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Registered nurses (RNs) comprise the largest group of professionals in the healthcare industry. The typical RN receives an impressive median salary of $66,000 per year, and high-performing RNs can earn $80,000 or more annually. Many of these nurses hold just an entry-level diploma or associate’s degree in nursing (ADN). However, the very top earners hold a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree, a requirement for a lucrative position as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). Specialized APRN roles like nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, and nurse anesthetist can earn $90,000 to $150,000 in annual pay.

Fortunately, RNs who hold just an entry-level diploma or associate’s degree can enroll in an RN-to-MSN transition program. This accelerated course of study typically requires three years or less to complete. The transition program is specifically tailored for RNs that hold a hospital diploma or ADN. Coursework begins with the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) content missing from these entry-level programs, before students eventually transition to graduate-level studies.

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Most RN-to-MSN transition programs award both a BSN and MSN degree. According to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), some institutions award the BSN as soon as the bachelor's degree requirements are completed, while others confer both degrees at the conclusion of the entire program. Students can expect to take courses on advanced nursing roles, informatics and data analysis, healthcare policy, evidence and practice, and nursing theory and research. Most programs offer specialization tracks and the option to earn a clinical or non-clinical MSN.

Also known as an “RN-to-MSN bridge program,” the transition program is offered by more than 200 schools across the U.S., with 30 additional programs currently in the planning stages. Admissions requirements vary greatly by school, but two requirements are universal: applicants must have a current RN license and a diploma or associate’s degree from an accredited nursing school.

Because an RN-to-MSN transition program requires less time than separately earning both a BSN and an MSN degree, students can expect to save a significant amount of money on tuition costs. Many programs are offered online as well, which can enhance the savings.

If you would like to move up the ladder in the nursing field, browse our website’s directory of nursing schools to find the best RN-to-MSN transition programs in your local area.