United States Masters in Nursing Campus Programs

Masters in Nursing Schools offer a variety of programs which could lead to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree for nurses and non-nurses alike. The Master of Science in Nursing degree is the heart of the educational requirements for several advanced practice specialties such as nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, and nurse midwife, to name a few. In their MSN program, students could gain a deeper comprehension of nursing science concepts and its uses, as well as a better grasp of health management, leadership and administrative issues and challenges. Extensive clinical work is often required which might offer additional insight into the high-quality support required for both regular and intensive patient care.

Types of Masters in Nursing Schools

There are masters in nursing schools with programs designed for varying levels of education, to support you whether you want to jump start or enhance your nursing career. The traditional entry, BSN - MSN programs build on the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree competencies. MSN schools with these programs could help registered nurses advance their education and define their nursing niche. Program requirements and credit load vary by institution, though many programs may be completed in 18-24 months of full-time study. Part-time programs may also be available.

Entry Level Masters in Nursing Schools

Entry level masters in nursing schools offer accelerated, and often, full-time programs. These are developed for students whose bachelors degree is in a discipline other than nursing. As pre-licensure programs, students could be eligible to take the NCLEX licensure exam after they fully complete their program. This process could take about three years of continual study.

RN-MSN Schools

RN-MSN schools provide courses of study that are planned-out for nurses with associate degrees. Most programs will work in the bachelors level course content at the outset of their curriculum to help students develop a firm foundation of knowledge. Then students might move on to traditional MSN coursework. Some RN to master of science in nursing programs could take about two to three years to complete, although this is defined by an institution and based on the student’s previous course work.

What Might I Learn at Masters in Nursing School?

Within any of the above paths to the MSN degree, various other factors could influence your decision about which Masters in Nursing school to choose. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has a recommendation. “The best way to ensure success in a master's program is for you to understand your individual strengths and career desires and then find the faculty and college setting that are best suited to help you develop those strengths.”i Therefore, it may be helpful to first understand what you could study in an MSN school. Then narrow down your list of potential schools to ones that match your needs.

Core MSN Program Courses

The core courses in most MSN programs balance theory and concepts with evidence-based research and clinical practice or a capstone course. The course names could be different in each school, but the topics below might give you a general idea. These are the types of foundational courses that could be required in the first part of a Masters in Nursing program. Typically, courses in your nursing specialty are presented after.

  • Health Policy
  • Ethics
  • Professional Role of an Advanced Practice Nurse
  • Epidemiology
  • Nurse Informatics

Contact individual masters in nursing schools for full course lists.

The MSN: Preparation for Specific Nursing Roles

Nursing Specialty areas build off a basic master of science in nursing base with coursework that could help a registered nurse refine their area of practice. It is here where an individual nursing school might beckon you with a program that appeals to and aligns with your aims. Some of the possible areas of emphasis within Masters in Nursing programs are listed below.

Nurse Educator: Nurses who want to share their knowledge might consider a masters in nursing with a focus in education. In this type of program, nurses could develop their research skills. Coursework tends to include scholarly inquiry as well as policy analysis. Other courses could survey educational theory and practice. Students could learn the ins and outs of curriculum design, as well as classroom and clinical teaching strategies, and methods of student evaluation.

Nurse Administrator: Masters in Nurse Administration programs could help students develop the ability to lead and manage healthcare related businesses, clinical departments and personnel. Nurses could take courses that cover some of the financial and economic aspects of healthcare to help them learn how to create a business plan, budget and organize. Other courses could cover human relations, organizational power and communication patterns.

