10 Best BSN to MSN Programs in 2024

Are you seeking career advancement? Consider the best BSN to MSN programs in 2024, tailored for RNs with a bachelor's degree aiming to earn an MSN. Programs

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In the dynamic world of healthcare, the role of a nurse is ever-evolving. As a BSN RN, you've already demonstrated a commitment to the profession and have acquired a foundational understanding of nursing practices.

But what if you could elevate your expertise, broaden your horizons, and position yourself at the forefront of nursing leadership and innovation? The pursuit of a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) might be the next logical step in your professional journey.

The United States boasts many of these graduate-level academic degrees, each with its unique offerings and specializations. However this abundance of choices, while advantageous, can sometimes be overwhelming for aspiring students. To assist you in this decision-making process, we've meticulously researched and curated a list of the top 10 BSN to MSN programs available in 2024. Learn more about the nuances of the program as we shed light on its core components, prerequisites for admission, the curriculum you can expect, potential salary brackets, and the diverse career pathways that await you post-graduation.

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 a fast-track MSN program.

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 & 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 Outcomes

Non-Clinical MSN Roles:

Clinical APRN MSN Roles:

Related: 10 Best Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs in 2023

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 2024

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. 

1. California State University, Fresno

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:  $2,082 (6 or less credit units per semester); $3,588 (6.1 or more credit units per semester); $ 396 (non-resident fee per credit unit per semester)
  • Credit Hours: 40
  • Clinical Hours: 630
  • Mode: On-campus, Online, or Hybrid
  • Duration: 2 years

2. University of Memphis

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:   $623 per credit (residents); $846 per credit (non-residents); $744 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. 

3. Duke University

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: $14,525 per semester
  • Semesters: 6-7
  • Credit Hours: 42-49
  • 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.

4. University of Texas at Arlington

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: $19,500
  • Credit Hours: varies
  • 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.

5. University of Texas Medical Branch

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: $1,452.67 per credit hour (in-state); $1,881.54 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. 

6. Azusa Pacific University 

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: 44-56
  • 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.

7. Carlow University 

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: 28 months

8. University of Maryland

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: $873 per credit / full-time and part-time online resident; $1,549 (out-of-state)
  • Credit Hours: 38-40; 66-72 for dual degree pathways
  • Mode: Hybrid or Online, depending on the program specialty
  • Duration: 2 years

9. Barry University 

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: $1,020 per credit hour
  • Credit Hours: 48-51
  • Mode: Hybrid
  • Duration: 2-2.5 years 

10. Drexel University 

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.  

Drexel's Dual Accelerated RN-BSN-MSN program is tailored for non-nursing bachelor's degree holders, focusing on technology, evidence-based practice, care customization, interdisciplinary leadership, and specialty track skills.

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: $888 per credit (accelerated RN-BSN-MSN); rates vary for the graduate program
  • 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.

BSN to MSN Costs 

When assessing the expenses for BSN to MSN programs, here's a detailed rundown of costs that prospective students should factor in:

  • Tuition Fees: The cornerstone of educational expenses, tuition varies depending on the nature of the institution, delivery method of the program, and whether you qualify for in-state rates.
  • Course Materials and Tech Costs: Budget for textbooks, nursing equipment, and potential technology fees for digital learning tools and online course access.
  • Practical Experience Costs: Account for expenditures linked to lab sessions and clinical rotations, which can include transport, accommodations, and facility fees.
  • Post-Graduation Costs: Consider the fees for certification exams, APRN licensure, as well as membership dues for joining nursing associations that provide professional development resources.
  • Campus Visitation Expenses: For programs with on-site requirements, factor in the costs for travel, temporary housing, or potential relocation.
  • Healthcare and Compliance Costs: Some MSN programs might require current health insurance and specific immunizations, adding to the overall financial picture.
  • Administrative Expenses: Don't overlook application and graduation fees, along with other miscellaneous costs incurred throughout the program.
  • Earning and Learning Balance: Reflect on the potential income changes if you need to adjust work commitments, and investigate financial aid options that can offset tuition costs.

