What Is the Difference Between RN to MSN Programs, and BSN to MSN Programs

If you are a nurse and you want to improve your education, role, and practice you can continue with the Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.

After you complete the MSN program, you have plenty of job opportunities.

Some nurses choose to work as NP – nurse practitioners, work in the anesthesia field as a CRNA, work in hospital management, education, or leadership.

You can work as a Clinical Nurse Specialist, as well.

There are several different paths to obtain an MSN degree from the nurse starting position.

Let’s check the primary information about each path and all the positive and negative aspects of it.


The eligibility route RN – BNS – MSN is the most common and most RNs choose this way to achieve MSN.

If a nurse holds a diploma or associate’s degree, he or she can start the wrong in a traditional, classroom way, online way, or a hybrid program.

These students are required to complete 30 credits and the optimal duration is around two years for upper-level BSN educational programs.

Many RN to BSN programs you can attend online which is very convenient for people who work, and need more flexibility.

It also increases the self-paced learning system.

The next step after you complete a BSN program is to prepare for the MSN program.

There are many MSN online programs as well.

Many of the programs require clinical hours and classroom education.

The duration of the MSN program depends on status, whether you will choose a full or part-time status.

So, the programs can last two or three years.

BSN Courses

BSN courses include similar themes such as statistics, informatics, community health nursing.

However, the important fields are nursing leadership and evidence-based practice.

Some courses include additional themes such as nutrition, chemistry, but these are usually completed during the ADN programs.

After you complete a BSN training program, you are allowed to apply to the MSN program.

The chosen specialty determines the curriculum in the MSN programs.

Therefore programs for nurse practitioners differ form program for CRNA or nurse-midwife.

However, all MSN courses include advanced pathophysiology and pharmacology, health assessment, and research.

The integral core course of all MSN programs is the role of the advanced practice nurse.

After you finish all the basic courses, your specialty courses will begin.

You can choose specialty as a nurse practitioner (psychiatry, family medicine, adult….), nurse midwife, clinical nurse leader, or educator.

To finish the program, you will have to complete a certain number of clinical hours under the supervision.

Pros of RN – BSN – MSN Route

The primary benefit of choosing the RN – BSN – MSN path is a step-wise approach.

IF you choose this path, you will have enough time to learn one role after another and apply the systematic approach.

Also, choosing this way is easier for many students because the programs are flexible, in terms that you can take a break between BSN and MSN program if you need it.

On the other hand, if you start your career gradually, the chances for higher success in MSN programs are increasing because you will have enough professional experience.

Cons of RN – BSN – MN Route

The most obvious drawback is the time you will need to complete all steps.

The process can last a few years, and it can cause a delay in the carrier of a nurse who wants to get the MSN degree.

The costs are also higher if you choose this multi-step path.

During the programs, you will fee for two different programs and additional costs.

However, each program is different.

You should research more about schools you want to enroll in, and to compare costs, duration, etc. and to decide based on the results.

RN to MSN Bridge Program

Another way to achieve an MSN degree is to enroll in the RN to MSN bridge program.

The schools may maintain the programs differently, but the prerequisite is to finish the BSN first.

After that, you will have to complete the MSN portion immediately.

Some schools allow the BSN and MSN programs to overlap.

The typical distribution of the credits is 30 for the BSN and 30 for the MSN.

How much time it will take you to finish the program, depends on specialty and status – full time or part-time.

Commonly, students need three years to complete the programs.

Again, there is a convenient online course for some specialties, but you will have to finish some clinical hours.


The program for the RN to MSN looks a lot like RN to BSN to MSN education list.

But, the difference is in the core courses that serve to prepare students for further studies and graduate study.

The course can differ from school to school.

For example, if you choose Walden University, you will need to finish a 3-credit course – Foundations for Graduate Study.

After you complete this course, you will become eligible to start the MSN basic course.

Let’s take this school as an example of the curriculum.

The following is the curriculum for an adult-gerontology track.

It consists of foundation courses, core courses, and specialization courses.

The foundation courses take 29 credits and include Issues and Trends in Nursing, Foundations of Nursing Research, Topics in Clinical Nursing, Role of the Nurse Leader in Population Health, Leadership Competencies in Nursing and Healthcare Foundations for Graduate Study

The core courses take 20 credits and include Policy and Advocacy for Improving Population Health. Transforming Nursing and Healthcare Through Technology, Essentials of Evidenced-Based Practice, and Interprofessional Organizational and Systems Leadership.

Lastly, the specialization courses are 35 credits.

They include Advanced Pathophysiology, Advanced Pharmacology,

Advanced Health Assessment and Diagnostic Reasoning, Advanced Practice Care of Adults Across the Lifespan, Advanced Practice Care of Frail Elders, Primary Care of Women, and Synthesis in Advanced Nursing Practice Care of Patients in Primary Care Settings.

Pros of the RN – MSN Bridge Program

The primary benefit of this education route is the simplicity – you will finish everything in one shot.

It is convenient for students because you will have to apply one time, for one school and one program.

So, it seems much more fuss-free.

Another benefit is cost.

If you pick a school with a flat rate for the entire program, it will cost you less money than if you pick the school which charges you for each credit.

Lastly, the duration is shorter than with the traditional RN – BSN – MSN program route.

Cons of the RN – MSN Bridge Program

If you pick this RN – MSN bridge program and route, you have to understand that it is a straight line to the master’s degree that doesn’t include much of professional experience.

Some nurses prefer to gain working experience before they obtain a master’s degree.

Some students who pick this path complained the process was draining and challenging.

It is why other students pick a step-wise program, to have longer rest periods.

The choice depends on several factors, including personal preferences.

However, MSN is always a great choice to improve your career opportunities and extend the nursing practice.

Because there are so many schools and programs in all states, you should first research possible schools to find the one that fits your needs.

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