The Fast-Track Graduate Education for Nurses
If you are an RN with an associate’s degree or diploma and want to go to graduate school, an RN to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) may be a good fit.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), these programs are increasing rapidly because of demand. There are currently over 130 programs in the United States with at least another 30 in development.
Admission is highly competitive. You need a current RN license and a good GPA from your previous training program. You may need to take prerequisite classes in such subjects as English, history, or math before applying. Some programs want a pre-screening interview, an essay or personal statement, and letters of recommendation. Having a few years of nursing experience under your belt is a plus.
- Simmons College - [email protected]' online RN to MSN program has a rigorous curriculum that helps prepare students to pass the FNP board certification exam on their first attempt and to become recognized as clinical experts, scholars, and leaders in their field.
- The Online RN to MSN program at the University of Texas - Arlington is an accelerated program allows you to earn your MSN in less time—and save more money—than if you complete the RN to BSN and MSN programs separately.
Depending upon which classes you’ve already taken before admission, a program may take three years or more to complete. At the beginning of your program you will complete the necessary bachelor’s degree content before moving on to the graduate core classes in subjects such as informatics, research, leadership, and nursing theory. You earn your remaining credits by taking electives that pertain to your specialty. Many programs offer part-time, evening, or weekend schedules and an online or hybrid format.
Along with your MSN at graduation, many programs also confer a BSN. You will be prepared to move on to your chosen specialty whether in management, consulting, research, education, or an advanced practice role such as a nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, clinical nurse specialist, or nurse anesthetist. With your MSN you can also advance to one of the highest degrees in nursing — a Ph.D. or DNP.
Below are a few featured online RN to MSN programs that are currently accepting applicants. These universities have entirely online RN to MSN programs and they are all accredited. Simply click on their listing or the More Info button to get more information from their admissions department.
Featured Online RN to MSN Programs Accepting Applicants
Why Consider a Master’s Degree?
A great education is an important consideration for most individuals. An advanced nursing degree can provide for a better paying career and a better lifestyle overall. There are more educational opportunities coming available, making it easier for most people to get into college. Better financial aid, easier processing, and more employer assistance makes the college process even more simple for those wanting to pursue a degree program. With this availability, the importance of having a degree will grow beyond the scope of what can be seen now.
In the near future, graduate degrees may be the best option for those wanting to set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd. In most fields, a higher degree can ensure a higher position and more promotional opportunities in the future. As one of the most rapidly growing fields, healthcare is one that is home to a large number of college graduates. More people choose this field as their degree choice due to the large numbers of career opportunities and widespread availability.
Nursing schools, employers, students, and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) are taking notice that more steps need to be taken to not only increase the number of nurses that have a Master’s of Science in Nursing degree, but to create industry-wide standards (called The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing – source, PDF) to ensure those nurses are the most educated across all of the specific disciplines that they can put into practice, across eveidence-based practice, quality improvement, how to measure different outcomes, knowledge of healthcare systems and industry, and administration, leadership, and management skills.
According to the AACN:
Nursing schools affiliated with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) voted at the Spring Annual Meeting to endorse The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing, a set of national standards for preparing nurses to have a high impact in the healthcare environment. These Master’s Essentials, an update to an earlier version adopted in 1996, reflect current and future nursing practice at the master’s level, which demands expert application of evidence-based practices, quality improvement methods, outcomes measurement, systems knowledge, and leadership skills.
What does that mean for someone looking at an RN to MSN program?
As noted, nursing schools and the AACN are taking notice and putting a heavy emphasis on exactly what graduate-level educated nurses with an MSN degree are learning and studying. This provides transparency to healthcare employers – meaning, they know what they will be getting with any nurse that has their Master’s in Nursing degree.
The medical and healthcare fields are a forever-changing field that requires its professionals to be the very best, so that patients are given on the most reliable care. At the center of this rapidly growing field, nurses are the most densely populated portion of the field, assisting physicians and provide patients with the care they deserve.
What Courses Can You Expect in a MSN Program?
