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Nursing Degree Comparison

RN to BSN vs. BSN to MSN vs. RN to MSN

Ready to Level Up In Your Nursing Career?
Get started on a nursing program of your choice from WGU.

Which Nursing Degree is Right for You?

At WGU, you have a number of options to consider for earning your advanced nursing degree online.

The three pathways to nursing degrees we offer are:

While the above programs are geared toward current RNs, in a select few states, WGU offers a prelicensure degree program that leads to both an RN license and a BSN. So, if you’re looking to become an RN and earn your BSN in one program and live in one of the states where it is offered, this pathway could work for you. 

If you’re considering the RN to BSN, BSN to MSN, or RN to MSN, it’s important to understand how each is unique so you can pick one that best fits your education, experience, and career goals. This guide will outline the cost, time commitment, and credentials required of each degree.

Nursing (RN-to-BSN Online) – B.S.

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking the added...

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking the added theoretical depth, employability, and respect that a bachelor's degree brings:

  • Time: 77% of graduates finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition: $3,998 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.
  • Courses: 23 total courses in this program.
  • Transfers: Students can transfer up to 90 credits.

With over 35,000 BSN alumni, this is one of WGU's most popular online degree programs. View our RN to BSN degree guide. If you are an RN ready to earn your BSN, this program will help you accelerate to earn your degree.

If you don't currently have an RN and don't qualify for your nursing prelicensure program, consider getting our Bachelor's Degree in Health Services Coordination instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry in a unique way.

Nursing – Education (RN-to-MSN) – M.S.

This MSN – Education online nursing program for RNs includes a BSN program...

This MSN – Education online nursing program for RNs includes a BSN program component and is a substantial leap forward for an aspiring nurse educator.

  • Time: 73% of RN-to-MSN grads finish within 42 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,998 per 6-month term during undergraduate portion, $4,367 per 6-month term during graduate portion, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.
  • Courses: 32 total courses in this program.

This program is ideal for current RNs who are looking to earn both their BSN and MSN in a single, accelerated program.

Sample careers and jobs this online nursing degree will prepare you for:

  • Nurse Educator
  • Nursing Faculty
  • Program Director
  • Academic Clinical Nurse Educator

Given the growing nurse educator shortage, earning your MSN with a focus in education is both a rewarding decision and a solid career move.

Nursing – Education (BSN-to-MSN) – M.S.

A master's in nursing education program for nurses with BSNs....

A master's in nursing education program for nurses with BSNs.

This degree will prepare you to teach the next generation of nurses.

  • Time: 64% of grads finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition: $4,367 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.
  • Courses: 15 total courses in this program.

This program is ideal for RNs who already have their BSN and are ready to progress in their career.

Some careers and jobs this degree will prepare you for:

  • Nurse Educator
  • Nursing Faculty
  • Program Director
  • Academic Clinical Nurse Educator

Hospitals and other facilities need nurse educators. Earn your MSN – Education and step into a role inspiring and empowering caregivers.

Nursing – Leadership & Management (RN-to-MSN) – M.S.

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and is a substantial leap...

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and is a substantial leap toward becoming a nurse leader.

  • Time: 75% of RN-to-MSN grads finish within 42 months.
  • Tuition: $3,998 per 6-month term during undergraduate portion, $4,367 per 6-month term during graduate portion, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350
  • Courses: 32 total courses in this program.

Some careers and jobs this degree will prepare you for:

  • Director of Nursing
  • Chief Nursing Officer
  • Quality Director
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Project Manager

If you're driven to lead, this online nursing degree will provide you everything needed to make that career a reality. This program is ideal for current RNs who are interested in earning both their BSn and MSN in an accelerated program.

Compare degrees

This program is not the only degree WGU offers designed to create leaders in the field of healthcare. Compare our health leadership degrees.

Nursing – Leadership & Management (BSN-to-MSN) – M.S.

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree who are ready for...

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree who are ready for additional career opportunities.

  • Time: 68% of grads finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition: $4,367 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350
  • Courses: 15 total courses in this program.

This program is ideal for current RNs who have a BSN and are ready for the next step in their education.

Sample careers and jobs this degree program will prepare you for:

  • Director of Nursing
  • Chief Nursing Officer
  • Quality Director
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Project Manager

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of medical and health services managers to grow 17% by 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Compare degrees

This program is not the only degree WGU offers designed to create leaders in the field of healthcare. Compare our health leadership degrees.

Nursing – Nursing Informatics (RN-to-MSN) – M.S.

A nursing program that empowers data-driven nurses with a BSN and MSN...

A nursing program that empowers data-driven nurses with a BSN and MSN component, allowing them to go from RN to MSN.

  • Time:  67% of RN-to-MSN grads finish within 36 months.
  • Tuition: $3,998 per 6-month term during undergraduate portion, $4,367 per 6-month term during graduate portion, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.
  • Courses: 31 total courses in this program.

This program is ideal for currently licensed RNs who are looking to earn a bachelor's degree and a master's degree at an accelerated pace.

Some careers and jobs this degree will prepare you for:

  • Chief Nursing Informatics Officer
  • Informatics Director
  • Nursing Informatics Specialist
  • Informatics Analyst

The trajectory of data and informatics in healthcare will continually open opportunities for registered nurses who take this path.

Nursing – Nursing Informatics (BSN-to-MSN) – M.S.

A nursing degree program that empowers data-driven nurses who already have...

A nursing degree program that empowers data-driven nurses who already have a BSN but seek the success a master's can bring:

  • Time:  72% of grads finish within 18 months.
  • Tuition: $4,367 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.
  • Courses: 14 total courses in this program.

