Masters in Nursing Directory

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Filter though over 500 schools offering more than 3000 programs to find a graduate nursing program tailored to fit your needs. From accelerated study to fully online coursework, there is a program that will work for you and you can use our convenient filters to narrow your search.

Master’s in Nursing FAQ

Nursing leads to many career opportunities, especially for students who pursue a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) degree. Potential MSN students may find it challenging to research specific career paths and determine the appropriate direction. This list of frequently asked questions is designed to help you recognize available opportunities and make informed decisions about your future. Though many of the answers are geared toward more popular MSN specializations, the sources and information are valuable to anyone in the nursing field.

Who should consider a master’s in nursing?

Many individuals considering a MSN program have already worked as practicing nurses and formulated a general idea of the specialization they would like to pursue. Students should consider their individual strengths, experience, and career goals before seeking an MSN program to elevate their professional trajectory. Many programs require a bachelor’s degree, on-the-job experience, and a state RN license.  This guide from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) provides more information.

What specializations are available in this field? How do I choose one that is right for me?

There is a wide range of specialization options for nurses with an MSN. From cardiac care and gerontology to orthopedics and nephrology, virtually every organization and agency in healthcare counts on nurses to serve patients' needs. This guide from Discover Nursing is an excellent place to explore over 100 different specialization options.

How can a graduate degree in nursing enhance my career opportunities?

Healthcare reform is reshaping nursing preparation and education. With a graduate degree, Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs) have more responsibilities in the healthcare sector than ever before. Many are taking on tasks like administering anesthetics and overseeing physical and emotional rehabilitation programs that were once the responsibility of physicians. Advanced degrees have become a prerequisite for nurses who want to climb the career ladder into leadership, administrative, and research positions.

What are the career opportunities for MSN graduates, and what salary ranges can I expect after graduation?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for RNs is excellent, especially for those with advanced degrees. Demand is expected to increase 26% by 2020, and the highest job growth is projected for those who work in outpatient care centers providing services such as chemotherapy, rehabilitation, and surgery. According to the BLS, the top 10% of RNs earned more than $95,130. lists the average MSN salary at $85,000.

How long does an MSN usually take to finish?

A full-time master's program can be as short as 18 to 24 months of uninterrupted study, but most programs require a commitment of three years from start to finish, according to the AACN. Self-paced programs that allow students to fit their studies around their work schedules usually take longer. Students may also have advanced clinical opportunities or internship experiences, depending on the program.

What courses will I take in a Master of Science in Nursing program?

Coursework will vary depending on your choice of specialization, but there are general courses required for every program. These include assessment, diagnosis and treatment, management of acute and chronic illness, population-based healthcare, and research management.

How should I pick a nursing school?

The AACN suggests that the most critical factor in selecting a nursing school is the strength of the faculty in your chosen specialization. You can evaluate this aspect of your program by speaking with an admissions officer to determine the number of degrees each faculty member carries or the research papers they have published in journals. Other factors that will influence your decision include available financial aid, amount of clinical work, flexibility of course schedule, and tuition cost. Your goal should be to find a balance between the quality of the program and your personal and professional needs.

How are nursing programs ranked? How much do rankings matter?

Nursing program rankings vary depending on the source. For example, the methodology of U.S. News and World Report is based on peer assessment surveys sent to deans, administrators, and faculty members at accredited degree programs or schools that offer nursing degrees. Specialty programs rankings are based on input from educators at peer nursing institutions, who nominate up to 10 schools for excellence in specific areas.

While overall rankings should be a consideration, the AACN encourages students to focus on the strength of their specialization program rather than the college or university that offers it. A school may not be ranked at the top overall, but a specific program at that same school might boast truly distinguished faculty members.

Are there online nursing programs available at the master’s level? How do they compare to campus-based nursing programs?

There are numerous accredited online MSN programs, as the degree is quickly becoming necessary for many management, administrative, and research positions. Online programs are often geared towards nursing careers that focus more on leadership, administration, education, and healthcare organizational systems. Direct patient care, however, can be difficult to replicate without real-world diagnoses, treatment and nurse-patient interaction. This FAQ from the Medical University of South Carolina provides specifics on the differences between online and traditional MSN programs.

What are the admission requirements for a typical MSN program? Do I need nursing experience to apply to this program?

Application requirements vary depending on the school, but there are common requirements. Many programs, like the MSN program at the University of Washington, require a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 for the last 90 credits. Other programs, like Duke University, require a baccalaureate nursing degree from an accredited university or an associate degree or diploma from an accredited RN program as well as a baccalaureate degree in a non-nursing field from a regionally accredited university. Coursework in statistics is another common requirement. Most programs require students to apply directly to a specialization; in many cases, students must decide on the specialization prior to submitting their application.

Which agencies accredit schools of nursing?

Both the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) are officially recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as national accreditation agencies for associate’s, diploma, certificate, bachelor’s, master’s, and clinical doctorate nursing programs. There are more than 330 master's degree programs accredited by the CCNE and NLNAC offered in the U.S.

Accrediting agencies play a vital role in ensuring institutions meet or exceed standards and criteria for educational quality and student outcomes. For MSN students, this process ensures they will receive a valuable education in return for their substantial financial investment.

Are there scholarships available for schools of nursing?

Many organizations and individuals offer scholarships for nurses seeking higher education. The best place to begin your scholarship search is often the financial aid office of your college or university. Most universities and academic departments offer some sort of scholarship program based on need, academic merit, or both. Many nursing organizations, professional associations, and research groups also offer private scholarships. Check out our directory of scholarships.

Directory of Masters Degree Programs in Nursing