If you want to study higher, and aim for advanced leadership roles, or wish to give yourself a chance of earning a 6-figure salary – a Master’s Degree in Nursing – is your best bet.

With a growing demand for nurses with advanced degrees and a whopping 45% projected growth rate in the employment of nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, etc, in this decade; a Master’s degree could be very rewarding.

So, in this article, we will guide you through the MSN course, the admission requirements, course curricula, different MSN options, pros, and cons, different Nursing Specializations or Careers with an MSN degree with their respective Salary data, and much more.

Stay tuned –

Master’s Degree in Nursing – What is an MSN

MSN Course Overview

Course Credit 30 – 50
Course Duration 18 – 36 months *depending on your program
Clinical hours 90
Course Cost $35,000 to $100,000

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MSN Admission Requirements

The admission requirements may vary per school or program –

  • A BSN or ADN-RN or any Bachelor’s Degree
  • GRE or MAT test scores 
  • Reference or recommendation letters
  • Statement of purpose
  • Minimum number of practice hours
  • Minimum GPA of 2.75 – 4.0 scale
  • Course grades in statistics and science subjects 
  • Active RN license
  • Interview
  • Criminal background check
  • Certifications for some MSN majors (wherever applicable)
  • Resume or curriculum vitae

MSN Degree Course Curricula

No two schools might have the same course curriculum, but here is a list of standard topics that you will be learning in your MSN degree –

  • Theoretical Basis for Advanced Nursing Practice and Leadership 
  • Pathophysiology for Advanced Nursing Practice  
  • Pharmacology for Advanced Nursing Practice  
  • Physical Assessment for Advanced Nursing Practice
  • Seminar in Nursing Research 
  • Policy, Politics, and Organization of Healthcare 
  • Theoretical Foundations of Population Health          
  • Healthcare Quality: Communication and Informatics
  • Capstone: Clinical Applications in Population Health
  • Leadership Practices in Organizational Communications

MSN Degree Options

If you aspire to get an MSN, you have two ways or say 2 categories to choose from – a general MSN program, and a specialized MSN program.

If you opt for the general MSN program, you become eligible for the roles like – a Nurse Educator, Nurse Administrator, etc. 

If you opt for a specialized program, you become specialized advanced practice RN (APRN). This APRN has four main areas of specialization – a certified nurse practitioner, certified registered nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse specialist, and certified nurse midwife.

Hope this is not confusing.

What we mean is you need to be crystal clear before enrolling in an MSN program on what career path you’ll pursue, a general MSN or a specialized MSN. Each MSN degree has its respective time commitments, graduation requirements, type of program, etc.

However, it is possible to choose your general MSN degree first and then go after your desired MSN specialty program, leading you to an APRN certification.

* Detailed list of Nursing specializations and career options below.

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Types of MSN Degrees

Before enrolling in an MSN program, you should know that – there are mainly 4 types of master’s degree programs in nursing considering your educational qualification and or specialization.  

However, each program leads to an in-demand career with a salary potential of three times the national average and opens up a variety of advanced and higher, or leadership roles.

Let’s explore the different master’s degree options, and then you will be able to choose the degree best suited to your career.

Baccalaureate (BSN) to Master’s Degree

For: RNs with a BSN

Course Duration: 2-3 years

As the name suggests, if you already are an RN with a BSN and are willing to advance your education and salary, this MSN option is for you. This program typically takes around 2 years to complete but can however stretch to 3 years if you lag behind or pursue it at a certain pace.  

However, you can enroll in an online program where you can learn at your own pace and finish the clinical requirements at your place of work itself. If you have a lot of clinical experience say 5 years or more, your clinical hours might be relaxed, this entirely depends on the program.   

MSN Bridge Program

For: RNs with an ADN

Course Duration: 3-5 years

If you are an RNs with an Associate Degree wishing to pursue a master’s in advanced practice programs – like Nurse Practitioner specializations or general MSN degrees – like a nursing educator or nursing administration degrees, this is your way.

This program helps you bridge your ADN and MSN without having to go through your BSN. The course curricula are combined with both Bachelor’s Degree and MSN topics and the duration gets extended, between 3-5 years.

Direct-Entry Master’s Degree or Accelerated MSN

For: Non-nursing bachelor’s degree

Course Duration: 18 months to 3 years

Also known as the Accelerated MSN degree program, serves best for MSN aspirants with non-nursing Bachelor’s degrees. This program transfers the credits from your existing degree and prepares coursework for you with a focus on clinical experience.

This program can last from 18 months to 3 years depending on your learning speed and clinical experience. However, you can opt for online programs for the theoretical part and need to meet the clinical hours to get an MSN graduate degree.  

Dual Master’s Degree

For: RNs pursuing advanced roles (Chief nursing officer or manager of clinical informatics) 

Course Duration: 3-4 years

This program prepares you for administrative or leadership roles which require skills and understanding of administration. It combines 2 master’s degree programs – MSN with a master of business administration (MBA).

