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Overview of Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree Program

Majors Overview December 1, 2017

This article talks about the Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.) degree program and their education requirements, coursework, career options, job and wage outlook, and certification and continuing education options.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Degree Program

Registered nurses (RNs) who seek advanced nursing roles in a specialized area such as adult care, family care, critical care, women’s health, nurse-midwifery, or pediatrics can benefit by earning a Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.). Nurses can also expect to gain knowledge about ways of developing community education programs or training a nursing staff. Master’s degree program options are also available for individuals aspiring to administrative roles or a focus on research. Apart from coursework, clinical rotations and practicums are completed by students in local and state health departments, outpatient clinics, hospitals or doctor offices. Students can complete MSN programs within two years.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing and meet a grade point average standard of 3.0. Applicants for admission to some schools might have to complete coursework in computer literacy or statistics. Submission of Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores earned within the past five years is also a general requirement.


Core coursework has an emphasis on nursing research and ethics. Subsequent courses focus on the development of students’ patient care skills and may cover topic areas such as:

•Primary family care
•Patient diagnosis
•Advanced nursing theory
•Illness prevention
•Perinatal care

Career Options

Varying by the program, program graduates may take on clinical responsibilities as nurse practitioners or assume specialty roles as a teacher or administrator. They may choose from possible job positions such as:

•Nurse midwife
•Health systems manager
•Clinical nurse specialist
•Nurse Practitioner
•Public health nurse

Job and Wage Outlook

Over the 2016 – 2026 decade, advanced practice nurses such as nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives are expected to see a job growth of 31% (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2016, nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives brought in an average annual salary of $107,460.

Certification and Continuing Education Options

In many states, nurse practitioners are required to obtain certification through the holding of a current nursing license and completion of a master’s degree program. Requirements also include passage of a written exam administered by a national certification organization, such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center, or state board of nursing.

Program graduates of MSN programs can opt for continuing education by attending conferences and seminars. Students seeking improvement in their clinical skills and development of new nursing procedures can earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.). A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nursing may be available to individuals who seek expertise in designing nursing research projects.

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