Top Online RN-to-MSN Nurse Practitioner Programs
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The top online RN-to-MSN nurse practitioner programs ranked here offer students several choices that consider the cost, admissions flexibility, and the variety of program options. RN-to-MSN or ADN bridge programs provide the opportunity for registered nurses (RNs) to move seamlessly from an associate degree in nursing (ADN), or in some cases a nursing diploma to a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree.
Some schools allow students to earn both a BSN and an MSN degree along the way, while others move straight from the ADN level to the MSN degree. Certain nursing schools have also created an accelerated RN-to-MSN degree path for ADN-prepared RNs who also hold a non-nursing bachelor’s degree.
Why consider an online RN-to-MSN degree? The short answer is to pursue career opportunities in leadership, research, and education to advance the ever-expanding field of nursing. According to the American Association of College of Nursing (AACN), nurses with MSN degrees can pursue careers beyond clinical settings in healthcare administration, public health research, and supervisory education, to name a few. These positions mean increased responsibilities, which often correlate with higher salaries and offer more predictable schedules. MSN degrees can be earned on their own or combined with a dual degree program such as an MSN/MHA (masters of public health) or MSN/MBA (masters of business administration).
A significant advantage of moving directly from an associate degree in nursing to an RN-to-MSN program is that bachelor’s and master’s level classes often overlap, which reduces the overall credit load. This helps nurses earn their graduate-level degree in less time, with less cost, in a more seamless manner. Through the RN-to-MSN track, associate degree holders can earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in 2.5 to three years or more.
Another critical advantage of earning an MSN degree is working in a specific field of nursing. RN-to-MSN programs offer the full range of nurse practitioner (NP) specializations, including family nurse practitioner (FNP), pediatric acute care NP (PNP-AC), pediatric primary care NP (PNP-PC), neonatal NP (NNP), adult-gerontology acute care NP (AG-ACNP), adult-gerontology primary care NP (AG-PCNP), psychiatric-mental health NP (PMHNP), and women’s health NP (WHNP). Registered nurses may also opt to pursue a non-NP advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) specialization such as nurse-midwifery (NM) or clinical nurse specialist (CNS).
MSN programs typically require several hundred clinical practicum hours. For example, most family nurse practitioner (FNP) programs require completing at least 500 clinical hours throughout the program (commonly between 500 and 700 hours total).
Each NP specialization has a population-specific clinical focus, and each program may require the completion of a different number of clinical hours as part of the program. The nursing program and a preceptor typically supervise clinicals. Online NP program preceptorships can typically be completed at an approved facility near where students live and work. Some programs may restrict preceptorships to specific locations. These requirements are described in each school’s profile, reachable via the school name in the table below.
It’s important to note that since October 2004, the American Association of College of Nursing (AACN) has been advocating for nurses to pursue practice-oriented doctoral degrees in nursing known as the doctor of nursing practice or DNP. This change is intended to create consistency in the curriculum and practicum experiences for nurse practitioners (NPs), also known as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). The AACN shows that more RN-to-MSN programs are shifting to RN-to-DNP programs. To learn more about DNP programs, please refer to the Top Online DNP-Nurse Practitioner programs.
Keep reading to learn about the top online RN-to-MSN nurse practitioner program rankings.
Online RN-to-MSN NP Program Rankings
Those considering an RN-to MSN nurse practitioner program should seek out educational programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). For the avoidance of doubt, all of the programs listed in the table below, and across NPSchools.com, have such accreditation.
A few programs are in the early stages of accreditation, which is generally the case for newer online programs, and such initial accreditation simply means they have not yet completed the process of earning full accreditation, but are in the process of doing so. That said, most programs have already earned full accreditation. Details are listed on each school’s profile page, linked from the table below.
The NPSchools.com has amassed a comprehensive database of more than 700 online APRN programs — including nurse practitioner, nurse-midwifery, and clinical nurse specialist programs — that were accepting new students as of the outset of the 2019-2020 academic year. The online RN-to-MSN NP programs listed here are drawn from said database and ranked by their AdvanceU score, which factors in cost, admissions flexibility, and program variety. To qualify for inclusion in our rankings, a program must require no more than nine campus visits.
At NPSchools our mission is to ensure the accuracy of the data on our website. Should you find an informational error, or a missing program, please contact us.
RN-to-MSN Nurse Practitioner Career and Salary
MSN-prepared nurse practitioners and nurse-midwives earn salaries in a range of about $80,000 to $182,000 with a median wage of $103,770 for nurse-midwives and $107,030 for nurse practitioners (Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 2018). Additionally, these occupations are in high demand with an expected growth of 26 percent overall between 2018 and 2028, compared to the average of 5 percent for all occupations (BLS, 2018). Nurse practitioner jobs are expected to increase by 28 percent, and nurse-midwives by 16 percent, for that same time period.