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Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree Program Overview

Majors Overview January 11, 2018

This article talks about the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program and its education requirements, coursework, career options, job and wage outlook, and continuing education options.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Program

Registered nurses (RNs) who seek positions in education, administration, and specialty nursing areas can benefit from enrolling in an MSN degree in Nursing. Enrolled students learn how to provide more holistic care and to assume leadership roles in the nursing profession. Program graduates can seek careers as advanced practice nurses who provide healthcare to communities and families. They may also seek positions as educators in healthcare or academic settings.

An MSN program is devised to teach students about nursing ethics, nursing law, nursing curriculum development, human resources, and healthcare business practices. They can hone their creative problem-solving, communication, and decision-making skills. They can gain expertise as skilled nurses taking command of situations, offering expert knowledge in specialty areas and providing primary care.

MSN programs afford various specializations, including nurse educator, advanced practice psychiatric and mental health nurse, nurse administrator, and nurse practitioner. Schools commonly require students enrolled in this program to complete a thesis.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a 4-year baccalaureate degree along with a current registered nurse license. Requirements also include submitting a statement of purpose, a current resume, official transcripts of any previous college coursework, and letters of recommendation, and attending an interview. Prospective students may also be required to have some clinical work experience and complete prior statistics coursework.


In an MSN degree program, classroom instruction and nurse training in a clinical environment are combined. Schools also offer specialty tracks whereby students can choose particular coursework unique to the type of study chosen. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Healthcare financial management
•Nursing education evaluation
•Nursing theory
•Nursing research
•Advanced practice nursing leadership
•Legal and regulatory issues

Career Options

Depending on their concentration, program graduates may avail additional career choices such as:

•Nurse midwife
•Clinical nurse specialist
•Nurse Practitioner
•Nurse Anesthetist
•Nursing Director

Job and Wage Outlook

Nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives are expected to see a 31% job growth, over the 2016-2026 decade (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2016, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives brought in an average annual wage of $107,460.

Continuing Education Options

Program graduates can pursue continuing education by earning a Ph.D. in Nursing that could lead to a career in academia or research. Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) can help them to further their clinical, practical expertise. If a program graduate wants additional training in a different specialty area without enrolling in a doctorate program, he or she can earn a post-master’s certificate. Most states require the completion by a registered nurse of a specified number of continuing education units biannually to maintain his or her license.

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