Shortest RN to MSN Programs Online: Best Accelerated and 1 year MSN Programs

By gabriel


Registered Nurses (RN) increase their pay substantially after attaining a Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.

 An MSN, is the lowest academic qualification an RN needs to become a Nurse Practitioner (NP). NPs have more responsibilities and typically occupy managerial positions over RNs.

 That said, moving up from RN to NP was not always been easy. You first had to get your Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree before proceeding to an MSN. The result was a lot of class time and student loan debt.

What’s the Difference Between an RN and a MSN Degree?

Understanding the duties and responsibilities of RNs and MSNs is the only way you’ll be able to tell who’s who in the field. A registered nurse has to remain calm under pressure, and know how to empathize with patients. Communication is also a critical skill in this profession, as they’ll constantly interact with the patient’s family, and other public health professionals.

The duties of an RN include:

  • Supervising students and nursing staff
  • Maintaining patient record and recording information
  • Consulting various health care teams
  • Communicating with the patients’ family on public health matters
  • Monitoring patients
  • Assisting with treatment and patient examination

MSN degree nurses have different levels of responsibilities. These levels are again different depending on the state of residence. MSNs can work independently in most states, but under the supervision of a licensed physician. Hence, physicians have more time to concentrate on the core aspects of their respective specialties.

Organizational and communication skills are paramount at this level of practice. The task of a practitioner with an MSN degree includes:

  • Creating patient treatment plans
  • Analyzing health histories and patient data
  • Monitoring a drug’s side effects and interactions
  • Treating acute and chronic illnesses
  • Prescribing medications

Prescribing medication is a fundamental difference between an RN and an MSN graduate.

Completing an RN to MSN program in less than 3 years was unheard of a few years back, but that’s no longer the case. Thanks to this guide, you’re about to learn the shortest RN to MSN Online program in 2020.

10 Fastest RN to MSN Online Programs

1. Capella University

One the university’s primary goal is to inspire the next generation of nursing students. The online RN to MSN program has made that possibility by eliminating the need for a Bachelor in Nursing Degree. The full time RN to MSN online program at Capella University makes it easy for you to tailor your studies to particular interests.

Aspiring to be a nurse executive won’t be a problem seeing as this CCNE-accredited online program will equip you with skills in operations, finance, leadership, and health care informatics. 

MSN specialization areas are:

  • Nursing Care coordination
  • Nursing education
  • Nursing informatics
  • Nursing leadership and administration

Capella University stands out as an institution due to its unique online learning formats – Flexpath and GuidedPath. Both formats offer 100% competency-based learning, and if you cannot decide what compliments your lifestyle, the Path Finder Quiz is ready to offer insight to all nursing students. You should know a BSN degree is not a must.

2. Chamberlain University

This institution understands just how valuable the students’ time is. So to ensure you use your free time efficiently, it developed the full time RN to MSN online program. You can earn your MSN degree is four semesters or less thanks to its interactive design. 

In addition, as a registered nurse, you’ll have the rare opportunity to advance your studies without getting bogged down by unnecessary prerequisites.

Leadership (General) and Clinical Nursing Leadership (CNL) are the only MSN specialties here. 

Admission requirements:

  • A 3.0 cumulative GPA or higher
  • An RN license
  • A nursing degree or diploma

Do you want to try out nursing, but you’re afraid the cumulative GPA is a deterrent? Do not fret. Cumulative GPAs of 2.75-2.99 are also considered, with a caveat – You’ll be part of academic warning list.

3. Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health

The students’ online format caters to all registered nurses, and gives them the opportunity to work towards their educational goals without having to compromise their professional or personal responsibilities.

RN to MSN online program perks:

  • It’s a CCNE accredited program
  • Time to completion is 30 months
  • A nurse practitioner designed the program
  • Courses are 5-10 weeks long
  • No GRE required for admission

Nursing informatics, nurse executive, and nurse educator, are the main MSN specialties. An associate degree or diploma in nursing is one of the requirements if you want to be part of the program. A 3.0 GPA is also a must-have, but if yours is below that, they’ll look at your application on an individual basis.

How’s their RN to MSN program faster?

A BSN is not a requirement here. However, as an RN to MSN student you still have to attend 5 undergraduate bridge courses. You’ll have a one week time off between the courses, and upon completion, you can tackle your graduate degree. Thirty-six credit hours are the minimum number of hours expected from every MSN student before graduation.  

