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MSN (Master of Science in Nursing)

Career Overview

How Long Does Becoming a MSN Take

2 YEARS

Average salary: MSN

$96,000/Year

PART ONE

MSN ( Master of Science in Nursing)

Acquiring your BSN is just the beginning of your nursing journey. Not too long after, nurses have the option to pursue their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Master’s graduates get to enjoy  higher salaries, chances for further specialization, a greater number of career opportunities and more! The guides below will cover everything you need to know about the MSN and the countless doors that it opens.

PART TWO

MSN: All You Need To Know

Compared to regular RNs, nurses with an MSN degree enjoy a host of professional and personal development opportunities. Better income, greater respect and more job opportunities are just a couple of the benefits that graduates can enjoy. None of this comes for free, as acquiring your MSN will take additional education, training and experience. 

 

With all this in mind, you may be interested about acquiring your MSN yet unsure as to whether or not it is worth it. To help you out, this guide will go over everything you need to know about the degree, including its benefits, costs, specializations and more. 

 

Benefits

 

An MSN opens a host of exciting avenues and opportunities for HCPs. For one, the pay is significantly higher. At the time of writing, Payscale reports that BSN nurses earn $89,000 yearly while the MSN holders hold a medium pay of around $96,000. MSNs who become Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) have the opportunity to earn even more. 

 

Getting your Masters also expands your horizons, professionally. MSN nurses can find work both in clinical and non-clinical settings.You can become an APRN, a manager, a nurse educator and more. While general practice is still an option, furthering your education gives you the chance to specialize in an area of study. Within just the field of advanced practice nursing, specialities include Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Anesthetist or Nurse Midwifery. With your MSN, it can feel as if the sky's the limit. 

 

 On the subject of career mobility, MSN nurses have far more career mobility. In order to achieve “magnet” status, high-level facilities are constantly looking to fill nurse manager or nurse leader positions with MSN graduates. Compared to Regular RNs, you will have a much easier time climbing up the career ladder in this regard. 

 

Last, but not least, is self-improvement. MSN nurses have been found to reduce mortality rates and improve failure-to-rescue ratios for their facilities. At the end of the day, providing life-saving care to those in need is the beating heart of nursing. Getting your MSN not only helps you, but it helps the patients that you serve everyday. 

 

Curriculum

 

All MSN programs have to follow the framework of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), as detailed in The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing. Even if specifics will vary from school to school, these programs are expected to cover certain essential curriculum points and core competencies required for an MSN to improve and carry out healthcare practice. This outline emphasizes

 

9 key points in particular: 

 

Informatics and Healthcare Technologies 

Health Policy and Advocacy 

Organizational and Systems Leadership 

Quality Improvement and Safety 

Translating and Integrating Scholarship into Practice 

Master’s-Level Nursing Practice

Background for Practice from Sciences and Humanities 

Interprofessional Collaboration for Improving Patient 

and Population Health Outcomes  

Clinical Prevention and Population Health for Improving Health 

 

Your classes will cover a wide variety of content. This includes statistics, health policy and advocacy, advanced research and more. Regardless of your specialization, you can expect to take the following core topics: 

 

Policy

Healthcare economics

Nursing theory

Health promotion

Ethics

Disease prevention

Research

Social issues

 

As mentioned above, MSN graduates can choose to work in clinical or non-clinical settings. Most programs are specialized in preparing you for one, but not the other. 

 

Clinical

 

Clinically-inclined nurses work to become APRNs, and within this field there are four main roles: Clinical Nurse Specialist, Certified Nurse Midwife, Certified Nurse Anesthetist and Nurse Practitioner. MSN nurses can also choose to specialize further into specific patient populations, such as: 

 

Neonatal

Family or Individual Across the Lifespan

Adult-Gerontology (Primary or Acute)

Pediatrics (Primary or Acute)

Psychiatric

 

APRNs can specialize even further into areas like emergency medicine or oncology. In addition to your base MSN curriculum, you also have to complete additional courses in advanced pharmacology, advanced physiology and advanced health assessments. 

 

Non-clinical

 

For those who want to work outside of the clinic, there are three main options. It is important to note that all three of them have separate administrative bodies, with their own required core competencies (on top of the base MSN curriculum):

 

Nurse administrators are the executives, managers and clinical leaders who oversee healthcare companies. The curriculum outlined by American Organization of Nurse Executives stresses communication, relationship management, leadership and professionalism, business acumen and healthcare industry knowledge.

 

Nursing informatics encompasses information management and communications experts. These HCPs gather, process and analyze patient data in order to advance healthcare practices and public health knowledge. The curriculum outlined by the Healthcare Leadership Alliance emphasizes communications, leadership and professionalism, relationship management, healthcare industry knowledge and business savvy.

 

Nurse educators are the teachers and faculty members in charge of training and preparing aspiring HCPs. Overseen by the National League of Nursing, essential core competencies include scholarship engagement, assessing and evaluating student outcomes and facilitating learning and learner development. 

 

Income and Benefits 

 

As mentioned earlier, MSN nurses are paid handsomely compared to their counterparts. Payscale reports a $96,000 median pay for MSN nurses as a whole. At the time of writing, the Bureau of Labor of Statistics reports that these advanced practice nurses enjoy a $117,670 annual salary. Nurse educators are paid around $80,000 on average, while those working in informatics earn around $86,000. While these are the reported averages, note that your salary in practice will heavily depend on geographical location, additional qualifications and years of experience.


In all three fields, however, MSN nurses are in extremely high demand. As a result, employers will offer generous benefits packages in order to retain key talent. Tuition reimbursement, holiday pay, sick leave and overtime compensation are just some of the benefits you can enjoy. 

 

Outlook

 

From 2020 to 2030, the BLS projects that there will be around 194,500 new annual job openings. Much of this can be attributed to the large nursing turnover expected to take place, as facilities hire to fill the new vacancies. This promising news for all aspiring nurses, yet MSN nurses are expected to be in even higher demand. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, there is a growing physician shortage in the US that needs addressing. Though not completely the same, MSN APRNs fill the demand as autonomous healthcare workers who can serve areas in need. 

 

RN vs MSN

 

On the face of it, RNs with their MSNs have similar responsibilities to regular RNs. In a clinical setting, both of them provide healthcare services to the ill and beaten. This is where their similarities end, however, as MSNs enjoy a host of advantages. For one, MSNs have more options for work in non-clinical settings. As mentioned above, they can opt to work in education, leadership/executive roles, advanced research, informatics and even health policy.

 

In a clinical setting, APRNs with MSNs can take on tasks and responsibilities of traditional physicians while regular RNs cannot. This includes writing treatment plans, diagnosing and treating illnesses and prescribing medications. 

