Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree

Curious about MSN degrees? Explore the different master's in nursing degree programs and discover the perfect MSN program format that is a fit for you.

What is an MSN Degree?

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree is an essential degree for those who want to get into nursing administration, education, or specialty medical care. An MSN degree is undertaken by those who have already completed a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN) and have become certified registered nurses (RNs) by completing to NCLEX-RN licensing exam. MSN bridge programs are also available if you have an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN).

MSN degree programs often look at nursing principles and theories with a focus on a specific medical specialty, such as neonatal nursing or oncology nursing. Those who complete an MSN degree are knowledgeable enough to sit for the national certification exams to become nurse practitioners (NPs). Other career options for graduates with an MSN degree include nurse educator, nurse administrator, and health advocate.

Best MSN Programs

Explore this comprehensive list to find out which schools offer the best Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs in the nation. In creating this list, we took a close look at data from the Department of Education, including rates of graduation, student retention and school costs. We also checked out nursing degree data such as MSN concentrations, clinical experiences and unique offerings like study abroad opportunities and scholarships for graduate students.'s rankings are unique in that they emphasize accessibility, affordability, and quality of education, which we considered the most important attributes in our ranking lists. Looking to earn your MSN degree to become a nurse practitioner, educator or administrator? This list of the best MSN programs might just help you locate the perfect school.

1. Mount Carmel College of Nursing

Mount Carmel College of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio, opened its doors in 1903 with the goal of providing a superior educational experience, something it continues today through top graduate nursing programs. Mount Carmel students interested in securing an MSN have several options from which to choose, including two-year family nurse practitioner (FNP) and adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AG-ACNP) programs, both of which provide students with 650 hours of clinical experience. Additional MSN options include the three-year online nursing education program, which features a practicum experience, and the four-year hybrid (online and in-person learning) nursing administration program, which offers an administrative internship capstone. This has a unique Mount Carmel Center for Innovative Learning provides hands-on learning options to help graduate students gain confidence in their skills.

2. University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati's College of Nursing made our list due to its reputation for being a top academic option for master's degree hopefuls. The Ohio college is home to several graduate programs, including the standard MSN for bachelor's degree holders with at least one year of experience as a registered nurse (RN) and an accelerated direct-entry MSN, which prepares students with non-nursing bachelor's degrees to earn their master's degrees and become licensed RNs. Students also have access to two-semester case management and nurse educator graduate certificate programs. The College of Nursing's international program helps enhance graduate students' nursing skills with travel abroad opportunities to countries like Ecuador and Tanzania.

3. University of Arizona

The University of Arizona's College of Nursing in Tucson gets students on the right path towards earning their MSN, whether they are working to become RNs or already have nursing careers and want to secure advanced positions. Graduate students can take advantage of the 15-month online RN to MSN program for registered nurses with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) who are interested in careers in clinical systems leadership. The college also offers a Master of Science for Entry to the Profession of Nursing (MEPN), which is designed for bachelor's degree holders in areas outside of nursing, and these students have a National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) pass rate of more than 90 percent.

4. East Carolina University

Located in Greenville, NC, East Carolina University's College of Nursing prepares students for advanced nursing careers through an accredited MSN program that features multiple concentration areas. MSN students can study to become FNPs, adult-gerontology nurse practitioners (AGNPs), clinical nurse specialists, nurse midwives, neonatal nurse practitioners, nurse educators, nurse administrators or nurse anesthetists. Concepts Integration Labs at the university offer graduate students the chance to work on advanced nursing skills outside of the classroom, including wound suturing. The College of Nursing has been designated as an NLN Center of Excellence and has graduated more than 8,500 nursing students.

5. Virginia Commonwealth University

The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing in Richmond maintains an enrollment of about 900 students and employs faculty members who serve as practicing nurses and nurse scientists. The school offers an MSN program with concentrations for students interested in becoming an adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP), psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP), adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP), FNP or nurse administrator. Students interested in enhancing their clinical experience in a secure environment can benefit from the Clinical Learning Center. The chance for graduate students to strengthen their leadership skills and enhance their professional lives is available through school's chapter of the Sigma Theta Tau International nursing honor society.

