Are you a BSN RN looking to take your nursing career to the next level by pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)?
With all of the available BSN to MSN programs in the United States, it can be difficult for prospective students to find the perfect fit. To help with your search, we've compiled the 10 best programs available in 2023, background information on what precisely a BSN to MSN program is, the prerequisites for admission, relevant coursework, salary expectations, career pathways, and more.
Table of Contents
What Is a BSN to MSN Program?
A BSN to MSN is a graduate-level program designed explicitly for bachelor's degree-prepared RNs who want to obtain an MSN.
It is the most common choice for nurses seeking graduate-level education and builds on the knowledge and skills acquired at the undergraduate level.
Master's degree programs allow nursing students to focus on studies in a specific concentration or specialty, such as nursing administration, nurse education, or advanced practice nursing, like a nurse practitioner.
Before enrolling in an MSN program, it is essential to identify the type of role you would like to work in, as the master's degree programs are tailored to focus your studies on a particular concentration. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) "encourages all nurses to strive for higher levels of education to advance their capacity to enhance the quality of care available to our nation's diverse patient populations.”
Graduate-level nurses are in high demand to fill established and emerging roles in the healthcare industry.
BSN to MSN Prerequisites, Pathways, & Requirements
The eligibility criteria for MSN programs vary depending on the chosen specialty pathway and the graduate school's specifications. BSN RNs seeking to advance their nursing careers with an MSN will typically need to meet the following prerequisites to gain entry:
- Active RN License in good standing
- Transcripts from an accredited BSN program with a minimum GPA of 3.0
- 1-3 professional or academic letters of recommendation
- Response to essay questions or equivalent writing projects on professional goals
- RN experience in a relevant clinical setting; minimum one year up to five years, program dependent
- Interview to enter the program
- Graduation Record Examinations, program dependent
The prerequisites mentioned above are intended as a general guide. Before applying to an MSN program, verify the specific admission requirements that are mandatory by the nursing school and the specialty you are interested in, as they will vary.
MSN Career Pathways
Indirect Care Career Pathways for MSN Graduates
- Clinical Nurse Leader
- Nurse Administrator
- Nurse Educator
- Public Health Nurse
- Nurse Informaticist
Direct Care – APRN Career Pathways for MSN Graduates
- Nurse Practitioner (NP)
- Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
- Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM)
Before enrolling in an MSN program, it is imperative to determine your career path. When considering your options, it is crucial to consider that the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is shifting the level of preparation for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) from a master's degree to a doctoral-level degree, DNP.
While many current MSN graduates remain eligible to practice as APRNs, the AACN is pushing toward this change. For example, as of last year, aspiring Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) students are required to pursue doctoral-level programs for training.
BSN to MSN Core Curriculum and Graduation Requirements
MSN programs build upon foundational knowledge gained through BSN degrees and are tailored to specific concentrations. The curriculum will vary depending on the area of specialization and will provide advanced education in the role and responsibilities of the particular nursing field.
MSN programs focusing on leadership and non-clinical roles will have a curriculum emphasizing leadership, communication, healthcare systems, quality and safety improvement, research, and evidence-based practice.
MSN programs specializing in APRN will focus on the patient population of your chosen specialty concentration. The program will include advanced education in health assessment, pathophysiology, pharmacology, nursing management, healthcare policy, and research.
The requirements and number of credits needed to complete the program will vary by institution and are of concentration. Most BSN to MSN programs can be completed in 18 to 24 months of full-time study. To graduate, you must have between 30 and 50 credit hours and a minimum of 500 with up to 1,000 clinical hours, depending on your chosen specialty.
An excellent way to evaluate a master's program curriculum is to ensure the program is following the AACN Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education.
Best BSN to MSN Programs in 2023
The following schools have been selected based on allnurses' methodology of surveying our readers to understand what they value most while selecting schools with the addition of CCNE accreditation, graduation rates, student-faculty ratio, price, mode, duration, and admission rate of hundreds of the most prominent nursing schools in the United States.
All of the schools on this list are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), ensuring that the MSN programs align with the APRN consensus model for APRNs.
It is worth noting that there are ranges for many of the school ratings because each institution offers a variety of career pathways for their MSN students. For more detailed information on a specific program, it is recommended that you research the institution and program of interest.
California State University, Fresno offers a BSN to MSN program with a concentration in primary care family nurse practitioner (FNP). This master of nursing program stands out because the curriculum and outcome goals are based on the AACN Master's Essentials as well as the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF). NONPF is the only organization solely dedicated to promoting high-quality nurse practitioner education.
