Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

A Master of Science in Nursing is an advanced degree that prepares students with skills needed to lead nursing departments and to excel in advanced nursing positions in different healthcare settings. If you have already completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), you will have the opportunity of pursuing an MSN program in a wide range of clinical and non-clinical concentrations.The following guide provides a detailed look into a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, including the opportunities available, salary and career data. The guide also provides information on MSN specializations, coursework and admission requirements.

Opportunities with an MSN Degree

An MSN degree can open up many advanced career options for professional nurses. Nurses can work in different environments, applying their skills in creative thinking, critical thinking, and leadership in medicine.

With an MSN degree, nurses can go for career paths such as becoming a family nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, nursing informatics specialist, geriatric or gerontological nurse practitioner, clinical nurse researcher, and psychiatric nurse practitioner and so on. Other potential career paths for nurses with an MSN degree include becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), Nurse Educator, or a Nurse Consultant.

Opportunities for MSN degree holders are available in all kinds of healthcare facilities across the country. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the healthcare sector is expected to grow by 15% in the years from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations, with nearly 2.4 million new jobs added. The job outlook for Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners (careers that an MSN degree can lead to) was an impressive 45% in the years 2019 to 2029, while that for Registered Nurses was 7%.

MSN Specializations

Choosing an MSN specialization you feel passionate about can help you move your career in the right direction from the very beginning. If you are not sure about what direction of medicine you want to head into after completing your Master’s of Science in Nursing Degree, explore some of the options available. For instance, you can choose to become a Nurse Anesthetist, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, among other options.

Some of these specializations might require students to get additional certifications. For instance, if you want to become a Certified Critical-Care Registered Nurse, get certifications in critical care. Similarly, if you intend to become a Nurse Anesthetist, complete an MSN degree with a certified nurse anesthetist specialization.

How Much Can I Make With a Master’s Degree in Nursing?

The amount of money you earn after a Master’s Degree in Nursing would depend on your career choices, experience level and location in some cases. For instance, if you choose to become a Nurse Anesthetist, you can earn an annual median income of $183,580, if you become a Nurse Midwife, you can make an annual median income of $111,130 and if you go for a career as a Nurse Practitioner, you can make an annual median income of $111,680. All these salary figures are taken from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, for May 2020.

How to get an MSN Degree?

In order to get an MSN degree and start practicing as a nurse in a specialized field, students will have to follow certain steps.

Step 1: Get a High School Diploma

Admission into any kind of nursing school would require the completion of certain prerequisites such as biology, chemistry and physiology. Aspiring nurses are advised to pay attention to these classes in high school.

Step 2: Complete post-secondary education in Nursing

This would involve completing a program that leads to becoming a registered nurse (RN). Students can opt for an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN), a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) or a diploma from an accredited institute. Please note that students who wish to go for an MSN program in the future will need at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.

Step 3: Enroll in an MSN Program

After completing the relevant post-secondary education, you will have to enroll in an MSN program and complete all its requirements. MSN programs would be typically 2-year long and you will be required to complete both theoretical and practical components in order to graduate.

Types of Master’s Degrees in Nursing

In order to get a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, there are several paths nursing professionals can take. Let’s have a look at the various types of master’s degrees in nursing:

  • RN to MSN
  • BSN to MSN
  • ADN to MSN
  • ASN to MSN

Admission Requirements for an MSN Program

MSN program admission requirements typically vary from university to university. However, prospective students should be aware of the fact that admission into an MSN program has become highly competitive and they need to have really good credentials to get into a worthwhile program.
Students who have not studied nursing before applying for an MSN program will usually have to meet the following criteria:

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • A minimum undergraduate GPA (usually 3.0 or higher for most institutes)
  • Letters of recommendation (both academic and professional)
  • Personal statement of purpose
  • Updated CV
  • GRE scores
  • Specific courses may have to be completed such as microbiology, anatomy, statistics, nutrition, physiology

Admission requirements would vary for applicants who already have their RN or BSN degrees. For instance, such applicants would need a current US Registered Nurse (RN) license with a good standing. For a detailed list of requirements, aspiring nurses are advised to check the websites of the institutes they wish to apply to.

Curriculum of an MSN Program

Even though every MSN curriculum is usually different, accredited nursing programs follow the framework defined by the American Association of Nursing. Typical coursework of an MSN program would include nursing theory, ethics in medicine, disease prevention, healthcare economics, research in nursing, social issues, health policy, health assessment, pharmacology etc. Course requirements would also vary based on what you intend to specialize in or have an interest in. Therefore, try to check the curriculum of the program you apply to.

Clinical and Lab Components in an MSN Program

An MSN degree has clinical and lab components besides classroom learning credits. The aim of a master’s degree is to make sure that students achieve core competencies, which requires a considerable amount of practice through lab and clinical components. Students will have to complete these requirements through simulation labs or actual clinical experience in a medical facility. Most MSN programs would require the completion of 500-1000 clinical hours, though this number is variable according to school or specialty.

What to Expect From an Online MSN Program?

In most cases, aspiring nurses should expect to complete 40-70 credits as part of their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. This number is likely to vary according to school and the particular nursing specialty the student intends to pursue.

Typically, a master’s level program takes 2 to 3 years to complete. However, this number may differ based on the number of credit hours in the program, clinical and lab requirements, format of the program (online, on-campus) and whether the student is taking part-time or full-time classes.

Besides the timeline, students can expect the coursework of the MSN program to include a core of advanced nursing courses and specialized courses as per the chosen field of concentration.

Students will also have to complete a certain number of clinical practice hours during their program as well.

Earning a BSN vs. an MSN – Which Degree is Best for You?

Before deciding on what path to take when looking for a career in nursing, it is important to compare all options available. If you are confused between a BSN degree on an MSN degree, the following comparison might be of help.

  • Job Outlook: A Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree will allow you to work as a Registered Nurse, while a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree would allow you to work in more advanced roles as well.
  • Knowledge or Nursing: With an MSN degree, your understanding of the field of nursing will be a lot more enhanced and technical, as compared to that with a BSN degree.
  • Timeline: A BSN would take four years to complete before you can begin your career, while an MSN would require an additional two years after a 4-year long BSN degree. There are, however, accelerated MSN and BSN programs available.
  • Earning Potential: The earning potential of an MSN degree is a lot higher than that of a BSN degree, thanks to the advanced nature of the program.
  • Financial Resources: As with any advanced qualification that requires additional years of education, an MSN degree would be an added cost for aspiring nurses. However, this degree would be beneficial for the students in the long run, as far as the finances are concerned.

Even though the above comparison outlines some major differences in the two most sought-after nursing degrees today, keep in mind that both degrees are highly useful in varying contexts. Therefore, it is important to consider all factors before deciding about what nursing degree is best for you.