Find RN to MSN Programs Near You
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Specialized RN to MSN Programs
- Clinical Nurse Leader Programs
- Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs
- RN to MSN/MBA Dual Degree Programs
- Nursing Administration Programs
- Nurse Educator Programs
- Nursing Informatics Programs
- Nurse Midwife Programs
- RN to Nurse Practitioner Programs
- Public Health Programs
- Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Programs
- Family Nurse Practitioner Programs
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs
- Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Programs
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Programs
What is an RN to MSN Program?
Definition of an RN to MSN Program
RN to MSN programs are designed for RNs who don’t have a BSN, but who would like to earn an MS or MSN in a field of advanced nursing. There are:
- RN to MSN programs for current RNs with a diploma or associate’s degree in nursing (e.g. ASN or ADN)
- RN to MSN programs for current RNs with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field (e.g. BS or BA)
Keep in mind that an RN to MSN is an in-depth graduate program—you’re going to be focusing your attention on a specific area (e.g. pediatrics, neonatology, informatics, nurse midwifery, public health, etc.). Even “generalist” programs such as the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) will still include advanced coursework in leadership & research and training in relevant skills.
Not sure if an MSN or MS in nursing is the best career path? Talk to your mentors & employers and browse through our RN to MSN specialty pages. It pays to know the territory before you have to fork over all that graduate tuition!
RN to MSN Options
RN to MSN (No BSN)
These programs streamline the process of earning a master’s degree in nursing. RNs take a set number of prerequisite undergraduate courses and then proceed directly into the MSN curriculum. They do not earn a BSN along the way.
There are a number of reasons why you might opt for this path:
- You have a core career goal (e.g. FNP) and you’d like to make the program as short & sweet as possible. You may even be able to study full-time.
- Your employer doesn’t need to see a BSN to promote you.
- You have plenty of clinical expertise to stick on your résumé and you don’t need to fit in extra years of work experience while you study.
RN to BSN to MSN
RN-BSN-MSN programs are designed to allow RNs to earn a BSN and an MSN. There are 3 major types:
- Programs that award a BSN as soon as undergraduate course requirements are met.
- Programs that award a BSN, but only alongside the MSN at the very end of the program.
- Programs that help nurses who hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field earn the BSN.
You might consider these programs if:
- You’d like to be eligible for BSN-related job promotions or pay raises while you continue to study for your MSN.
- You want the option to pull out of a master’s program but still keep your newly-earned BSN.
- You prefer to have the BSN and the MSN on your résumé.
We take a deeper look at these degrees in our guide to RN-BSN-MSN Programs.
RN to MSN Terminology
Accelerated RN to MSN
Programs that speed up the process of earning an MSN. There’s no consistency with this term—we’ve seen accelerated RN-BSN-MSN programs (i.e. you earn a BSN along the way) and accelerated RN-MSN programs (i.e. no BSN is awarded).
ADN to MSN
Programs for RNs who hold an ADN—these are usually RN-MSN degrees (i.e. no BSN is awarded).
Bridge RN to MSN
Another term for RN-MSN programs (i.e. no BSN is awarded). We’ve seen bridge programs for RNs with an ADN or ASN and bridge programs for RNs who have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field.
Direct Entry MSN
Programs designed for applicants who have a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing. Keep in mind that some direct entry MSN programs are designed for professionals who do not yet have an RN license.
Types of RN to MSN Programs
- Nurse Practitioner Specialties
- Nurse Midwife
- Clinical Nurse Specialist (APRN in Most States)
- Nursing Administration (Indirect Care)
- Clinical Nurse Leader (Direct Care)
- Clinical Nurse Specialist (APRN in Most States)
- RN to MSN/MBA Dual Degrees
Specific Career Paths
Note: By 2025, all nurses who wish to become Nurse Anesthetists will need to hold a doctorate (e.g. DNP). Therefore, Schools of Nursing no longer offer RN to MSN Nurse Anesthetists programs. Use the CRNA School Search to find a doctoral program in your area.
