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Which Master's Degree??


I am currently in an ADN program. I already have a B.S. in Biology with minors in math and chemistry. I plan on applying to an online ADN-MSN program that I can complete while working as an RN at the hospital.

My dilemma is that I'm not sure which M.S.N degree to apply for! I know that I don't want to be a advanced practice nurse in the clinical setting. My goal is to go into management/administration. Here are the specialties of the progams I am looking at:

- Informatics

- Education

- Clinical Nurse Leader

- Nursing leadership/management

I really love the idea of informatics. But would this degree be limiting? I live in a rural area of the country to it is important to me to have a degree that would allow me to work in many different roles/positions. I am afraid that the informatics track would overly limit me even though I find it really interesting. The education track also has some interesting classes to take, but I know I don't want to work at the local community or tech college. Is there anything else you could do with a M.S.N. focusing on education? Would the leadership/management type specialty M.S.N. degree make the most sense and allow me the broadest opportunities?

Unlike generalist, pre-licensure nursing degrees (ADN or BSN), a Master's in Nursing pretty much locks you into a particular role and career path. I would encourage you to spend some time in nursing, and get a clear sense of what you want to do in your nursing career, where you want to go professionally, before you commit to a graduate program. Any MSN program is going to require a fair amount of time, effort, and $$$; you might as well spend some time "up front" making sure you'll be getting a degree (and career path) that you actually want. I've known a number of people who rushed into graduate school (or entered nursing via a "direct-entry" MSN program) only to find out after they completed the degree that they don't like doing what the degree prepared them to do. Now, they've got a degree and professional role they don't want, the loans to pay for it, and they're trying to figure out what they do want to do and what degree they need to get in order to do that (and how to pay for it ...) Not a happy place to be.

Best wishes for your journey!

elkpark, thanks for your input! Yes, I have thought about waiting, but I have several circumstances that have made me want to pursue the M.S.N right away. These include family situation, financial availability, and a work history that includes working in many different settings. I have worked as a CNA in LTC and at a hospital, worked in food service, worked as a laborer in several fields, worked with childcare, and worked in many capacities in the office environment and in a managerial role.

While I understand that nursing is a broad field with many different directions, I do sincerely believe that I know at this point what I do like to do and don't like to do. I know I thrive where I can be a leader and manager. I know that I love the clinical setting and working with people, but I like working in the office setting more.

Therefore, I would like some input on what people think you can do with each of these degrees so I know which one I should investigate further.

llg, PhD, RN

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 44 years experience.

I totally agree with Elkpark on this one and think that the wise move is to at least "get your feet wet" in nursing before you make an additional investment in your education. I agree for all the reasons she listed. In addition, the transition from student to professional nurse is a particularly difficult. If you haven't already done so, read the many threads here on allnurses about new grad nurses struggling to succeed in the work environment. Don't complicate that already precarious transition by trying to go to grad school at the same time -- or try to skip that necessary step in your career development by trying to enter the workforce at a higher level. Finally, because the transition from student to professional is necessary for success in the workplace -- no good employer will hire you in as a nursing manager if you have never practiced as a nurse -- even if you do have an MSN.

So you may as well take a little time to successfully navigate that transition and establish yourself as a professional nurse before you gamble on a graduate education that may be of little use to you in the future. It doesn't have to be a long time -- just enough to make that transition and for you to solidify the types of roles you want for the long-term.

If you are sure that you want to be a manager/administrator -- then that's the route you should go. Just know that you will need to work as a staff nurse for a while before any good employer will hire you as a manager. And if you are going to have to "put in that time" anyway -- you may as well do it upfront by getting a job as a new grad and letting your employer help you pay for school.

The CNL role is another very real possibility -- and the one I would choose if I were a new grad today. If that option is available to you, I believe it offers you the greatest flexibility later. While it is not designed as a management role, it does include preperation for a wide variety of leadership activities. And many facilities would be willing to hire a CNL in a unit management role. If you then wanted to climb the administrative ladder, you could add certification in Nursing Administration or take a few more courses to get a 2nd MSN or get a DNP if you wanted to be a Nurse Exective -- lots of possibilities.

Another thing you could do with either an MSN in Nursing Education (or as a CNL) is Staff Development. Staff Development jobs are often nice ones with reasonably good pay and scheduling and offering a nice blend of "office work" and clinical involvement. You might want to look into the specialty of Nursing Professional Development. But again, just like as it would be with Nursing Management/Administration, it would be unlikely that you could get a job in that field without having some work experience as a staff nurse.

Good luck to you, whatever you decide.

HouTx, BSN, MSN, EdD

Specializes in Critical Care, Education. Has 35 years experience.

Just adding a bit more confusion to the mix - there's an emerging new MSN in Quality and Safety. This is a very 'hot' career field, that incorporates analytics and measurement along with principles of organizational development and a smattering of organizational/industrial psychology. I know a couple of people with this degree who were recruited prior to graduation - and one whose employer paid for her Q&S MSN in return for a work commitment.


Specializes in Outpatient Psychiatry.

If you like the office setting, have experience in it, and the desire to get back into it then I think administration is the best way to go for you. A lot of nurses really shy away from administrative activities, however, it's unlikely you'll jump into the upper echelon of nursing administration with minimal time spent as a nurse. Nursing is very committed to making other nurses "do their time" although I'm not saying that's a good ideology. To me, the CNL and Edu degrees are doable by anyone, and there are numerous workshops one can attend to learn about instructional methods. I was voluntold to a two week instructional workshop in the early 2000s in a different career that provided the "need to know" from an adult educted M.Ed. degree.

Informatics is probably limiting in a lot of ways. If you like that sort of thing then get an IT degree. I've yet to meet an "informatics nurse" with any formal training in the field. Most were RNs from the floor somewhere that were sent to their EHR's corporate training and returned to wreak havoc among the computer science trained IT guys, lol.

I spent a few years pondering going back to school and like yourself, I was confused about the advantages of each type of specialty. I personally interviewed a few who had their masters specifically about the decision to do so and why they chose the specific emphasis. It was all over the map and didn't seem to correlate directly with the roll they were holding at the time. For example, one nurse has a MS in education and has worked as a nurse manager and then an ADNP. There is a trend in my institution to hire managers with an MBA with or without clinical experience! So..you are wise to take some time to consider where your passion lies. If you are sure it is in leadership/management, then go that route. I am currently in a Masters of Nursing Science and Health Care Leadership program that is broad and covers all the areas you are considering. This was the best fit for me because it develops leadership in all areas, but explores education, public policy, informatics, public health and research. I hope this helps in some way!

akanini, MSN, RN

Has 13 years experience.

Check out Excelsior College MSN. You will go straight into their program with no BSN needed. This is what I chose and I'm glad I did. You sound like you would be a great fit in their Clinical Systems or Education track.