Answer: A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program, often referred to as a Traditional MSN program, typically requires 15 to 24 months of full-time study. Part-time options are also available at many schools, and may take students anywhere from 24 to 48 months to complete. The actual length of a BSN to MSN program will vary depending on the school, program structure, and degree specialization students choose to pursue.
In order to qualify for a BSN to MSN program, students must possess both an active registered nurse (RN) license and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from an institution accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Other admission requirements may include meeting a minimum overall GPA threshold, and/or having a certain amount of professional nursing experience (typically one to two years). Some degree specializations may have additional requirements for enrollment, such as certifications or work experience in a particular specialty area. Students should carefully review the admissions criteria of any BSN to MSN program before applying to make sure they meet the necessary qualifications.
To learn more about the structure and length of BSN to MSN programs, as well as the different degree concentrations available to post-baccalaureate students, read through the sections below.
BSN to MSN Program Requirements
In most cases, a BSN to MSN program will require the completion of around 40 to 70 course credits. This number varies by school, as well as by the particular nursing specialty students are pursuing. The curriculum in a Traditional MSN program is comprised of both core MSN courses and specialization courses intended to prepare RNs in their desired focus. While exact course titles may vary, below are a few topics commonly covered in the MSN core curriculum:
- Advanced Health Assessment
- Advanced Pharmacology
- Advanced Physiology/Pathophysiology
- Health Promotions and Disease Prevention for Diverse Populations
- Leadership in Advanced Nursing
- Theoretical Foundations of Nursing Practice
- Health Systems Innovation and Improvement
- Ethics in Advance Practice Nursing
Along with this core coursework, and the specialty courses associated with their degree concentration, BSN to MSN students must complete a set number of clinical practice hours during their program in order to graduate. These typically take place at a local health care facility, under the supervision of a trained preceptor. For BSN to MSN students, the number of required clinical hours generally ranges from 500 to 1000; however, this varies by school and specialty. Multiple rotations in different clinical settings may also be required, depending on the program.
Length of BSN to MSN Program: Full-Time vs. Part-Time
Post-baccalaureate students can choose to pursue their MSN on either a full- or part-time basis. Many schools offer both options; however, some only offer one or the other, which students should take into consideration when deciding where to apply. While full-time BSN to MSN programs take less semesters overall to complete, they generally require a larger time commitment on a weekly basis. Part-time programs, on the other hand, allow students to take fewer courses each term, so they can continue to work full time or manage other work/life obligations while earning their degree. Although these types of programs offer increased flexibility, they do, for the most part, take longer to complete than a full-time course of study.
As mentioned earlier, a full-time BSN to MSN program takes approximately 15 to 24 months to complete. Students enrolled in a part-time program might finish in anywhere from 24 to 48 months, depending on the number of courses they take each semester. Typically, schools recommend that MSN students who intend to maintain full-time employment during their degree program enroll part time, in order to provide enough time for coursework and clinical hours each week.
BSN to MSN Degree Specializations
Traditional MSN programs are available in both advanced clinical concentrations and indirect care specializations, such as nursing administration, nursing education or clinical nurse leadership. Clinical practice programs are designed for students who want to work directly with patients, providing specialized care in a clinical setting. Post-baccalaureate students can choose to pursue their MSN in any of the major APRN specializations. Completing an MSN in one of these specialties will qualify graduates to sit for a national certification exam in that particular patient focus. BSN to MSN programs are offered in all of the following clinical concentrations:
- Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP)
- Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP)
- Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) (will require a doctorate after 2025 for new grads)
- Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) (will require a doctorate after 2030 for new grads)
- Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)
- Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (PACNP)
- Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (PPCNP)
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)
RNs interested in taking on a more administrative role can pursue a BSN to MSN program in one of several indirect care concentrations. These are for students who want to manage and affect patient care from a systems level, instead of engaging in direct clinical practice. Examples of indirect care concentrations available at the MSN-level include:
- Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL)
- Nursing Administration
- Nursing Education
- Public Health Nursing
- Nursing Informatics
For more information about Traditional MSN programs, including the degree specializations mentioned above, check out our Complete Guide to MSN Programs.