How Do RN to MSN Programs Work?
Regardless of the specialty, RN to MSN programs share a common core of admissions requirements, including:
- A relevant undergraduate qualification from a regionally accredited institution:
- A diploma or associate’s degree in nursing
- OR a bachelor’s degree (e.g. BS or BA) in a non-nursing field
- A current RN license
- At least one year of RN clinical experience
- A baseline undergraduate GPA (usually 2.75-3.0)—some schools will also want to look at GMAT or GRE scores, especially if your GPA is not very high
- Letters of professional/academic reference
These are baseline criteria—some schools may ask to see a portfolio (especially if you hold a BA or BS) or certain healthcare certifications; others will want to bring you in for an interview.
We should also point out that the experience requirement is going to depend on the program. For example, some RN to MSN Neonatal NP Programs expect to see 2 years of RN experience in a Level III NICU. Check the program website for details.
The first part of any RN to MSN program—whether it includes a BSN or not—is going to involve upper-level undergraduate coursework. Schools of Nursing will not let you proceed to the MSN portion of the program until you’ve earned good grades (e.g. B or above) on these courses. Generally speaking:
- Most undergraduate coursework in this phase will take 6 months-2 years to complete (it depends a great deal on the program).
- Common titles for these upper-level undergraduate courses include concepts & theories in nursing; research & evidence-based practice; community health nursing; nursing leadership & management; etc.
- Schools of Nursing will be assessing the transcript of your diploma, associate’s degree, or non-nursing bachelor’s degree to ensure you have completed certain science & liberal arts credits.
- Statistics and health assessment are standard prerequisites. If you can’t transfer the credits or present a health assessment portfolio, you will probably have to take those 2 courses through your new college or university.
Schools of Nursing have a lot of flexibility in this phase, so we recommend you put together a shortlist of options and take a look at each program website carefully. You may find that one RN to MSN program has 3 undergraduate courses and another has 8!
You’re going to see these courses in almost every MSN program on the planet. Foundation courses are related to advanced practice nursing, and include titles such as:
- Evidence-Based Practice
- Health Promotion
- Healthcare Policy
Schools may also include subjects such as informatics, ethics, biostatistics, etc.
Advanced Clinical Practice Courses
Sometimes known as the “3 Ps,” these courses are a key part of clinical nursing practice:
- Advanced Pathophysiology
- Advanced Pharmacology
- Advanced Physical/Health Assessment
They are almost always included in Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Midwife, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Clinical Nurse Leader, and Nursing Education programs. These are nursing roles where clinical expertise plays a significant part in the day-to-day routine. You’ll notice that many national certifications in these nursing specialties ask for proof of coursework in the 3 Ps.
However, the 3 Ps are not standard in programs that involve indirect care (e.g. Nursing Administration, Public Health, Nursing Informatics, etc.). We mention this because some nurses like to earn these course credits in the MSN and then apply them to a post-graduate certificate or DNP later in their career.
Concentration & Elective Courses
Concentration & elective courses vary widely from program to program—we go into a lot of depth about them in each RN to MSN specialty page.
Here a few things to consider as you’re assessing the programs on your shortlist:
- Some schools go heavy on advanced practice courses and don’t leave much time for concentration work. Take a close look at the curriculum to avoid disappointment.
- Concentration courses are often taken in tandem with practicums—be sure to plan your calendar accordingly.
- Adult Gerontology NP programs and Pediatric NP programs allow you to sub-specialize in primary care or acute care.
- In certain programs, you may be able to focus on a sub-specialty (e.g. oncology, critical care, rural health, etc.).
- Electives are often not included. If they are, you may be limited to 1-2 courses.
Finally, schools will often add a research-based capstone project to a curriculum.
MSN Clinical Hours / Practicums
Practicums (also known as rotations) are built into all RN to MSN programs. That’s because:
- Direct Care Training: Clinical practicums provide supervised & vital “on-the-ground” training for nurses in advanced specialties.
