Nursing is the largest field of health care professionals in our country. As such, there is a huge variety of master’s degrees in nursing available, as well as a variety of degree paths. The U.S. Department of Labor has estimated that 59% of all registered nurses are employed in hospitals. However, it is almost impossible to list the range of specialization and functions they have. They do anything from supervising staff to inserting an IV line. If you are considering a master’s degree in nursing but you don’t know which specialization to opt for, you should think about the type of care you want to deliver, where you want to work, whether there is a special condition or body part you are interested in and whether you want to work with a specific kind of person. There are many combined career paths as well, such as pediatric acute care.
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
When you take part in an MSN program, you will become specialized in one of many different areas. Some students also choose to combine their degree, so that they become specialists in a certain area as well as having a focus on things such as hospital administration or public health.
Generally speaking, an MSN takes around 24 months to complete. They require full dedication from their students as you will be studying advanced courses. The majority of programs now require a project or thesis to complete. However, more and more programs are available 100% online as well.
One of the greatest benefits of following an MSN program is that many employers offer reimbursements for tuition fees (there are also scholarship programs). However, this is only possible if you are already employed. This will also mean that only the online programs will be suitable to you as it is unlikely that your employer will also allow you to go to school at the same time.
If you do not have the online possibility or an employer that is willing to pay for your course, investing in it yourself could still be a viable option. This is because the advanced skills you will pick up will allow you to work in far more settings. Naturally, this means your salary will be higher as well. Finally, once you have completed your MSN, you could consider studying towards your doctorate degree, which will open up further career opportunities and even greater salaries.
There are also a number of options available. Registered Nurses (RNs), for instance, can take part in an RN-to-MSN program. There are also direct entry MSN programs, which are incredibly intensive. During your first year, you will work towards your BSN and register as an RN, after which you will immediately continue on to your MSN in the second year. Again, many of these courses are available online.
Types of Masters Degrees in Nursing
Because there is such an increase in demand for nurses, the scope of nursing degrees has been adjusted as well. Now, the needs of aspiring nurses are met much better than they were before. As such, MSN programs are now often known as bridge programs and can also be offered in an accelerated way. This is done by transferring credit units from previous and continuous education to the master’s degree, thereby shortening the length of time required to complete the program itself. There are four common MSN programs available through the various schools across our country. These are:
1 – RN to MSN Programs
These are designed for nurses who are already RNs and want to become more advanced in their knowledge. The length of time needed to complete this program depends on how many credits the student will be able to transfer. However, it usually takes around four years to complete. It is important to understand that only RNs with a BSN are able to take part in these programs.
2 – BSN to MSN Programs
These are basic and fundamental programs for all nurses that want to complete their MSN in an accelerated way. Indeed, it is possible to complete these programs in just two years or even less if sufficient credits can be transferred. However, those who have a BSN in a non-nursing field will generally take much longer, which can be up to three years.
3 – ADN to MSN Programs
Those who have an ADN can now directly go on to earn an MSN. Hence, the ADN to MSN program is actually a program that goes from ADN to BSN and continues immediately on to the MSN. The first part of the program (ADN to BSN) will generally take two years, with a further three to four years for the second part of the program (BSN to MSN).
4 – ASN to MSN Programs
As with the ADN to MSN program, the ASN will also have to study towards their BSN first, which takes around two years to complete, before being able to study on towards their MSN, which will take a further two years on average.
Finally, it is important to understand that choosing to go for your MSN is only the first part of the journey towards your further education. Choosing your specialty is the most complicated part, as there are so many options to choose from. There are a number of schools who offer the general Master of Science in Nursing, but the majority will expect you to choose a specialization as well. There are many different options out there, but the eight most popular ones are:
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
- Clinical Nurse Specialist