4. Quinnipiac University

You have to complete 50 credits before graduating from the university’s RN to MSN online program. If you had less than 90 transfer credit when you entered the program, you’ll have to complete the Advance Core courses before proceeding to the next curriculum. BSN is not a must-have.

To improve a patient’s experience during care, certain advanced nursing skills are required. The university will be looking for those skills when reviewing your credits. You should have a total of 50 credits before graduation. After reviewing the first 31 credits, the institution will award you a BSN, and ask you to proceed so that you may finally earn your MSN.   

As a Masters in Science nursing graduate, you’ll have the operational leadership skill required in the field to function as an effective patient care coordinator and nurse manager. 

The time of completion of the CCNE accredited online program is 2 years, and the delivery method is online. What makes studying at this university more appealing is the fact that you end up earning both a BSN and MSN in that short time.

Quinnipiac University has only one full time online RN to MSN specialty – Operation Leadership and Education.

Admission requirements:

  • ASN or ADN
  • The state of Connecticut RN license
  • Cumulative GPA of 3.0
  • A BSN (optional)

5. University of Arizona

The institution has one of the most respected premier nursing programs in the country, and that includes the RN to MSN program. It’s engaging and patient-centric curriculum is what seems to appeal to most students. 

If you’re a working nurse who wishes to still be active in your present role while advancing your studies, this uniquely designed online program is tailor-made for you. You can complete the curriculum in 2 years, which is faster than a conventional degree. 

Also, a BSN degree is not a requirement.

Admission requirements:

  • Have an associate degree in nursing
  • Unrestricted RN license
  • Minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0
  • Minimum of 2 years work experience 

What Makes the RN to MSN Degree Faster?

It’s the ADN pathway, and the short coursework. Once you’re in the program, you’ll take 11 courses. Eight of those courses are graduate level, and three are undergraduate bridge courses. There’s no need for a BSN.

6. Union University

The program has two points of entry – Diploma in nursing or associate of science, and non-nursing bachelors. Any candidate with a CCNE- or ACEN accredited nursing diploma or associate degree should apply for the longer pathway. Those with non-bachelor nursing degrees can use the accelerated path and then tackle the MSN coursework.

Admission requirements:

  • 3.0 cumulative GPA
  • Unencumbered RN license
  • A 3.0 cumulative GPA in science

If you choose to go full throttle, you can complete this program in 4 semesters. However, you’ll have to take at least 4 courses per term.

7. University of Maryland-Baltimore

Students who enroll for the RN to MSN programs in this institution fall under three groups. We have RNs who don’t hold degrees in other fields, RNs who have BSN degrees, and RNs with an ADN. Admission requirements will thus vary depending on the type of student.

Admission requirements:

  • Unrestricted RN license
  • A one year nursing experience
  • GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • Current GE scores
  • Hold a minimum of an ADN
  • Science GPA of 3.0

Core bridge nursing courses are a requirement for ADN students hoping to pursue a MSN program. But on the plus side, you’ll participate in clinical practicums offered in institutions such as:

  • Johns Hopkins Hospital – Baltimore
  • University of Maryland Medical Centre –Baltimore
  • Mercy Medical Centre – Baltimore
  • Robert A Henson Medical Simulation Centre –Salisbury
  • Suburban Hospital – Bethesda

8. University of San Francisco

The program is available to RNs who hold BSN degrees, and those who have associate degrees (ADN/ASN). The schedule is asynchronous and flexible, meaning you can log on whenever you’re ready to complete the coursework. Designed for the working nurse, you can complete the program in two years, which is the equivalent of 6 semesters.

9. Western University of Health Sciences

The ADN to Masters of Science in Nursing online program is different from the program offered in other universities in that it’s more convenient for students who reside in rural areas or are in active military duty. The MSN specialties include Ambulatory Care Nursing, Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL), and Administrative Nurse Leader.

The time to completion is 2 years, and the accreditation is CCNE. In addition, it has one of the most affordable RN to MSN programs in the country.

Admission requirements:

  • Unencumbered RN license
  • A BRN-approved associate nursing degree
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA
  • 1 year experience as an RN

10. University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

The only specialties are leadership and Education, and Nurse Practitioner. To complete them, you have to commit two years. Admission requirements are similar for RN to MSN, and RN to FNP leadership and administration candidates. 