- Indirect Care Training: Even RN to MSN programs that involve indirect care will include opportunities for students to put their learning into practice.
It’s useful to note that:
- You may be expected to arrange the practicum site/s & clinical preceptor. Check the student handbook for details.
- You probably won’t be able to do your practicums in your current place of work.
- Many practicums are designed to give you the minimum clinical hours needed for national certification.
- Online RN to MSN programs will allow you to complete practicums in your home community.
- Some Schools of Nursing have special partnerships or close ties with local healthcare institutions (i.e. potential practicum settings).
We talk a lot more about the “ins and outs” of rotations in our RN to MSN specialty pages, but here are general estimates for minimum practicum hours:
- Nurse Practitioner Specialties: 600-800 clinical hours
- Nurse Midwife: 700-900 clinical hours
- Clinical Nurse Specialist: 500 clinical hours
- Clinical Nurse Leader: 400 clinical hours
- Nursing Education: ~100-300 hours involving teaching & education
- Nursing Informatics: 200 hours in informatics projects
- Nursing Administration: Highly variable
- Public Health: Highly variable
Note: Remember that you can always chat to program alumni for deeper intelligence on practicums.
RN to MSN State Licensure & National Certification
APRN State Licensure
Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (i.e. APRN) or Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (e.g. ARNP) licensure is required for the following fields:
- All Nurse Practitioner Specialties
- Nurse Midwife
- Clinical Nurse Specialist (APRN in Most States)
- Nurse Anesthetist (doctorate also required)
The best way to understand the APRN licensure procedure is to start with your State Board of Nursing (BON). In most cases, BONs will want to see:
- MSN/MS (or higher) in your clinical specialty
- Proof of graduate level coursework, including the 3 Ps:
- Advanced pathophysiology
- Advanced physical/health assessment
- Advanced pharmacology
- Proof that your graduate program contains clinical components and a minimum number of practicum hours
- Certification in your clinical specialty from a board-approved national certification organization
- Current & unencumbered RN license
Be sure to talk to the program coordinator about the state licensure procedure:
- On-Campus: If you’re enrolled in an on-campus RN to MSN program in your home state, the licensure process should be fairly straightforward.
- Online: Ask if your online degree components will meet your home state’s licensing criteria! State Boards of Nursing have specific rules & regulations regarding clinical experiences & distance learning programs.
Note: Looking at nurse midwifery? Your graduate program should be accredited by the ACNM Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME).
Almost all ACEN- and CCNE-accredited RN to MSN programs will prepare you for national certifications. These credentials are offered by a variety of nursing certification bodies (e.g. ANCC, AANP, NCC, etc.).
- Certification is usually a key requirement in APRN state licensure. The NCSBN has an APRN Certification Map that shows which states require national certification in order to practice as an APRN.
- Even if you are considering a program that only requires an RN license (e.g. Nursing Administration), certification will lead to greater job opportunities & better pay. Some insurance companies and employers may demand it.
- We provide detailed info on national certification requirements (mandatory & voluntary) under each RN to MSN specialty page.
Reputable Schools of Nursing are happy to talk about certification preparation. Don’t be afraid to ask the program coordinator about certification exam pass rates!
How to Choose an RN to MSN Program
Institutional Quality & Reputation
Every School of Nursing is going to have specific strengths & weaknesses. To get a sense of a school’s reputation, you can:
- Contact Program Alumni: Nurses almost always list their degree, graduation year, and their alma matter on their LinkedIn profiles. Reach out to people who’ve been through the same gauntlet!
- Participate in Online Discussion Boards: If the program is well-known, you’ll probably get plenty of opinions (positive and negative) about the teaching & curriculum.
- Check the School Ranking: Start with our rankings of the best online RN to MSN programs in the country. You can also browse U.S. News & World Report for annual rankings on the best nursing schools by degree, specialty, and delivery.
- Run Through Our Checklist: That list includes: Accreditation; Teaching Standards; Student Support; and Graduate Outcomes.
