Master’s Degree in Nursing: What The MSN Degree Is All About

Obtaining a Master’s Degree in Nursing is the logical move for registered nurses who want to expand their horizons, advance their careers, and be in the forefront of a health care environment that’s fast changing.

Overview of MSN Degree Specialties

With an MSN Degree, a practicing RN’s skills, knowledge, and techniques will be honed even further in preparation for giving high-quality patient care in specialized areas, taking over some functions that were previously administered only by physicians. Nurses who follow this path after completing their Master’s in Nursing are called Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs).

APNs can choose to be in any of four advanced specialty areas:

Nurse Practioner (NP). Nurse practitioners are qualified to both diagnose and prescribe treatment for a number of common acute and chronic illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes. They may also conduct physical examinations, order lab tests and x-rays and then interpret results, and perform immunizations. Nurse practitioners may run their own independent practice, or work in hospitals and nursing care facilities, or with health care agencies.

Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). As with a licensed anesthesiologist (MD), nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia to patients in a variety of surgical settings such as in hospital operating rooms, dental clinics, and outpatient surgical facilities. CRNAs closely monitor the patient before, during, and after surgery to ensure patient safety at all times.

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). Of all the advanced practice areas, the clinical nurse specialist has the most options on where his/her career can go. This is because the CNS can choose from a range of specialty care areas such as pediatrics, cardiac, neonatal, oncology, or cardio. The nurse specialist may also opt to be assigned in specific work environments whether it be in the emergency room, operating room, or critical care.

Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM). Having received special training in prenatal, gynecological, and postpartum care, the nurse midwife is qualified to deliver babies in hospitals, birthing clinics, and homes. A CNM plays a very active role throughout labor and delivery, and should be able to quickly recognize any indications that something out of normal conditions is taking place.

Other than the advanced specialty areas listed above, MSN degree holders can also pursue non-clinical nursing specialties. A nurse with a master’s level degree may opt to be a:

Health Care Administrator. Responsible mainly for the design and management of health care delivery systems, the job of a health care administrator requires some serious decision-making skills. It also involves indepth knowledge on more than a few management topics including strategic planning, health policy, organizational structure, and quality management.

Nurse Administrator or Nurse Manager.The nurse administrator is in charge of ensuring that quality care is delivered to the patient when and where needed. Adequate staffing and the proper implementation of patient care guidelines are among the main duties of the nurse manager.

Nurse Case Manager. Focusing on the delivery of high-quality and efficient patient care in the best manner, the nurse case manager oversees individual patients as their treatment plans are being carried out from one medical setting to another.

Nurse Educator. A nurse educator helps provide knowledge and training to new nurses and even those with higher degrees for them to be able to uphold the quality of care provided to patients. Nurse educators may serve as instructors at nursing colleges, consultants in the development of health care guidelines and policies, and as initiators of community awareness programs.

Admission Requirements and Master’s Curriculum

In most institutions, entry to a master’s degree in nursing program requires a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from a school accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission, and a registered nurse license. In addition, an applicant will also be asked for scores from the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or the Miller Analogies Test (MAT), letters of recommendation, college transcripts, and an essay, in some cases. Additional requirements may be needed from non-nurses and nurses with non-nursing degrees.

With complete focus on the master’s education, an MSN program can take about 18 to 24 months to complete. However, it’s also possible to study while working full time although in such cases, completing the master’s degree would take longer.

Types of Master’s in Nursing Programs

Depending on one’s current situation and educational background, there are different types of MSN degrees to choose from:

RN to MSN. A master’s program tailored for BSN graduates who intend to pursue a higher nursing degree immediately. In such programs, much credit is given to the BSN coursework previously completed.

Direct Entry MSN. Designed for non-nurses who hold degrees which are unrelated to nursing. While classified as masteral level program, the actual training would include basic nursing courses and preparation for RN licensure.

Post-Master’s Certificate. Professional certifications given by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) to nurses who already have their MSN degrees tucked under their belts, yet still want to further their credentials by excelling in a particular nursing area.

Post-Certificate Master’s. MSN programs designed for advanced practice nurses who already have their certification for specialty areas (whether as nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, or nurse midwives), but have not completed a formal master’s degree in nursing as yet.

Average Salaries and Career Outlook

Because of the specialized nature of their jobs, most MSN degree holders who become APNs also go on to enjoy much more financially rewarding nursing careers and a lot more options on where they would like to work. For nurse practitioners for instance, the average base salary as of 2009 was $84,250, and that of a full-time NP was $92,100. There were about 125,000 NPs employed for that year and a 23% growth is expected by year 2016.

As of 2008, the reported average salary for nurse anesthesiologists was $168,500, making them the highest paid nursing specialists. Currently, there are only about 28,000 practicing CRNAs across the country. Clinical nurse specialists on the other hand, earn an average annual income of $80,975. Just like the nursing profession in general, the demand for clinical nurse specialists is also expected to rise quickly in the next few years. For nurse-midwives, the pay is typically lower in the first four years of practice, ranging from $35,000 to $60,000. With experience however, the average income of CNMs will likely increase to about $70,000 or more annually.

For those who have the perseverance and the passion to excel in the nursing field, greater opportunities await. And the first step to achieving this is choosing the right Master’s Degree in Nursing.

Latest Posts...

An Overview of Nurse Practioner Programs and Other Advanced Degrees

Nurse Practitioner Programs

NP or nurse practioner programs are for registered nurses who would like to become advanced practice nurses or APNs. Other APNs include the CRNA, the CNS and the CNM. All of these nurses have earned master’s degreee, the difference has to do with [...]

Read the full article →

The Advantages of ADN to MSN Programs

MSN Nursing Programs

ADN to MSN programs may be the right choice if you have your associate’s degree and want to earn your master’s in the shortest period of time possible. Both full- and part-time courses are available from a variety of institutions. Full-time [...]

Read the full article →

All About DNP Programs

Doctoral Nursing Programs

Doctor of Nursing Practice or DNP programs provide the necessary education for executives in the field. It is the right career for someone who enjoys administration or research. The time necessary to complete the program is 4-6 years. So there [...]

Read the full article →

Clinical Nurse Specialist Programs Offer Many Options

Nursing Education

Clinical nurse specialist programs include the courses necessary for registered nurses to attain an advanced degree in the medical specialty of their choosing. The fields of study are numerous. Some CNSs specialize in treating specific diseases, [...]

Read the full article →

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: