Prospective students considering a career in nursing need to earn a degree in nursing from an accredited institution, obtain licensure, and complete a residency. By earning a dual degree in nursing online, you can increase your professional marketability and earning potential, obtain higher positions, and occupy leadership roles in healthcare facilities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that nursing careers will grow 15% from 2016-2026. Registered nurses (RNs) earn a median salary of $70,000 per year, while nurses specializing in niche fields can bring in higher salaries.
How Do Dual Degree Nursing Programs Work?
Dual degrees in nursing require twice the coursework and are, therefore, considered more academically rigorous. While curricula include blended coursework in nursing and your other chosen field, these classes often require additional credit hours, assignments, and examinations. To this end, dual-degree programs generally take longer to complete. Students earning their dual degrees online may have the option of accelerating their completion times, but on average, these programs last longer than standard nursing degrees.
Can You Complete a Dual Degree Nursing Program Online?
Most online nursing programs offer clinical and lab opportunities to in-state distance learners with flexible hours that fit their schedule. Students attending school out of state may complete their clinical or internship experience through online laboratory simulations. Finally, some online schools boast agreements with colleges in other states, allowing distance learners from around the country to complete clinical requirements at participating schools.
Types of Dual Degree Programs
MSN/MBA Dual Degree
Earning an MSN/MBA dual degree typically consists of three years of study and results in both an MBA and an MS in nursing. In this program, students may seek skills in clinical nursing with a background in business, or they may desire a career in healthcare management and/or consulting. Classwork parallels that of students seeking individualized degrees in business or nursing.
- Admission Requirements: While specific admission requirements vary from school to school, applicants looking to enter an MSN/MBA program need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Applicants must hold an RN license. Many schools require applicants to submit GRE/GMAT test scores and meet minimum GPA requirements.
- Time to Complete: Most students graduate within three years. Some schools may offer part-time enrollment, and many offer accelerated programs to individuals looking to enter the workforce as soon as possible. Other factors that may impact degree completion include clinical hours and additional degree concentrations.
- Credits Required: 54-65 credit
- Core Courses: Leadership in healthcare facilities, accounting for management control, advanced financial management, and legal financial management
- Job Opportunities for Graduates: Director of compliance, chief nursing officer, and director of care management
MSN/MHA Dual Degree
A dual MSN/MHA equips graduates with a master’s degree in nursing and healthcare administration. This degree provides specialized training in leadership, operations, financial management, organizational behavior, law, and ethics of healthcare policies. An MSN represents one of the best degrees for expert-level, patient-centered care, while an MHA accommodates those looking to advance administrative practices in healthcare. Graduates of a dual MSN/MHA are prepared for administrative roles in any healthcare facility.
- Admission Requirements: To apply to any MSN/MHA dual degree program, students must possess an up-to-date RN license and meet any undergraduate GPA requirements, which, along with prior work experience, vary from school to school. Some schools may accept applications from students with a bachelor’s degree in areas other than healthcare/nursing, but most institutions seek students with several years of experience in nursing. GMAT/GRE test scores are not usually required for admission.
- Time to Complete: The duration of an online degree differs among institutions. While each school offers some variance in course load and credit requirements, the fundamental curriculum remains the same. Most students enrolled full time graduate within three years. Online learning allows the flexibility to enroll part time, with many schools also offering the opportunity for students to accelerate their degree.
- Credits Required: 50-65 credits
- Core Courses: Operations management, leadership development, ethics in healthcare services, economics in healthcare, marketing.
- Job Opportunities for Graduates: Hospital administrator, director of hospital administration, clinical nurse manager, and advanced hospitalist.
MSN/MPH Dual Degree
An MSN/MPH dual degree targets those who desire an MS in nursing and a master in public health. This degree covers advanced topics in clinical nursing, nursing theory, and healthcare services for low- and high-risk populations. Graduates develop healthcare service plans for public and private sectors and learn advanced management for careers as directors of public healthcare facilities and programs.
- Admission Requirements: To apply, students must possess a current license as an RN and a bachelor’s degree in any field, though many schools prefer undergraduate coursework in healthcare/nursing. Minimum GPA and test score requirements vary, but most institutions require an average GPA of 3.0 for undergraduate study. GMAT/GRE scores are not typically required for admission, but some schools weigh these scores in exchange for a low GPA.
- Time to Complete: Students can complete most MSN/MPH degrees within two to three years. Students who opt for part-time enrollment may graduate in as many as five to six years. Online programs in an accelerated format allow students to earn their degrees quickly.
- Credits Required: 54-65 credits
- Core Courses: Philosophical, theoretical, and ethical nursing basics; healthcare for advanced practice nursing; program development and evaluation in healthcare; population-based public nursing; and the research process of evidence-based practice.
- Job Opportunities for Graduates: Public health nurse, public health educator, disaster specialist, managed care administrator, health services analyst, and public health scientist.
MSN/MPA Dual Degree
Graduates with an MSN/MPA earn a master’s degree in nursing and a master’s in public administration. This dual degree nursing program online targets nurses who want to manage a nonprofit or public organization related to nursing and healthcare. Students learn how to implement and manage government programs and how to drive institutional change. Coursework typically includes classes in nonprofit finance, human resources, law, ethics, and communication.
- Admission Requirements: Applicants must be currently licensed as registered nurses. Some programs accept applications from students with a two-year degree, but most schools require a minimum of a bachelor’s. Students with an undergraduate degree in an area other than nursing need to submit work experience in healthcare as part of his or her application. Typically, a minimum GPA of 3.0 is required for admission to any MSN/MPA degree, but schools may waive GPA requirements for students with enough professional experience or high test scores.
- Time to Complete: Most students graduate with their MSN/MPA dual degree within three years. Online programs allow enrollment flexibility by offering part-time and accelerated class formats. Distance learners enrolled in an accelerated program may graduate in as few as two years. Students who opt for a concentration need to complete additional credit hours and will likely graduate in more than three years.
- Credits Required: 50-65 credits
- Core Courses: Advanced nursing research, economic analysis and public policy, policy analysis, health politics and policy making, health promotion and disease prevention.
- Job Opportunities for Graduates: Development officer, financial officer, hospital administrator, nonprofit director.
Should I Pursue a Dual Degree in Nursing?
Students looking to earn an online dual degree in nursing must complete relevant undergraduate coursework and obtain licensure as an RN. Graduates with a dual degree in nursing and administration can advance their career prospects by learning multiple sides of the healthcare industry. While completing an online dual degree nursing program, many students continue to work while preparing to take on leadership roles immediately upon graduating — increasing both their job prospects and salary potential. Graduate coursework, while rigorous, prepares students for leadership roles in the healthcare industry.