7 Shortest Online RN to MSN Programs | 2024

Discover the shortest online RN to MSN programs available in 2024, along with information about the prerequisites, requirements, costs, salary expectations, and more. Programs

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Whether you're a practicing nurse or a prospective student mapping out your education, we've got you covered. Learn everything you need to know about the shortest online RN to MSN programs available in 2024 as we explore their nuances and outlooks after graduation.

What Is an Online RN to MSN Program?

An online RN to MSN (Registered Nurse to Master of Science in Nursing) program is a specialized educational pathway designed for registered nurses who want to advance their nursing education and career. These programs allow RNs, typically with an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a nursing diploma, to earn their Master's degree in Nursing without first obtaining a Bachelor's degree. The online format provides flexibility, making it easier for working nurses to balance their professional responsibilities with academic pursuits.

Careers from an RN to MSN program include:

  • Nurse Practitioner (NP): Specializes in primary or acute care, providing advanced nursing services to patients.
  • Nurse Educator: Focuses on teaching and training future nurses in academic or clinical settings.
  • Clinical Nurse Leader: Oversees the integration of patient care, assesses risks, and coordinates care across different settings.
  • Nurse Administrator/Manager: Manages nursing staff, budgets, and policy planning in healthcare facilities.
  • Nurse Informaticist: Works at the intersection of nursing, information systems, and data management to improve healthcare outcomes.

Standard RN to MSN vs. Shortest RN to MSN Programs

While both enable graduates to earn certification and begin practicing in their chosen field of nursing, there are differences between standard RN to MSN and the shortest RN to MSN programs.

Standard RN to MSN Programs:

  • Typically take about 2-3 years to complete.
  • Offer a comprehensive curriculum covering both undergraduate and graduate-level nursing concepts.
  • May include a broader range of elective courses and specialization options.

Shortest RN to MSN Programs:

  • Designed to be completed in a shorter time frame, sometimes as little as 18-24 months.
  • More intensive, with a condensed curriculum focusing on essential graduate-level nursing concepts.
  • May have fewer elective options and require a more significant time commitment per semester.

Online RN to MSN Coursework

The coursework in an online RN to MSN program typically includes:

  • Advanced Nursing Practice: Focuses on advanced skills in patient assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.
  • Healthcare Policy and Ethics: Covers the legal and ethical aspects of healthcare delivery and policy.
  • Research Methods in Nursing: Teaches the principles of research in nursing practice.
  • Leadership and Management in Nursing: Prepares nurses for leadership roles in healthcare settings.
  • Pathophysiology and Pharmacology: Advanced study of disease processes and the use of medications in treatment.
  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention: Focuses on strategies for promoting health and preventing illness.

Online RN to MSN Clinical Training

Clinical training in an online RN to MSN program typically involves:

  • Supervised Clinical Hours: Hands-on patient care under the supervision of experienced practitioners.
  • Specialty Practice Areas: Opportunities to gain experience in specific areas of interest, such as pediatrics, geriatrics, or acute care.
  • Clinical Projects or Capstones: Real-world projects or research in a clinical setting.
  • Simulation and Virtual Labs: Use of technology to simulate clinical scenarios for skill development.

Shortest Online RN to MSN Programs

The following schools have been selected based on allnurses' methodology of surveying our readers to understand what they value most, with the addition of graduation rates, student-faculty ratio, price, mode, duration, and admission rates of hundreds of the most prominent nursing schools in the United States.

1. Chamberlain University

Chamberlain University offers a comprehensive RN to MSN program, recognized as the largest in the US. The program is designed for registered nurses with an active RN license, providing options to earn either a BSN, MSN, or both. The program is available in two formats: the RN-BSN to MSN option and the Accelerated RN to MSN option.

Program Options:

  • RN-BSN to MSN Option: Allows RNs to earn both BSN and MSN degrees, making it cost and time-effective. The program can be completed in as few as 8 semesters with full-time enrollment.
  • Accelerated RN-MSN Option: Designed for RNs who wish to directly pursue their MSN degree, with an option to specialize in Clinical Nurse Leadership. This accelerated path can be completed in less than four semesters.

