United States MSN Nursing Graduate Programs and Graduate Nursing Degrees
MSN Nursing programs are Master of Science in Nursing programs for registered nurses seeking advanced practice roles. Usually, an MSN program builds on the bachelors degree. Many nurses who enter masters of science in nursing programs have already thought about their goals. They may want to manage other nurses, teach, or provide critical care. Whatever the objectives, MSN programs may enable a student to develop the focused know-how.
MSN Nursing Curriculum
Many MSN nursing programs blend theory and clinical work. Graduate-level nursing students are likely to take upper level courses. These may include anatomy, physiology and pharmacology.i Also, current statistics and research often provide a basis for round-table discussions. Sample MSN program courses may draw from the list below.
- Health economics
- Health policy
- Health-care ethics
- Health promotion, nutrition
- Family planning
- Mental health
In addition, most MSN Nursing programs offer specialty tracks. As students start to focus on a specialty, they take courses that relate to it. For instance, a nurse drawn to pediatric nursing is likely to take child development courses.
What are the Requirements for MSN Nursing Programs?
MSN nursing programs are usually open to those who hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. That said, admission requirements for Master of Science in Nursing programs vary. Non-nurses, or a nurse with a non-nursing degree, may have special requisites. Also, some nursing specialties may require future students to have taken specific courses. Case in point - future nurse anesthetists. These students may need upper-level college courses in biochemistry. Below are common requisites for many MSN Nursing Programs.
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited nursing school
- Registered nurse (RN) license
- Minimum GPA and GRE scores (varies)
- Clinical experience
How Long is an MSN Program?
For students with a BSN degree, it may take about two years of full time study to complete an MSN program. This may differ for students whose bachelors degree is not in nursing. In this case, it may take a full-time student about three years to finish. These programs often include entry level nursing courses in the first year. The final years typically mix advanced masters courses and hands-on practice. These programs tend to prepare students to take the National Council Licensure Examination test (NCLEX-RN).
What is the Difference Between a BSN and MSN Program?
There are a few key differences between BSN and MSN programs.
A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program is designed as one of the paths a nurse might take to work towards Registered Nurse (RN) status. Often, the BSN is regarded as the entry-level degree for hospital staff nurses. RNs may consult and administer medicine.ii
A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program is designed to prepare students to work towards Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) status. In some states, APRNs can prescribe medications, order medical tests and diagnose health problems. i
Why Consider MSN Nursing Graduate Programs?
MSN nursing programs provide the entry-level degree for several nursing specialties. These usually focus on one of four advanced areas.i
- Nurse practitioner
- Certified nurse anesthetist
- Clinical nurse specialist
- Certified nurse midwife
DID YOU KNOW? APRNs can perform many of the same services as physicians. ii
Choose an Upper Division Focus
Do you have a desire to work within a very specific area of nursing? Each graduate nursing school may offer unique choices. The upper division focus in MSN Nursing programs may prepare nurses with skills and knowldege that apply to a nursing niche. For instance, how to deliver primary care to infants. Some possible areas follow.
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Forensic Nursing
- Psychiatric Nursing
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- Acute Care – Adult Gerontology
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
- Public Health Nursing
- Executive Nurse Leader
- Health Care Informatics
Learn the Business Side of Nursing
Do you aspire to make an impact on policy, teach other nurses or manage a clinic? Some MSN Nursing programs may help nurses learn the business side of nursing. Courses may cover finances, human resources, ethics and leading. Look for programs with a concentration on leadership or business.
Teach What You Know
Master of Science in Nursing Education programs are intended to prepare students to pursue a career as a health educator, college faculty or clinical nursing professor.iii These programs may include lesson planning and research. They also tend to prepare nurses to pursue doctoral studies. Look for a possible focus in community outreach.
What Nursing Program is Right for Me?
Many different MSN Nursing programs may be offered. Students should factor in their career goals and present level of education to choose a perfect masters of science in nursing program.
MSN Joint Degree Programs
Some MSN programs integrate nursing with another field. Take the case of a Master of Science in Nursing and Social Work program. This joint program is designed to prepare family nurse practitioners who address some behavior issues in their practice.
Other joint pairings that may be offered are listed as follows.
- MSN - MPH: This pairs your MSN with a Masters in Public Health
- MSN – MBA: Masters in Business Administration paired with an MSN
- MSN - MHA: An MSN degree paired with a Masters in Health Administration
RN to MSN Bridge Programs
Some RNs with an Associates degree in Nursing (ADN) or a high school diploma may enroll in an RN-MSN program. These accelerated MSN programs combine bachelors and masters level courses. As such, some schools offer them as RN-BSN-MSN programs. Students typically apply for admission while in their BSN program. They usually take MSN courses in place of some of the BSN courses. This tends to provide a higher level of content.
Online MSN Programs
Some nursing graduate schools offer online MSN programs. These offer busy working nurses the chance to take courses on a more flexible timetable. Students may also want to consider hybrid MSN programs. These mix distance learning with on campus courses.