There are quite a few graduate-level courses you can expect to take. Remember, these are graduate classes – they will be challenging, but that is the point. The Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing details the specific skillset and knowledge base you should have a Master’s level graduate, regardless of focus, track, or major. Below are the specific foundational areas of study outlined by the document:
|Foundational Area of Study||Essential Area Summary and Description|
Sciences and Humanities
|MSN graduates integrate scientific findings from nursing, biopsychosocial fields, genetics, public health, quality improvement, and organizational sciences for the improvement of health and nursing care across many settings.|
Organizational and Systems Leadership
|Asserts that MSN graduates understand that organizational and systems leadership are critical to promoting high quality (and safe) care for patients, and that leaderships skills are necessary for ethical and critical decision making and effective relationships and systems.|
Quality Improvement and Safety
|Master's prepared nurses need to be able to articulate methods, tools, performance measures and standards for quality, and apply the principles to a healthcare organization.|
Translating and Integrating Scholarship into Practice
|Recognizes that the master’s-prepared nurse applies research outcomes within the practice setting, resolves practice problems, works as a change agent, and disseminates results.|
Informatics and Healthcare Technologies
|Recognizes that the master’s-prepared nurse uses patient-care technologies to deliver and enhance care and uses communication technologies to integrate and coordinate care|
Health Policy and Advocacy
|Recognizes that the master’s-prepared nurse is able to intervene at the system level through the policy development process and to employ advocacy strategies to influence health and health care.|
Interprofessional Collaboration for Improving Outcomes
|Recognizes that the master’s-prepared nurse, as a member and leader of interprofessional teams, communicates, collaborates, and consults with other health professionals to manage and coordinate care.|
Clinical Prevention and Population Health
|Recognizes that the master’s-prepared nurse applies and integrates broad, organizational, client-centered, and culturally appropriate concepts in the planning, delivery, management, and evaluation of evidence-based clinical prevention and population care and services to individuals, families, and aggregates/identified populations.|
Master’s-Level Nursing Practice
|Recognizes that nursing practice, at the master’s level, is broadly defined as any form of nursing intervention that influences healthcare outcomes for individuals, populations, or systems. Master’s-level nursing graduates must have an advanced level of understanding of nursing and relevant sciences as well as the ability to integrate this knowledge into practice.|
RN to MSN Programs by State
MA to NJ
NM to SC
Why Nurses Get Their Master’s in Nursing
Located in the busy halls of local hospitals, nurses are constantly working hard to ensure that each patient is given the best care possible. For centuries, nurses have been the main source of care for patients suffering from sickness, disease, or even injuries. Nurses are the first face seen when entering into a medical facility and provide an irreplaceable helping hand to physicians. A great nurse is an asset to any medical facility.
It takes a strong-willed and dedicated individual to be a successful addition to the medical field. As a nurse currently working in the field, the need to stand-out is higher now than ever. Since nursing has grown to one of the most popular degree programs in the country, more nurses are looking for jobs after graduation. The job market experiences constant change, with jobs quickly being filled and new jobs opening.
For those nurses already working in the field, the need for advancement in their career may become an overwhelming desire. Working hard is not always the solution to getting better results from a career choice. In the midst of a busy work schedule, more nurses are finding it beneficial to get back into a higher degree program to truly get the most out of their career.
The Career Path of a Nurse is Evolving
Over the years, the nursing field has changed drastically. A lot of experienced nurses in the field are working at the associate’s degree level. These programs consisted of two vigorous years of education, including basic nursing principles and hands on application. Licensing requirements were a lot different years ago than they are more recently. It has only been within the last decade that different states determined that nurses should engage in further education before being considered for licensure.
Most states require that nurses have a bachelor’s degree at the very least before being released to work as a registered nurse. A bachelor’s program is useful for nurses seeking the minimum licensure requirements. However, this level of degree cannot guarantee a nurse the prestige that is needed to move up the ladder in the field of nursing. It can sometimes be difficult to move up in a position without years of experience or an even higher nursing degree.
Opportunity to Stand Out with an MSN
Master’s degrees in Nursing can be exactly what nurses need to stand out among others. A master’s degree is only a couple of years shy of a doctoral degree, but provides significantly more to those that carry them in comparison to bachelor’s degrees. Most nurses stop at the bachelor’s level, making master’s degree holders rare and desired by employers wanting only the very best employees.
RN to MSN programs provide current registered nurses with the opportunity to not only advance their career beyond what they could have imagined, but also provide vast information about the field of nursing at an even more advanced depth. While enrolled in an RN to MSN program, students will take courses that broaden their ability to manage patients as well as staff. Courses such as Evidence-Based Practice and Quality Improvement give master’s level learners the knowledge of personnel and how to handle delicate situations. These courses go beyond the original scope of nursing to nurture a more qualified nurse management professional.
Multiple Specialties Available
Regardless of which field is chosen, a higher degree in nursing can provide for more promotional opportunity and better wages in comparison to lower degree programs. The importance of higher degrees has grown in recent years, with the changing requirements for nursing licensure. More people are graduating at the bachelor’s level, lowering the prestige of this level of degree program.
