Canada Graduate Nursing Schools and On-Campus Nursing Programs

Today’s nursing graduate schools provide nurses and non-nurses with a variety of options when it comes to earning nursing graduate degrees. Students could choose from many exciting career paths and take courses specific to their selected nursing niche. Whether this means a focus on clinical practice, research, nurse leadership, nurse education, women’s health or something else, there could be a graduate nursing program pathway for you.

Important Skills for people in Campus Nursing Graduate (MSN) Programs and Nursing Graduate Schools

Nursing Graduate Schools and Nursing Graduate Degrees

Nursing graduate schools offer Masters in Nursing (MSN), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), PhD and Nursing Certificate Programs. At these levels of education, nursing programs could help students develop clinical expertise and learn to apply nursing science to improve patient outcomes. As a student of an on-campus nursing program, you may have access to resources, like clinics, medical tools, labs and more. Plus, you could join a community of nurse clinicians, researchers, faculty and peers on your path toward advanced nursing practice.

A Nursing School for You

Many nurses evaluate nursing graduate schools based on the type of instruction they could provide, as well as the level of education needed to enter a given program. Others might seek a university with a dual degree program such as an MSN/MBA, or programs in other areas that branch off the main ones listed below. Use your goals and aspirations to search for, and find, nursing universities that might support your endeavors and current education level.

Common Types of Nursing Programs

  • Nurse Educator programs often mix professional courses with pedagogy so that nurses could learn about lesson design and teaching methods used in nursing.
  • Nurse Executive programs could prepare nurses to lead initiatives and tackle administrative and managerial issues (e.g. budget, staff).
  • Clinical Leadership programs typically blend lessons in advanced clinical nursing theories with leadership tools and evidence-based practice.
  • Nurse Practitioner programs could prepare nurses to deliver primary care to individuals, families and populations across their lifespan.
  • Nurse Anesthesia programs are designed to prepare nurses to provide anesthesia care during various types of procedures.
  • Nurse Midwife programs are generally planned-out to prepare nurses to deliver care to women during their lifespan and childbirth, and to healthy newborns.
  • Nurse Informatics programs blend courses in nursing science, information technology and analytics.

Graduate nursing schools may use different names or have different programs than those listed above. Therefore it's important to speak with an admission advisor and conduct your own research to find a great nursing program for you.

Nursing Graduate Schools and Accreditation

Nursing graduate schools may be accredited regionally or nationally as institutions. They could also have individual programs that are approved. Two agencies devoted to accreditation in the nursing field are the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The CCNE is affiliated with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

Accreditation is a voluntary peer review that ensures that certain standards are met and that a school is accountable to maintain them. Students who pursue national certification may need to show that they graduated from an accredited program to be eligible to take board exams.i

Masters in Nursing Programs and MSN Schools

The Master of Science in Nursing degree program (MSN) is designed to build and broaden the knowledge and skills of registered nurses. MSN programs are also intended to serve as the educational platform for those nurses who want to pursue advanced positions in today's complex healthcare environment.i

Some MSN schools offer Masters in Nursing programs that base their course of study on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Master's Essentials. These often integrate courses in core nursing theories with advanced practice concepts and practicums based on the chosen area of emphasis. While not a complete list, some of the basic MSN courses could draw from the examples listed below. Refer to individual nursing schools to read about their curriculum.

  • Role of the Advanced Practice Nurse
  • Analysis of Current Scientific Research
  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  • Healthcare Policy and Ethics
  • Informatics and Technology

Admissions to MSN Schools

Applicants to an MSN school might need to hold a current and valid RN license in the state where they seek to complete their program. Many nursing graduate schools also require applicants to pass a background check, child abuse clearing and drug screen. Other requisites vary but could include a CV, personal interview, references, an essay, clinical experience and GRE scores. When it comes to your undergraduate background, there are several options. These are often presented as follows.

  1. Traditional MSN programs are designed for students who have earned their bachelor of science in nursing degree at an accredited nursing school.
  2. RN to MSN or BSN to MSN bridge programs are usually designed for Registered Nurses who have an associates degree or a BA/BS degree in a field other than nursing. Some graduate nursing schools may award both the MSN and BSN degree, while others simply cover related coursework. Contact schools for details.
  3. Entry-level nursing programs are designed to prepare candidates whose bachelor degree is in a non-nursing area to pursue nursing licensure (take the NCLEX exam) and their MSN degree.

Doctorate Nursing Programs and DNP Schools

Nursing graduate schools that offer doctorate nursing programs might offer either a PhD in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice track. Per the AACN, most research-focused doctoral programs grant the Doctor of Philosophy degree (PhD), while a small percentage offers the Doctor of Nursing Science degree (DNS, DSN, or DNSc). PhD in Nursing programs are designed to prepare nurse scientists and scholars, and focus heavily on research methodology. They also typically require students to complete and defend a dissertation or linked research paper. 

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Programs

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is a terminal and practice-oriented doctorate degree. The primary aim of DNP programs is to prepare nurse leaders at the highest level who might work to improve patient care and be able to translate research into clinical practice. Based on a position statement by the AACN, the DNP may also soon replace the masters degree as the level of preparation necessary for advanced practice nursing.ii

Many DNP schools base their curriculum on eight essential areas of study designed by the AACN to represent key components for advanced nursing practice. Quite broadly, these areas touch on several themes.

  • Scientific Bases for Practice (e.g. human biology, genomics, psychosocial sciences)
  • Systems Thinking
  • Clinical Scholarship
  • Patient Care Technology
  • Health Care Policy
  • Population Health

Beyond these topics, students take courses that expand on clinical skills in their chosen area. Then, at the end of their program, rather than a research dissertation, students are usually expected to complete a DNP project.

Admission to DNP Schools

There are two main entry-paths to the DNP degree. Admission requirements do vary between the two. Basics such as criminal background check, resume, work experience, letters of reference, an essay and transcripts are some of the general supportive documents that you might be asked for.

  • BSN to DNP programs are designed for active RNs who have their bachelor of science in nursing.
  • MSN to DNP programs are intended for students who have their master of science in nursing, a current RN license and an APRN certification.

Nursing Certificates and Schools

Nursing graduate certificates could provide nurses with the opportunity to further refine their nursing practice in a chosen field. Certificates typically provide a course curriculum that is shorter than a full degree and targets a specific skillset. Some nursing graduate schools offer certificates as stand-alone credentials but you could also find certificates that are to be taken in conjunction with a graduate degree.

Post-MSN certificates could help current APRNs gain new clinical competencies and apply evidence-based practices. These programs are often designed to help nurses prepare for additional certification exams. For instance, those who earn a post-masters psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner certificate could be prepared to take the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner certification exam.

Post-bachelors certificates are sometimes earned alongside a DNP degree. For instance, in some schools, students might be enrolled in a program such as an DNP Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner or DNP Family Primary Care Nurse Practitioner track. They might then have the option to add on a certificate in HIV care.

Take the Next Step Towards Graduate Nursing School

You are ready for advanced nursing practice and excited to study in-person with other nurses. The next step is to choose an on-campus nursing program. Use the menu to find nursing graduate schools in a specific location. Filter by degree level – MSN degrees, DNP degrees, or nursing certificates. Then refine by nursing specialty – nurse practitioner, nurse educator etc. Each set of filters could generate a list of programs. Found a few you like? Great! Use the forms we provide to contact schools directly. Take the next step now!


[i] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm | [ii] aacnnursing.org/Nursing-Education-Programs/DNP-Education

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