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Overview of Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Program for Registered Nurses (RNs)

Majors Overview January 5, 2018

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

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Program for RNs

RNs can qualify for careers as advanced practice nurses in various specializations, including nurse practitioner and nurse midwife, by earning a Master of Science in Nursing degree with RN-to-MSN options. Program graduates gain a basis for continuing education or careers in nursing-related fields, such as public health, education, and research.

RNs without Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees can receive credit for previous RN training coursework that they can use toward earning an MSN degree through this type of program. The length of a program can vary by previously completed education; those who qualify may enroll in accelerated programs.

Educational Requirements

Completion of RN training and licensing is compulsory for admission to all RN-MSN degree programs. Training requires having a diploma in nursing or associate’s degree, along with passing the National Council Examination for Registered Nurses exam (NCLEX-RN). In most programs, students can build on their previous education and schools may require them to have prior RN experience of as many as three years. Additional prerequisites may differ according to program specialization.


Program coursework combines classroom and laboratory instruction with clinical experiences. Enrollees must choose a major study track, such as research, leadership, or education. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Nursing research methods
•Nursing management
Community health nursing
•Health promotion and assessment
•Patient-care settings

Career Options

Program graduates can seek advanced practice nursing positions, with choices varying by specialty. They may choose from possible career positions such as:

•Clinical nurse specialist
•Nursing Manager
•Nurse Educator
•Nurse midwife

Job and Wage Outlook

Registered nurses are expected to see a 15% job growth, over the 2016-2026 decade (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2016, nurse instructors brought in an average annual wage of $75,030 while nurse practitioners and nurse midwives earned respective median wages of $104,610 and $102,390 (BLS).

Continuing Education Options

Licensure has to be maintained by all RNs via continuing education. Their advanced education specialty will help determine nurses’ continuing education requirements. Professional certification, which may be preferred by employers and can be obtained by advanced practice nurses through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, can enable them to gain career advancement.

Nurses who seek continuing education may enroll in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) program aimed primarily at nurses who seek advanced leadership roles or careers in research.

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