree through DePaul University. They will also achieve a certificate in Health Administration or health professions education through a collaboration that DePaul University has with the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. The program fits each registered nurse’s educational background.  Except for clinical hours, this entire program is online. It takes two to four years to complete, depending on the nursing background of each student.

DePaul University is in Chicago, Illinois.  The private Catholic university opened in 1898. The university was named after a 17th-century priest named Saint Vincent de Paul. By 1998, DePaul University became the most prominent university by enrollment in the United States. 

Degree: RN-MS in Nursing

Visit the program

9. Gonzaga University

Gonzaga University offers an online RN to MSN program for registered nurses who have an associate’s degree in nursing and want to earn an advanced degree. Because of the program’s bridge courses that prepare students for master’s level coursework, this program offers an accelerated path for students. Some of the bridge program features include improving health care and conducting health assessments. In addition, the RN to MSN in nursing leadership and health care program combines knowledge from business, nursing, and health care law. Students also learn about organizational behavior and how to find innovative solutions for today’s many complex health care issues.

Founded in 1887 by Italian priest Joseph Cataldo, Gonzaga University is named after Jesuit Saint Aloysius Gonzaga. It is a private Catholic university located in the heart of Spokane, Washington. It is open to students of all faiths and backgrounds.

Degree: online RN-MSN in Nursing Leadership in Healthcare

Visit the program

10. Loyola University New Orleans

The accelerated Registered Nursing to Master of Science in Nursing degree program at Loyola University in New Orleans is also known as the MSN Bridge Program. This program is for students who have a diploma or associate degree in nursing or a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing. Students can “fast track” their way to earning a Master of Science in Nursing degree without making a terminal Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Students will be provided a Bachelor of Science in Nursing equivalency that the Louisiana State Board of Nursing recognizes. The program is offered online except for clinical to allow students to continue to work full or part-time while increasing their education level and their future earning potential.

Loyola University is in the historic city of New Orleans, Louisiana. It is a private Jesuit university founded in 1904 by Jesuit priests as Loyola College before being chartered as a university in 1912. The student to faculty ratio is about 12 students to one instructor, allowing for a considerable amount of one-on-one time.

Degree: MSN Bridge Program

Visit the program

Can you Go Straight from RN to MSN?

Yes. Also called the MSN Bridge, there are multiple accelerated programs for RN-MSN. Students can complete many online or in person at various universities and colleges. The RN-MSN is a fast track for registered nurses. This program is for nurses with an associate degree to earn their MSN in about two years.

What is an RN-to-BSN-to-MSN program?

The Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing to Master of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN-MSN) program is for registered nurses who hold either a diploma in nursing or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). It is an accelerated pathway that allows registered nurses to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) requirements while working toward a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. It generally takes less time to earn the degrees together than to earn each degree separately. As a result, it usually costs less as well. 

How Long Does it Take to go From RN to MSN?

It takes two to four years for an RN to advance their education to a Master‘s degree. However, the time varies depending on the student’s prior education and experience. It also depends on which college or university the student chooses to attend. Additionally, the format of the particular program you attend is also a factor.

Can You Get an MSN in One Year?

Some schools offer a one-year program for registered nurses to achieve their Master of Science in Nursing degree. However, the average time it takes to earn an MSN usually is two years. The situation in which a nurse can earn an MSN in one year is very specific. A nurse with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a current RN license can earn an MSN in one year. However, they need to enroll in a program with advanced standing to nurses with an undergraduate degree in nursing.

What Can You Do With an MSN?

Students receive advanced training in administrative, clinical, and educational areas of the nursing field. A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree opens doors to various career paths for nurses, such as Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) specializations. These specializations train nurses to be Midwives, anesthetists, and Nurse Practitioners. Students can also take a Nurse Educator and Administration track, and some nurses even become Clinical Nurse Leaders (CNLs). Potential careers are abundant after a nurse reaches the Master of Science in Nursing level of education.

Can you Earn More With A Master’s Degree In Nursing?

Absolutely! There are many reasons why a nurse may choose to go back to school. However, the most prominent reason is usually to earn more money. The BLS reported the average salary for RNs nationwide to be $75,330 in May 2020. These salaries ranged from $53,410 to $116,230. For this same period, the average salary for nurse anesthetists, midwives, and practitioners was $117,670. These advanced practice salaries range from $84,120 to $190,900. So, the difference in salary for an RN with an ADN versus a Master’s degree is around $40,000 a year!