The demand for qualified nurse practitioners is quickly increasing in almost every field, and is expected to increase even more in the future—while hospitals require their employees to have advanced degrees. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree in nursing are receiving good salaries as they enter the field, but a master’s degree opens up opportunities to make more money and advance in their field. This is one of many reasons why a BSN to MSN degree is a popular option for nurses looking to advance their education and career potential.
What Degree Can You Get After a Bachelor’s In Nursing (BSN)?
A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) can lead to several graduate degree options. You could choose to earn a Master’s of Public Health or Health Administration, which would prepare you to work in research, management, or consulting. Earning a Master’s in Business Administration, or MBA, in addition to a nursing degree, would equip you with the skills you need to get involved in government health care policy or financial management for organizations.
Why Get a Master’s In Nursing (MSN) if I Already Have a BSN?
For most advanced nursing careers such as a nurse practitioner, a nurse midwife, or a nurse anesthetist—a master’s degree is mandatory. A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) typically allows you to specialize in a focus area such as research, education, practice, or administration and management.
A master’s degree in nursing has other benefits as well. A higher degree indicates experience and knowledge others may lack, which can lead to increased autonomy and flexibility at work as well as the potential for better jobs and pay.
A master’s degree also qualifies you to teach in a classroom or a lab and even prepares you to take your education even further by pursuing a doctorate degree.
What Can I Expect From a BSN to MSN Program?
A critical aspect of a BSN to MSN program is specialization. An MSN program concentrates on a specific practice, such as nursing theory, nursing practice, or even management. Coursework and classes revolve around this specialization to prepare you for a career in that field. Specialization options range from nurse education to gerontology, to orthopedics.
A BSN to MSN program includes more than just practical training—it also provides leadership and research opportunities. An MSN program prepares you for a medical career, which will teach you how to solve problems, communicate effectively, and conduct research.
How Long is the BSN to MSN Program?
Typically, MSN programs take two or three years to complete, depending on previous education and experience. However, some BSN to MSN programs can be completed in less time if enough credits can be transferred from your bachelor’s degree, especially if you enroll in an accelerated BSN to MSN program. The accelerated BSN to MSN program takes about a year to complete since most students in an accelerated program have a strong medical background.
How to Get an MSN from a BSN
To get an MSN, you will need to attend an accredited school that offers a program in your desired specialization. Some schools have programs that allow students who are registered nurses to earn their BSN and MSN simultaneously. Though each school has slightly different credit and application requirements, they do have some qualifications in common, including:
- Undergraduate GPA (at least 3.0)
- GRE score
- Prerequisite courses
- Academic references
- Complete application questions, which may include a personal statement
- Resume or curriculum vitae
- License or substantial experience
It is possible to get an MSN from a bachelor’s degree in another field. It would, however, require either some basic medical courses or licensure requirements (e.g., becoming a registered nurse) to make sure students are qualified to earn a graduate degree.
Types of BSN to MSN Programs
There are several ways to obtain an MSN degree. Each has its advantages, depending on a student’s personal circumstances and criteria:
- On-campus BSN to MSN: A master’s program that takes place on a college campus includes hands-on experience, coursework through labs and on-site clinicals, and provides access to professors and other helpful campus resources.
- Online BSN to MSN: For online programs, the course work may be a little more challenging, but most or all of it is completed online. Students have more flexibility, so they can maintain a job or rearrange their schedule as necessary while completing their degree. Minimal on-site class time is necessary. Many schools don’t require any time on campus, but there is a clinical requirement that must occur in person.
- Accelerated BSN to MSN: If you already have a nursing background (e.g., you’re a registered nurse or you have your BSN), accelerated programs are a good way for you to get started quickly on the higher-level courses and enter the workforce faster. They usually take about a year to complete, in contrast to a typical two-year master’s program.
How Much Money Do You Make with a BSN vs. an MSN?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $64,000 per year, while some nurses with master’s degrees earn an average of $86,000 per year.
Benefits of a BSN to MSN
Students with an MSN are more prepared to adapt their research and practice to current data, and know how to work their way through more challenging circumstances they will face in their career.
An MSN degree also increases job opportunities for nurses. In fact, graduates of an MSN degree program have a higher chance of getting a job after graduation than those who just have a BSN. In 2011, the job offer rate for BSN graduates was 56 percent and 74 percent for MSN graduates. The career opportunities available to MSN graduates also typically lead to better pay.
Nursing Career Paths for MSN Degree Holders
Because master’s programs involve specialization, many career opportunities are available to graduates with an MSN in a variety of fields. An MSN degree also provides greater opportunities for an advanced nursing career in a field that most interests you.
Popular specialty areas with an MSN degree include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Clinical practice
- Nurse anesthetist
- Nurse consultant
- Medical administrator
- Nurse educator
- Neonatal care
- Family care
Cost of a BSN to MSN Degree
On-campus and online MSN programs have different pros and cons, but the cost is a big factor for many students. A traditional on-site school can cost up to $98,000, which includes tuition, school and lab fees, and books. It may cost more than this if you need to find housing near the university.
Online programs typically cost lower than on-campus ones. The cost of an online MSN program ranges between $35,000 and $60,000 for tuition and fees, but may not include a lab fee, since you will complete the clinical at a different location. Getting a master’s degree is an investment, but the higher pay rates for master’s degree graduates will help pay off the investment in the long run.
Want to Go Beyond an MSN Degree?
Getting an MSN can act as a stepping stone in pursuing a doctorate in nursing, of which there are two types:
Doctorate in Nursing Practice: A practical degree, enables you to conduct research and apply it in your practice.
Doctorate in Nursing in Science: Allows you to conduct research and share it with others in the nursing field, or possibly be taught in university nursing programs.
Is a BSN to MSN Program Right for You?
While there are many advantages to enrolling in a BSN to MSN program, it is not for everyone. Programs can be expensive and can take a few years to complete. Here are a few aspects to consider before you apply or enroll:
- Program cost: Think about how much you can afford. Usually, in-state programs are cheaper than out-of-state. Also, will you need to apply for financial assistance?
- Your personal career goals or desires: Is a master’s degree necessary for your chosen field? Should you choose a school that offers an appropriate specialization track?
- Program length: Will you finish in two or three years or enroll in an accelerated program?
- Daily time commitment: Will you have to sacrifice time at your job or with your family and friends for school?
- Which school to attend: Do you prefer an on-campus or online program? Also, consider the school’s accreditation, location, and accelerated program availability.