If you have worked as a nurse for a while, you may have experienced a bit of tunnel vision. The 12-hour shifts start to blur together. You may begin to miss the forest for the trees as you forget to consider long-term goals within nursing. Long-term goals are important and the RN-to-MSN program presents an exciting career path.
Registered nurses (RN) have an incredible potential to advance within the field. Not every RN has a relevant degree, so they need to have options. The RN-to-MSN bridge program offers a practical solution.
In this blog, we will explore:
- What is an RN-to-MSN program?
- What are the benefits of pursuing an RN-to-MSN career path?
- What schools have good MSN programs?
- How do I choose the best RN-to-MSN program?
- What topics are covered in the RN-to-MSN program?
- How long does it take to finish the RN-to-MSN program?
- How much does an RN-to-MSN program cost?
- What are the requirements for RN-to-MSN programs?
- How do I choose the best RN-to-MSN program?
What is an RN-to-MSN program?
An RN-to-MSN bridge program helps if you don’t have your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). It allows you to go directly into a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program or finish your MSN and BSN simultaneously.
This program is expedited, so you don’t have to obtain your BSN and MSN programs at different times. If you want to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), and do so at an accelerated pace, the RN-to-MSN bridge program could help you!
What are the benefits of pursuing an RN-to-MSN career path?
You may enjoy your nursing career, but also feel a bit stagnant and wonder about the future. You may also feel that furthering your education could help you in your chosen field. If this is you, you may be a candidate to start on the RN-to-MSN career path.
There are many reasons for a nurse to decide on pursuing the RN-to-MSN bridge program. Below we have listed some of the benefits.
Potential for nursing leadership and independent work
Obtaining an MSN degree puts nurses in an excellent position to advance into a leadership position. Specifically, the MSN degree opens the door for research, teaching, administration, or legal consultation.
Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who have an MSN have an opportunity to provide primary care services independently under the supervision of a physician or within a healthcare team.
Growing demand for APRNs
Advance practice registered nurses have access to some of the highest average salaries of nurses in the United States. The average APRN salary in the US is $118,040, compared to the average nurse’s salary of $82,750. On average, an APRN makes 62% more money annually than an RN.
In addition, the nursing field is a booming profession, and that’s especially true for APRNs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for APRNs will increase 45% from 2020 to 2030 – a much higher rate than other occupations.
This need is created by a growing older population and a shortage of healthcare providers in rural areas.
Ability to specialize
To specialize in an area of nursing, you must have an MSN. For instance, if you want to become a nurse practitioner, you need an MSN. Or, if you’re going to become a nurse educator, you will need at least an MSN.
Here is a brief list of roles which require a MSN:
- Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGNP)
- Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Primary Care (PNP)
- Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
- Nurse Administrator
- Nursing Educator
- Nursing Informatics
- Public Health Nursing
Specialization is a critical area for nurses looking to explore RN to MSN programs. When a nurse specializes in a specific area of care, they have a greater opportunity to maximize their salary. Know the field of nursing you want to specialize in when you are looking for potential RN to MSN programs.
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What schools have good MSN Programs?
There are hundreds of MSN programs across the United States. Here, we’ve compiled a list of the best schools by each major region of the USA. These schools are routinely ranked highly by the US News and World Report.