 

MSN Program Types

 

Students can pick from a variety of different MSN program tracks. What works best for you will depend on your educational background, work experience and your current situation. 

 

  • Direct Entry MSN: Bachelor’s students with degrees outside of nursing can opt for this route. You will complete an 1-year, accelerated clinical skills program, followed by your 2-year Master’s course. 

  • BSN to MSN: One of the more straightforward paths. Bachelor’s students with nursing degrees can complete this track in 18 to 24 months full time. These programs build on your prior clinical experience, and offer you the chance to specialize in your desired field. 

  • RN to MSN: If you are an RN with your ADN, this is the best option for you. These programs build on your clinical experience, and integrate one year of Bachelor’s-level education, followed by two years of Masters’ studies. 

  • Dual MSN: Some schools let MSN students take up another graduate course, alongside their nursing studies. This can be Business Administration or even Public Health. Program length will vary, depending on the courses taken. 

 

Online MSN Programs

 

Most MSN students already have prior professional and personal obligations. Balancing all these classes with full time studies is often impossible. Luckily, online MSN classes give students the flexibility to study while working. These classes are also faster and less expensive, compared to traditional on-campus classes.

 

As long as you choose a program accredited by the Accreditation Commission For Education in Nursing or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), this is as legitimate a path to becoming an MSN as anything else. 

 

Compared to more brick and mortar academic offerings, online education comes with a host of benefits.

 

  • Added flexibility lets students pursue their education, while accommodating their professional and personal obligations. 

  • Can be finished faster than a normal program

  • There is no commute or enrollment waiting list

  • Students can choose between part-time or full-time studies. 

  • Eligible for financial aid programs

  • Accessible regardless of location and less expensive than traditional MSN programs

 

Of course, you do not want to choose just any online program. You want to factor in the cost, reputation and personal convenience. For example, some programs require a certain number of in-person class hours, or clinical rotations at a specific facility. If you live far away and cannot accommodate for this, it is best to look elsewhere. 

 

Coursework

 

For Direct Entry MSN students with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees, you will start with lessons and clinical rotations that will catch you up to BSN-level proficiency. This will also prepare you for your NCLEX-RN, so that you can earn your nursing certification. Some of these classes include: 

 

  • Nursing practice and public health

  • Pharmacology/nutrition

  • Nursing science

  • Foundations of nursing practice

  • Pathophysiology

 

The Masters-level courses themselves are more advanced. Programs will vary in focus and guiding principles, but all MSN classes will prepare you for leadership roles by offering holistic knowledge of the healthcare world at large. As a result, there are a number of skills and core competencies that all programs are expected to develop: 

 

  • Critical thinking/Clinical judgment

  • Technical skills like treatment and diagnosis

  • Observation 

  • High level communication skills for patient and team interactions 

 

MSN Requirements

 

Specifics will differ from school to school, but no matter where you apply the enrollment process will be extremely competitive. With limited slots and a rising demand for MSNs, nurses have no choice but to go above and beyond to make sure their applications stand out. 

 

Direct entry MSN programs will expect the following requirements from you: 

 

  • Minimum undergraduate GPA (commonly 3.0 or higher)

  • Updated Resume/CV

  • GRE scores

  • Essay of application

  • Non-nursing bachelor’s degree 

 

You will also be asked to complete a number of pre-requisite courses: 

 

  • Statistics

  • Physiology

  • Anatomy

  • Microbiology

  • Nutrition

 

For nurses who already have their ADN and BSN, the requirement list will look something like this: 

 

  • Active U.S Registered Nurse license in good standing, acquired in your state of practice

  • ADN or BSN

  • Updated Resume/CV

  • Letters of recommendation

  • Completed application with all the necessary fees and documents (Transcripts from previous schools, resume, personal statement and/or essay) 

  • Proof for awards, memberships, publications or additional accolades 

  • Interview with faculty

  • If needed, International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) 

 

Considerations before MSN enrollment 

 

On multiple levels, pursuing MSN is a huge investment. You should only commit to this path if you are 100% sure that you are absolutely ready. Before you decide, you need to at least consider the following

 

  • Competitive Enrollment Process: MSN degrees are becoming more and more popular. With limited slots, this has resulted in a far more competitive enrollment process. Academically and professionally, standing out will require a lot of hard work and effort. 

  • Time Commitment: Regardless of the path you take, getting your MSN will take a considerable amount of time. Acquiring the training and education necessary is a lengthy process, and you have to be prepared to make that commitment. 

  • Pricey Tuitions: MSN programs are not cheap. Thankfully, there are a number of financial aid programs available to you. Thankfully, MSN nurses can often make up the costs of their tuition with their increased salaries. 

 

MSN Tuition Costs

 

Program tuition fees are highly variable. Generally, public schools are more expensive than private ones and online courses are more affordable than on-campus programs. Enrolling in in-state programs will also save you money, compared to costlier out-of-state MSN courses.


Per the Educational Data initiative, an MSN program costs $62,340 on average. Even cheaper programs will cost a pretty penny, although your increased salary will make up for the costs eventually.  

 

Financial Aid 

 

Most people cannot pay for MSN outright, in cash. This is why there are a host of financial aid programs available to students. The some of the most prominent program types include: 

 

Grant: A grant is a form of financial assistance that does not require repayment. Most commonly, they are given out by the federal government, state governing bodies and colleges. Alternatively, you can also find grants being offered by charity organizations, private companies, individuals and more. 

 

To find a grant you can qualify for, you have to submit your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application. After some time, they will notify you on the programs you qualified for, sometimes through an acceptance letter. Though the exact amount of money provided depends on the grant itself and your financial situation, it typically sits at the $5,000 range for most students. Students in the most urgent financial need may also qualify for the Pell Grant. 

 

Scholarships: Like grants, a scholarship is a form of financial assistance that does not require repayment. Both private and public programs are available for the aspiring MSN student.You can do your research online to find suitable scholarships, but listed below are some of the more high profile examples. 

 

  • ENA Academic Scholarship: Offered exclusively to members of the Emergency Nurses Association, this $1,000 to $5,000 scholarship is given to emergency nurses who want an MSN specializing in either Nurse Administration, Nurse Practitioner, Public Health or Nursing Education. 

  • A.T. Anderson Memorial Scholarship: $2000 provided for the academic year. Available to Native American students if they have a GPA of 3.0, are pursuing their STEM studies and are members of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. 

  • ANNA Career Mobility Scholarship: Offered by the American Nephrology Nurses Association, this scholarship is awarded to students working towards a BSN or MSN in Nephrology. 

