Schools and universities that offer a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program that is available entirely online, clearly recognize that nursing professionals are busy working individuals; some even too busy to even attend traditional classroom teaching methodologies. The coursework offered by nursing schools and universities through their distance learning platforms provides the same quality education offered by the professors who instruct on-campus students. While this was an initial concern at the advent of online learning, time has shown that online degree programs are simply a different format of the same level of education offered by the institutions offering the programs.
Many accelerated online MSN tracks are offered in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) format. Some of the most in-demand careers in nursing are available in accelerated formats. In other words, to be eligible to enroll in some MSN degree programs, degree applicants must already hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (MSN). In addition to a BSN to MSN online fast track option, there are some accelerated options for Registered Nurses (RN) to earn their MSN online as well.
Our Method: Ranking the Best Accelerated BSN to MSN Programs
Accelerated MSN programs are a challenge to compare, but to rank the best 1 year online MSN programs, Best Health Degree’s editors sought out accredited colleges and universities offering a quicker way to get a master’s in nursing. Along with speed, though, we ranked programs according to 5 criteria: Cost, Graduation Rate, Job Placement, Student Reviews, and Salary Potential. With data from IPEDS, Niche, and College Scorecard, students can trust their accelerated BSN to MSN programs to provide a real return on investment.
1. Saint Francis Medical Center
Saint Francis Medical Center’s College of Nursing offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with an accelerated academic path. The program from SFMC is eligible to those nursing professionals who hold an associate’s degree or a diploma in nursing with a significant amount of experience and a baccalaureate degree from a different discipline than nursing. Degree candidates must enter the program with a minimum of 59 pre-nursing credits. The core curriculum includes the completion of 33 semester hours.
Saint Francis Medical Center was established in 1876. Saint Francis Medical Center is the teaching hospital within the University of Illinois’s College of Medicine. Saint Francis Medical Center was recognized among the best nursing care in its ER and holds the distinction of being the top hospital in Illinois for the recovery of organs. Saint Francis Medical Center is a level I trauma center and is the largest hospital in the Peoria regional area.
Degree: Accelerated MSN
2. Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt University’s School of Nursing offers a 1 year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to a Master of Science of Nursing (MSN) degree program that can be completed online. Vandy’s accelerated BSN to MSN programs offers nursing professionals an opportunity to add a master’s specialty degree in just a year. Vandy’s 1 year online MSN programs prepare graduates for careers as midwives, nurse practitioners, and psychiatric nurses to name a few. Vandy’s MSN degree is awarded upon the completion of 40 credit units, which is typically completed in 4 consecutive semesters. It is noted dual specialties may take one extra semester.
Vanderbilt University was established in 1873 as Central University. Vanderbilt University’s 325+-acre campus is home to nearly 13,000 students and more than 4,000 members of the academic staff. VANDY operates with ten schools/colleges. The school is named for Cornelius Vanderbilt, a shipping magnate who provided the first endowment of $1,000,000 – approximately $20,000,000 in current dollars.
Degree: BSN to MSN – 1 year
3. University of Arizona
The University of Arizona College of Nursing offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program that can be completed entirely online. U of A’s MSN accelerated track can be completed in about fifteen months. The University of Arizona’s 1 year online MSN programs have received accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the state of Arizona’s Board of Nursing. US News recognizes the U of A’s online MSN program among the top 50 in the entire country.
The University of Arizona was established in 1885 when Arizona was not yet a state. The University of Arizona operates with 19 schools/colleges including a law school and two medical facilities. The school’s 375+ urban campus is home to nearly 45,000 students. The Council for Aid to Education (CAE) recognizes U of A for its financial support of students in need.
Degree: MSN – 15 months
4. Union University
Union University’s 1 year online MSN programs prepare graduates with the skills and aptitudes in nursing specialties. These MSN concentrations include an MSN in Administration, an MSN in Education, and an MSN Nurse Practitioner. These graduate degree programs also prepare students for a doctorate degree, for those interested. Graduates, in about 16 months, learn how to integrate theory and research methodologies with practical experiences to become the next generation’s nursing leaders. Union University has received accreditation by the Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
Union University was established in 1823 as a private institution of higher learning affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Union University’s urban campus is home to more than 3,250 students. Union University runs a Scholarship Banquet that included prominent speakers like both President Bush, Colin Powell, and Margaret Thatcher, to name a few. US News has recognized Union University among the top universities in the US Southern Region for nearly two decades.
Degree: MSN – 3 concentrations – 16 months
5. Liberty University
Liberty University’s offers an MSN accelerated academic track to earn a degree in Nursing Administration. Students must finish at least 42 credit units through LU’s distance learning platform. LU’s MSN in Nursing Administration is accredited by the CCNE. Liberty University provides a generous transfer credit policy of up to 50% of the degree total credit requirements. On average, students enrolled in Liberty University’s MSN program complete it in about two years.
Liberty University was established in 1974 and is affiliated with the Christian Church. Liberty University is one of the largest private institutions of higher education that is affiliated with the Christian Church. The Lynchburg campus is home to more than 15,000 students; however, other 90,000+ students study online. Liberty University’s Freedom Tower is 275 feet tall and the largest standing structure in Lynchburg, VA.
Degree: 1 Year Accelerated MSN – 1 year
6. Roberts Wesleyan College
Roberts Wesleyan College offers two separate Masters of Nursing (MSN) degree programs academic tracks that can be completed entirely online. These accelerated BSN to MSN programs offered by Roberts Wesleyan College include a Master of Science (MS) in Nursing Education and a Master of Science (MS) in Nursing Leadership & Administration. Each graduate nursing degree requires the completion of 39 credit units and 20 months to complete. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) has accredited Roberts Wesleyan College’s MSN degree programs.
Roberts Wesleyan College was established in 1866 and remains affiliated with the Free Methodist Church. Roberts Wesleyan College originally began as a seminary by a social activist named Benjamin Titus Roberts. This private institution of higher learning is located in the western portion of New York State and home to more than 1,700 students. The Northeastern Seminary was chartered by Roberts Wesleyan College and how operates as a graduate college offering an MA in Theology, a Master of Divinity, and Doctor of Divinity.
Degree: 2 concentrations – 20 months
7. Southern New Hampshire University
Southern New Hampshire University offers an accelerated RN to MSN degree program that has received accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Degree candidates take classes online using a sophisticated distance-learning platform that is easily accessible and available all day, every day. Coursework includes Patient Assessment, Population Health, Legal & Ethical Considerations in Health Care, and a final capstone at the end of all coursework. Graduates find rewarding work as Nurse Leaders and Nurse Educators, among other options.
Southern New Hampshire University was established in 1932, however much of its recent impressive growth is due to its distance learning divisions. The school operates with six colleges/schools, with the College of Online & Continuing Education headquartered in Manchester, NH. The school’s press release noted that online enrollment in 2001 grew to more than 80,000 students.
Degree: MSN – accelerated
8. Herzing University
Herzing University offers an online accelerated Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program with three academic concentrations. Herzing’s MSN sampling includes an MSN Family Nurse Practitioner, an MSN Nurse Educator, and an MSN in Nursing Leadership & Administration. Each of the MSN concentrations can be completed in about 24 months. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredits all three of Herzing University’s graduate nursing degree academic tracks. These accelerated BSN to MSN programs offer working nurses great flexibility and convenience in light a nursing professional’s busy schedules.
Herzing University was established in 1965 as a private institution of higher learning to specialize in computer training. Currently, Herzing University operates with nine campuses across 7 different states. The school offers programs in healthcare, nursing, business, legal studies, and technology. Herzing University has received accreditation through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
Degree: 3 concentrations – less than 2 years
9. Western Governors University
Western Governors University offers a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program that can be completed entirely online. Accelerated BSN to MSN programs, like Western Governors University’s, can be completed in approximately eleven months. To be eligible for WGU’s graduate program online, degree applicants must already have earned their baccalaureate nursing degree. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredits Western Governors University’s graduate nursing degree distance-learning degree programs. Students graduate prepared to work in varied health care settings like schools, agencies, hospitals, and business, to name a few.
Western Governors University was established in 1997 as a private online institution of education. The online school’s administration is headquartered in Utah, and its current student population exceeds 110,000 students. Western Governors University offers online undergraduate and graduate degrees in the areas of Health Professions, Information Technology, Education and Business. Highlight – Western Governors University was established during a 1995 meeting of 19 United States’ senators.
