10 Best Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs in 2024

Discover the best MSN programs available in 2024, along with detailed information about their prerequisites, requirements, costs, salary expectations after graduation, and more. Programs

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For nursing professionals looking to take their careers to the next level, undertaking a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program may be the key to success. With advanced education and training in various specializations, the opportunities for career advancement are numerous.

What Is a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)?

An MSN is a graduate-level nursing degree program designed for nursing professionals or individuals with a non-nursing bachelor's degree who wish to advance their careers in the nursing profession. However, specific pathways are followed for those without any nursing background. These programs are often known as "Direct Entry" or "Accelerated MSN" programs.

MSNs provide nurses with advanced education and training in theory, research, evidence-based clinical practice, leadership, and management in the healthcare setting. 

The duration of an MSN program generally ranges from 18 to 36 months to complete; variations in program length will depend on various factors, including an individual's level of previous education and nursing experience before starting. Nursing professionals pursuing an MSN can specialize in various areas, including advanced nursing practice, nursing leadership, nursing education, or nursing informatics. 

After completing an MSN, RNs can pursue clinical nursing roles as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), such as nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, or nurse midwives. Alternatively, post-MSN graduates can opt for non-clinical roles in nursing education, healthcare administration, informatics, or research.

By obtaining an MSN, nursing professionals have the opportunity for career advancement, allowing them to positively impact healthcare outcomes for patients and communities through higher education. 

MSN Coursework

Coursework in MSN programs typically includes:

  • Advanced Practice Nursing: Courses focusing on specialized areas such as family practice, pediatrics, or acute care.
  • Healthcare Policy and Ethics: Study of healthcare laws, policies, and ethical decision-making in nursing.
  • Research Methods: Training in research design, statistics, and evidence-based practice.
  • Leadership and Management: Courses on leadership theories, healthcare management, and organizational behavior.
  • Pathophysiology: Advanced study of disease processes and their impact on the human body.
  • Pharmacology: In-depth understanding of drug therapy, interactions, and administration.
  • Health Assessment: Advanced techniques in comprehensive patient assessment.
  • Nursing Informatics: Integration of nursing science with information management and analytical sciences.
  • Specialty Electives: Depending on the chosen specialty, courses may include mental health, gerontology, or community health nursing.

MSN Clinical Training

Clinical training in MSN programs includes:

  • Specialized Clinical Rotations: Hands-on experience in specific areas of advanced nursing practice, such as acute care, family health, or psychiatric care.
  • Advanced Patient Care: Training in complex patient care scenarios, including diagnosis, treatment planning, and management.
  • Leadership Practicum: Opportunities to develop leadership skills in clinical settings, often involving project management or team leadership roles.
  • Research Application: Implementing research findings in clinical practice to improve patient outcomes.
  • Healthcare Systems Management: Practical experience in managing healthcare systems, quality improvement, and patient safety.
  • Community Health Engagement: Involvement in community health initiatives, health promotion, and disease prevention programs.
  • Interprofessional Collaboration: Working with a diverse team of healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive patient care.
  • Clinical Ethics: Application of ethical principles in real-world clinical situations.
  • Capstone Project: A culminating clinical project that synthesizes learned skills and knowledge in a practical, real-world healthcare setting.

MSN Prerequisites and Requirements

Eligibility requirements for MSN programs will vary depending on the graduate school, MSN specialty pathway chosen, and prior level of education. 

For RNs ready to advance their nursing careers, the standard prerequisites of entry to an MSN program will include:

  • Active RN License in good standing
  • Transcripts from accredited ADN or BSN programs
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0
  • 1-3 Letters of recommendation
  • Responses to essay questions or equivalent writing projects
  • RN experience of 3 to 5 years
  • Graduation Record Examinations 
  • Interview to enter the program

Take note that the listed prerequisites are offered as a general guide. If you are interested in a master's program, verify its prerequisites: minimum GPA, RN experience, and GRE requirements will vary at different nursing schools. Most MSN programs are designed for bachelor degree degree-prepared nurses. Programs for ADN RNs will be less widely available. 

