Nurses can enjoy the tremendous benefit of broadening their professional horizons in nursing practice, by choosing to earn a master’s degree in nursing. By earning this advanced degree, a registered nurse can advance his/her nursing career to become a clinical nurse leader, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, nurse educator, clinical nurse specialist, family nurse practitioner, etc., or even qualify to take up the advanced nursing practice (APRN). An online master’s nursing program can also provide practicing nurses a pathway to nursing administration, leadership, and management while introducing them to diverse areas such as adult gerontology primary care, health sciences, and more.
Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students, making us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, we’ve been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and have gained national recognition for our dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.
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Several factors go into determining what should qualify as the best nursing online program. Those factors are accreditation, tuition fee, program quality and reputation, graduation rates, teacher-to-student ratio, synchronous vs. asynchronous online learning, access to online content, and more. OMC has considered all these factors and created a list of the best online MSN programs:
It is rather evident to students that tuition fees are increasing with every passing year. Although scholarships and transfer credits can potentially mitigate the cost of a degree, there remains a lot of pressure on prospective students and nurse practitioners who want to pursue online nursing programs. Luckily, there are plenty of Affordable MSN Online programs one can consider. Here is a list of some of the most affordable ones:
For a nurse practitioner seeking professional advancement, the MSN degree is very important – it is the gold standard for moving into greater clinical or nursing leadership and management responsibility, which can lead to higher pay, better hours, and saying goodbye to no holidays and overnight shifts. It can also be a ticket out of the grind, so to speak, by allowing nurses to move into the teaching profession as nurse educators. Other alternatives include roles in psychiatric mental health, adult-gerontology care, or working as a family nurse practitioner. There are many more reasons why online master’s in nursing programs are very popular. Here are a few:
Flexible Clinical Requirements
Study Anytime, Anywhere
Evidence of Supreme Time Management
Flexibility is perhaps the biggest reason students choose an online education option for their MSN degree. One level of flexibility relates to the pacing of the courses themselves; some programs allow students to choose full-time or part-time attendance, or even allow them to spread out the courses to better serve their busy schedule. Most nursing education students take about two years to complete their MSN degree, but for those particularly motivated, it can be done in as little as one year. Those with truly hectic schedules can spread out the courses to take three or more years, if necessary.
Depending on the specialization a student chooses, they can sometimes earn their master’s degree 100 percent online, with no need to complete clinicals or practicums. But for most MSN concentrations, clinicals will be required. The good news is that many programs will allow students to meet their clinical hour requirements at their current job, so there will be no disruption in their working lives.
Another major aspect of flexibility in pursuit of an online MSN degree is the ability to complete course requirements on the student’s own schedule. It can be listening to a course lecture while on the bus, doing a reading assignment between shifts at work, or completing an assignment and turning it in at three in the morning, when the rest of the family is in bed, asleep. An online nursing education program allows this unparalleled measure of flexibility, which is essential for most working nursing students.
Attending class online usually means working full-time as well. This is especially true in online nursing programs, where many students are full-time nurse practitioners even as they pursue education as full-time students. By completing an MSN degree online, students have tangible evidence to demonstrate their ability to stay organized and manage their time very wisely. This can be useful when negotiating for a raise and greater responsibility at work.
Understanding Online Nursing Programs
Nursing education involves studying a plethora of topics that range from adult gerontology acute care and adult gerontology primary care, to psychiatric mental health, and health assessment. Attending the best program is what every future nursing student wants, but deciding what schools have the best master of science in nursing (MSN) programs is the tricky part. After all, what’s best for one student may not be best for another, which can make it difficult to evaluate rankings of schools and programs.
Even so, there are several factors prospective nursing grad students will want to look at when choosing the best program. Here are a few essential points in online nursing programs, that one needs to understand:
One major reason a master’s student chooses to enroll in an online MSN program is to gain more in-depth knowledge about a particular area of nursing. That is why most online master’s in nursing will have several specializations or concentrations to choose from. Popular ones include public health, nursing informatics, nursing leadership and education, and healthcare informatics. One important aspect of choosing the best online master’s nursing program will be finding one that offers a preferred specialization.
There are two primary forms of delivering online coursework. Asynchronous learning allows students to listen to a lecture or complete coursework at a time of their own choosing. Synchronous learning, though it allows students to participate in class from anywhere, requires that students sign on at a specific time of the day with the rest of their classmates. Asynchronous learning will provide students of a master’s in nursing the most flexibility, but it may not provide the deeply collegial learning atmosphere that some might prefer.
