Examine our school listings to learn more about costs, curricula, and quality factors. Explore highly ranked offerings from top names like UVA and GMU. Find out if you can apply for online RN to MSN programs in Virginia. And learn which public universities are offering the cheapest Virginia RN to MSN programs to in-state residents.
Wondering about your prospects after graduation? Have a look at our discussion of Virginia’s healthcare landscape and our large section on jobs for Virginia RN to MSN graduates. This area contains info on current employment hotspots, links to job boards and salary reports, and a full list of VA nursing associations & organizations.
Online RN to MSN Programs in Virginia
We found one university in Virginia that was willing to an offer an online RN to MSN pathway—James Madison University. Having said that, a number of your other options, including Shenandoah and George Mason, have hybrid concentrations that don’t require a great deal of time on campus. So check ’em all out!
- At JMU, the CNL and Nursing Administration concentrations are 100% online (with the possible exception of intensive dates). The remaining specialties are delivered in a hybrid/blended format.
- JMU uses the CANVAS course management system, which allows professors to create asynchronous discussions, archive lectures, and post syllabi, quizzes, and presentations. Students also have access to online bulletin boards and occasional online work groups.
- You can ask the program coordinator how many face-to-face visits are required. These meetings might involve guest speakers or student project presentations.
JMU is a member of SARA, which means State Authorization is—usually—fairly straightforward for out-of-state residents in non-NP concentrations. Talk to the program coordinator to be sure.
Cheapest RN to MSN Programs in Virginia
Our ranking of the most affordable Virginia RN to MSN programs is based on per credit graduate tuition rates. But it’s just a start! Each program and concentration in our school listings will have a different number of credits, different fees, and different transfer policies. In other words, a more “expensive” school may end up being cheaper for your needs.
- James Madison University: In-State (Out-of-State is much higher)—View Tuition Rates
- George Mason University: In-State (Out-of-State can be almost 3 times as high)—View Tuition Rates
- University of Virginia: In-State (Out-of-State is much higher)—View Tuition Rates
- Shenandoah University: View Tuition Rates
Overall, Virginia public programs are a good deal for in-state students—you can earn a hybrid or online MSN from a highly respected university and you may qualify for scholarships or employer reimbursement. Even Shenandoah’s prices are fairly reasonable.
Out-of-state students who are interested in public options should put together a detailed budget before committing. Virginia has some of the highest non-resident graduate tuition rates that we’ve seen among states.
Virginia’s Healthcare Landscape
Virginia is a conundrum wrapped in a healthcare puzzle. On the one hand, it’s a relatively healthy state:
- It has a wide-ranging network of excellent hospitals & healthcare systems that are affiliated with big-name universities. According to Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, Virginia hospitals are some of the safest in the country.
- In 2018, thousands of Virginia residents, including low-income adults in small towns and rural areas, gained Medicaid coverage under a bipartisan expansion plan approved by state lawmakers.
- According to America’s Health Rankings, childhood poverty rates have been dropping and primary care physician numbers have been rising in recent years.
- In 2018, a change in state law gave Virginia nurse practitioners the chance to achieve full independent practice authority after completing 5 years of full time clinical experience as a licensed NP under a practice agreement with a physician.
On the other hand, it still faces some significant challenges. Again, according to data from America’s Health Rankings, the state has been experiencing a rise in frequent mental distress and often suffers from low per capita health funding.
Healthcare problems are often more readily apparent in rural counties. If you look at Virginia’s County Health Rankings, you’ll notice that areas in Southern Virginia and some counties bordering West Virginia have it much harder than counties to the north. Think of names like Mecklenburg, Brunswick, Charlotte, Halifax, and Greensville. In the U.S. Rural Health Report Card, Virginia frequently gets an abysmal grade. In 2018:
- The poverty rate in rural Virginia was 6% higher than the rate in urban areas.
- Low birth rates were a particular problem, giving Virginia a grade of F.
- Virginia ranked last in the nation for urban/rural difference in mortality. The age-adjusted mortality rate in rural Virginia was 30% higher than the rate in urban counties.