Non-nurses may also be eligible for MSN degree programs, although they may need additional coursework before entry. An ADN nurse may also need to complete some required coursework to qualify for an MSN program:

  • Anatomy and Physiology I & II
  • Microbiology with lab
  • Nutrition
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Statistics
  • Sociology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • General Chemistry

The specific courses required may vary depending on the university, the program, and the individual's prior level of education. 

MSN Program Pathways, Curriculum, and Roles

The pathway to earning an MSN will also vary based on an individual's prior education level before applying to a program. Despite the belief that a BSN or nursing experience is required, some universities offer pathways for associate's degree-prepared nurses and professionals with a non-nursing bachelor's degree. 

Entry-Level Master's Degree: Designed and tailored for non-nurses with a bachelor's or graduate degree in a field other than nursing. The MSN program involves completing baccalaureate-level coursework, and students will obtain RN licensure during the first year of study. The typical duration to complete is 2-3 years. 

ADN-RN to Master's Degree: Intended for nurses with an associate's degree, this MSN program was developed to build in missing baccalaureate-level content. Admission requirements will vary by institution, previous coursework, and nursing experience. The typical duration to complete is 2-3 years.

BSN-RN to Master's Degree: Of all the pathways, the BSN to MSN is the most traditional program for nurses pursuing an MSN and career advancement. This master's program will enable graduate nurses to narrow their learning to a specialty area. Program requirements will vary depending on your chosen institution and specialty concentration. The typical duration to complete is 18-24 months.

Dual Master's Degree: Nurses also have the option to choose dual MSN programs that will provide an in-depth concentration in a related field of study. There are over 120 dual master's degrees available nationwide that combine nursing with business, public health, health administration, and other areas. 

MSN-Graduate Career Pathways

Clinical APRN MSN Roles: 

Non-Clinical MSN Roles: 

10 Best MSN Programs in 2024

The following schools have been selected based on allnurses' methodology of surveying our readers to understand what they value most while selecting schools, with the addition of graduation rates, student-faculty ratio, price, mode, duration, and admission rates of hundreds of the most prominent nursing schools in the United States.

1. Western Governors University

Western Governors University has one of the best and most affordable online MSN programs, offering a competency-based master's program for ADN and BSN nurses. Unlike traditional master's programs, students can start their courses at any time of the year and progress at their own pace. The competency-based approach allows for an individualized learning experience, with students advancing once they have demonstrated mastery through coursework. 

The cost of the MSN program with WGU will vary depending upon multiple factors, primarily the ability to move through coursework at an individualized rate—the faster you complete the program, the less you will pay. Tuition is based on a six-month term flat rate, and the price scale will vary for MSN APRN options and RN to MSN programs.  

  • Price: $4,755 - $6,625 flat rate per six-month term, covers unlimited courses per term 
  • Mode: Online 
  • Duration: BSN to MSN (2 years); RN to MSN (42 months)
  • Admission Rate: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 89-99%
  • Post-Graduation Employment Rate: 78%
  • Student-Faculty Ratio: 42:1
  • Accreditation: CCNE

BSN to MSN non-clinical specialty options: Leadership and management and nursing informatics.

  • 2 years average completion with a total cost of $4,795 (per 6-month term)
  • Courses to complete: 15  

BSN to MSN APRN specialty options: Family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. 

  • 2.5 years average completion with a tuition of $6,625 (per 6-month term)
  • Courses to Complete: 17 plus clinical requirements

Residents of the following states are not eligible for the NP programs at WGU due to clinical and state requirements: Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin.

RN to MSN (bridge program) specialty options: Nursing Education, leadership and management, nursing informatics. 

