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Should I get my MSN or BSN ?

Nurse Beth   (162 Views 1 Comments)
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Advice Column) Writer Innovator Expert

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and works as a Nursing Professional Development Specialist.

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Dear Nurse Beth,

I have a Bachelor's in Social Work degree and worked in child welfare case management for about 10 years. In 2017 I was planning to enter a MSW program, but decided I was really more interested in the medical field and would love to eventually become a RN case manager. I have now completed prerequisites and am applying to nursing school. I am very torn between 2 programs: 

1) A concurrent enrollment program between our community college and a university. Spend 2 years doing the ADN program and online theory work through the university, awarded an ADN, can sit for the NCLEX and begin working bedside. Continue online theory work for 1.5 years and earn a traditional (not entry-level) MSN with a concentration of one's choosing (public health, education, leadership, informatics). This is also NOT a MSN program which allows you to become an APRN. Total cost for ADN and MSN portions is just under 30k. 

2) A traditional BSN program. Takes 2.5 years to complete program, then taking the NCLEX and begin bedside. Total cost is just over 20k. 

Over the course of my studies so far, I began to think about possibly earning a NP license at some point. I have checked my local university's DNP program requirements and an RN can enter the program with a BSN degree, no MSN is required. 

I wonder what you would recommend? My inclination is to go for the MSN program because if I do need the MSN for case management positions or for other career advancement opportunities, this seems like the most cost-effective way to have that degree. My concern is continuing school during my first 1.5 years of bedside nursing. I understand the learning curve that first year entails, I experienced it in social work as well. Plus, if a BSN is an acceptable degree for case management positions, I may rather save that extra 10k in school costs. Either way, I do plan on 3-5 years of bedside nursing before pursuing other opportunities or returning to school in order to be confident in my clinical skills.

I am applying to both programs, so perhaps the choice will be made for me if I only get into one of them! But in case I were to be accepted to both, which would you recommend?

Dear  BSN vs MSN,

They are both good options and your plan to do 3-5 yrs of bedside nursing is really smart. 

The advantage of the traditional BSN route is that you can focus on your nursing practice during your first year. You are right, the learning curve is very steep, and you owe it to yourself to devote your first year to learning how to be a nurse. There's a big gap between nursing school and nursing practice. Nursing school is more like a cookbook with recipes, but without the actual cooking. 

A BSN is perfectly acceptable for case management positions, and in 3-5 years you will have a better idea of your next step. You may decide to go for your NP, or you may still be interested in case management, or you may be drawn to a speciality you haven't even considered yet. 

Best of luck to you, congrats on completing your pre-reqs, and keep your options open.

Best wishes, 

Nurse Beth

Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

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