10 Best Shortest RN to MSN Online Programs For 2023

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Are you a registered nurse who is interested in pursuing a more advanced practice by obtaining your MSN degree? Does the idea sound great, but you feel like you just do not have enough time? Believe it or not, there are options! I would like to share some information with you about some of the shortest RN to MSN programs online that could help you achieve your goals in as little time as possible. In this article, we will discuss the ten best shortest RN to MSN online programs for 2023 and answer some questions associated with these programs overall.

What Exactly Is the Goal of a Fast-Track RN to MSN Program?

The goal of a fast-track RN to MSN program is to give busy, professional registered nurses the opportunity to earn an advanced degree in a shorter amount of time. Because candidates for these programs have already completed an RN degree, there is no need to go through prerequisite courses, which means less time in the class.

6 Advantages of Going Directly from RN To MSN

Every career option has pros and cons that should be considered before making a final choice. If you are already an RN, pursuing an MSN degree could be a great option. Here are a few advantages of going from RN to MSN.

1. Various program options:

If you want to achieve an advanced degree in nursing, RN to MSN programs offer different options for completing your goal. Whether you choose to go to school part-time, full-time, or participate in a hybrid program, there is something for everyone.

2. New career opportunities:

As with any career, the more education you get in your chosen field, the more likely you are to be offered positions in different areas. As a registered nurse with an MSN degree, you will have the opportunity to focus on specific areas in nursing, such as family nurse practitioner, an informatics nurse, or to take on an advanced managerial role in a healthcare setting. It is also worth noting that many hospitals and other healthcare organizations may give first preference to nursing candidates who have their MSN before nurses with an ADN or BSN.

3. Earn a higher salary:

Another advantage of obtaining an advanced degree such as an MSN means that the career opportunities associated with the degree are also associated with wages that are significantly higher than the salaries that registered nurses with an ADN or BSN earn.

4. Take on leadership roles:

Because of the high level of education associated with an MSN degree, graduates become good candidates for managerial or administrative positions.

5. More favorable work schedules:

MSN nurses are more likely to find jobs that have schedules with less shift work or that follow an eight-hour workday. That's not to say that an MSN nurse will never work a night, weekend, or holiday, especially if you focus on a concentration that requires your services at different times. However, employers typically offer more favorable schedules to the most qualified candidates.

6. Expand your network and gain respect among peers:

There is nothing that earns the respect of other professionals as much as being able to show that you value your education or that you are dedicated to learning and improving your skills within your chosen field of work. When you achieve an MSN degree, you create an opportunity for yourself to meet other like-minded professionals and network together with them.

4 Reasons Why the Shortest RN to MSN Online Programs Are an Attractive Option?

Choosing to advance your career from an RN with an associate or bachelor's degree to an MSN degree could be a significant career move. Choosing from the shortest RN to MSN online programs can be a positive choice. A few reasons for choosing one of the shortest RN to MSN programs online may include the following.

1. Attending school online usually gives students more freedom to decide when and where to study. This means if you want or need to continue working or if you have other obligations, you may be able to attend school without much disruption in your normal routine.
2. Pursuing a degree online can be more cost-effective than attending school through a traditional university. You can save money by not having to commute to and from school and may be able to utilize digital textbooks, which are typically less expensive than regular textbooks you may have to buy from a bookstore.
3. The shortest RN to MSN online programs allow students to earn advanced degrees with concentration in specialty areas in minimal amounts of time. This is an attractive option because it will enable you to complete your degree and begin focusing on your career quickly.
4. Perhaps the most attractive reason for pursuing one of the shortest RN to MSN online programs is that the sooner you complete the program, the sooner you can begin to access the benefits that come with an advanced degree, such as applying for jobs that offer higher incomes.

How Long Are the Shortest RN to MSN Online Programs?

The shortest RN to MSN online programs vary in length from sixteen months to three years or more. Typically, the length of time it takes you to complete the program will depend mostly upon whether you enter the program with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN).

For example, at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, you can attend one of the shortest RN to MSN online programs, which is a sixteen-month program focusing on a specialty concentration in nursing education. Charleston Southern University’s RN to MSN program can be completed in nineteen months. The University of Arizona at Tucson and the University of Maryland at Baltimore offer RN to MSN programs, which take approximately twenty-four months to complete.