2. Charleston Southern University

Charleston Southern University offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program designed for flexibility and support, allowing nurses to pursue advanced education while working. The program is structured with five-week intensive classes, focusing on one class at a time, and emphasizes hands-on learning and teaching projects.


  • Nursing Leadership and Healthcare Administration: Focuses on combining nursing knowledge with leadership skills.
  • Nursing Education: Prepares nurses for roles in nursing education, integrating nursing expertise with educational preparation.


  • 16 months for full-time BSN-MSN
  • 19 months for full-time ADN-MSN

3. East Tennessee State University

East Tennessee State University (ETSU) offers a fully online RN-MSN program, designed for registered nurses with a non-nursing BA/BS degree. The program focuses on providing a rural health perspective and interprofessional experiences, along with simulation opportunities.


  • Full-time BSN-MSN: 16 months
  • Full-time ADN-MSN: 19 months


  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Nursing Education
  • Nursing Administration

4. Franklin University

Franklin University offers a CCNE-accredited RN to MSN program in a streamlined admission path that quickly gets students on track to earn their graduate degree. The program can be completed 100% online.


  • 16-30 months


  • AGNP
  • FNP
  • Nurse Administration

5. Post University

Post University offers an online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing/Master of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN/MSN) program. This dual-degree bridge program is designed for nurses aiming to advance their academic goals. It allows students to seamlessly transition from BSN to MSN studies, with a choice of five specializations.

Duration: 24 to 42 months


  • Management and Organizational Leadership
  • Nursing Education
  • Case Management
  • Infection Prevention and Control
  • Nursing Informatics

Program Highlights:

  • Tailored for working professionals, offering convenience and adaptability.
  • Provides flexibility in enrollment and course commencement.
  • 57 Nursing-Specific Credit Hours
  • Individualized Practice Experiences with customized clinical experiences to meet personal and professional goals.
  • The program is accredited by the CCNE.

Learning Tracks:

  • Term Based (All Specializations): Features 8-week terms with consistent due dates, allowing one class at a time.
  • SIMPath® (Non-NP Specializations Only): Offers a 16-week semester, self-paced format, allowing students to complete as many classes as they can within the semester.

6. Herzing University

Herzing University's CCNE-accredited RN to MSN program is designed for RNs with an ADN who wish to advance their careers by earning an MSN. The university boasts a career-focused curriculum, flexible schedule, virtual services, lifelong support, and rolling admissions.

Key Features:

  • Accelerated Program: Designed to fast-track nurses from RN to MSN in 20-28 months
  • ADN/ASN required for admission
  • The online format provides flexibility for working nurses to complete their degrees while managing professional responsibilities.

7. DePaul University

DePaul's RN to MSN program helps students develop the skills and credentials needed to become Nurse Administrators, Nurse Educators, FNPs, and AGNPs. The entire program is offered online except for clinical hours. It can be completed in as little as 24 months.

Program Highlights:

  • 91% of nursing graduates are employed within 6 months
  • $61k reported median salary for nursing graduates

Shortest Online RN to MSN Program Prerequisites & Requirements

The shortest online RN to MSN programs have specific prerequisites and requirements that candidates must meet to be eligible for enrollment, ensuring they're prepared for the intensity and level of study needed to succeed.

Shortest Online RN to MSN Prerequisites

  • Active RN License: Unencumbered RN licensure in the state where you plan to complete your clinical hours.
  • Nursing Diploma or ADN: From an accredited nursing program.
  • Minimum GPA: A specified minimum GPA, often around 3.0, in previous nursing coursework.
  • Clinical Experience: Some programs require a certain amount of clinical working experience as an RN.
  • Prerequisite Courses: Completion of specific undergraduate courses, such as statistics, anatomy, physiology, and Microbiology, with a minimum grade.

Shortest Online RN to MSN Requirements

  • Completion of Graduate-Level Coursework: Successful completion of all required courses in the MSN curriculum.
  • Clinical Practicum Hours: A set number of supervised clinical hours in a relevant healthcare setting.
  • Capstone Project or Thesis: Many programs require a research project or thesis relevant to advanced nursing practice.
  • Minimum Grade Point Average (GPA): Maintain a minimum GPA, often 3.0 or higher, throughout the program.
  • Licensure and Certification Preparation: Some programs are designed to prepare students for advanced practice licensure or certification exams in their chosen specialty.

