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Best Online RN To MSN-FNP Programs For 2021


Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Are you a registered nurse with an associate degree in nursing who would like to further your education and broaden your scope of practice in patient care? Has the thought of working in close collaboration with a licensed physician and providing direct patient care or having your own clinic to provide care ever crossed your mind? Is the idea of having a more active role in your client’s plan of care by assessing, diagnosing, and treating on a higher level something that sounds appealing to you? There are several options for ADN-Educated registered nurses to accomplish these kinds of goals. For instance, RN to MSN-Family Nurse Practitioner online programs offer busy RNs the opportunity to pursue a Master of Science degree in nursing with a family practice specialty. In this article, we will discuss some of the best online RN to MSN-FNP programs for 2021 and share ways you could take advantage of the programs offered.


What Exactly Is the Goal Of An Online RN to MSN-FNP Program?


The goal of an RN to MSN-FNP program is to give registered nurses with an ADN the opportunity to advance to a masters-level degree in nursing (MSN) and pursue certification as a family nurse practitioner (FNP). These programs are designed to equip registered nurses with the knowledge and skills needed to provide primary care services to clients of various ages across the lifespan.


7 Top Reasons To Pursue An RN to MSN-FNP Program


Whether you have been considering enrolling in any of the available online RN to MSN-Family Nurse Practitioner programs for a while now, or are just looking at different options, there are some great reasons for you to pursue an RN to MSN-FNP degree program.

1. There is a need for the skills an MSN-FNP provides. The Association of American Medical Colleges published data on June 26, 2020 stating that the United States could see a potential shortage of up to 55,000 primary care physicians by the year 2033. As the population of baby-boomers ages and lives longer, the need for primary care providers increases. The shortage of primary physicians means the demand for healthcare services that a family nurse practitioner provides will increase.
2. You can impact and advance the quality of care given to your patients. Family nurse practitioners have an important role in patient care. As an MSN-FNP you will be active in assessing, diagnosing, and treating patients. Also, FNPs can impact overall public health by counseling with patients regarding health and wellness, nutrition, and disease prevention and/or management.
3. Broaden the reach of your practice. Because family nurse practitioners can diagnose and treat clients with more independence, that means you can expand your practice and work in a variety of settings.
4. Boost your income! Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not give a side-by-side comparison of average salaries for each type of nurse practitioner, the BLS reports that nurse practitioners of various specialties earn an average annual salary of $111,840. Since registered nurses with an associate degree in nursing make an average of $70,000, it is obvious that becoming an MSN-FNP can bring a significant income boost.
5. Increased career opportunities. Family nurse practitioners can perform in many roles from clinicians in private and community health centers, hospitals, home health and hospice agencies, or in academia. The wealth of knowledge that you will gain by enrolling in and graduating from one of the best online RN to MSN-FNP programs will give you an advantage over nurses with a lesser degree who are applying for the same jobs.
6. Take on leadership roles. FNPs have increased independence and responsibility in clinical settings. They also have the opportunity to take on leadership roles by providing patient education, performing research and working in academic settings and training new nurses.
7. Develop long-term relationships with clients. While caring for patients in the hospital and helping them recover gives a nurse a feeling of accomplishment, it usually means that there is no long-term commitment or impact in a patient’s life. If you are the kind of nurse who likes to get to know people and is interested in providing care throughout your client’s lifespan, becoming a family nurse practitioner could be the perfect fit for you.


How Long Are RN to MSN-FNP Online Programs?


The length of time it takes a student to complete one of the best online RN to MSN-FNP programs varies. One of the factors that determines how long it takes to complete the program is whether you enroll part-time or full-time. Also, if you need to repeat a course because of an unsatisfactory grade or take some time off from school for personal reasons, it may take you a big longer to graduate.

Vanderbilt School of Nursing offers an ASN to MSN program that can be completed in one year of full-time study and two years part-time. Some students may take a little longer, depending on course load. The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s MSN with Family Nurse Practitioner specialty program is designed so that students can graduate after two years of part-time enrollment. Stony Brook University in New York offers a two-year RN to MSN-FNP program. Although coursework is completed through distance learning, there are a few on-site requirements.


