Master’s in Nursing (MSN) Degree Programs

The master of the nursing degree program (MSN) is an advanced level of registered nurse training that allows licensed nurses to work in one specialty in the nursing field.

It is a degree program tailored for nurses who wish to assume senior roles in the health care system and is excellent to continue advancing in your nursing career.

There are also a number of focused concentrations or specialties for Master’s-level nurses, or APRNs. Click here to view our all-encompassing list of MSN specialties and nurse practitioner specialties.

Continue reading to learn more about MSN degrees, or click on a state below to view MSN programs by state.

Click here to jump to information about online MSN programs.

MSN Programs by State

Online Master of Science in Nursing Degree Programs

Currently, plenty of master’s in nursing programs is being offered online. Students are able to complete their theory classes online and only attend campus or hospital attachments for a limited time. These degree programs usually take a short time to complete and are referred to as accelerated MSN degree programs.

View Online Master of Science in Nursing Degree Programs >>

Direct Entry MSN Degree Programs

On the other hand, non-nurse students can take Masters of Science in Nursing degree programs by taking what is called direct-entry MSN. In these master’s programs, non-nurse students receive three years of training contrary to the two years in the average RN to MSN programs. Direct entry MSN allows non-nurse students who hold bachelor’s degrees from other fields to become RNs and get a nursing license.

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MSN Specialty Degrees

Master of Science in nursing degrees enable the transition of RNs to advanced practice RNs. Almost all masters of science in nursing degree programs take up- to two years to complete. On earning a master of nursing degree, an RN can become either one of the four listed advanced practice registered nursing personnel:

i) Certified Nurse Midwife

Certified nurse-midwives are advanced practice nurses who must have earned a master’s degree in the nursing field. They have advanced skills that help them care for moms-to-be and infants after birth. Basically, they help pregnant moms during labor, and birthing and also offer post-partum care.

ii) Nurse Specialist

This is a very wide area of the nursing profession. Since RNs are only trained in general patient care, nurse specialists receive detailed training on one subset of patient groups. To become a nurse specialist, a registered nurse must have completed their bachelor’s degree and enrolled for a master of science in the nursing degree of their choice.  As the widest area of the masters’ degrees in nursing, programs available include:

  • Master of Science in nursing, nurse educator
  • Master of Science in nursing, forensics
  • Master of Science in nursing, pediatrics
  • Master of Science in nursing, mental health nursing
  • Master of Science in nursing, geriatrics
  • Master of Science in nursing, cardiac care
  • Master of Science in nursing, women’s health
  • Master of Science in nursing, nursing informatics
  • Master of Science in nursing, public health nursing
  • Master of Science in nursing, nurse administrator

Registered nurses can also earn their master’s of nursing degree along with a Master’s of business administration. This dual MSN/MBA degree program is a great way that allows nurses to earn two master’s degrees simultaneously.

On the other hand, RNs who only have an associate degree can earn their master’s degree by taking ASN to MSN programs. This MSN program enables a registered nurse to become an advanced practice RN without having to take a Bachelors’s degree in nursing. Nurse students taking this route are usually advised to take their MSN after a few years of practice and nursing experience.

iii) Nurse Anesthetists

Nurse anesthetists earn their master’s degrees with MSN programs that have a concentration in surgery and operation room studies. RNs taking a master of nursing, nurse anesthesia program; are trained on how to prep patients for surgery and the care after. They receive advanced training on how to collaborate with doctors to ensure a safe surgery process.

iv) Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners are highly trained nurses who must possess a master of science in nursing degree. Their roles mean that they are sometimes allowed to work independently without a doctor’s supervision. Nurse practitioners are also mandated to diagnose, and even prescribe medication and treatment options to patients.

NPs have also the authority and capacity of directing patient referrals to major hospitals if the situation deems necessary. Just like nurse specialists, nurse practitioners can choose to get into one line of the patient subset.

Reasons to Get a Masters in Nursing Degree

There are a couple of other answers to “What can you do with a master’s in nursing?”. To start with, as a nurse practitioner, you can make up to $120,000 per year. Other advanced practice nurses don’t make quite as much, but they can still pull in between $70,000-$90,000 annually.

A master’s in nursing also allows you to work at the front lines of the war against the nursing shortage. One of the biggest problems that states face when it comes to turning out new nurses is the fact that most schools simply aren’t equipped to handle them. A lot of people go into nursing because they want to work with patients. As a result, not many stick around to get their masters and become nursing educators. This has left schools seriously short-staffed in their nursing departments, which hampers their ability to train and graduate new nurses. With a master’s degree, you can become a nursing teacher, and help schools streamline their nursing programs.

