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RN-BSN vs. RN-BSN-MSN: Which Is Right for You? [Infographic]

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While RNs might know the value of getting a higher degree, school can be expensive, and take valuable time outside of their hectic work schedule. A Master of Science in Nursing degree can open opportunities for advanced practice, specialization, leadership, instruction and research positions – and opportunities for highly educated nurses are growing fast. Time and money may be a concern, but students can use an RN-MSN program to save both.1

Registered Nurses who want to enter an MSN-level position have the option of multiple degree programs. They can do an RN to BSN degree followed by a BSN to MSN degree, but they can also choose to do a direct RN to MSN degree, like the one offered at Sacred Heart University. Both options have advantages, but an RN to MSN degree will likely save you time and money.

RN-MSN programs save you time

The RN to MSN degree combines the RN to BSN and BSN to MSN degrees. It’s an accelerated program that allows RN students to get an MSN with eight or nine courses instead of 12. Students in this program don’t need a bachelor’s degree to apply, but do need professional experience and certain course prerequisites.2

The first courses of the RN to MSN degree are considered “bridgework,” courses they would have taken in an RN to BSN program which prepare them for the graduate level coursework.2

Graduates of the RN to MSN program also receive their BSN when they complete the program. Taken separately, the RN to BSN degree requires 120 credit hours, and the BSN to MSN requires 36-39. Combined, students can get their degree with 120 credit hours instead of 159.

RN-MSN programs save you money

This streamlining saves students money and time. With tuition ranging from $590 per credit hour for BSN credits to $6950 per credit hour for MSN courses, consolidating the education saves 36 or more credit hours. This can save students thousands of dollars.

The other financial consideration of nursing education is the increased salary potential with higher degrees. Nurses with a BSN earn between $42,343 and $81,768. Nurses with an MSN earn from $62,281-198,743, on average.3

Consolidating this education can save a year of school and help nurses earn a significantly higher degree at least a year earlier. When combined with the decreased tuition costs of the bridge program, this means that an RN to MSN degree can be a much better financial option for nurses who know they want an advanced nursing degree.4



Degree programs such as RN to BSN and RN to BSN to MSN are obvious choices for working registered nurses, because these programs start where an associate’s degree finishes, providing the advanced information to help nurses improve their formal educations without repeating information from earlier programs.

Which degree is best depends on your situation and your goals. Sacred Heart University offers both degrees online. Our infographic covers differences between the programs and the benefits of holding each degree.

Time to Completion1-2 yearsAbout 3 years
RequirementsAssociate’s degree or nursing diplomaAssociate’s degree or nursing diploma
CostsTuition is billed at the lower division rate, and financial aid may be available from multiple sources, including your employer.Tuition for BSN portion of the degree is billed at undergraduate rate, while graduate courses are more expensive. Financial aid may be available from multiple sources, including your employer.
Salary Range$64,000 to $90,0000$86,000 to $166,000
Career OptionsClinical specialists in areas like geriatrics and cardio care; telemedicine nurses delivering remote health care; military nurses and many others.Nurse consultant, advanced practice nurse, clinical nurse leader, instructor, administrator, health care policy expert and others.
BenefitsRNs holding BSN degrees typically have more responsibility than those holding associate’s degrees. Because the RN-BSN education track is faster than the RN-BSN-MSN track, you can access job opportunities that advance your career faster and increase your income sooner, even if you continue to pursue a graduate degree.Benefits of an MSN over BSN
Nurses holding MSN degrees have more job options than nurses with BSN degrees. They also earn more.

Benefit of RN-MSN program over RN-BSN
The RN-MSN is the most cost effective way to attain a graduate nursing degree.
The Bottom LineNurses with BSN degrees have more career options and earnings potential than RNs with associate’s degrees but fewer career options than nurses with MSN degrees. They spend roughly one less year in school than they would in a RN-MSN program.An RN-BSN-MSN program offers the fastest path to a graduate nursing degree, and graduates have the highest earnings potential and the most career opportunities.

Pick from 5 specializations at the MSN level: Clinical Nurse Leader, Family Nurse Practitioner, Nursing Education, Nursing Management & Executive Leadership and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner.



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