The result of these trends may be a greater demand for Virginia FNPs (including those with independent practices), nurse midwives, and primary care providers in non-urban areas. PMHNPs who are equipped to handle complex mental health issues may also be needed.
Jobs for Virginia RN to MSN Graduates
Career Outlook for RN to MSN Graduates
We’re pleased to report that Virginia’s Board of Nursing posts annual NP Workforce Survey Reports and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes detailed job & wage data for Nurse Practitioners and Nursing Instructors & Teachers, Postsecondary. Not only that, but the BLS also provides intriguing employment maps that allow you to compare regions and states. Hover over an area to see the data points.
For example, experienced RNs in Virginia won’t be surprised to hear that the main hotspots for NP jobs are the metropolitan areas around Arlington/Alexandria (i.e. Washington D.C. border), Richmond, and Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News.
- Richmond alone sustains around 27% of the state’s NPs, with the Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads area not far behind. Only 10% of Virginia’s NPs worked in rural areas in 2018.
- Many Virginia NPs are going where the healthcare systems are. The single largest employer of Virginia’s NPs is the inpatient department of hospitals, where 20% of all NPs have their primary work location.
- In 2018, Family Health was the most popular specialty for Virginia NPs (27%), followed by CRNAs (18% Acute Care/ER (8%), Pediatrics (8%), and PMHNPs (4%).
If you’re aiming for a hospital job, be sure to take a look at U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of the Best Hospitals in Virginia and ANCC’s list of Magnet Facilities in Virginia. Sure, many of these hospitals are in Richmond, Arlington, Alexandria, and the Norfolk area. But you could also consider names like Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, and Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg.
Thanks to all of those big public universities you’ll see in the school listings, there are also plenty of nursing instructors in Virginia. As per usual, there tend to be clusters of jobs in the northeast (e.g. Shenandoah & GMU), the southeast (e.g. Old Dominion University), and Richmond (e.g. VCU and University of Richmond). But even the southwest Virginia nonmetropolitan area has a high concentration of employment.
Career Resources for Future APRNs
Virginia Nursing Job Boards
- VNA Career Center: Job listings for Virginia nurses, including APRNs, nurse educators, and nurse leaders
- VHHA Hospital Jobs in Virginia: Job openings in Virginia hospitals and healthcare systems
- VONEL Career Center: Job openings for Virginia nurse leaders
Virginia APRN Salary & Wage Data
- Annual Mean Wages for Virginia Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations: Categories can include “Nurse Practitioners,” “Nurse Midwives,” and “Nurse Anesthetists”
- Annual Mean Wages for Virginia Nursing Instructors & Teachers, Postsecondary
- AANP National Compensation Survey: Available to AANP members
Virginia Nursing Organizations
State Board of Nursing
Virginia Nursing Associations & Coalitions
- National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN): Virginia Chapters
- National Black Nurses Association (NBNA): Virginia Chapters
- Virginia Action Coalition (VAC)
- Virginia Council of Nurse Practitioners (VCNP)
- Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA)
- Virginia Nurses Association (VNA)
Virginia Nursing Specialty Organizations
- American College of Nurse-Midwives – Virginia Affiliate (Virginia ACNM)
- American Psychiatric Nurses Association – Virginia Chapter (APNA Virginia)
- Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrics and Neonatal Nurses – Virginia (AWHONN Virginia)
- Virginia Association of Nurse Anesthetists (VANA)
- Virginia Association of School Nurses (VASN)
- Virginia Emergency Nurses Association (Virginia ENA)
- Virginia League for Nursing (VLN)
- Virginia Nursing Students’ Association (VNSA)
- Virginia Organization of Nurse Executives and Leaders (VONEL)
- Virginia Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses Association (VSPAN)
Nursing School Overview
GMU is a large public research university in Fairfax with an excellent School of Nursing. For instance, it's often in the top 50 of U.S. News & World Report rankings for Best Nursing Schools. Pass rates for ANCC and NCLEX exams are well above the national mean. And it offers a number of graduate nursing scholarships to offset costs. FNP and AGNP can ask about the possibility of working in GMU's Mason and Partner (MAP) clinics. These are nurse-managed clinics that serve the uninsured, immigrant, and refugee communities in Prince William and Fairfax counties. Students who are committed to primary care & public health may also wish to collaborate with nursing faculty on the School's global health and telehealth & informatics projects. Independent reviews of GMU's graduate nursing programs are primarily positive. Students tend to like the convenience of the online coursework, the small class sizes, the variety of teaching methods & practicum experiences, and the chances for networking in the area. Hospitals in Northern Virginia will know the name!
