26 Best MSN Programs for Nurses [2024 Guide]

Top 25 Best MSN Program for Nurses

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Failing to select one of the best MSN programs can lead to subpar education, limited job prospects, and difficulty obtaining an RN license. With so many options available, this guide aims to help you identify the top-ranked programs that offer quality education and prepare you for advanced practice nursing roles.

Ultimate Guide to the Best MSN Programs

The University of Pennsylvania, University of Texas Medical Branch, University of California, Los Angeles, University of Virginia, and Columbia University are among the top choices for affordable online MSN programs that prepare students for advanced practice nursing roles. These institutions offer rigorous curricula, experienced faculty, and state-of-the-art facilities.

Featured Programs

Graphic image for the top msn programs

MSN is a must for nurses who are considering careers in administrative or educational roles. So it’s no surprise that nursing schools that don’t offer graduate degrees are working to develop them, or that MSN programs are increasingly competitive.

Nursing SchoolIn-State TuitionOut-of-State TuitionPost-Graduation Employment Rate
University of Pennsylvania$20,682$33,77489%
University of Texas Medical Branch$16,600$17,64094%
University of California, Los Angeles$27,405$39,65098%
University of Virginia$20,682$33,77489%
Columbia University$95,964$142,52095%
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill$9,473$18,94695%
Duke University$14,425$25,258 91%
University of Maryland at Baltimore$46,354$62,21774%
Boston College$47,300$64,17697%
University of California, Davis$84,264 $121,53697%
Michigan State University$16,051$41,00093%
Ohio State University$32,830$43,31099%
George Mason University$35,922$52,76384%
Marquette University$41,870$63,00098%
University of San Diego$47,100$49,00086%
University of Missouri$17,000$28,000100%
Emory University$24,259$51,306100%
Vanderbilt University$46,605$49,81694%
Pennsylvania State University$17,388$33,55895%
Johns Hopkins University$32,830$40,00095%
University of Central Florida$35,820 $38,95590%
University of Miami$15,666$41,58098%
New York University$22,400$45,76898%
University of South Florida$17,324$22,88091%
University of Arizona$36,000$51,00093%
University of Texas at Arlington$7,036$16,83682%

1. University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania Master of Science in Nursing program is designed for breadth and depth, with 11 concentrations and paths for nurse practitioners, specialists, and administrators. 

University of Pennsylvania

Penn’s MSN programs set the standard for nursing education. Penn Nursing students benefit from the highest level of mentorship from a world-class faculty, as well as access to the most cutting-edge research in health sciences. 

  • The MSN program delivers advanced educational and therapeutic solutions for students to innovate in areas like genetics, pathophysiology, pharmacology, and health assessment.
  • Nurse Practitioner concentrations include Adult Gerontology, Neonatal, Pediatric, Women’s Health, and an Advanced Specialist Nurse Midwifery program. 
  • Nurses who want to turn their BSN to MSN programs into an administrative career can choose concentrations in Health Leadership or Nursing and Healthcare Administration.
  • Students can also choose dual degree programs in a wide range of fields, or add on an MSN Minor to increase their credentials and career options. 

2. University of Texas Medical Branch

The University of Texas Medical Branch offers an affordable online MSN program designed for flexibility and convenience, allowing BSN-prepared nurses to advance into roles like family nurse practitioners or mental health nurse practitioners. 

University of Texas Medical Branch

Having 15 years of experience in the education sector, Kelsey Ludeman shares that The University of Texas Medical Branch is widely recognized as a premiere choice for getting your Master’s in Nursing:

“UTMB is recognized for its cutting-edge facilities, hands-on clinical experiences, faculty expertise, and specialization offerings. With a moderate tuition price and a high post-graduation employment rate, graduates are set up for success as they launch their new careers.”

With various areas of specialization ranging from 39 to 49 credits, the Master of Nursing prepares students for nursing positions and leadership roles in healthcare systems. 

  • The online program is ideal for working professionals, with campus visits only required for orientation and semester starts. 
  • UTMB’s MSN program holds an impressive 85.4% graduation rate and a favorable 18:1 student-faculty ratio, maintaining personalized attention. 
  • Accredited by the CCNE, the program offers non-clinical specialties like clinical nurse leader, executive nurse leader, and nurse practitioner, alongside APRN tracks such as adult-gerontology acute care, adult-gerontology primary care, family nurse practitioner, and neonatal nurse practitioner. 
  • With competitive tuition calculated per credit hour and the potential for financial aid, UTMB provides an excellent return on investment for aspiring advanced practice nurses.

