Earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree nursing is sufficient for many entry level positions, but if you’re serious about a taking your nursing career to the next level you should probably consider furthering your education with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). An MSN degree will provide you with the background, skills and intricate knowledge of nursing science and patient care required to deliver high-quality care in specialized areas, such as advanced clinical training or research. Best of all an MSN degree will qualify you for a variety of new career possibilities.
Nurses who have earned an MSN degree are called advanced practice nurses (APNs). Advanced practice nurses today deliver health care services and treatments that were previously delivered only by medical doctors. The advanced practice services provided by APNs usually fall into one of the following areas:
- Nurse Practitioner (NP)
- Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
- Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
- Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM)
The Master’s of Science in Nursing Program
The typical Master of Science in Nursing degree program takes 1 to 2 years to complete. Nursing professionals who have specific career goals may combine their MSN, via a joint degree program, with a master’s level education in business administration, healthcare administration or public health.
The majority of MSN programs have the following prerequisites:
- You must be a licensed RN
- You most possess a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited school
- You must have earned a minimum GPA and/or GRE score
- You must have sufficient experience
Types of MSN Degree Programs
There are four types of Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees. These include the following:
- RN to MSN – This program is designed for RNs who have already earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and want to earn their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. The RN-to-MSN degree program allows RNs to apply credit earned during their BSN program towards their MSN degree. RN-to-MSN classes and course are typically tailored to meet the specific needs of the student.
- Direct Entry MSN – The Direct Entry MSN program is designed for professionals who have earned a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field and want to make a career change into nursing. The Direct Entry MSN offers students credit for having completed liberal arts requirements via another non-nursing degree program. The Direct Entry MSN is somewhat accelerated and usually takes three years to complete. During the first year of the program, students take entry-level nursing courses that focus on the basics of nursing science and patient care. The last two years of study are devoted to preparing the student for licensure as an RN and providing them with specialized training in a specific area of nursing.
- Post-Master’s Certificate – This certificate programs is designed for registered nurses who have already earned an MSN degree but want to add to their specialized education with an additional credential. This program helps nurses gain specialized training in specific areas of nursing and can lead to additional career advancement opportunities.
- Post-Certificate Master’s – Today most states and employers are requiring that advanced practice nurses have a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. However, it hasn’t always been that way. In the past, nurses could become an advanced practice nurse with only a bachelor’s degree and hands-on training. The Post-Certificate Master’s is an accelerated MSN program designed to help practicing Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA’s), Certified Nurse Practitioners (CNP’s) and Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNM’s) who don’t have an MSN to earn their MSN in the shortest amount of time possible. This program allows advanced practice nurses to apply credit toward their MSN degree based on previous education and experience.
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