The Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, referred to as the BSN, is a baccalaureate degree program for students who are looking for nursing careers in health care settings, become a nurse practitioner, or professional nursing practice. Although an individual can become a Registered Nurse (RN) and start their nursing practice with only an associate degree and an RN license, this bachelor’s degree remains popular because of the well-rounded education it provides.

The Master of Science in Nursing program, referred to as the MSN, is a master’s program that prepares students for bigger and more responsible roles in areas such as clinical decision making, nursing management, healthcare organizational leadership, clinical decision making, healthcare quality improvement, nurse educator, nursing research, and other specialty areas. This collegiate nursing education program dives deeper into the vast subject of nursing, with nursing theory, patient care, patient outcomes, health sciences, etc., and equips students with clinical reasoning skills and clinical research skills, all of which can meet one’s personal and professional goals in nursing. 

Bachelor of Science in Nursing BSN to Master of Science in Nursing MSN degree programs represent one of the more common graduate nursing programs available. Despite the advantage of the bachelor’s degree, students would need to have graduated from an MSN degree program, for them to take up specialized roles and advance in their careers. These opportunities can lead to higher pay, better work hours, and even more fulfilling work.

While the RN to MSN online program is meant for registered nurses looking to complete a master’s nursing degree, the online BSN to MSN degree programs caters to those who already have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, but want to transition further into a master’s degree program.

Read on to find out more about the Master of Science in Nursing MSN, and understand all there is to know about this master’s program, admission requirements, online learning, what a collegiate nursing education entails, and more.

Featured Online Programs

Southern New Hampshire University

PROGRAM: Online Masters Degrees in Nursing

Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students, making us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, we’ve been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and have gained national recognition for our dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.

We’re proud to provide affordable, accessible education that students can pursue on our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH, over our innovative online platform or at our regional centers in Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth and Salem, NH, and Brunswick, ME.

SNHU has earned the Best Buy and Best of Business – Best Online Degree awards and is consistently ranked as a top Military Friendly® School by G.I Jobs®.

Best Master’s Nursing Programs Online

Many schools offer BSN to MSN online programs. But it is not easy to find the best master’s degree from among them, at first glance. Several factors need to be considered before determining which the best nursing programs are, at the graduate level. OMC has considered several factors like the quality, coursework and scope, graduation rates, tuition fees, accreditation, etc., of nursing programs on offer, and created a list of the best available. Here are the best master’s in nursing degree programs:

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College Name & AddressTuitionGraduation Rate
Gonzaga University
E 502 Boone Ave, Spokane, Washington 99258
University of Connecticut
352 Mansfield Road, Storrs, Connecticut 06269
University of Southern California
University Park, Los Angeles, California 90089
Johns Hopkins University
3400 N Charles St, Baltimore, Maryland 21218
Saint Louis University
One North Grand Blvd, Saint Louis, Missouri 63103
University of South Carolina, Columbia
Columbia-Campus, Columbia, South Carolina 29208
Xavier University
3800 Victory Parkway, Cincinnati, Ohio 45207
George Washington University
1918 F Street, NW, Washington, District of Columbia 20052
University of Missouri
105 Jesse Hall, Columbia, Missouri 65211
University of Alabama
739 University Blvd, Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35487

Source – Integrated Post Secondary Education Data System & University Data
*Tuition rates are for in-state and per year. Program specific rates may apply.
**NA – data not available

Cheapest BSN to Master’s Nursing Programs Online

Online degree programs, in general, can be an expensive proposition, and enrolling in an online nursing degree is no exception. Tuition fees and the availability of financial aid are perhaps the most important factors in determining which school to join for an online BSN to MSN program. OMC has considered dozens of universities offering a nursing online program and created a list of the cheapest nursing education programs in the United States. Here are some of the most affordable master’s in nursing programs:

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College Name & AddressTuitionGraduation Rate
Fort Hays State University
600 Park St, Hays, Kansas 67601
Winston-Salem State University
601 Martin Luther King Jr Dr, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27110
Grantham University
6025 West 113th Street, Lenexa, Kansas 66219
University of West Georgia
1601 Maple St, Carrollton, Georgia 30118
McNeese State University
4205 Ryan St, Lake Charles, Louisiana 70605
University of West Florida
11000 University Parkway, Pensacola, Florida 32514
Troy University
University Avenue, Troy, Alabama 36082
University of North Dakota
264 Centennial Drive, Stop 8193, Grand Forks, North Dakota 58202
Baker University
618 Eighth Street, Baldwin City, Kansas 66006
Xavier University
3800 Victory Parkway, Cincinnati, Ohio 45207

Source – Integrated Post Secondary Education Data System & University Data
*Tuition rates are for in-state and per year. Program specific rates may apply.
**NA – data not available

Understanding BSN To Collegiate Nursing Education

The Master of Science in Nursing MSN program is quite popular, which means hundreds of universities offer a college education in nursing. The proliferation of programs can make it difficult to choose which one might be the best fit. However, there are several key characteristics in an MSN degree program that interested students should look for during their research into available options. Here are a few such details and factors students should look for in an MSN program.