Cheaper is usually better, but there comes a point where one gets what one pays for. For most students of nursing, the cheapest tuition will be a major factor in finding the best program, as long as the low tuition does not compromise the quality of education. In some cases, what the student is giving up may not matter as much, such as access to certain student services, but for others, paying higher tuition for greater access to student help may be worth the money. Discover schools that offer the Cheapest Online MSN Programs.
Excellent faculty and staff
A solid education is a team effort that requires dedication and coordination from several parties, including the school’s faculty and staff. High-quality faculty and staff can make learning easier and more effective, but they can also play an indirect, yet equally important role in a student’s success. For instance, a nurse educator who still practices nursing may have useful networking connections to future healthcare employers; and faculty members who engage in active, published research, can provide additional opportunities and knowledge for students interested in academia and medical research.
A solid NCLEX passage rate
In most online master’s in nursing programs, the student would already be working as an RN. However, some programs accept non-RN students – so one way to measure the quality of these programs is to look at the NCLEX-RN passage rates. The higher the first-time passage rate, the better. If students want to take up advanced nursing, they may need to take additional certification exams related to their chosen specialty. Asking about these certification exam passage rates can shed some light on the effectiveness of a particular MSN program.
Timeline for an Online Nursing Program
The time it takes to complete an MSN degree online largely depends upon the program and the student. Since online education offers the luxury of self-paced study, one could choose to attend school on a part-time basis or go full-time, while others might find a program that allows them to take one course at a time – as their schedule permits. However, a student who is already a nurse practitioner will take between one and two years to complete the 36 and 42 credits hours required to graduate. Students with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field may need up to three years to finish their program through an accelerated track. Essentially, these programs are squeezing two years of undergraduate and two years of graduate instruction into three years.
Usually, an MSN degree online requires incoming students to hold an active registered nursing license. Nurses must have at least an associate degree, as well as a minimum of one year of work experience. Some programs may not require incoming students to be licensed nurses, but in such cases, they may expect the student to have completed a baccalaureate degree program in a non-nursing field. Apart from these nursing-specific requirements, there are other general admission requirements for collegiate nursing education as well. Here are some of those admission requirements:
All things considered, there are a few similarities among accredited programs in nursing education – online and traditional. Most of these similarities will exist among core curricula. Typical core courses will cover topics such as policy, advocacy, research, and evidence-based nursing practice. However, for programs that have comparable specializations, there will be similar core courses on offer as well. Here are some examples of core nursing classes one can expect from a few of the more common specialization tracks.
Instructional Strategies: This course addresses learning strategies and principles typically used and applied in the nurse-education setting. Nursing Education Field Experience: Students engage in hands-on teaching experience in collaboration with academic mentors to demonstrate what they have previously learned in the classroom. Curriculum Development: Students will learn how to create effective curricula for training future nurses and healthcare providers.
Building Effective Communication and Relationships: This class introduces students to addressing worker conflicts within a healthcare organization, as well as the cultivation of relationships for effective teamwork. Managing Human Resources: The role of a nurse-leader in developing, retaining, and managing an organization’s workforce will be explained and analyzed. Strategic Planning in Healthcare Organization: Students will develop skills that allow them to identify, create and implement strategic plans following an organization’s mission.
Financial Management in Nursing Practice: The analysis of healthcare financing issues will be explained. Students will learn how to manage organizational budgets, and evaluate organizational financial plans on a strategic level. Informatics in Nursing and Healthcare: This course provides a foundational level of knowledge concerning the application of information analysis and processing within the nursing setting. Capstone Synthesis Practicum: Nursing students will have the opportunity to apply their theoretical nursing informatics knowledge to real-world settings and environments.
Examples of some other courses commonly found in nursing programs are:
Psychiatric Mental Health
Adult-Gerontology Primary Care
Adult-Gerontology Acute Care
Skills Gained in an Online MSN Program
While the exact skills and knowledge gained through nursing programs will depend on the chosen concentration, there are several skills that most MSN nursing students can expect to acquire, some of which include:
Leadership: In an undergraduate RN program, students primarily learn how to treat patients. In an MSN program, students will continue to learn how to treat patients, but in more indirect ways. This includes leading and managing other medical professionals in a manner that provides for effective, team-based medical care, such as in adult gerontology acute care. This is far easier said than done – that is why most management positions, in any industry, go to individuals with additional training and experience. The MSN degree provides some of this valuable training and experience through instruction on a variety of topics, including cultural sensitivity, financial management, communication skills, and a higher-level understanding of how healthcare organizations work.
Critical Thinking: Registered nurses must have the ability to think critically, including taking information about a patient and using that information logically and objectively to make a treatment decision. MSN-trained nurses will further develop those skills and apply them to not just tactical-level decisions in a patient’s room, but also at a more strategic level when implementing department or organizational changes.