Hallmarks of Low-Quality RN to MSN Programs
Poor-quality RN to MSN programs will:
- Have low expectations for admissions requirements (e.g. no minimum GPA, no letters of recommendation, no prerequisites such as statistics, etc.)
- Have high faculty/student ratios
- Hire inexperienced, adjunct professors with little clinical expertise
- Use aggressive recruiting techniques to sign you up
- Drop the ball when it comes to learning support during the degree
- Ignore national certification standards in the curriculum
- Fail to include challenging courses with real-life applications
- Put little or no emphasis on team work & group projects
- Fail to oversee & monitor you during your clinical practicums
When it comes to RN to MSN programs, we recommend you look for:
- Regional Accreditation: Regional accreditation is granted to colleges and universities in all 50 states. Regional accreditation covers public (e.g. state universities) and private institutions (e.g. Marquette, Vanderbilt, etc.). Most of these institutions are non-profit.
- ACEN or CCNE Accreditation: An ACEN– or CCNE-accredited degree is frequently required for national certifications. See our section on Nursing School Accreditation for detailed info.
Almost all RN to MSN programs in our directory match these two criteria. But we should point out that we have included a small number of nationally accredited, for-profit schools (e.g. Aspen & Capella). They are ACEN- or CCNE- accredited, so we felt it was appropriate to offer you these choices.
Keep in mind that:
- To be eligible for graduate loans & scholarships, you may be required to attend a regionally accredited institution.
- When it comes to transferring course credits, many universities & colleges will only accept credits from a regionally accredited institution.
- National accreditation often covers for-profit institutions that offer vocational, career, and/or technical programs.
Non-Profit vs. For-Profit
Please talk to your mentors, check job descriptions, and read through online reviews & discussion boards before you make any decisions:
- Your choice will affect how people judge your résumé—employers pay close attention to whether your school is regionally accredited & non-profit.
- This is particularly true for programs involving clinical training—some employers (e.g. Allina Health) may go as far as to specify that they will not hire nurse practitioner graduates of proprietary or for-profit programs.
- Overall, for-profits tend to have a poor reputation for quality—even if your for-profit choice has good reviews, it may be tainted by association.
For the amount of tuition you’re paying, you deserve nothing but the best! Here are some tips for learning more about your future RN to MSN professors:
- Dig into the course catalog to find out who is in charge of teaching the mandatory courses.
- Look up their bios & credentials on their LinkedIn profiles.
- See if you can find any of their articles, research papers, and talks online.
- Read student reviews of their teaching style.
- Ask alumni for insider opinions.
A lot of RNs say student support is a key factor in getting them to graduation day. When you’re working, studying, and trying to live a life, you need all the help you can get! We favor RN to MSN programs that offer:
- Career counseling
- Job fairs and/or networking events
- Free tutoring
- Continuous support & guidance throughout the program
- Assistance with organizing practicums
- Opportunities for practicums or internships with local area healthcare institutions
- Relevant experiences (e.g. public health nursing in a developing country)
The great thing about RN to MSN programs? You can actually measure their success! Ask the program coordinator about the:
- Program retention rate
- Number of job offers at graduation
- Alumni employment rate after one year
- National certification exam pass rates
- Average student debt
How Can I Save Money on RN to MSN Programs?
MSN Scholarships & Fellowships
There are tons of graduate scholarships & fellowships open to nurses who are interested in the MSN. The trick is knowing where to look!
- Go beyond the federal programs (e.g. National Health Service Corps; NURSE Corps Scholarship Program; etc.) to consider State Board of Nursing (BON) scholarships and funding from State Nurses Associations.
- Visit the websites listed in the resource sections of our RN to MSN specialty pages. Professional organizations often have giant sections on professional development, graduate scholarships, fellowships, and other educational opportunities (e.g. work-study).
- Talk to the program coordinator about School of Nursing funding and dig into the graduate section under Financial Aid. You may qualify for general scholarships as well as nursing-specific funds.
