Oklahoma City University Online Nursing Blog
RN to MSN programs: Bridging to advanced nursing education

RN to MSN programs: Bridging to advanced nursing education

Nurse standing in a hospital corridor

Demand for nurses is growing across all areas of the field. In particular, there is a rising need for registered nurses with Master of Science in Nursing degrees. These skilled professionals are in demand because they are trained in cutting-edge technology, best care practices, and healthcare administration. The need for nurse consultants, nurses, educators, or nurse administrators is outpacing the rest of the nursing industry and creating exciting opportunities for nurses who complete an RN-MSN program.1

This post explores how an RN to MSN program can help you further your education and open up exciting career opportunities.

Introduction to RN to MSN programs

When considering a new career avenue, it can be overwhelming to find a way to pursue additional education while maintaining a full-time job. Online RN-MSN programs make it more convenient than ever for working nurses to pursue an advanced degree. You can easily take your career to the next level with flexible scheduling, access to top faculty and mentors, and high-quality accredited degree programs.

An RN-MSN program is an accelerated pathway to an advanced degree. The program allows you to build on your current skills as an RN, your knowledge of patient care, and your clinical experience. You can follow your career interests by choosing to focus on an advanced nursing specialty, such as conducting and interpreting medical research, assessing and improving healthcare practices, and developing innovative avenues for healthcare policy and health services delivery.

Benefits of pursuing an RN to MSN

Many in-demand jobs, such as executive nursing roles, nursing educator roles, or advanced practice roles, require an advanced degree. Completing an RN to MSN bridge program will open up career opportunities in leadership, research, and policy-making.

In addition, MSN nursing jobs offer significantly higher salaries than traditional RN positions. RNs working in general medical and surgical hospitals earn an average annual salary of $77,600 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.2 However, nurse educators at colleges and universities earn an average annual salary of $85,900.3 Nurse administrators can command a salary of $104,830 per year.4

Understanding the RN to MSN pathway

As an RN, you already have a lot of the foundational nursing knowledge to get started with an MSN program. An RN-MSN program picks up where RN collegiate nursing education left off and offers advanced coursework in nursing education, healthcare management, and policy, as well as courses in nursing leadership, research, and healthcare administration. An MSN program also includes practicum hours and a master’s project. It's intended for current RNs who have experience in the field and may be currently working as nurses.

Many RN-MSN programs are open to nurses regardless of whether they previously completed a BSN degree. If you have a bachelor’s degree in another field and do not already have a BSN, you may need to take additional courses before beginning the master's level work.

When you apply for an RN-MSN graduate program, you will need to prepare application materials, such as:

  • An essay or personal statement
  • A resume or CV
  • Official transcripts from other institutions
  • References from faculty, employers, or coworkers attesting to your nursing skills and experience

Specializations in MSN programs

One of the benefits of an online RN-MSN nursing practice program is the opportunity to choose a specialization in the nursing profession. Many programs offer multiple areas of study, allowing you to pick the one that best aligns with your future career goals.

Nursing education

A nursing education specialization track focuses on developing the skills needed to train future nurses. Graduates may get jobs as clinical nurse educators, nurse faculty, research nurses, staff development nurses, or public health advisors.

Nursing leadership

The nursing leadership specialization track positions you to gain the management skills needed to oversee patient care, manage practice or facility finances, and manage healthcare staff. After completing this track, you will be qualified for jobs such as chief nursing officer, nurse manager, clinical nurse specialist, or risk and safety manager.

Community-based public health nursing

The community-based public health nursing specialization track will prepare you for implementing and leading culturally appropriate public health interventions and serving as a nurse advocate within the community. Graduates in public health nursing can apply for jobs in research, policy analysis, epidemiology, population health, community health nursing, or school nursing.

Curriculum and coursework

If you don't already have a BSN, you will begin with accelerated programs consisting of three BNS-level classes. These classes are:

  • Health Assessment
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Nursing Leadership

Nurses entering the program with a BSN and nurses who have completed the prerequisites then take the core graduate curriculum:

  • Theoretical Foundations of Advanced Nursing Practice
  • Research Integration in Nursing Practice
  • Nursing Practicum
  • Master’s Project

All students in the RN to MSN degree program also take classes related to their specialty track. These graduate level nursing courses are interwoven with the core courses.

Choosing an online learning option for an RN-MSN graduate degree allows you to maximize your flexibility without sacrificing educational excellence. Online programs offer teaching and mentoring from expert nurse educators who may be located in different cities or states. You will be able to fulfill clinical practice requirements near your home, sometimes even at your existing place of work.

Financial considerations

The cost of tuition can be a concern, but there are a variety of financial aid opportunities that can make an RN-MSN program financially feasible. Many colleges and universities offer scholarships and grant opportunities based on merit or need. The university’s website or an admissions counselor can provide information on what aid is available and how to apply.

Some third-party health organizations or foundations offer scholarships to nurses seeking professional development. For example, organizations like the American Cancer Society and the March of Dimes offer scholarships to students in graduate nursing programs.5

Many workplaces offer training or tuition benefits. Employers can offer employees up to $5,250 tax-free annually. This can be used to pay for tuition, textbooks, equipment, and supplies.6 Some employers may provide additional tuition assistance, though these are taxable. Talk to your employers about any additional requirements for tuition assistance.

Taking the next step

If you’re ready to take your nursing career to the next level, an online RN-MSN program might be right for you. At Oklahoma City University’s online Master of Science in Nursing, courses are taught by expert faculty and delivered asynchronously so you can complete coursework on a schedule that works for you.

To learn more, schedule a call with an admissions outreach advisor to discuss OCU’s online MSN and figure out if the program is a match for your career goals.

  1. Retrieved on February 19, 2024, from nursejournal.org/degrees/msn/best-paying-msn-degree-nursing-jobs/
  2. Retrieved on February 19, 2024, from www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm#tab-1
  3. Retrieved on February 19, 2024, from https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes251072.htm
  4. Retrieved on February 19, 2024, from www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm
  5. Retrieved on February 19, 2024, from aacnnursing.org/students/scholarships-financial-aid
  6. Retrieved on February 19, 2024, from irs.gov/newsroom/reminder-to-employers-and-employees-educational-assistance-programs-can-be-used-to-help-pay-workers-student-loans-free-irs-webinar-will-offer-details

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