  • CVS Together We Care Scholarship: CVS gives 20 MSN scholarships to students who want to become Nurse Practitioners. 

  • AORN Foundation Scholarships: Provided by the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses, this scholarship is awarded to RNs continuing their perioperative nursing education by either pursuing their BSN, MSN or DNP. 

  • AfterCollege/AACN $10,000 Scholarship Fund: $10,000 in scholarship funds are offered to students pursuing their bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree. There are special considerations for aspiring graduate students aiming to be nurse educators, as well as students completing a RN-to-BSN, RN-to-MSN and/or and an accelerated track. 

 

Student Loan

 

This is the most common form of student financial aid. Unlike scholarships or grants, you eventually have to repay your loan costs. Since these loans also incur interests, you usually end up paying more than the initial loan. Exact terms will depend on tender and a number of other factors. Among the various offers, federal loans are the most common and reliable. Since they are funded by the US Department of Education, interest rates are lower and there are less to no hidden fees. You can find out what loans you qualify for by sending your FAFSA application. If you are in significant financial need, you may qualify for a loan that does not gain interest until you graduate college. 

 

Meanwhile, private student loans are offered by banks, credit unions, educational institutions and other independent entities. For the most part, these loans are not subsidized and their interest rates are significantly higher. Because of the potential added cost, you have to shop around with scrutiny to find the best offers. Do not look at the offers at face value: evaluate hidden costs, what happens if you cannot keep up financially with later payments and how repayments are structured.

 

Payment Plans: If you want to pay for your DNP in cash, you can inquire about your school’s payment plans. You can inquire about this and any financial aid programs to your school. 

 

Location:

 

MSN-educated nurses can find work in a variety of settings.

 

  • Hospitals

  • Academic settings

  • Support services

  • Offices

  • Pharmacies

  • Community centers

  • Urgent care centers

  • Physician offices

  • Long Term Care Facilities

  • Home healthcare services

  • Government facilities

 

In addition, there are a number of specializations that MSN nurses can focus on, including (but not limited to): 

 

  • Pediatrics

  • Emergency

  • Hospice

  • Rehabilitation

  • Oncology

  • Home Health

  • Family medicine

  • Adult-Gerontology

  • Nurse Anesthesia

  • Psychiatry

  • Neonatal

 

Enrollment Steps

 

  • Do your research: You want to make sure that you are choosing the best program for you. Look into programs that interest you and consider their location, reputation, competitiveness and cost. At a bare minimum, you want to ensure that they are accredited by either the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). As soon as you have identified a handful of good schools, make a checklist of their application requirements and deadlines. 

  • Prepare documents: Collect all relevant documentation, such as proof of graduation for submission, letters of recommendation, personal statements and more. 

  • Apply to your accredited MSN programs of choice.

  • Apply for financial aid, if necessary.

 

Should I pursue an MSN? 

 

Taking that next step does not come cheap, as getting your MSN is a lengthy and expensive process. However, those who stick with it are rewarded handsomely. Beyond the pay increase, more career mobility and chance for further specialization, the MSN provides an opportunity for growth as an HCP. Your nursing skills and understanding of healthcare as a whole will reach places that regular RNs could only dream of. If this all sounds interesting to you, then acquiring your MSN is definitely worth it. 

PART THREE

How to Pay For Your MSN Education

Even among nursing classes, MSN programs are notably costly.  Schools will charge you $62,340 on average, for their Masters courses. Learning materials, on-campus living costs and other miscellaneous fees also have to be considered. Thankfully, students have a host of different financial options accessible to them. To help you choose the right program for your situation, we will go over the most prominent forms of financial aid available to MSN students. 

 

FAFSA

 

The best place to start is by filling out the Free Application for Financial Assistance (FAFSA) form. FAFSA evaluates your income, level of support and financial need in order to find out whether or not you qualify for any federal financial aid programs like loans and grants. You can either submit the FAFSA online, through the official mobile app or  fill out a paper form from your school or the FAFSA website. You also want to make sure that you have the following documents prepared, before sending your application: 

 

Driver’s License Number

Your social security number and your parents’ (if you are dependent)

Alien registration number (if you are not a US citizen) 

Taxed and untaxed income records

Federal tax returns for you and your spouse or parents

 

Grants 

 

Grants are a form of financial aid usually provided by the government, in order to assist those in financial need.  Because of this, qualifying students do not need to pay back the costs at all. If FAFSA deems you as eligible for a grant, do not be afraid to take these opportunities. Currently, one of the more well-known grants is the Federal Pell Grant .This program serves students in exceptional financial need. At the time of writing, the maximum Federal Pell Grant sits at around $6,495 for the award year of July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023. Students can even receive 150% of their grant within an eligible award year, under special circumstances. Private entities such as companies or individuals also offer their own grants. Review and research these offers to verify their legitimacy. 

 

Scholarships

 

Like grants, scholarships are a form of financial assistance that does not need to be repaid. Unlike grants, they are merit-based programs that are given based on academic performance, extracurricular activities like sports or music and more. While schools and universities are the most common providers, a number of entities host their own scholarship programs. This includes businesses, individuals, non-profits, and even churches. Just like with grants, you have to do exhaustive research before applying for a scholarship, to ensure that the entity is legitimate and acting in good faith. 

 

Your school’s office of financial aid is a great place to start, since they usually have a list of available scholarships. There are also a host of scholarship databases with recommendations and details, if you want to do further reading. When you start applying, be sure to have all your documents ready when you submit your application. Requirements may vary, but most scholarships will require you to submit personal information. This could be an essay about yourself, or a statement describing how this scholarship would benefit you. Finally, always submit your application on time as scholarship programs tend to have strict deadlines. 

 

Loan

 

55% of medical students use loans to pay off their education fees. When you loan, you borrow a sum of money with the intention of repaying them in full, plus interest. Students can choose from two different types of loans: Federal and Private. Federal student loans are funded by the government. Since the MSN is a graduate program, you will not qualify for Direct Subsidized loans that do not gain interest while you are in school. Direct Unsubsidized loans still gain interest while you study, but they are available to graduates, undergraduates and professional degree seekers alike.

 

Meanwhile, private student loans are given out by independent entities. This includes  banks, credit unions, educational institutions and more. Interest rates are significantly higher and there are usually a number of hidden costs. If you must resort to these, you have to shop around with high scrutiny. Investigate the terms of agreement, look for hidden costs, and find out what happens if you cannot keep up financially with later payments and how repayments are structured. You can also check if there is a chance of loan forgiveness, down the line and whether the interest rates are variable (subject to change) or fixed (set in stone). Finally, look closely into the organizations offering these loans. Many institutions operate with malicious intent, and you want to make sure you do not fall into this trap. 