Coursework


The best online RN to MSN-FNP programs require students to master the same coursework as students who are enrolled in classes on-campus. Although required coursework may vary from one school to another, there are some general classes that all RN to MSN-FNP students are expected to take. Some classes that you may see on the list of required coursework at multiple schools include Advanced Nursing Assessment, Advanced Pharmacology, Evidence-Based Practice and Quality Improvement in Healthcare, and Advanced Pathophysiology.

A few examples of required coursework at some of the best RN to MSN-FNP online programs are featured below.

The University of Memphis requires MSN-FNP students to complete core curriculum courses including Healthcare Policy, Advanced Nursing Research, and Scholarly Synthesis. Additionally, FNP concentration-specific courses must be completed which include Theoretical Foundations in Nursing, Advanced Role Development, Advanced Pathophysiology, Advanced Pharmacology and Advanced Health Assessment.
The University of South Alabama’s RN to MSN-FNP online program involves completing 45 credit hours that include support courses, core courses, and FNP specialty courses. Students in this program will be expected to take Healthcare Policy and Finance, Organizational and Systems Leadership (Core Courses), Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Issues for Family Nurse Practitioners, and Introduction to Family Nurse Practitioner Role.
Ball State University RN to MSN-FNP students are required to complete 47 total credits. Some of the classes students here take are Data Analysis in Nursing Research, Introduction to Statistical Methods, Nursing Theory, Nursing Concepts in Health Promotion, and Disease and Injury Prevention in Populations.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston offers admission once yearly in the Spring. The program consists of fifty-four credit hours including classes such as Nursing Informatics, Nursing Research and Epidemiology, Advanced Physical Examination and Differential Diagnosis.


Clinical Training


Like students enrolled in on-campus classes, students who are enrolled in online RN to MSN-FNP programs are required to complete a minimum number of clinical training hours. The best RN to MSN-FNP programs online strive to make sure their students pass licensure and certification examinations. Part of helping students prepare for a career as a family nurse practitioner is to make sure students have clinical experiences in environments that are conducive to learning and that meet the requirements of State Boards of Nursing and certifying agencies. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) require FNP candidates to complete a minimum 500 hours of post baccalaureate clinical practice that is supervised by a preceptor to qualify for national certification examinations. Keep in mind, 500 clinical hours are the minimum certifying agencies will accept. Some colleges or universities may require students to complete more than 500 clinical hours to graduate from their programs.

Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the University of Texas at Arlington both require students in their RN to MSN-FNP online programs to complete 720 practicum hours. Clarkson University students complete 650 clinical hours. South University in Savannah, Georgia, requires RN to MSN-FNP students to complete 42 credit hours and a minimum of 780 clinical hours.


Admission Requirements


MSN-FNP programs typically have similar admission criteria that aligns with state and federal guidelines. However, each school reserves the right to include additional requirements for admission if they feel it is beneficial to the student, program, or school. RN to MSN-Family Nurse Practitioner online programs usually require students to meet the same admission requirements as on-campus learners.
Common admission requirements include the following.

• Possess an active, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse in the state where you will complete your clinical practicum
• Submit official transcripts which reflect a cumulative 3.0 undergraduate grade point average
• Resume’ or curriculum vitae
• Three letters of professional reference from supervisors or instructors
• Personal statement or letter of intent

Admission requirements at the University of Texas Arlington include submission of an online application, official transcripts, and an active, verified license to practice as an RN, and a 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Herzing University Milwaukee requires applicants to verify they live in a state where Herzing University is authorized to offer the RN to MSN-FNP program. This can be done by contacting your state board of nursing. Applicants must hold an associate degree or diploma in nursing from a regionally or nationally accredited university or college and must participate in an admissions interview.

Acceptance into one of the best online RN to MSN-FNP programs means applicants must meet school-specific admission requirements. For example, Regis University requires applicants to possess a non-nursing bachelor’s degree or an associate degree in nursing from a regionally accredited institution of higher learning and complete college-level statistics course. Additionally, registered nurses with an ADN may be required to take some general education courses, depending on their previous undergraduate coursework. Students who are accepted in the program as a registered nurse with or without a non-nursing bachelor’s degree must take four bridge courses including Health Assessment, Evidence for Nursing Practice, Concepts and Challenges in Professional Practice and Community-Based Nursing.