Strategic Financial Planning for MSN Studies

Approaching the financial side of master's studies demands strategic thinking and proactive resource management:

  • Search for Scholarships: Investigate scholarship opportunities offered by medical institutions and nursing associations which can reduce the financial burden.
  • Consider Work-Study Options: Engage in work-study arrangements for financial aid that doesn't impact your educational goals.
  • Explore Federal Funding: Prioritize early applications for federal financial support to secure loans and grants with preferential conditions.
  • Loan Literacy: Fully understand loan agreements, especially those from federal sources, to ensure favorable repayment terms.
  • Cost-Effective Program Selection: Investigate the most economically viable MSN programs as part of your strategy to lower educational expenses.

Crafting a financial plan for your MSN program should involve careful consideration of all funding avenues, a judicious choice of educational programs, and a clear understanding of the associated costs.

MSN Salary Expectations in 2024

According to American Association of Colleges of Nursing (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

Clinical Nurse Leader

  • Mean Hourly: $41.00
  • Mean Annual: $84,631.00
  • Lowest 25% Hourly: $33.00
  • Lowest 25% Annual: $68,000.00
  • Top Hourly Pay: $60.00
  • Top Annual Pay: $124,000.00

Nurse Administrator

  • Mean Hourly: $42.00
  • Mean Annual: $86,775.00
  • Lowest 25% Hourly: $32.00
  • Lowest 25% Annual: $67,000.00
  • Top Hourly Pay: $55.00
  • Top Annual Pay: $113,500.00

Nurse Educator

  • Mean Hourly: $41.00
  • Mean Annual: $85,955.00
  • Lowest 25% Hourly: $33.00
  • Lowest 25% Annual: $69,500.00
  • Top Hourly Pay: $55.00
  • Top Annual Pay: $114,000.00

Related: 10 Best DNP Programs in 2023

Salary Expectations for APRN MSN Graduates

Nurse Practitioner

  • 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

Clinical Nurse Specialist

  • Mean Hourly: $42.00
  • Mean Annual: $87,359.00
  • Lowest 25% Hourly: $30.00
  • Lowest 25% Annual: $62,500.00
  • Top Hourly Pay: $61.00
  • Top Annual Pay: $126,000.00

Nurse Midwife

  • 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 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, APRN jobs are projected to grow much faster than the average of any other occupation, at 38% from 2022 to 2032.

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.  

Are BSN to MSN Programs Worth It?

When contemplating the transition from a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), it's essential to consider the specific benefits and potential drawbacks associated with BSN-to-MSN programs.

Pros of BSN to MSN Programs

  1. Streamlined Education Pathway: These programs offer a direct route for BSN-prepared nurses to advance their education, often with the flexibility to work simultaneously, thanks to online or part-time options.
  2. Customized Specializations: BSN to MSN programs typically offer various tracks, enabling nurses to hone skills in specific fields, from family care to informatics or nurse leadership.
  3. Career Mobility: BSN to MSN programs cater to RNs seeking broader career opportunities. MSN credentials pave the way for specializations and advanced roles that aren't accessible with a BSN alone.
  4. Leadership and Autonomy: An MSN equips nurses with the tools for leadership, potentially leading to roles in management, policy-making, or independent practice depending on the state laws.
  5. Interdisciplinary Opportunities: Graduates may have the chance to collaborate across various healthcare sectors, contributing to multidisciplinary teams and shaping comprehensive patient care.

Cons of BSN to MSN Programs

  1. Substantial Investment: The cost of advancing from a BSN to MSN can be considerable, accounting for tuition, materials, and potential income loss if reducing work hours.
  2. Intense Academic Workload: Nurses must manage rigorous coursework on top of their professional duties, which can be a significant strain, particularly for those juggling family responsibilities.
  3. Emotional and Physical Toll: The stress associated with graduate studies, clinical requirements, and maintaining employment can impact mental health and wellness.
  4. Job Market Competition: Certain MSN specializations may lead to a crowded job market, requiring graduates to be flexible in location or role to secure employment.
  5. Varied Return on Investment: The financial and professional payoff of an MSN can depend greatly on regional demand for advanced practice nurses and the chosen specialty's compensation trends.