  • 42 months or less average to completion
  • $4,685 (per 6-month term) undergraduate RN to MSN
  • $4,795 (per 6-month term) graduate BSN to MSN
  • Courses to complete: 31-32
  • Credits: transfer up to 90

2. Troy University 

Troy University offers an affordable online MSN program for baccalaureate-prepared nurses, with flexible scheduling options based on 16-week semesters. Full-time students can complete the program in as little as two years, whereas part-time students have up to five years to finish. In 2021, the MSN family nurse practitioner program had a certification exam pass rate of 98%. To graduate with a master's degree, students must complete 47 credit hours and 705 clinical practice hours. While the program is mainly online, students may need to visit the Alabama campus up to five times. 

  • Price: $475 per credit hour; $27,810 estimated total 
  • Mode: Online and On-campus
  • Duration: 2 years
  • Admission Rate: 92%
  • Graduation Rate: 44.6%
  • Accreditation: ACEN  

BSN to MSN non-clinical specialty options: Healthcare informatics and nurse leadership.

BSN to MSN APRN specialty options: Family nurse practitioner (FNP).

3. The University of Alabama

The online master's degree program offered by the University of Alabama is another online program that stands out for its affordability and flexibility. Created for BSN-prepared nurses, prospective students can choose from nurse administrator or nurse practitioner concentrations and can study full-time or part-time. All MSN pathways at the University of Alabama require a minimum of 540 clinical hours per specialty to graduate.

  • Price: $440 per credit hour
  • Mode: Online
  • Duration: 1 to 2.5 years
  • Admission Rate: 80%
  • Graduation Rate: 72%
  • Post-Graduation Employment Rate: 93%
  • Student-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
  • Accreditation: CCNE 

BSN to MSN non-clinical specialty options: Nurse administrator. 

  • Takes an average of 1 to 2 years to complete.
  • 33-39 credit hours are required to graduate program.

BSN to MSN APRN specialty options: Family nurse practitioner (FNP), psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, and dual psychiatric mental health family nurse practitioner. 

  • Takes an average of 1.5 to 2.5 years.
  • 45-51 credit hours are required to graduate program.

To be eligible for the online NP pathways, you must be a resident of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, or Virginia. 

RN to MSN specialty options: RN to BSN program with a pathway to MSN. 

4. Fort Hays State University

Fort Hays State University is another institution with an affordable and flexible MSN program for BSN-prepared RNs. With fully online courses, Fort Hays operates on a 16-week semester and requires 36 credits to graduate from their master of nursing programs. One option lacking with this university is the ability to advance as an APRN. 

  • Price: $319.45 per credit hour
  • Mode: Online
  • Duration: 2 years
  • Admission Rate: 91%
  • Graduation Rate: 57%
  • Post-Graduation Employment Rate: 94%
  • Student-Faculty Ratio: 16:1
  • Accreditation: CCNE

MSN Non-Clinical Specialty Options: Nursing administration or nursing education.

Does not accept applications for nursing programs from residents in the following states: Alabama, California, Colorado, Tennessee, and Utah. 

5. Johns Hopkins University 

Johns Hopkins University is an industry leader in graduate-level nursing degrees. The MSN program offered by Johns Hopkins is designed for BSN-prepared RNs who aspire to enter healthcare leadership or those holding a non-nursing bachelor's degree and want to take a direct entry pathway into nursing. 

Full-time and part-time schedules are available for online coursework. To graduate from the MSN leadership program, nursing students must complete 35 credits and 504 clinical hours.  

Although it is a high-cost school, Johns Hopkins University is a well-respected and prestigious institution known for its excellence in nursing education. 

Students who have a non-nursing degree:

  • Price: $1,881 per credit  
  • Mode: In-Person, Full-time
  • Duration: 5 semesters

RN students:

  • Price:$1,881 per credit 
  • Mode: Online
  • Duration: Full or Part-time

Other details:

  • Admission Rate: 7%
  • Graduation Rate: 95%
  • Student-Faculty Ratio: 6:1
  • Accreditation: CCNE

BSN to MSN non-clinical specialty options: Healthcare organizational leadership or MSN healthcare organizational leadership/MBA dual degree. 