6. California University of Pennsylvania

At the California University of Pennsylvania, nursing students receive an excellent educational experience from faculty members who possess RN backgrounds as well as MSN and doctorate degrees. The university's MSN options include programs in nursing administration, nursing administration and leadership, and nursing education, all of which can be completed online. Students enrolled in MSN programs for nursing education and nursing administration benefit from 150 hours of preceptor-led clinical experience. The university also offers a Master of Business Administration (MBA)-MSN dual online degree or a singular MBA in nursing administration.

7. William Paterson University of New Jersey

At William Paterson University of New Jersey, students have access to four MSN tracks: AGNP, FNP, nurse educator or nurse administrator. MSN program enrollees take core nursing courses like theoretical foundations for nursing then move on to courses for their specific tracks like advanced pharmacology, clinical teaching strategies and management information systems. The university also offers a Master of Education (MEd) in curriculum and learning with a concentration in school nursing. To financially support graduate students' academic journeys, a variety of scholarship options are available at this Wayne, NJ, school, including March of Dimes Graduate Nursing Scholarships, the Nurse Educational Funds, INC. Scholarship and Army Nurse Corps Association Scholarship Program.

8. Kent State University at Kent

Students earning an MSN from Kent State University at the Kent, Ohio, campus benefit from a legacy of academic excellence, as evidenced by the school's advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) certification average pass rate of 95% and nearly 100% job placement within six months of graduation. The College of Nursing offers several concentrations with its MSN, including adult gerontology and nursing healthcare management. Additional areas of concentration include the FNP, nurse educator, PMHNP, women's health nurse practitioner and pediatric primary care nurse practitioner. Kent State students also have the opportunity to pursue a dual MBA-MSN degree.

9. Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University's School of Nursing prepares students for advanced nursing careers through its MSN program, which features nurse administrator, clinical nurse specialist; nurse midwifery; and family, pediatric and neonatal nurse practitioner concentrations. This Virginia school is recognized for its academic excellence with 100% FNP and nurse anesthesia certification pass rates and a 99% job placement rate within one year of graduation. In addition to high-level coursework, MSN students get clinical experience by working in primary care settings specific to their career tracks.

10. University of Connecticut

The School of Nursing at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT, made our ranking list due to its comprehensive MSN programs and stellar clinical support options. Students can enroll in the FNP, AGPCNP, AGACNP, neonatal and RN to master's nursing programs. On campus, graduate students have access to a variety of facilities and resources, including nursing laboratories they can use to strengthen their assessment skills. The School of Nursing also houses the Josephine Dolan Collection, which features a variety of exhibits dedicated to the field of nursing.

11. University of North Dakota

The College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks offers graduate programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) that boast impressive results, including a 100% pass rate from 2017 graduates taking the adult-gerontology nurse practitioner certification exam. Students can choose from three nurse practitioner options in the areas of AGPCNP, FNP and PMHNP. A master's program is also available for prospective nurse educators. Graduate students who complete these programs will be ready to sit for and pass certification exams administered by the NLN, American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC) or American Academy of Nurse Practitioners National Certification Board (AANPCB).

12. D'Youville College

MSN programs offered at the School of Nursing at D'Youville College in Buffalo, New York, prepare students for exceptional careers in multiple nursing professions. Students can choose from programs in FNP, nursing management and quality leadership, PMHNP and nursing education with a clinical focus. Depending on the program, students may be able to take some courses online. The Interprofessional Education & Simulation Center offers the unique opportunity to gain advanced practice clinical experience through simulations and lab work alongside the college's faculty members.

13. University of Southern Mississippi

The University of Southern Mississippi College of Nursing was founded in 1967 and has since maintained its commitment to offer an accredited academic experience, clinical opportunities within the community and research for nursing advancement. Within the College of Nursing is the School of Nursing and Advanced Nursing Practice, created specifically for graduate nursing students. The school's comprehensive five-semester MSN program offers tracks for students seeking employment in FNP and PMHNP care environments. Each track is offered mostly online, but requires students to make semester campus visits and take part in clinical experiences.