For nurses weighing the decision to pursue a BSN-to-MSN program, these considerations should be balanced against long-term career aspirations and personal circumstances.

Importance of BSN to MSN Program Accreditation

Pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree after a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) underscores the need for accredited programs, due to several key reasons:

  • Ensuring Quality Education: Accreditation serves as a seal of approval that a BSN to MSN program meets high educational benchmarks and is subject to ongoing evaluations for quality.
  • Skill Enhancement: These programs are geared towards imparting advanced competencies required to tackle current healthcare needs effectively.
  • Embracing Innovation: Accredited programs continually incorporate new research and cutting-edge practices, equipping nurses with up-to-date knowledge for the field.
  • Practical Training: A certain amount of clinical practice hours, mandated by accreditation standards, are vital for real-world nursing competencies.
  • Pathway to Licensure: Accredited programs are crucial as they provide the necessary education credentials for nursing certifications and state licensure.
  • Increased Job Prospects: Employers prefer graduates from accredited programs due to their rigorous training in line with national educational standards.
  • Educational Mobility: Credits earned from an accredited BSN to MSN program are more likely to be recognized for advanced studies or transfers.
  • Elevated Professional Status: Graduates of accredited programs gain a competitive edge and respect in the nursing profession, reflecting a high caliber of education.
  • Financial Aid Opportunities: Federal financial aid often requires accreditation status, which can be pivotal in financing one's nursing education.

For a robust foundation in nursing leadership and educational roles, prioritize a BSN to MSN program accredited by entities like the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), or the National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (NLN CNEA).

Navigating MSN Scope, Certification & Licensing

The range of practice, along with the requirements for certification and licensure for MSN graduates, varies based on the specific field of specialization and if they are on the path to becoming an APRN.

MSN APRN Organizations & Certifying Bodies

The extent of autonomy and practice for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) is largely determined by state legislation. Those in pursuit of an MSN must select a program that is tailored to the legislative requirements of their intended practice location. Opting for programs that provide training relevant across state lines is particularly advantageous for those who might consider moving, as it offers greater career versatility.

  • Nurse Midwifery: Engage with the practice boundaries and state-advised protocols through resources like the American College of Nurse-Midwives and achieve certification via the American Midwifery Certification Board.
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist: Understand the scope of practice and state directives from the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists. For certifications in various specialties, consult either the NACNS or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
  • Nurse Practitioners: Gather comprehensive scope of practice information from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and seek national certification through boards like the AANPCB and the ANCC.

The regulatory boards of nursing in each state delineate the scope of practice for APRNs, often dividing the level of practice into full, reduced, or restricted categories. National certification commonly precedes state licensure and is a critical requirement for all MSN-prepared APRN roles.

Guidance for MSN Graduates in Non-Clinical Roles

Some MSN graduates may follow non-clinical career paths and, therefore, might not seek APRN classification. Those focusing on areas such as leadership or academia will need to substantiate their expertise with specific certifications:

  • Nursing Leadership: Contemplate credentials like the Nurse Executive Certification (NE-BC) or the Nurse Executive Advanced Certification (NEA-BC) offered by the ANCC.
  • Management and Leadership: For those aiming for administrative roles, the Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML) credential provided by the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) is pertinent.
  • Nursing Education: For a career in nursing education, the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) offered by the National League for Nursing is an appropriate qualification.

Proactive Steps

MSN degree holders must be conversant with the certifications associated with their specialized fields. Such awareness is vital to meet professional benchmarks and adhere to state mandates, ensuring a seamless passage from the educational phase to a thriving professional career.

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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Editorial Team / Admin

Erin Lee has 12 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Critical Care, Procedural, Care Coordination, LNC.

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