Becoming a nurse, according to many, is a calling rather than a career choice. Most people know exactly what sort of nursing career they want to be involved in and plan accordingly. They usually start with a BSN degree, which allows them to become a registered nurse (RN). And since it is usually advisable to have a commitment towards professional education, it would be logical to go on towards a MSN degree, and perhaps even a Ph.D. eventually.
It is vital to reiterate that being a nurse is a calling rather than a career. Schools should make it abundantly clear that there are many benefits to achieving an MSN. However, they should do this in such a way that you feel valued as a student and that you know you will receive all the necessary support to complete your degree.
It is very important that you choose a school and program that fully suits your needs. In order to find out whether a school and program are right for you or not, you have to ask the right questions. Let’s take a look at the most important questions you should ask to get to know more about an MSN program.
#1 – How Can I Tell If My School Is Accredited?
Accreditation is incredibly important. If your MSN program is not accredited, you will not be able to become licensed to practice in your chosen area of practice. The accrediting bodies for MSN programs are the CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education) and the ACEN (Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing). Some schools will list their accreditation as NLNAC (National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission), which is the old name of the ACEN. Your chosen school should list their accreditation, and you can check this by contacting the CCNE or ACEN.
#2 – Can I Study Online?
More and more nursing programs, and MSN programs in particular, are offered fully or partially online. This allows you to work and study at the same time. These programs do tend to take slightly longer than full time, classroom-based studies, but they do allow you to meet your other personal and professional responsibilities while you are undergoing your studies. If you wish to study online, you need to find out whether your chosen school offers this kind of programs. Additionally, you will need to find out whether the entire degree is offered online (sometimes, some classroom attendance is required) and whether it is fully flexible or whether you will need to attend virtual lectures at set times.
#3 – How Much Does the Program Cost?
College education is certainly not cheap, and more so with graduate studies. Hence, you will need to find out how much you will have to spend to earn your MSN degree. Many universities have different fees for in state and out of state students. Additionally, they often offer discounts for those who are in the armed forces. Don’t let the cost of the tuition put you off, however, as there are also many scholarships, grants and bursaries available for those who want to obtain an MSN.
#4 – Is Financial Assistance Available?
As stated above, there are numerous scholarships and bursaries available for students wishing to take part in a MSN program. Many of these are independent and have certain requirements (such as gender, ethnicity or membership of certain professional bodies) of their students. However, good schools will also be able to point you in the direction of the scholarships and grants that are most suitable to your needs.
#5 – What Are the Program Requirements?
Different schools will have different requirements of those who enrol in their MSN programs. Generally, however, students have to already hold a BSN and be a registered nurse (RN), having practiced for at least one year. Their license must be current and valid. Furthermore, most schools will require an average GPA or between 2.5 and 3.5, GRE scores, passing a statistics course, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, transcripts and an interview. There are some programs that allow students who have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree or even no formal nursing education to take part in their programs. In these cases, however, the study pathway tends to be slightly longer, starting with an accelerated BSN program that leads to RN licensure, after which students will take part in the MSN.
After getting your MSN degree if you want to further your education, the next step is a doctorate degree. Not all schools offer this degree. Remember that you are under no obligation to complete your doctorate at the same school as the one where you took your MSN. However, if you already know that you want to study on towards your doctorate, it can be useful to choose a school that offers this program and will support you towards achieving it.