Masters in Nursing (MSN) Programs
The AACN calls the masters degree in nursing “the educational core that allows advanced practice nurses to work as nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, certified clinical nurse specialists, and certified nurse anesthetists.” Most Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs include both coursework and clinical experience. While program lengths and time to completion varies, a full-time student might be able to complete their program in about two years. From there, graduates might be prepared to sit for national certification exam(s) in their chosen area of nursing. If this is your goal, you can check with a state’s board of nursing for more information.
MSN Degree Program Curriculum
Most MSN programs start out with a series of core courses. Concepts from nursing and information science could help nurses think critically, make ethical judgements and grasp the complexities of health care policy. Courses in research methods usually cover data analysis and statistics to help nurses promote health to communities and populations. Other courses could help students build practical skills such as communication. They might also help nurses learn to collaborate or resolve conflicts whether with colleagues or patients. Finally, students might take several support courses that could cover advanced health assessment, pathophysiology and pharmacology .
MSN Nursing Specialties
Masters in Nursing programs provide key education for advanced practice nurses (APRN) to be eligible to pursue licensure as nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, certified clinical nurse specialists, and certified nurse anesthetists. Beyond these roles, there are MSN programs that with emphasis in nurse educator, nurse informatics, nurse executive and more. While some nursing graduate schools may offer the general Master of Science in Nursing, most expect students to focus their studies on one of these areas, and coursework will reflect this.
Admission to MSN Programs
Admission to Masters in Nursing programs vary a great deal. Traditional MSN programs are those that build upon the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Nursing grad schools with these MSN programs typically require candidates to have earned their BSN in a college accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission. Applicants might also need to have a valid state RN license, GRE scores, letters of reference, essay and nursing experience
Pathways to the MSN Degree
The scope of MSN programs is broad. Other MSN programs are often known as bridge programs and may also be offered in an accelerated format. These programs could have their own requirements. Aside from the degree pathway, some programs may allow students to select an emphasis. It should also be noted that students usually must successfully complete one segment before they move onto the next.
- Entry-level MSN programs: are designed for non-nurses. These students hold a bachelors degree in an area of study outside of nursing and seek to pursue a career as an RN
- RN to MSN Programs: are designed for RNs with their BSN degree
- BSN to MSN Programs: are basic programs for all RNs nurses that want to complete their MSN in an accelerated way
- ADN to MSN programs: students first study to earn their BSN and then continue to the MSN degree