14. Penn State University

Penn State University's College of Nursing educates more than 2,000 students across its 13 campuses. At the school's main campus in University Park, students have several MSN options from which to choose, including the hybrid online/on-campus nurse practitioner program with focuses for adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners and family/individual across the lifespan nurse practitioners. MSN and graduate certificate options are available for students interested in becoming nurse educators or nurse administrators. These programs are available online through the Penn State World Campus.

15. The University of Texas at El Paso

The University of Texas at El Paso offers several MSN programs to get students on the right track toward advanced careers in nursing. The university's School of Nursing features three MSN program options: nursing administration and management (NAM), nursing education (NE) and nurse practitioner (NP), the latter of which consists of concentrations for adult-gerontology, family and pediatric care. The MSN programs are designed for working students and feature seven-week sessions. Outside of the classroom, graduate students have the opportunity to practice their nursing skills in the local community.

16. University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

The University of Minnesota - Twin Cities provides the unique opportunity to earn a Master of Nursing (MN) and simultaneously become an RN from the School of Nursing. The 16-month, full-time MN program prepares non-nursing bachelor's degree holders to take the NCLEX, provides more than 500 clinical hours with opportunities at more than 250 organizations and even allows students to apply 18 credits earned toward a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. Students graduating with their MN enjoyed more than 90% NCLEX first-time pass rates in 2017, and 100% of fall 2016 cohorts finished their MN programs in four semesters. In addition to the university's MN programs, students can pursue a post-baccalaureate certificate in the area of health care design and innovation under the leadership of School of Nursing faculty.

17. Binghamton University

The Decker School of Nursing at Binghamton University in New York offers four-semester MSN programs for students interested in specialties like adult-gerontology, community health, family health and family psychiatric mental health. While in their respective programs, graduate students get a stellar academic experience through core nursing, clinical specialization and role development courses. Graduate students get 868 simulation hours through the use of the Innovative Simulation and Practice Center. Program graduates enjoy high job placement rates and are often employed in hospitals, university settings and medical centers.

18. University of North Carolina at Greensboro

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro's School of Nursing has the distinguished honor of being recognized as an NLN Center for Excellence. In addition to high-quality academic options, the school provides students with clinical support through top-notch simulation facilities and professional support through organizations like the Sigma Theta Tau International honor society and Chi Eta Phi sorority for nursing students and registered nurses. Students seeking their master's degrees can benefit from MSN programs in nursing administration and nursing education, both of which offer job placement rates of more than 90 percent. The school also offers a joint MSN/MBA in health management.

19. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Registered nurses interested in earning their MSN could begin their advanced nursing careers with help from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The university's School of Nursing offers BSN to MSN and RN to MSN program tracks with concentrations in nurse practitioner areas like adult gerontology, family nursing and pediatric nursing as well as health care systems areas like administration, informatics and outcomes management. A nine-credit nursing education graduate certificate is available for registered nurses enrolled in one of the MSN programs. Scholarships available for graduate students include the Carol Ann Beerstecher Graduate Scholarship and Kay Burwell Graduate Student Fund.

20. University of Virginia

Students interested in careers in advanced practice nursing can benefit from training at the University of Virginia's School of Nursing in Charlottesville. MSN program options include adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology acute care CNS, clinical nurse leader (for RNs and non-nursing students), family nurse practitioner, neonatal nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner (primary or acute care) and psychiatric mental health. Enrolled graduate students can gain quality clinical nursing experience at Virginia's number one ranked UVA Medical Center. In an effort to help students successfully achieve their academic goals, the School of Nursing provides financial support through a variety of scholarship opportunities.

21. Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville

At Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, School of Nursing students have access to a variety of unique MSN programs. The healthcare and nursing administration (HCNA) and healthcare and nursing administration/healthcare informatics programs are available completely online and get students ready for management and executive positions in nursing. The nurse educator program features an online format but also requires students to take part in three in-person practicums. In both the HCNA and nurse educator programs, students get hundreds of hours of clinical experience that ensures they're prepared to hit the ground running after graduating.

22. Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health

The Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing and Allied Health in Omaha has been providing students with quality nursing education since 1891. On average, more than 1,000 students are consistently enrolled at the college, ensuring they can enjoy a strong academic community that is small enough to provide much-needed personal attention and support. Students attending Nebraska Methodist have several MSN program options from which to choose, including those focused on nurse education, executive leadership roles and informatics. Thirty-month programs are available for current registered nurses, and 21-month programs are offered to students who already possess BSNs.

23. Clarkson College

Clarkson College is a nursing education school in Omaha, NE, that boasts a variety of accolades, including high retention and graduation rates. Student satisfaction is also higher than average when compared to four-year private colleges across the nation. The college offers students and current RNs the opportunity to earn MSNs in specialty areas like nursing health care administration, nursing education, AGPCNP and FNP. These MSN programs are recognized for their academic excellence and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

24. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

The University of Michigan - Ann Arbor's School of Nursing offers two MSN programs with the possibility of adding concentrations in occupational or global health. The advanced clinical path is designed for students interested in becoming nurse midwives or nurse practitioners in areas like adult-gerontology, pediatrics or family care. The MSN program in systems, populations and leadership offers focus areas in health informatics, leadership or population health. Graduate students have the opportunity to gain clinical experiences by working in the Clinical Learning Center where they can take part in simulations and also interact with volunteer patients.

25. Northern Arizona University

Graduate studies at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff consist of MSN programs with concentrations for aspiring family nurse practitioners as well for nurses interested in enhancing their general nursing knowledge. The FNP specialty track is designed for students who want to offer family primary care to patients living in rural areas, while the nurse generalist specialty track deepens the clinical knowledge of current RNs, allowing them to expand their nursing practice in desired areas. Scholarship opportunities available to School of Nursing graduate students include the Joan Beverly Horn Memorial Scholarship and Warnock-Morrow Scholarship.

26. Kean University

Kean University's nursing students enjoy an environment of excellence through faculty who make a difference on campus and beyond. In fact, three faculty members have been recognized for creating the Integrative Student Growth Model, a nursing education model that incorporates students' unique perspectives in their learning experience. The Union, NJ, university's School of Nursing prepares students to make the same impact in the nursing field through ACEN-accredited MSN programs in nursing leadership and community health nursing. A graduate certificate in school nursing is also available with the option to choose a non-instructional or instructional endorsement track.

27. University of Louisville

Kentucky's University of Louisville School of Nursing offers two accredited master's programs: one for students with non-nursing backgrounds seeking entry into the field and one for nurses interested in educational aspects of the field. The MEPN is a two-year program that results in both a BSN and MSN and prepares students to take and pass the NCLEX-RN to become a registered nurse. The certificate in health professions education MSN program ensures students are capable of teaching in hospitals as well as associate's and bachelor's degree programs. The School of Nursing offers MSN students the opportunity to compete for a graduate student assistantship designed to financially support their academic journeys.

28. University of Toledo

The University of Toledo's College of Nursing got its start in 1970 and has since remained committed to preparing nursing students to serve as leaders in the nursing field in Ohio and beyond. To get students on track toward their nursing career goals, the college offers a comprehensive CCNE-accredited MSN program with several tracks, including AGPCNP, FNP, PMHNP and primary care pediatric nurse practitioner. Students also have the option to enroll in the college's graduate certificate program in nursing education with the ability to apply credits earned toward the MSN. Graduate students in need of financial assistance have access to graduate assistantships, loan and scholarship options and the Choose Ohio First Scholars program for students enrolled in FNP and pediatric nurse practitioner primary care programs.

29. The University of Texas at Austin

The School of Nursing at the University of Texas at Austin has a stellar reputation for offering a quality nursing education, due in part to its small class sizes (806 total students to 84 faculty members in 2018, a 10:1 ratio). Students interested in securing an MSN can choose from a traditional program with five concentrations that include the FNP, pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP), PMHNP, adult-gerontology clinical nurse specialist (AG CNS) and leadership in diverse settings (LeaDS). The Alternate Entry MSN (AE-MSN) option is also available for prospective RNs with non-nursing backgrounds and features AG CNS, LeaDS and PMHNP concentrations. Students in the graduate program are granted automatic membership to the Association of Nurses in Graduate School (ANGS), which helps students become stronger academically and professionally.