 

Loan Forgiveness

 

Federal loan programs (and some private loans) offer loan forgiveness, for those who meet certain qualifying criteria. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is among the more prominent. If you reach the minimum 120 qualifying monthly payments, there is a chance that your remaining balance will be forgiven. If you want to avail of this, you cannot default your payments and you must be under a qualifying repayment plan while working under the following qualifying employers:

 

  • Full Time Volunteer on AmeriCorps or Peace Corps 

  • Federal, state, local or tribal government organization

  • Non-profit organizations that are or are not tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code

 

After a certain amount of service time, some hospitals also provide loan forgiveness. These are usually smaller community hospitals in rural areas. 

 

Military

 

There are many MSN scholarships available to those under military service. For example, the Duke University School of Nursing offers MSN or DNP program scholarships to active duty servicemen, on a “first-come, first-served, funds available” basis. Alternatively, you can avail of the Military Tuition Assistance Program if you are enlisted in military or reserves, along with a GI Bill Top-Up program that covers other college-related expenses. Military service is a demanding commitment, and you should consider this before entering it just to cover your educational costs. 

 

Go out there! 

 

The MSN represents a unique opportunity to increase your earning potential, improve career flexibility, while deepening your proficiency and expertise in the nursing field. Financial barriers should not deter you from furthering your nursing education. As long as you find the right financial aid program, nothing will stop you from reaching your true potential! 

PART FOUR

Finding the Right MSN Specializations

There are a variety of different MSN specializations available to students, with each one preparing you for a specific field of study and profession. With so many viable options, it can be hard to find the right one for you. To help you choose, this guide will go over all the routes an MSN Nurse can take with their education and career. 

 

Tracks

 

MSN students come from varying professional and educational backgrounds. To account for this, schools offer a host of different program tracks: 

 

BSN to MSN: This is the most straightforward track of them all.  BSN nurses can jump into their master’s studies, which will take 18 to 24 months to complete, full time. Alternatively, there are also programs that let you work on your BSN and MSN simultaneously. 

 

Direct Entry MSN: These programs are designed for bachelor’s students with non-nursing degrees. After catching up with an accelerated clinical skills course, you will take the 2-year Master’s program proper. This is perfect for bachelor’s students who want to take up MSN-level jobs, without repeating their undergraduate lessons from scratch. 

 

RN to MSN Bridge Program: If you are an RN with just an associates degree or a diploma in nursing, this is the best option for you. By integrating one year of Bachelor’s-level education with two years of Masters’ studies, students can earn their BSN and MSN at the same time. 

 

Dual MSN: Some schools let MSN students take up another graduate course, alongside their nursing studies. MSN/MHA (Master’s in Healthcare Administration) and MSN/MBA (Master’s In Business Administration) are particularly popular among students working towards executive and leadership roles in healthcare. Program length depends on the courses taken. 

 

Nursing Degree Specializations 

 

There are two broad categories of MSN specialization: Clinical and non-clinical.

Clinical encompasses Advanced Practice Nursing (APRN) courses. APRNs are essentially Registered Nurses trained to provide advanced clinical care. Becoming one will require an MSN degree, along with a certification exam specific to your field of expertise. 

 

There are also non-clinical programs, which trains and prepares nurses for work outside of practice. These MSN nurses can opt to work in informatics, public health or even education. Students may even take Dual MSN programs to prepare themselves for executive nursing roles. 

 

APRN MSN Programs: 

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

 

Non-Clinical MSN Programs: 

 

Nurse Researcher

Clinical Nurse Leader

Public Health

Nurse Informatics

Nurse Educator

Nurse Executive/Administrator

 

Dual MSN programs: 

 

MSN/MHA (Master’s In Healthcare Administration)

MSN/MBA (Master’s in Business Administration)

MSN/MPA (Master’s in Public Administration)

MSN/MPH (Master’s in Public Health)

 

Healthcare Administration MSN Programs: 

Masters of Healthcare Administration

MBA in Healthcare Management

 

For MSN nurses who want to move into executive positions, these two degrees are particularly important. The MBA emphasizes business/financial practices and healthcare administration, while the MHA is more specialized on the inner workings and processes of healthcare operations. Both are viable options, and what works for you depends on your preferences or goals. 

 

Nurse Practitioner

 

Nurse Practitioners are APRNs who take on a broad range of advanced healthcare tasks, such as prescribing medications, assessing, diagnosing and treating acute or chronic conditions and more. With around an $115,800 annual salary, on average, NPs are among the most well-compensated healthcare professionals in the market.


Though you can choose to become a general practitioner, there are a number of viable NP specializations with their own certification exams. Listed below are some of the more prominent ones, along with their annual salary ranges: 

 

Psychiatric Mental Nurse Practitioner: $119,702 (per Ziprecruiter)

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner:  $121,659 (per Indeed

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner: $129,309 (per Salary.com

Family Nurse Practitioner: $105,898 (per ZipRecruiter

Oncology Nurse Practitioner: $105,427 (per Salary.com

Acute Care Nurse Practitioner: $110,076 (per Glassdoor)

Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner: $89,521 (per Payscale

Emergency Nurse Practitioner: $118,094 (per Salary.com

General Nurse Practitioner: $120,707 (per Indeed)

Women's Health Nurse Practitioner: $96,480  (per Payscale

 

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

 

CRNAs train in safely administering anesthesia before and during surgical operations, and providing post-operative care. Since anesthesia is so important to many sensitive medical procedures, nurse anesthetists have no problems finding work in a variety of different healthcare facilities. This includes hospitals, surgery clinics, emergency rooms and more. An MSN used to be the minimum requirement, but as of 2022 they are now required to have doctorates. That being said, acquiring your MSN can serve as an important stepping stone towards becoming a CRNA. 

 

As you can expect, they are among the best compensated HCPs in the world. In May 2021, the BLS projected the median annual salary at $195,610.

 

Certified Nurse Midwife

 

Nurse Midwives offer pre and post-natal care, labor and delivery services and other forms of women’s healthcare. They can find work in hospitals, birth centers, private practices or even office settings. Per the BLS, the mean annual wage for CNMs sits at $114,210.

 

Clinical Nurse Specialist

 

Clinical Nurse Specialists are qualified experts in a specific field of study. They can provide direct care or serve more as consultants. Said specializations can range from population, to setting, to particular diseases to certain types of care. At the time of writing, Ziprecruiter places the median annual salary at $106,407.

 

Clinical Nurse Leader

 

CNLs are responsible for directing, supervising and leading nursing teams to improve healthcare outcomes. Ziprecruiter places their median annual salary at $104,107 per year. 