Admission requirements:

  • 3.0 GPA or higher
  • ADN from an accredited program
  • RN license
  • 60 hours of nursing prerequisites
  • 3.0 GPA in the science prerequisites
  • 1 year clinical experience for FNP candidates

 11. Wilkes University

The program here focuses on evidence-based practice, professionalism, and advanced clinical skills. As a student, you get to take advantage of integrated exam preparation courses, and that means you get to excel with impressive rates. If the statistics are anything to go by, Wilkes nurses have a passing rate that’s way above the national average.

At Wilkes University, education is within reach. So you won’t feel alienated regardless of your socioeconomic, ethnic, or religious background. Furthermore, the caliber of the faculty and the priced tuition is hard to beat. No BSN degree needed.

Admission requirements:

  • 3.0 GPA in Associate Degree in Nursing
  • One year clinical experience
  • Unencumbered RN license

12. Western Governors University

The institution is the perfect fit for all ADN nursing students who are already taking part in an evidence based online program for RNs. Also included in the program, is the real-time simulation that you get to experience through the immersive virtual reality training. 

If you’re looking for a reason to enroll in the program then the National Association for Healthcare Quality certificate should be reason enough. You’ll have the opportunity to earn it along with your Masters of Science in Nursing degree, and hence, boost your resume.

How Long Does It Take to Move From an RN to MSN?

To graduate, all learners have to complete approximately 60 credit hours of an online RN to MSN program. That’s the equivalent of 30-36 months. Typically, you’ll need to produce your unencumbered RN license together with a nursing diploma or associate nursing degree upon admission.

Your foundational courses will include nursing leadership and management, evidence-based practices, informatics, and statistics. It’s also important to note that most students move on to purse specialized tracks upon completion. 

Common specialties include clinical nurse midwife, nurse educator, and nurse practitioner and the coursework has been known to be comprehensive.

Is an Online Program for RN to MSN Worth It?

With an Associate’s Degree in Nursing, you’re already qualified to become a floor nurse. However, if you want to advance your career, you’ll have to earn an additional degree. A BSN is definitely an option, but most RNs prefer an MSN.

An MSN can propel you to better positions, help you earn more money, make the transition to academia easy, and give you the chance to work in exclusive specialty departments. So yes, this expedited pathway is worth it.

What’s the RN to MSN Method of Delivery?

It’s imperative that you find the right education format if you wish to excel in any program. Opt for a format that caters to your student learning style to avoid failure. An online RN to MSN has different options. You can choose either a hybrid program or one that’s completely online.

What’s the Market Reception for a Full-Time Online RN to MSN Program?

Distance education has certainly come a long way over the past couple of years. While choosing a program suitable for you, there are several factors to take into consideration. How prospective employers think of registered nurses who have gone through the program is a factor.

Accreditation is all that matters in the industry. Therefore, if you want your resume to be among the top applicants, you’ll have to search for a program accredited by institutions such as the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

RN to BSN or RN to MSN?

The primary purpose of both programs is to give you a broader scope of knowledge of registered nurses. However, a Master’s of Science in Nursing program will open the door to a lot more opportunities because it’s far more comprehensive.

An RN to BSN is all about front line delivery and clinical experience, while an RN to MSN focuses on research. That means students who have a MSN have better interpersonal and leadership skills, and more knowledge.

How Can You Demonstrate Your Value With an MSN Degree?

The nursing practice has broadened, and it now touches just about every corner of our lives. It’s virtually impossible to have a discourse on policies, research, or ethics, without talking about nursing. Consequently, career paths have diversified to the following:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Nursing Informatics Specialist
  • Geriatric Or Gerontologist Nurse Practitioner
  • Clinical Nurse Researcher
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Ethicist
  • Family Nurse Educator
  • Legal Nurse Consultant

Do MSN Nurses Make More Money With Their Degrees?

Nursing as an RN, MSN nurses do make a lot more money. You’ll significantly increase your salary after earning your MSN degree, and make even more money if you pass the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse exam. On average, RN nurses make less than $100,000 per year while MSN nurses make more.


A nursing degree MSN is critical for career development. Before making any nursing career changing decision, learn more about the RN to MSN programs offered in different universities. An MSN degree can lead to a greater career advancement and clinical autonomy, but only if it’s the right fit for you.

Online programs for RN are also available for those who haven’t began. RN to MSN programs don’t require the BSN degree but and associate degree is important.

Are you interested in nursing? Try the RN to MSN programs in these MSN schools and tell us what you think.

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