How Much Do the Shortest Online RN to MSN Programs Cost?

The shortest RN to MSN online programs may range in cost from $12,000 to over $30,000.
For example, the cost of an RN to MSN program at Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing and Allied Health with a subspecialty in nursing informatics costs $565 per credit hour. It requires students to complete thirty-five credit hours of courses, resulting in an average of $19,775 to complete the program. American Sentinel University offers a seven semester RN to MSN program at the cost of $4,000 per semester, which averages $28,000. Additionally, at American Sentinel University, it is possible to complete the MSN program in fewer semesters if you have the time. The University of San Francisco’s RN to MSN program costs approximately $58,000, and the RN to MSN at Charleston Southern University costs $625 per credit hour, which means students pay from $24,375 to $31,875, depending on whether they enter with an ADN or BSN degree.


Although there are some courses that may be the same from school to school, the curriculum for the shortest RN to MSN programs online may also have some variations, depending on the school you choose and whether you enter as an ADN or BSN nurse.

For example, The University of Arizona offers ADN to MSN and BSN to MSN tracks. Students enrolled in the ADN to MSN track are required to complete forty-five credits. BSN to MSN students complete thirty-eight credits. Coursework includes Evidence-Based Practice Improvement, Health Promotion and Reduction of Risk Potential, Healthcare Environments and Coordination of Care, Business Dynamics of Healthcare. Also, all students in the University of Arizona’s MSN in Clinical Systems Leadership must successfully complete a three-credit college-level statistics class within the previous five years.

The University of Maryland at Baltimore allows candidates to participate in an accelerated learning path toward earning an MSN and to choose to specialize in one of the following three areas:

• Community/Public Health Nursing - Requires thirty-eight credits for completion. Courses may include Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Care for the RN, Pathophysiologic Implications to Patient Assessment, Health Informatics, Health Promotion and Population Health.
• Health Services Leadership and Management - Requires 38 credits and 150 practicum hours. Courses involve study in the following categories: Leadership and Management Core Courses, Master’s Core Courses, Leadership and Management Focus, and Education Focus.
• Nursing Informatics - Consists of 40 credit hours and 135 practicum hours. Coursework includes Health Promotion and Population Health, Methods for Research and Evidence Based Practice, Technology Solutions for Generating Knowledge in Health Care Nursing Informatics Concepts and Practices.

University of San Francisco’s ADN to MSN students complete thirty-eight credits over six semesters. The coursework included in this plan of study includes Community Health Nursing, Transition to Graduate Nursing, Population-Based Epidemiological Inquiry, Assessment Across the Lifespan, Advanced Pharmacology and Advanced Pathophysiology. The BSN to MSN path requires completion of thirty-three units of credit including Health Informatics, Quality, Improvement and Patient Safety, Advanced Pathophysiology and Pharmacology, Leadership for Quality Outcome and Health Policy Ethics and Advocacy.

At Nebraska Methodist College, RN to MSN students are required to complete thirty-six credit hours to be eligible for graduation from the MSN program. Coursework includes courses such as Advanced Nursing Roles, Measurement and Statistical Concepts for Data Interpretation, Synthesis and Use of Knowledge for Evidence-Based Practice, Role of the Nursing Executive and Healthcare Policy.

Clinical Training

Because students enrolled in the fastest RN to MSN programs online are already licensed to practice as registered nurses, they have completed the minimum number of clinical hours for their current licensure. To obtain an MSN degree, candidates typically must have at least 1,000 hours of supervised clinical hours. Many schools allow students to apply up to five hundred hours of clinical hours from their previous BSN degree toward that requirement. Additionally, once a subspecialty is chosen, many schools require students to complete at least two hundred hours of clinical training in within that chosen specialty. These requirements vary from school to school and should be discussed with an advisor and plans for when and where clinicals will be done should be made well in advance.