30. University of Central Missouri

Graduate nursing students attending the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg are prepared academically for careers in both urban and rural settings. The university's School of Nursing offers an MSN with nurse educator and FNP emphasis areas, both of which provide students with a capstone clinical experience. The school also offers a graduate certificate for simulation education in health science designed for students possessing a bachelor's degree in a health sciences discipline. This online program prepares students for careers in simulation education and can be completed in just one and a half semesters.

31. University of Southern Indiana

Among the dozen programs found at the University of Southern Indiana's College of Nursing and Health Professions is a comprehensive MSN, which offers specialty areas for students interested in a variety of nursing professions. Evansville students can choose from three adult-gerontology options, including the primary care NP, acute care NP and clinical nurse specialist. The program also offers FNP, PMHNP, nursing education (NED) and nursing management and leadership (NML) specialties. Nurse practitioner and specialist programs provide students with more than 500 hours of clinical experience.

32. University of Central Arkansas

The University of Central Arkansas' School of Nursing was established in 1967 and received its initial accreditation from the NLN two short years later. The school's MSN was first offered in 1977 and has since expanded into a program that can prepare nurses for careers in a variety of nursing professions. Students interested in graduate-level education can take either a nurse educator with clinical specialty (NECS) track for a nursing career in higher, staff or patient education or the clinical nurse leader (CNL) track for careers focused on enhancing patient care and safety. The School of Nursing also provides the curriculum patterns of enrollment MSN option for registered nurses interested in the NECS or CNL program track who need to customize their degree completion timeline due to busy work schedules.

33. University of North Carolina at Charlotte

The Department of Nursing at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte opened its doors to seven nursing students in 1965 and decades later maintains a steady enrollment of hundreds of students, more than 200 of which are pursuing graduate degrees in nursing. Program and certificate options offered at the university include the CCNE-accredited MSN with options available in nurse anesthesia, advanced clinical nursing and systems/population nursing. MSNs are also available in AGACNP, FNP across the lifespan, nurse administration, nurse educator, nurse anesthesia across the lifespan and community/public health nursing. Students interested in additional graduate options might consider the school's nurse educator or nurse administration certificate.

34. University of South Florida

At the University of South Florida's main campus in Tampa, students can enroll in one of the College of Nursing's MSN programs and enjoy a top-notch academic experience and access to the college's 900+ clinical partners. Students with nursing and non-nursing bachelor's degrees can pursue their MSN with a concentration in areas that include adult-gerontology primary or acute care nursing, family health nursing, nursing education and pediatric health nursing. When not in the classroom, graduate students may be able to build their nursing skills through organizations like the Society of Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Students at USF or participate in travel abroad opportunities offered through the Global Nursing Program.

35. University of Colorado - Colorado Springs

The MSN program at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs is designed for current bachelor's degree holders who are interested in practitioner roles. Graduate students enrolled in the university's Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences can choose from three MSN tracks: primary care adult/gero nurse practitioner, primary care family nurse practitioner and psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner. The MSN is accredited by the CCNE and offered completely online.

36. University of Memphis

The University of Memphis' Loewenberg College of Nursing offers an online, traditional MSN program as well as well as an RN-MSN program for current RNs who have already acquired a degree in a discipline outside of nursing. The college also offers an executive MSN, which gets students ready for nursing careers at management and executive levels using curriculum that focuses on the American Organization of Nurse Executives and ANCC Magnet Recognition Program. The program proudly touts a graduate rate of 75 percent. In 2016, all students who graduated from the program secured employment.

37. Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University in New York offers MSN and advanced certificate options in a variety of disciplines. MSN programs for prospective nurse practitioners include options in adult-gerontology, family health, women's health, neonatal health, pediatric and psychiatric mental health. MSN and advanced certificate programs are also available for students interested in nurse midwifery, nursing education and nursing leadership. Graduate students interested in professional development outside of the classroom can seek membership to the Kappa Gamma chapter of Sigma Theta Tau.

38. East Tennessee State University

East Tennessee State University's College of Nursing in Johnson, TN, is proud to foster an academic environment that prepares nurses to become leaders. It offers Tennessee's only Center for Nursing Research as well as seven clinics led by nurses that serve patients in rural areas. Students enrolled in the decorated MSN program have access to degree concentrations that include nursing administration, PMHNP, nursing education and FNP. The online-only program features high PMHNP and FNP certification pass rates as well as quality interprofessional and simulation experiences.