An MSN degree can also allow you to have a scope of practice nearly as wide as a doctor’s. Though a lot of states are revising their education requirements so that nurse practitioners will need to have doctorates (DNP – Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree), nurse practitioners who hold master’s degrees in nursing before those measures are implemented will be grandfathered in. Nurse practitioners can prescribe medication, diagnose patients, and perform most of the duties of a regular family physician.

Lastly, a master’s in nursing degree will also make you a lot more marketable to medical facilities when it comes time to find a job. Since so many nurses are becoming RNs and LPNs, then entering the workforce without continuing their educations, the nursing industry has a dearth of nurses with advanced degrees. Since there are a lot of positions for which an advanced degree is a prerequisite, this leaves a lot of medical facilities with vacancies.

So, what can you do with a master’s in nursing? The short answer is to expand your scope of practice, earn more money, and have a wider array of jobs available to you after graduation.

Master of Science in Nursing Positions

A nurse with a Master of Science in nursing’s salary is much more than the salary of nurses with a BS in Nursing or other lower-level degrees, mainly due to the advanced positions that are available to them. If you want to make more money and have more responsibilities and job options, you should consider continuing your education and obtaining your Masters’s in Nursing degree.

Once you have your Master’s degree you will be able to do much more with your nursing career than you could with simply a BS or Associate’s Degree. Some of the positions that you will be qualified for include:

  • Nurse Supervisor
  • Nurse Administrator
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Nurse Midwife
  • Nurse Anesthetist
  • Nurse Psychotherapist
  • Nurse Practitioner

These are some of the positions that your advanced degree will allow you to become eligible to hold. Other MSN holders work in community health, home health care programs, and geriatric nursing facilities.

Salaries of Advanced Nursing Positions

The main reason most nurses choose to go for advanced degrees is to increase the amount of money they make. The range of salaries for advanced nursing positions varies, according to the BLS. Nurse practitioners, advanced nurse practitioners, and clinical nurse practitioners can make anywhere from $60,000 to over $130,000.

Factors that Affect Salary Range

There are other factors beyond having your Masters of Science in the nursing degree that can affect your salary. Things like where you received your degree, where you live, and where you work can all play a role in how much money you make. The variations of these are shown here to give you a better idea of how you can influence how much money you make by the decisions you make.

It might seem a little odd that the school you attend would play a role in how much money you make as a nurse with a master’s degree when you get the same education. However, it is true that the school you attend can have an influence on your salary. Employers tend to place more value on some schools than others and thus can influence the school that nurses choose to attend when they move forward with advancing their education.

Additionally, it makes sense that nurses make more money in some places of employment than they do in others. There are many factors that can play into this, such as how the hospital or facility is funded. Some of the more popular companies to work for as a nurse with a master’s degree-seeking a higher salary include:

  • Kaiser Permanente: $82K to $126K
  • Kindred Healthcare: $71K to $150K
  • Veterans Affairs Hospital: $71K to $104K
  • Veterans Administration Medical Center: $65K to $119K

In addition to the employer playing a role in how much money a nurse makes, the city that the nurse lives in will also play a role. Some of the salaries of nurses with master’s degrees range from $50,000 to six figures.

As has been shown here by these various factors, there are many different things to consider when looking at the Master of Science in nursing salary range and where to find the best pay for your education. You can tailor your education and the city you choose to work in based on these numbers if you want to maximize the amount of money you make. It is best to check with the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the most up-to-date figures.

General Overview of Post Baccalaureate Nursing Programs

Post-baccalaureate nursing programs are meant for registered nurses who want to advance their knowledge and become an advanced practice registered nurses. In this case, the post-bac nursing program will enable you to earn a master’s degree to become either a nurse specialist, nurse anesthetist, certified nurse-midwife or nurse practitioner. Doctorates of nursing programs are post-bac programs because you cannot enroll for a nursing Ph.D. without having earned a Bachelor’s degree.

On the other hand, post programs are also meant for non-nursing students who wish to change their careers. In this case, the post-bac nursing program is usually referred to as second-degree BSN programs. Students who already have a baccalaureate degree in other areas can enroll in nursing programs and get their second bachelors’ degree or a master of science in nursing degree.

Post Baccalaureate Masters Programs
It is common for aspiring nursing graduate school students to have competitive science grades. For students with non-competitive science grades; a common prerequisite for graduate nursing admission, post-bac pre-nursing programs are a great way to increase their chances of getting admission. These science enrichment programs place the student in a better position of getting a master’s placement as compared to other students who had great overall Bachelors of Science in Nursing Degree (BSN) scores but poor science average scores.