7 Things To Consider When Applying For Top RN To MSN-FNP Online Programs


If you are considering applying to one of the best RN to MSN-FNP programs online, you may feel overwhelmed and are likely to have several questions. There are many things to consider before applying so you can make decisions that fit your personal goals and timeline for completion. Some important things to consider include:

1. Accreditation is one of the most important things to consider when choosing to apply to RN to MSN-FNP programs online. Certifying agencies such as the CCNE and ACEN report that when a school has gone through the process of being accredited it helps to improve the quality of education provided by the school. Accreditation ensures that instructors are using up-to-date teaching methods, courses have content that aligns with current information available, and that the needs of students are being met satisfactorily.
2. What percentage of graduates pass the FNP certification exam? No doubt about it, if you are going to contribute the time, effort, and finances required to achieve your MSN-FNP, you will want to do it at a school that has a good rate of graduate success. Colleges and universities usually have information about their graduate’s success passing the FNP certification exams posted on their websites or on campus (usually near the admissions office). If you can’t find the information, ask an admissions advisor or counselor to provide you with it. No matter how nice a school looks, if graduates can’t pass FNP certification exams after completing their program, you may be wise to look for education elsewhere.
3. Are instructors easily accessible to online students? While everyone can agree that someone pursuing a master’s degree should be able to handle some things on their own, there will be times when you need to talk to an instructor. Ask if there is a student liaison who facilitates communication between faculty and students, what the preferred method of communication with instructors is, and what the turnaround time for responses is.
4. Who is responsible for negotiating clinical partnerships for the practicum part of the program? Many colleges and universities require students who are enrolled in online RN to MSN-Family Nurse Practitioner programs to find and arrange their own clinical rotation sites and preceptors. Some schools allow students to complete some of the required clinical hours at their current place of employment, while others do not. Clinical sites and preceptors must be approved by the school you are attending. If the school requires you to choose sites and preceptors and submit information for approval, it is a good idea to do that early in the program so you can be sure you don’t miss out on clinicals because of a site or preceptor not being approved.
5. Do you plan to continue working while in school? While there is no right or wrong answer to this question. The curriculum in RN to MSN-FNP online programs can be rigorous at times, requiring a student’s firm dedication to studies. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that living expenses, school tuition, associated fees and supplies, as well as unexpected expenses need to be paid. If you plan on continuing to work full-time while pursuing your MSN-FNP, try to save as many of your paid-time-off days as possible so you can use them on days that you are required to participate in clinical rotations. Also, you may need to talk to your employer and ask if a shift or schedule change is possible. It is not impossible to work and while in an RN to MSN-FNP program, but it requires planning and good time management.
6. How do you plan to pay for your RN to MSN-FNP degree? The cost of tuition and fees associated with the best RN to MSN-FNP online programs varies from school to school. Even if you have been saving money to go back to school, there are also other options available to help with school-related expenses. Some employers offer tuition assistance to employees in exchange for the employee continuing to work for them for a designated amount of time after completion of the program. This scenario could be a win-win for you because you could have tuition assistance and a job. Additionally, applying for federally funded grants or guaranteed student loans is another way to get the financial assistance you may need.
7. Are classes synchronous or asynchronous? One of the perks of going to school online is that students get to choose when and where to spend time learning and studying. If your schedule varies due to work or family responsibilities, you need to be sure you pick a school that offers asynchronous classes. Asynchronous RN to MSN-FNP programs allow students to interact with their peers and instructors by using online message boards and emails. Synchronous programs require all students enrolled in a course to meet with their instructor and peers together using an online portal.



FOLLOWING ARE THE 17 BEST ONLINE RN TO MSN-FNP PROGRAMS FOR 2021

(These MSN-FNP programs are ideal for ADN-Educated Registered Nurses who wish to become a Family Nurse Practitioner.)

1. Vanderbilt University - Nashville, TN


2. University of Alabama at Birmingham - Birmingham, AL


3. Stony Brook University - Stony Brook, NY


4. University of Memphis - Memphis, TN


5. University of South Alabama - Mobile, AL


6. Ball State University - Muncie, IN


7. University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston - Houston, TX


8. Loyola University New Orleans - New Orleans, LA


9. Northern Arizona University - Flagstaff, AZ


10. Clarkson College - Omaha, NE


11. South University - Savannah, GA


12. University of Texas at Arlington - Arlington, TX


13. Herzing University Milwaukee - Menomonee Falls, WI


14. Regis College - Weston, MA


15. Concordia University Wisconsin - Mequon, WI


16. East Tennessee State University - Johnson City, TN


17. Simmons University - Boston, MA


View Ranking Methodology



Career Opportunities After Completing This Program


There are many career opportunities available after completing RN to MSN-Family Nurse Practitioner programs online. Because becoming a family nurse practitioner expands the scope of practice under which you provide patient care, you can not only find employment in several healthcare settings but may find that you have more of a leadership role in those settings. The following are a few examples of career opportunities that graduates of RN to MSN-FNP online programs may find.