 

Public Health

 

Public health workers work tirelessly to improve healthcare policies. They commit to rigorous research, analysis and public education in order to advocate for positive healthcare policy changes that benefits both the immediate community and the public. Sometimes, they work promoting health and disease prevention at the state/local level. According to Indeed, salaries in this profession average at $64,385.

 

Nursing Informatics

 

Nursing informatics is the field of developing technologies to process, analyze and acquire sensitive patient data in order to identify trends, evaluate the healthcare landscape and eventually improve healthcare outcomes. MSN nurses in this space can act as consultants for new systems, create advanced programs or build data systems to reach certain milestones. Ziprecruiter reports that an Informatics Nurse will earn around $102,230 annually. 

 

Nurse Researcher

 

MSN students can work within the healthcare research space. Here, they collect, analyze and interpret data in order to deepen our understanding of health and healthcare. From there, they can reach conclusions and provide recommendations to the healthcare world at large. Payscale places their annual income at or around $81,500. 

 

Nurse Educators

 

As a nurse educator, you provide clinical training and classroom instruction to nursing students. To stay up-to-date with a changing healthcare landscape, you will also be tasked with research, publishing academic writings, offering consultations and speaking at conferences or gatherings. To teach at a collegiate level, you need to obtain your doctorate. Depending on where you work, you may have more schedule flexibility than you would expect. Per the BLS, $82,040 is their median annual salary. 

 

Nurse Executive/Administrator: 

 

MSN Nurses are uniquely qualified to take on leadership roles. They are expected to manage a nursing team or other healthcare members for the sake of improving healthcare outcomes. Though most start out as unit managers, they can work their way up towards more prestigious roles with greater responsibilities. As a whole, Nursing Administrators earn around $119,840 per year, according to the BLS. 

 

A World of Opportunity 

 

MSN degrees open a new door for nurses, professionally. Beyond just the higher income and employment positions, they allow nurses to hone their skills in their desired field of expertise. In such a loaded field, there are no wrong answers. What works best for you will depend on your priorities and interests. 

PART FIVE

Top Paying MSN Jobs

Per the BLS, Nurses with an MSN earn about $42,000 more than nurses with a lesser degree. Specifically, Payscale reports a $96,000 annual median pay for MSN nurses in general, while APRNs make an average of $117,670 a year. Although this all sounds tantalizing, not all MSN jobs are created equal. Some are more on-demand than others, and as a result their pay is significantly better. Total salary is not everyone’s primary concern, but it is certainly worth factoring in. To help you account for this, this guide will go over the best paying MSN jobs, at the time of writing. 

 

Nurse Anesthetist

 

By a considerable margin, Nurse Anesthetists are the best compensated healthcare professionals. Per the BLS, their mean annual wage sits at an impressive $202,470. Trained to administer anesthesia safely throughout an operation process, their services are in high demand across various healthcare settings. It is important to note that MSNs will no longer be sufficient for these nurses by 2025. By then, Nurse Anesthetists will be required to get their doctorates. 

 

Nurse Administrator 

 

NAs are essentially registered nurses with years of bedside clinical experience. Using their knowledge, they oversee a medical facility’s staff in order to ensure smooth operations. Some BSN nurses can take this job, but for the most part you will require your Master’s. The BLS currently reports that these HCPs make around $119,840 a year for “medical and health service managers.” While this does not explicitly mention Nurse Administrators, they definitely fall under this umbrella. 

 

Nurse Practitioner

 

Nurse practitioners take on a wider variety of roles and responsibilities, compared to regular RNs. They can assess and formally diagnose patients, prescribe medications, draft treatment plans and more for a chosen population group. NPs also have the unique opportunity to operate independently from doctor or physician oversight in states that offer full practice authority. These unique skills and qualifications make them among the best compensated nurses in the country. The BLS reports a $118,040 mean salary, which ranks highly among BSN nursing qualifications. Exact salary can greatly vary depending on your chosen speciality. Neonatal, adult-gerontology and pediatric NPs will pay better than some of their contemporaries, for example.

 

Certified Nurse Midwife

 

CNMs provide comprehensive primary care services to women, through various stages of their life. This includes gynecological care, family planning, prenatal care, postpartum, care throughout the birthing process and more. Annually, CNMs make around $114,210 for their efforts. 

 

Clinical Nursing Specialist

 

A CNS provides advanced knowledge in their chosen field of study, much like a Nurse Practitioner. Unlike NPs, they typically apply their studies towards educating nurses and improving patient outcomes in a broader sense. Thanks to their specialized yet valued services, ZipRecruiter reports a $106,407 annual median income. 

 

Clinical Nursing Leader 

 

Master’s educated CNLs take on a unique role in the healthcare space. By coordinating with other HCPs and examining broader trends in the industry, they work tirelessly to improve healthcare outcomes across the board. This includes coordinating the patient care process, proposing and implementing new internal policies, facilitating strong communication between staff members and more. At the time of writing, ZipRecruiter found that CNLs command a  $104,107 median salary.

 

Informatics Nurse

 

Day by day, the healthcare industry is shifting towards a more digital approach. In the face of all these changes, Informatics Nurses will be on demand more than ever. These HCPs gather, process and analyze patient data in order to advance healthcare practices and public health knowledge. They ensure that the development of technology is guided towards the right place. At the time of writing, ZipRecruiter ballparks their average yearly salary at $102,230.

 

Nurse Educator

 

As you might expect, nurse educators typically operate in academic facilities like universities. They can be found teaching and instructing students who are working towards their nursing degrees. Sometimes, they can even work in hospitals as staff trainers or for educational updates. Per the BLS, these nurses currently make $82,040 a year, on average. 

 

Go out there! 

 

Most of the time, you will not be earning the average salary for your profession. Nursing salary is contingent on a variety of factors. Setting, length of hours/shifts, field of expertise and work experience will play a role in determining your actual income. Be sure to consider not only your speciality’s average salary, but the high/low end income ranges as well. 

 

Even with this consideration, you are all but guaranteed to earn more than your BSN/ADN counterparts. MSN nurses earn around $40,000 more than the national average range for RNs.  Regardless of the path you take, acquiring your master’s is a worthwhile investment for your career and your personal growth as a nurse.

PART SIX

How to Go From RN to MSN

There are many reasons for practicing RNs to get their MSN. Master’s-educated nurses enjoy career mobility, higher pay, opportunities to specialize and more. Though the myriad of program tracks and nursing paths may seem daunting at first, it is surprisingly easy to understand if you know where to look. Whether you have an ADN, BSN or a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, there is definitely an accelerated program track for you. This guide will break down everything you need to know about making the RN to MSN transition. 