39. Eastern Kentucky University

At Richmond's Eastern Kentucky University, students have the opportunity to enroll in one of two CCNE-accredited MSN programs. The PMHNP program is designed for completion in 3-4 years and features a fully online format with coursework focused on principles of epidemiology, applied psychopharmacology, rural PMHNP advanced practice and more. The rural health family nurse practitioner program is also offered online and provides students with 750 clinical hours. This university's commitment to stellar nursing education is proven by its 100% national certifying exam pass rate.

40. Georgia State University

Georgia State University's Master of Science program features four specialties for students interested in becoming nurse practitioners. The specialties are family, adult gerontology primary care, pediatric primary care and psychiatric mental health. Current registered nurses who possess BSNs or hold an associate's degree or diploma in nursing and have an impressive nursing background are invited to enroll in this program. Students in search of financial assistance while enrolled in their program might benefit from scholarship options like the Kaiser Permanente Endowed Nursing Scholarship Fund, which is granted only to graduate students.

41. Texas Woman's University

TWU in Denton, TX, offers nursing programs known for their academic and clinical excellence. MSN program options available through the university's College of Nursing include those for students who want to become nurse practitioners, nurse educators and nursing health systems managers. Current registered nurses are offered a special RN-MS program that enables holders of associate's degrees or diplomas in nursing to attain a master's degree. Education Abroad experiences grant graduate students the unique opportunity to study nursing in countries like Japan, Peru and Indonesia.

42. University of Akron

The MSN program at the University of Akron's main campus in Ohio helps enhance nursing careers through a variety of specializations. Students can choose from advanced practice options in adult-gerontology, child and adolescent health, family psychiatric and mental health and nurse anesthesia. The university also offers an option for students interested in nursing service administration. To improve their chances of excelling in their programs, graduate students can pursue membership to the campus' Sigma Theta Tau International national honor society and also reach out to the School of Nursing for financial support through scholarship opportunities.

43. University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida in Orlando offers a CCNE-accredited MSN program for students possessing bachelor's degrees in nursing as well as registered nurses with non-nursing bachelor's degrees. The program consists of tracks for BSN holders interested in nursing and health care simulation, nurse education, nurse leadership and management. Nurses and non-nurses who already possess at minimum a bachelor's degree could advance their careers by enrolling in the university's online graduate program for healthcare simulation. Opportunities to develop nursing skills while serving the community in places like public schools and senior centers are available through the university's Community Nursing Coalitions.

44. Oakland University

Oakland University in Michigan gets its students on the right track toward securing advanced nursing careers through its recognized MSN programs. The adult/gerontology nurse practitioner and family nurse practitioner tracks provide students with 630 hours of clinical experience and offer foundational, clinical core and specialty courses. The university also offers a forensic nursing program that prepares students to work independently or within a forensic team in areas like partner violence, death investigation and child/elder maltreatment.

45. Northern Kentucky University

Northern Kentucky University offers accredited MSN programs that feature a variety of concentration options. Students at this Highland Heights, KY, school can work towards a master's degree in nursing education, nurse executive leadership or in practitioner areas like FNP, AGNP, AGACNP and PMHNP. All programs are available completely online and some can be completed in as few as 12 months. Depending on the degree being pursued, students might take courses focused on the role of a health educator, organizational psychology, geriatric primary care and pharmacology or the primary care of adolescents and adults.

46. University of South Alabama

The University of South Alabama's fully online MSN program stands out from the pack with several unique specializations and subspecialties. Specializations include clinical nurse leadership, nursing informatics and various nurse practitioner roles; subspecialties include cardiovascular, palliative care, nurse educator and lipidology. The university also offers a post-BSN pathway for nursing bachelor's degrees, RN-MSN pathway for licensed registered nurses seeking a master's degree and RN to BSN/MSN pathway for licensed registered nurses seeking both a bachelor's and master's degree. A 12-month accelerated BSN/MSN pathway is available for students with non-nursing degrees who are interested in passing the NCLEX exam and becoming registered nurses.

