Introduction to MSN Programs
Getting a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) can prepare you to be a nurse practitioner specializing in one of many fields of nursing care and medicine. Family nurse practitioners (FNPs), midwives, and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) all need at least an MSN to practice, and likely state-mandated training or licensure as well.
Some programs can be completed in two years, although if you take online classes part-time while also working, the timeline may need to be extended. Our site provides articles about specializations in the field, salary and career data, and links to schools that offer advanced nurse degrees.
Top Online BSN to MSN Programs
These schools offer accredited programs that can take someone with a BSN to an MSN and beyond, which leads to more opportunities to specialize in the kind of work you love and earn a better paycheck while you do it. If you’re ready to get started, click some of the links below to learn more about their specific course offerings.
Kaplan University — The Kaplan School of Nursing offers a variety of graduate degree programs for registered nurses looking to advance their careers into special areas of interest. In addition to their general BSN to MSN program, Kaplan also offers MSN degrees with concentrations in nurse administration, nurse education, and nursing informatics. For registered nurses who have not yet completed their bachelor's degrees, Kaplan also offers an RN to MSN program.
Sacred Heart University — Sacred Heart University's MSN program offers a trio of specialization options to fit students' needs. The Clinical Nurse Leader specialization focuses on evaluating patient outcomes and assessing risk, among other ideals. A Patient Care Services specialist can prepare students for leadership positions. The Nursing Education specialization offers necessary skills in teaching and learning.
University of Cincinnati — The University of Cincinnati offers online MSN programs with numerous specializations, including clinical nurse specialist and nurse educator, nurse administrator, nurse midwifery, and women's health specialist. While these aren' accelerated programs, they can be a valuable asset to have if you want to advance your career.
American Sentinel University — American Sentinel University offers two bridge programs: the RN to MSN and the RN to BSN. Both programs are designed for people with a background in nursing who want a faster way to achieve the next level of education. Both programs also require students to be registered nurses who have passed the NCLEX-RN.
Capella University — Capella offers two Master of Science in nursing (MSN) degree programs, both in nursing education. The basic MSN - nurse education program is suited for students who already hold a BSN degree. For those who do not currently hold a BSN, but rather a bachelor's degree in a different subject, Capella also offers an RN to MSN program, which covers the basic baccalaureate-level coursework from a BSN program. Each program will prepare students for successful careers as nurse educators or clinical nurse leaders.
More Information About BSN to MSN Degree Programs
An advanced degree in nursing translates to increased job prospects and salary figures. Nurses who have obtained a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree will be prepared to lead medical teams in hospitals and other health care organizations. Depending on specialization, graduates can enter private practices as a nurse practitioner or a multitude of other options. There is an increasing demand for nurses with specialized skills and higher degrees, so MSN graduates can expect a positive career outlook.
BSN to MSN Degree Programs
A BSN to MSN degree program will typically take around two to three years to complete, depending on prior credit, full-time status, and so on. These accelerated degree programs are designed for students who already hold their Bachelor of Science in Nursing and want to continue their education in order to advance in their field. As such, a BSN degree is required in order to enroll in the program, explored in greater detail here.
There are many different specializations available for MSN programs that allow nurses to work on different skill sets in the exact occupation they desire upon graduation.
- BSN to MSN
- MBA/MSN Dual Degree
- RN to MSN
- MSN – Nursing Education
- MSN – Leadership
- MSN – Clinical Nurse Leader
- MSN – Nursing Informatics
- MSN – Nurse Practitioner
- MSN – Nursing Administration
- MSN – Psychiatric and Mental Health
BSN to MSN programs typically follow a similar curriculum model. Each school is unique in what it offers, but many advanced nursing programs often incorporate the following principles into their courses:
- Advanced patient-centered care
- Health education research and interventions
- Evidence-based nursing practice
- Quality improvement and safety in health care systems
- Health care policy and advocacy
- Informatics and emergent technologies
Structure of a BSN to MSN Program
These programs offer nurses a way to advance their career and salary in just a few short years. Some BSN to MSN programs even have students begin taking courses for the MSN during their last semester or year of their BSN program, but there are generally other requirements that must be met in order for students to continue on with their MSN. In general, a certain GPA must be met for the BSN programs, and students must usually pass the NCLEX before continuing on with the master’s program.
MSN coursework can usually be done on a full-time or part-time basis. Though taking courses full time will get students through the program much quicker, often students want to work toward their master’s degree while working as a nurse. The flexibility of these programs is great for working students. Courses can be done on-campus or online in order to fit them into your schedule. The exception, of course, for online coursework will be the clinical hours required of students. These are hours in which students are required to gain hands-on experience at a medical facility, working with other nurses and with patients. This is when students get to put their coursework into real-world practice.
BSN to MSN Careers at a Glance
Once you’ve earned an MSN, you’ll qualify for a number of different jobs. Depending on your area of specialty, you can find employment in hospitals, private practices, government agencies, and many other medical facilities. What’s great about MSN programs is their versatility. Students can specialize in a number of different areas, including women’s health, oncology, neonatal, and many others. Administrative and management specializations are also available and prepare graduates to assume such jobs as a nurse leader, nurse administrator, or nurse educator, to name a few.
Once you’ve determined what area of nursing to pursue, it’s helpful to research as many degree programs as possible to find the one that best suits you. Not all programs are the same. In fact, some schools offer accelerated or bridge programs and online or “hybrid” options. If you need to take classes on a part-time basis, an online program might be a good fit. Online allows you to schedule courses around your work schedule. Accelerated programs are designed for students who already have a nursing degree with transferable credits and a few years of professional experience. These programs take less time to complete.
Average Salary for an MSN Degree Holder
One of the biggest advantages to getting an MSN degree is the increased salary. The average salary of a nurse with an MSN degree is significantly higher than that of a nurse who only has an associate’s degree or a BSN. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses (RN) can earn anywhere between $43,410 and $92,240. This wide range is dependent upon the type of facility, amount of experience, level of education, and other factors. This range also takes into account that some employers may offer child care, educational benefits, and bonuses.
Depending on the specialization, MSN holders can earn significantly more per year. Years of experience and the policies of the organization will determine your exact salary, but having an MSN can position you more strategically for promotions and bonuses. With this advanced degree, you are qualified for higher-level positions in management, education, nursing, and more. And as an advanced practice nurse, often you will play a similar role to a general practitioner. This position may be under the supervision or a doctor, or sometimes nurse practitioners can even run their own practice. Laws and licensing depend on the state, but this degree definitely prepares you for growth and advancement in the medical field.
Financial Aid Opportunities for BSN to MSN Programs
Many nurses are apprehensive about furthering their education because of associated educational costs. Educations are indeed expensive, but can be highly valuable as well. Financial aid is one resource that nursing students should take full advantage of. These funds can come in the form of scholarships, grants, loans, work-study programs, tuition assistance, tuition reimbursement form employers, and more. Additionally, there are many BSN to MSN-specific scholarships and grant opportunities. The key is taking the time to research these various opportunities and applying to as many as possible. Even though you may be eligible for some of the funds, it won’t ensure that you’re picked or awarded; that means it’s important to apply for as many as you can.
There are many resources you can search for on the internet to find available financial aid opportunities for nursing students. When you are unsure of where to start looking, a great first resource is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This should be your first stop when looking for college funding. This application will tell you what type of funding you may be eligible for based on your finances and other information. There are also career-specific scholarship opportunities to apply for. A few nursing scholarships that students can apply for include:
- The Louise Held Nursing Award
- The Foundation of the National Student Nurses’ Association Scholarship
- The American Nurses Association Minority Fellowship Program
- The Nurses’ Educational Fund