If you want to broaden your knowledge base and develop the practical skills needed to lead in nursing, you may be interested in an earning a Master’s of Science in Nursing degree. Don’t yet have your bachelor’s degree in nursing? RN to MSN degree programs provide registered nurses who hold a diploma or associate’s degree in nursing a faster route to a master’s degree.
Master’s of Nursing degree programs usually take two years to complete. RN to MSN degree programs, however, may require students to complete additional bachelor’s-level classes before moving on to the MSN coursework. If you have an associate’s degree in nursing, plan on completing the program and earning your degree in two and half to three years of full-time study. If you need to take a lighter course load because of work and/or family duties, the RN to MSN program may take three or more years to complete as a part-time student.
Some factors to consider when evaluating the time frame of an online RN to MSN degree program:
- How many credits are required for graduation?
- How many credit hours can you commit to each semester?
- Does the program accept transfer credits? How many?
- How many clinical hours are required to graduate?
RN to MSN bridge programs include a mix of bachelor’s- and master’s-level nursing courses. After general education and pre-requisite course requirements are satisfied, you will begin the foundations and core courses for the Master’s of Science in Nursing. Curriculum varies by program and specialization, but some of the topics you can expect to study may include:
- Foundational concepts of professional nursing
- Leadership and role development of the Advanced Practice Nurse
- Nursing research and evidence-based practice
- Advanced health assessment and diagnostic reasoning
- Pharmacology and the role of the nurse in drug therapy
- Epidemiology and population-based nursing
In addition to coursework, RN to MSN programs may also have a clinical practicum component that provides students with opportunities to synthesize theory, practice and evidence in real-world nursing situations. There may also be one or more mandatory on-campus immersion events that are designed to provide hands-on training experiences and development opportunities.
Specializations and focus areas
Depending on your practice interests and professional nursing career goals, you may be able to choose a specialized track for your Master’s of Nursing degree. Some of the available RN to MSN specializations may include:
- Forensic Nursing
- Nursing Informatics
- Nursing Administration and Management
- Nursing Education
- Public Health
- Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)
- Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-ACNP)
In addition to these specializations, RN to MSN programs may also offer students the opportunity to focus on a particular area of advanced nursing practice. These practice areas can help you treat specific populations, including families, women and the elderly. RN to MSN focuses may include:
RN to MSN admission requirements vary by program. General requirements may include:
- Associate’s Degree of Nursing or a Nursing Diploma from an accredited institution
- Current, active and unrestricted RN license
- A satisfactory GRE, GMAT or MCAT score
- Letters of professional reference
MSN degree means higher pay and more opportunities
In 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics examined select health care occupations in which workers with a master’s degree earned a premium over workers with a bachelor’s degree. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for master’s-level registered nurses was $12,000 higher than the median annual wage for BSN nurses.
Mescape’s 2016 RN/LPN Salary Report also found significant differences in RN earnings by educational degree. Nurses with a bachelor’s degree reported an average salary of $79,000; master’s degree nurses reported an average salary of $86,000. In other words, going from a BSN to MSN, the average salary for RNs increases by nine percent.
A master’s degree may also provide you with opportunities for higher-paying nursing roles. According to the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses (AORN), ““Those with higher-paying jobs, especially the directors, are less likely to have only a diploma or associate degree and are more likely than staff nurses to have a master’s degree in nursing.”
This is possibly the most important question to ask if you’re considering your first online class. Although it sounds ideal to have the flexibility to study and attend class from almost anywhere, some programs may be more engaging than others. Depending on the type of student you are, programs that offer a rich human component (live-streaming classes and group projects, for example) may feel more engaging and may even help motivate you to stay on top of your studies.
Ask yourself these questions if you are considering enrolling in your first online class:
- Do I have the proper technology, fast-speed internet, up-to-date software and hardware?
- Can I commit to the study time necessary, about 10 hours weekly per class?
- Can I work independently to meet the program requirements?
- Will I get the same satisfaction collaborating with my peers in an online discussion group?
If you’ve answered yes to most of the questions, then online education may be a good fit for you. Want to learn more about college costs or degree program requirements? Read on to learn more.
RN to MSN Careers & Salaries
Learn more about RN to MSN careers, job outlook, salaries & education requirements.