In order to really get the most out of a higher degree program, nurses need to invest in a degree that will allow them to stand-out in comparison to their peers. A bachelor’s degree only gives nurses the minimum requirement for their career. A master’s degree can provide a foundation for a progressive career from day one. The information gained in master’s level programs will provide for experienced and highly educated nurses that are qualified for any position throughout the field. Most nurses at this level are hired in higher positions, overseeing a staff of nurses or working with doctors directly to determine the most effective treatment program for patients in need of care.
Typical Curriculum for an RN to MSN Program
RN to MSN programs typically require 87 credit hours at a minimum. These hours include an array of undergraduate courses in nursing science as well as communication. Graduate course requirements are also included. This program can take three to four years and requires students to take part in reflective practice and practice experience. This program integrates both the completion of a bachelor’s level degree as well as a master’s level degree. It not only saves time, but also saves money by combining the two programs in a way that flows well for busy students.
Online RN to MSN Programs
Some RN to MSN programs can be completed completely online, which is convenient for nurses currently working in the field. Online programs provide on-line instruction which is just as thorough as traditional courses. On-line programs include informative discussions, individual projects, and group analysis. Some on-line programs have even by-passed in person learning in quality of education. Regardless of which route is chosen, the decision to get a higher degree will be a wise one for those seeking a more profitable and satisfying career.
+ Jump to Online RN to MSN Programs Currently Accepting Applicants
What You Should Learn During Your RN to MSN Degree Pursuit
In the RN to MSN program, students are given extensive knowledge into the personal attributes of different patients. Cultural differences and communication styles are a very important aspect of the field of nursing. Each patient is different and may require a different method of personal treatment. It is vital that nurses have the knowledge to correctly treat each patient that enters a facility.
Higher level nurses are given the skills necessary to effectively communicate with individuals from diverse backgrounds and cultures, making them an irreplaceable asset to their respective facilities. They are also educated in the importance of leadership and how to project an effective leadership style. In such a busy atmosphere, a productive leader sets the stage for how well a staff of nurses will perform. These skills go well beyond what the average nurse will learn in a bachelor’s degree program, which is why those carrying graduate degrees will be more likely accepted in management positions in hospitals and private practices.
As a master’s level nurse, individuals can get even more involved in patient care and employee development. Master’s level degree holders can access patient records and even recommend treatment programs. They are an asset to the companies in which they work, providing expert advice to lower level nurses and even patients. Some nurses decide to go into research fields, which is a very in-depth field that requires experience and dedication.
The research field contributes greatly to the field of nursing, making more effective treatment choices and providing more techniques for current nurses to use within the field. Managing nurses are typically master’s degree holders and are in charge of lower level nurses. These individuals are given a large amount of responsibility within their position and are required to oversee the practices within their field of view. This job is what a lot of nurses strive to achieve and it can easily be obtained with a higher degree. When employers seek to fill a higher level position, it is necessary that an applicant not only have the work experience required, but also a degree that reflects his or her profound knowledge of the field of nursing.
Salary and Career Opportunities for Nurses with an MSN Degree
As a means of financial stability, obtaining a master’s degree in this field is a providing choice. As part of the medical field, most assume that nurses make high wages due to their correlation to doctors and other specialists. In the past, nursing was one of the highest paying positions at only an associate’s degree and continues to hold a similar reputation even with the standards changing to a minimum bachelor’s level requirement.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses with higher degrees can earn anywhere from $71,000 to over $100,000 per year. These wages are outstanding for a career in the nursing field, with most individuals having a salary between the two figures. Depending on the chosen area for working, nurses will find that some areas are more providing than others. In western states such as California and Arizona, the demand for nursing is continuously high.
The turnover rates in these areas are high, providing new job openings on a regular basis. The need for qualified professionals at a higher degree level remains high, since most graduates are only at an undergraduate level.
Areas of Opportunity
For those in the eastern United States, states such as Pennsylvania and Florida are looking for qualified master’s degree holders to fill their positions. These areas also present a strong need for professionals, with demand relatively higher than the overall supply. Factors such as population growth and the growing elderly population contribute to a growth in demand for nurses. The BLS reports and projected growth in the demand for nurses through the year 2020.
Where You Can Work as an MSN Graduate
Master’s level nurses are a source of information, relevant health advice, and achievement within a hospital. These nurses can work in all fields of nursing, including specialties such as sports medicine, schools, or private practices. Having a highly educated nurse on staffs communicates expert care to patients needing direct assistance. The ability to communicate effectively with a number of diverse groups means that nurses of this degree can spread their expertise into community health practices and even research theories. There is truly no end to the potential for nurses that go forward with a master’s degree.