Nurse Informatics: A Masters in Nursing Informatics program usually blends courses that draw content from computer science, information systems and nursing science. Informatics Nurse Specialists apply their knowledge to assist in the design, development and use of computerized health care systems. Their knowledge is often applied to nursing practice, education, administration and research.ii

Public Health: A Public Health Nursing focus in an MSN program could help nurses integrate nursing and public health theory. Students could study these concepts to help assess and grasp the various individual, family, group and community responses to health and illness. Courses in epidemiology could assist student to understand risk within populations and work towards disease prevention activities.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Programs: One of the most popular MSN options are those that prepare students for roles as APRNs. APRNs could work independently or collaborate with physicians. In some states, APRNs prescribe medications, order medical tests, diagnose health problems and more. To enter their field, an APRN must first have an RN license, then earn at least a masters degree in one of the specialty roles. Some APRNs continue to work towards a PhD or Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. APRNs must also pass a national certification exam in their practice area. There are different education and licensure requirements for any given path.iii 

MSN schools with APRN programs could be devoted to four main types of nurses, each of which could have further areas of emphasis.

  • Nurse Practitioners serve as primary and specialty healthcare providers and typically choose to care for a specific group. NPs could work with the family, pediatrics, geriatrics, psychiatric/mental health, and women’s care.iii
  • Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) could plan, direct or supervise the daily patient care activities in a clinical practice. Some may choose to work in adult health, acute and critical care, or community health.iv
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) provide anesthesia and related care at all stages of surgical, therapeutic, diagnostic and obstetrical procedures.iii
  • Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) provide care to women. This could include gynecological exams, family-planning, prenatal care and childbirth, as they could deliver babies and help with healthy newborns.iii

Admissions to Masters in Nursing Schools

Admissions for graduate nursing schools varies. Non-nurses could have to make up required courses like anatomy and physiology with labs, human growth, microbiology, nutrition and statistics. Nurses who apply into MSN nursing schools typically need experience in the area they plan to study. They may also need to have successfully completed of the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses and show competency in CPR. Aside from this material, a nursing school may require applicants to have some or all the items listed below.

  • Minimum GPA
  • GRE scores
  • Resume
  • Letters of Reference
  • Essay
  • Personal Interview

Since this is not a complete list, you should refer to individual schools for their guidelines.

Why On-Campus MSN Programs?

MSN nursing schools with on-campus programs often encourage collaborative learning groups and may foster active involvement and interaction among peers and faculty. Students might take part in round-table discussions while in class and could benefit from hands-on demonstrations from nurse-teacher mentors. The years in nursing school therefore could provide the opportunity to network, observe, and feel part of a community that shares your devotion. Or, just be able to round out a busy study schedule with college campus activities. Plus, being on campus means you could have access to libraries, laboratories and other facilities. Some masters in nursing schools may even have onsite, or affiliated, hospitals and clinics for additional clinical practice.

DID YOU KNOW?
Per the AACN, “Nurses with advanced preparation typically enjoy more opportunities to impact the overall design and implementation of care.”v

Nursing School Accreditation

At the institutional level, Masters in Nursing schools could be regionally or nationally accredited. This level of approval is a voluntary peer review process that could address fiscal stability, faculty, curricula and student services. Also, some schools and individual programs could be accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The CCNE is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and insures the quality and integrity of graduate nursing programs.vi Accreditation must be maintained by a school every few years and may be important when pursuing licensure, certification or student aid. Contact state boards and accrediting bodies to learn if this might apply to you.

Take the Next Step

You love the nursing profession, have the discipline and dedication that it requires, and are ready to advance your education with a campus-based MSN program. The BLS reports that employment of nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners is expected to grow 31% from 2014 to 2024. iii You might be in the next generation of nurses that provide great treatment or healing to the newly insured, the baby boomers, the elderly, or other populations who look to nurses for patient care. Find Masters in Nursing schools easily with the on-page menu. Filter by subject or location. Then, compare sponsored programs and contact schools right away!


[i] aacn.nche.edu/education-resources/msn-article | [ii] onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1121.01 | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm | [iv] onetonline.org/link/summary/29-1141.04 | [v] aacn.nche.edu/publications/brochures/GradStudentsBrochure.pdf | [vi] aacn.nche.edu/ccne-accreditation |

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