Some careers and jobs this degree will prepare you for:

  • Chief Nursing Informatics Officer
  • Informatics Director
  • Nursing Informatics Specialist
  • Informatics Analyst

The trajectory of data and informatics in healthcare will continually open opportunities for nurses who take this path.

Who Should Apply for the RN-to-BSN Program?

This program works best for current nurses who are ready to earn their BSN degree and only their BSN degree. It’s also ideal for nurses who want to improve their salary and job opportunities, move into a nursing specialty, or help their hospital achieve magnet status.

How Much Does the RN-to-BSN Program Cost?

$3,998

Each term at WGU is six months long, and during that time you can complete as many courses as you're able. Unlike other schools, you aren't charged per course or per credit, so if you earn your degree ahead of schedule, you can save both time and money.

How Long Does the RN-to-BSN Program Take?

18 Months

However, thanks to WGU’s competency-based education, some students find they can complete their program in as little as one year.

Do I Need a Current RN License for this Program?

Yes

In order to qualify for this program, you’ll need to have a current, active RN license. Many nurses pursue a diploma program or Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) to get their initial RN license, then opt to get their BSN.

“I hadn’t been in school for so long, but having the work experience from being a nurse, I not only did well, I actually loved it. The courses were practical, and everything made sense.”

—Keith Plant
B.S. Nursing

Who Should Apply for the BSN-to-MSN Program?

The BSN-to-MSN program is for current RNs who already have their BSN degree and are ready to take the next step and earn their MSN. It’s the best fit for nurses who want to move into a management, educator, or informatics role. These nurses already have their BSN and are looking for advanced opportunities, career moves, and salaries.

How Much Does the BSN-to-MSN Program Cost?

$4,367

Keep in mind that each term at WGU is six months long and you can complete as many courses as you're able during that period. You aren't charged per course or per credit, so if you earn your degree ahead of schedule, you can save time and money.

How Long Does the BSN-to-MSN Program Take?

24 Months

This program builds on your BSN background and RN experience. Many online degrees offer flexibility, but not to the level that WGU does. Our competency-based education model allows you to study and complete coursework on your schedule, so you can continue to work full-time and create a study plan as it fits your lifestyle. 

Do I Need a Current RN License for this Program?

Yes

In order to qualify for this program you’ll need to have a current, active RN license (though you’re not required to be working as an RN at the time of enrollment), as well as a BSN.

Who Should Apply for the RN-to-MSN Program?

The RN-to-MSN program is for current RNs who want a master’s degree but need to obtain their bachelor’s degree as well. This program allows you to earn your BSN and MSN in a bridge program—so you can earn your BSN and then move directly to your MSN. This allows you to complete two degrees in one program. You also earn a post-baccalaureate certificate along the way as part of this program.

The RN-to-MSN isn’t for everyone. This program is rigorous and requires a longer time commitment. You need to be sure that you are looking to earn both a BSN and MSN degree.

How Much Does the RN-to-MSN Program Cost?

$3,754 | $4,367

This is the cost per six-month term, which increases when you enter the MSN portion of this program. Because tuition is charged per term, you can take as many courses as you are able in a six-month period and not pay additional tuition.

How Long Does the RN-to-MSN Program Take?

42 Months

WGU’s RN-to-MSN pathway takes longer than other programs because it’s two programs in one. However, WGU lets you move more quickly through the material you already know and advance as soon as you’re ready. This is why many people are able to earn both their bachelor’s and master’s degree in less than 4 years.

Do I Need a Current RN License for this Program?

Yes

In order to qualify for this program you’ll need to have a current, active RN license, however there’s no RN work requirement. This means you don't need to be currently working as an RN in order to be eligible for admission into this MSN program. You can also transfer up to 17 competency units of your MSN courses taken at the master’s level at an accredited intuition to this degree program. Courses must have been completed at an accredited MSN program within the past five years with a grade of “B” or higher.

Bottom Line?

If you’re ready to take your nursing career to the next level, WGU has three great degree pathways to get you there. All provide a flexible schedule that puts you in the driver’s seat so you can continue to work full-time and manage family life while you earn your education. Our curriculum is developed by experts in the field who understand what busy nurses need to know to enhance their experience and résumé. A degree could change your opportunities and impact your life, so get started advancing your education today.

Why WGU?

Earning Potential

A business management bachelor's degree can dramatically impact your earning potential. After graduation WGU IT management students report earning $15,729 more per year.

On Your Schedule

Competency-based education means you can move as quickly through your degree as you can master the material. You don't have to log in to classes at a certain time—you are truly in the driver's seat of your education

Entirely Online

The business IT management bachelor's degree at WGU is 100% online, which means it works wherever you are. You can do your coursework at night after working at your full-time job, on weekends, while you're traveling the world or on vacation—it's entirely up to you.

Whichever degree you choose, there is a wide variety of career opportunities open to students of both degree programs. There are also major benefits associated with pursuing a degree program with WGU, including a flexible schedule, affordable options for every student, and more. 

“Growing up we never talked about college but it was something I always wanted to do. The competency-based model really worked for me because it applied immediately to my job and helped me be a better nurse and better communicator”

-Melvin Bolden,
BS Nursing RN-BSN

COST & TIME

An Affordable Nursing Degree

By charging per term rather than per credit—and empowering students to accelerate through material they know well or learn quickly—WGU helps students control the ultimate cost of their degrees. The faster you complete your program, the less you pay for your degree.

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Prepared for Success
on the Job

From a 2021 Harris Poll of 300 employers of WGU graduates

97% of employers said that WGU graduates were prepared for their jobs.

95% of employers said that they would hire another WGU grad.

98% of employers said WGU graduates met or exceeded expectations.