BSN to MSN APRN specialty options: Obtaining an APRN at Johns Hopkins requires going through their DNP program. 

MSN entry into nursing: Non-nursing bachelor's degree holders can take the courses to obtain an RN license and then continue MSN coursework. 

6. University of South Carolina

The University of South Carolina's MSN program is a noteworthy online program that offers a range of concentrations for BSN to MSN students. The program is designed to be flexible, allowing students to balance their education with their work and personal commitments. With its strong curriculum and focus on hands-on experience, the University of South Carolina's MSN program is an excellent choice for nurses looking to advance their careers in a variety of settings. 

  • Price: $572.25 per credit hour (part-time resident); $6,867 per semester(full-time)
  • Mode: Online
  • Duration: 14 semester (4.5 years)
  • Admission Rate: 64%
  • Graduation Rate: 78%
  • Accreditation: CCNE

BSN to MSN non-clinical specialty options: Healthcare leadership, nursing Education, and nursing informatics. 

  • Takes an average of 1-2 years to complete.

BSN to MSN APRN specialty options: Adult-Gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

  • Takes an average of 1.5 to 2.5 years.
  • 46-47 credit hours and 604-672 clinical practice hours are required to graduate program.
  • On-campus immersion for APRN courses may be required.

MSN Entry into Nursing: For non-nursing professionals with a bachelor's degree who want to become nurses, requiring 70 credit hours and 784 clinical hours to complete.   

7. Maryville University of Saint Louis

Maryville University's MSN program is tailored to the needs of future advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and is highly flexible and convenient, with online courses available around the clock. The program concentrates on five APRN specialties and requires 41 to 50 credit hours for completion. 

  • Price: $838 per credit hour
  • Mode: Online
  • Duration: 2 years
  • Admission Rate: 95%
  • Graduation Rate: 57%
  • Post-Graduation Employment Rate: 98%
  • Student-Faculty Ratio: 13:1
  • Accreditation: CCNE

BSN to MSN APRN specialty options: Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

8. New York University

New York University's Rory Meyers College of Nursing offers exceptional graduate degree nursing education through its MSN programs, explicitly designed for baccalaureate-prepared nurses. The programs prepare nurses for advanced clinical nursing practice and non-clinical MSN roles. To graduate from the MSN program at NYU, nursing students will need to obtain 33 to 51 credits depending on the specialty of concentration. 

  • Price: $1,983 per credit hour  
  • Mode: Hybrid
  • Duration: 2 to 4 years
  • Admission Rate: 59%
  • Graduation Rate: 88%
  • Post-Graduation Employment Rate: 91%
  • Student-Faculty Ratio: 4:1
  • Accreditation: CCNE

BSN to MSN non-clinical specialty options: Clinical research nursing, nursing administration, nursing education, and nursing informatics. 

BSN to MSN APRN specialty options: Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner primary care, pediatric nurse practitioner acute care, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, and nurse-midwifery.

9. Appalachian State University 

Appalachian State University's MSN program is for BSN nurses who aspire to become nurse educators. This part-time program can be completed with 39 credit hours online within two years – making it another excellent, affordable, and convenient program for nurses wishing to advance their degree. 

  • Price: $319 per credit hour (in-state, part-time)
  • Mode: Hybrid 
  • Duration: 2 Years
  • Admission Rate: 84%
  • Graduation Rate: 73%
  • Post-Graduation Employment Rate: 94%
  • Student-Faculty Ratio: 16:1
  • Accreditation: CCNE

No specialty concentrations are listed, but the program website recognizes their MSN graduates excel as nurse educators, health educators, and clinical nurse educators. 

