Nurse Practitioner MSN vs. DNP vs. BSN

by NurseJournal Staff
• 2 min read

Those who follow the ambition to become a professional registered nurse are able to choose from different paths which lead to their ideal career. Learn More ...

Those who follow the ambition to become a professional registered nurse are able to choose from different paths which lead to their ideal career. Whether they graduate through an associate’s degree program, a hospital run nursing program, or another masters’ degree, registered nurses are steadily finding that they are able to advance their careers and achieve greater success through a course of further education.

Nursing specialties such as hospice care, neonatal critical care, and critical care nursing, as well as other leadership positions in health care such as management and administration, will typically require at least a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) degree, or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. Some healthcare experts are even suggesting that all nurses should be trained at the bachelor’s level at least, and be required to earn their master’s MSN degree within ten years of becoming licensed.

What Is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree?

A BSN degree usually takes four years to complete, although there are some locations that will offer students the ability to take part in an accelerated program based on previous experience and education that they may already have. Typically, these programs will feature relatively flexible course schedules, as they are created to assist nurses who are already working when it comes to continuing and improving their education, while still maintaining their work schedules.

Most BSN programs will be designed to provide nurses with the broad range of knowledge required for nursing positions at entry levels, and they will place graduates in a position where they will feel capable of moving on to advanced studies. Usually, they cover all of the coursework which may be found within an associate degree program, while also including in-depth information about social and physical sciences, as well as courses in nursing management, research, public health and humanities.

These courses generally come with a focus on critical thinking, so as to teach students how to best make informed decisions about caring for their patients.

What Is a Master Of Science in Nursing Degree?

A master of science in nursing degree, or MSN, is an advanced post-graduate level degree for registered nurses. These programs typically last for two years, and can be accessed by students that already hold a BSN degree. Some MSN programs will offer entry to students who hold bachelor degrees related to health. Participants in a MSN degree program will first cover basic nursing training so that they can become licensed registered nurses, before they progress to earn a master’s degree.

MSN degree programs generally focus on a particular, specialized area of nursing, such as, acute care, adult care, family care, geriatrics, palliative care, pediatric care, psychiatric, obstetrics and gynecological nursing. Those taking part in an MSN program may also go onto study clinical nurse leadership, nursing administration, or clinical nurse education. The coursework involved will typically include a focus on advanced nursing theory, as well as management issues, research, social and physical sciences, clinical practice and nursing informatics.

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What Is a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree?

The term ‘DNP’ stands for doctor of nursing practice, and most educational DNP programs will begin by assessing the critical skills needed to translate care based on evidence into practice-based care. The aim is to improve the systems of health care that we currently have, and measure the outcomes by looking at groups of communities, populations, and patients.

A DNP is a professional degree which generally focuses on the clinical aspects of a disease process. Usually, a curriculum for a DNP will include a focus on advanced practice, as well as consider information regarding the areas of diagnoses and appropriate treatment for various types of diseases. The DNP degree is usually recommended as a way to prepare an already registered nurse to become independent and offer primary care.

This degree will typically build upon the education and experience that advanced and master’s degree-prepared nurses already have. Whereas a PhD is a research doctorate, a DNP is a practice doctorate. Where a graduate of a PhD program may be expected to conduct independent research and explain their findings, DNP graduates will use that research to influence the nursing practice that they provide. See salary outlook for the DNP degree holders.

Most of the time, a DNP will be intended to act as a degree alongside another health care doctorate such as medicine, dentistry or psychology. Primary practice roles in nursing that someone who holds a DNP degree may apply for include such areas as: nurse practitioner, certified nurse midwife and certified registered nurse anesthetist. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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