What is the Best Online BSN to MSN Program?
BSN to MSN programs are promising options for students who want to pursue leadership roles in nursing or engage in a specific area of study. There is not objective criteria for judging which are the best or worst programs, but many universities offer online programs with accelerated tracks to allow students who work or have families to earn master’s degrees without disrupting their other responsibilities. The best BSN to MSN online programs are accredited schools with trained nurses and nurse educators as faculty, and good career consultation services for students, so that your degree can lead to a good job in as short a time as possible after you graduate.
RN Employment Across Sectors and Industries
Though job growth for registered nurses is exploding, and will continue to do so at least until 2020, employment of RNs will not grow at the same rate in every industry. Currently, the biggest employers of RNs by a wide margin are private general hospitals. The top five settings for RN employment, and the percentage of total RNs employed in them, are displayed below. All data is courtesy of The Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Employment is expected to grow more slowly in hospitals than in most other health care industries, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics; and although the need for nurses will continue to grow, their roles will likely shift toward providing primary care.
At the same time, qualified applicants to nursing schools are being turned away because of a shortage of nursing faculty. The need for nursing faculty will only increase as many instructors near retirement. Degree requirements for nurse educators vary by state, but in order to teach at the baccalaureate level or higher, educators are required to hold at least a master’s degree in a nursing field.
Generally, RNs with at least a bachelor’s degree will have better job prospects than those without. An MSN can increase a student’s job prospects, as advanced practice specialties will be at a premium as the level of bachelor’s level RNs increases, particularly in medically underserved areas such as inner cities and rural areas. Four types of nurse that are likely to see a spike in demand for their skills are:
- Clinical nurse specialists (CNS)
- Nurse practitioners (NP)
- Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA)
BSN to MSN options are designed to put leaders into the nursing community as soon as possible after graduation to fill nursing shortages. A graduate with an MSN also can fill the role of a nurse educator, manager, or public health worker, or go on to earn a doctoral degree.
Some schools include the MSN portion of the degree in the final year or two of a BSN to MSN program, offering an accelerated way to earn those degrees; however, some colleges may require that the student earn the BSN in a specialty area and receive an RN license before continuing the MSN portion.
Available BSN to MSN Programs at a Glance
There are no rankings for online schools or programs, but the following list of schools offer online bridge programs for BSN graduates looking to earn their masters degree.
- Kaplan University: BSN to MSN, RN to MSN
- Walden University: BSN to MSN
- Unversity of Phoenix: BSN to MSN
Nurses must be licensed by the state nursing board of any state they practice in, though some states have entered into a Nursing Licensure Compact that allows a single license to cover a number of participating states.
Specific application requirements for any BSN to MSN program vary depending on the school. Schools often ask that students finish the BSN portion of an accredited program with a GPA of 3.0 or above and to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to earn RN licensure before continuing with MSN courses.
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), a not-for-profit organization, provides a process through which state boards of nursing act and counsel together on matters of common interest and concern affecting the public health, safety, and welfare, including the development of licensing examinations in nursing. NCSBN develops the NCLEX-RN that is used by boards of nursing to assist in making licensure decisions.
Nursing license requirements vary by state; each state board is responsible for evaluating nursing license applications, for administering the licensure exams, and for making sure that nurses operate according to the ethical and legal guidelines that they establish in accordance with the federal government.
As an applicant, your responsibility for RN licensure is to:
- Be a graduate or eligible for graduation from a member board approved RN pre-licensure program.
- Successfully complete the NCLEX-RN exam, which can be taken in any jurisdiction.
The licensure process determines if the applicant has the necessary skills to safely perform a specified scope of practice.
Nurse Licensure Compact
Students may be interested in learning more about the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). The NLC allows nurses to have one multistate license with the ability to practice in both their home state and other party states. This license can allow you to work in multiple states without taking separate licensing exams.
- Graduates applying for a license who legally reside in a compact state can only apply to their home state board of nursing.
- The NLC considers proof of residency: obtaining a driver’s license, voting/registering to vote, or filing federal taxes with an address in that state.
- As long as you maintain that home state as your declared primary state of residency and remain in good standing, you may practice in other compact states.
- Use the state board of nursing application for licensure (exam, endorsement, etc.), as found on the board’s website.
Accreditation for Nursing Programs
Approval by a state board of nursing does not mean that a school is accredited by a national accrediting organization; however, in general, every accredited nursing school is also approved by its state board of nursing. The U.S. Department of Education approves agencies that accredit health care programs, including nursing degrees, and this accreditation provides a way for nursing students to participate in federally funded and state entitlement programs.
Two national organizations accredit nursing education programs:
- The National League of Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) accredits nursing education programs including practical nursing, diploma, associate, baccalaureate, and higher degrees, including those offered via distance education.
- The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredits nursing education programs in the United States at the baccalaureate and graduate degree levels, including those programs offering distance education.
Separate accrediting bodies exist for advanced practice nursing fields, including nurse anesthetist and nurse-midwife programs:
Most nursing school accreditation organizations use the same standards and criteria to accredit each nursing program type. This accreditation is granted for specific periods of time that differ between individual schools and programs. To safeguard your education, check with the nursing school or the accrediting body to determine the length of time for which the school is accredited.
The BSN to MSN Path
If you want to pursue a graduate degree in less time than it might take for you to complete two separate degrees, the BSN to MSN program may be a good option for you. Before you embark on this degree program, you might:
- Make sure the school you want to attend is accredited by an organization approved by the U.S. Department of Education.
- Think about the location of the school in terms of your RN license. If the school is not located in a state where you want to eventually reside, you may need to reapply for a license once you graduate — even if that license is in an NLC compact state.
- Be prepared to pick a specialty such as CNS, NP, or nurse-midwife sooner than you might have had you gone the traditional BSN route to a graduate degree.
Nurse leaders are in high demand nationwide, and an advanced degree means more responsibilities as well as a higher salary.
Choosing The Best BSN to MSN Online Program For You
Most students who are looking at online schools are interested in two factors: the speed at which they can get through a program, and the legitimacy of the credential they earn. Some online BSN to MSN programs offer accelerated courses in which an individual class can take as few as four weeks, but some are on a much longer timeline. Getting in touch with individual schools is the best way to find out about the length of their courses, and the list below can help you make sure that the schools you get in touch with are all high-quality, accredited educational institutions. Clicking the links below will help you get information about specific programs, and every school listed is accredited by the proper authorities to provide professional nursing education that can help you get a promotion or a whole new job in nursing.
Online BSN to MSN Programs
Kaplan University — The Kaplan School of Nursing offers a variety of graduate degree programs for registered nurses looking to advance their careers into special areas of interest. In addition to their general BSN to MSN program, Kaplan also offers MSN degrees with concentrations in nurse administration, nurse education, and nursing informatics. For registered nurses who have not yet completed their bachelor's degrees, Kaplan also offers an RN to MSN program.
American Sentinel University — American Sentinel University offers two bridge programs: the RN to MSN and the RN to BSN. Both programs are designed for people with a background in nursing who want a faster way to achieve the next level of education. Both programs also require students to be registered nurses who have passed the NCLEX-RN.
University of Cincinnati — The University of Cincinnati offers online MSN programs with numerous specializations, including clinical nurse specialist and nurse educator, nurse administrator, nurse midwifery, and women's health specialist. While these aren' accelerated programs, they can be a valuable asset to have if you want to advance your career.
Grand Canyon University — A highly-rated Christian school based in Arizona, Grand Canyon University's School of Nursing offers multiple master's degree-level nursing programs, including a dual MSN and MBA degree for business-oriented students and MSN degrees with concentrations in nursing education and nursing leadership.