3. University of California, Los Angeles

UCLA’s Master of Science in Nursing advanced practice program allows students to pursue one of 5 different concentrations. Students can become nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, or both, depending on the concentration they choose. 

University of California, Los Angeles

As a whole, the UCLA Nursing School provides rigorous academics in a healthy atmosphere. As a smoke-free campus, this school has become a quality choice for students with allergies, asthma, and other health problems that may be agitated by tobacco smoke. 

  • Nationally recognized faculty lead the research projects, training, and academics, connecting students to industry connections and real-life experiences.
  • The nurse practitioner pathway focuses on the diagnosis of medical conditions and management of patient outcomes in the primary and/or acute care settings. 
  • The clinical nurse specialist focuses on the improvement of systems outcomes. 
  • As a research facility with seemingly endless resources, the UCLA Nursing School gives students the skills and confidence that they need to provide their patients with the best care in their top master of nursing degree programs.

4. University of Virginia 

The University of Virginia’s Master of Science in Nursing program offers 10 different concentrations. Students get to combine their classroom time with hands-on training at the UVA Medical Center. 

University of Virginia

This research-centered school emphasizes the fact that patients’ needs have grown more and more complex in recent years, and they prepare their students to meet those needs head-on. When looking for BSN to MSN programs, the University of Virginia will both challenge and invigorate you.

  • The hybrid format combines online classes with in-person training.
  • The UVA nursing school is fairly small, with fewer than 400 grad students. 
  • The campus has a thriving and diverse community of nursing students, so you can get to know peers from all sorts of different lifestyles and backgrounds. 
  • No matter which degree program you choose at UVA, this school’s commitment to enriching lives and serving the community will certainly help you reach your full potential.

5. Columbia University

Columbia University’s School of Nursing began in 1892 and has provided a premium education ever since then. From the start, this school emphasized the importance of nursing to society as a whole. 

Columbia University

Columbia University’s BSN to MSN programs include a direct entry MSN (MDE) for college graduates without a nursing degree; a Masters in Advanced Clinical Management and Leadership; and an MS Nurse Anesthesia (ANES) program. 

  • With their specialized areas of focus, Columbia’s master of science in nursing degree programs provides an ideal foundation for the DNP as well (soon to be a requirement for nurse anesthetists).
  • Columbia’s mentorship and connections throughout New York mean that no Columbia nurse is set adrift in the job market.
  • With a focus on research, this nursing school improves patient outcomes every day. 
  • In addition to a world-class faculty, Columbia University’s Simulation Center provides a training space for nursing students. The space provides hands-on training with manikins and actors.

6. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

UNC at Chapel Hill’s Master of Science in Nursing degree programs include a robust RN to MSN program and one of the best BSN to MSN programs in the nation. These programs teach students how to improve patient care in all aspects from clinical progressions to patient transitions. 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The oldest public university in the US, UNC has more than two and a half centuries of excellence for a reputation. 

  • Students can choose from 5 different concentrations. You have the option to train as a pediatrics, health care systems, or mental health nurse.
  • Balancing research and academics, the UNC School of Nursing values respect, excellence, and flexibility in the face of an ever-changing field. 
  • This school has both a local and global outreach, aiming to improve patient outcomes in North Carolina and across the globe. 
  • UNC’s School of Nursing is best described by its mission: “Distinctly empowered to advance health for all,” which especially goes for its master of nursing degree programs.

7. Duke University

Duke University’s Master of Science in Nursing program offers a premium education for students who need flexibility. It offers 11 different concentrations, and you can even add a specialty to your major.

Duke University

Each of Duke’s BSN to MSN programs does require some time on campus. During this on-campus time, which takes place once a semester for 2 to 5 days, students will participate in intensives that involve simulations and other hands-on training.

  • Popular majors include psychiatric mental health nurse practioner, nursing informatics, and family practice.
  • Each major is offered as a “distanced-based or online” program, so students have some wiggle room. 
  • As an institution, Duke University’s School of Nursing emphasizes scholarship while also maintaining its research. 
  • This school places a high value on diversity. In fact, it believes in going beyond “tolerance” in favor of a wholehearted welcome. Their diversity often serves as a springboard into lively debates and discussions.

8. University of Maryland at Baltimore

The University of Maryland at Baltimore’s Master of Science in Nursing program offers 4 specialties: Community/Public Health Nursing, Health Services Leadership and Management, Nursing Informatics, and the entry-into-practice Clinical Nurse Leader option. 

University of Maryland at Baltimore

Whether you’re already an RN, need BSN to MSN programs, or have a degree in a different field, these programs will help you advance your career while giving you a challenging and hands-on school experience. Any of this school’s programs will open a lot of doors in your career.

