MSN - Master of Science in Nursing

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  • Degree program

COURSE FORMAT

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About

The Master of Science degree in Nursing (MSN) is a graduate nursing degree that offers specialization in advanced clinical practice roles, research, administration or education. The MSN degree can provide general leadership knowledge or be more specialized spending on the individual program of study.


Course Format

Obtaining an MSN degree

The admission requirements for an MSN degree program will differ based on the school and chosen pathway for study. Yet, the majority seek the following prerequisites to be submitted with an application.

  • Cumulative GPA in undergraduate coursework of 3.0-3.5 or higher to be competitive.

  • Active RN licensure.

  • Essays.

  • Recommendation letters.

  • Volunteer or related work experience.

  • Interview by program staff.

Some programs will require graduate school entrance exams such as the GRE or MAT.

Once admitted to an MSN program, the curriculum includes didactic and clinical learning experiences. Regardless of the MSN specialty track, the MSN degree program has a curriculum covering pharmacology, pathophysiology, health assessment, ethics and nursing administration.

Clinical practice hours requirements vary depending on the specialty. For example, an MSN degree program for a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) requires over 600 hours of clinical practice, but a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) will require over 2000 hours.

In addition, many universities offer online didactic courses to assist working professionals seeking an MSN degree. These programs are often focused on management, informatics or nursing education.

There are many financial aid options for the student seeking an MSN degree. Most students pay for their tuition with a combination of student loans, grants and scholarships. Employers may also offer tuition assistance as a benefit. Working with a financial aid counselor at the applicant's desired program to determine a plan that meets the student's financial needs is recommended.

Other Resources

Non-traditional MSN degree programs include an RN to MSN bridge for registered nurses with a diploma or ADN seeking graduate-level degrees and dual MSN degree programs. The benefit of dual MSN programs allows for the nurse to combine fields of study. These include MSN/MPH, MSN/MBA and MSN/MHA.  

Graduate-level nursing degrees may also be listed as a Masters of Science (M.S.) for generalist fields of study such as the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) or as an MSN-Ed for specialty fields such as nursing education.

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Frequently asked questions

What should I look for in an Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program?

Students should verify the desired program meets the requirements for licensure in their state of residence. In addition, verify the program has accreditation from one of the six regional agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Accreditation ensures the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program has met the standards for professional training.

Can I work as an RN while going back to graduate school?

Many MSN degree programs allow for an RN to work at least part-time for a portion of the course of study. Online MSN programs with asynchronous learning activities provide the most flexibility for working professionals. However, it's dependent on the specialty and program of study. Most programs with accelerated or clinical practice hour requirements will require a full-time commitment from the student.

If I don't qualify for the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), what degree might I get instead?

If you don't qualify for the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), you might qualify for the Master of Arts in Nursing (MAN) instead. The Master of Arts in Nursing (MAN) is a two-year graduate program designed to prepare professional nurses for teaching, managerial and supervisory roles in healthcare institutions. The Master of Science degree in Nursing (MSN) is a graduate nursing degree that offers specialization in advanced clinical practice roles, research, administration, or education.

What are the differences between the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and the Master of Arts in Nursing (MAN) degree?

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is a graduate nursing degree that offers specialization in advanced clinical practice roles, research, administration or education. The MSN degree can provide general leadership knowledge or be more specialized spending on the individual program of study.

The Master of Arts in Nursing (MAN) degree has traditionally been recognized as a degree more focused on academic theory rather than the practical application of skills in a laboratory setting. MAN students also typically have a thesis that could permit them easier admission to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program in the future. For this reason, the M.A. designation is great for future academics.

What degrees can I earn after earning Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree?

You can earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), among others.