- Expand your search to look for scholarships in your area of interest. For example, there is plenty of public health funding for graduate students in many fields (e.g. nursing, medicine, sociology, etc.).
Student Loan Ideas
A lot of RNs use state & federal education loans to subsidize their RN to MSN. But it’s helpful to know that:
- There are a number of federal loan repayment programs for nurses who agree to work in an underserved area or an Indian Health program (e.g. NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program).
- States also offer loan repayment programs for healthcare professionals (e.g. Massachusetts Loan Repayment Program (MLRP) for Health Professionals).
- State Boards of Nursing (BON) websites may be able to provide guidance & info on education loan options (e.g. North Dakota’s Nursing Education Loan Program).
- Nurses serving in the military—including active duty & reserve positions—are often eligible for superb benefits (e.g. U.S. Army’s Healthcare Professionals Loan Repayment Program).
If you plan to take out a student loan, it’s worth doing some career planning so you can land a job immediately after graduation. We have tips in the careers section of our RN to MSN specialty pages.
Online RN to MSN Programs
Online RN to MSN programs often turn out to be cheaper than brick & mortar options because:
- Schools don’t have to subsidize infrastructure (e.g. physical classrooms), so the per credit tuition rate is lower.
- You don’t waste time or money traveling to classes.
- You may not be paying as many mandatory fees.
Having said that, we should point out that you will have to take time out from work & travel to practicums. Some schools may also ask you to visit the campus for orientations or training sessions.
Note: For further advice, consult our guide to Online RN to MSN programs and always make sure the School of Nursing has ACEN or CCNE accreditation.
Public University Tuition Discounts
Because they’re subsidized, public universities (i.e. the state university system & city universities) tend to have lower tuition rates than private universities:
- In-State: If you live near a public university with a reputable School of Nursing (e.g. University of Pittsburgh), talk to the program coordinator about tuition breaks. Remember, too, that state employees and spouses of state employees may qualify for extra discounts.
- Out-of-State: If you’re looking at online RN to MSN programs in another state, you’ll discover that some public universities offer in-state tuition discounts to online students (e.g. University of South Alabama). Again, be sure the program is going to meet state licensure & national certification requirements before you commit.
Note: This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. Some private universities go out of their way to subsidize graduate nursing students (e.g. Vanderbilt’s Scholarship Funds), so it’s worth doing some calculations to see which option ends up being cheaper.
Employer Tuition Assistance/Reimbursement
Employers can be remarkably generous if they feel your MSN will improve their bottom line. Don’t be afraid to sit down with your supervisor or HR representative to discuss your options:
- Tuition Reimbursement: Large employers (e.g. healthcare systems & hospitals) may be willing to cover all—or at least some—of the tuition costs.
- Loan Forgiveness: Some employers will offer loan forgiveness programs if you agree to work for them for a set period of time.
- Creative Solutions: Even small employers may be able to help cut down on costs (e.g. paying for program fees; subsidizing your travel costs; granting time off for practicums; etc.).
Monthly Payment Plans
A number of schools have set up staggered payment plans (e.g. each month) that provide an interest-free alternative to lump-sum payments at the end of a semester or term.
- If you are working and can set aside a certain chunk of money per month, this is a useful way to keep a lid on your education expenses.
- It tends to work like a monthly bill—you set up direct debit from your bank account.
Note: We have even more advice & links to specific funding opportunities in How to Pay for Nursing School: A Complete Guide!
RN to MSN FAQs
Should I Choose an RN to MSN or RN to BSN?
The best way to answer this question is to talk to RNs in your field of interest who have gone down both paths. Can’t find anybody in your place of employment? Try LinkedIn, discussion boards, and professional organization networks listed under the resource section of our RN to MSN specialty pages.
Arguments for the RN to MSN
- You’re interested in a specific nursing specialty (e.g. midwifery).
- You want to qualify for leadership positions, pay bumps, and relevant promotions in your field.
- You’re ready for in-depth graduate study and clinical practicums.