RN to MSN Admissions & Curriculum
GMU's hybrid program is open to RNs with certain undergraduate prerequisites, a current RN license, an associate degree or diploma from an accredited nursing program, and substantial experience in nursing within the past 2 years. All applicants must have earned a minimum 3.0 GPA in nursing prerequisites and Mason Core/general education courses. Mason Core requirements are listed in the undergraduate RN to BSN pathway. Once all the prerequisite credits have been met, RN to MSN students take 1 bridge course (3 credits) in Community Health and Epidemiology. They can then proceed to the MSN portion of the program. The FNP and AGNP concentrations are 49 credits, the Nurse Educator concentration is 41 credits, and the Nursing Administration concentration is 39 credits. The master's degree can be completed in 2 years on a full-time basis or 3 years on a part-time basis, including work on clinical practicums. Many of the courses are offered online, though there are on-campus classes. If you're interested in the FNP, check to see if RN to MSN students can apply for the 100% online version.
Nursing School Overview
JMU is a large public research university in Harrisonburg, about one hour away from Winchester and Shenandoah University. Because it's public, in-state graduate rates for students in the School of Nursing are remarkably reasonable. JMU also has a habit of appearing in U.S. News & World Report's rankings of the top 30 Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs and top 110 of Best Nursing Schools. The 100% online MSN concentrations tend to have an intimate feel (e.g. average class size of 16), savvy faculty (92% have a Ph.D. or terminal degree), and strong results. 100% of students are employed after graduation and most folks take only 2 years to graduate. Hybrid programs can boast of similar achievements - in recent years, the FNP pass rate has been 94% on the first attempt. To engage with the community, the School has established an Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services, which offers all kinds of outreach programs and clinical services to the local area. And when it comes to simulation & clinical training, the School has over 7,000 square feet of learning space in its new Health and Behavioral Studies building. We didn't see many independent reviews of JMU's graduate nursing programs on the web, but BSN students seem very happy with their experiences. One nursing reviewer noted that the level of workforce preparation was excellent.
RN to MSN Admissions & Curriculum
For the MSN program, JMU is willing to consider RNs who have an ADN and a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field (e.g. BA or BS). Candidates in this category should have a cumulative GPA of 2.8 or higher on their undergraduate work (3.0 GPA is required for NP and Nurse Midwifery applicants), a current and unrestricted RN license, relevant professional clinical experience, certain prerequisites (e.g. Statistics), and 2 professional recommendations. Students applying for Nurse Midwifery or the PMHNP will also need to meet Shenandoah University requirements. Transcript analyses will be conducted on your degrees to see if you have any gaps in meeting the Essentials of a BSN. During this transcript review, your plan of study may expand to include up to 11 extra undergraduate credits. After that, you can tackle the MSN. The CNL and Nurse Administrator concentrations are 100% online with the exception of intensive dates; the remaining concentrations are hybrid. We recommend you check each program page to see how much time will be needed on-campus. For example, FNP and AGPCNP core courses are 100% online, but specialty courses have face-to-face meetings on 1 day per week. Most concentrations can be completed in 2 years on a full-time basis and 3 years on a part-time basis. However, Nurse Midwifery and PMHNP have a unique set-up - your first year of full-time study is at JMU (part-time schedules are also available), but your second year must be taken full-time at Shenandoah.
