Many colleges are allowing current nurses to bypass the requirement of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and begin to earn credits toward their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees straight away. As part of the pre-requisites for the program, the college is likely to require on-the-job nursing experience. Typically, registered nurses with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) are eligible for Direct Entry MSN programs. These degrees are also referred to as RN to MSN or ADN to MSN bridge programs.
When registered nurses earn their MSNs, they are more likely to be considered for promotions within healthcare facilities. Nursing directors, research nurses, and nurse educators are just a few examples of lucrative MSN careers. Salaries are more competitive for nurses with MSNs too. According to data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses who have MSN degrees can earn as much as $40,000 more annually than nurses without graduate-level degrees.
Since ADN to MSN bridge programs are designed for working nurses, many colleges offer flexible scheduling. Academic courses may be completed online while clinical hours are scheduled at facilities within the student’s community. On average, many ADN to MSN programs can be finished within three years of full-time study. The following are the best programs for registered nurses who wish to apply their ADNs to a master’s degree.
Aspen University aims to make earning an MSN affordable by offering all courses online to nursing students. The bridge program only requires that the registered nurse has earned his or her associate’s degree from an accredited college. Specialization options are varied at Aspen University and include Informatics, Forensic Nursing, Public Health, Nursing Administration, and Nursing Education. The curriculum is self-paced with online classes starting every two weeks for maximum flexibility.
California Southern University has a fully online ADN to MSN program available to eligible nurses. Without having to earn their BSN degrees first, graduate degrees are completed a year earlier than traditional pathways. On average, the ADN to MSN courses take a total of three years to complete. The MSN degree is accredited by the CCNE and features seven bachelor level courses in nursing to prepare enrolled students for the master’s level classes.
The University of Mary has an ADN to MSN bridge degree offering that can be completed online. The graduate-level courses are focused on nursing leadership and management in the healthcare field. The CCNE-accredited Catholic college allows flexible scheduling options since the degree is geared toward professional nurses. At the end of the program, students will earn their MSN without BSN conferment. As part of clinical requirements, nurses will need a total of 500 practice hours.
Frontier Nursing University is a private college with an MSN degree program for current registered nurses with at least one year of RN experience and an ADN. Students with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline can also apply to the program. The bridge program was designed for nurses looking to enter the fields of nurse-midwifery, nurse practitioner, or mental health nurse practitioner. After students earn their MSN, they will be eligible to apply to the college’s accelerated Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.
The Chamberlain University ADN to MSN program is a dual degree type—allowing students to get both their BSNs and MSNs simultaneously. The accelerated track reduces course loads to get nurses working in high-level positions as quickly as possible. Courses are offered every eight weeks with a curriculum customized to each individual’s availability. An ADN is required for admission and the applicant needs to have at least 77 college credits earned. The total cost of the online degree program is approximately $25,000 to $35,000—making the college a very affordable choice.
The online RN to MSN program from Concordia University has three concentrations available: Leadership, Education, and Informatics. The accelerated MSN degrees are fast-paced and all taught by the top nursing professionals in the field. All courses are held in eight-week and sixteen-week sessions with year-round start dates. Nursing research, informatics, pathophysiology, and health project management are sample core classes required for graduation.
Sacred Heart University has a bridge program for current nurses and has an RN to BSN to MSN pathway as well as a Direct Entry MSN option. A major benefit of the programs is they are both available fully online. Furthermore, even though students are taking graduate-level courses, they are charged the undergraduate rate. The CCNE-accredited programs offer specializations for clinical nurse leaders, nursing educators, and nursing executives.
Robert Morris University is another higher education institution with online options for nurses seeking an MSN without a BSN degree. Upon graduation, students receive both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees. With CCNE accreditation, the degree programs include classes that prepare nurses for jobs in academic, clinical, and research settings. Health assessments, health policy, and pharmacology are all part of the curriculum.
The RN to MSN program from Gonzaga University is available to registered nurses who have already completed their ADN degrees. The bridge program further educates nurses on key topics such as best business practices, healthcare laws, and quality care in the field of nursing. Ethical, financial, and legal issues that face nursing administrators will also be explored at length. To graduate from the program, a total of 45 credits is required.
The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, also referred to as MCPHS University, holds a bridge program for those who wish to get working quickly instead of taking the time to earn a BSN. All coursework is done online while clinical hours can be scheduled within local healthcare facilities. Besides an orientation, students will need to attend four multi-day residencies to receive their MSN degrees. The majority of students are able to achieve their MSN degrees after three years of study.
The University of Delaware has recently launched a bridge program for nurses who wish to obtain an MSN without a BSN as a pre-requisite. The degree will be offered through a dual study program with the Lerner School of Business. To prepare for a management-level career in nursing, students take both nursing and business courses simultaneously. Upon completion of the ADN to MSN program, graduates will be eligible to receive the Executive Nursing Practice certification by CCNE.
At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, registered nurses with an ADN can apply directly to the college’s MSN program. The college offers a number of tracks for their MSN degrees. Specialization options include Health Care Systems and Nurse Practitioner. Prior to starting master-level courses, ADN to MSN students will take 12 credits of pre-requisite courses that cover professional nursing practices and community health. On average, ADN to MSN students complete graduation requirements within three years.
The Direct Entry MSN program at the University of Arizona is one of the top-rated programs in the nation. The MSN program is 100 percent online and is offered through both an ADN and BSN track. The key difference is the ADN to MSN program requires three additional courses than the BSN track. In addition to needing an ADN, nursing students are required to have taken a college-level statistics course. Safety, healing practices, clinical leadership, patient-centered care, and more will be studied throughout the MSN curriculum.
Associate degree holders are eligible to take part in George Washington University’s RN to MSN program. By enrolling in the program, students earn both their BSN and MSN over the course of their studies. The George Washington University Nursing Department has different MSN pathways available, depending on the student’s career goals. Options include Nurse Practitioner, Nurse-Midwifery, and Family Nurse Practitioner. Online courses are available with a minimum number of campus visit required for degree completion. All clinical hours will go toward the student’s MSN requirements.
At Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing, the college has an accelerated and flexible ASN to MSN degree path for current nurses. The program is targeted to registered nurses looking to become nurse practitioners. Nursing courses are offered in blocks to accommodate work schedules with evenings and weekends available. Recorded sessions and online delivery are available, too, with classes discussing community health, nursing practice ethics, pharmacology and health assessments.
Each ADN to MSN degree program was ranked based on a number of factors. Factors used to rank each school included tuition costs, acceptance rate, and graduation rate. Tuition costs made up of 50 percent of each school’s score while the acceptance rate and the graduate rate make up the other 50 percent. Tuition costs are subject to change annually. If a college is not listed above or any schools note an error, please contact our editorial team to make the appropriate corrections.