- You want to earn MSN graduate credits that you could transfer to a post-graduate certificate or DNP when you have more money & time.
Arguments for the RN to BSN
- You’re interested in positions that don’t require a master’s degree (e.g. staff nursing).
- You’re not sure about specializing in a specific area of care.
- You have a tough time with academic work & self-directed study.
- You can’t take the time off work to complete the practicums.
- You’re seriously considering a BSN to DNP program.
Note: Remember that some RN-BSN-MSN programs allow you to pull out of the program once you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree.
How Much Does an RN to MSN Cost?
The overall cost of an RN to MSN program must include a number of factors:
- Overall Length: This will depend on the school, the specialty you choose, and whether you have a diploma, an ASN/ADN, or a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field.
- Specialty: Programs in clinical fields (e.g. nurse practitioner specialties) may be more expensive due to the courses & training involved.
- Associated Costs: These costs can include travel to clinical practicum sites, childcare, time off from work, etc.
- Reputation of the Program: Schools with fabulous reputations may have higher per credit costs due to better teachers, better facilities, and better training regimens.
- Online vs. On-Campus: Online RN to MSN programs are often cheaper than on-campus programs, but not always. Read the fine print.
RN to MSN Budget Template
- Cost per credit & number of credits
- Mandatory fees
- On-campus visit costs
- Cost of commute to practicum sites
- Childcare expenses
- Projected work pay (full-time or part-time)
- Employer tuition reimbursement
Remember that you’re going to be looking at an increase in pay once you hold an MSN. You can check the salary numbers in our RN to MSN specialty pages to see if the careers are worth the costs.
How Long is an RN to MSN Program?
It’s going to depend on a number of factors:
- Full-Time vs. Part-Time Study: If you can commit to full-time study, you may be able to get everything done in 2 years.
- Undergraduate Phase: Some schools like to make this as quick as possible; others want you to have a real grounding in nursing fundamentals. Your undergraduate qualification (e.g. ASN) will also affect the length of this phase.
- Undergraduate Credit Transfers: If you don’t have certain prerequisites (e.g. statistics), you’ll have to make them up.
- Whether You Include a BSN: RN-BSN-MSN programs may take longer than RN-MSN options.
- Specialty: Programs in clinical, direct care specialties may be longer due to the coursework and the minimum practicum hours required.
Visit our guide to the shortest online RN to MSN programs if you’re interested in earning your MSN quickly.
How Competitive Are RN to MSN Programs?
It varies widely. All kinds of elements will affect your chances of admission:
- Your choice of school (e.g. highly ranked Schools of Nursing are often very picky)
- Your specialty (e.g. FNP programs may attract tons of qualified applicants)
- Your level of RN expertise (e.g. with 5+ years in a Level III NICU, you’ll be an attractive Neonatal NP applicant)
- Your ability to demonstrate your interest in the field (e.g. through portfolios, work experiences, etc.)
- Your letters of reference
- Your baseline GPA
- Your GRE and GMAT scores
- Your location (e.g. you may be in a state with lots of schools who need students to fill their programs)
We talk about ways to gain relevant work experience & improve your chances of admissions in each RN to MSN specialty page.
How Hard Are RN to MSN Programs?
Again, it’s going to depend on which School of Nursing is offering the program. To keep up their rankings & reputations, strong schools will have high standards. They’re not going to give out easy grades or ignore missed deadlines.
To get sense of what an RN to MSN program is really like, talk to alumni. They’ll tell you the good and bad, as well as how much time it took per week for coursework, exams, group projects, and practicums.
We’d caution you to stay away from any programs that folks call “easy” or “a walk in the park.” An RN to MSN program is intended to train you for high-level nursing positions & build your reputation as an expert clinician. You don’t want to be unprepared when you head into a new job.
Can I Work During an RN to MSN?
The answer is yes, but we’ll add a few caveats:
- You can often complete coursework in the undergraduate phase while you’re working part-time or full-time.