Besides MSN/MBA option, there are a few more dual master’s programs like – master’s in public health (MSN/MPH) or health administration (MSN/MHA). A BSN holder is favored to take up such dual master’s programs.

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Nursing Specialized MSN program

This program is a specialty advanced practice RN (APRN) with mainly four areas of specialization –

  • Certified Nurse Practitioner (NP/ANP)
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

Now, the Nurse Practitioner specialties again have various areas of practice, like – pediatric primary care nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, women’s health nurse practitioner, and several other areas of focus. 

You can choose from a wide range of specializations, mentioned below, based on your desired job role, nursing field, and specialty. Make sure to go after the MSN specialty that is right for you.

Also Read:

-> What is Nursing?

-> Is Nursing a Good Career?

-> How Long Is Nursing School?

Nursing Specializations or Careers with an MSN degree with their respective Salary data

What is Nursing

Below mentioned are the various nursing specializations best suited for you, that you can choose from while pursuing your MSN degree. 

Advanced Nurse Practitioner

Average Annual Salary: $118,040

Nursing Administration

Average Annual Salary: $119,840

Nursing Informatics

Average Annual Salary: $115,000

Nurse Practitioners

Average Annual Salary: $111,680

Clinical Nurse Specialist

Average Annual Salary: $94,390

Certified Nurse Midwife

Average Annual Salary: $114,210

Public Health

Average Annual Salary: $94,000

Nursing Educators

Average Annual Salary: $79,120

Diabetes Nursing

Average Annual Salary: $70,840

Nursing Research

Average Annual Salary: $74,420

Certified Nurse Anesthetist

Average Annual Salary: $209,432

Pros and Cons of an MSN Degree

As happens with any degree, there are some pros and cons that you need to consider before deciding on getting an MSN degree. 

Pros of getting an MSN degree

Let’s explore the advantages of earning an MSN degree –

Career opportunities

After earning an MSN, you become literally unstoppable. You’ll be eligible for advanced roles, promotions, the higher positions, you can have it all after earning an MSN degree. It also enables you to switch careers into administrative roles.

Also, if you specialize as a nurse practitioner, nurse educator, clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetics, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, or Certified Nurse Midwife, you are set to land a job in your dream institution or hospital.

Higher salary potential

An MSN allows you to work in higher positions that enable you a higher earning potential. The dream 6-figure mark is achievable after earning an MSN.

Also, post MSN your base salary would get hiked, and as you gain experience and expertise over time you can expect salary hikes.

Plus, if you specialize as a Nurse Practitioner, or Clinical Nurse Specialist, or any high-paying specialization, your average annual salary would be up to $120k.

Leadership roles opportunity  

With an MSN, you become credible, a subject matter expert and this can lead you to leadership roles. The doors to administrative, managerial, or educator roles will open post your MSN, with everything depending on your experience, interpersonal skills, and expertise.

Competitive advantage

Undoubtedly, a master’s degree in any field can help you leap above the competition during the hiring process. With an MSN, you become more likely to out-compete the ones with an ADN or a BSN.

Cons of Getting an MSN Degree

Let’s explore the disadvantages of an MSN Degree –

Costs a lot of money

An MSN degree would cost you around $35,000 to $100,000 depending on the school and the degree option you choose. And we know that there are other expenses that add up to it as well. All of these might push toward student debt.

However, there is a sigh of relief in the form of scholarships or grants. If you become eligible, half of your headache would be cured. So, until and unless you are clear on your goals, don’t hurry to enroll in an MSN program.

High competition

Yes, there is a very high competition to enroll in an MSN program with you requiring at least a 3.0 GPA to be accepted in the program. Also, there are possibilities that there could be many candidates applying for the same program that you are interested in.  

Laborious coursework and clinical hours

Since it is an advanced program, the coursework might get hectic, requiring much time and the clinical hours might get prolonged up to 500-600 hours for Nurse practitioners, and for certified nurse-midwives, it could get up to 1,000 hours.

Associate Degree in Nursing


Is a Master’s in Nursing worth it?

It is evident that Nurses with an MSN earn more than RNs. With an MSN you become better positioned to work in some management or become a nurse practitioner with earning potential of $120,680 per year.

As per the BLS, in this decade jobs for nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists is set to grow by 45%, and these roles require a Master’s degree.  

Also, there are only about 17% of nurses with an MSN, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.’

These facts suggest that an MSN degree is worth it considering there could be career advancement opportunities, competitive advantage, and higher salary potential.  

What’s the highest-paid Nurse?

The highest-paid nurse is the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. They earn $195,610 per year according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How many Years does it take to complete BSN to MSN?

It takes around 2-3 years to complete your BSN to MSN.

Can I get Financial Aid Opportunities?

Yes. You can apply for the Grants, scholarships, and employers assistance programs to get some help.

Can I get a Master’s Degree if I only have an Associate’s Degree?

Yes, through MSN bridge programs. But the time duration to complete the course will be around 3-5 years. 


-> 7 Best Online Nursing Degrees for 2023

-> Nursing Degree- Best Schools, Major & Programs

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About the Author
Grant founded OnlineDegree.com with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.