47. The University of Alabama

The Capstone College of Nursing (CCN) at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa offers a top-notch graduate program featuring an MSN with four concentration options. Students can choose their concentrations based on their desire to enter careers as case managers, nurse practitioners, nurse administrators or clinical nurse leaders. To support students' academic journeys, the CCN provides the Learning Resources Center, which features simulation and practice labs, access to classroom capture software to record lectures and mobile applications for conducting research. The center also offers two quiet study areas, one designated for graduate students.

48. Lubbock Christian University

Texas' Lubbock Christian University takes pride in providing its students with a stellar academic experience that includes the option to choose from more than 23 graduate degrees. Among university degree options are the non-thesis MSN track for education/leadership and MSN track for students interested in becoming FNPs. Lubbock's MSN graduates find tremendous success following graduating, boasting a 100% employment rate. The university's FNP graduates also tout a perfect employment rate and enjoy a 93% success rate on licensure/certification exams.

49. University of Mary

The University of Mary in Bismarck, ND, offers current RN master's degree seekers accelerated online MSN degree programs that feature advanced nursing options. Students currently possessing associate's degrees or bachelor's degrees can enroll in the ADN to MSN or BSN to MSN in nursing leadership and management. A BSN to MSN is available for bachelor's degree holders who want to pursue careers as nurse educators. Students also have access to an MSN in nursing and healthcare informatics and dual MSN-MBA degree option in healthcare administration.

50. Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Northwestern State University of Louisiana in Natchitoches, LA has many options for students seeking an MSN degree. For those who would like to get their MSN degrees on campus, NSU offers 10 different MSN concentrations in 3 nursing areas: nurse practitioner, nursing education, and nursing administration. Students who want a flexible, online option can choose between the MSN Nurse Administrator Concentration or MSN Nurse Educator options offered entirely through NSU's electronic campus, eNSU. eNSU also offers 3 additional MSN concentrations through hybrid programs, which require a combination of online and on-campus coursework.

To get a more in-depth look at our school ranking methodology, please visit's ranking methodology page.

MSN Degree Options

MSN degrees can be found both online and on campus. However, most online programs are blended programs that include online and on campus components. Courses about foundational nursing education and theory can be taken online, but practical skills must be learned in a simulated lab, with robotic dummy patients, in a clinic, or at a hospital residency.

MSN programs can be taken directly after an ADN or BSN program. All MSN programs require applicants to have RN certification and a current license to practice. MSN programs generally take two years to complete, though other degree pathways, including accelerated programs, exist. Accelerated RN to MSN programs are appropriate for students who have only completed their ADN, and some programs award BSN degrees at graduation in addition to the MSN. RN to MSN programs typically take three to five years to complete.

MSN degrees are often focused on a single specialty within the medical field. Here are just a few of the MSN concentrations available:

  • Midwifery
  • Critical care
  • Gerontology nursing
  • Family practice
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Nurse education
  • Pediatric nursing
  • Pain management nursing
  • Neonatal nursing
  • Mental health nursing


For registered nurses who are interested in working in a specialty field, an RN to MSN degree program is available. This program is typically for those who are already registered nurses with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). Some schools refer to their RN to MSN programs as ADN to MSN programs or ASN (Associate of Science in Nursing) to MSN programs; these programs have similar educational requirements, and an associate degree is a pre-requisite for any RN's looking to attend those programs.

RN to MSN programs are accelerated master's degree programs that take about three to five years to complete, rather than the six years it might take to complete both a bachelor's degree and an additional MSN degree. Some colleges provide both a BSN and MSN degree upon completion of the RN to MSN program, but not all do.


Another option to earn your MSN degree is to enter a master's program after earning your BSN degree. These programs typically take approximately 2 years to complete, but depending on your dedication and schedule, you can complete more courses in less time. Along with an introduction to graduate studies, BSN to MSN programs also introduce students to clinical settings, allowing students to gain hands-on experience in a medical setting or simulated lab.

Those who would like to earn their bachelor's and master's degrees in one fell swoop should consider applying to a BSN to MSN degree program. These programs allow nurses to earn both their BSN and MSN degrees by the end of their programs.