They are also a way of enabling aspiring nurses who wish to take a master’s degree in nursing from another baccalaureate program. Such master programs, also known as direct entry Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree are similar to nursing as second-degree programs in that the students are not former RNs. Post-Bac nursing programs help the master’s student have a picture of what to expect in nursing graduate school prior to enrollment.

Pre- Med Post Baccalaureate Programs
This is a unique nursing program that prepares registered nurses to enter med school. It is targeted towards RNs who wish to leave nursing and pursue a bachelor of medicine & a bachelor of surgery (MBCh.B). The program aims at improving the grades of the student to achieve the required grades for med school.

Non-Masters Post-Baccalaureate Health Specialized Studies
This is targeted at active RNs who want to enhance their existing skills in a particular field of nursing like. However, students should note that this program is not a substitute for taking a master’s program required to become a nurse specialist or an advanced practice RN. It is a program that allows nurses to have a wider scope of knowledge in a given area of nursing hence, can be given special roles by their current employers.

Nursing Residency Post-Bac Programs
This program is designed for recent graduates of nursing who wish to engage in practice before getting into employment. The nursing residency equips nurses with a vast knowledge of the real medical world. Nurses work under the supervision of other registered nurses or senior doctors. Students are advised to go for nursing residency as soon as they finish their nursing baccalaureates as chances are high the residency hospital will absorb them into their system.

Entry Level Master’s in Nursing Degrees

If you currently have a degree in a non-nursing field and have decided you aren’t happy and want to make a change, Entry-Level Master of Science in Nursing programs (ELMSN) provide the vessel you need to become a nurse without having to start your entire college education over from the beginning. ELMSN programs are basically accelerated nursing programs that prepare you to take the nursing exam and become a registered nurse with a BS degree.

Real-Life Applications

Students who graduate from an entry-level master’s program typically do so with exceptionally strong clinical skills. This could be due to them being able to focus more on the nursing aspect of their coursework since they have the other courses completed from their first BS degree. This strong clinical experience together with courses that are specific to certain aspects of nursing, such as case management or family nursing prepares students to go directly into many different areas of nursing when they graduate. Two of these areas, case management, and family nurse practitioner are briefly described below.

Family nurse practitioners are nurses that act as the primary caregiver during their patient’s life span. This lengthy timeframe allows the nurse to place emphasis and focus on promoting better health, preventing disease, and maintaining health throughout a lifetime, not simply for a few years until a different healthcare provider is brought on the scene.

Case management nurses practice their craft in many different medical facilities and focus on what is known as the Three P’s, payer, provider, and patient. Case Management nurses are usually with their patients for the course of their illness and oversee practically all aspects of it as seen with the Three Ps.

Once a student has completed the required coursework and clinical training they graduate with a Master of Science in Nursing and can move into the field they have chosen to pursue their career.

Goals of the ELMSN

In addition to the real-life applications that students carry with them from the program, entry-level masters in nursing programs have several goals in common regardless of what school they are held at, including:

  • Providing a quality nursing education that is flexible and accessible to all who want to attend;
  • Preparing professionals to enter the nursing field who are able to respond to the growing healthcare needs of the population and to respond to the complexity of those needs.
  • Contribute positively to the discipline of nursing and to advancing the practice of nursing.

Schools that offer this entry-level program and can show that they are completing these goals should be considered ideal for obtaining a nursing degree.

 Applying for an ELMSN Program

If you have reached the conclusion that you want to pursue your nursing degree through an entry-level master’s in the nursing program, you first need to find a university that offers this type of program. The easiest route is to use the Internet and research ELMSNs.

Once you have found either an online school that you would like to attend or a campus-based school, you should read the entry requirements very carefully. These programs only accept a limited number of people each term and you don’t want to be left out due to careless mistakes.

Most of the ELMSNs have many applicants vying to get in. You will need to complete an admissions application which will require you to submit your cumulative GPA, references, and typically an evaluation essay. Don’t be hasty when you put this packet together, put a lot of thought into your essay, and choose references that are solid. Your essay should be solid, error-free, and easily communicate your thoughts and ideas. Have someone read it before you submit it.

Once the application process is complete and you find out if you have been accepted, you can research various options for tuition assistance if you need to. There are not as many options available as there are for new students just starting college but if you are diligent you can find some funding options.

Entry-level masters in nursing programs are designed to allow professionals and others who hold non-nursing degrees to obtain a nursing degree in less time than they could if they had to take the entire four-year program from start to finish.