- Once you hit the MSN portion of your degree, you may need to reevaluate your schedule.
That’s because programs that involve clinical fields (e.g. nurse practitioner specialties, nurse midwife, etc.) contain a lot of mandatory practicum hours. Nurse practitioner programs have 600-800 clinical hours of practicums; nurse midwives might end up with 700-900 clinical hours. So RNs sometimes get overwhelmed, even when they’re working part-time.
Talk to program alumni about the experience.
Life after the MSN
Once you have your MSN in hand, you have the freedom to decide whether you want to stop there or aim even higher.
Doctoral Programs (e.g. DNP)
- APRN Job Options: An MSN + state licensure + national certification is the standard for the majority of APRN nursing jobs. But this could change in the future—keep an eye on job descriptions, talk to your mentors, and read discussion boards for opinions on whether a DNP is necessary.
- Research Work: DNPs tend to go heavy on research & capstone projects. Some MSN graduates would rather amass relevant clinical experience through their job instead.
- University Professorships: If you’d like to become a university nursing professor in a clinical specialty, you will typically need to have a doctorate, an APRN license, and national certification. See our guide to RN to MSN Nursing Education Programs.
- Nurse Anesthetists: By 2025, all nurses who wish to become Nurse Anesthetists will need to hold a doctorate (e.g. DNP). Use the CRNA School Search to find a doctoral program in your area.
Other Master’s Degrees
- MBA: Applicants for top-level nurse executive positions (e.g. CNO) may need to have an MSN and an MBA. See our guide to RN to MSN/MBA Dual Degree Programs for more details.
- Public Health: Public health nurses have a choice between the MSN, the MPH, or the MSN/MPH. We talk about these options in our guide to RN to MSN Public Health Nursing Programs.
- PGC Options: Many schools now offer post-graduate certificates in fields of advanced nursing. These allow MSN graduates to specialize in another area of interest (e.g. informatics). You could save up some money & earn a certificate part-time.
- Nurse Practitioner PGC: If you’re interested in a post-graduate certificate in an NP specialty, try to cover the 3 Ps (advanced pharmacology, advanced pathophysiology & advanced physical/health assessment) in your initial RN to MSN program.
Note: Ask the program coordinator if you’ll be able to transfer any RN to MSN credits to a DNP or a post-graduate certificate.
As a newly minted MSN, you will be eligible for a wide variety of jobs, especially positions involving leadership responsibilities and independent practice. You can improve your prospects even more by:
- Researching job opportunities & setting up informational interviews during your MSN
- Applying for internships in places that you’d like to work
- Ensuring your practicums are held in a relevant setting (some institutions even end up hiring MSN practicum students)
- Taking full advantage of career services in the School of Nursing
- Applying for post-graduation fellowships that involve in-depth, supervised training experiences
We have an entire section on jobs—with links to career websites & job boards—under each RN to MSN specialty page.
The healthcare profession has a bad habit of paying nurses less than they’re due (especially females and nurses of color). The best way to combat this problem is to go into your interview fully armed with statistics. You’ll find wage data in the salary section on each RN to MSN specialty page.
In general, we’ve noticed that:
- Neonatal NPs and Psychiatric-Mental Health NPs tend to be the highest-paid nurse practitioner specialties. Certified Nurse Midwives also have strong salaries, especially in outpatient care centers. These numbers reflect the level of work responsibilities involved in high-octane fields.
- The average annual salaries for Family NPs, Women’s Health NPs, and Pediatric NPs are very close to each other.
- Clinical Nurse Specialists, who are regarded as APRNs in most states, can demand higher salaries than Clinical Nurse Leaders.
- Nurse Educators in clinical settings (e.g. specialty hospitals) get paid more than nurse educators in colleges, universities, and professional schools.
- According to public health nursing stats amassed by job sites, public health nurses have higher average annual salaries than community health nurses.
Overall, salaries for MSN graduates often reflect the cost of living in a metro area/state. Factor the price of groceries, utilities & housing into your career equations!