Why Choose RN to MSN Degree Programs + Online Options

This article describes how to select an RN to MSN degree program. You will learn what this graduate degree program is, and the types of knowledge and skills that are covered. Also, the article describes the attributes of a quality RN to MSN program.

What Is an RN to MSN Degree?

An RN to MSN degree program is a graduate level program that allows you to take classes to earn your master of science in nursing. This program allows the experienced nurse with a diploma or an associate’s degree in nursing to earn their MSN degree and BSN degree at the same time. Earning your degree in this fashion lets you reduce the amount of time that you are in school. Many students are able to reduce their time in college by up to one year.

All students who are admitted into an RN to MSN program are required to have a current RN license and at least a diploma in nursing. In some cases, the student may receive credits for meeting competencies in the MSN program through prior work experience. This will depend upon the specific MSN program.

When you enter this advanced program, you will first take BSN courses and complete most of that program before you begin with the graduate level classes. After you have earned your bachelor’s degree, you will then choose a specialty to focus on in your MSN program.

Some of the most common types of courses you may take in an RN to MSN program include these:

  • Interprofessional Organizational and Systems Leadership
  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Advanced Health Assessment and Diagnostic Reasoning
  • Advanced Practice Care of Adults Across the Lifespan
  • Primary Care of Adolescents and Children
  • Primary Care of Women
  • Synthesis in Advanced Nursing Practice Care of Patients in Primary Care Settings

Why Earn an RN to MSN Degree?

Many current nurses with an associate’s degree or a diploma of nursing are strongly motivated to earn their master of science in nursing, or MSN. There are several very good reasons to earn your graduate degree in nursing today:

Rapidly Rising Demand for Nurses

Government statistics compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS reports that the need for clinical nurses is rising quickly. By 2024, it is anticipated that there will be a 16% higher demand for regular nurses.

Demand for more nurses is caused by our aging US population. Because more elderly people need healthcare services, it is logical that there will be a higher need for all types of healthcare services for the foreseeable future.

Nurses with a diploma or associate’s degree may work at a nurse. But nurses with a higher level of education will always enjoy the best long term prospects for employment. Nurses who have at least their bachelor’s degree will have a better salary and a higher level of demand than nurses with a lower level degree.

Also, more hospitals today want their RNs to have their bachelor’s degree eventually. The reason is that the American Nurses Credentialing Center or ANCC developed the Magnet Recognition Program in recent years to bring attention to the best healthcare facilities. This recognition requires all nurse managers to have at least a BSN or MSN. The more bachelor’s degree-holding nurses a hospital has, the better for that hospital to attain Magnet recognition.

Strong Demand for Advanced Practice Nurses

The most rapidly growing demand for nurses is occurring in the advanced nursing practice specialities. The most common specialties with the highest demand are the following:

  • Nurse practitioner: Provides primary and specialty care under the supervision of a doctor in most states. Also delivers advanced nursing practice services to patients. Demand in this field will grow by 31% by 2024.
  • Nurse midwife: Offers specialized care to women, including childbirth services and gynecological services. Also offers family planning services and prenatal care. Demand in this field will rise by 25% by 2024.
  • Nurse anesthetist: Provides anesthesia services to patients who are having many types of surgeries and medical procedures. These nurses work under the supervision of an anesthesiologist, but can perform most of their duties at a lower cost. Demand for this profession will rise by 20% by 2024.

Many nurses with experience as RNs want to earn their MSN degree so that they can work in one of these high demand professions with a very good salary. The RN to MSN program also allows the nurse to obtain both their BSN and MSN at the same time. This means that the nurse can spend up to a year less time in school – a major time and financial savings.

High Salary Potential

Earning your MSN degree will provide you with the opportunity to earn a very high salary. Many nurses with only an associate’s degree may earn only a maximum salary in the range of $64,000 per year. With an MSN degree, you can earn much more.

As of 2016, the median salary for a nurse practitioner was $100,900; for a nurse anesthetist, it was $160,270, and for a nurse midwife, the median salary was $99,700.

Online RN to MSN Degree Program

Wilkes University has an RN to MSN program that offers the experienced nurse an accelerated path to an advanced practice nursing degree. This is a three year degree program that may be completed online. It is designed for the practicing RN who wants to earn her master’s degree and does not currently have a BSN.

The curriculum of this program begins with two bridge nursing classes that are five credit hours each. These are transition classes that are intended to bring the nurse to a bachelor’s level of nursing as soon as possible. In this way, you will be prepared for rigorous graduate level work.

After the student completes these two courses and various clinical requirements, you then may be inserted directly into your MSN speciality program.

The specialties that are available at Wilkes University are:

  • Primary care nurse practitioner
  • Family nurse practitioner
  • Nurse executive
  • Nursing educator
  • Nursing informatics
  • Mental health nurse practitioner

While most of this program can be completed online, there is a brief, on campus residency required for students when they take Advanced Health Assessment.

Required courses include:

  • Advanced Health Assessment
  • Theoretical Foundations of Nursing Science
  • Advanced Nursing Research
  • Advanced Role Development in Nursing
  • Health Policy and Politics for Advancing Nursing Practice
  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Scholarly Review
  • Family (Individual Across the Lifespan) Nurse Practitioner Curriculum

The Wilkes program is regarded as a very high quality MSN program. It has been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing, or CCNE. This accreditation tells students that the program has met high nursing education standards.


Earning your RN to MSN degree will ensure that you will be able to attain some of the best paid and most respected positions in the nursing field for many years to come.

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