Without accreditation, a master’s degree is worth very little. Accreditation is important because it ensures that the nursing education program meets the standards of high-quality education, thus preparing master’s students adequately for the career that lies ahead. It also makes access to scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid easily accessible. For MSN programs, there are two accrediting bodies: the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Grad students will find that most MSN programs are accredited by the CCNE. More information about accreditation is available on the Best Accreditation Guide.

Admission Requirements

The admission requirements for a master of science in nursing MSN are similar to a master’s degree in most other science disciplines. For an RN to MSN, students are generally expected to have an undergraduate or associate degree, in addition to some work experience. It must be noted that some collegiate nursing education programs make do only with an associate degree, while others mandatorily require a bachelor’s. In short, the admission requirements vary by university and the master’s degree program. Some other additional admission requirements for an RN to MSN or BSN to MSN degree include – an application form, official transcripts, a statement of purpose, and at least two letters of recommendation.

Reasonable tuition rates

Collegiate nursing education can be expensive; therefore, most students will want to find the cheapest online Master of Science in Nursing MSN program possible and check for the availability of financial aid. Tuition rates can vary widely even though students will receive the same accredited degree. There are various reasons for these differences in cost, but often, the only difference is the school’s name printed on the degree – more prestigious schools tend to cost more, even though their programs are accredited to the same standards as those at any other school. MSN students will need to do their research to fully understand what they are getting (or giving up) by paying a different tuition rate. It must also be noted that cost per credit hour and acceptance of transfer credits can hugely impact the overall cost of a nursing program.

Certification rates

One of the biggest reasons master’s students would want to earn a master’s in nursing is the additional training in a specialized area of practice, such as midwifery, adult gerontology acute care, adult-gerontology primary care, public health nursing, advanced nursing practice, evidence-based practice, nursing informatics, nursing research, or anesthesia. But simply graduating is not enough to start with careers in these areas, or even become a nurse practitioner or family nurse practitioner. Many states and employers will expect Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, or APRNs, to take up a national council licensure examination from any American nurses credentialing center. One way to measure the quality of a nursing degree is by asking how successful its graduates are in becoming certified.

Flexible online options

Not all online master’s in nursing curricula are the same. While one degree program may offer coursework 100% online, others may require the occasional campus visit. Then there is synchronous versus asynchronous online learning. The former requires students to be at their computer at a set time; the latter gives maximum flexibility by allowing students to attend class and complete their coursework on their own schedule. The credit hour requirement varies by program and university.

Clinical options

Most MSN programs will require clinicals, although the exact requirements will depend on the specific specialty of the master’s program. To make things as easy as possible, many master’s in nursing programs will allow students to complete their clinicals at a healthcare site of their choice, as long as they meet certain requirements and the program approves it. One thing prospective MSN students should keep in mind is to look for a master’s in nursing that is approved near to where they may already work as a registered nurse.

Curriculum in Collegiate Nursing Education

A master’s in nursing curriculum is akin to that of an undergraduate degree and is typically broken down into two sections. The core section is largely common, irrespective of the program or concentration is chosen. Some common core nursing classes include:

  • Evidence-Based Practice for Patient-Centered Care and Population Health
  • Quality Improvement of Interprofessional Patient Care
  • Professional Presence and Influence
  • Organizational Leadership and Interprofessional Team Development

The second section of an MSN curriculum will be specialization courses. Here are some of the more popular areas of specialization and the courses commonly found in them:

Nurse Educator

  • Teaching as a Nurse Educator and Active Learning Strategies
  • Assessment and Evaluation in Nursing Education
  • Curriculum Development
  • Role of the Nurse Educator

Family Nurse Practitioner

  • Advanced Primary Nursing Care for Adults
  • Primary Care of Adolescents and Children
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Advanced Health Assessment

