RN to MSN Program

  • Often called ‘Bridge Programs’.
  • Enable nurses with an associate degree or diploma and with an active RN license to progress seamlessly to an MSN degree.
  • May offer different specializations, common ones are Nursing Leadership and Management or Nursing Education or Nursing Informatics.
  • 2016 AACN data reported 224 RN to MSN programs offered. Only one school offers a competency based RN to MSN program and 127 programs offer 51-100% distance learning for RN to MSN.

Who is this degree best for?

  • Practicing nurses who intend a career in a role that requires an MSN
  • Individuals who are highly motivated; completion of these degrees may take as long as 4 years but in competency-based programs, the average completion time ranges from 18 months to 36 months.


  • For mid or early career nurses with career goals to include leadership positions, nursing education or nursing informatics, this is a great way to accelerate
  • Many programs provide both the BSN and MSN for individuals who complete an RN to MSN program
  • Research shows there are often long lag times between the completion of one degree in nursing and re-entry for another degree. Keeping on a continuous learning path can be challenging but can be less disruptive in the long run.
  • Costs may be less than the cost of obtaining a BSN and then BSN to MSN.


  • The transition from undergraduate work to graduate work can be challenging and frustrating as the expectations are raised.
  • Managing academic priorities with complex career and family demand can make the longer time commitment a concern.
  • Individuals who don’t have a career path in mind in a particular specialization have more difficulty staying motivated.