Online Master of Science in Nursing Degree (BSN Option)

Overview

For registered nurses who hold a Bachelor of Science in nursing and desire more responsibility, whether that be in patient care, nursing education or through administration, an online BSN to Master of Science in nursing program may be the most cost-effective and quickest way to reach their goals. The online Master of Science in nursing program can generally be completed in about four years on a part-time basis. RNs who hold a Master of Science in nursing can obtain specialized positions such as nurse practitioners, nurse educators and nurse managers. Online Master of Science in nursing programs for RNs who do not have a Bachelor of Science in nursing are also readily available.

Up until the mid-2000s, a Master of Science in nursing was the only degree available for nurses to become an advanced practice RN – the term applied to nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, clinical care specialists and nurse midwives. This changed when the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, an academic advising organization, voted to change the level of entry into advanced practice registered nursing from a Master of Science in nursing degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree by 2015.

As a result, many institutions with a Master of Science in nursing degree program are phasing out tracks to become an advanced practice RN and instituting Doctor of Nursing Practice programs. However, quite a few schools are not eliminating these programs and most states do not currently have any pending legislation that would require RNs to obtain a Doctor of Nursing Practice to become an advanced practice RN. It is advised that nurses check with their state board of nursing regarding current and future regulations of advanced practice RNs.

Course Work

To complete the Bachelor of Science in nursing to Master of Science in nursing degree path, students must have a Bachelor of Science in nursing degree and be an RN.

Students in an online Master of Science in nursing degree program can choose among various specializations such as forensic nursing or nurse midwifery. The three most widely offered specializations online are education, administration and advanced practice registered nursing. Students who choose an advanced practice registered nursing specialization have to choose a major within that track such as midwifery or nurse anesthesiology, among others.

Regardless of specialty, all students complete core course work in pathophysiology, pharmacology, ethics, research, education and theory. Students will then complete additional course work in their chosen specialty. The Master of Science in nursing degree cannot be completed entirely online, as students are required to complete on-campus laboratory simulations and clinical hours at an approved health care facility. Many on-campus laboratory simulations are held over the course of a long weekend.

Job Outlook

RNs with an advanced Master of Science in nursing degree are in high demand, particularly in nursing education. An undersupply of nursing faculty is partly to blame for a nationwide nursing shortage, according to a report by the National League for Nursing. In fact, the report found that nursing programs in every state and congressional district deny qualified applicants due to a lack of faculty.

Although finding employment as an RN with a Master of Science in nursing may not be difficult, graduates should not expect a significant pay raise. An online Master of Science in nursing may only lead to a salary bump of about $10,000, according to a report by U.S. News.

Median salaries range from about $69,000 for nurse educators to $88,000 for nurse practitioners. Certified nurse midwives can make more than $89,000 annually, according to PayScale, an online salary database.

Median salaries

Job title Salary
Nursing educator
$69,000

 

Nurse manager
$81,000

 

Clinical nurse specialist
$84,000

 

Nurse practitioner
$88,000

 

Certified nurse midwife
$89,000

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