RNs who want to boost their salary potential often start looking at online nursing masters programs as a next career step. But there are several specializations for MSN degrees – bridge degrees and dual degrees for example – that you need to look at carefully in order to make the right choice. Here’s a guide to the key factors to consider in choosing your nursing masters degree program:
- Requirements to apply for a masters degree in nursing
- Specialized types of MSN degrees
- What degree you need to be a Nurse Practitioner
- RN to MSN “bridge” degrees
Nursing is seen as a rapidly growing specialty by many analysts. According to government statistics (BLS.gov), the job growth outlook for registered nurses between now and 2024 will be 16% — much higher than average for U.S. careers. That’s largely due to our aging society, which is creating steadily increased demand for nursing services.
Employment growth for “advanced” practice nurses such as nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, gerontology nurses and nurse practitioners is expected to be even greater – 31% by 2024 (BLS.gov).
Advanced care or administrative nurses generally need to have an MSN degree or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree (read more here about rising expectations that nurses have graduate degrees to get hired). Here are some key nursing career statistics by specialty:
|Nursing Job||Median Salary||Jobs U.S.||Growth Thru 2024|
|Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Practitioners & Nurse Midwives||$107,460||170,400||31%|
|LPNs and Licensed Vocational Nurses||$44,090||719,900||16%|
|Nursing Assistants & Orderlies||$26,590||1,545,200||17%|
Requirements to Apply to Online Nursing Masters Programs
Nurses who want to move into advanced practice or nursing administration generally get a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree. To qualify for this type of postgraduate degree, you generally need to have completed an undergraduate degree in nursing or a field that relates to nursing. In some cases, it’s possible to be admitted to a master’s program in nursing if you are in the process of getting your undergrad nursing degree.
Master degree nursing programs and doctorate degrees are available in many specialties. Here are some schools offering advanced degrees in this field:
MSN Nursing – Leadership & Management
MSN Nursing – Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Master of Science in Nursing – Informatics
Master of Science in Nursing – Leadership & Management
View more Walden degree programs
MS Nursing – Public Health
DNP Doctor of Nursing Practice
MS Nursing – Leadership Health Care Systems, Bridge Degree
MS Nursing – Nursing Education
MS Nursing – Health Care Informatics
Doctor of Nursing Practice – Educational Leadership
View more Grand Canyon degree programs
Specialized Types of MSN Degrees
A masters of science in nursing can potentially help you get into a more cutting-edge nursing specialty like informatics or help you start a new career as a nurse administrator or nurse educator where you’ll perform less “hands on” nursing work.
The most widely recognized types MSN degrees are:
Acute Care Nursing
Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
Nurse Leadership / Administration
Masters in Nursing Education programs
Family Nurse Practitioner
Psychiatric & Mental Health
Nurse Practitioners: A Changing Degree Picture
Nurse practitioners sprung up during the 1960’s, to provide medical care in places where there were no doctors. Since then, it’s become one of the most desirable specialties in nursing, with a quality work environment and generally good salaries.
It was once possible to be a nurse practitioner with only an MSN degree. But that has changed as states have moved to regulate the higher level tasks NPs provide, which can include prescribing drugs. Many states now have a requirement that you must have a DNP or Doctor of Nursing degree to work as a nurse practitioner (though some nurse practitioners who have been in the field for years can still be “grandfathered in” with only an MSN degree).
To enroll in a DNP degree program, you need to have completed a master’s degree in nursing. A few specializations are available on DNP degrees:
- Nurse Practitioner (NP)
- Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
- Nurse Midwifery & Women’s Health (read this interview with a nurse midwife discussing her career)
Nursing “Bridge” Degrees
RN to MSN degrees are for RNs who have not yet completed a nursing bachelor degree program, but who would like to find the quickest path possible to a advanced nursing.
Acceptance requirements vary a great deal from one school to another for RN to MSN Programs. Most schools offering the degree will insist that you have at least two years field experience in nursing and at least an associate’s degree. Other degree programs are designed for nurses who have a bachelor degree in an non-nursing specialty.
An RN to MSN degree can help the RN enter the same fields as any other MSN holder (These programs are also sometimes called simply “BSN to Masters in Nursing” online degrees). Career options can include becoming a nurse practitioner, nurse educator, nurse manager or nurse midwife. More on RN to MSN bridge programs here