Policy-Making: Due to the direct level of care registered nurses provide, there is an emphasis on the “how” when it comes to treating a patient. But at the leadership and management levels, as well as providing more advanced medical care that approaches the level of what doctors provide, MSN-prepared nurses need to understand the “why.” For example, MSN students will learn how to determine, from a policy perspective, why one treatment or procedure is recommended over another, despite them producing identical results.
Evidence-Based Practice: Medicine is a science; the treatments and care patients receive should be based on scientific principles. In any accredited MSN program, students will learn about the process of compiling and understanding research findings that can eventually lead to new or altered medical care for patients.
Advocacy: In leadership and management, those in charge need to influence and guide teams, including getting them to buy into certain strategies. But another aspect of leadership is working on behalf of constituents, such as coworkers or patients. Nurse leaders and advanced practitioners wield significant power; a graduate nursing education will help nurses understand the significance of that power, and how to effectively wield it to help others, by advocating on their behalf.
1 Year Online Nursing Degree
One of the crucial questions that Nurses have is – “how long does it take to graduate from nursing education?”. While in most cases it may take a few years to finish an online MSN program, collegiate nursing education can sometimes be finished within a year. Here are some 1 Year Online MSN Programs:
Western Governors University
Western Governors University’s (WGU) Master of Science in Nursing degree program is a leader in nursing education. Since 2015 it has received the Center of Excellence in Nursing Education designation from the NLN (National League for Nursing). When enrolled at WGU, students can choose from a total of six online MSN program concentrations and tracks, subject to fulfilling all admission requirements. The first track is the RN to MSN option – students can choose from education, leadership and management, and informatics specializations. The second track is the BSN to MSN option and offers the same specializations.
WGU’s curriculum is unique because it is based on competency, rather than satisfactory progress. This means students can accelerate their progress by taking proactive steps to demonstrate their proficiency in a subject. For example, students can write papers, take tests, and complete projects to show they’ve reached the required level of competency to advance through the curriculum. This is perfect for active nurse practitioners, as they can use their real-world experience and skills to speed up their progress.
Depending on which track and specialization a student chooses, they can earn an MSN online in less than one year, although one could take up to four years if they wish to work full-time and can only take a part-time course load.
University of Alabama
The University of Alabama (UA) is a public research university based in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Established in 1820, UA is one of the largest universities with more than 70,000 students. UA offers many online master’s programs, including online Nursing Programs.
Online MS in Nursing – Nursing Administrator
Online MS in Nursing – Nurse Practitioner
Timeline: 1-3 Years
Liberty University is a private university based out of Lynchburg, Virginia. With nearly 80,000 thousand, Liberty University offers majors in many fields and offers a nursing degree as well. Programs by Liberty University in collegiate nursing education are some of the most affordable programs in the country.
Timeline: 1.5 Years
Accelerated Nursing Programs
Many collegiate nursing education programs can be finished at an accelerated pace. These programs differ slightly from one-year programs, in that they take a little longer to complete. However, they are still accelerated than a normal online nursing program. Here are few accelerated MSN online Programs:
Roberts Wesleyan College
Roberts Wesleyan College is a private university based out of Rochester, New York. Since its establishment in 1899, Roberts Wesleyan has been offering many higher education degrees across diverse majors. Currently, Roberts Wesleyan has nearly 2,000 students across 60+ undergraduate programs, and nearly 15 graduate-level programs. Roberts Wesleyan offers accelerated programs online in collegiate nursing education that are created for leaders who give back to their professions and communities.
Degree Type: Online MSN Programs
Timeline: 20-29 months
Herzing University is a private university based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Founded in 1965, Herzing University offers higher education programs across professions such as nursing, technology, business, and healthcare. Herzing University has an accelerated MSN program online that focuses on leadership and administration.
Degree Type: Online MSN Programs
Timeline: Less than two years
Easiest MSN Programs Online
Getting an online master’s in nursing will certainly benefit already practicing nurses. However, most online MSN programs are rigorous programs with a lot of complex coursework. But some universities offer an easy master of science in nursing online. Here are a few such easy programs:
Nursing is a field that has a lot of demand, but there still is a scarcity of nurses in the U.S. This demand and lack of supply make nursing careers very enticing to non-nursing majors. Luckily, there are plenty of universities that offer a master of science in nursing (MSN) online for non-nurses, if all other admission requirements are met. These programs are called the Direct Entry MSN Programs. These are programs that are considered as online accelerated MSN programs for non-nurses. Here is a list of Direct Entry MSN Programs:
An MSN program does not come cheap. The cost can sometimes prevent registered nurses from pursuing a higher degree. Finding ways to help pay for school might be as much of an important decision as deciding whether to even apply or not. Fortunately, there are several funding options available that can help cover or at least lessen the cost of attendance. Transfer credit can help, as can plenty of other financial aid options from federal and state governments, as well as private organizations or employers. Here are some details about ways to pay for MSN Programs:
A scholarship is a form of gift-based financial aid that does not need to be paid back. Scholarships will sometimes be referred to as fellowships by some organizations or donors. Even though scholarships can be highly competitive, there are many places to find them, including professional and charitable organizations, major corporations, small businesses, and schools offering the master of science in nursing degree. The Internet has several sources to start looking for scholarships, including scholarships.com, fastweb.com, unigo.com, and cappex.com. (Note: students must be able to fulfill all admission requirements if they are to be eligible for a scholarship.)
Grants are like scholarships, in that they also do not need to be paid back. However, they are usually granted based on a student’s financial need rather than on skills, ability, or membership in a group. Many grants are available from the federal and state government. Interested students will usually need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA to check if they are eligible.
For most students, loans will be the primary source of financial aid. This means the money they receive will need to be paid back, usually with interest. The federal government and Sallie Mae are the top lenders for student loans.
Another great source of funding for graduate education is through employer tuition reimbursement programs. This employer-funded tuition assistance is a benefit some employers provide, to encourage employees to gain additional education. In return for this financial assistance, many employers will expect the employee to agree to stay with the employer for a set period, usually for two years or more.
For many advanced nursing careers, licensure or certification will be required. At the very least, a Registered Nurse License or RN License will be necessary. Even for MSN graduates who do not expect to practice nursing, an active unencumbered nursing license is strongly recommended as a way of demonstrating a requisite level of knowledge and competence in the nursing field. For a nursing professional who intends to advance as a nurse-midwife, advanced nurse practitioner, nursing family nurse practitioner, or and nurse anesthetist, certification and/or an advanced practice registered nursing license will usually be necessary, depending on state or employer requirements.
Once a certification, RN license, or other licensure is obtained from an American nurses credentialing center, by appearing for national certification exams, a registered nurse practitioner will usually need to keep it valid by taking a certain number of continuing education courses each year. There may also be an exam the nurse practitioner must take after several years, depending on the regional/national certification or license. Apart from nurse practitioners, nurse educators who prepare graduates for careers in nursing, also require to be certified or licensed to practice by the colleges and schools commission.
Careers and Salaries for MSN Graduates
Nursing graduate students may wonder what their career and life will look like post-graduation: “What kind of job can I do with my MSN?” and “Will I need additional licenses apart from an RN License?”. Here are some answers:
Students who complete an online MSN program can earn a much higher salary, often an additional $10,000 per year, or more. They can take on greater patient responsibility as well. For example, an APRN may obtain the ability to legally prescribe medications. In addition, the master’s degree will allow them to take on a level of specialization and organizational responsibility, otherwise not possible.
Some of the typical job titles in nursing careers are:
Clinical Nurse Specialist
Clinical Nurse Leader
Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
Family Nurse Practitioner
Clinical Care Coordinator
Some of the areas of operation in which a nursing career can be built include:
Psychiatric Mental Health
Healthcare Organizational Leadership
Advanced Nursing Practice
Where do MSN Graduates Work?
Nurses who obtain their master’s degree in nursing online will have several options for choosing where to work. One of the most common areas will be in a healthcare setting, either as an advanced practice nurse or nurse practitioner. These jobs are often found in hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices. They are in high demand, with many job openings staying unfilled due to a shortage of qualified applicants. The following chart reflects the anticipated job growth and median annual salaries of some of the more common nursing positions that usually require a master of science in nursing:
2016-2026 Growth Rate
Median Salary (50th percentile)
Nurse Practitioner/Family Nurse Practitioner
Medical and Health Service Managers
Source: U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
But it is not necessary for a nurse practitioner or a family nurse practitioner, who get a master’s degree in nursing, to work in a clinical setting. Some will engage in research as a clinical nurse researcher, assist attorneys and the court system as a legal nurse consultant, or teach the next generation of nurses as a nurse educator. Furthermore, the MSN degree can eventually lead to a doctorate as well.
Resources for MSN Students
Getting a master of science in nursing will help the careers of nurses in upward mobility. But it is also essential for MSN students and graduates to stay in touch with the ongoings in the nursing world, by networking with other nursing professionals. To do that, it is important to keep in touch with associations and organizations in the nursing industry. These organizations are even more important for online MSN program students since they do not attend on-campus sessions and miss out on networking opportunities with fellow professionals. Here are a few organizations that MSN students should explore:
Understanding the BSN to MSN Online master’s degree program.
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