A nursing career offers candidates a stable workplace, transferable skills, and the ability to help others. As one of the most trusted and rewarding professions, nurses primarily play a role in providing care to their patients.
And with an increase in the number of individuals needing care, the demand for the nursing profession has significantly grown in recent years.
Masters of Science in Nursing or MSN degrees are some of the top trending academic programs in the world today. They’re an excellent step towards career advancement and more job opportunities. But how do you know if it’s the right option for you? Keep reading to learn more about an MSN degree, its specializations, career options, and other benefits.
What is an MSN degree?
Nursing careers have moved far beyond patient care. After earning advanced knowledge and skills, more and more nurses are working in the administrative side of healthcare. Hence, the MSN degree has become a hot commodity as professionals seek to move into leadership roles and fill management positions. Candidates must have a current understanding of healthcare, policies, and patient care—they must gain relevant education.
The MSN is an advanced degree program for professional nurses. Depending on your experience and previous academic qualifications, completing an MSN degree can take two years.
MSN degree specializations
Here are some of the most common MSN specializations.
- Nursing education
An MSN in nursing education prepares you for the role of the nurse educator in an academic setting or professional development. It allows you to use your work experience to teach and train other students and nurses. By going through the most popular FAQs about MSN in nursing education, you can better decide whether this is the right field for you.
- Health systems management
MSN in health systems management offers specialized coursework in leadership and administration. It focuses on healthcare informatics technologies and other modern innovations that promote evidence-based practices. Besides the primary core subjects, it educates students on contemporary ethical and legal concerns in healthcare to improve patient outcomes.
- Psychiatric/Mental health
A psychiatric/mental health specialization gives students the expertise and skills to assess, diagnose, and treat patients with psychiatric illnesses. This program’s coursework helps nursing professionals contribute towards policy development, quality improvement, healthcare reform, and practice evaluation. Candidates must gain field experience to develop the skills necessary for obtaining national certification and state licenses.
- Nursing informatics
Nursing informatics combines cognitive science, nursing science, and information science to develop, evaluate and analyze the different systems augmented by technology. Since modern medicine now incorporates technology in multiple aspects, professionals need to interpret received data accurately. Without the ability to correctly decipher the information, health professionals cannot make informed decisions regarding patient care. A nursing informatics specialization also emphasizes nursing leadership development and helps candidates gain the necessary skills for managerial positions.
MSN in nurse-midwifery is a program that highlights the integration of new research with midwifery practices. It focuses on women’s health and primary care from antepartum and perinatal care through postpartum, neonatal care, and role development. By teaching students about advanced technologies and innovative techniques, this nursing specialization will enhance professionals’ learning experiences.
There’s a vast range of nursing specializations an MSN degree can offer. Besides these, you can also pursue advanced practice registered nurse specialties like clinical nurse specialist, family nurse practitioner, or adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. And although each one opens up a different career path, they all can help you become a well-skilled healthcare provider.
MSN admissions and pathways
Rapid globalization and modernization have entirely transformed the way of teaching in the past few decades. It’s now possible to enroll in advanced degree programs online, from the comfort of your homes, and without putting careers on hold. These programs, including online MSN degrees, offer hybrid programs that provide nursing professionals the flexibility to complete coursework at their own pace.
Depending on your previous qualifications, work experience, and field of specialization, there are multiple ways through which you can apply for an MSN degree. Here we have outlined the most popular pathways:
- BSN to MSN
Obtaining a bachelor of science in nursing is the most common way to pursue an MSN degree. Since it’s an undergraduate degree, it typically takes four years to complete. After graduating, candidates can apply for an MSN program without work experience.
- RN to MSN
RNs can also apply for MSN programs. RNs are different from BSN graduates because they have a license to practice. They have work experience that makes them eligible for this program. However, some RN-to-MSN courses only accept students with an Associate Degree in Nursing (AND).
- Non-nursing bachelor’s to MSN
Individuals who hold a non-nursing bachelor’s degree can still pursue an MSN degree by first completing undergrad-level nursing courses. These courses are known as bridge courses that aim to bring candidates up-to-date with essential health-related knowledge and skills. Choosing this pathway may take one to two years to complete an MSN degree.
- Accelerated MSN
An accelerated MSN program is ideal for those candidates who want to earn their BSN and MSN degrees quickly. Students must have a bachelor’s in any field and a competitive GPA to enroll in this program. They’re also required to submit an essay that explains why they want to pursue a career in nursing.
Career opportunities with an MSN degree
Most nursing professionals pursue an MSN degree to take their medical career to the next step. It allows them to earn higher salaries, take up management roles, and have more flexible hours.
Your career options may vary depending on your specialization, but they all offer lucrative jobs in the roles of:
- Nurse educator
- Certified nurse-midwife
- Nurse administrator
- Research nurse
- Nurse consultant
- Psychiatric nurse practitioner
- Forensic nurse consultant
Is pursuing an MSN worth it?
It’s usual for candidates to feel uncertain about earning a master’s in nursing because it requires dedication and plenty of effort. However, an MSN degree can offer you several long term-benefits, including:
- Higher pay
- Career advancement
- Growing job opportunities
- Greater knowledge
- Advanced skills
- Personal fulfillment
An MSN degree can open better career paths for you as a nursing professional and bring an inherent change in your ability to think critically and lead effectively. With the availability of online degree programs and ease of remote learning, pursuing advanced degrees like MSN is even easier. You no longer have to worry about compromising your job or personal life and can take classes on your schedule.
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