  • The University of Maryland ranks in the top 20 American public schools based on the US News and World Report. UMSON fosters a passion for discovery. 
  • Its faculty and staff keep a close eye on health priorities around the world. As a result, students stay up to date on the latest practices. 
  • Students will learn to incorporate practical and theoretical concepts of nursing science in real-life training and collaborative projects.
  • When you value leadership, challenge, and critical thinking, UMSON’s graduate programs offer all students could need from a nursing school.

9. Boston College

The Connell School of Nursing at Boston College’s Master of Science in Nursing program allows students to choose from 5 concentrations. With BSN to MSN programs as well as direct entry options, Boston College has big school resources with a small school feel.

Boston College

Boston College was founded as a Jesuit school, and Connell reflects those values. As such, it provides a whole-person approach to education.

  • Students may attend as either full-time or part-time students. With the full-time option, students can get their degree in as few as two years. 
  • Its evidence-based curriculum and hands-on learning experience train students in specialties like mental health nurse practitioner, neonatal nurse, and nurse case manager.
  • With professional development opportunities and support from faculty, Connell students find all types of career advancement opportunities. 
  • Nursing students who want both science and leadership in their education will feel at home at Connell. When you have a passion for social justice and want to use your nursing skills to make the world a better place, then check out Boston College’s degree programs.

10. University of California, Davis

In the University of California, Davis Master of Science in Nursing program, students can choose from 4 concentrations. UC Davis trains students to notice problems in healthcare and come up with practical solutions. 

University of California, Davis

The School of Nursing at UC Davis holds the nation’s largest grant for nursing education, and it puts that grant to good use. This school has a culture based on the latest research and most advanced technology.

  • Students here take a complete approach to healthcare and career advancement. They learn about the latest practices and technologies. 
  • They also learn subjects like nutrition, sociology, and public health. Together, these courses create demanding yet effective BSN to MSN programs.
  • Students and faculty value boldness. They don’t care about the status quo. Instead, they emphasize cutting-edge research and system changes.
  • When you want to add real, valuable changes to the medical field, UC Davis’ master’s degree programs will empower you.

11. Michigan State University

Michigan State University’s Master of Science in Nursing program is explicitly designed to connect seamlessly to their DNP, reflecting the steadily rising standards of education. In RN to BSN to MSN programs, students learn how to adapt to changes in the medical field. 

Michigan State University

Through these programs, students gain credentials so that they can enhance their careers. Whether you choose the DNP route or stick with one of their master’s degree programs, you’ll take your career to the next level.

  • You can specialize as a primary care, critical care, family, or psychiatric mental health nurse.
  • MSU fosters teaching, research, practice, and community outreach. Each of these spheres overlaps and influences one another. 
  • These programs combine scientific knowledge with practical experience, creating a culture of collaboration at this school. 
  • Students and staff use this collaboration to enhance healthcare practices all across the globe. In fact, that’s the crux of the Nursing School’s mission “to enhance the health of the community by providing excellence in education, nursing research, and nursing practice”.

12. The Ohio State University

Ohio State University’s Master of Science in Nursing program is perfect for students who want different options and pathways. This school also leads research on women’s healthcare, agin, health analytics, and more. 

The Ohio State University

Check out the MSN options from OSU if other schools’ limited pathways have kept you from advancing your career. With direct entry pathways and BSN to MSN programs, this school prepares nurses for specialized careers. 

  • Students get to focus on clinical research, preparing the pathway to become data managers, clinical research trainers, review board specialists, and regulatory compliance officers.
  • Nurse educators have developed an innovative curriculum that combines leadership development programs.
  • OSU fosters a culture of diversity and global health improvements. In fact, they’ve set up specific initiatives for both. Faculty and students at OSU value lifelong learning. 
  • Many seek out learning opportunities long after graduation. OSU empowers students both inside and outside the classroom, providing resources to help students get acclimated.

13. George Mason University

George Mason University’s Master of Science in Nursing program gives students the chance to choose from 3 concentrations: Nurse Educator, Nurse Practitioner, or Nurse Administrator. These choices provide an interdisciplinary approach to learning.

George Mason University

Originally founded in 1949 as an extension campus of the University of Virginia, George Mason University believes in social justice as a core value, building on a tradition of providing opportunities for working adults, underserved populations, and more.

  • Nursing students learn how to provide care in the most effective ways. They also learn how to become the best educators, administrators, and leaders in the nursing industry.
  • With simulation and skills labs and collaborative learning experiences, GMU’s graduate programs blend academia and practicality.
  • The school’s faculty works to maintain well-being and dignity in the healthcare field. Those values become apparent in the classroom, where teachers emphasize both ethics and innovation. 
  • Students bring the values of their programs with them into their nursing careers.

