Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): Degree Overview

Mar 26, 2021

Essential Information

In Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs, students learn about nursing law, nursing ethics, human resources, nursing curriculum development and healthcare business practices. They learn to improve their communication, creative problem-solving and decision-making skills. They train to be skilled nurses who can take command of situations, offer expert knowledge in specialty areas and provide primary care.

A variety of specializations are available in MSN programs, such as advanced practice psychiatric and mental health nurse, nurse educator, nurse practitioner and nurse administrator. Completion of a thesis is a common requirement.

Graduates of master's degree programs in nursing qualify to work as advanced practice nurses, providing healthcare to families and communities. They can also become educators in academic or healthcare settings. Most programs require a bachelor's degree and a current registered nurse license. Some programs also require interviews, a background in statistics and clinical work experience.

Master of Science in Nursing

A master's degree program in nursing provides classroom instruction coupled with nurse training in a clinical setting. Specialty tracks have particular courses unique to the type of study. Topics that students could examine include:

  • Nursing research
  • Nursing theory
  • Nursing education evaluation
  • Healthcare financial management
  • Legal and regulatory issues
  • Advanced practice nursing leadership

Popular Career Options

A master's degree in nursing opens up additional career options for registered nurses. Depending on their concentration, graduates from this program can find work in the following positions:

  • Nurse anesthetist
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Nurse midwife
  • Nursing director
  • Clinical nurse specialist

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Employment of advanced practice nurses is expected to increase by 45% between 2019 and 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also reported that the mean annual salary for a nurse practitioner was $111,840 as of May 2019, while nurse anesthetists earned a mean salary of $181,040 and nurse midwives made an average of $108,810 per year at that same time.

Continuing Education Information

Graduates of a master's program in nursing who are interested in research or teaching at the college level may go on to earn a PhD in Nursing, and those who would like to further their clinical practical expertise can pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). For someone who would like additional training in another specialty area without earning a doctorate, post-master's certificate programs are also available. Additionally, registered nurses are required by most states to complete a specified number of continuing education units every two years to maintain licensure.

Registered nurses who would like to advance their career into other nursing-related professions can apply to a Master's of Science in Nursing program. These programs offer a variety of specializations, including psychiatric nursing, nursing administration, midwifery and nursing education.

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