Post MSN Programs: DNP Programs
The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a terminal degree in nursing. While the MSN is a common form of entry-level education, many APRNs choose to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a PhD.
Post MSN Nursing Certificates
Would you like to expand on an advanced practice nursing role? Do you want to learn a skill set that was not the focus of your MSN program? A Post Masters Nursing Certificate Program offers extra credentials. This may be one way to explore a new area in nursing, such as nurse educator.
Find Accredited MSN Nursing Programs
Many universities with MSN Nursing programs are regionally accredited. There are six such regions. These are recognized by the Department of Education and Council for Higher Education Accreditation. On one level, students may want to know that the school they attend has that ‘stamp of approval’. On the other, as a regulated field, it may be helpful to choose nursing graduate programs with accreditation.
CCNE and ACEN
The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) are two of the most known national accrediting agencies. Both support quality professional standards in nursing education and nursing practice.
Potential Career Outlook for MSN Graduates
In May 2015, the median annual wage for APRNs employed in hospitals was $111,080.i Nurses who have earned a graduate nursing degree are expected to be highly in demand. Employment is expected to rise by 31 percent from 2014 to 2024.i
Take the Next Step
While there are many MSN nursing programs, each has distinct features. This may be visible in the course syllabus, a school research facility or a pairing of two programs. Browse the paid listings to find the ‘right’ Master of Science in Nursing program for your needs. Connect with schools easily using the on-page buttons. Take the next step in your nursing career today!
Sources: [i] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm | [iii] onetonline.org/link/summary/25-1072.00
University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences
Today’s rapidly evolving health care industry provides nursing professionals, who have the right education and expertise, with advanced career opportunities and expanded employment options...
Saint Xavier University
The online MSN from Saint Xavier University supports your transformation into a trusted nurse leader with a high-quality and recognized program that is affordable, accessible and immediately applicable.
- Berrien Springs, MIBerrien Springs, MI
The DNP is designed for nurses seeking a terminal degree in nursing practice and offers an alternative to research-focused doctoral programs.
University of Southern California
Nursing@USC — the Master of Science in Nursing program from the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work — is preparing a new kind of family nurse practitioner (FNP) who will address both the biomedical...
Loyola University New Orleans Online
The online RN-MSN Bridge Program is a program for nurses with a non-nursing bachelor's degree. The Bridge element is only one semester long making it one of the shortest bridge to MSN programs available and consists of 2- 3 credit hour courses.
Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing
The online Master of Science in Nursing in Health Systems Management from the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing prepares students to assume leadership positions in health education, program development, consultation, and administration.
Grand Canyon University
The Post Master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice with an Emphasis in Educational Leadership, within the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions, prepares nurse leaders to design and implement evidence-based strategies for practice that impro...
- West Hartford, CTWest Hartford, CT
University of Hartford
Healthcare reform places a demand for nurse leaders in the area of population health in community and global settings.
Indiana Wesleyan University
The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program at Indiana Wesleyan University’s School of Nursing prepares the student to serve in a variety of settings, from the most prestigious hospitals to meeting the vital needs of the global commun...
University of Saint Joseph
Advance your nursing career at the University of Saint Joseph, earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice.
- Costa Mesa, CACosta Mesa, CA
The Master of Science in Nursing is for Registered Nurses who are licensed to practice in the State of CA; who possess a bachelor’s degree; and who want to advance their careers by preparing themselves to be health educators, college faculty, or leaders.
California Southern University
CalSouthern’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is a unique, multi-disciplinary degree program that will take your nursing practice to the next level while honing your management, leadership and educational skills...
Colorado Technical University
Step up to your next nursing challenge. Colorado Technical University has a master’s degree program designed to be budget-friendly and help you prepare for nursing management, education or a doctoral degree. See if it...
While a bachelor's degree may qualify you for many nursing positions, some nursing career paths require a master's degree.
- Teaneck, NJTeaneck, NJ
Fairleigh Dickinson University
Educates nurses for the highest level of clinically expert practice including sophisticated diagnostic & treatment competencies...
Frontier Nursing University
Earn an MSN degree as a Family Nurse Practitioner if your highest degree earned is an Associate's Degree in Nursing.
- Brooklyn, NYBrooklyn, NY
State University Of New York Health Science Center At Brooklyn
The College of Nursing offers graduate programs leading to Master of Science degrees in Nursing, Nurse Practitioner and Nurse Anesthesia; a master's c...
- Baltimore, MDBaltimore, MD
Morgan State University
Nurses may choose from options in Management/ Leadership or Education.
- Philadelphia, PAPhiladelphia, PA
University of Pennsylvania
At Penn Nursing, students are afforded an exceptional Ivy League education and are taught by the top nurse researchers in the...
- Long Beach, CALong Beach, CA
California State University, Long Beach
- Baltimore, MDBaltimore, MD
Johns Hopkins University
The advanced practice and specialty master's programs prepare students for advanced practice, management, and/or public health nursing.