14. Marquette University

Marquette University’s Master of Science in Nursing program offers a few different options. Students can choose the direct entry option or one of their BSN to MSN programs. Marquette also offers 7 different concentrations.

Marquette University

Marquette University students come from all across the United States. Students can have clinical practice at the top healthcare facilities in Milwaukee, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

  • Data-driven and analytical, Marquette empowers students to take on the challenge of a highly technical field. Marquette provides a smart and highly specialized learning environment with its programs.
  • These students take part in research opportunities, service learning, and work-study programs
  • The blended learning model combines nursing theory courses, on-site simulation labs, and clinical rotations to prepare students for the NCLEX-RN licensure exam.
  • With its urban setting, Marquette gives students access to a rich artistic and cultural experience. The fast-paced city environment provides the perfect reflection of the exciting learning environment of Marquette’s programs.

15. University of San Diego

Unlike typical BSN to MSN programs, the University of San Diego’s Master of Science in Nursing program is designed for students who hold a bachelor’s degree in another field and want to get into nursing. This demanding master’s entry program lasts for 21 months and gives students the skills and training they need to succeed as nurses and leaders. 

University of San Diego

Upon completion of the program, graduates are also qualified to serve as Advanced Nurse Generalists and are eligible to take the NCLEX.

  • The faculty consists of nurse scientists and advanced clinicians.
  • Students can focus their research on various areas, including nurse informatics and administration.
  • The Hahn School of Nursing at the University of San Diego runs a high-tech nursing simulation center that has received national and international accreditation. The Dickinson Nursing Simulation Center is used to simulate clinical settings for use in training graduate students in their programs. 
  • Simulations are supervised by trained faculty and use actors to simulate clinical scenarios for training purposes. The center is accredited by the International Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning.

16. University of Missouri 

The Sinclair School of Nursing’s Master of Science in Nursing degree program is for nurses who want to further their education and their careers. Both master’s degree nursing programs are CCNE accredited, and the curriculum for each is based on the recommendations of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. 

University of Missouri

The University of Missouri offers two tracks to choose from: Leadership in Nursing and Healthcare Systems for nurses who want to become nurse leaders; and Nurse Educators for students who wish to become nurse educators. 

  • The MU Sinclair School of Nursing is part of the University of Missouri Health System, including the School of Health Professionals and the School of Medicine. 
  • The University of Missouri is known for its outstanding research and teaching. The MU Sinclair School of Nursing places a huge emphasis on finding new ways to help patients through nursing research. 
  • Sinclair students are given opportunities to participate in research mentorships and can earn tuition support by doing so.
  • The MSN program highlights the importance of delivering health care to rural and underserved communities.

17. Emory University

Emory University’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program offers nine concentrations to choose from. Emory Nursing collaborates with over 500 clinical sites to provide training opportunities for their BSN to MSN students in real clinical settings across the country. 

Emory University

Students at Emory Nursing can get clinical experience at sites such as the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and the Coca-Cola Corporation Clinic.

  • There is an Adult/Gerontology Acute Care or Adult/Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner concentration for nurses who prefer to work with older patients. 
  • The Nurse-Midwifery and Women’s Health concentrations are ideal for nurses who enjoy working with women, and for those who prefer younger patients, concentrations are available in Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Acute Care, and Pediatric Primary Care. 
  • Students who wish to treat a variety of patients may want to consider a concentration in Family Nurse Practitioner or Emergency Nurse Practitioner.
  • About 92% of the students in the School of Nursing benefit from some form of financial aid.

18. Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University’s Master of Science in Nursing program offers 14 advanced nursing practice specialties. The Vanderbilt University School of Nursing was one of the first schools to collaborate with physicians to provide clinical experiences for its students.

Vanderbilt University

The school offers flexible approaches to earning an MSN degree, including programs targeted toward non-nurses, and different educational points of entry (for example, ASN to MSN and BSN to MSN programs). The MSN program uses online and distance learning technologies to deliver course materials and enrich the learning experience. 

  • The faculty practice network, state-of-the-art facilities, and options for advanced practice specialties make Vanderbilt one of the best schools for an MSN.
  • Vanderbilt students gain practical clinical experience through Vanderbilt’s collaborations with Community Mental Health, school-based clinics, employer health primary care centers, and more.
  • The school is a leader in creating and implementing innovative technologies in the classroom and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center has a reputation for excellence in research, patient care, and biomedical education.
  • Coursework highlights nursing theory, innovative nursing care, and research.

19. Pennsylvania State University

The Master of Science in Nursing at Penn State offers three advanced practice options (Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner) and two advanced role options (Nurse Administrator and Nurse Educator). 

