Pennsylvania Online Masters of Science in Nursing Degree

Online MSN degree programs provide students with a focused course of study designed to allow experienced nurses to examine a specific area of nursing. With coursework and lectures often available anytime, many students are able to work while pursuing their online masters of science in nursing degree. This could provide you a chance to study how to use evidence-based practice, customizing care, and clinical expertise at your convenience.

Did You Know?

In 1783, James Derham was a black slave who worked as a nurse in New Orleans. Eventually, he earned enough money to buy his freedom and move to Philadelphia. There, he studied medicine and became a doctor.

Online Masters in Science in Nursing Degrees

Online MSN Degrees: An Overview

Online masters of science in nursing degree programs look at how to apply theories and methods for health care promotion, disease prevention, and disease management. By combining research with hands-on clinical and practicum requirements, programs aim to develop deep knowledge and clinical reasoning skills to promote health and wellness in patients. On average, students can expect to earn their online MSN degree with 2 years of full time study.  

Online MSN Degrees: Concentrations

Most MSN online degrees require students to select a concentration. This could provide you with a more focused education in a specific field. There may be a number of options available within individual programs or amongst different schools.

Some of the different concentrations include those listed here.

  • Adult Gerontology Acute or Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Healthcare Leadership
  • Nursing Informatics
  • Nursing Education 
  • Nurse Midwifery
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (Acute or Primary Care)
  • Women’s Health
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Clinical Trials Research
  • Nurse Anesthesia

This is just a sample of concentrations. Check out a few different schools to find additional options and a perfect fit for you.

We asked Jasmine Lafleur about how enrolling in an MSN degree​ program helps your career:

"MSN degrees are so crucial for nurses as it sets the foundation for nurses to not only deliver care, but to truly impact and mold health policies and how care is delivered. Obtaining this degree has empowered me to positively influence patient outcomes. Furthermore, obtaining an MSN degree creates more career advancement opportunities and autonomy." 

Online MSN Degree

 ~ Jasmine Lafleur, MSN ’15, Curry College, is a Clinical Nurse Educator at Signature Healthcare

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Online Masters of Science in Nursing Degree Courses

While earning your online MSN degree, programs typically provide you the freedom to access course materials, lectures, and class discussions around your busy schedule. Often the majority of coursework is completed online. However, some courses, labs, and clinical requirements may require students to come on to campus, or visit nearby facilities. The specific make-up and requirements vary from school to school. Check with each school for their specific structure.

While courses vary by concentration area, many MSN online programs ask that you take a number of core courses to cover essential nursing functions such as analyzing test results and diagnosing health problems.[i] Some of the common courses you may take to earn your master of nursing degree include the following.


  • Health Promotion Across the Life Span
  • Ethical and End of Life Issues in Advanced Nursing Practice
  • Adult and Older Adult Clinical Management
  • Introduction to Health Informatics
  • Health Care Financial Management
  • Informatics of Clinical Practice
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Health Care Policy and Ethics for Contemporary Nursing Practice
  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Health Care Quality and Safety Management


This is only a sampling of courses. Programs vary, so contact schools directly to see what courses might be available to you.

Online MSN Degree Clinical Requirements

Before earning your online MSN degree, many programs require that you complete a number of clinical or practicum hours, in addition to coursework. Typically, this is with an experienced preceptor, or mentor. This provides a chance to earn hands-on experience and put classroom lessons into practice.

The number of required hours varies depending on your school and your concentration. Some require 125 to 160 hours, though other concentrations don’t require any. Online MSN degree programs either ask students to come onto campus or the school may help them find a nearby hospital at which to complete these hours. Check with each school as this may vary.

Admissions Requirements for MSN Nursing Online Programs

Many MSN online programs ask that you’ve earned a bachelors degree in nursing from an accredited university with a 3.0 GPA or higher. Additional admissions requirements may include those listed here.

  • Current license to practice nursing
  • Relevant clinical experience
  • Interview
  • GRE scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal essay


Each school may have different requirements. Therefore, check with a few schools to find one that matches your goals.

What is a RN to MSN?

RN to MSN degrees are considered bridge programs. These programs are designed for students who are registered nurses and have a bachelors in a field other than nursing. The RN to MSN program allows students to earn a MSN without having to take three or four years to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) first.

Instead, students typically complete a RN to MSN bridge program in 3 years. However, this varies by school and based on enrollment. Some programs award a BSN in addition to a MSN, while others award a bachelor equivalent degree. Check with a few different MSN online programs to find one that matches your goals.

Potential Benefits of Earning a MSN Degree Online

While earning your MSN online degree, you may have the opportunity to meet students from all across the country, and possibly the world. That’s because you likely won’t have to relocate while pursuing your degree. This may allow you to choose from a wider variety of programs, making it potentially easier to find an online MSN degree that meets your needs.

Worried about missing the traditional classroom experience? Webinars, infographics and online demonstrations may enhance knowledge retention and spark class discussions. Therefore, online learning could provide a richer and more interactive classroom experience. Add all this to the flexibility of an online format and an MSN degree online may be a perfect option for working nurses hoping to take their knowledge, and potentially career, to the next level.

Important Accreditations for MSN Nursing Online Programs

There are two main accrediting bodies of MSN online degrees, which are listed below.

  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)


These are autonomous accrediting agencies that serve the public interest by assessing programs that provide effective education. Their goals are to hold programs accountable to consumers, employers, and the profession by evaluating how nursing programs are achieving their mission and goals. Therefore, some students may prefer to earn their online MSN degree from an accredited program.

Common Careers in Nursing

After earning your online MSN degree, there are a number of careers that you might pursue. Typically, these depend on your focus area and other factors. Some of these roles, and their 2015 median annual salary, include the following.

  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRNs): $104,740[ii]
  • Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary: $67,480[iii]
  • Nurse Practitioners: $98,190[iv]


These may also be found under different titles. For instance, an APRN is a broad category that includes positions such as Nurse Anesthetists and Nurse Midwives.

All of the above roles normally require that students have earned a masters degree in nursing.[v] Some may also require a certification. For these you might need to be a registered nurse, complete an accredited graduate-level program, and pass a national certification exam from a recognized certifying body, some of which are listed here.

  • National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists
  • American Midwifery Certification Board
  • Pediatric Nursing Certification Board


There may be additional certifications depending on the type of nursing career you’d like to pursue. Check with the state you’d like to practice in for specific rules.

Take the Next Step!

Ready to focus your nursing knowledge and potentially enhance your career? Take the next step to find the perfect online MSN degree for you. Click on any of the sponsored listings to read program descriptions and see specific available courses. You can even contact your favorite schools directly to request more information.

Source: [i] | [ii] | [iii] | [iv] | [v]

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