What Is An RN to MSN Program?

Why Get An MSN?

This is a pretty common question within the nursing community and a question we have answered numerous times on this website. To avoid redundancy, we will provide a brief and accurate answer.

According to payscale.com, nurses with MSNs make much more money than their counterparts with only BSNs and ADNs. Medical and healthcare facilities are beginning to require that nurses carry MSNs for their more advanced or specialized positions.

Nurses with MSNs are allowed to teach nursing students at community colleges and technical schools. Nurses can teach full time or part time. Whatever their work and life schedule allows.

As you can see, their many benefits to getting a Master’s of Science In Nursing.  However, the two main benefits are that it opens up many more career options and allows for a greater salary to be demanded.

ADN to MSN Programs

These are special educational bridge programs for registered nurses who want achieve their Master’s of Science In Nursing (MSN) but have not yet earned their Bachelor’s Of Science In Nursing (BSN). These nurses would still only have their Associate’s Degree In Nursing (ADN).

These programs provide the quickest and most comprehensive pathway to achieving the skills necessary to take on a more advanced and specialized role in a medical or healthcare facility.

There are more 150 programs nationwide for nurses with ADNs. This is a substantial growth over the 70 programs that were offered in 1994. The emergence of the internet of the internet has also made these programs much easier to take.

Why Do These Programs Exist?

The emergence of these “bridge” programs is an effort to provide the labor market and patients nationwide with more educated nurses. Eventually, the goal is to upgrade the expectations for the education of nurses entering the workforce.  This is in line with the nation’s need for more educated registered nurses.

At the moment, nurses with ADNs are going back to school only to achieve their Bachelor’s degree and not their Master’s. This can be a problem if this country wants to produce more educated nurses. Hence, why “RN to MSN” programs exist.

Getting more registered nurses to earn their MSNs allows for more of them to become primary care providers for patients or nurse practitioners.

Do You Earn A BSN As Well?

As a  matter fact, you earn both your BSN and MSN in these programs.  Many of them award both the degrees to the students at the completion of the program.

Other programs award the Bachelor’s degree to the student when they finish the undergraduate coursework. Then they award the master’s degree when the graduate coursework is completed.

They degrees are awarded in one of the two ways above because these are accelerated programs. This means the program is designed to be completed in three years or less. This is much shorter than trying to earn both degree the traditional way.

Some programs will allow students to take courses for their BSNs and MSNs concurrently. These are referred to bridge courses.

Typical RN To MSN Program Requirements

Different programs vary with their requirements/prerequisites. It is best that you look up the specific program you are interested in applying to and look them up. You can also call as the specific university as well and ask about the course requirements.

With that said, here is a list of some of the typical requirements for “ADN to MSN” programs:

– Students must hold a  valid license as a registered nurse in the US or particular state of  the university. This will depend on the program you attend.

– Some programs require a 1 to 2 years of work or clinical experience while others allow you earn your clinical experience while enrolled in the program.

– Many of these programs require high GPAs from the previous school attended. However if you have a sub par GPA then some programs allow you to take preliminary coursework and will grant you admission to the program at the completion of that coursework if the grades earned are good enough.

How Long Do These Programs Take? Is There Flexibility?

These programs were designed for registered  nurses that are working full time and have family to care of. Therefore there will be quite a difference in the length of the program for full time and part time students.

Most programs can be completed in 7 to 10 semesters for full time students. That equates to 2 to 3 years of school. Part time programs will take 3+ years to complete.

Keep in mind though, many of these programs are online. Meaning you can complete coursework from the comfort of your home. Many of these programs require clinical work though.

If you do not want to completely take these classes online then some offer weekend and night classes. Some offer a mix of online and classroom courses.

What Areas Of Nursing Can I Specialize In?

There are many different areas of nursing you can specialize in when getting your MSN. Some of these specialties include:

– Nurse Anesthesia
– Nurse Practitioner
– Nurse Midwifery
– Clinical Specialist: Pediatrics, Neonatal, Intensive Care,
– Ambulatory Care
– Management

See also Nursing abbreviations


These programs are meant to give registered nurses with ADNs more options advance their education. These nurses want to advance their careers and make more money. Healthcare facilities want more educated nurses and better patient care.

With online and classroom programs out there, nurses have more options and flexibility than ever before. These programs were made with the working nurse in mind. Take advantage and advance your career as a nurse. It has  never been easier to do so.