Degree: MSN – 11 months
10. Kennesaw State University
Kennesaw State University offers an accelerated online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program which a special emphasis on Leadership in Nursing. KSU’s online graduate nursing degree program is offered entirely online and can be completed in as little as fifteen months. KSU’s distance learning graduate degree program that focuses on nursing issues like ethical decision-making, Conflict Management, Healthcare Policy, and Leadership Strategies. Students must complete a minimum of 40 credit units to graduate with their MSN in Leadership in Nursing.
Kennesaw State University was established in 1963. Kennesaw State University is a member school of the University of Georgia. The university operates with two campuses in the state of Georgia – Kennesaw, and Marietta. Kennesaw State University’s enrollment exceeds 35,000, which makes KSU the 3rd largest school in the Peach State. KSU’s campus is home to a sculpture that weighs more than 345,000 pounds entitled Spaceship Earth.
Degree: MSN – Leadership in Nursing – 15 months
How Do Colleges Make an MSN Program Shorter?
There are a few time-tested ways to reduce the time required to complete your Master of Science Nursing degree, sometimes in only twelve months. The shortest MSN program generally applies to one of the following time-reduction tactics:
Revised Degree Formats — nursing schools now offer classes that run for only six or eight weeks, rather than the more traditional semesters that lasted far longer. The classwork tends to be a bit more intensive, but you do get to progress through the material in no time flat.
Generous Credit Transfer Policies — for those who have already successfully passed college-level nursing-related coursework, a transfer policy is a great way to shorten the degree path and reduce the costs to attain your degree.
Credit Applied for Work Experience — another strategy used by the shortest MSN program options is to create a program that objectively provides credit for the degree applicant’ previous work experience. Since many MSN students became nurses long before, they may have many years of experience to use for credit.
Reduced Clinical Requirements – Some nursing schools offer online MSN programs without clinicals for certain MSN specialties.
There are many legitimate ways to reduce the time and cost of earning a Master of Science in Nursing degree through a distance learning platform using any one of the suggestions noted-above. Remember though, the committed effort required to earn an MSN from an accelerated degree program reaps tremendous rewards on those ready for the challenge.
What are the Benefits of an Accelerated MSN Program?
Choosing to earn your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) by enrolling in an accelerated MSN degree program has some obvious benefits.
Check out the partial list of benefits you may receive by enrolling in BSN to MSN online fast track degree program:
Lowered Tuition Expenses — this is basic logic. If you spend less time studying, it would logically conclude that the amount of tuition would be reduced. Additionally, online degree credits tend to be less than their on-campus counterparts.
Convenience & Flexibility — this is generally a huge benefit for busy working nursing professionals. Classes are generally accessible from anywhere, 24/7.
No Commuting Costs — There are no costs to commute either by bus, subway, train or car.
Are Online MSN Programs Easier than On-Campus?
Do you want to know the easiest online nurse practitioner program available? Great question, but quite challenging to answer.
While some MSN programs, in general, are challenging to attain, however, there are schools easier MSN programs. The easiest online nurse practitioner program is the MSN degree program that meets your career objectives, with tuition expenses that land within your budget,
Can I Get an Accelerated MSN if I Have a Bachelor’s in Another Field?
There are generally three general categories of online MSN programs. For the most part, most Master of Science in Nursing degree programs offered as a fast track option fall into one of the following online degree program formats:
- BSN to MSN fast track online degree program
- RN to MSN accelerated track online degree program
- Second-degree nursing programs without prerequisites
Those schools and universities offering an RN to MSN with bachelors in another field allow MSN degree candidates to avoid re-taking prerequisites they have already successfully passed. Second-degree nursing programs without prerequisites programs are a great transition degree that allows working professionals to easily transfer to the nursing profession from another industry.
This transition-type MSN degree program helps the nursing industry stay on top of the many nursing shortages faced in many geographic areas across the country. An alternative degree some choose is an affordable online MHA.
MSN degree candidates should remember to keep their eye on the prize — the tremendous job opportunities that often bring rewarding responsibilities and more lucrative salaries and compensation packages.