Pennsylvania State University

The two APN options are available online and are offered through the Penn State World Campus. The school also offers six graduate credit certificate programs.

  • Penn State provides education to more than 2800 full-time students on thirteen campuses throughout Pennsylvania. 
  • The MSN program lets you specialize in becoming a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, executive nurse for leadership and healthcare management, or forensic nurse.
  • Research efforts are focused on treatments for patients with sleep apnea, end-of-life and palliative care, dementia, heart failure, and adolescent development. 
  • The school’s mission is to train qualified nurse leaders and provide nursing care to improve the health care for patients of all ages throughout Pennsylvania.

20. Johns Hopkins University

The Master of Science in Nursing at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing offers several different tracks to fit the needs of different types of students. The MSN Entry into Nursing program is designed for graduates who have received a bachelor’s degree in another field of study and wish to become registered nurses. 

Johns Hopkins University

Upon graduating, students will be able to take the NCLEX and become licensed RNs. Nurses who want to further their education can choose from two options in the MSN Health Systems Management Track or three options within the MSN Public Health Nursing Track.

  • The MSN program lets you specialize in developing innovative redesigns of healthcare delivery systems.
  • Johns Hopkins School of Nursing is a top-rated nursing school with a 98% NCLEX pass rate and 90% placement of graduates in the Johns Hopkins Health System. 
  • The school collaborates with 30 other medical and nursing schools in approximately 20 countries around the world. 
  • With some of the strongest BSN to MSN programs and other programs in the nation, Johns Hopkins nurses will have their pick on the job market.

21. University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida’s BSN to MSN programs have online courses to accommodate the hectic schedules of working nurses. There are three tracks available for the Master of Science in Nursing: Leadership and Management, Nursing and Healthcare Simulation, and Nurse Educator. 

University of Central Florida

The school is CCNE accredited and its NCLEX-RN pass rates are consistently among the highest in the state. 

  • The MSN program incorporates nursing theories, ethical research, and skills-based training to let you specialize in roles such as mental health nurse practitioner or nursing administrator.
  • Students with non-nursing degrees are welcome to enroll in the programs. However, additional MSN prerequisites exist for students whose bachelor’s degree is not in nursing.
  • Researchers at UCF are working to develop a child-sized physical-virtual patient bed, which will simulate the size and behavior of a pediatric patient for use in training simulations. 
  • The device can be programmed to “behave” as a child would and will be used to help students learn to recognize signals and behaviors to correctly diagnose the patient’s condition.

22. University of Miami

University of Miami’s Master of Science in Nursing offers four concentrations to choose from: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP, Family Nurse Practitioner, and MS – Health Informatics. 

University of Miami

In addition to their BSN to MSN programs, the School of Nursing & Health Studies also offers a post-master’s certificate in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing and three DNP nursing programs: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), and the BSN-DNP Nurse Anesthesia Track.

  • The MSN program combines scientific, theoretical, practical, and contemporary clinical knowledge to train future nurse educators. 
  • The University of Miami is committed to excellence in healthcare education. The school’s faculty includes some of the best researchers, teachers, and clinicians in the country.
  • Partnerships with over 170 clinical sites ensure that students can gain clinical experience as part of their educational journey. 
  • The school offers a 41,000-square-foot Simulation Hospital, which provides immersive simulation experiences for training purposes in their programs.

23. New York University

New York University offers nine concentrations and three specialty sequences for its Master’s of Nursing. Its mission is research-oriented, and the school receives one of the biggest funding grants.

New York University

Students can pursue an MS specialization in Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP, Family NP, Nurse-Midwifery, Nursing Administration, Nursing Education, Nursing Informatics, Pediatrics NP, and Psychiatric-Mental Health NP. The specialty sequences available are Holistic Nursing, Palliative Care, and Substance Abuse Disorders.

  • The interdisciplinary MSN program aims to train nurses seeking advanced roles in nursing administration and nursing informatics. The coursework provides the necessary foundation for a doctorate.
  • The college has several research centers, including the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing and the Clinical Simulation Learning Center. 
  • The Rory Meyers College of Nursing is the second-largest among all private university nursing schools in the US. 
  • The school’s MS programs are CCNE accredited, and the Nurse-Midwifery MS program is accredited by ACME.

24. University of South Florida

University of South Florida’s Master of Science in Nursing degree is available in seven concentrations: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nursing, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nursing, Family Health Nursing, Pediatric Health Nursing, Nursing Education, Occupational Health/Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nursing, and Concurrent MPH/MS Degree Occupational Health/Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nursing. 