Northeast → Johns Hopkins University
- Location: Baltimore, Maryland
- Duration: 30 Months
- Online: Yes
- Tuition: $72,017
- Graduation Rate: 93%
- NCLEX Pass Rate: 93.8%
Southeast → Emory University
- Location: Atlanta, Georgia
- Duration: 15 months
- Online: No
- Tuition: $47,200
- Graduation Rate: 92%
- NCLEX Pass Rate: 86.85%
Midwest → Case Western Reserve University
- Cleveland, Ohio
- Duration: 18 months
- Online: No
- Tuition: $108,624
- Graduation Rate: 84%
- NCLEX Pass Rate: 83.33%
Mountain West → Washington State University
- Location: Spokane, Washington
- Duration: 24 months
- Online: Hybrid
- Tuition: $24,656
- Graduation Rate: 65%
- NCLEX Pass Rate: 86.26%
Southwest → University of Texas – Austin
- Location: Austin, Texas
- Duration: 2 years
- Online: No
- Tuition: $41,582
- Graduation Rate: 81%
- NCLEX Pass Rate: 96.03%
West Coast → University of California – San Francisco
- Location: San Francisco, California
- Duration: 3 years
- Online: No
- Tuition: $44,000
- Graduation Rate: 71.4%
- NCLEX Pass Rate: 99.31%
How do I choose the best RN to MSN program?
It can feel overwhelming to try and choose the best RN-to-MSN program. There are in-person, online, part-time, and full-time programs.
Every person has different needs, but there are some critical questions you should ask yourself before choosing a program.
The most important factor when choosing the best RN-to-MSN program is determining the specialization for the future of your nursing career.
MSN programs are valuable because extra schooling allows nurses to master unique fields of nursing. This knowledge gives nurses specific value in the eyes of employers, which opens access to higher salaries.
Know which field of nursing you want to study before you choose a program. This knowledge will help you narrow RN to MSN programs before you apply to schools.
Nurses who are investigating RN-to-MSN programs should have a clear idea of the outcomes they desire from additional school.
Knowing where you want to specialize is the first step to determining your goals for a RN-to-MSN program. Nurses should also have an idea of their target jobs after graduating with a MSN.
One career of many MSN-certified nurses is that of an APRN. APRN’s are in high demand across the United States, and nurses who pursue MSNs should be conscious of the careers, roles, and responsibilities of APRNs.
Nurses who pursue the RN-to-MSN degree path should also understand the financial risk of additional schooling. Many MSN programs are an expensive investment and require two years of tuition in order to graduate with a degree.
Paying for your MSN can be offset by the expected salary once you graduate with your specialization. Making a financial plan for the bridge between work and school is an excellent idea for nurses who are on the path to earning a MSN.
What topics are covered in the RN-to-MSN program?
The curriculum for this program typically blends nursing theory courses, clinical simulations, and clinical rotations in a healthcare setting. RN-to-MSN programs generally cover the following topics:
- Pathophysiology (study of abnormal changes caused by the disease process)
- Pharmacology (the study of medications)
- Health assessment
- Health care research
- Nursing skills
- Capstone project
The curriculum will vary by the program and specialization you pursue on the RN-to-MSN degree path. Your curriculum will help guide you in taking care of a diverse population of patients.
How long does it take to finish the RN to MSN program?
If you are interested in this bridge program, it’s critical to know how long it takes to finish. Specialties that do not require direct patient care are shorter than those that do. Administration and education programs are typically available online and are often less than two years.
Programs that have a clinical component take about 2-3 years which includes the clinical hours.
How much does an RN-to-MSN program cost?
Tuition costs depend on the college and location, but generally, the range is between $20,000 and $60,000 for an RN-to-MSN degree. Some employers offer tuition reimbursement for classes.
If you are worried about paying for the program, you can apply for federal assistance by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will allow the government to decide what scholarships, grants, or loans you are potentially eligible for.
Many organizations offer scholarships for nurses who are returning to school. Scholarships can help bridge gaps in funding the next step of your career as a nurse. If you are looking for assistance for funding your RN-to-MSN degree path, check out this article on nurse scholarships.
What are the requirements for RN-to-MSN programs?
Every program has different requirements for a degree. Most direct entry MSN programs will require:
- A bachelor’s degree in nursing or an unrelated field
- A minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher
- Completion of prerequisite courses, generally within the last five years
- Letters of recommendation/professional references
- RN licensure
- Phone interview with the school
- Statement of career goals
- Completion of a background check upon acceptance
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