Master of Science in Nursing 

The nursing profession is a competitive landscape of ambitious healthcare providers looking to advance their career.  A great way to stand out from the pack is by getting a master’s degree. Earning a Master of Science in Nursing degree can supercharge your career and lead to more responsibility, new opportunities and increased pay.

A MSN degree will give you the skills and advanced training to give specialized care in a role such as a nurse practitioner. Many times doctors schedules are overloaded so some of their tasks are given to nurse practitioners. This is important because NP’s can give high quality care without the high cost of seeing a doctor.

Master of Science in Nursing Degree Student

A MSN program can be strenuous and challenging.  It will take hard work to succeed and you’ll be surrounded by the best nursing students in the country.  You’ll most likely already be a working nurse while pursing your masters so you’ll have to determine if you will work while completing your degree. Will you have time to attend classes and study? Will you be able to balance work with homework? These are all things to consider when determining if a MSN is right for you. Luckily many programs cater to working nurses and offer online components or allow you to complete the course work at your own pace.

Working RN’s who are looking to obtain a MSN typically focus on one of these advanced practice paths:

  • Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
  • Nurse Practitioner (NP)
  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

There are also joint programs where you pursue two master’s degrees at the same time. These are typically:

  • MSN/MPH – Master of nursing and public health
  • MSN/MHA – Master of nursing and health administration
  • MSN/MBA – Master of nursing and business administration

Providing generalized care is something that is expected of RN’s, while obtaining a MSN gives you the ability to specialize in a specific area of nursing. You’ll be able to prescribe some medications and have more autonomy than a RN.  Specializing also means you can focus on an area that you’re passionate about, women’s health, pediatrics or mental health.

Earning a MSN degree can also lead to roles other than those that involve patient interaction. Many nurse’s with a MSN pursue leadership or teaching roles. Additionally you may be interested in the business side of healthcare. By studying management, finance and public policy you’ll see how health administrations impact healthcare.

MSN Program Overview

Most people looking to get a MSN already have their RN. Some people do begin with a degree in another field though.  There are options based on your education history including accelerated coursework. Typically it will take around two years to earn your MSN degree.  The workload will include instruction on specialized care along with hands-on training.

Nurses with a RN have completed core science and general nursing courses already. The MSN degree allows you to expand on those and specialize in your area of focus. Before finishing a MSN degree you’ll also need to complete a practicum. A practicum is a supervised practical application of your skills in a live environment where you can learn by doing.

Some of the courses you can expect include:

  • Theory and practice in your specialty
  • Ethics in healthcare
  • Health care policy
  • Advanced biochemistry
  • Management
  • Advanced pharmacology
  • Advanced health assessment
  • Nursing leadership
  • Healthcare administration

Learn about MSN degrees offered by our partners

  • 100% online courses designed for working nurses
  • Learn from doctorally trained, clinically up-to-date practicing nurses
  • Student and faculty advisor support throughout the program

Earn Your Degree

  • For the tenth consecutive year, SNHU announced it will hold its tuition rates at 2012 levels.
  • Complete your MSN in as few as 1.5 years
  • CCNE Accredited

Earn Your Degree

  • 20-Month RN-BSN Program
  • 6-7 Semesters for Master’s Programs
  • Small class sizes
  • CCNE Accredited

Earn Your Degree

MSN Program Duration

Most MSN programs take around two years to complete. Some programs are accelerated while others require a specific number of years of work experience. A typical program will require a RN license and a bachelor of science (BSN) in nursing.  There are usually GPA and GRE requirements as well. Sometimes clinical experience is necessary but not in all cases.

You can also get a MSN if you have completed a bachelor’s degree in another field.  These programs typically require more course work and take longer. Colleges and universities both offer MSN programs with many being available online. You’ll have to look at the options and decide which works best with your goals and current employment situation.

Average Annual Salary for MSN


Data from PayScale

Average Hourly Rate for MSN


Data from PayScale

Job Market Growth


Data from Bureau of Labor Statistics

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