10. The University of Texas Medical Branch

The University of Texas Medical Branch online MSN program is designed for BSN-prepared nurses who wish to expand into advanced practice nursing as APRNs or as nurse educators and leaders. The MSN program is designed to be flexible and convenient for working nursing professionals, allowing students to complete coursework entirely online, apart from orientation and the start of each semester. UTMB's MSN program offers various areas of concentration, each with different credit requirements ranging from 39 to 49 credits depending on the specialty chosen. 

The program tuition is calculated per credit per semester basis, including all one-time fees for the semester—thus, the price listed here may not accurately reflect the program's cost.

  • Price: $1,452.67 per credit hour (in-state) including fees; $1881.54 per credit hour (out-of-state) including fees
  • Mode: Online
  • Duration: 16 months
  • Admission Rate: 20%
  • Graduation Rate: 85.4%
  • Post-Graduation Employment Rate: 94%
  • Student-Faculty Ratio: 18:1
  • Accreditation: CCNE

BSN to MSN non-clinical specialty options: Clinical nurse leader, executive nurse leader, and nurse educator. 

BSN to MSN APRN specialty options: Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, and neonatal nurse practitioner.

MSN Program Costs

While the above program costs provide insights into tuition costs, below is a more comprehensive list of cost factors to consider when applying to MSN programs:

  • Tuition Fees: This is the primary expense, varying based on factors like the type of institution (public or private), program format (online or in-person), and residency status (in-state or out-of-state).
  • Textbooks, Supplies, and Technology Fees: Includes costs for textbooks, nursing supplies, specialized software, and additional fees for accessing online learning platforms and resources.
  • Lab and Clinical Rotation Expenses: Encompasses lab fees for practical components and costs related to clinical training, such as transportation, accommodation, and fees for clinical site usage.
  • Licensing, Certification, and Professional Memberships: Post-graduation certification exam fees, along with costs associated with joining professional nursing organizations for networking and resources.
  • Travel and Accommodation for On-Campus Requirements: For hybrid or on-campus programs, the cost of commuting, relocating, or staying near campus during intensive study periods.
  • Health Insurance and Immunizations: Some programs require students to maintain health insurance and have up-to-date immunizations, leading to additional expenses.
  • Miscellaneous Administrative Fees: This includes application fees, graduation fees, and other administrative costs associated with enrollment and program completion.
  • Opportunity Cost and Financial Aid Opportunities: The potential loss of income if reducing work hours or taking leave from employment, balanced against opportunities for financial aid, scholarships, and tuition assistance programs.

Financial Planning for MSN Programs

Navigating the financial aspect of MSN programs requires careful planning and exploration of various funding sources:

  • Assess Federal Aid: Start by applying for federal grants and loans early, as they can offer more favorable terms and rates.
  • Seek Scholarships: Look for scholarships from healthcare organizations and associations to potentially lower education expenses.
  • Utilize Work-Study: Consider work-study programs for additional financial support.
  • Understand Loans: Make sure to comprehend the terms of any loans, particularly federal ones, to benefit from the best repayment options.
  • Choose Wisely: Research the Most Affordable MSN Programs as a strategy to manage and minimize costs.

Effective financial planning involves a mix of timely applications for aid, strategic selection of programs, and a thorough understanding of all available resources.

Salary Expectations of an MSN in 2024

MSN graduates' salaries vary based on various factors, including degree specialty, geographical location, level of experience, and employer. While salaries may differ across specialties, a general breakdown of MSN salaries per specialty is available below.

Non-Clinical MSN Pay by Role

Clinical Nurse Leader

  • Mean Hourly: $43
  • Mean Annual: $89,949
  • Lowest 25% Hourly: $34.00
  • Lowest 25% Annual: $71,000

Nurse Administrator

  • Mean Hourly: $41
  • Mean Annual: $84,334
  • Lowest 25% Hourly: $33.00
  • Lowest 25% Annual: $68,000

Nurse Educator

  • Mean Hourly: $46
  • Mean Annual: $94,727
  • Lowest 25% Hourly: $38.00
  • Lowest 25% Annual: $78,500

