The majority of online RN to MSN programs are designed for licensed registered nurses who would like to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) together through one accelerated program. Relative to earning a BSN and MSN separately, RN to MSN programs generally require less time, as they enable students to take fewer classes to earn their two degrees. Accredited online RN to MSN programs with a specialization in family nurse practitioner (FNP) are generally comprised of both undergraduate and graduate level courses, and can be quite demanding due to their accelerated, concentrated nature.
Types of Online RN to MSN-FNP Programs: Admission Requirements
RN to MSN programs vary by school and typically fall into one of three categories, based on their admission requirements:
- RN to MSN Programs – ADN Required: Sometimes referred to as ADN to MSN programs, this type of program requires applicants to hold an associate degree in nursing from a CCNE or ACEN-accredited institution.
- RN to MSN Programs – ADN or a Diploma in Nursing Required: These programs accept students who have completed either an accredited ADN or a diploma in nursing program. Typically, students with a diploma in nursing will be required to complete more credits than students who have earned an ADN.
- RN to MSN Programs – Non-nursing Bachelor’s Degree Required: Some schools which refer to their programs as “RN to MSN programs” actually require candidates to hold an accredited bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field. On OnlineFNPPrograms.com, we refer to this type of program as an online Bachelor’s to MSN program instead of an RN to MSN program. Please see our Online Bachelor’s to MSN programs page for a complete list of schools offering this type of program.
This page only lists online RN to MSN programs that require either an ADN or an ADN or diploma in nursing for eligibility. In addition, the program information below only refers to these types of programs. This page does not contain schools or information about programs that require a bachelor’s in a non-nursing field for admission.
In addition to the degree requirements mentioned above, RN to MSN programs may require applicants to meet a minimum college GPA threshold, complete certain courses (such as statistics and health assessment) prior to admission, and fulfill one or more years of work as a registered nurse. Specific admission requirements vary across different online RN to MSN programs. Students who wish to enroll in an online RN to MSN-FNP program may benefit from speaking with an admissions advisor at each of the programs that interest them to get further details about application processes and requirements.
Accredited Online RN to MSN-FNP Programs: Curriculum Details
One of the main advantages of online RN to MSN-FNP programs is that students are not required to complete as many units, as compared to earning a BSN and MSN separately. RN to MSN programs often waive certain general education courses that are not related to nursing, such as English classes, humanities electives, and/or history electives. In addition, many online RN to MSN-FNP programs allow students to transfer credits from their ADN or diploma in nursing.
In online RN to MSN programs, students generally complete their BSN coursework prior to starting the graduate-level portion of their curriculum, as MSN courses often build off of the foundation that BSN classes establish. However, for some RN to MSN programs, students may actually have terms or sessions during which they take both undergraduate and graduate-level courses.
Some online RN to MSN programs may permit students to earn their BSN if they have completed the required courses and decide to leave the program before completing the MSN portion due to unforeseen circumstances. For students who are worried about being able to complete the entire program, we recommend speaking with an admissions advisor to see if the program they choose has this option.
Online RN to MSN-FNP Programs: Clinical Hours and Campus Visits
All accredited online FNP programs, including RN to MSN-FNP online programs, require the completion of a certain number of clinical hours. Clinical hours are defined as the time a student spends in a real medical setting, such as a hospital or private clinic, performing actual nursing tasks under the supervision of preceptors, who are professionals in the medical field that guide students through their nursing responsibilities and monitor their progress. Clinical hours give nursing students the opportunity to apply the knowledge they gain in the classroom to actual patient scenarios, and thus function as mandatory nursing internships. Online RN to MSN programs generally require between 750 and 765 clinical hours, though this number may vary depending on the program.
Nursing students must complete their clinical hours at a prearranged medical site, and have an official preceptor prior to beginning their clinical internship. Some online RN to MSN-FNP programs match students to a local site with an approved preceptor, while other programs require students to find a local site and preceptor on their own, but provide support services for students during their search. There are pros and cons to each method as one requires less work by the student, while the other gives the student more flexibility to find a desired placement.
Depending on their program, nursing specialization, and region of residence, nursing students may be able to complete their clinical hours in a variety of medical settings, including community health centers, hospitals, private clinics, volunteer clinics, and wellness centers.