- Price: $2,542 (6 or less credit units per semester); $4,084 (6.1 or more credit units per semester); $ 396 (non-resident fee per credit unit per semester)
- Credit Hours: 40
- Clinical Hours: 630
- Mode: Hybrid
- Duration: 2 years
The University of Memphis provides three tracks for BSN to MSN students: Nursing Education, Executive Leadership, and Family Nurse Practitioner.
While its traditional MSN program can be taken entirely online, the Executive Leadership track requires nursing students to attend in-person learning sessions and national conferences. The Executive Leadership MSN program stands for its curriculum alignment with the American Organization for Nursing Leadership and its recognition by the ANCC Magnet Recognition Program.
- Price: $521 per credit (residents); $723 per credit (non-residents); $606 per credit (online)
- Credit Hours: 31-46
- Mode: Online—Traditional MSN track; Hybrid—Executive Leadership Track
- Duration: 2-2.5 years
If you are a resident outside of Tennessee and plan to enroll in the APRN-FNP online program, it is your responsibility to contact your state nursing licensing body to ensure eligibility for this program.
Duke University School of Nursing is acclaimed for having one of the most advanced health systems in the world as well as state-of-the-art technology and simulation labs for nursing students to obtain real-world clinical skills in a controlled environment, making them an industry leader for graduate-level nursing degrees. BSN to MSN students at Duke can choose between three non-clinical majors and eight APRN majors.
- Price: $13,488 per semester
- Semesters: 6-7
- Credit Hours: 42-49
- Clinical Hours: 560-720
- Mode: Hybrid
- Duration: 2-2.5 years
APRN MSN Options at Duke: Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, neonatal nurse practitioner, pediatric acute care nurse practitioner, pediatric primary care nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, and women's health nurse practitioner.
Non-Clinical MSN Options at Duke: Nursing Education, Health Informatics, and Nursing and Healthcare Leadership.
The BSN to MSN online program at the University of Texas Arlington distinguishes itself through its flexible and affordable approach, specifically designed for working nurses. As the number one public school in the United States, the university offers one-on-one personal advisement throughout the program, ensuring you always have the support you need. All of the master's of nursing programs offered by UTA require two years of clinical RN experience, except the primary care NP tracks.
- Price: $17,800-$30,084 total tuition program. specialty dependent
- Credit Hours: 36-46
- Mode: Online
- Duration: 36 months
APRN MSN Options at UTA: Family nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, pediatric acute care nurse practitioner, and pediatric primary care nurse practitioner.
Non-Clinical MSN Options at UTA: Nursing administration and nursing education.
The online BSN to MSN program at the University of Texas Medical Branch is tailored to working RNs as it prioritizes flexibility and convenience. All coursework is completed entirely online, aside from orientation and semester commencement.
The program's tuition is calculated per credit per semester and includes all one-time fees for the semester. Therefore, the price listed here may not accurately reflect the program's total cost.
- Price: $1417.67 per credit hour (in-state); $1834.54 per credit hour (out-of-state)
- Credit Hours: 39-49
- Clinical Hours: 720–740
- Mode: Online
- Duration: 28 months
APRN MSN Options at UTMB: Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, and neonatal nurse practitioner.
Non-Clinical MSN Options at UTMB: Clinical nurse leader, executive nurse leader, and nurse educator.
Azusa Pacific University offers an array of BSN to MSN programs at an affordable price, allowing you to choose between eight different concentrations. This program will enable nurses to earn an MSN in school nurse service credentialing (SNSC), which can also be pursued as a dual degree alongside an FNP or PNP degree.
Furthermore, Azusa provides online and face-to-face education, making them an excellent option for nurses seeking individualized learning and flexibility.
- Price: $860 per credit unit
- Credit Hours: 37-56
- Mode: Hybrid
- Duration: 2-3 years
APRN MSN Options at Azusa: Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, psychiatric nurse practitioner, and clinical nurse specialist.
Non-Clinical MSN Options at Azusa: Healthcare administration and leadership, nursing education, and school nurse services credential.
Located in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Carlow University is a Catholic institution emphasizing teamwork, collaboration, and professional networking focused on your future career. Their APRN MSN programs meet the requirements for national board certification and APRN licensure in all U.S. states. Carlow University provides full-time and part-time options for their MSN programs, allowing you to pursue your career at a convenient pace.
Non-Clinical Program Information: Nursing Leadership and Education
- Price: $812 per credit; $26,796 total
- Credit Hours: 33
- Mode: Hybrid
- Duration: 20 months
APRN Program Information: Family Nurse Practitioner and Women's Health Nurse Practitioner
- Price: $918 per credit; $44,982 total
- Credit Hours: 49
- Mode: Hybrid
- Duration: 2.5 years
The University of Maryland prides itself on its researchers making groundbreaking discoveries driving the transformation in the healthcare industry. Not only does the University of Maryland provide clinical placements with top healthcare organizations, but it is consistently ranked among the best nursing programs, and the master's degree programs are also affordable.
