MSN degree programs are typically two years in duration and open to holders of BSN degrees. Some MSN programs will also offer entry to students with health-related bachelor’s degrees. It is also possible to enter MSN programs that accept all bachelor’s degree holders. Participants first cover basic nursing curriculum and become licensed RNs, and then proceed to earn a master’s degree, which typically takes three years.

MSN programs focus on a particular area, such as nursing administration, clinical nurse leader, nurse practitioner or clinical nurse educator. Coursework includes advanced nursing theory, research, management issues, nursing informatics, social and physical sciences and clinical practice.

Typically, nurses who are pursuing an MSN will focus on one of four advanced practice areas:

⚈ Nurse practitioner (NP)
⚈ Certified nurse anesthetist (CRNA)
⚈ Clinical nurse specialist (CNS)
⚈ Certified nurse midwife (CNM)

There are also MSN joint programs, in which you pursue your master’s in nursing in tandem with another master’s degree. The most common pairings for joint MSN programs include:

⚈ MSN/MPH: This pairs your MSN with a master’s in public health
⚈ MSN/MBA: Pairing your MSN with a master’s in business administration
⚈ MSN/MHA: An MSN degree paired with a master’s in health administration

Earning an MSN allows you to hone in on a specific area of nursing. While registered nurses do a little bit of everything and provide general care, an advanced practice nurse has knowledge about a specialized area of nursing. For example, if you’re interested in natural health or women’s health, you might choose a nurse midwife specialty.

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