Shortest Online RN to MSN Costs

While the costs of online RN to MSN programs will vary depending on many factors, typical considerations include:

  • Tuition Fees: Typically charged per credit hour; accelerated programs may have a higher per-semester cost due to the condensed nature.
  • Technology Fees: Additional charges for online learning platforms and technology support.
  • Books and Supplies: Cost of textbooks, software, and other educational materials.
  • Clinical Practicum Expenses: Costs associated with clinical placements, which may include travel and accommodation.
  • Licensing and Examination Fees: Expenses for licensure or certification exams post-graduation.

It's advised that students research potential financial aid, grants, and scholarship options to help offset the costs of their education.

Shortest Online RN to MSN Salary Expectations

Salaries for MSN graduates can significantly vary depending on factors such as specialty, location, experience, and the employing organization. Here's a concise overview of the average salaries for MSN graduates in the following professions, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

While the previous expectations are directional, prospective students should consider all of the various factors that affect these figures, while understanding that there are many other roles and salaries available after an RN to MSN program including Clinical Nurse Leader, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Nurse Informaticist, and more.

Are the Shortest Online RN to MSN Programs Worth It?

Determining whether the shortest online RN to MSN programs are worth it involves weighing the pros and cons based on individual career and personal goals. These accelerated programs can be highly beneficial for some, but they may not be the best fit for everyone. The decision largely depends on one's career aspirations, learning style, personal commitments, and ability to handle an intensive academic workload.

Shortest Online RN to MSN Pros

  • Time Efficiency: Complete your MSN faster, accelerating career advancement opportunities.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Potentially lower total tuition costs due to the shorter duration of the program.
  • Convenience and Flexibility: The online format allows for studying at your own pace and schedule, ideal for working professionals.
  • Intensive Learning: Rapidly build on existing knowledge and skills, which can be gratifying for those who thrive in fast-paced environments.
  • Career Advancement: Quicker transition to advanced roles in nursing, such as nurse practitioner, nurse educator, or leadership positions.

Shortest Online RN to MSN Cons

  1. High Intensity: The accelerated pace can be challenging, requiring significant time management and dedication.
  2. Limited Depth in Some Areas: The condensed timeframe might mean less in-depth coverage of certain topics compared to longer programs.
  3. Stress and Burnout: Balancing a rigorous academic schedule with work and personal life can lead to increased stress.
  4. Reduced Networking Opportunities: The fast pace might limit the time available for building professional relationships and networking.
  5. Potential for Overlooked Fundamentals: The quick progression through foundational subjects may not suit all learning styles, especially for those who need more time to assimilate complex concepts.

Ultimately, the value of the shortest online RN to MSN programs depends on individual circumstances and career goals.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: Can I transfer credits from previous nursing education towards the shortest online RN to MSN programs?

Many programs allow the transfer of credits from previous nursing education. However, the number of transferable credits and specific course requirements vary by program. It's important to check with the admissions office of the program you're interested in.

Q: How do fast-track RN to MSN programs incorporate evidence-based practice in their curriculum?

Fast-track RN to MSN programs integrate evidence-based practice throughout their curriculum. This includes core courses that focus on the latest research methods and application of evidence-based practices in clinical decision-making and healthcare policy, along with direct clinical experiences.

Q: Are there part-time options available for the shortest online RN to MSN programs, especially for those focusing on clinical systems leadership or health informatics?

Many programs offer part-time options to accommodate working professionals. This flexibility allows nurses to specialize in areas like clinical systems leadership or health informatics without disrupting their current employment. However, they may no longer be the shortest, considering how the duration in years to complete would increase on a part-time basis compared to full-time study.

Q: Do these programs offer specialization in public health nursing or population health?

Some of the shortest online RN to MSN programs offer tracks or electives in public health nursing and population health. These tracks focus on broader healthcare issues, community health, and preventive care strategies.

Q: How does clinical training in these programs prepare nurses for a career in health assessment and population health management?

Clinical training in these programs is designed to enhance skills in health assessment and population health management. Students engage in supervised clinical hours, working with diverse populations and learning to assess community health needs, plan interventions, and evaluate outcomes. This hands-on experience is crucial for developing the competencies needed for effective population health management in various healthcare settings.

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