Whether you’re already practicing in the nursing field or are looking to kickstart your career in nursing, one thing you’ll want to consider is pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). For nurses who are already working in the field, an MSN can open up new doors of opportunity and yield additional income. Meanwhile, those who are just beginning to explore potential nursing degree options should be aware of the value of an MSN degree—whether you decide to pursue it off the bat or return to a graduate program down the road.

So, what exactly is an MSN, and what does this degree entail? What are the benefits of having an MSN when compared to some other types of nursing degrees? We’re diving into this and more so you can make a more confident and informed choice regarding your future career.

Understanding the Benefits of an MSN

Specifically, a Master of Science in Nursing is a specialized graduate-level degree program that is available to current registered nurses (RNs) or those who have already completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Compared to a BSN alone, having an MSN offers a number of benefits.

More Advanced Nursing Specializations

For starters, having an MSN degree qualifies you for a number of jobs and opportunities for career advancement that may not be available to you with a BSN alone. Some examples of nursing specializations or certifications that you may be able to pursue with an MSN include:

  • Nurse Anesthetist
  • Nurse Administrator
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Educator
  • Mental Health Nurse

Likewise, having an MSN degree under your belt can qualify you for more leadership roles

Higher Salaries for MSN Degree Holders

With additional career opportunities and other possibilities for advancement, having an MSN also opens up the doors for a higher salary. In fact, the median salary for a registered nurse with a BSN is around $75,000 annually, compared to about $118,000 per year for an advanced practice nurse with an MSN. If you’re looking for a way to earn more money while working in nursing, then getting your MSN is a smart way to do just that.

Differences Between BSN and MSN Degrees

Considering an MSN at some point in your educational journey? If so, then you’ll need to understand some key differences between a BSN and an MSN to help you make your decision.

Required Licensure and Prerequisites for MSN Programs

Because it is an advanced degree, getting into an MSN program requires a little more in the way of qualifications and previous licensure. While each school may differ slightly in its admission requirements for an MSN, some will insist that applicants have a previous undergraduate degree. Ideally, this will be a BSN degree—as this type of degree will set students up for success in an MSN program. 

Some programs, on the other hand, don’t require a previous undergraduate degree but will require applicants to have an RN license. Having a few years of hands-on clinical experience working in healthcare is also a bonus but not always a requirement. Ultimately, you’ll need to check with the specific school/program for which you’re applying to determine their requirements in terms of previous degrees, experience, and licensure. 

Some graduate programs also require applicants to have taken the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), so this is worth looking into as well.

Cost and Tuition of MSN Programs

The cost of an MSN can also vary depending on the specific school and program with which you enroll. On average, however, an MSN will cost around $36,000 when all is said and done. Pricing will also vary depending on whether you’re paying in-state or out-of-state tuition.

Despite the high costs of obtaining an MSN, there are some ways to help make your schooling more affordable. If you already have your RN license, you can work your way through school and potentially set up a payment plan with your school directly. Likewise, there are grants and Federal/private loans available to help you finance your education. Remember that when you complete your MSN and begin working in the field, you can be making an average of $118,000 annually—which is a comfortable enough salary for many nurses to pay off their loans.

Types of MSN Degree Programs

Considering an MSN? There are a few different program types worth looking into, each differing in terms of its admission requirements and structure.

Direct-Entry MSN Programs

This type of MSN program is designed for those who already have an undergraduate degree but not in a nursing-related field. A direct-entry MSN program is best suited for those who are looking to make a career change and wish to get into nursing for the first time, offering foundational courses for those who may not have a healthcare background.

BSN-to-MSN Programs

For those who already hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), a BSN-to-MSN program is a great option that can expedite the process of obtaining a graduate degree. With this type of program, a BSN graduate can segue seamlessly into an MSN and complete it in as little as one or two years. 

RN-to-MSN Programs

For those who don’t already have a BSN but have obtained their RN licenses, an RN-to-MSN program may be the best option. This type of program offers a flexible curriculum that allows you to draw on your own experience in the healthcare field to complete your MSN in as little time as possible.

Dual MSN Programs

If you’re feeling ambitious, a dual MSN program allows you to complete a traditional MSN in addition to another Master of Science degree program. Many who go this route, for example, choose to combine their MSN with an MBA so they can eventually start their own nursing practices. This is a great way to earn two degrees at once, which can set you apart from the competition in the job market and provide you with additional skills.

Find the Right MSN Program for Your Career Goals

Ultimately, the MSN program that’s best for you will depend on a few factors—including your long-term career goals. If you have aspirations to someday open your own nursing or healthcare practice, then a dual MSN program that also allows you to study business can empower you to do just that. On the other hand, if there’s a certain area of nursing that you want to focus on (such as mental health, midwifery, or education), then you’ll want to find an MSN program that will allow you to pursue those specific interests.

MSN Degree FAQs

Still have questions about obtaining an MSN degree? Explore some of our most commonly asked questions about MSN programs (along with answers) below!

What Kind of Jobs Can You Get With an MSN Degree?

One of the best things about having an MSN is that it opens up so many job opportunities. No matter where your interests lie, there’s sure to be a job out there for you once you have your MSN. Some of the most in-demand jobs that are available to those with MSNs include patient care nurse, family nurse practitioner, gerontology nurse, and mental health nurse. 

Is MSN Accreditation Important? 

Yes, it is extremely important to enroll in a school and program that has been accredited if you’re pursuing your MSN. Not only does choosing an accredited program make it easier for you to apply and qualify for financial aid opportunities, but completing an accredited program can also make it easier to land a job after you graduate. 

Specifically, nursing accreditation refers to a program that has met educational requirements set forth by a recognized accreditation body. Some of the most reputable accreditation bodies in the nursing field include:

  • The Commission on the Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA)
  • The National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (NLN CNEA)

If you’re enrolling in an MSN program that is accredited by one of these bodies, you can rest assured that you’ll be receiving a quality education and that you’ll be well prepared to work in the field.

Can You Pursue an MSN Degree Online?

Yes, online MSN programs are available and can be a convenient way to work towards your degree without having to attend classes on a physical campus. However, not all online MSN programs are created equal—which is why it’s so important to do your research and find one that’s right for you. Keep in mind that, depending on the type of program you choose, you may also be required to complete a certain number of clinical hours before you graduate. 

Advance Your Nursing Career With Salem University

Obtaining an MSN can be one of the best ways to make the most out of your nursing career. Whether you’re interested in working as a nurse educator, a nurse practitioner (NP), or any other specialization—the right MSN program can set you up for a lifetime of success in this rewarding and dynamic field.At Salem University, we’re proud to offer a 100% online MSN program that’s designed to help you build the confidence and expertise you need to thrive as a nurse administrator, nurse educator, and beyond. This program, which was designed by nurses and for nurses, can be completed in as little as 10 months and consists of 30 credits. If you already have a BSN degree and an RN license under your belt, you can get started in no time. Reach out to our team to request more information or start your online MSN application today!

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