Working RNs, have you considered obtaining your MSN but been daunted by the financial challenge, time investment, or fitting a new degree into your busy schedule? These top 50 MSN programs will help you excel in the next phase of your nursing career. The demand for MSN’s is strong and growing at a rapid pace – according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth is expected to rise by 31%. The current median pay is $110,930 per year and there are lots of opportunities in grants and scholarships to help fund your continued education.
We’ve done the work in sorting through graduate programs for you, examining nursing programs nationwide to find the schools offering the best combination flexibility, affordability, path options, testing scores, research opportunities, reputation, and more. Without further ado, please read on for the best RN to MSN online programs and, when you are ready, contact the school that suits your needs to get started on your next big career move.
With an impressive litany of awards, including recognition as a Center of Excellence by the National League of Nursing, Ball State works hard to earn top marks. They boast a 93% career placement for their graduates. Nurses learn in simulated real-world situations in environments that mimic what nurses will encounter on the job. They offer concentrations in Nurse Administrator, Nurse Educator, and Family Nurse Practitioner available fully online.
Gonzaga University boasts over 30 years of experience providing high-quality nursing education at a distance with over 5,096 online alumni and 1,900 online graduates since 2004. They prepare MSNs for careers as a clinical manager, medical director, director of nursing, health director, or care management coordinator. In 2017, 93% of students who graduated from Gonzaga were employed or in graduate school.
Recognized by U.S. News in 2018 as one of the best online Grad Nursing programs, U. of Cincinnati offers an array of programs for working nurses looking to upgrade their career. They offer flexible schedules and six start dates to assist working nurses. Their iCoN program was recognized as an Apple Distinguished Program for 2016-2017, which is granted to schools who demonstrate innovation, leadership, educational excellence, and a clear vision for exemplary learning environments.
The University of Arizona provides a 100% online environment that’s flexible to allow working nurses to advance their careers. That’s part of why they earned a spot in the top 50 of U.S. News Best Grad Schools for an MSN in 2018. They offer a program in Clinical Systems Leadership. Initially founded in 1957, U. of Arizona’s College of Nursing has seen phenomenal growth. They are home to a highly skilled faculty and over 50 distinguished national nursing fellows and 40 members of the Sigma Theta Tau honor. Nurses will find a community here dedicated to excellence.
OSU boasts a #1 ranking from US News and World Report’s 2018 list of the Best Online Programs. They earned it with a strong focus on innovative programs that account for the rapid change in health care, a focus on sustainable learning, and flexibility for working nurses. Among the first to be approved by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Nursing in 1938, they’ve been teaching nurses for over a hundred years.
NMC offers a choice between Nurse Educator, Executive, and Informatics. Their affiliation with the Methodist Health System grants access to one of the largest health systems in the Midwest, with hands-on opportunities during clinical rotations and job networking for graduates of their programs. Providing medical training since 1891, NMC is committed to instilling in and providing a holistic culture for its students and staff. In 2017, they earned awards from multiple organizations noting their high NCLEX pass rates, flexible online nursing programs, and more.
Ranked #1 accredited graduate nursing school in the nation according to U.S. News and a Center of Excellence by the National League for Nursing, Johns Hopkins University is renowned for their nursing program. JHU’s commitment to diversity shows with 31% of students and 27% of faculty are a racial or ethnic minority. Their prowess has netted them $35.9 million in sponsored research projects, the highest for any nursing school, in 2016. They offer MSN degrees in Health Systems Management and Public Health Nursing.
Frontier has spent 80 years teaching nursing and midwifery, much of it focused on providing care to underserved and rural communities for women and families. 96% of FNU’s faculty are either certified nurse-midwives or NPs with hands-on experience to match the curriculum. The MSN program has tracks for nurse-midwifery, family nurse practitioner, women’s health care nurse, or psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner. Their fully online MSN program allows direct entry into their DNP program with only an additional 19 credit hours to complete once the MSN is obtained. A few on-campus visits to Kentucky are required, once for a new student orientation, and again for a 5-day clinical intensive, but the practicum hours are completed in the student’s local community.
Seton Hall University offers an RN-to-MSN bridge program that allows ADN-holding nurses with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree to accelerate their educational development toward careers as nurse practitioners or nurse administrators. College of Nursing students spend their time at Seton Hall’s Interprofessional Sciences Campus in Nutley, New Jersey. This integrated and interprofessional environment allows for a unique and innovative team-based approach to medical education. This gives a large advantage to our student’s ability to work collaboratively, improve patient care and be better prepared for entering the healthcare profession.