 

Popular specializations


An MSN provides a host of career opportunities that are not available to other RNs. At the time of writing, these are some of the more popular paths: 

 

Nurse Practitioner

 

Nurse practitioners take on a wider variety of roles and responsibilities, compared to regular RNs. They caness and formally diagnose patients, prescribe medications, draft treatment plans and more for a chosen population group. NPs can operate independently from doctor or physician oversight in full practice states, but they always have more independence than the average RN. These unique skills and qualifications make them among the best compensated nurses in the country. The BLS reports a $118,040 mean salary, which ranks highly among BSN nursing qualifications. 

 

Certified Nurse Midwife

 

Nurse Midwives offer pre and post-natal care, family planning labor and delivery services and other forms of women’s healthcare. They can find work in hospitals, birth centers, private practices or even office settings. Per the BLS, the mean annual wage for CNMs sits at $114,210.

 

Nurse Educators

 

Nurse educators specialize in training and educating the next generation of nurses. This entails developing curriculums and training programs, supervising clinical rotations, carrying out research and more. Although they are most commonly found in academic institutions, some Nurse Educators work as trainers for new nurses in medical facilities. Per the BLS, $82,040 is their median annual salary.

 

Clinical Nurse Specialist

 

Clinical Nurse Specialists are qualified experts in a specific field of study. They can provide direct care or serve more as consultants. Said specializations can range from population, to setting, to particular diseases to certain types of care. At the time of writing, Ziprecruiter places the median annual salary at $106,407.

 

Educational Tracks

 

MSN students come from a wide variety of professional and educational backgrounds. To accommodate for this, schools offer a host of alternative tracks and program types. Based on your starting point, you can earn your MSN in a number of ways

 

Bachelor’s Students With Non-Nursing Degrees:  If you are a student with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing program and you do not wanna retake your bachelor’s courses, you can avail of a Direct Entry MSN course. This consists of a 1-year, accelerated clinical skills program, and 2 years of Masters nursing studies. You will need at least your Bachelor’s and possibly your GRE. 


RNs with ADNs or Diplomas: Practicing RNs who just have an ADN or Diploma can acquire their MSN in several ways. You can enroll in an RN to MSN program. After one year of Bachelor’s studies to catch you up on what you missed, you can continue with two years of Master’s lessons. 

Outside the traditional route, there are RN-to-MSN bridge programs that let you earn your BSN and MSN simultaneously. These programs are accelerated and demanding, but they are also a year shorter compared to RN-to-MSN classes. Both programs will require your ADN/Nursing Diploma along with your RN License. 

 

BSN Students:
 

Bachelor’s students taking joint RN/BSN classes can take a BSN to MSN route right after graduation. They can devote themselves to this path full-time, or they can take part time classes that allow them to study while working.These programs can take 18 to 24 months, full time. You will need an active RN license, your BSN and at least one year of clinical experience that is relevant to your chosen speciality. 

 

Online MSN Programs: 


Online classes have risen to prominence as a more affordable and convenient form of higher education. If you have personal or professional obligations to fulfill or you just want to study in a class that is too far away, remote learning gives you the flexibility to pursue your studies without skimping on your commitments. 

 

The nature of your classes largely depends on your field of study. Nurses taking managerial courses can enjoy 100% online classes, to the point that they do not need to see their instructors or classmates. 

 

Hands-on practitioners like NPs must complete their clinical requirements in-person, however. As a result, these RN to MSN programs are “hybrids” between online classes and in-person clinical rotations. If you study out-of-state or far away from your school’s location, going on-site may be unfeasible. Luckily, some schools compromise and let you choose approved healthcare facilities in your area. 

 

Best Online MSN programs 

 

Listed below are the best 100% online RN to MSN offerings in the nation. Listed tuition fees include University-associated costs such as laboratory fees. Additionally, all programs offer part-time and full time set ups and are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

  • University of West Florida (844-406-1357/onlineinfo@messiah.edu

    • Enrollment: Due March, June, October

    • Length: 39 credit hours.

    • Specialities: Nurse Education, Nurse Executive

    • Tuition: $11,518.26

  • Messiah University (717-778-4679/msnnursing@uwf.edu

    • Enrollment: Twice a year for fall and summer classes .

    • Length: 38 credit hours. Online courses are provided in 8 to 12 week sessions.

    • Specialities: Nurse Education, Nurse Administration 

    • Tuition: $27,550

  • Liberty University (800-424-9595/luograd@liberty.edu

    • Enrollment: Twice a year for fall and summer classes .

    • Length: 36 credit hours. Online courses are provided in 8 week sessions. Most students complete their studies in 1 and a half years. 

    • Specialities: Nurse Education

    • Tuition: $11,880

  • Southern New Hampshire University (888-387-0861/nursing@snhu.edu

    • Enrollment: Twice a year for fall and summer classes .

    • Length: 33 credit hours, dependent on track. 

    • Specialities: Nurse Education, Population Healthcare

    • Tuition: $20,691

  • Capella University (877-884-0733) 

    • Enrollment: Rolling Admission

    • Length: 62-66 credit hours, dependent on track

    • Specialities: Nurse Education, Nurse Informatics, Nurse Leadership/Administration, Care Coordination

    • Tuition: $16,200–$24,300 for the Accelerated MSN program 

  • William Paterson University (877-419-8039) 

    • Enrollment: Rolling Admissions with 6 start dates in the calendar year.

    • Length: 53-65 credit hours, dependent on track.

    • Specialities: Nurse Education, Nurse Practitioner (Family or Adult-Gerontology), Nurse Administration 

    • Tuition: $26,205

  • Fairleigh Dickinson University (844-251-6557) 

    • Enrollment: Rolling Admission with 6 start dates in the calendar year. 

    • Length: 62-64 credit hours. 8-week courses. 4 years to complete, overall. 

    • Specialities: Nurse Educator, Family Nurse Practitioner

    • Tuition: $44,950

  • Sacred Heart University (877-791-7181) 

    • Enrollment: Rolling Admission with 6 start dates in the calendar year. 

    • Length: 24-27 Credit Hours. Dependent on track and transfer credits. 

    • Specialities: Nurse Education, Nurse Management, Clinical Nurse Leader, Executive Leadership

    • Tuition: $28,380–$30,465

 

Increased Earning Opportunity 

 

The Bureau of Labor of Statistics currently reports that advanced practice nurses enjoy a $117,670 annual salary. Like with most healthcare professions, your actual salary depends on a number of factors. Geographical location, specialization, whether you work full time or part time and experience are just a few of these factors. 

