Types of MSN Degrees

A Master of Science in Nursing degree program can look extremely different based on the area of specialization that a student chooses. This article provides a summary of some common specializations within MSN degree offerings.

Comparing MSN Degree Program Options

MSN Advanced Practice Nursing

Perhaps the most common specializations in MSN degree programs are advanced practice nursing tracks that provide registered nurses with the chance to develop their clinical and patient care skills. Nurses can learn to provide primary care to patients in their current nursing specialization (and possibly increase their salary) or use the MSN to move into a different area of nursing than they have previously practiced. The range of specializations offered include adult-gerontology (primary or acute care), family nursing, nurse anesthesia, psychiatric mental health nursing, pediatric nursing (acute or primary), neonatal nursing and women's health nursing. Students complete academic coursework and clinical practicums to prepare for the advanced nursing certification or licensure exams needed to practice their chosen specialty.

MSN Nursing Education

One commonality among MSN degrees is the focus on evidence-based practice, or learning how to implement the latest nursing academic research in clinical settings. Nursing educators are an important part of that process, as they serve as leaders and educators for other nurses, healthcare professionals and patients. This program prepares nurses to move into administrative and training roles by teaching them to design curriculum, deliver educational experiences, evaluate and analyze academic research, and implement changes that can improve overall healthcare outcomes. Graduates can go on to careers as nursing faculty, nurse educators, patient educators, staff educators, consultants and clinical supervisors.

MSN Nursing Informatics

This degree prepares graduates to integrate the latest computer science and information technology into healthcare systems in an effort to improve patient outcomes. Students take classes in database management, system implementation and maintenance, and data analytics. Students also take practicums to practice working with big data and analysis in real-world clinical settings. Graduates could be prepared to take the Nurse Informatics Board Certification exam and can find work as clinical analysts and nursing informatics specialists.

MSN Public Health Nursing

A public health nurse focuses on disease prevention and big picture health outcomes for a population by studying data, epidemiology, and healthcare policy. Students in this specialization practice using statistical modeling to devise healthcare solutions for at-risk populations. This track is suited for students who are more interested in research and policy than clinical practice. Rather than focusing on work with individual patients, this program prepares nursing professionals to keep their entire communities safe and healthy by recording and analyzing data and making healthcare service recommendations. Graduates can find work in health departments, schools and community health centers.

MSN Nursing Management/Executive Leadership

This MSN degree prepares nurses with a valid RN license to advance into administrative, management and executive leadership roles. The coursework focuses on developing students' leadership and management skills with classes like organizational theory, health care human resources, principles of business and finance in health care, health care operations and business communication. Students might work on a hands-on leadership project in a local health care setting and learn how to become an agent of change. Many of these programs are offered online (with full-time and part-time options) so that they can be completed by nurses juggling busy full-time work schedules.

Degree Program Program Requirements Related Careers
MSN Advanced Practice NursingBSN degree
RN license
Primary Care Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
Family Nurse Practitioner
MSN Nursing EducationBSN degree
RN license
Staff/Patient Educator
Nurse Education Instructor
MSN Nursing Informatics BSN degree
RN License
Informatics Nurse Specialist
Clinical Analyst
MSN Public Health NursingBSN degree
RN License
Health Education Program Director
Community Clinic Manager
MSN Nursing Management/Executive LeadershipBSN degree
RN License
Chief Nursing Officer
Director of Nursing

Getting Into an MSN Degree Program

Typically, a Master of Science in Nursing program is designed for registered nurses with a bachelor's degree in nursing. If you already have a bachelor's degree in an unrelated discipline and a valid RN license from an Associate of Science in Nursing or hospital program, you may be able to apply after taking a few prerequisite or bridge courses. Master's-entry programs are also available to applicants who have completed around 20 credits' worth of undergraduate math and science courses. To apply, applicants must send in their transcripts, letters of recommendation, resume and proof of a valid RN license.

If you are a registered nurse looking to move into a new specialty, advance your career or move into an administrative role, there are a variety of Master of Science in Nursing degrees that can help you pursue your unique research interests and meet your professional goals.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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