In addition to completing clinical hours at a local health facility, almost all online FNP programs require students to make a limited number of visits to campus during the program. These campus visits, or “on-campus intensives,” typically consist of in-person lectures, discussions, and/or activities with program instructors and fellow students, and can range from part of a day to several days in duration. On OnlineFNPPrograms.com, we define an online FNP program as one that requires three or fewer campus visits or on-campus intensives per year.
Accredited Online RN to MSN Programs: Full-Time vs. Part-Time
Online RN to MSN-FNP programs are generally offered in both full-time and part-time formats. In full-time RN to MSN programs, students take more courses each session/term, and thus earn their two degrees in a shorter amount of time. Conversely, part-time programs take longer to complete, but offer students more flexibility in their schedule, as part-time curricula typically have fewer courses each term.
Whether a student should choose a full-time or a part-time online FNP program largely depends on his or her individual situation, including professional, personal, and extracurricular commitments. Most schools that offer full-time RN to MSN programs online do not recommend that students work full-time while pursing their degree(s). Part-time programs are generally designed for working professionals and may be a better option for students who need to work full-time while in school.
Full-time online RN to MSN programs typically take between 24 and 28 months to complete, while part-time online RN to MSN programs generally take between 30 and 36 months. The overall time it takes to complete an online RN to MSN-FNP program varies by school, and is determined by numerous factors, including the program’s curriculum, the number of transferable academic credits a student has completed prior to enrollment, and the program’s clinical hours requirements.
Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction in Online RN to MSN-FNP Programs
Students who are just starting to research online nursing programs should note that online RN to MSN-FNP programs typically use one of two types of instruction methods: synchronous instruction or asynchronous instruction (or a combination of both). Synchronous instruction involves students and instructors meeting at prearranged times to participate in lectures and discussions in real-time; such programs often require the use of a web camera, and generally provide a more realistic “classroom” feel compared to programs that use asynchronous instruction.
In contrast, classes that use asynchronous instruction typically allow students to access pre-recorded lectures and course materials on their own time. Asynchronous classes do not require students to meet at prearranged times to attend lectures or interact in real-time with instructors and classmates. However, students in programs that use asynchronous instruction are still required to complete assignments and exams by specific deadlines that are typically predefined in the class syllabus.
All online degree programs, including online RN to MSN programs, require discipline from students to keep up with lectures and coursework. While the online format of these programs offers a degree of flexibility for students, online nursing programs are just as academically rigorous and time-intensive as campus-based nursing programs.
Accredited Online RN to MSN Programs: Sample Courses
While course titles and content may vary slightly among online RN to MSN-FNP programs, common core courses generally include the following:
Sample Bachelor’s Level Classes:
- Health Assessment: How to evaluate the physical, emotional, and psychological health of individuals and incorporate this information into an overall health care and treatment plan for patients. How to perform physical examinations, take medical histories, and assess patient health in the context of the family.
- Advanced Human Physiology/Pathophysiology: How the human body functions at the organ systems, organ, tissue, and molecular levels, and how different health conditions affect human health.
- Clinical Diagnosis and Decision Making: The skills and principles necessary to make clinical diagnoses and treatment decisions. How to care holistically for patient health–i.e. how to combine health education, recommended lifestyle changes, medical treatment, and health monitoring into a sound health care plan for individuals across the lifespan.
Sample Master’s Level Courses:
- Advanced Pharmacology: The major classes of medicines and how they interact with the human body’s organs and organ systems. The fundamental principles of pharmacology, including pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics, drug metabolism and how it varies from patient to patient, and the relationship between dosage and patient response. How to apply knowledge of different drug types to patient care in a clinical setting.
- Nursing Informatics: Using current health information and computer technologies to better understand patients’ needs and optimize health care strategies. How to gather, organize, and understand medical data through computer programs and other technologies, and apply medical findings and analysis to clinical settings and individual patient situations.
- Primary Nursing Care for the Family: How to assess, care for, and monitor the health of individuals and families across the lifespan. Understanding and addressing patients’ health problems with a combination of education, preventative care, and medical treatment. How to balance patients’ physical, psychological, emotional, and cultural needs and concerns when developing an effective healthcare plan.
- Health Care Systems and Policy: The American healthcare system, how it works, and how past and current health care policies have affected it. Current topics in health care reform, such as the Affordable Care Act. Understanding the role of the advanced practice registered nurse in health policy and advocacy.