The nursing field has been one of the most popular career choices for individuals for many years. This field is one of the most providing for the community, providing assistance to those suffering from illness and injury. Those that currently work in the field have experienced a large amount of change in recent years, requiring them to consider getting back into college to pursue higher degree programs.
Which program is chosen can be the deciding factor in whether an individual works at the entry level or progresses to higher positions throughout his or her career. Bachelor’s degrees are now the minimum requirement for nurses, making it a highly sought out degree for those currently studying. For those that are seeking a more advanced degree that provides more career opportunities and higher positions, RN to MSN programs are the best choice. These program include the importance nursing techniques and procedures that sculpt the most effective nurses, all while providing a business-oriented, socially diverse, management professional. There is no better option for those seeking a career that will provide for families and promote a sense of satisfaction throughout the duration of their lifetime.
RN to MSN: The Right Program for You
Written by Kelli Dunham, RN, BSN
Kelli is an RN with 15 years of clinical nursing experience and the author of 4 health/health professions related books, including the American Journal of Nursing Nursing Book of the Year, How to Survive and Maybe Even Love Nursing School (FA Davis, 2008, 3rd edition).
If you’re thinking about getting your MSN and you don’t yet have a BSN, an RN to MSN (often called “bridge”) program might be a great choice. Before you select a program you’ll need to think about the change it will create in your nursing role, count the cost, and consider how you’ll work your clinical rotations into your schedule.
Obtaining an MSN can lead to many different career tracks in addition to strengthening your overall practice as a nurse. You can enroll in RN to BSN programs that lead to specific clinical tracks like nurse practitioner, nurse midwife or nurse anesthetist. You can also enroll in RN to MSN programs that train nurses for roles in administration, nursing education or community health.
It’s important to understand not only the advantages of seeking an RN to MSN on any given path but also the way the different MSN roles function and whether you will enjoy working in that role.
One recent RN to MSN graduate, Ann Snyderman, describes her process this way “I started a nurse anesthetist program at least partly because the promise of a much increased rate of compensation. But when I started clinical rotations, I realized I just wasn’t satisfied spending most of my time with patients while they’re asleep. I changed to a community health RN to MSN track even though I pretty much had to start over. I love my new job in the health department so it was very much worth it.”
Whatever advanced track you are most interested in, whether it’s management, education, or the clinical specialties such as nurse practitioner or nurse midwife, try to spend some time shadowing a nurse working in that position. You’ll get a better idea of what advanced practice role is best for you.
Count the Cost
One of the main disadvantages of a pure bridge program (ie that doesn’t confer a BSN halfway through) is that a pure bridge is usually not considered an undergraduate degrees granting programs and so you won’t be available for federal and state financial aid for the degree. Check with the programs you’re interested in to see if their paperwork designates a BSN granting program in the interim.
If you’re working currently working as a nurse, you may be able be eligible for tuition reimbursement from your institution, but make sure you check out the fine print. Some programs come with a stipulation that you stay with the institution for a certain time after graduation or pay back the money they gave you to go to school.
In an uncertain economy, a specific time commitment may seem more like a promise than a requirement, but this can also cause unintended consequences as well. For example, if you’re working a staff nurse on a med/surg floor for two years after your graduate with your family nurse practitioner, your skills might get rusty. Because of this, you might want to check if your institution ever hires advanced practice new grads, so you can work within your new role while still completing your required years of employment.
One of the biggest challenges nurses in RN to MSN programs report is the difficulty of working clinical rotations into an already tight schedule. For example, a staff nurse who works 7 am-7 pm might struggle to find a clinical rotation in a nurse practitioner program that doesn’t take place during the daytime hours when primary care clinics are usually open.
Before you select a program, it’s important to ask about the availability of clinical rotations outside the 9-5 weekday hours if you don’t have any of these hours available. If none of the programs in your area have any flexibility, or if it simply isn’t practical (for example, in a nursing administration program) you might need to consider a change to more weekend or even (alas) night shifts.
Leah Strock, a New York based family nurse practitioner working in an NIH HIV prevention study, explained how she juggled her clinical time during her RN to MSN process: “I decided I needed to be prepared to have no life, if you are committed to school you’ll spend a lot of time studying and working and there is no leisure time at all.” She then adds “Of course, it was the best thing I ever did, I got people breaking down my doors for a job, every week I get a phone call, ‘Hi we’re looking for an FNP’ ”
★ Featured Online RN to MSN Programs
Additional Online RN to MSN Programs
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- MSN - RN-to-MSN Nursing Leadership and Administration (CCNE-accredited)
- MSN - RN-to-MSN Nurse Education (CCNE-accredited)
- MSN - RN-to-MSN Diabetes Nursing (CCNE-accredited)
- View All Online Programs >>
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