Masters degrees allow nurses to expand their scope of practice, and even specialize in one of many new, exciting areas of nursing. Masters degree in nursing requirements are similar to requirements for other masters degree programs, with a few interesting twists.
Students pursuing a master’s degree in nursing must have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and be a registered nurse.
Although students of diploma or associates degree programs may also be considered registered nurses after passing their licensure exams, they are not eligible to continue on to a masters degree in nursing.
Students who have obtained a bachelor’s degree in another discipline may enter an accelerated nursing program to get their second bachelors, and then continue on to obtain their masters degree in nursing.
Students who already have a masters degree in nursing can obtain a post masters certificate, which allows them to specialize without having to go through a second masters degree program.
Masters Degrees and the Board of Nursing
Every state has a Board of Nursing, though its exact name may vary. This organization is the governing body for all things nursing related, from education to licensure. Students looking for approved masters degree programs should contact their state’s Board for a list.
Because the nursing industry is currently suffering from a lack of qualified, masters level nurses, many states have special financial aid schemes set up for students pursuing advanced nursing degrees. If you’re contemplating going back to school for your nursing masters, it may be worthwhile to contact your state’s Board of Nursing, and see what tuition help may be available to you.
Going Beyond an RN With a Masters Degree in Nursing
There are several ways to enter the nursing profession, but the easiest one for students that plan to pursue advanced degrees is to either get an associates degree in nursing, become an RN, and return to school for a bachelors, or to get a bachelors degree in nursing from the get-go. Both of these paths allow nursing students to meet masters degree in nursing requirements.
After getting their bachelors, students can choose how they want their nursing career to progress- do they want to open their own practice as a nurse practitioner? Would they like to focus on working with the mentally ill as a psychiatric nurse? Would they like to focus on helping the victims of violent crime with a forensic nursing degree program? For a lot of nurses, becoming an RN are just a starting point, and a masters degree program is where things get interesting.
Is a Masters Degree in Nursing Worth it?
Masters degree programs can be long, expensive, and (due to a shortage of qualified nurse educators) difficult to find and get into. So, after an extra two years of school, tens of thousands of dollars, and months of waiting, is a nursing masters degree worth it all? The answer is generally yes.
As a byproduct of the nursing shortage, and the emphasis on pumping out licensed practical nurses and registered nurses, nurses with masters degrees aren’t always easy to find. As a result, they can command high salaries. Psychiatric nurses can earn up to $90,000 annually, while nurse practitioners can earn up to $120,000. They also help to fight the nursing shortage in their own way- nurses with masters degrees can essentially choose whether they want to be practicing nurses, or nurse educators. Nurse educators are in extremely high demand right now, as more and more schools struggle with getting new nursing students off of waiting lists, and into classrooms.
Unfortunately, a masters degree isn’t always going to be enough. New standards being put through in many states will raise the minimum education level for advanced practitioner registered nurses to a doctorate. So, nurses that wish to pursue their masters degrees should do so as soon as possible, so they have the chance to be grandfathered in when the new standards are made official.
Masters degree in nursing requirements are strict, but they’re necessary to make sure that only the most dedicated, qualified students can take advantage of these programs. With a masters degree, nursing students can take their nursing careers in any direction they’d like to go.