University of South Florida

The programs range from 40 credits for Nursing Education to 82 credits for the Concurrent MPH/MS degree. Students who completed their bachelor’s degrees in something other than nursing must complete transitional coursework before beginning their BSN to MSN programs.

  • The MSN program focuses on health promotion, research development, and nursing informatics.
  • The college is part of the USF Health family, which also includes the Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Public Health, the School of Physical Therapy, the School of Biomedical Sciences, and the College of Pharmacy. 
  • USF is ranked #1 in Florida for NIH funding. This provides researchers with more resources to focus on research involving mental health and chronic disease prevention.
  • The school has over 900 clinical partners and logs over 200,000 clinical hours each year in its programs.

25. University of Arizona

The University of Arizona offers two master’s degrees in nursing programs, an RN to MSN program and a Master of Science for Entry to the Profession of Nursing (MEPN). The MSN program provides a patient care-centered curriculum to innovate healthcare systems for individuals, communities, and clinical populations.

University of Arizona

The University of Arizona College of Nursing is one of five colleges that make up UA Health Sciences, Arizona’s premier institution for health research and care, with campuses in both Tempe and Phoenix.

  • Students are immersed in hands-on classes on the design, delivery, and evaluation of health care.
  • The RN to MSN program allows RNs with an associate degree in nursing to attend online courses and earn their MSN degrees quickly. The course can be completed in as little as two years. Nurses who have their bachelor’s degrees can skip a few classes and finish even more quickly. 
  • The MEPN program is 15 months long. This program is for students who already have their bachelor’s degrees in other fields yet want to start a new career in nursing. The program is intense and requires full-time attendance.
  • In addition, UA’s location is near the Mexican border, which allows students the opportunity to learn about the impact of culture on various health challenges. With programs focused on diversity and excellence, UA produces some of the best nurses in the Southwest.

26. University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington’s Master of Science in Nursing program offers concentrations in Nursing Administration, Nursing Education, and several Nurse Practitioner MSN degree programs. 

University of Texas at Arlington

Nine of the schools’ BSN to MSN programs are also offered online. The school has a 96% pass rate on national certification exams

  • The MSN program trains registered nurses to take on added responsibility and step into leadership roles following graduation.
  • UTA has an enrollment of more than 19,000 students and produces more baccalaureate-level nursing graduates than any other school in Texas. 
  • The school is the largest non-profit nursing school in the US. In spite of its size, the school emphasizes the importance of having students work in small groups with an experienced faculty member to guide them. 
  • Because research is a priority, the school offers a PhD in Nursing program to prepare nurses to conduct research, teach college-level nursing classes, and take leading roles in government agencies and private healthcare organizations.

Methodology: Ranking the Best Value Master of Science in Nursing Degree Programs

The Value Colleges Best Value ranking is about holistic value. These are not just the schools with the best reputation on paper or the cheapest tuition rates; they are the schools that find the right balance between quality and affordability, without sacrificing either for the other. 

To make it on this list, schools must first be accredited by one of the two main nursing education accrediting bodies: the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). To numerically rank the programs, we used three criteria:

Man measuring his blood pressure with a sphygmomanometer
  • Cost: IPEDS data
  • Reputation: College Consensus scores
  • Return on Investment: Alumni Salary reported by College Scorecard

Prospective students should be aware that tuition rates may vary according to state residency, and that per-credit tuition rates do not take into account specific fees. 

With the schools on this list, students can trust that they are finding BSN to MSN programs that will give them a proven return on their educational investment and carry their careers into the future.

What Is a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)?

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is a graduate degree program designed for registered nurses or individuals with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree who aim to advance their careers in the nursing field. These MSN programs provide advanced education and training in areas such as nursing theory, evidence-based clinical practice, leadership, and healthcare management. 

The duration typically ranges from 18 to 36 months, depending on factors like prior education and nursing experience.

By obtaining this advanced degree, nursing professionals gain opportunities for career advancement and can positively impact patient outcomes and community healthcare through their higher education and specialized training.

  • After completing an MSN program, registered nurses can pursue clinical roles as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). These include careers as a nurse midwife or a family nurse practitioner. There are also options for non-clinical roles in nursing education, research, healthcare administration, and nursing informatics.
  • A top MSN program for nurses allows RNs with a BSN to earn a degree in one to two years and qualifies them for advanced practice jobs and higher pay. Due to recommendations by the American Nurses Association, many healthcare facilities are beginning to consider the BSN a minimum standard for hiring.
  • This recommendation means more RNs pursue bachelor’s degrees to increase their status. Additionally, nurses with a BSN need to consider going further and earning a Master of Science in nursing to distinguish themselves on the job market.

