Master of Science in Nursing: Online Degree

Essential Information

Many schools offer online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs with a variety of specializations. These programs are open to licensed registered nurses with bachelor's degrees. Coursework can be completed entirely online, but it is important to note that these programs generally have extensive practicum requirements, which the student can complete at a healthcare facility that is convenient to them. The length of time to complete the program varies, depending on whether the student is full- or part-time, but some schools set a maximum length of five years to earn a degree.

In order to apply, prospective students must have a bachelor's degree and an nursing license. They must also submit MAT or GRE scores. Nurses who have completed an MSN program can apply for certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. The center offers certifications in a large number of specializations. Qualifications may include education, experience, and passing a certification exam.

Master of Science in Nursing

In this program, you will develop an advanced level of clinical competence and establish a research base for systematic review, testing, and evaluation of policy change effects. You will also hone the ability to identify, understand and analyze ethical issues and become accountable for your own actions in practice - and acquire experience in professional role development.

There are many specialization options from which to choose in an MSN program, including family nurse practitioner, nurse educator or psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner.


A valid nursing license is often required for admission to an online MSN program. Other requirements may include an acceptable score on the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) or Graduate Record Exam (GRE).

An online MSN degree program is designed to accommodate the schedules of working nurses. The programs generally allow nurses to take online courses at their convenience and complete required practicums in the healthcare facilities where they work, if possible, or near their homes. Some schools allow students to interact through online discussion boards.

Course Topics

Coursework in an online Masters of Science in Nursing degree program may include:

  • Advanced Health Assessment
  • Theoretical/Conceptual Foundations of Nursing
  • Current Healthcare Issues
  • Healthcare Principles and Methods
  • Curriculum Development and Evaluation
  • Nursing Management
  • Marketing
  • Healthcare Epidemiology/Infection Control
  • Leadership and Ethics

Over the course of an online MSN program, experienced nurses can expect to take general courses designed to improve and expand their skills in the field, and they can also choose electives in a particular area of interested. Because the distance learning format offers considerable scheduling flexibility, they can continue to practice while earning this degree.

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