Related: 10 Best DNP Programs in 2023

Clinical MSN Pay by Role — Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (ARPNs)

Nurse Practitioner

  • Mean Hourly: $69
  • Mean Annual: $142,481
  • Lowest 25% Hourly: $61.00
  • Lowest 25% Annual: $126,600

Clinical Nurse Specialist

  • Mean Hourly: $45
  • Mean Annual: $94,545
  • Lowest 25% Hourly: $34.00
  • Lowest 25% Annual: $71,000

Nurse Midwife

  • Mean Hourly: $55
  • Mean Annual: $113,401
  • Lowest 25% Hourly: $47.00
  • Lowest 25% Annual: $98,500

Are MSN Programs Worth It?

Determining whether an MSN program is worth it involves weighing its advantages and disadvantages.

Pros of MSN Programs

  1. Career Advancement: An MSN can open doors to advanced practice roles like Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Nurse Educator, or Nurse Administrator, offering greater career opportunities.
  2. Higher Earning Potential: Generally, nurses with an MSN degree have higher earning potential compared to those with a BSN or ADN, due to their advanced skills and qualifications.
  3. Specialization Opportunities: MSN programs offer the chance to specialize in areas like pediatrics, gerontology, family practice, or acute care, allowing for focused career paths in areas of interest.
  4. Leadership Roles: The degree prepares nurses for leadership and management positions, enabling them to influence healthcare practices and policies.
  5. Educational Fulfillment: Pursuing an MSN can be intellectually rewarding, offering personal and professional growth and the satisfaction of achieving a high level of academic and clinical expertise.

Cons of MSN Programs

  1. Cost: MSN programs can be expensive, considering tuition, books, fees, and potential loss of income if reducing work hours for study.
  2. Time Commitment: Balancing a demanding academic program with work and personal life can be challenging, especially for full-time working nurses.
  3. Stress and Burnout: The intensity of graduate-level coursework, combined with clinical hours and work responsibilities, can lead to stress and burnout.
  4. Market Saturation: In some areas, the market may be saturated with advanced practice nurses, making it competitive to find jobs in certain specializations.
  5. Return on Investment (ROI): The financial and time investment in an MSN program may take several years to recoup, and the ROI can vary depending on the geographical location and nursing specialty.

Ultimately, deciding whether an MSN program is worth it will depend on your personal and career goals.

Importance of MSN Program Accreditation

When selecting a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program, the accreditation status holds significant weight due to several crucial factors:

  • Quality Assurance: Accreditation confirms that an MSN program meets strict educational standards and undergoes regular quality checks.
  • Competency Development: Accredited MSN programs focus on advanced skills for modern healthcare challenges.
  • Research Integration: These programs include the latest research and innovations, preparing students for a cutting-edge healthcare environment.
  • Clinical Experience: Accredited programs require a set number of clinical hours for hands-on learning critical to nursing practice.
  • Licensure Readiness: Graduation from an accredited program is essential for certification and state licensure in nursing.
  • Employability: Graduates from accredited MSN programs are sought by employers for their high-quality education aligned with national standards.
  • Credit Transferability: Credits from accredited programs are more likely to be accepted for further education and transfer.
  • Professional Recognition: A degree from an accredited program enhances a nurse's reputation, signifying top-tier training.
  • Financial Aid Access: Accreditation is a prerequisite for federal financial aid, helping students fund their education.

When aiming for an MSN, choose a program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), or National League for Nursing Commission for Nursing Education (NLN CNEA) to ensure a solid foundation for future leadership and education roles in nursing.

MSN Scope of Practice, Certification, & Licensure

The scope of practice, certification, and licensure requirements for MSN graduates differ according to their chosen specialty and whether they pursue an APRN designation.

Key MSN APRN Organizations & Certifying Bodies:

State Board of Nursing regulations significantly influence the scope of practice and independence of APRNs. It's crucial for students pursuing an MSN degree to choose a program that aligns with the regulatory environment of their desired state of practice. Programs designed to prepare students for practice across various states offer significant flexibility, especially beneficial for those considering relocation, as not all programs provide such comprehensive preparation.