What Are the Most In-Demand Masters in Nursing Specialties?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment outlook for registered nurses expects a 6% growth between 2022 and 2032. Because 55% of nurses are over 50 years old, according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, they’ll begin retiring between the next ten to fifteen years.

Due to this growing demand for nurses, it’s critical for students to know which masters in nursing specialties have more growth opportunities in comparison to others. Below are some of the most in-demand msn specialties and types of master’s degrees in nursing specialties.

Family Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are a type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). They work in many settings to coordinate patient care and provide both primary and specialty healthcare.

For example, a family nurse practitioner works with families similar to a doctor who practices family medicine. The BLS expects jobs for nurse practitioners to grow by 38% from 2022 to 2032.

Woman wearing a face mask

Critical Care Nurse

Critical care nurses typically work in the ICU (intensive care unit). They’ll work with a team of other nurses and doctors to ensure patients are receiving optimal care in hospitals or hospices after earning their master’s in nursing specialties.

Medical Surgery Nurse

With more than 1,898,000 employed, medical surgery is considered the largest specialty in nursing. Medical-surgical nurses assist in surgeries, monitor adult patients, work with medications, and perform many other jobs throughout the hospital.

Nurse Anesthetist

Those working in this field need extensive experience, training, and education in the types of master’s degrees in nursing. It’s a career with significant potential because it’s in such high demand. 

In addition to administering anesthesia, nurses also take care of patients in the operating room and monitor the following procedures. The BLS expects jobs for nurse anesthetists to grow by 38% from 2022 to 2032.

Clinical Nurse Specialist

Clinical nurse specialists typically work in hospitals or medical centers and provide care to specific populations like neonatal, pediatric, or adult-gerontology care.

What Are the Common Master of Science in Nursing Requirements for Admissions?

Admission for master in nursing requirements will vary depending on the specialties, your previous educational experience, and the state in which the student is living.

These requirements include whether students are looking for the shortest MSN program. However, there are some common MSN program requirements:

  1. Official transcripts containing all college work from the Baccalaureate degree
  2. GPA of 3.0 or higher for undergraduate work
  3. Some programs require GRE scores, although they may be waived if GPA is higher than 3.0
  4. Three letters of reference/recommendation forms must be completed
  5. Submission of an updated resume
  6. Submission of a written statement containing your goals for nursing

Requirements for admissions may depend on what type of program you are entering, particularly if you are entering an RN to MSN with a bachelor’s in another field.

What Is the General Coursework for Graduate Nursing Programs?

An MSN program covers a comprehensive curriculum to prepare students for advanced nursing roles. The general coursework includes:

  • Healthcare policy, laws, and ethics
  • Research design, statistics, and methods
  • Health assessment and nursing informatics
  • Pathophysiology and pharmacology
  • Advanced practice nursing (acute care, pediatrics, family practice)
  • Electives (community health, mental health, gerontology)
  • Leadership theories, organizational behavior, and healthcare management
Three nurses wearing masks and hair nets pose together with a newborn baby

What Is the Standard Clinical Training for Graduate Nursing Education? 

When enrolled in an MSN program, you’ll be required to complete clinical training consisting of different aspects of nursing care, leadership, and specializations.

  • Advanced patient care training, focusing on diagnosing, treatment planning, and managing
  • Leadership practicum and project management
  • Interprofessional collaboration projects
  • Application of clinical ethical principles
  • Specialized clinical rotations, including in psychiatric care, acute, care, and family health
  • Clinical practice research and application
  • Healthcare systems and patient safety management
  • Community health promotion, initiatives, and disease prevention programs
  • Culminating project

How Much Does It Cost to Enroll in an MSN Program?

MSN programs have an average per-credit cost of $950, totaling around $18,000 to $57,000 in total tuition. However, this can go higher or lower depending on the program along with certain factors:

  • In-state or out-of-state tuition fees
  • Fees for textbooks, supplies, and online learning platforms
  • Laboratory and clinical rotation expenses (including accommodation, transportation, and site usage)
  • Certification, memberships, licensing, and examination fees
  • Cost of commuting for hybrid programs or programs with selected on-site classes
  • Immunizations and health insurance
  • Miscellaneous administrative fees, application fees, graduate fees, and extra costs associated with enrollment or program completion
  • Opportunity cost (including potential loss of income if you reduce work hours or take a leave from employment)

What Are MSN Program Pathways?

Pathways enable entry into MSN programs for diverse educational backgrounds, with varying durations based on prior education for obtaining an RN license.