Nursing Informatics

  • Database Management
  • Clinical Information Systems
  • Leadership and Nursing Practice: Role Development
  • Information Workflow in Healthcare

Nurse Management and Leadership

  • Leadership and Management for Nurse Executives
  • Health Care Quality and Safety Management
  • Integrative Process in Nursing Administration
  • Financing Health Care

Shortest BSN to MSN Programs

An online MSN Program plays an important role in providing upward mobility to a registered nurse. For nurses who already have a BSN degree and are looking to get into leadership and/or administrative roles, MSN degrees act as the bridge. And getting an MSN degree online is the easiest way to advance. That is why a lot of nurses sign up for online BSN to MSN or RN to MSN programs. But online MSN programs can take up to 3 years before graduation. Luckily, some universities offer accelerated online BSN to MSN programs that can be finished in a considerably shorter amount of time. Here are some of the shortest online BSN to MSN programs:

Online MSN Programs – Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

In the nursing world, there is a lot of demand for a Family Nurse Practitioner or FNP. A Family Nurse Practitioner provides patient care to all members of families, regardless of age. In most cases, a Family Nurse Practitioner provides patient care throughout a lifespan. Many nurses choose to specialize as a Family Nurse Practitioner in their MSN program. For nurses who already have an RN license and/or a BSN degree, getting admitted to an MSN program with a specialization in FNP is easy. And many universities offer an online nursing program in FNP that is affordable. These nursing education programs are designed in a way where students can hit the ground running without a lot of prerequisites, as they would already have a BSN degree. Here are some online MSN programs specializing in Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP):

Career & Salaries for MSN Program Graduates

In broader terms, a nurse practitioner tends to work in healthcare organizations, and other clinical healthcare settings, and take up roles in general health assessment, adult-gerontology primary care, public health nursing, etc.

In earning the MSN degree, a registered nurse practitioner who already has an RN license, can take up an advanced nursing practice, or become a clinical nurse specialist. Alternatively, they can look forward to changing their career in several ways. First, they can leave the clinical setting, if they prefer, by becoming a nurse educator and teaching nursing students. Second, there is a partial departure from the clinical environment by taking a management and leadership role in healthcare administration, or diverse roles in nursing informatics, health sciences, healthcare informatics, etc.

Finally, registered nurses who wish to stay in the clinical setting, can take on more specialized roles as healthcare professionals or obtain greater treatment responsibility. For example, a family nurse practitioner will provide primary patient care to children and adults and usually have the power to diagnose and prescribe medications. Then there are nurse midwives, who provide direct patient care to women within the context of female reproductive health and childbirth.

The MSN program provides additional knowledge for these more advanced roles through coursework and clinical experience. Many BSN-prepared RNs may groan at the thought of attending more nursing school and completing clinical, but the benefits can be very attractive. For example, the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual salary for a registered nurse is $70,000. But for MSN graduates in other roles, the median annual pay is much higher.

Nurse Midwife: $100,590
Nurse Anesthetist: $165,120
Medical and Health Service Manager: $98,350
Nurse Practitioner: $103,880
Nurse Educator: $84,060

And even for a nurse practitioner who may not wish to go into healthcare administration, nursing education, or become advanced practice nurses, an MSN can be beneficial, in that it makes it easier to gain other benefits when working in patient care, such as less overtime, being on-call less often, and working fewer holidays. The ability to “slow down” may be enough for some to spend the time, money, and effort to earn an MSN degree. Now that many MSN programs are online, it is easier than ever to get this advanced nursing education degree and transition from BSN to MSN program, or RN to MSN program.

Resources for MSN Program Students

Whether or not an individual is a student of a nursing degree or a clinical nurse specialist, it is always advisable to stay up to date with the latest in collegiate nursing education and patient care. Connecting with peers and nurse practitioners will go a long way in fostering new relationships, and enable the sharing of ideas, knowledge, and information that is vital in the rapidly evolving world of nursing. Doing so will certainly help in career growth and upward mobility.

  1. American Association of Colleges of Nursing
  2. Nurse Journal
  3. American Association of Nurse Practitioners

Other Online MSN Programs in Collegiate Nursing Education

An online master of science in nursing can fit very well into a busy schedule, allowing nurse practitioners to improve their careers, pay, and job outlook. When contemplating if such nurse practitioner programs are the best path forward, prospective grad students can find additional helpful information in the following resources:

  1. Discover RN to MSN Online Programs
  2. Master’s Degree in Nursing Online: What You Need to Know

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