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BSN to MSN Programs

Those who currently have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and are looking to advance in the field of nursing may be considering BSN to MSN programs. Going back to school can be daunting, but gaining an understanding of the advantages of a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree and what the transition program may entail can help.

Does a BSN to MSN Program Make Sense?

Requiring a high personal and financial commitment (unless one's employer offers tuition benefits or the nurse qualifies for full grants or scholarships), a BSN to MSN degree is likely to cut into personal time and of course, pocketbooks.

Consider, however, that a MSN is required in order to become an advanced practice nurse (APN). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), individuals in these careers earn some of the highest salaries in the nursing profession.

MSN Salary: How It Compares

The BLS reports that as of 2009, the median annual wage for registered nurses -- at all degree levels -- was $63,750. Because nurses holding MSN degrees are expected to be skilled in their specialization, an MSN salary tends to be significantly higher than a BSN. A 2008 report by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners found an average total income for nurse practitioners to be $92,110.

A MSN is commonly required for nursing directors and sometimes head nurse job slots. In fact, nurses who pursue MSNs can choose from a wide range of careers, including the four advanced practice areas:

  • Certified nurse midwife
  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Nurse anesthetist
  • Nurse practitioner

Furthermore, MSNs can develop expertise in a range of specialty area, such as:

  • Adult health nursing
  • Family nurse practitioner
  • Gerontological nursing
  • Neonatal nursing
  • Nursing administration
  • Parent-child nursing
  • Psychiatric mental health nursing

Those who seek increased career mobility, a higher salary, and to build skills and expertise, a BSN to MSN program might be just what the doctor ordered.

How to Become a Master of Science in Nursing Student

Entry into a BSN to MSN program typically requires that a bachelor's degree in nursing and a nursing license. Other admission requirements vary depending on the program, but one should know the more competitive the program, the higher the minimum grade-point average the school is likely to require. Additionally, it's important to note that some schools place more emphasis on nursing experience than academic credentials.

Typical BSN to MSN Program Requirements

Most BSN to MSN programs take approximately two years to complete and generally range from 24 to 36 credit hours. Because most MSN students are working nurses, programs are often offered on a part-time basis, and many are offered online to accommodate busy schedules. Most programs require that a specialization be selected prior to entering the program.

BSN to MSN Coursework

MSN course requirements typically combine core courses, classes in a specialty area, and clinical experience. While specialty courses vary tremendously depending on the career of choice, core classes may include:

  • Advanced community health
  • Nursing leadership
  • Nursing theory and research

Clinical work is often highly specialized, and can be a primary source of direct experience in a student's field of choice -- whether that field is that of a nurse-midwife or nurse practitioner.

MSN Job Outlook

According to the BLS, employment growth for registered nurses should be excellent through 2018. The BLS also notes that the four advanced practice specialties requiring MSN degrees -- clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives, and nurse anesthetists -- should be in particularly high demand. This is due, in part, to these nurses being able to perform many of the same functions as physicians, but at a lower cost.

Schools offering BSN to MSN Programs
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