 

On the whole, MSN nurses earn their regular RN counterparts by about $40,000 on average. Moving from RN to MSN may seem daunting at first, but the professional and financial rewards are bountiful. 

 

Requirements

 

Specific enrollment requirements will vary, from school to school, but you can expect to provide a handful of documents across multiple schools: 

 

  • BSN, ADN or Nursing Diploma

  • Non-nursing bachelor’s degree (for Direct Entry MSN programs)

  • Minimum undergraduate GPA (commonly 3.0 or higher)

  • Updated Resume/CV

  • GRE scores

  • Essay of application

  • Letters of Recommendation 

  • Criminal background check (upon acceptance) 

 

Some schools also require 1 to 2 years of relevant work experience, while others will accept you without any. 

 

Curriculum

 

Your MSN curriculum will depend on your speciality and whether you opted for an Advanced Nursing, Management or Public Health track. For non-specialized general MSNs, you can expect 72 credit hours, and the following classes: 

 

  • Pharmacology & pathophysiology

  • Biostatistics

  • Clinical management

  • Foundational courses

  • Health concerns across the lifespan

  • Leadership and Ethics

  • Capstone project

 

Picking Accredited Programs

 

Above anything else, you want to make sure that the program you pick is accredited. Since accredited programs have to meet certain quality standards, this guarantees a high level of education and training for both you and your future employers. Should you pursue a DNP in the future, they will only accept your application if you graduated from an accredited Masters program. Finally, accreditation ensures that your school of choice qualifies for federal student aid. 

 

For MSN programs, the main accrediting bodies are the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). 

 

Go out there!

Between the increased salaries, career mobility and chances for advancement, there are a lot of good reasons to make the leap from RN to MSN. With a plethora of high quality online schools programs, and accelerated bridge programs, it has never been faster or affordable to do so. Provided that you are committed to your education, and you have a clear career path planned out for yourself, the time and money you spend on your MSN will be well worth it! 

PART SIX

MSN vs DNP: An Honest Comparison


With a dynamic and ever-changing healthcare industry, more and more nurses are pursuing further education beyond the baccalaureate level. What should be the ultimate goal, however? Can one ‘settle” for a Master of Science In Nursing or is there much to gain from a Doctor of Nursing Practice? While there is no real “wrong” answer, both degrees suit different career tracks and priorities, In this guide, we will compare the strengths and advantages of each program, so that you can pick the right educational path for you. 

 

MSN

 

A Master of Science in Nursing is an advanced postgraduate degree. Students can choose between a number of classes and tracks when acquiring this degree. They can take up clinical courses to become Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) or lessons that will prepare them for nonclinical nursing roles in education, information, management and more. MSNs are perfect for nurses who want to advance their careers or further specialize into their fields of interest.

 

Income 

 

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, MSN nurses currently earn around $117,670 in annual salary. Your salary in practice depends on a number of factors like specialization, location of facility, expertise, and more. Regardless, you are all but guaranteed to earn considerably more than the average RN. 

 

Responsibilities


Should you choose to focus on clinical practice, an MSN has a number of paths to choose from. The most common career options are currently Nurse Practitioner and Nurse Midwife, which are among the best paid and respected professions in the market. No matter what you opt for, you will gain unprecedented freedom as an independent practitioner in your field of expertise. Not only can you prescribe medications within your authority, but you can even set up your own independent practice (depending on your state’s regulations). 

Outlook:

 

From 2020 to 2030, APRN jobs are expected to grow at a dramatic 45% rate, which is much faster than the national average. Jobs like Nursing Informatics and Nurse Management are expected to have similar dramatic growth, thanks to the changing trends of the healthcare industry. The future for MSN-educated nurses is bright.

 

Length of Completion


On average, it takes around 3 years to complete your MSN program. If your school offers it, you can enroll on a part-time basis, which offers more flexibility while taking longer to complete overall. 

 

This all assumes that you are enrolling with a Bachelor’s Degree. There are alternate tracks that allow holders of ADN or Nursing Diplomas (RN to MSN) or Bachelor’s of non-nursing degrees (Direct Entry MSN) to work towards their MSN. Since you have to catch up to your bachelor’s studies, they usually take longer than the standard MSN program. 

 

Requirements

 

Program requirements differ from school to school, but you can expect to submit the following documentation: 

 

  • BSN, ADN or Nursing Diploma

  • Non-nursing bachelor’s degree (for Direct Entry MSN programs)

  • Minimum undergraduate GPA (commonly 3.0 or higher)

  • Updated Resume/CV

  • GRE scores

  • Essay of application

  • Letters of Recommendation 

  • Criminal background check (upon acceptance) 

 

As for additional certifications, APRNs have to pass a national certification exam for their specialization, in order to practice. 

 

DNP

 

A Doctor of Nursing Practice is a terminal degree for nurses. In other words, it is the highest possible level of education and training that you can attain as a nurse. Similar to the MSN, you can take your DNP in preparation for certain APRN roles. Unlike the MSN, your training provides you with advanced clinical skills and systems thinking that is meant to prepare you for greater responsibilities. You can still provide bedside care, but you now become equipped to lead nursing teams in order to improve healthcare outcomes in the bigger picture. 

 

Per the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), DNP classes emphasize on 7 points of instruction: 

 

  • Scientific underpinnings for practice

  • Advanced nursing practice

  • Organization and system leadership/management, quality improvement, and system thinking

  • Analytic methodologies related to the evaluation of practice and the application of evidence for practice

  • Utilization of technology and information for the improvement and transformation of healthcare

  • Health policy development, implementation, and evaluation 

  • Interdisciplinary collaboration for improving patient and population healthcare outcomes

 

Salary

 

The BLS does not provide income information for specifically DNP nurses. Similar to MSNs, APRNs with DNPs can expect around $123,780 in median salary. The most notable advantage is in career mobility. Your DNP opens the door for you to take higher leadership positions, which directly translate to greater income. 

 

Responsibilities

DNP nurses take on a greater number of tasks and obligations, compared to other nurses. As bedside care providers, they can offer independent healthcare to seriously-affected patients with complex conditions. In leadership roles, they can enact innovative healthcare strategies or policy proposals. They can even work in communication liaison roles between medical device and pharmaceutical companies.

No matter where they work, they are expected to utilize critical thinking and evidence-based practice in order to ensure the best possible healthcare outcomes. They can even carry out research projects, in order to advance knowledge within the healthcare world. 

 

Career Outlook:

The DNP will be incredibly important for practicing nurses in the coming years. The AACN is moving towards making the DNP the default requirement for APRNs by 2025. While this is not the case now, certain specialities have already pivoted towards this future. For instance, CRNAs will be explicitly required to have their DNPs by 2025. As you can expect, DNP enrollments have trended upwards in the past few years. Between 2017 and 2018 alone, there was an increase of around 3,000 applicants.