Nursing School Overview
SU is a modestly sized private university in Winchester that's affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The School of Nursing may not be as well-known as UVA or GMU, but it's a solid choice. Recent pass rates on ANCC certification exams have been excellent (e.g. 100%) and facilities at the Health & Life Sciences Building in Winchester - with its 4-part simulation suite (ER & OR, ICU, labor & delivery and pediatrics, and medical-surgical unit) - are very good. A number of alumni have also noted that SU takes a hands-on approach to clinical placements & preceptors. Shenandoah has articulation agreements with several sites and SU clinical site coordinators try to customize the clinical experience to a student's needs and wants as much as possible. NP students also have the option to participate in domestic & international missions (e.g. midwifery trips to Nicaragua) and receive training in disaster preparedness. Shenandoah is not a big public university with a deep endowment to fund scholarships, but it's important to note that SU alumni are eligible for a sizeable tuition discount.
RN to MSN Admissions & Curriculum
SU's hybrid program is remarkably flexible - RNs with an associate degree or diploma in nursing can obtain the MSN with or without earning a BSN. Candidates should have a current RN license, 2,080 RN clinical work hours prior to specialty courses, and various undergraduate prerequisites - interested students are strongly encouraged to meet with a nursing faculty member/advisor to review transcripts. Your application will also need to include 3 letters of recommendation, an essay, and a resume. Once accepted, students in the RN-to-MSN pathway take 13-17 undergraduate nursing bridge courses (i.e. RN-BSN transitional courses). During this time, students must successfully complete a Health Assessment exam or take a Health Assessment course. All bridge courses are offered in a 100% online format. After that, you can proceed to the MSN (45-48 credits). The length and location of the master's portion will depend on the concentration. For example, Nurse Midwifery core courses are offered face-to-face on the Winchester campus 1-2 days per week. But specialty courses are offered in a hybrid format that combines online coursework with short burst of on-campus classes and clinical practicums in your home community. Check each concentration page to learn how much on-site time is required - it may only be 1 day per week. Though schedules vary, the cohort-based MSN can generally be completed in 2 years on a full-time basis, with summer courses, and 3 years on a part-time basis (e.g. 8-9 semesters). You'll also notice that Shenandoah has partnership agreements in place that allow you to take some courses at collaborating schools and/or the Inova Center for Personalized Health in Fairfax.
Nursing School Overview
UVA is the cream of the crop. This large public research university in Charlottesville has an outstanding School of Nursing that often sits in the top 25 of U.S. News & World Report rankings for Best Nursing Schools and the top 3 for CNL programs. The School is known for its work in interprofessional education and compassionate care, its incredibly experienced faculty (e.g. 32 Fellows of the American Academy of Nursing), and its affiliation with the UVA Health System. Nursing professors are involved a myriad of research projects and active in a number of centers & initiatives. CNL also students have the opportunity to collaborate with other healthcare professionals through the Center for ASPIRE and take part in global opportunities at sites across three continents. In-state students should definitely ask about the possibility of applying for the lucrative Conway Scholars program, which offers tuition assistance and a stipend over 2 years. As you might expect, independent reviews of UVA's graduate programs are glowing.
RN to MSN Admissions & Curriculum
UVA's part-time CNL program is open to RNs with an ADN or diploma in nursing from a regionally accredited school. Applicants should have a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher, certain undergraduate prerequisites (e.g. Statistics), and an RN license in the U.S., with eligibility to transfer the license to Virginia. Students must have an unencumbered RN license in Virginia before the first day of classes. The application will also need to include 2 essays, a resume, and 3 recommendations. The most competitive applicants have a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or higher in nursing and non-nursing degrees, experience in quality improvement projects, and excellent writing skills. Once accepted, students take part in a 2-year course of study (6 semesters; 2-3 courses per semester). The 43-credit program includes one 400-level course, but most of it is graduate work. In the final semester, students tackle an extended clinical residency practicum. Clinical experiences are offered at the UVA Medical Center, other facilities and settings in the Charlottesville area, and selected global locations.