Admission Requirements For The Shortest Online RN to MSN Programs

Each college or university reserves the right to set specific admission criteria. However, there are general guidelines that even the fastest RN to MSN online programs follow. Admission criteria are created to make sure that applicants meet the minimum standard required to join a program and are designed to identify students who will excel in any given program. Typical admission requirements for the best shortest RN to MSN online programs include:

• Possess a current, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse in the state where you will complete clinical requirements
• Provide official transcripts from all post-secondary education schools reflecting a cumulative grade point average of at least a 3.0 in all previously completed undergraduate courses
• Have at least one year of clinical experience working as a registered nurse
• Possess and maintain current BLS certification through the whole program

A few examples of admissions requirements from some of our best fastest RN to MSN programs online include the following.

1. Quinnipiac University requires applicants in their Operational Leadership RN to MSN program to possess a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing. Additionally, candidates must have proof of achieving an undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 or higher cumulatively from all post-secondary schools.
2. Charleston Southern University’s MSN program requires students to submit an admissions essay which describes their academic and professional goals, a resume’, official transcripts from all post-secondary schools attended and three letters of recommendation. If a student’s cumulative undergraduate grade point average is below 3.5, candidates are also required to submit GRE or MAT scores.
3. The University of Arizona, like all MSN programs, requires candidates to possess an active, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse and to maintain current licensure through the duration of the program. Applicants must also take a 3-credit college statistics class within the past five years, possess an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing and have proof of a cumulative 3.0 GPA.
4. Union University’s admission requirements include completion of an accredited nursing program that aligns with your chosen path of study’s options, submit official transcripts, attend an interview with the nursing graduate admissions selection committee, pass a criminal background check and drug test.

5 Things I Need to Do to Improve My Chances of Getting Into The Top Shortest RN to MSN Online Programs

It's understandable that you want to be accepted into your chosen program as soon as possible. Knowing what to do to improve your chances of success with being accepted into the top shortest RN to MSN online programs is important. Below is a list of five things you can do to help improve your chances when you first apply.

1. Make an appointment with an admissions counselor.

Taking the time to speak with an admissions counselor at a school you would like to attend will give you a chance to ask questions about what the school is looking for in candidates, so you can make sure you are putting your efforts into the things the school values.

2. Verify all pre-program requirements and make sure you meet them.

The best fastest RN to MSN online programs may have some similarities regarding what is required for admission, but you may also find some variations in admission criteria among schools. Finding out requirements and being prepared beforehand improves your chances. On the other hand, not thinking things through or making sure you've "got it all together" could make you seem like an unfavorable candidate.

3. Apply to several schools.

Although there may be one school that you prefer to attend, it is always a good idea to apply to several to increase your chances of acceptance as soon as possible.

4. Work on your admissions essay early.

Your essay should be clear about your desire to have a long-term career as an advanced practice nurse and why you want to do so. You may include things like why you chose a career in the healthcare industry in the first place and what you would like to do in the long-term.

5. Choose a subspecialty and be able to explain why that subspecialty is important to you.

Anyone can apply to a program, but admissions advisors and staff want to know that you are dedicated and why.


1. University of Maryland-Baltimore - Baltimore, Maryland


Community/Public Health Nursing, Health Services Leadership and Management, and Nursing Informatics (24 Months)

2. University of San Francisco - San Francisco, California (24 Months)

3. Quinnipiac University - Hamden, Connecticut


Operational Leadership (24 Months)

4. Union University - Jackson, Tennessee


Administration and Education (16 Months)

5. University of Arizona - Tucson, Arizona


Clinical Systems Leadership (24 Months)

6. Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health - Omaha, Nebraska


Nurse Educator (30 Months), Nurse Executive (30 Months), and Nursing Informatics (21 Months)

7. Olivet Nazarene University - Bourbonnais, Illinois


Education, Leadership/Management, and Family Nurse Practitioner (30-36 Months)

8. Charleston Southern University - Charleston, South Carolina


Nurse Educator and Nurse Leader (19 Months)

9. Wilkes University - Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania


Family Nurse Practitioner(36 Months), Adult-Gerontology Primary Care (30 Months), and Psychiatric/Mental Health (36 Months)

10.American Sentinel University - Aurora, Colorado


Case Management, Infection Prevention and Control, Nursing Education, Nursing Informatics, Nursing Management and Organizational Leadership (36 Months)


Career Opportunities Post Completion Of Fast-Track RN to MSN

There are several career opportunities for nurses who complete a fast-track RN to MSN program. There are several subspecialties to choose from, which means there are many opportunities for different types of jobs.

