In response to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing statement on the importance of academic progression in nursing, many nursing colleges and universities now offer Registered Nurses (RNs) the option to earn a Master’s degree in Nursing without attending a dedicated Bachelor’s degree program first. Commonly referred to as RN to MSN programs, these academic programs build upon previous credits earned and the nursing experience you already possess. They offer a seamless route of progressing from basic nursing practice into an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) role.
There are several routes and specialties available for RN to MSN programs, including those that result in a Nurse Practitioner degree, a Clinical Nurse Leader degree and several different Master’s in Nursing degrees with a variety of foci. To find RN to MSN degree programs in your area, look through the list of schools and programs provided on our site. We have taken the time to find your options, and to compile important data about each school. Our nurse editor has also taken the time to ensure that our site has up to date, relevant information about what you can do with this versatile degree.
Nursing schools that offer an RN to MSN bridge programs typically have a few different focus areas available. Most RN-MSN programs require 20-30 credit hours for the Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) component and anywhere from 30 to 50 semester hours of graduate level courses. You earn your BSN during these programs, and then progress toward your Master’s in Nursing as you continue the program.
There are prerequisite courses that must usually be completed prior to admission to an RN to MSN program, but it is likely that you have already earned them in your entry level nursing studies. You may also be required to meet GPA requirements of 2.75 or higher in these courses to be considered for admission. You can check with the school you are interested in to verify exact prerequisites, but the most common include:
- Anatomy & Physiology I & II
- Lifespan Growth & Development
- Introductory Psychology and Sociology
Once you have ensured you meet your school’s prerequisite requirements and have been accepted into an RN to MSN program, you can expect to begin your studies with Bachelor’s level nursing courses. These courses will give you the enhanced theoretical and practice based nursing knowledge you will need to move on to graduate level nursing courses. Instead of circumventing important pieces of Baccalaureate nursing education, these programs actually incorporate important pieces, effectively creating the bridge to Master’s level learning.
Once you move on to Master’s level courses in your RN to MSN program, you will likely be able to select a specialty route, based on your specific interests. We have provided a thorough listing of the most common MSN specialties available, and you can explore them all on our site. One of the most common bridge programs prepares you in the field of Nursing Education and relates directly to the end-goal of increasing both the number of nurses and nursing faculty in the nation. While some programs may differ slightly based on the focus you choose, you can expect to take courses similar to those listed below as you complete your RN to Master’s in Nursing program.
While there are several different focus options for earning your MSN, there are some core courses that are typically required across most RN to MSN programs. These courses are designed to give you the background you need for success in roles within Nursing Administration, Education, Leadership and Clinical Excellence. Core courses include:
- Nursing Research and Clinical Trials
- Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Vulnerable and Diverse Populations
- Nursing Leadership and Development
- Organizational and Systems Leadership in Nursing
- Advanced Physical Assessment
- Principles of Advanced Nursing Practice
- Advanced Pharmacology for the Nursing Professional
- Healthcare Ethics
- Nursing Bridge Integrative Practicum
Once you complete your core Master’s in Nursing curriculum, you will likely then finish your RN to MSN program by completing around 20 hours of specialized curriculum that relates directly to your chosen focus, whether it be Nursing Education, Health Policy, Administration or many others.
If you are planning to enter into an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) role in Direct Patient Care, i.e. Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Anesthetist or Certified Nurse Midwifery, you will be required to complete additional clinical hours and courses that related specifically to your area of practice. To learn more about these specialties and the options for study, visit our specialty pages.
Once you have completed your RN to MSN program, you will be prepared to practice in your chosen field with a strong sense of autonomy, independence and nursing knowledge. We believe that well educated nurses are the backbone of a well-organized healthcare system, and that is why we are committed to providing you with the resources you need for educational success.
Take some time to review the RN to MSN options, then select those schools you are interested in to request more program information. You can request as many program materials as you need to make a well informed decision, as we understand that it may take some time to decide which RN to MSN route is best for you. If you have additional questions that cannot find answers to on our site, feel free to contact our Nurse Editor for more detailed information.
We are thrilled that you are thinking of expanding your nursing education and will continue to offer you the resources you need to make a difference in the world of nursing!