  • Certified Nurse Midwife: Explore practice parameters and state-specific guidance from the American College of Nurse-Midwives. For certification, consult the American Midwifery Certification Board.
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist: Gain insights into the practice scope and state-specific guidelines from the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists. For specialty certification, refer to the NACNS or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
  • Nurse Practitioners (NPs): Acquire state practice scope details from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Various NP Certification Boards, including the AANPCB and the ANCC, provide national certification for NPs.

The scope of practice for APRNs is defined by these organizations, with each state's board of nursing setting regulatory standards. Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Midwives often experience the scope of practice categorized into three levels: full, reduced, or restricted. National certification is typically a prerequisite for state APRN licensure and remains essential for all MSN APRN-level practitioners.

Key Considerations for Non-Clinical MSN Graduates:

Not all MSN graduates pursue clinical practice and thus may not be classified as APRNs, thus will not be required to obtain or hold an APRN license. As with any advanced nursing degree it will be a requirement to maintain and uphold a RN license. 

Non-clinical MSN graduates, often specializing in leadership or education, may need to validate their credentials by obtaining additional certifications:

  • Nurse Executives: Consider the Nurse Executive Certification (NE-BC) or the Nurse Executive Advanced Certification (NEA-BC) by the ANCC.
  • Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML): Offered by the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL), suitable for those in leadership positions.
  • Certified Nurse Educator (CNE): Offered by the National League for Nursing for those in educational roles.

Actionable Advice

MSN graduates should be well-acquainted with the certifications relevant to their specialization and necessary for their chosen career path. Being knowledgeable about these credentials is crucial for compliance with professional standards and state regulations, supporting a smooth transition from academia to professional life.

FAQ and Additional Readings

Q: Is getting an MSN degree worth it?

A: The worth of getting an MSN degree depends on individual career goals and personal circumstances. For nurses interested in advancing their careers and taking on leadership positions or becoming advanced practice nurses, an MSN degree can provide the necessary education and credentials. Obtaining an MSN can lead to higher salaries and job opportunities. However, it's essential to consider the cost of tuition, the amount of time and effort required to complete an MSN program, and the availability of jobs in your desired field and location. Ultimately, it's up to each individual to weigh the benefits and drawbacks to decide if pursuing an MSN degree aligns with personal and professional goals. 

MSN-prepared nursing roles are expected to grow rapidly in the coming years due to an aging population and healthcare needs. Nurses with their master's degree will be able to make patient care and healthcare systems safer. 

A great way to identify if a graduate-level nursing degree is for you is to find industry professionals and shadow them for a shift or two to see if the job aligns with your goals. Nurses working in the hospital can reach out to professionals in the positions they are considering to arrange shadowing opportunities.  

Q: What's the difference between an MSN and a DNP if I can get the same job after graduation?

A: While both MSN and DNP can lead to similar job opportunities, there are some differences between the two degrees. The main difference is that a doctorate-level nursing degree is the highest level degree a nurse can obtain. According to the CCNE, doctorate-level preparation is necessary for APRNs in hopes of making DNP the entry-level degree for APRNs by 2025. 

For students with a BSN, an MSN program typically takes two years to complete, whereas DNP programs typically take three to four years. While both degrees can lead to similar job opportunities, there may be differences in job responsibilities, salary, and career advancement opportunities. It is important for individuals to research and understand the specific requirements and benefits of each program before deciding. 

Q: Can I work while pursuing my MSN degree?

A: Many MSN programs allow nurses to work while obtaining their master's degree. Although, specific specialty programs or universities may require nursing students to complete courses on a full-time basis. It is best to evaluate this based on your preferred program and specialty concentrations.

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Editorial Team / Admin

Erin Lee has 12 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Critical Care, Procedural, Care Coordination, LNC.

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