 

Length of Completion

 

In total, most DNP programs will take you 3 to 4 years to complete. Unlike an MSN, your part-time options are fairly limited. Most DNP programs are full-time, which makes working while studying highly discouraged. DNP students are also required to complete a capstone project that must meet the following standards set by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing:

 

  • Changes that will impact healthcare outcomes

  • Builds the foundation for future practice

  • Planned for sustainability

 

Requirements:


Most DNP programs will ask the following from their applicants: 

 

  • Active U.S Registered Nurse license in good standing, acquired in your state of practice

  • Minimum 1 to 2 years of nursing experience

  • Proof of completion for prerequisite courses

  • Letters of recommendation

  • Completed application with all the necessary fees and documents (ex. Transcript, resume, personal statement) 

  • Interview

  • Minimum GPA

 

Like with MSN nurses, APRNs with DNPs have to pass a national certification exam for their specialization, in order to practice. 

 

Conclusion


In a broad sense, MSNs are perfect for nurses looking to take up clinical roles while DNP nurses emphasize leadership practices. Even then, a DNP can continue to work as a bedside nurse while applying their advanced knowledge and training. Ultimately, you cannot go wrong with either degree. What works best for you will depend on your resources, priorities and career goals. 

 

Getting your MSN: Is it worth it?

When people decide to study for their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), they are banking on a lot of promise. It is the minimum requirement for advanced practice roles, nurse teaching positions, administrative/leadership positions and more. On paper, furthering your education will lead to higher pay and bigger career opportunities later down the line. You cannot pursue this free of cost, however. Acquiring your MSN requires a lot of time, money and effort from you. On multiple levels, it is a huge investment that you cannot jump into without a second thought. 

 

Are the benefits of an MSN worth the considerable cost? It ultimately depends on the nurse’s situation, goals and resources. To help you answer this question for yourself, we will go over the advantages and disadvantages of getting your MSN. 


Advantages

 

1. More career opportunities

 

When you get your MSN, a number of high healthcare positions become available to you. Even for regular nursing jobs, an MSN candidate is considerably more appealing to employers than their BSN or ADN counterparts.

 

Nurses can become advanced practice nurses such as NPs, CRNAs, NMs and more. This allows them to take on more advanced and specialized clinical roles. They can take on managerial or administrative positions to lead teams and affect healthcare outcomes with positive policy changes. They can even land in Nursing Informatics, which is continually growing in demand as healthcare shifts more into digitization. With your Master’s, the sky's the limit. 

 

2. Higher pay

 

As you take on greater responsibilities, your income will increase significantly. CRNAs alone have an average salary of $183,580, per the BLS. For reference, this dwarfs the median RN salary of $77,600. Advanced practice nurses as a whole commonly earn more than $100,000 a year, which most regular RNs can only dream of earning. 

 

3. Diverse program options 

 

Now more than ever, students can easily find an MSN program that suits their exact situation. If you are employed, you can opt for part time or remote classes that offer you the flexibility to work while studying. Some classes even let you customize your schedule from top to bottom. There are still full time options available for students who want to devote themselves wholly to their studies. 

 

4. Further specialization 

 

Whether it is cardiac care, adult-gerontology or neonatal intensive care, MSN programs allow students to further advance their knowledge in their area of interest. By focusing on a specific advanced skillset, students can eventually become experts in their chosen field-of-study

 

Disadvantages

 

1. Costs

 

There is no going around it: MSN programs are extremely expensive. According to US News, online programs (which are cheaper than traditional classes) can cost you from $35,000 to $60,000. Whether you cover it with cash or financial aid, you have to be prepared to shoulder a significant cost if you pursue your Master's. 

 

2. Difficulty

 

Going through your Master’s is no cakewalk. Nurses have to balance difficult coursework and demanding clinical hours with their personal and professional obligations. While not impossible in the slightest, you need to be prepared for the challenges ahead if you want to get your MSN. 

 

3. Requirements

 

Schools will ask a lot of requirements from you. You have to be prepared to organize and present a lot of personal information and documentation, before you are even considered as an applicant. 

 

Picking the Right MSN Program 

 

There are hundreds of MSN programs available to you, in America alone. Should you choose to pursue your masters, you want to find the best possible education for your situation. At the bare minimum, you want to make sure that your program is accredited by either the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Graduates from unaccredited schools will have a far more difficult time finding work in the healthcare industry. 

 

Cost is also well worth considering. On average, most MSN degrees (if you start with a BSN) will cost $36,646. Cheaper programs sit at $285 per credit hour while more expensive programs can charge you up to $1,059.02 hourly. Whether or not you are studying in-state, your school of choice and your current degree level are just a handful of the factors that will affect your tuition. 

 

Program Tracks 

 

Students can also choose from a lengthy list of program tracks. Since students come from various educational backgrounds, universities offer a number of different paths in order to accommodate for this: 

 

  • BSN to MSN: Of all the routes, this is the most straightforward. If you already have your BSN, you can jump into an 18 to 24 month full time Masters studies. You can choose to hone into a single speciality, or a generalized MSN path with no additional certifications. 

  • Direct Entry MSN: These programs are designed for bachelor’s students with non-nursing degrees and no experience. After catching up with an accelerated clinical skills course, you can take a 2-year Master’s curriculum without having to repeat your undergraduate studies. 

  • RN to MSN Bridge Program: This is for RNs who only have their ADN or Nursing Diploma. By integrating one year of Bachelor’s-level education with two years of Masters’ studies, students can earn their BSN and MSN at the same time. It is worth noting that some of these programs only accept ADN nurses and not diploma ones. 

 

Curriculum

 

There is no one unified MSN curriculum. What you study will depend on your school, chosen specialization and prior education. The classes for Advanced Nursing, Management or Public Health students are dramatically different. For non-specialized general MSNs, however, you can generally expect the following classes: 

 

  • Pharmacology & pathophysiology

  • Biostatistics

  • Clinical management

  • Foundational courses

  • Health concerns across the lifespan

  • Leadership and Ethics

  • Capstone project

 

Is this the right program for me? 

 

A Master’s is absolutely necessary for APRN, nurse leadership, nurse education, legal consultation and a host of other high-level healthcare job opportunities. At the same time however, there is no rush. It is perfectly viable for you to continue working and wait until you are in a secure place financially before you commit to a Master’s. An MSN is as rewarding as it is costly, but it also is not going anywhere. As long as you weigh the pros and cons while considering your situation, you will find the right answer for you.