  1. Entry-level master’s degree: This pathway is ideal for non-nurses with a bachelor’s or graduate degree in another field. Usually lasting two to three years, this involves baccalaureate coursework and obtaining an RN license in the first year.
  2. ADN-RN to master’s degree: For nurses with an associate’s degree, this program builds in missing baccalaureate content.
  3. BSN-RN to master’s degree: This is a traditional pathway for BSN nurses pursuing an MSN program and advanced nursing practice roles like a nurse practitioner.
  4. Dual master’s degree: This option combines MSN with another graduate diploma in related fields like public health or business.

Can You Get an MSN Without a Bachelor’s in Nursing?

It’s possible to get an MSN without a Bachelor’s in Nursing by participating in an accelerated nursing program. Likewise, students can earn their RN to MSN with a bachelor’s in another field. 

Under most circumstances, it will take students approximately eighteen months to cover the material that’s taught during the BSN program when they earn their RN to MSN with a bachelor’s in another field. Once that’s accomplished, they must pass the registered nurse certification examination and move on to working on material for their master’s degree.

Expect your master’s degree to take approximately two years to earn. Under many circumstances, nurses will use online courses so they can continue working while achieving their educational goals. Some of the tracks include the following:

  • RN to BSN to MSN: 30 months
  • RN to MSN: 24 months
  • BSN to MSN: 18 months

These tracks will vary depending on individual progress. Because the study is intensive, some nurses opt for working at a slower pace. Typically, those pursuing these courses have several years of work experience leading them to this type of career advancement. 

Nurse adjusting a patient's bed position

Alternative Route

While it isn’t a requirement for an RN to MSN with a bachelor’s in another field, past work experiences help students regarding the skills and critical thinking they’ll need when studying for their MSN.

Students who have a bachelor’s degree in another field may also qualify for accelerated MSN programs, the shortest MSN program available. In many cases, an accelerated MSN can be completed in as little as 12 months. 

Even the shortest MSN program, however, still requires clinical hours and the same coursework – just compressed and condensed.

Related Questions

What Is the Best MSN Degree to Get?

The Family Nurse Practitioner concentration is often considered one of the best MSN degrees for those interested in providing comprehensive patient care across their lifespan. Additionally, the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse specialty equips graduates with the skills to address mental health needs in various settings.

Are MSN Degrees Worth It?

MSN degrees are generally worth the investment, as they open doors to advanced nursing roles such as nurse practitioners, clinical research nursing positions, and leadership opportunities. Pursuing an online MSN program, particularly in high-demand fields like Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, can lead to increased earning potential and career mobility.

What Is the #1 Nursing Program in the U.S.?

The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing is widely regarded as the #1 nursing program in the United States, offering top-notch education and training in various specialties, including Nurse Leadership, which prepares graduates for administrative and managerial roles in healthcare organizations.

What Are Potential MSN-Graduate Career Pathways?

Earning an MSN degree opens up diverse career opportunities, including clinical roles such as Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), Nurse Practitioner (NP), Family Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), and Nurse Midwifery, as well as non-clinical positions such as Clinical Nurse Leader, Nurse Administrators, Nurse Educators, and Nurse Informaticist.

What Are the Salary Expectations of an MSN in 2024?

The salaries for MSN graduates in 2024 will vary based on factors like degree specialty, location, experience, and employer. Nurse practitioners are expected to earn the highest mean annual salary of $142,481, followed by nurse midwives at $113,401. Clinical nurse leaders and administrators may earn around $89,949 and $84,334, respectively with an MSN degree.


Investing time and effort into researching the most MSN programs can pay dividends in the long run. By selecting a reputable graduate degree program, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in your nursing career. Armed with this information, you can make an informed decision and embark on a path toward professional growth and career advancement.

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Aya Andrews


Aya Andrews is a passionate educator and mother of two, with a diverse background that has shaped her approach to teaching and learning. Born in Metro Manila, she now calls San Diego home and is proud to be a Filipino-American. Aya earned her Masters degree in Education from San Diego State University, where she focused on developing innovative teaching methods to engage and inspire students.

Prior to her work in education, Aya spent several years as a continuing education consultant for KPMG, where she honed her skills in project management and client relations. She brings this same level of professionalism and expertise to her work as an educator, where she is committed to helping each of her students achieve their full potential.

In addition to her work as an educator, Aya is a devoted mother who is passionate about creating a nurturing and supportive home environment for her children. She is an active member of her community, volunteering her time and resources to support local schools and organizations. Aya is also an avid traveler, and loves to explore new cultures and cuisines with her family.

With a deep commitment to education and a passion for helping others succeed, Aya is a true inspiration to those around her. Her dedication to her craft, her community, and her family is a testament to her unwavering commitment to excellence in all aspects of her life.

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