The BSN to MSN program at the University of Maryland offers three pathways: Community/Public health nursing, health services leadership, and nursing informatics. You also have the option to pursue a dual degree, earning an MSN degree with either an MBA (master of business administration) or a public health specialization.
- Price: $856 per credit
- Credit Hours: 38-40; 66-72 for dual degree pathways
- Mode: Hybrid or Online, depending on the program specialty
- Duration: 2 years
The BSN to MSN program at Barry University offers two APRN specialties, which are noteworthy for their high ANCC board examination rates. As per the 2020 report, graduates from the family nurse practitioner program had a passing rate of 96.88%, while those in the adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner program had a passing rate of 93.55%.
- Price: $990 per credit hour
- Credit Hours: 48-51
- Mode: Hybrid
- Duration: 2-2.5 years
Drexel University in Philadelphia offers an online BSN to MSN program for busy nurses seeking career advancement. The program provides various clinical and non-clinical pathways, with rigorous coursework to prepare nursing graduates for leadership roles in the healthcare and nursing industry.
One unique option is the master of nursing degree undeclared program, allowing students to take core courses before choosing a concentration area. However, this option excludes enrollment in the direct NP Program track, requiring you to apply for a post-master NP certificate upon program completion.
Drexel operates on a quarterly system, with each semester credit hour valued at 1.5 quarter credit hours.
- Price: $1,059
- Credit Hours: 60 (quarter) for non-clinical specialties; 52-63 (quarter) for APRN specialties
- Mode: Online
- Duration: 2-3 years; 4 years for dual degree
APRN MSN Options at Drexel: Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner with emergency specialization, pediatric acute care, pediatric primary care, pediatric acute and primary care (dual degree), psychiatric mental health, and women's health/gender-related.
Non-Clinical MSN Options at Drexel: Clinical nurse leader, healthcare simulation, leadership in health systems, nursing education, public health nursing, and quality, safety, and risk management in healthcare.
Master's Prepared Nurse Salary Expectations in 2023
According to AACN, master's prepared nurses can demand six-figure salaries, although several factors, such as your area of specialization, location, work experience, and employer, can influence salary.
Although there can be salary variations between different master's degree graduate specialties, an overview of MSN salaries per specialization is provided below.
Salary Expectations for Non-clinical MSN Graduates
- Mean Hourly: $49.00
- Mean Annual: $102,869.00
- Lowest 25% Hourly: $36.00
- Lowest 25% Annual: $74,000.00
- Top Hourly Pay: $78.00
- Top Annual Pay: $163,000.00
- Mean Hourly: $41.00
- Mean Annual: $85,780.00
- Lowest 25% Hourly: $31.00
- Lowest 25% Annual: $64,000.00
- Top Hourly Pay: $60.00
- Top Annual Pay: $125,500.00
- Mean Hourly: $44.00
- Mean Annual: $92,533.00
- Lowest 25% Hourly: $38.00
- Lowest 25% Annual: $78,500.00
- Top Hourly Pay: $56.00
- Top Annual Pay: $116,000.00
Related: 10 Best DNP Programs in 2023
Salary Expectations for APRN MSN Graduates
- Mean Hourly: 53.77
- Mean Annual: $111,840.00
- Lowest 25% Hourly: $39.14
- Lowest 25% Annual: $81,410.00
- Top Hourly Pay: $73.16
- Top Annual Pay: $152,160.00
- Mean Hourly: $54.00
- Mean Annual: $112,257.00
- Lowest 25% Hourly: $40.00
- Lowest 25% Annual: $83,000.00
- Top Hourly Pay: $76.00
- Top Annual Pay: $159,000.00
- Mean Hourly: $58.87
- Mean Annual: $122,450.00
- Lowest 25% Hourly: $37.27
- Lowest 25% Annual: $77,510.00
- Top Hourly Pay: $82.32
- Top Annual Pay: $171,230.00
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, APRN jobs are projected to grow much faster than the average of any other occupation, at 40% from 2021 to 2031.
While there is no specific data on graduate-level non-clinical nursing needs, with the current state of healthcare, it can be assumed that this industry will also grow as nursing leaders are needed to advocate and implement the change required to transform the healthcare system.
FAQ and Additional Readings
Q: How do I know if a program and university are accredited?
A: The following are the main MSN accrediting bodies approved by the U.S. Department of Education:
- Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
- Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
- Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME)
- Nurse Practitioner Residency Training Program (NNPRFT)
Q: What does certification mean when discussing Nurse Practitioners?
A: Like the NCLEX, you must pass an NP exam before you can work as an APRN. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners has a list of nationally recognized accredited certification boards for prospective Nurse Practitioners.
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