A Jesuit institution, Regis has a commitment to providing a global, personal, and flexible nursing education. They offer a rigorous academic program focused on the forefront of medical evolution to prepare nurses for care at home and abroad. The faculty provides nurturing mentorship to foster students who become healthcare leaders. A choice of a wholly online or blended format that can be done during evenings and weekends allows working nurses to advance careers without losing income. They attracted 11,411 online students and over $190 million in grants, scholarships, loans, and stipends for the 2016-2017 school year. Their RN to MSN program is available in an education or management focus.
Fort Hays, founded in 1902 on a beautiful 200-acre campus, offers two main tracks for their flexible, wholly online RN to MSN programs – nursing education or nursing administration. They provide three optional start dates for prospective MSN, and the programs can be completed in as little as three semesters. The first doctoral program in the university is the DNP – focused on Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) who are prepared to assume leadership roles in their careers.
Clarkson College offers an exciting, fully customizable advanced curriculum for their graduate-level RN to MSN students. Once the core curriculum is met, students embark on a challenging educational journey that capstones in an evidence-based research project. After completion of the MSN, nursing students can take on an additional 21-29 credit hours of specialty coursework to focus on Health Care Administration, Education, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP, or Family NP. In addition, they offer a grant which reduces tuition and the Nurse Faculty Loan Program for financial assistance.
Transfer up to 90 credits to leverage your existing knowledge at Wilmington University, plus enjoy a flexible RN to BSN program that adapts to the needs of the nursing student and includes classes that count towards their MSN. RNs can learn online, in-person, or in a blended format at any of the five locations. MSN tracks include nurse practitioner and nurse leadership options. WilmU offers discounts for military students and has an impressive 17:1 student-teacher ratio.
Founded in 1898 as a school for nurses, UC Nursing gained autonomy as its own school in 1949 and began offering nursing PhDs in 1979. With over a hundred years of educating nurses under their belt, it’s no surprise that they offer an impressive 9 specialties – of which five include CU-UNITE (urban underserved) track. They participate in WICHE funding, which means students who reside in western states are eligible for in-state tuition rates.
MSU currently has over 6,000 nurses practicing around the globe. MSU remains committed to staying at the forefront of science and offer rigorous academic programs for prospective nurses. Their BOTT Building received silver LEED certification – an award granted for sustainable design. Seamless pathways are available for MSN to NDP for students interested in continuing past their MSN. They offer specialty MSN tracks in AG Clinical Nurse Specialist with Nurse Education concentration, NP, and Nurse Anesthesia concentration. For RNs, they offer an accelerated online program flexible enough to help them achieve a BSN around their schedule and in less time.
Ranked among the top nursing grad schools in 2019 by U.S. News, Florida State offers an accelerated, wholly online MSN program to help prepare nurses to fill the national shortage. They offer a Nurse Leader Program, which helps nurses advance towards a career as a nurse manager, quality and outcome specialist, care manager, project manager, or direct care clinician/specialist. In addition, they offer a Veterans BSN program to help leverage the skills and experience veterans develop through service into service to their communities at home.
OHSU offers RNs three focus tracks for their MSN program – Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing, Community Health Nursing, and Adult-Gerontological Nursing. They are linked to the Oregon Consortium Nursing Education, a nationally recognized curriculum to help train undergraduates. Students will complete most classwork online with some face-to-face intensives for specific courses. OHSU has five campuses across Oregon and celebrated 100 years of nurse training in 2011.
USI’s nursing school offers wholly online MSN in seven specialties. Three are in adult-gerontology: primary care NP, acute care NP, and clinical nurse specialist. Acute Care, Clinical Nurse Specialist. USI has students from 28 states and 6 countries enrolled in their healthcare programs. They offer three student organizations for nurses – the USI Nursing Alumni Society, the Association of Nursing Students, and Omicron Psi Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau to aid in support, mentorship, and professional networking.