A few career opportunities that are available after completion of a fast-track RN to MSN program include the following.

• Nurse Educator
• Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
• Nurse Administrator
• Advanced Nurse Practitioner
• Research Nurse
• Nurse Consultant

Average Salary for RN to MSN Graduates

RN to MSN graduates typically earn an average annual salary of just under $95,000. That salary is the equivalent of around $46 hourly or $7,900 monthly. Of course, there are some things such as subspecialty, geographical location, and years of experience that may have an impact on the salary you may be offered.

Per Hour $45.65
Per Month $7,910
Per Year $94,945
(Source: payscale.com)

Employment Outlook

The aging population and an increase in chronic illness and disease are two things that make the outlook for nursing opportunities seem more positive. Additionally, because of the shortage of general practitioners, many hospitals and healthcare organizations appear to be moving toward showing more favor to nurses who possess an MSN degree. Although it means that the employer may have to pay a higher salary, it also gives the healthcare organization the ability to say that it has employed highly educated and well-equipped nurses who are able to provide exceptional care. With all of these reasons combined, it is safe to believe that the outlook for employment opportunities for MSN-educated nurses is quite favorable.


After reviewing some of the requirements for attending an RN to MSN online program and deciding it's the right path for you, the next step is to review and consider which program is best for you, such as the best shortest RN to MSN online programs listed in this article. Don't forget, there are many schools and opportunities for you to reach your goal of becoming an MSN. Apply to several schools, study hard, follow your dream, and never give up!

Frequently Asked Questions Answered

How many years do online RN to MSN programs usually take to complete?

Online RN to MSN programs can take anywhere from a year and a half to three years or more to complete. The primary determining factor is whether you enter the program with an ADN or BSN degree. Further, if you need to repeat a course, take time off, or attend part-time instead of full-time, any of these can affect the amount of time it takes you to graduate from the program.

Is it worth getting a master's degree in nursing?

Choosing to pursue an advanced degree in nursing must be an independent decision based on your personal goals. There are many reasons that make obtaining an MSN can be beneficial. With a master's degree in nursing, you have access to jobs that offer higher salaries, you can take advantage of the opportunity to work in specialty areas that are reserved only for RNs with advanced degrees and can learn specialized skills to help you work within a specific patient population.

Is it a good idea to go from an ADN to MSN?

Candidates for an RN to MSN program may possess an associate or bachelor's degree in nursing. If you possess an associate of science degree in nursing and want to go straight to an MSN track, of course, it's a good idea. Because ADN programs do not cover as much curriculum as BSN programs, an ADN to MSN program may take a little longer to complete. Still, any time you can continue your education, it is a good idea to do so, especially if you know you want to stay in the same field of work for the duration of your career.

How do I know which MSN degree path to pursue?

Online MSN degree paths are chosen depending on your current license and credentials. For example, some students enroll in what is referred to as a traditional RN to MSN program, which is tailored for registered nurses who possess an ADN degree and active RN license. Another RN to MSN path is for BSN-prepared nurses who wish to pursue a master's degree.

What is the difference between an MSN and a DNP?

Both MSN and DNP degrees prepare registered nurses to work in advanced roles in nursing. An MSN degree is often considered a traditional education requirement for registered nurses who wish to work in advanced practice. A DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) program consists of additional training in areas such as health care policies, interprofessional collaboration, and health information systems. A DNP degree is a terminal nursing degree, which means it is the highest degree you can obtain in the nursing industry.

Do the fastest RN to MSN online programs require applicants to take the GRE?

Some schools do still require students to take the GRE. On the other hand, there are schools that may offer to waive the GRE testing requirement if the applicant maintained a minimum grade point average of 3.0 in all post-secondary education.

Do the fastest RN to MSN online programs allow students to transfer credits from another school?

Most schools allow students to transfer some of the academic credits they received for work completed at other schools. However, there may be a limit to the number of credits you are allowed to transfer. Therefore, it is important to clarify with an admissions counselor or academic advisor which of your previous credits, if any, are transferrable, and if there is a limit, ask the advisor which credits they recommend you apply to transfer.

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.