• Hospitals
• Private physician’s offices
• Own private practice
• Home health
• Hospice
• Community health clinics
• College Instructor


Average Salary For Graduates Of This Program


The average salary of FNPs after graduating from online RN to MSN-Family Nurse Practitioner programs and passing the certification exam is approximately $95,859. This salary is equivalent to $46.09 hourly or $7,990 monthly. Depending on the amount of nursing experience a graduate had prior to completing the MSN-FNP program, he or she may be able to negotiate a higher salary, especially if that experience was in a family practice or primary care setting. Also, working in under-served areas where primary care providers are in short supply may be a factor that leads to a higher income.

Hourly$46.09
Monthly$7,990
Annual$95,859
(Source: payscale.com)


Job Outlook For Graduates Of This Program


According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, there are almost 300,000 nurse practitioners licensed to practice in the United States. Over sixty-five percent of those are certified as family nurse practitioners. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not give a projection on the projected job growth of family nurse practitioners, it does report that overall employment of nurse practitioners is expected to grow by at least forty-five percent between 2019 and 2029. This growth can be attributed to the increased need for health care services related to the aging population, people living longer, and what seems to be an increase in both acute and chronic illness and disease.


Bottomline


Nursing is a profession full of opportunities. Nurses who want to broaden their scope of practice, pursue higher paying jobs, or impact the field of nursing can accomplish all those goals by becoming a family nurse practitioner. The first step is to research and find one of the best online RN to MSN-FNP programs for 2021. Keep in mind what your long-term goals are and be sure to ask as many questions as you feel necessary to make sure you are getting the information you want and need to help you pick the school that is right for you. Once you have decided on a school and met the admissions requirements, there really is no limit to the success you can achieve by completing an RN to MSN-FNP program!


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY OUR EXPERT


Are online MSN-FNP programs generally designed only for nurses who hold a BSN?

Although most MSN-FNP programs are for registered nurses who already hold a BSN, there are other pathways for an RN with an ADN to achieve an MSN-FNP degree. There are actually two types of RN to MSN-FNP programs that accommodate registered nurses who don’t possess a BSN. Some programs allow registered nurses who have an ADN to earn their BSN and MSN-FNP while completing a concentrated nursing program. Additionally, Bachelor’s to MSN-FNP programs accept RN, ADNs who also hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field.

How does an RN to MSN-FNP Program for People with a Non-Nursing Bachelor’s Degree work?

Non-nursing bachelor's to MSN-FNP programs accept registered nurses who hold an associate degree in nursing and a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field and allow them to earn a Master of Science in nursing degree without having to first achieve a bachelor's degree in nursing. Applicants must hold an active, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse throughout the duration of the program.

Do online RN to MSN-FNP programs require applicants to submit GRE scores?

Although some online RN to MSN-FNP programs require GRE scores for admission, many do not. Typically, MSN-FNP programs weigh an applicant’s professional nursing experience and past academic performance over scores from standardized tests. Keep in mind, though, most RN to MSN-FNP programs require applicants to show proof of a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale on all undergraduate coursework to be accepted for admissions. If your undergraduate GPA is right at a 3.0 or is less than that and you have taken the GRE and scored well, it may be helpful to submit your scores, as some schools will use GRE scores to determine conditional admission to their programs.

Do schools that offer online RN to MSN-FNP programs offer classes exclusively online?

There are many online RN to MSN-FNP programs that offer all their coursework online. Also, there are some programs that may require limited attendance on campus for lab evaluations or other such work. Typically, schools that have that requirement give students plenty of time to prepare for their anticipated on-campus time. Also, all RN to MSN-FNP programs, whether on-campus or online, require students to participate in clinical practicum hours in-person at designated clinical sites.


Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years' experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels.