RN to MSN programs are relatively new options for nursing advancing their education and careers. With the nursing shortage occupying center stage in healthcare, colleges and universities are providing more online programs for currently licensed RNs and/or nurses with an Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN). Nurses wanting to enter advanced practice or work within a specialty area will, in most cases, need a MSN degree.
Traditionally, nurses have been required to take four-years in undergraduate study and two years in graduate school to obtain a MSN. Today, with online, accredited degree programs, nurses may continue to work and gain a higher degree in as little as two to three years. This is done by programs which allow nurses without a BSN to enter accelerated programs combing undergraduate with graduate coursework. It's worth noting that, in 2010, the Institute of Medicine recommended that the BSN be considered the gold standard for entry level nurses. Best Medical Degrees recently developed a ranking of online RN to BSN programs; and, has expanded that listing for those wishing to pursue an online RN to MSN degree.
Prerequisites and Transfer Courses
Schools may require students to take prerequisite courses before entering a RN to MSN program. Often, these classes include anatomy, pathophysiology, chemistry, biology, etc.; or, students who have a ADN from an accredited institution, may transfer hours to meet prerequisite requirements.
General Education Courses
Most schools award a BSN degree within the RN to MSN program. Besides nursing courses students will be required to study a liberal arts curriculum which may include English composition, sociology, history, mathematics and humanities electives. Students will receive a BSN before entering the MSN program. Again, transfer credits may be allowed with respect to general education coursework.
Many schools will allow currently working nurses (usually with a year's minimum experience) to test out of, or receive experience credit, for core nursing courses. The core courses may include subjects in evidence based practice, nursing leadership, information technology, nursing health assessment, healthcare delivery and quality assurance, nursing informatics, etc.
Nursing specialties are available online for nurses who wish to obtain a degree in Family Nurse Practitioner areas (Adult-Gerontology, Midwife, etc.) Nursing Informatics, Clinical Nurse Leader, Nurse Educator, Healthcare Administration, etc. Specialty tracks will frequently require a practicum (typically conducted in the student's home community) and a capstone project. Capstone projects require students to identify a particular issue, conduct thorough research and utilize theories and concepts learned in the program.
To help you begin your search for the right online RN to MSN program for you, Best Medical Degrees has developed a ranking of online 30 Most Affordable Online MSN Degree Programs programs which are CCNE or ACEN accredited, designed specifically for the currently working RN and may offer accelerated study to help you gain your degree in less time.