Guide to Getting an MSN Degree to Advance Your Nursing Career.

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What You Need to Know About an MSN Degree

An undergraduate nursing degree will help you land a decent job in the current market. In the United States alone, there is a penchant of job opportunities open to nurses and other related disciplines in the health care field, attributed to the increasing number of the aging population. However, this current employment status has led to the stringent competition between nurses vying for a job.

In light with this, it is very valuable that nurses invest to advanced studies in order to have an edge among other competitors. Graduate studies such as a master of science degree in nursing (MSN) is one good way to start.

What is an MSN Degree?

An MSN degree is, as mentioned, otherwise termed as a master of science degree in nursing. It is a post-graduate study that requires an average of two years of additional study to complete. The master of science degree, as the name suggests, delves deeper on the scientific aspect of nursing, encompassing advanced body of knowledge related to science and medicine. Oftentimes, nurses can opt to specialize in a specific field in nursing, which will be discussed later on.

MSN Degree Requirements

The most crucial requirement for admission to a master of science degree in nursing is a bachelor’s degree course; hence, it is prudent that nurses who plan to take up a master’s degree prepare their respective diplomas and transcript of records from their BSN program. Most schools offering an MSN degree require a minimum overall GPA of 2.0 to qualify. Other basic requirements for the said degree are the letter(s) of recommendation, letter of intent, duly accomplished application form, and admission fees. You may also need to take up pre-requisite courses before proceeding to the main coursework of the master of science degree program. However, if your transcript of records bear the necessary courses for admission, then taking the pre-requisite courses may not be necessary.

MSN Degree Programs

With the increase in demand for nurses in the medical field, the nursing academe has also adjusted its educational structure to befit the different needs of aspiring nurses. MSN degree programs are also termed as bridge programs or accelerated degree programs. These programs work by transferring credit units to the master of science degree program; hence, shortening the length of time of completion by a few semesters or even years. Below is a list of the common MSN degree programs offered by many schools:

  • RN to MSN Degree Programs – This type of program is designed for registered nurses who wish to take advanced studies as an MSN degree holder. The length of time for completion may vary depending on the number of credits transferred. However, on average, it may take three to four years to complete. Note that even though nurses can become RNs without a BSN degree, MSN programs require the latter. Read more
  • BSN to MSN Degree Programs – This program is the most basic and fundamental milestone for nurses seeking an accelerated coursework to complete an MSN degree. If the academic standing is favorable, nurses may be able to finish the coursework in as short as two years. However, it may take three years for some. Read more
  • ADN to MSN Degree Programs – It is important to note that there is no direct bridge program for associate degree nurses (ADN) to an MSN program; hence, associate nurses must take the two-year ADN to BSN degree program before proceeding to an accelerated MSN degree program. Read more
  • ASN to MSN Degree Programs – An associate of science program in nursing (ASN) is also a two-year course that encompasses entry- to intermediate-level knowledge and skills for nurses. ASN degree holders who wish to complete a master of science degree program must undergo the one- to two-year ASN to BSN bridge program before being able to proceed to the BSN to MSN program. Read more

Top 10 Schools Offering an MSN Degree

There are hundreds of thousands of schools that are offering an MSN degree in the United States. The essential thing that you have to consider in choosing a school is its accreditation and program authenticity. NLNAC-approved and state-recognized MSN programs are the best choices; otherwise, nurses may be faced with employment and licensing problems in the future if the credibility of their educational attainment is in question. Other criteria for choosing a school includes the location, tuition fee rates, the availability of coursework offered, and the syllabus that best fits the nurse’s academic preference. To help you trim down your choices, here is a list of the top ten schools in the United States offering an MSN degree:

  1. University of Phoenix
  2. Excelsior College
  3. Chamberlain College of Nursing
  4. Indiana Wesleyan University, Marion
  5. Grand Canyon University
  6. Regis University
  7. Miami Dade College
  8. Drexel University
  9. University of Oklahoma - Health Sciences Center
  10. University of South Alabama

Online MSN Degrees

An MSN degree may be taken full-time or part-time. A part-time degree may be in the form of an online program. Online MSN degrees are now being widely offered in many colleges due to the flexibility and convenience it brings to students who have time commitments to work and other personal matters. However, there are delimitations to an online degree, such as the lack of hands-on practice and interaction with fellow students.

What to Do With an MSN Degree?

As mentioned, nurses have the option to specialize in a certain field in a master of science in nursing degree. These specializations can become prospective jobs that nurses can have after completion of an MSN program. Some of the MSN specializations are as follows:

  1. Clinical nurse specialist – This body of specialization focuses on the clinical aspect of nursing. Nurses taking this course may be able to have independent practice in her own private clinic as a clinic nurse.
  2. Nurse practitioner – Nurse practitioners are more or less comparable to a medical doctor. They are able to give medical diagnoses to patients and prescribe medications when appropriate. Nurse practitioners may also be able to have independent practice in clinics and such.
  3. Nurse / Midwife – This type of course enables nurses to specialize in the field of obstetrics and gynecology. Nurses can function as clinical practitioners and midwife both at the same time.
  4. Nurse anesthetist – Nurse anesthetists are trained to have in-depth knowledge and skills on how to administer anesthetics, both local and general, with regards to surgical procedures.
  5. Nurse administrator – For nurses seeking for a job in the administrative field, a nurse administrator specialty master’s degree is best. Nurses can find jobs in areas such as the state board of nursing, nursing academe, and higher offices in a medical facility.

A master of science in nursing degree opens doors to many opportunities for career and personal growth. It is also a stepping stone for higher degree of studies, such as a doctor of philosophy degree in nursing.