Penn Nursing is a prestigious nursing school, the first nursing doctorate in the Ivy League and named the number one nursing school in the world for 3 years in a row. Learn from world-renown faculty publishing cutting-edge research in 12 rigorous MSN programs that take full advantage of tech to simulate challenging real-world situations and experience the best hands-on clinical experience with hospital partners including the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Offering a wide assortment of pathways for RN to MSN, including Clinical Nurse Leader, Clinical Trials Research, Innovation and Intra/Entrepreneurship in Advanced Nursing Practice, Leadership in Health Systems Management, Nursing Education, and Quality, Safety, and Risk Management in Healthcare, Drexel easily earned a spot on our list. They also put real meat behind their support for soldiers – veterans can attend Drexel tuition-free through the Yellow Ribbon program and active duty service members and their immediate families are eligible for a discounted tuition. The Digital Dragon community is global and engaged, they offer 24/7 support for online students and a variety of networking opportunities.
The Charles R. Drew University of Science and Medicine has been creating nurses, doctors, and specialists for over 50 years with a focus on helping underrepresented demographics break into the field, earning recognition as a Historically Black Graduate Institution by the Department of Education. The school offers an accelerated RN-to-BSN track with the option to progress into a Masters as a Family Nurse Practitioner or Psychiatric Nurse.
The Keigwin School of Nursing at Jacksonville University offers specialty tracks in their RN-MSN program for Clinical Nurse Educator, Curriculum Development in Nursing, or Informatics. Six sessions, 8-week courses, no mandatory logins all means nurses get a highly flexible program that can fit your schedule. Military support makes it a great option for nurses overseas, with a tuition discount for all U.S. military, veterans, and their immediate family. That’s likely why they’ve attracted students from 48 states and 47 countries.
Quinnipiac offers a highly affordable, flexible RN-MSN in Operational Leadership designed for working nurses and can be completed wholly online. A Military Friendly school, QU was recognized in 2017 as the 5th best college for veterans in the north by U.S. News and the 13th best for vets by Military Times. It offers a 10% discount to tuition for all active duty, veterans, and their spouses. Their impressive 325,000 square foot facility is designed to encourage collaborative learning and features a pediatric lab and model apartment for practice in diverse settings.
CSU Stanislaus is an exceptional nursing program ranked #1 in the state of California and offers a highly diverse campus with over three-quarters of the student body coming from ethnic or racial minority backgrounds. They offer an on-campus or online RN-BSN program with the option to move into an MSN with three concentration choices – Nursing Education, Nursing Administration, or Gerontological Nursing. Their online program offers 24/7 access to course materials and utilizes the Blackboard platform.
The UD College of Nursing offers a 100% online RN to BSN program and guaranteed course capacity, which means they adjust rather than force nursing students to wait for open spots in necessary classes. They work with all major hospitals in the area, meaning hands-on experience in a wide variety of environments and specialties. UD has offered distance learning courses since 1993 and offers a retrievable, full-text article online library. Graduates achieve an MSN in Health Systems Leadership and classes are both online and hybrid and prepares for a CCNE/AONE Executive Nursing Practice Certificate after 2 years of experience in executive nurse practice.
WCU offers a convenient, accelerated online RN to MSN program designed to prepare nursing students for teaching opportunities. Students can transfer up to 90 credits and veterans with military healthcare training may gain experience credit. They offer affordable tuition with available grants to lower the expense further. Students in California and Texas can take advantage of the advanced simulation centers to elevate their education through smart technology.
Awarded by U.S. News as the best Nursing Master’s Degree and the best Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree for 2019, UM Ann Arbor challenges its nursing students to excel with top-notch faculty and a curriculum that’s at the forefront of medical science. They provide a wide range of specialty concentrations for the advanced clinical path, including acute pediatric care NP, adult-gerontology acute or primary care NP, primary care family or pediatric NP, nurse-midwifery, and two combined programs that incorporate nurse midwifery with either family NP or primary care NP. They also offer options for the MSN that includes a post-masters DNP and prepares for a focus in health informatics, leadership, and population health.
A leader in nursing education for over a hundred years, Vanderbilt has spent its history looking for innovative approaches to educating nurses to transform them into leaders in their field. They are ranked the #14 graduate school of nursing by U.S. News and boast a graduate employment rate of 96.5%. They offer plenty of specialty tracks, including several dual focus programs, that cover midwifery, psychiatric care, pediatric care, gerontological care, informatics, leadership, emergency, and family practice.
Women’s health, family health, neonatal health, pediatric, psychiatric-mental health, adult-gerontology health primary care NP, as well as nurse midwifery, are all available MSN specialty tracks in the comprehensive catalog at Stony Brook University’s School of Nursing. Also available are MSN programs for nursing education and nursing leadership. Full and part-time programs are available. Nursing students can obtain clinical hours in the Stony Brook University Medical Center, the only level 1 trauma center in the region with 560 beds.
Allen College has been preparing nurses for the field for over 90 years, and about 87% of its student body is currently enrolled in a nursing program. They offer an RN to BSN program online, full or part-time, for nurses who’ve not yet completed their BSN. Their MSN program features 8 specialty tracks: Leadership in Healthcare Diversity, Nursing Education, Community/Public Health Nursing, FNP, AGACNP, PMI-INP, Community/Public Health Nursing & FNP, and Leadership in Health Information Technology. They have a seamless transition to their DNP program via early entry DNP for nurses who want to continue their education. Several nursing specialties qualify for a 25% tuition discount.
Duke was rated the #2 overall best graduate school for nursing in 2019 by U.S. News & World Report. Duke offers nursing students exciting opportunities to participate in on-going research at the forefront of medical science. They have 16 active grants awarded by the NIH and researchers in 2016 received almost $33 million in research grants. Their research focuses on clinical innovation, population health and chronic illness, precision health, and methods and analysis. The core classes for the MSN are fully online.
Deeply affordable and highly flexible, Thomas Edison’s RN-BSN/MSN program allows nursing students to apply at any point in the year and remain in the self-paced, online program as long as they complete 3 credits per 12-month time frame. That flexibility makes it a stellar option for busy working nurses and the low tuition rates, even for out-of-state and graduate courses, makes it accessible at any budget. They offer MSN tracks in Nurse Educator, Nursing Informatics, and Nursing Administration.
The University of Washington is renowned for its research and academic excellence. Graduate nursing students have access to the UW Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center, plus five research and training centers. They offer an accelerated BSN and MSN focused on Clinical Informatics and Patient-Centered Technologies. With low tuition and lots of scholarship and grant opportunities for incoming nursing students, they are a top choice for budget-conscious nursing students that don’t want to sacrifice quality.
Robert Morris, named after a financier of the civil war, offers a fully online RN-MSN program that boasts an impressive 95% career placement post-graduation rate. The school is military friendly, participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program that provides veteran benefits and tuition assistance. That’s part of why they were ranked 19th best online bachelor’s program for veterans by U.S. News.
Ranked #8 in affordability and the best online program in 2018 by U.S. News, West Texas A&M makes it easy for nurses to advance their careers. In-state residents are eligible for a significant discount on tuition for the RN-BSN courses, and out-of-state residents are also eligible for a discount. The accelerated RN-MSN program is shorter, wholly online, and flexible enough to accomplish around a working RN’s schedule. Completion of the program grants dual degrees: a BSN and an MSN.
GWU offers a highly flexible RN to MSN program that is primarily online and available for part-time attendance. Students undergo academically rigorous concentrations in AGPCNP, FNP, and Nurse-Midwifery. Some on-campus time is required and varies by concentration, as do the clinical requirements. There are two campuses, one in the tech-hub of Ashburn, Virginia which grants access to cutting-edge medical technology and one in the heart of DC, granting access to vital world health organizations and the resources and opportunities they provide.
Sacred Heart has earned membership as a College of Distinction and was ranked by U.S. News as among the best in the north and one of the best colleges for veterans for three years running. They offer an RN-BSN/MSN program which accelerates the graduation rate and offers some graduate level courses at a reduced undergraduate tuition. Their MSN tracks are in Clinical Nurse Leader, Nursing Education, and Nursing Management & Executive Leadership
UArk offers an online RN to BSN program ranked among the best online bachelor’s programs by U.S. News and designed to be flexible enough to fit into the lives of working nurses. Their MSN is also available online, full or part-time, and can be completed full time in 4 semesters with local clinical hours. Tuition rates at UArk are highly affordable, making them a highly attractive option for nurses looking for a quality education that won’t break the bank.
The Marjorie K. Unterberg School of Nursing and Health Studies at Monmouth University has everything that an RN needs to advance their career. While students who take the RN-to-MSN path online won’t get as many chances to enjoy it, the school is situated in a perfect location just a short drive away from New York City, Philadelphia, and the Atlantic Ocean all at the same time.
James Madison University teaches over 20,000 at the Harrisburg, VA campus and around the country through their online courses. The available Master’s specializations include midwifery and psychiatric care, rare finds for those interested in pursuing those career paths. No direct RN-to-MSN track is available, so first apply for the RN-to-BSN track then put in for the MSN as you approach graduation.
Samford University is a private Christian school located in the suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama. The university has been in existence since 1841, ranking it in the oldest 100 schools in the country. It was ranked the top university in Alabama by The Economist and The Wall Street Journal, two papers of prominence with a focus on positive economic outcomes for their readers. A student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1 within the nursing school allows for plenty of individual time with instructors when you need it, and you won’t have to deal with any teacher’s assistants, either. The Masters in Nursing program, including the RN-to-MSN track, was ranked in the top 16% of all accredited schools in 2016, and the National League for Nursing named the school a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education for 2017 to 2021.
The Denver College of Nursing (DCoN) is a school dedicated to producing nurses who are ready to pass their exams and provide quality health care to patients in any setting. With no other colleges to distract from its mission, everything about DCoN is tailored towards nursing. While there is no succinct RN-to-MSN track, you can take online courses to go from an RN to a BSN then move onto the MSN degree. The online course material includes full eBook versions of your textbooks, around-the-clock access to a virtual library and Blackboard support, and the SmarThinking tutoring and writing center.
Duquesne University is a private Catholic school founded by the Spiritan sect in the 19th century with a commitment to creating educated people who can go out and make the world a better place, including through the School of Nursing. It has made the list of the National League for Nurses’ Centers of Excellence three times, attesting to the quality of the education its nurses receive while attending. There is no direct RN-to-MSN accelerated path, but you can achieve your BSN before progressing to the graduate program in the familiar online setting.
The Rory Meyers College of Nursing services New York University’s prospective health care practitioners, creating graduates and doctors of nursing since 1932. Its awards include being named a Center for Excellence in Nursing Education by the NLN as well as being ranked the 6th school for nurse practitioners by the US World and News Report. The BSN/MSN dual degree track and RN-to-BSN personalized curriculum combine to form the equivalent of the RN-to-MSN track seen in other schools. 93% of graduates have gone onto successful careers with an average alumni salary of $80,000.
In 1995, the Western Governors Association decided to form an online school committed to solving the educational problems evident around them. Since the inception of the first WGU, the school has gone on to enroll tens of thousands of students in several satellite schools across the nation. The flat-rate tuition is convenient for students looking to cram in as many hours as possible into each semester to reduce their final bill and speed up their time to graduation. The NLN has recognized it as a Center of Excellence from 2015 to 2019.
Villanova is a private university founded just outside of the City of Brotherly Love by the Order of Saint Augustine back in 1842. Stellar NCLEX-RN pass rates and graduation rates lend empirical evidence to the quality of the graduates that Villanova releases into the world. There is no direct RN-to-MSN program, so prospective students will want to first enroll in the RN-to-BSN program while making it clear to their advisor that they wish to move on to the MSN. Available specializations include family practitioner, pediatric care, adult-gerontology practice, and nursing education.
Chamberlain University is the renamed incarnation of the Deaconess School of Nursing located outside of St. Louis, Missouri. Now, the school has expanded across the country with multiple campuses in several states, as well as an offering of online classes for remote or busy students. Classes running every eight weeks makes it easier for a busy RN to start new lessons whenever ready without waiting as long for schedules to align. You also don’t have to worry about whether or not your previous school’s credits will transfer since a valid RN license automatically earns you 77 credit hours towards your degree in the RN-to-BSN-to-MSN track.
The schools on this list have been ranked based on a collection of metrics and observations. NCLEX pass rates, graduation rates, affordability, program completion time, program flexibility, student support, program options, and accolades all factor towards positioning on the list. While RNs entering an MSN program are unlikely to need to retake the NCLEX certification, it’s a good indicator of how well the school is preparing its nursing students. We looked for schools with no lower than 80% pass rates, and most are in the high 90s.
Likewise, while graduation rates can fluctuate for reasons outside of the school’s control, significantly lower percentages can speak to underlying issues with the school itself. The schools on this list go no lower than 50% and most are significantly higher. Schools that are outperforming on delivering a quality, education for less – either in an accelerated program or one that is flexible enough to be done around working hours. In short, schools that can provide working RNs the best foundation for the launching of the next phase of their career. The right school is not the same for every RN, so when you’ve found the one with the programs to suit your needs, please reach out to their admissions team to get started today!
We’d love input from the schools we’ve ranked. Please let us know if there’s something we missed or if something has changed and requires an update!