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How to Earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree is aptly named because it can give you a certain level of mastery in nursing skills and knowledge. Nurses with an MSN degree have a broad range of career advancement options to choose from because of their specialized education and expertise in the nursing field.

MSN graduates are qualified to work as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), such as nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners. These health care professionals can potentially earn $115,800 per year and $55.67 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Other leadership positions that MSN degree holders can choose from include nurse administrator, research nurse, nurse educator, and nurse consultant.

Here are five different ways that you can earn an MSN nursing degree: 

1. BSN to MSN Program

If you are a Registered Nurse (RN) who has already earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, you should definitely consider enrolling in a BSN to MSN program. A BSN degree is earned by completing a four-year educational program that grooms nursing students for leadership positions in the field.

The specific qualifications for applicants to a BSN to MSN program may differ with each nursing college, but some of the common requirements are a BSN degree, minimum GPA of 3.0, active RN license, professional nursing experience, transcript records, and letters of recommendation.

What Kind of Education Will This Program Give Me?

A BSN to MSN program uses your BSN education as a foundation for your MSN education. It tackles advanced subjects like nursing theory, pharmacology, physical assessment, leadership, and more. This track allows you to pursue a master’s specialty of your choice, in acknowledgment of your BSN degree and nursing experience.

While a BSN already gives you an edge in the nursing field, an MSN degree further sharpens your skills to make you qualified for even more leadership opportunities in the health care industry. The great thing is that it only takes a few additional years of education for you to achieve an MSN degree if you already invested years of study to earn a BSN degree.

How Long Will It Take Me to Complete This Program?

The BSN to MSN program is the fastest way for you to earn an MSN degree. The estimated time of completion of this program can range from one-and-a-half to two years if you are a full-time student. Other factors may also affect the length of your educational period.

2. RN to MSN Program

An RN to MSN Program is a potential option for you if you are an RN with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). An ADN is a two-year educational program that prepares students for a nursing career.

While the exact admission requirements may vary with every nursing university, there are typical requirements for an RN to MSN program, including an active RN license, nursing background, overall GPA of at least 3.0, recommendation letters, school transcripts, etc.

What Kind of Education Will This Program Give Me?

Some examples of courses that an RN to MSN program offers to an experienced nurse like you are RN to BSN transition, nursing research, health services leadership and management, nursing informatics, and community health nursing. The early part of the program is dedicated to baccalaureate-level education, while the following years focuses on nursing education on a master’s level.

How Long Will It Take Me to Complete a BSN to MSN Program?

While you are already qualified to provide health care to patients as an RN, an MSN degree can help boost your nursing career even further. The approximate time it can take to complete an RN to MSN program may range from at least two to three years, although the exact period depends on various factors.

3. Entry-Level MSN Program

An Entry-Level MSN Program is a good choice for you if you have a bachelor’s degree in any subject other than nursing and you are interested in pursuing a career in the nursing field.

Common admission requirements for this program are a baccalaureate degree in any course, GPA of 3.0 or higher, transcript records, letters of recommendation, and a minimum number of units in certain science courses. Professional experience or volunteer work in a health-related field is an advantage, though not necessarily required.

What Kind of Education Will This Program Give Me?

Typical courses in an entry-level MSN program include an introduction to nursing, foundations in nursing practice, application of nursing practice, basic graduate nursing informatics, and nursing leadership.

The initial part of the program usually focuses on teaching clinical skills, especially since it is geared toward students who do not have previous nursing experience. The following parts focus more on a masters’ level of nursing education.

How Long Will It Take Me to Complete This Program?

To be realistic, it will usually take you longer to complete an entry-level MSN program than a BSN to MSN or an RN to MSN program. It commonly takes at least three years to accomplish an entry-level MSN program, although this also depends on the nursing university you enroll in. 

While these are the three main ways for you to earn an MSN degree, there are also other alternative programs that you may consider.

4. Dual MSN Program

If you are an RN with a specific related field in mind that you wish to concentrate on as you pursue an MSN degree, the ideal option for you is the dual MSN program. This interdisciplinary program makes it possible for you to earn a double master’s degree.

This special type of graduate study merges a nursing education with another discipline, such as business, health administration, and criminal justice. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), there are over 120 dual master’s degrees that are currently available in the US.

5. Post-Master’s Certificate Program

Perhaps you are a nurse who already has a master’s degree, yet you wish to further develop your nursing skills and education. The Post Master’s Certificate Program is a suitable option for you.

It allows you to pursue a specialized study of your choice as a nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, health policy specialist, and more. Once you complete the program, you will be qualified to apply for national certification exams.

No matter which MSN program you choose, they all ultimately lead to an MSN degree — which will empower you to attain new heights of mastery in nursing, both for the sake of your career and your contribution to the enhancement of patient health care.

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