While an MSN degree will prepare you to work in a medical specialty, helping to care for patients, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) prepares you for work that improves a hospital and its patient care. Like an MSN degree, a DNP degree can also prepare you to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), such as a nurse-midwife or CRNA. Along with administrative and advocacy roles, you could become a professor at a college, teaching future nurses about the specialties you've majored in.

Depending on which track you choose, a DNP program can be completed between one and four years. If have your BSN, you can take an accelerated DNP program that skips over an MSN program; accelerated programs like this typically take three to four years to complete. An MSN-to-DNP track allows you to complete your DNP degree in one to two years after your MSN.

Let's compare MSN and DNP degree programs and career options.

Degree Program Prerequisites Years to Complete Common Career Options
MSN RN license
ADN, BSN, or bachelors degree
ADN to MSN: 3-5 years
BSN to MSN: 2 years
Nurse practitioner
Nurse midwife
DNP RN license
BSN, bachelor's degree, or MSN
RN to DNP: 3-4 years
MSN to DNP: 2 years
Nursing professor
Health policy

MSN-MBA Dual Degrees

An MSN-MBA (Master of Business Administration) dual degree is a good way to become educated for a position as a healthcare manager, government worker, or a clinic executive role. This dual program will allow you to market your skills in both nursing and business, opening a wide selection of job opportunities. You typically begin this program with a BSN under your belt.

MSN-MBA programs are often accelerated, meaning you can earn both degrees in a shorter timeframe than you would if completing both an MSN and an MBA program individually. As a fulltime student, you can complete an MSN-MBA program in as little as five semesters, depending on how many classes you choose to take at once. Some of the courses you'll find in these dual degree programs include:

  • Financial Management
  • Resource Allocation
  • Business Communications
  • Healthcare Policy and Advocacy
  • Evidence-Based Nursing
  • Healthcare Professional Principles
  • Interpersonal Collaboration
  • Project Management
  • Statistical Analysis
  • Management in Healthcare
  • Health Systems
  • Business Leadership and Human Values

Online MSN Nursing Programs

Nursing programs are practice-focused, often requiring more than 900 clinical hours prior to graduation. As a result, you will likely not find a wholly online MSN degree program. Instead, you will find MSN hybrid degrees, which allow you to take foundational courses, such as those centered around pathophysiology, nursing education, and nursing specialties, online at your own pace. In these programs, you still need to spend time in simulated labs and in clinical settings, putting new skills and principles into practice.

Clinical practice is typically completed on campus; however, some schools will work with local medical centers so that you can complete these internships and clinicals in your area. Because schools usually require on-campus work, it may be wise to select a college that has a local campus or to find a school that groups all on-site work together in a multi-day or multi-week residency. Online programs tend to vary in cost, while some are more affordable, others charge the same per credit as their on-campus courses do.

MSN Nursing Salary & Careers

Earning an MSN degree can provide you with plenty of career opportunities and a higher salary. For example, as a nurse practitioner, you could earn an average salary of $107,480*. Another popular nursing career for MSN graduates is nurse educator; nurse educators made an average salary of $77,360* in 2017.

MSN Career Paths

MSN degrees can lead to large number of career paths. Take a look at some of the career options available to you with an MSN degree.

Career Salary* Job Description Job Outlook*
Nurse Practitioner $107,480 Examine, diagnose, and treat patients. Prescribe medication and treatments. 31%
Nurse Educator $77,360 Educate future nurses (typically a licensed practical nurse, or LPN). 35%
Nurse Midwife $103,640 Work with women's reproductive care and child delivery. 31%
Travel Nurse $100,000 Travel to high-need areas where there is a shortage of nurses. Act as a staff nurse until contract is over. 15% (for all registered nurses)
Nursing Administrator $98,350 Work to create a better environment for patients and advocate new systems and procedures. 20% (all medical and health service managers)
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA $169,450 Discuss anesthesia options with patients and doctors. Administer anesthesia and monitor patient pre-op, during, and after surgery. 31%
Health Information Manager $98,350 Keep records and statistics on patients electronically for further use and analysis. 20% (all medical and health service managers)

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017)

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