Registered nurses with a prior degree in nursing (diploma, associate, or bachelor's) may advance to graduate studies to earn an MSN degree. Graduate studies allow registered nurses to become advanced practitioners and specialize in distinct areas. Several colleges and universities also offer RN to MSN bridge or completion graduate programs, either on a part-time or full-time basis. Students may find convenient scheduling through evening, weekend or online courses depending on the program and specialty.
Participants can expect varying lengths of the program, and overall length is dependent on the number of prerequisite courses a learner needs for the masters of science degree. Most programs require 30-50 semester hours to complete the general education and nursing course requirements. In addition to classroom theory courses, practical application in a hospital or healthcare setting, or through a project or internship may be required depending on the nursing specialty.
Registered Nurse to Master of Science in Nursing Degree
The educational prerequisites for an RN to MSN program differ between schools. Some programs are intended for nurses who hold a non-nursing baccalaureate degree and can be taken in an accelerated format. Others require nurses that have completed either a diploma or associate degree program in nursing. All schools require applicants to be registered nurses, though work experience prerequisites vary.
Students enrolled in an RN to MSN program study various nursing courses and topics which include:
- Health assessment techniques
- Nursing and professional practice
- Research in nursing
- Advanced pathophysiology
- Clinical theory
- Adult primary care
Following graduation, nurses with a master's degree are employed in a variety of specialty areas. Some specialty careers available to MSN graduates are:
- Clinical nurse specialist
- Nursing educator
- Nurse administrator
- Nurse informatics specialist
- Nurse researcher
Employment Outlook and Salary
Registered nurses are constantly in demand at hospitals, clinics and nursing care facilities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that RNs could expect to see a 12% increase in job opportunities from 2018-2028. A median annual salary of $71,730 was also reported by the BLS in May 2018, with less than 10% of registered nurses earning $50,800 or less annually, while the upper 10% of nurses earned $106,530 or more per year.
Registered nurses who earn a master's degree in the field can elect to continue their education with a doctoral program, such as a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nursing or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Recent legislative changes now require nurse practitioners to be educated at a doctoral level. Such programs are designed to create nurse scientists and clinicians who advance nursing practice through research and application. Many nurses are required to demonstrate continuing education either through additional degree completion or specific educational programs to maintain licensure. Nurses should check with their specific state board of nursing for these requirements.
RN to MSN programs afford nurses the opportunity to advance their degree preparation, as well as study and practice in numerous specialties within the nursing field. Graduates are equipped with the technical skills and knowledge that can improve their job prospects.